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unimpeachable gentleman who gave me the shivers every time he came
into the room."

And it was just after she said this that I interrupted. I was right in
plain, sight in the window-seat reading; but I guess they'd forgotten
I was there, for they both jumped a lot when I spoke. And yet I'll
leave it to you if what I said wasn't perfectly natural.

"Of course, you would, Mother!" I cried. "And, anyhow, if you did
marry the violinist, and you found out afterward you didn't like him,
that wouldn't matter a mite, for you could _un_marry him at any time,
just as you did Father, and - "

But they wouldn't let me finish. They wouldn't let me say anything
more. Mother cried, "_Marie_!" in her most I'm-shocked-at-you voice;
and Aunt Hattie cried, "Child - child!" And she seemed shocked, too.
And both of them threw up their hands and looked at each other in the
did-you-ever-hear-such-a-dreadful-thing? way that old folks do when
young folks have displeased them. And them they both went right out of
the room, talking about the unfortunate effect on a child's mind, and
perverted morals, and Mother reproaching Aunt Hattie for talking about
those things before that child (meaning me, of course). Then they got
too far down the hall for me to hear any more. But I don't see why
they needed to have made such a fuss. It wasn't any secret that Mother
got a divorce; and if she got one once, of course she could again.
(That's what I'm going to do when I'm married, if I grow tired of
him - my husband, I mean.) Oh, yes, I know Mrs. Mayhew and her crowd
don't seem to think divorces are very nice; but there needn't anybody
try to make me think that anything my mother does isn't perfectly nice
and all right. And _she_ got a divorce. So, there!

* * * * *

_One week later_.

There hasn't much happened - only one or two things. But maybe I'd
better tell them before I forget it, especially as they have a good
deal to do with the love part of the story. And I'm always so glad to
get anything of that kind. I've been so afraid this wouldn't be much
of a love story, after all. But I guess it will be, all right. Anyhow,
I _know_ Mother's part will be, for it's getting more and more
exciting - about Mr. Easterbrook and the violinist, I mean.

They both want Mother. Anybody can see that now, and, of course,
Mother sees it. But which she'll take I don't know. Nobody knows. It's
perfectly plain to be seen, though, which one Grandfather and Aunt
Hattie want her to take! It's Mr. Easterbrook.

And he is awfully nice. He brought me a perfectly beautiful bracelet
the other day - but Mother wouldn't let me keep it. So he had to take
it back. I don't think he liked it very well, and I didn't like it,
either. I _wanted_ that bracelet. But Mother says I'm much too young
to wear much jewelry. Oh, will the time ever come when I'll be old
enough to take my proper place in the world? Sometimes it seems as if
it never would!

Well, as I said, it's plain to be seen who it is that Grandfather
and Aunt Hattie favor; but I'm not so sure about Mother. Mother acts
funny. Sometimes she won't go with either of them anywhere; then she
seems to want to go all the time. And she acts as if she didn't care
which she went with, so long as she was just going - somewhere. I
think, though, she really likes the violinist the best; and I guess
Grandfather and Aunt Hattie think so, too.

Something happened last night. Grandfather began to talk at the
dinner-table. He'd heard something he didn't like about the violinist,
I guess, and he started in to tell Mother. But they stopped him.
Mother and Aunt Hattie looked at him and then at me, and then back to
him, in their most see-who's-here! - you-mustn't-talk-before-her way.
So he shrugged his shoulders and stopped.

But I guess he told them in the library afterwards, for I heard them
all talking very excitedly, and some loud; and I guess Mother didn't
like what they said, and got quite angry, for I heard her say, when
she came out through the door, that she didn't believe a word of it,
and she thought it was a wicked, cruel shame to tell stories like that
just because they didn't like a man.

This morning she broke an engagement with Mr. Easterbrook to go
auto-riding and went with the violinist to a morning musicale instead;
and after she'd gone Aunt Hattie sighed and looked at Grandfather and
shrugged her shoulders, and said she was afraid they'd driven her
straight into the arms of the one they wanted to avoid, and that Madge
always _would_ take the part of the under dog.

I suppose they thought I wouldn't understand. But I did, perfectly.
They meant that by telling stories about the violinist they'd been
hoping to get her to give him up, but instead of that, they'd made her
turn to him all the more, just because she was so sorry for him.

Funny, isn't it?

* * * * *

_One week later_.

Well, I guess now something has happened all right! And let me say
right away that _I_ don't like that violinist now, either, any better
than Grandfather and Aunt Hattie. And it's not entirely because of
what happened last night, either. It's been coming on for quite a
while - ever since I first saw him talking to Theresa in the hall when
she let him in one night a week ago.

Theresa is awfully pretty, and I guess he thinks, so. Anyhow, I heard
him telling her so in the hall, and she laughed and blushed and looked
sideways at him. Then they saw me, and he stiffened up and said, very
proper and dignified, "Kindly hand my card to Mrs. Anderson." And
Theresa said, "Yes, sir." And she was very proper and dignified, too.

Well, that was the beginning. I can see now that it was, though, I
never thought of its meaning anything then, only that he thought
Theresa was a pretty girl, just as we all do.

But four days ago I saw them again. He tried to put his arm around her
that time, and the very next day he tried to kiss her, and after a
minute she let him. More than once, too. And last night I heard him
tell her she was the dearest girl in all the world, and he'd be
perfectly happy if he could only marry her.

Well, you can imagine how I felt, when I thought all the time it was
Mother he was coming to see! And now to find out that it was Theresa
he wanted all the time, and he was only coming to see Mother so he
could see Theresa!

At first I was angry, - just plain angry; and I was frightened, too,
for I couldn't help worrying about Mother - for fear she would mind,
you know, when she found out that it was Theresa that he cared for,
after all. I remembered what a lot Mother had been with him, and the
pretty dresses and hats she'd put on for him, and all that. And I
thought how she'd broken engagements with Mr. Easterbrook to go with
him, and it made me angry all over again. And I thought how _mean_ it
was of him to use poor Mother as a kind of shield to hide his courting
of Theresa! I was angry, too, to have my love story all spoiled, when
I was getting along so beautifully with Mother and the violinist.

But I'm feeling better now. I've been thinking it over. I don't
believe Mother's going to care so very much. I don't believe she'd
_want_ a man that would pretend to come courting her, when all the
while he was really courting the hired girl - I mean maid. Besides,
there's Mr. Easterbrook left (and one or two others that I haven't
said much about, as I didn't think they had much chance). And so far
as the love story for the book is concerned, _that_ isn't spoiled,
after all, for it will be ever so much more exciting to have the
violinist fall in love with Theresa than with Mother, for, of course,
Theresa isn't in the same station of life at all, and that makes it
a - a mess-alliance. (I don't remember exactly what that word is; but
I know it means an alliance that makes a mess of things because the
lovers are not equal to each other.) Of course, for the folks who have
to live it, it may not be so nice; but for my story here this makes it
all the more romantic and thrilling. So _that's_ all right.

Of course, so far, I'm the only one that knows, for I haven't told it,
and I'm the only one that's seen anything. Of course, I shall warn
Mother, if I think it's necessary, so she'll understand it isn't her,
but Theresa, that the violinist is really in love with and courting.
_She_ won't mind, I'm sure, after she thinks of it a minute. And won't
it be a good joke on Aunt Hattie and Grandfather when they find out
they've been fooled all the time, supposing it's Mother, and worrying
about it?

Oh, I don't know! This is some love story, after all!

* * * * *

_Two days later._

Well, I should say it was! What do you suppose has happened now? Why,
that wretched violinist is nothing but a deep-dyed villain! Listen
what he did. He proposed to Mother - actually proposed to her - and
after all he'd said to that Theresa girl, about his being perfectly
happy if he could marry _her_. And Mother - Mother all the time not
knowing! Oh, I'm so glad I was there to rescue her! I don't mean at
the proposal - I didn't hear that. But afterward.

It was like this.

They had been out automobiling - Mother and the violinist. He came for
her at three o'clock. He said it was a beautiful warm day, and maybe
the last one they'd have this year; and she must go. And she went.

I was in my favorite window-seat, reading, when they came home and
walked into the library. They never looked my way at all, but just
walked toward the fireplace. And there he took hold of both her hands
and said:

"Why must you wait, darling? Why can't you give me my answer now, and
make me the happiest man in all the world?"

"Yes, yes, I know," answered Mother; and I knew by her voice that
she was all shaky and trembly. "But if I could only be sure - sure of
myself."

"But, dearest, you're sure of me!" cried the violinist. "You _know_
how I love you. You know you're the only woman I have ever loved, or
ever could love!"

Yes, just like that he said it - that awful lie - and to my mother. My
stars! Do you suppose I waited to hear any more? I guess not!

[Illustration: "WHY MUST YOU WAIT, DARLING?"]

I fairly tumbled off my seat, and my book dropped with a bang, as I
ran forward. Dear, dear, but how they did jump - both of them! And I
guess they _were_ surprised. I never thought how 'twas going to affect
them - my breaking in like that. But I didn't wait - not a minute. And
I didn't apologize, or say "Excuse me," or any of those things that
I suppose I ought to have done. I just started right in and began to
talk. And I talked hard and fast, and lots of it.

I don't know now what I said, but I know I asked him what he meant by
saying such an awful lie to my mother, when he'd just said the same
thing, exactly 'most, to Theresa, and he'd hugged her and kissed her,
and everything. I'd _seen_ him. And -

But I didn't get a chance to say half I wanted to. I was going on to
tell him what I thought of him; but Mother gasped out, "Marie! _Marie!
Stop_!"

And then I stopped. I had to, of course. Then she said that would do,
and I might go to my room. And I went. And that's all I know about it,
except that she came up, after a little, and said for me not to talk
any more about it, to her, or to any one else; and to please try to
forget it.

I tried to tell her what I'd seen, and what I'd heard that wicked,
deep-dyed villain say; but she wouldn't let me. She shook her head,
and said, "Hush, hush, dear"; and that no good could come of talking
of it, and she wanted me to forget it. She was very sweet and very
gentle, and she smiled; but there were stern corners to her mouth,
even when the smile was there. And I guess she told him what was what.
Anyhow, I know they had quite a talk before she came up to me, for I
was watching at the window for him to go; and when he did go he
looked very red and cross, and he stalked away with a
never-will-I-darken-this-door-again kind of a step, just as far as I
could see him.

I don't know, of course, what will happen next, nor whether he'll ever
come back for Theresa; but I shouldn't think even _she_ would want
him, after this, if she found out.

And now where's _my_ love story coming in, I should like to know?

* * * * *

_Two days after Christmas_.

Another wonderful thing has happened. I've had a letter from
Father - from _Father_ - a _letter_ - ME!

It came this morning. Mother brought it in to me. She looked queer - a
little. There were two red spots in her cheeks, and her eyes were very
bright.

"I think you have a letter here from - your father," she said, handing
it out.

She hesitated before the "your father" just as she always does. And
'tisn't hardly ever that she mentions his name, anyway. But when she
does, she always stops a funny little minute before it, just as she
did to-day.

And perhaps I'd better say right here, before I forget it, that Mother
has been different, some way, ever since that time when the violinist
proposed. I don't think she _cares_ really - about the violinist, I
mean - but she's just sort of upset over it. I heard her talking to
Aunt Hattie one day about it, and she said:

"To think such a thing could happen - to _me_! And when for a minute I
was really hesitating and thinking that maybe I _would_ take him. Oh,
Hattie!"

And Aunt Hattie put her lips together with her most I-told-you-so air,
and said:

"It was, indeed, a narrow escape, Madge; and it ought to show you the
worth of a real man. There's Mr. Easterbrook, now - "

But Mother wouldn't even listen then. She pooh-poohed and tossed her
head, and said, "Mr. Easterbrook, indeed!" and put her hands to her
ears, laughing, but in earnest just the same, and ran out of the room.

And she doesn't go so much with Mr. Easterbrook as she did. Oh, she
goes with him some, but not enough to make it a bit interesting - for
this novel, I mean - nor with any of the others, either. In fact, I'm
afraid there isn't much chance now of Mother's having a love story to
make this book right. Only the other day I heard her tell Grandfather
and Aunt Hattie that _all_ men were a delusion and a snare. Oh, she
laughed as she said it. But she was in earnest, just the same. I could
see that. And she doesn't seem to care much for any of the different
men that come to see her. She seems to ever so much rather stay with
me. In fact, she stays with me a lot these days - almost all the time
I'm out of school, indeed. And she talks with me - oh, she talks with
me about lots of things. (I love to have her talk with me. You know
there's a lot of difference between talking _with_ folks and _to_
folks. Now, Father always talks _to_ folks.)

One day it was about getting married that Mother talked with me, and
I said I was so glad that when you didn't like being married, or got
tired of your husband, you could get _un_married, just as she did, and
go back home and be just the same as you were before.

But Mother didn't like that, at all. She said no, no, and that I
mustn't talk like that, and that you _couldn't_ go back and be the
same. And that she'd found it out. That she used to think you could.
But you couldn't. She said it was like what she read once, that you
couldn't really be the same any more than you could put the dress you
were wearing back on the shelf in the store, and expect it to turn
back into a fine long web of cloth all folded up nice and tidy, as it
was in the first place. And, of course, you couldn't do that - after
the cloth was all cut up into a dress!

She said more things, too; and after Father's letter came she said
still more. Oh, and I haven't told yet about the letter, have I? Well,
I will now.

As I said at first, Mother brought it in and handed it over to me,
saying she guessed it was from Father. And I could see she was
wondering what could be in it. But I guess she wasn't wondering any
more than _I_ was, only I was gladder to get it than she was, I
suppose. Anyhow, when she saw _how_ glad I was, and how I jumped for
the letter, she drew back, and looked somehow as if she'd been hurt,
and said:

"I did not know, Marie, that a letter from - your father would mean so
much to you."

I don't know what I did say to that. I guess I didn't say anything.
I'd already begun to read the letter, and I was in such a hurry to
find out what he'd said.

I'll copy it here. It wasn't long. It was like this:

MY DEAR MARY:

Some way Christmas has made me think of you. I wish I had sent you
some gift. Yet I have not the slightest idea what would please
you. To tell the truth, I tried to find something - but had to give
it up.

I am wondering if you had a good time, and what you did. After
all, I'm pretty sure you did have a good time, for you are
Marie now. You see I have not forgotten how tired you got of
being - Mary. Well, well, I do not know as I can blame you.

And now that I have asked what you did for Christmas, I suspect it
is no more than a fair turnabout to tell you what I did. I suppose
I had a very good time. Your Aunt Jane says I did. I heard her
telling one of the neighbors that last night. She said she left no
stone unturned to give me a good time. So, of course, I must have
had a good time.

She had a very fine dinner, and she invited Mrs. Darling and Miss
Snow and Miss Sanborn to eat it with us. She said she didn't want
me to feel lonesome. But you can feel real lonesome in a crowd
sometimes. Did you know that, Mary?

But I left them to their chatter after dinner and went out to the
observatory. I think I must have fallen asleep on the couch there,
for it was quite dark when I awoke. But I didn't mind that,
for there were some observations I wanted to take. It was a
beautifully clear night, so I stayed there till nearly morning.

How about it? I suppose Marie plays the piano every day now,
doesn't she? The piano here hasn't been touched since you went
away. Oh, yes, it was touched once. Your aunt played hymns on it
for a missionary meeting.

Well, what did you do Christmas? Suppose you write and tell

Your

FATHER

I'd been reading the letter out loud, and when I got through Mother
was pacing up and down the room. For a minute she didn't say anything;
then she whirled 'round suddenly and faced me, and said, just as if
something inside of her was _making_ her say it:

"I notice there is no mention of your mother in that letter, Marie. I
suppose - your father has quite forgotten that there is such a person
in the world as - I."

But I told her no, oh, no, and that I was sure he remembered her,
for he used to ask me questions often about what she did, and the
violinist and all.

"The violinist!" cried Mother, whirling around on me again. (She'd
begun to walk up and down once more.) "You don't mean to say you ever
told your father about _him_!"

"Oh, no, not everything," I explained, trying to show how patient I
was, so she would be patient, too. (But it didn't work.) "I couldn't
tell him everything because everything hadn't happened then. But I
told about his being here, and about the others, too; but, of course,
I said I didn't know which you'd take, and - "

"You told him you didn't know _which I'd take_!" gasped Mother.

Just like that she interrupted, and she looked so shocked. And she
didn't look much better when I explained very carefully what I did
say, even though I assured her over and over again that Father was
interested, very much interested. When I said that, she just muttered,
"Interested, indeed!" under her breath. Then she began to walk again,
up and down, up and down. Then, all of a sudden, she flung herself on
the couch and began to cry and sob as if her heart would break. And
when I tried to comfort her, I only seemed to make it worse, for she
threw her arms around me and cried:

"Oh, my darling, my darling, don't you see how dreadful it is, how
dreadful it is?"

And then is when she began to talk some more about being married, and
_un_married as we were. She held me close again and began to sob and
cry.

"Oh, my darling, don't you see how dreadful it all is - how unnatural
it is for us to live - this way? And for you - you poor child! - what
could be worse for you? And here I am, jealous - jealous of your own
father, for fear you'll love him better than you do me!

"Oh, I know I ought not to say all this to you - I know I ought not to.
But I can't - help it. I want you! I want you every minute; but I have
to give you up - six whole months of every year I have to give you up
to him. And he's your father, Marie. And he's a good man. I know he's
a good man. I know it all the better now since I've seen - other men.
And I ought to tell you to love him. But I'm so afraid - you'll love
him better than you do me, and want to leave - me. And I can't give you
up! I can't give you up!"

Then I tried to tell her, of course, that she wouldn't have to give
me up, and that I loved her a whole lot better than I did Father. But
even that didn't comfort her, 'cause she said I _ought_ to love _him_.
That he was lonesome and needed me. He needed me just as much as
she needed me, and maybe more. And then she went on again about how
unnatural and awful it was to live the way we were living. And she
called herself a wicked woman that she'd ever allowed things to get to
such a pass. And she said if she could only have her life to live over
again she'd do so differently - oh, so differently.

Then she began to cry again, and I couldn't do a thing with her; and
of course, that worked me all up and I began to cry.

She stopped then, right off short, and wiped her eyes fiercely with
her wet ball of a handkerchief. And she asked what was she thinking
of, and didn't she know any better than to talk like this to me. Then
she said, come, we'd go for a ride.

And we did.

And all the rest of that day Mother was so gay and lively you'd think
she didn't know how to cry.

Now, wasn't that funny?

Of course, I shall answer Father's letter right away, but I haven't
the faintest idea _what_ to say.

* * * * *

_One week later._

I answered it - Father's letter, I mean - yesterday, and it's gone now.
But I had an awful time over it. I just didn't know what in the world
to say. I'd start out all right, and I'd think I was going to get
along beautifully. Then, all of a sudden, it would come over me, what
I was doing - _writing a letter to my father_! And I could imagine just
how he'd look when he got it, all stern and dignified, sitting in
his chair in the library, and opening the letter _just so_ with his
paper-cutter; and I'd imagine his eyes looking down and reading what I
wrote. And when I thought of that, my pen just wouldn't go. The idea
of _my_ writing anything my father would want to read!

And so I'd try to think of things that I could write - big things - big
things that would interest big men: about the President, and
our-country-'tis-of-thee, and the state of the weather and the crops.
And so I'd begin:

"Dear Father: I take my pen in hand to inform you that - "

Then I'd stop and think and think, and chew my pen-handle. Then I'd
put down _something_. But it was awful, and I knew it was awful. So
I'd have to tear it up and begin again. Three times I did that; then I
began to cry. It did seem as if I never could write that letter. Once
I thought of asking Mother what to say, and getting her to help me.
Then I remembered how she cried and took on and said things when the
letter came, and talked about how dreadful and unnatural it all was,
and how she was jealous for fear I'd love Father better than I did
her. And I was afraid she'd do it again, and so I didn't like to ask
her. And so I didn't do it.

Then, after a time, I got out his letter and read it again. And all of
a sudden I felt all warm and happy, just as I did when I first got it;
and some way I was back with him in the observatory and he was telling
me all about the stars. And I forgot all about being afraid of him,
and about the crops and the President and my-country-'tis-of-thee.
And I just remembered that he'd asked me to tell him what I did on
Christmas Day; and I knew right off that that would be easy. Why, just
the easiest thing in the world! And so I got out a fresh sheet of
paper and dipped my pen in the ink and began again.

And this time I didn't have a bit of trouble. I told him all about the
tree I had Christmas Eve, and the presents, and the little colored
lights, and the fun we had singing and playing games. And then how, on


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