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me, put on his glasses, and said, "Well, well, bless my soul! Is this
our little Mary Marie?" And even Aunt Hattie said if I acted as well
as I looked I'd do very well. Then Mother kissed me and ran upstairs
_quick_. But I saw the tears in her eyes, and I knew why she hurried
so.

At the reception I saw Father right away, but he didn't see me for a
long time. He stood in a corner, and lots of folks came up and spoke
to him and shook hands; and he bowed and smiled - but in between, when
there wasn't anybody noticing, he looked so tired and bored. After a
time he stirred and changed his position, and I think he was hunting
for a chance to get away, when all of a sudden his eyes, roving around
the room, lighted on me.

My! but just didn't I love the way he came through that crowd,
straight toward me, without paying one bit of attention to the folks
that tried to stop him on the way. And when he got to me, he looked so
glad to see me, only there was the same quick searching with his eyes,
beyond and around me, as if he was looking for somebody else, just as
he had done the morning of the lecture. And I knew it was Mother, of
course. So I said:

"No, she didn't come."

"So I see," he answered. And there was such a hurt, sorry look away
back in his eyes. But right away he smiled, and said: "But _you_ came!
I've got _you_."

Then he began to talk and tell stories, just as if I was a young lady
to be entertained. And he took me over to where they had things to
eat, and just heaped my plate with chicken patties and sandwiches and
olives and pink-and-white frosted cakes and ice-cream (not all at
once, of course, but in order). And I had a perfectly beautiful time.
And Father seemed to like it pretty well. But after a while he grew
sober again, and his eyes began to rove all around the room.

He took me to a little seat in the corner then, and we sat down and
began to talk - only Father didn't talk much. He just listened to what
I said, and his eyes grew deeper and darker and sadder, and they
didn't rove around so much, after a time, but just stared fixedly at
nothing, away out across the room. By and by he stirred and drew a
long sigh, and said, almost under his breath:

"It was just such another night as this."

And of course, I asked what was - and then I knew, almost before he had
told me.

"That I first saw your mother, my dear."

"Oh, yes, I know!" I cried, eager to tell him that I _did_ know. "And
she must have looked lovely in that perfectly beautiful blue silk
dress all silver lace."

He turned and stared at me.

"How did _you_ know that?" he demanded.

"I saw it."

"You saw it!"

"Yesterday, yes - the dress," I nodded.

"But how _could_ you?" he asked, frowning, and looking so surprised.
"Why, that dress must be - seventeen years old, or more."

I nodded again, and I suppose I did look pleased: it's such fun to
have a secret, you know, and watch folks guess and wonder. And I kept
him guessing and wondering for quite a while. Then, of course, I told
him that it was upstairs in Grandfather's trunk-room; that Mother had
got it out, and I saw it.

"But, what - was your mother doing with that dress?" he asked then,
looking even more puzzled and mystified.

And then suddenly I thought and remembered that Mother was crying.
And, of course, she wouldn't want Father to know she was crying over
it - that dress she had worn when he first met her long ago! (I don't
think women ever want men to know such things, do you? I know I
shouldn't!) So I didn't tell. I just kind of tossed it off, and
mumbled something about her looking it over; and I was going to say
something else, but I saw that Father wasn't listening. He had begun
to talk again, softly, as if to himself.

"I suppose to-night, seeing you, and all this, brought it back to me
so vividly." Then he turned and looked at me. "You are very like your
mother to-night, dear."

"I suppose I am, maybe, when I'm Marie," I nodded.

He laughed with his lips, but his eyes didn't laugh one bit as he
said:

"What a quaint little fancy of yours that is, child - as if you were
two in one."

"But I am two in one," I declared. "That's why I'm a cross-current and
a contradiction, you know," I explained.

I thought he'd understand. But he didn't. I supposed, of course, he
knew what a cross-current and a contradiction was. But he turned again
and stared at me.

"A - _what_?" he demanded.

"A cross-current and a contradiction," I explained once more.
"Children of unlikes, you know. Nurse Sarah told me that long ago.
Didn't you ever hear that - that a child of unlikes was a cross-current
and a contradiction?"

"Well, no - I - hadn't," answered Father, in a queer, half-smothered
voice. He half started from his seat. I think he was going to walk up
and down, same as he usually does. But in a minute he saw he couldn't,
of course, with all those people around there. So he sat back again in
his chair. For a minute he just frowned and stared at nothing; then he
spoke again, as if half to himself.

"I suppose, Mary, we were - unlikes, your mother and I. That's just
what we were; though I never thought of it before, in just that way."

He waited, then went on, still half to himself, his eyes on the
dancers:

"She loved things like this - music, laughter, gayety. I abhorred them.
I remember how bored I was that night here - till I saw her."

"And did you fall in love with her right away?" I just couldn't help
asking that question. Oh, I do so adore love stories!

A queer little smile came to Father's lips.

"Well, yes, I think I did, Mary. There'd been dozens and dozens of
young ladies that had flitted by in their airy frocks - and I never
looked twice at them. I never looked twice at your mother, for that
matter, Mary." (A funny little twinkle came into Father's eyes. I
_love_ him with that twinkle!) "I just looked at her once - and then
kept on looking till it seemed as if I just couldn't take my eyes off
her. And after a little her glance met mine - and the whole throng
melted away, and there wasn't another soul in the room but just us
two. Then she looked away, and the throng came back. But I still
looked at her."

"Was she so awfully pretty, Father?" I could feel the little thrills
tingling all over me. _Now_ I was getting a love story!

"She was, my dear. She was very lovely. But it wasn't just that - it
was a joyous something that I could not describe. It was as if she
were a bird, poised for flight. I know it now for what it was - the
very incarnation of the spirit of youth. And she _was_ young. Why,
Mary, she was not so many years older than you yourself, now."

I nodded, and I guess I sighed.

"I know - where the brook and river meet," I said; "only they won't let
_me_ have any lovers at all."

"Eh? What?" Father had turned and was looking at me so funny. "Well,
no, I should say not," he said then. "You aren't sixteen yet. And your
mother - I suspect _she_ was too young. If she hadn't been quite so
young - "

He stopped, and stared again straight ahead at the dancers - without
seeing one of them, I knew. Then he drew a great deep sigh that seemed
to come from the very bottom of his boots.

"But it was my fault, my fault, every bit of it," he muttered, still
staring straight ahead. "If I hadn't been so thoughtless - As if I
could imprison that bright spirit of youth in a great dull cage of
conventionality, and not expect it to bruise its wings by fluttering
against the bars!"

I thought that was perfectly beautiful - that sentence. I said it right
over to myself two or three times so I wouldn't forget how to write it
down here. So I didn't quite hear the next things that Father said.
But when I did notice, I found he was still talking - and it was about
Mother, and him, and their marriage, and their first days at the old
house. I knew it was that, even if he did mix it all up about the
spirit of youth beating its wings against the bars. And over and over
again he kept repeating that it was his fault, it was his fault; and
if he could only live it over again he'd do differently.

And right there and then it came to me that Mother said it was her
fault, too; and that if only she could live it over again, _she'd_ do
differently. And here was Father saying the same thing. And all of a
sudden I thought, well, why can't they try it over again, if they both
want to, and if each says it, was their - no, his, no, hers - well, his
and her fault. (How does the thing go? I hate grammar!) But I mean, if
she says it's her fault, and he says it's his. That's what I thought,
anyway. And I determined right then and there to give them the chance
to try again, if speaking would do it.

I looked up at Father. He was still talking half under his breath, his
eyes looking straight ahead. He had forgotten all about me. That was
plain to be seen. If I'd been a cup of coffee without any coffee in
it, he'd have been stirring me. I know he would. He was like that.

"Father. _Father!_" I had to speak twice, before he heard me. "Do you
really mean that you would like to try again?" I asked.

"Eh? What?" And just the way he turned and looked at me showed how
many _miles_ he'd been away from me.

"Try it again, you know - what you said," I reminded him.

"Oh, that!" Such a funny look came to his face, half ashamed, half
vexed. "I'm afraid I _have_ been - talking, my dear."

"Yes, but would you?" I persisted.

He shook his head; then, with such an oh-that-it-could-be! smile, he
said:

"Of course; - we all wish that we could go back and do it over
again - differently. But we never can."

"I know; like the cloth that's been cut up into the dress," I nodded.

"Cloth? Dress?" frowned Father.

"Yes, that Mother told me about," I explained. Then I told him the
story that Mother had told me - how you couldn't go back and be
unmarried, just as you were before, any more than you could put the
cloth back on the shelf, all neatly folded in a great long web after
it had been cut up into a dress.

"Did your mother say - that?" asked Father. His voice was husky, and
his eyes were turned away, but they were not looking at the dancers.
He was listening to me now. I knew that, and so I spoke quick, before
he could get absent-minded again.

"Yes, but, Father, you can go back, in this case, and so can Mother,
'cause you both want to," I hurried on, almost choking in my anxiety
to get it all out quickly. "And Mother said it was _her_ fault. I
heard her."

"_Her_ fault!" I could see that Father did not quite understand, even
yet.

"Yes, yes, just as you said it was yours - about all those things at
the first, you know, when - when she was a spirit of youth beating
against the bars."

Father turned square around and faced me.

"Mary, what are you talking about?" he asked then. And I'd have been
scared of his voice if it hadn't been for the great light that was
shining in his eyes.

But I looked into his eyes, and wasn't scared; and I told him
everything, every single thing - all about how Mother had cried over
the little blue dress that day in the trunk-room, and how she had
shown the tarnished lace and said that _she_ had tarnished the
happiness of him and of herself and of me; and that it was all her
fault; that she was thoughtless and willful and exacting and a spoiled
child; and, oh, if she could only try it over again, how differently
she would do! And there was a lot more. I told everything - everything
I could remember. Some way, I didn't believe that Mother would mind
_now_, after what Father had said. And I just knew she wouldn't mind
if she could see the look in Father's eyes as I talked.

He didn't interrupt me - not long interruptions. He did speak out a
quick little word now and then, at some of the parts; and once I know
I saw him wipe a tear from his eyes. After that he put up his hand and
sat with his eyes covered all the rest of the time I was talking. And
he didn't take it down till I said:

"And so, Father, that's why I told you; 'cause it seemed to me if
_you_ wanted to try again, and _she_ wanted to try again, why can't
you do it? Oh, Father, think how perfectly lovely 'twould be if you
did, and if it worked! Why, I wouldn't care whether I was Mary or
Marie, or what I was. I'd have you and Mother both together, and, oh,
how I should love it!"

It was just here that Father's arm came out and slipped around me in a
great big hug.

"Bless your heart! But, Mary, my dear, how are we going to - to bring
this about?" And he actually stammered and blushed, and he looked
almost young with his eyes so shining and his lips so smiling. And
then is when my second great idea came to me.

"Oh, Father!" I cried, "couldn't you come courting her again - calls
and flowers and candy, and all the rest? Oh, Father, couldn't you?
Why, Father, of course, you could!"

This last I added in my most persuasive voice, for I could see the
"no" on his face even before he began to shake his head.

"I'm afraid not, my dear," he said then. "It would take more than
a flower or a bonbon to to win your mother back now, I fear."

"But you could try," I urged.

He shook his head again.

"She wouldn't see me - if I called, my dear," he answered.

He sighed as he said it, and I sighed, too. And for a minute I didn't
say anything. Of course, if she wouldn't _see_ him -

Then another idea came to me.

"But, Father, if she _would_ see you - I mean, if you got a chance, you
_would_ tell her what you told me just now; about - about its being
your fault, I mean, and the spirit of youth beating against the bars,
and all that. You would, wouldn't you?"

He didn't say anything, not anything, for such a long time I thought
he hadn't heard me. Then, with a queer, quick drawing-in of his
breath, he said:

"I think - little girl - if - if I ever got the chance I would say - a
great deal more than I said to you to-night."

"Good!" I just crowed the word, and I think I clapped my hands; but
right away I straightened up and was very fine and dignified, for I
saw Aunt Hattie looking at me from across the room, as I said:

"Very good, then. You shall have the chance."

He turned and smiled a little, but he shook his head.

"Thank you, child; but I don't think you know quite what you're
promising," he said.

"Yes, I do."

Then I told him my idea. At first he said no, and it couldn't be, and
he was very sure she wouldn't see him, even if he called. But I said
she would if he would do exactly as I said. And I told him my plan.
And after a time and quite a lot of talk, he said he would agree to
it.

And this morning we did it.

At exactly ten o'clock he came up the steps of the house here, but he
didn't ring the bell. I had told him not to do that, and I was on the
watch for him. I knew that at ten o'clock Grandfather would be gone,
Aunt Hattie probably downtown shopping, and Lester out with his
governess. I wasn't so sure of Mother, but I knew it was Saturday, and
I believed I could manage somehow to keep her here with me, so that
everything would be all right there.

And I did. I had a hard time, though. Seems as if she proposed
everything to do this morning - shopping, and a walk, and a call on
a girl I knew who was sick. But I said I did not feel like doing
anything but just to stay at home and rest quietly with her. (Which
was the truth - I _didn't_ feel like doing _anything else_!) But that
almost made matters worse than ever, for she said that was so totally
unlike me that she was afraid I must be sick; and I had all I could do
to keep her from calling a doctor.

[Illustration: THEN I TOLD HIM MY IDEA]

But I did it; and at five minutes before ten she was sitting quietly
sewing in her own room. Then I went downstairs to watch for Father.

He came just on the dot, and I let him in and took him into the
library. Then I went upstairs and told Mother there was some one
downstairs who wanted to see her.

And she said, how funny, and wasn't there any name, and where was the
maid. But I didn't seem to hear. I had gone into my room in quite a
hurry, as if I had forgotten something I wanted to do there. But,
of course, I didn't do a thing - except to make sure that she went
downstairs to the library.

They're there now _together_. And he's been here a whole hour already.
Seems as if he ought to say _something_ in that length of time!

After I was sure Mother was down, I took out this, and began to write
in it. And I've been writing ever since. But, oh, I do so wonder
what's going on down there. I'm so excited over -

* * * * *

_One week later_.

At just that minute Mother came into the room. I wish you could have
seen her. My stars, but she looked pretty! - with her shining eyes and
the lovely pink in her cheeks. And _young_! Honestly, I believe she
looked younger than I did that minute.

She just came and put her arms around me and kissed me; and I saw
then that her eyes were all misty with tears. She didn't say a word,
hardly, only that Father wanted to see me, and I was to go right down.

And I went.

I thought, of course, that she was coming too. But she didn't. And
when I got down the stairs I found I was all alone; but I went right
on into the library, and there was Father waiting for me.

_He_ didn't say much, either, at first; but just like Mother he put
his arms around me and kissed me, and held me there. Then, very soon,
he began to talk; and, oh, he said such beautiful things - _such_
tender, lovely, sacred things; too sacred even to write down here.
Then he kissed me again and went away.

But he came back the next day, and he's been here some part of every
day since. And, oh, what a wonderful week it has been!

They're going to be married. It's to-morrow. They'd have been married
right away at the first, only they had to wait - something about
licenses and a five-day notice, Mother said. Father fussed and fumed,
and wanted to try for a special dispensation, or something; but Mother
laughed, and said certainly not, and that she guessed it was just as
well, for she positively _had_ to have a few things; and he needn't
think he could walk right in like that on a body and expect her to
get married at a moment's notice. But she didn't mean it. I know she
didn't; for when Father reproached her, she laughed softly, and called
him an old goose, and said, yes, of course, she'd have married him
in two minutes if it hadn't been for the five-day notice, no matter
whether she ever had a new dress or not.

And that's the way it is with them all the time. They're too funny and
lovely together for anything. (Aunt Hattie says they're too silly for
anything; but nobody minds Aunt Hattie.) They just can't seem to do
enough for each other. Father was going next week to a place 'way on
the other side of the world to view an eclipse of the moon, but he
said right off he'd give it up. But Mother said, "No, indeed," she
guessed he _wouldn't_ give it up; that he was going, and that she was
going, too - a wedding trip; and that she was sure she didn't know a
better place to go for a wedding trip than the moon! And Father was
_so_ pleased. And he said he'd try not to pay all his attention to the
stars this time; and Mother laughed and said, "Nonsense," and that she
adored stars herself, and that he _must_ pay attention to the stars.
It was his business to. Then she looked very wise and got off
something she'd read in the astronomy book. And they both laughed, and
looked over to me to see if I was noticing. And I was. And so then we
all laughed.

And, as I said before, it is all perfectly lovely and wonderful.

So it's all settled, and they're going right away on this trip and
call it a wedding trip. And, of course, Grandfather had to get off his
joke about how he thought it was a pretty dangerous business; and to
see that _this_ honeymoon didn't go into an eclipse while they were
watching the other one. But nobody minds Grandfather.

I'm to stay here and finish school. Then, in the spring, when Father
and Mother come back, we are all to go to Andersonville and begin to
live in the old house again.

Won't it be lovely? It just seems too good to be true. Why, I don't
care a bit now whether I'm Mary or Marie. But, then, nobody else does,
either. In fact, both of them call me the whole name now, Mary Marie.
I don't think they ever _said_ they would. They just began to do it.
That's all.

Of course, anybody can see why: _now_ each one is calling me the other
one's name along with their own. That is, Mother is calling me Mary
along with her pet Marie, and Father is calling me Marie along with
his pet Mary.

Funny, isn't it?

But one thing is sure, anyway. How about this being a love story
_now_? Oh, I'm so excited!




CHAPTER IX

WHICH IS THE TEST


ANDERSONVILLE. _Twelve years later_.

_Twelve years_ - yes. And I'm twenty-eight years old. Pretty old,
little Mary Marie of the long ago would think. And, well, perhaps
to-day I feel just as old as she would put it.

I came up into the attic this morning to pack away some things I shall
no longer need, now that I am going to leave Jerry. (Jerry is
my husband.) And in the bottom of my little trunk I found this
manuscript. I had forgotten that such a thing existed; but with its
laboriously written pages before me, it all came back to me; and I
began to read; here a sentence; there a paragraph; somewhere else a
page. Then, with a little half laugh and half sob, I carried it to an
old rocking-chair by the cobwebby dormer window, and settled myself to
read it straight through.

And I have read it.

Poor little Mary Marie! Dear little Mary Marie! To meet you like this,
to share with you your joys and sorrows, hopes and despairs, of
those years long ago, is like sitting hand in hand on a sofa with a
childhood's friend, each listening to an eager "And do you remember?"
falling constantly from delighted lips that cannot seem to talk half
fast enough.

But you have taught me much, little Mary Marie. I understand - oh, I
understand so many things so much better, now, since reading this
little story in your round childish hand. You see, I had almost
forgotten that I was a Mary and a Marie - Jerry calls me Mollie - and I
had wondered what were those contending forces within me. I know now.
It is the Mary and the Marie trying to settle their old, old quarrel.

It was almost dark when I had finished the manuscript. The far corners
of the attic were peopled with fantastic shadows, and the spiders in
the window were swaying, lazy and full-stomached, in the midst of the
day's spoils of gruesome wings and legs. I got up slowly, stiffly,
shivering a little. I felt suddenly old and worn and ineffably weary.
It is a long, long journey back to our childhood - sometimes, even
though one may be only twenty-eight.

I looked down at the last page of the manuscript. It was written on
the top sheet of a still thick pad of paper, and my fingers fairly
tingled suddenly, to go on and cover those unused white sheets - tell
what happened next - tell the rest of the story; not for the sake of
the story - but for my sake. It might help me. It might make things
clearer. It might help to justify myself in my own eyes. Not that I
have any doubts, of course (about leaving Jerry, I mean), but that
when I saw it in black and white I could be even more convinced that I
was doing what was best for him and best for me.

So I brought the manuscript down to my own room, and this evening I
have commenced to write. I can't finish it to-night, of course. But I
have to-morrow, and still to-morrow. (I have so many to-morrows now!
And what do they all amount to?) And so I'll just keep writing, as I
have time, till I bring it to the end.

I'm sorry that it must be so sad and sorry an end. But there's no
other way, of course. There can be but one ending, as I can see. I'm
sorry. Mother'll be sorry, too. She doesn't know yet. I hate to tell
her. Nobody knows - not even Jerry himself - yet. They all think I'm
just making a visit to Mother - and I am - till I write that letter to
Jerry. And then -

I believe now that I'll wait till I've finished writing this. I'll
feel better then. My mind will be clearer. I'll know more what to say.
Just the effort of writing it down -

Of course, if Jerry and I hadn't -

But this is no way to begin. Like the little Mary Marie of long ago I
am in danger of starting my dinner with ice-cream instead of soup!
And so I must begin where I left off, of course. And that was at the
wedding.

I remember that wedding as if it were yesterday. I can see now, with
Mary Marie's manuscript before me, why it made so great an impression


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