STEPHEN SURPRISES EVERYBODY
MARGARET HILDA WISE
AT TEN MINUTES to five Stephen went into the Martins’ living-room for the first time in his life. The curtains were drawn, and a brisk lag fire beckoned him cheerily. At the far end of the room, at a writing table, with her back towards him, was a slender youthful figure silhouetted against the glow from a little lamp on the table.
“Hello, Molly,” he greeted, “I didn’t suppose you ever wrote letters.”
Then he stopped short with a puzzled frown. The youthful person, on hearing his voice, had risen abruptly and faced him. She appeared, for a second, almost as astonished at Stephen’s sudden appearance as he was to discover that she was not Molly, after all.
“Oh,” said Stephen, hurriedly, “I beg your pardon. I could have sworn you were Molly. I must be in the wrong house.”
She smiled. It impressed Stephen as being the loveliest smile he had ever seen—and he was somewhat of a connoisseur of smiles, well launched into his thirties, still single, and never averse to encouraging feminine wiles.
“Molly lives here,” she explained. “That is to say, if it’s my young sister, Molly Martin, you’re looking for.”
“It is,” replied Stephen briefly, and hesitated. “Do sit down and be comfortable while you wait,’ she suggested. “At least—I suppose she won’t be long. She’s like all the debutantes; rather uncertain in her comings and goings. Perhaps you would rather not wait for her?”
She sat down in a low chair by the fire, and Stephen, with somewhat more alacrity than he usually displayed, seated himself opposite her.
“Tell me—er—I had no idea Molly had a sister,” he managed to say.
“She didn’t' have one here during the war. I
was married in England, early in the war, and I stayed over there so as to see my husband as often as possible—until he was killed. Then I came home. So for a year or so now Molly has had a sister once again.”
She spoke simply, in a low voice, and Stephen felt suddenly and deeply touched by this, yet another tragedy of the Great War. He was silent for a bit, watching her long and earnestly, as she looked into the fire.
“I wonder,” he asked at last, gently, “if you’d mind if I asked who yorfr husband was.”
She glanced at him and smiled, and her eyes were like two clear stars. “He was Dick Christy,”’ she replied, “Major Dick Christy, of the Engineers.” Stephen leaned forward in his chair. “I knew him,” he said, quietly. “He was a very brave man.” “Yes, he was,” she echoed, a wealth of pride in her voice. “You knew him ... ?”
“I knew him in France. I never met an officer or private who didn’t think Dick Christy was the best
She looked back into the fire, and when she spoke it was so softly he could hardly catch it. “Thank you,” she said-, “I am glad.”
At this point the tension was broken by the arrival of tea. Mrs. Christy rose and switched on the lights. “I can’t think what’s keeping Molly,” she remarked. “She expected to be back before now, because she wanted a long time to dress—as usual— for a party tonight.”
“Molly’s a lively little person,” Stephen remarked to his teacup. “She keeps old bachelors like me
—not to mention sundry younger ones—up far too late at night, or rather, morning.” Then aloud: “May I smoke?”
“Indeed, yes! That’s another of Molly’s recent accomplishments, much to our mother’s horror. Molly announced that simply nobody comes out these days who doesn’t smoke. Father laughed just at that moment, so Molly carried her point. Have another of these wee cakes and keep me company.”
AT HALF-PAST five, Stephen had just reached the overwhelmingdecision that he really wasn’t missing Molly one little bit. Then the door-bell rang and in walked Molly.
Molly was one of those capricious damsels described in the social columns as “young society buds.” As a “bud”, Molly was not at all displeasing; as a person, she was rather exasperating, a bit conceited, and exceedingly extravagant. She had light brown hair that waved distractingly over her ears, mischievous blue eyes, a fresh color, and a dimple close to the right corner of her mouth. Slim like her sister, though not so tall, she had yet to acquire all the easy grace, of the older girl.
“Oh, hello, Stephen,” she greeted that gentleman airily. “How awfully nice of you to come and see me, even though I kept you waiting.”
Stephen pulled up a chair for her. Then he carried her a cup of tea and the muffins, smilingall the while, but sayingnothing. He knew he was not expected to contribute much to the conversation when Molly was present.
“It’s awfully chilly out,” she continued. “I nearly perished coming in from the Country Club just now. Windy, too, and raw. Bad for one’s complexion. Don’t I look a fright!”
She tilted her chin at Stephen, and he did as he was expected, and assured her that her appear-
ance was charming. Stephen never failed to respond exactly to the mood of whatever bit of femininity he was for the moment thrown with. At the same time he was wont to exhibit sudden signs of independence, and while he was docile up to a certain point, beyond that he was somewhat inscrutable, and so quite of interest to his feminine acquaintances.
Molly, being busy with a host of younger admirers, had not noticed Stephen early in her first season. They were introduced at a party soon after her coming-out ball. They subsequently danced together several times at various affairs, and Molly, whose eyes missed nothing, caught Stephen watching her intently more than once. She did not really decide to capture him for one of her followers until one day soon after the New Year, she heard him discussed at a tea by a number of older girls. It seemed that Stephen was rather a hard person to capture; he admired and was admired; he danced and flirted, and was charmingly attractive, but not one of them could honestly claim to have won him, and the calm state of his affections was an interesting subject for discussion at teas and other centres of gossip. This was sufficient challenge for Molly. She determined to step in where older and more experienced ones' had failed, and win Stephen to her side, even if she decided to have nothing to do with him later.
So the next time Stephen stood in a corner watching Molly as she danced, she threw him her most charming smile over her partner’s shoulcter, and awaited results. They were not long coming, and before the end of that evening Molly had cut two promised dances and given them to Stephen. They danced the first one; it was a slow, dreamy waltz, and Molly was light on her feet. Stephen was enchanted. Their next dance, which happened to be the last on the program, they, at Molly’s suggestion, sat out. She chattered to him, playing with her huge feather fan, and was her most delightful self, and the dimple in her cheeks came and went distractingly. Altogether Stephen found himself unusually interested, and the sensation was not unpleasant.
AFTER THAT, the friendship ripened—not too fast. Molly was determined to stalk her quarry cautiously. They had supper together at two or three parties, and Stephen began taking her home. This was a good sign, for he usually preferred to leave dances as soon after supper as he conveniently could, taking a congenial crony with him to share a smoke before turning in.
Once, as he deposited her at her door at three in the morning, he said: “May I run in and see you some day when you’re not busy, Molly ? ”
“Oh, do,” insisted Molly. “Drop in some Sunday at tea-time. It’s about the only receiving day one has these days.”
Stephen took her out to lunch first, and then, unexpectedly, he had appeared on this Saturday afternoon. Molly was not sorry he had been compelled to wait. She considered that waiting was one of men’s duties, and that it did them good. So she was always, just a few minutes late, for engagements, and if she noticed a gathering frown upon the brow of her swain, it was so easy to dispel it with a little of the well-concealed flattery which oils the wheels wherever men are concerned. Stephen, however, did not in the least look as if he had been bored waiting. Molly felt she could ti-ust Cicely Anne to entertain her beaux nicely for her when she was unavoidably detained.
“By the way, Cicely Anne,” she exclaimed, “I suppose since I wasn’t on the spot when Stephen arrived, you two really haven’t been introduced. Mr. Stephen Roblinn, my sister, Mrs. Christy.”
Mrs. Christy smiled over the tea-tray. “Mr. Roblinn and I were 'getting along famously waiting for you, Molly. As a matter of fact, I was on the point of asking him his name when you came in.” Stephen chuckled. “You see,” he explained, “I astonished her so, by rushing in and calling her Molly before I had time to see my mistake. You never told me you had a sister, and we both quite forgot to mention my name at all.”
Molly affected a pained expression. “Cicely Anne,” she said, “I’m positively shocked to come in and find you having tea with a perfectly strange man, whose name you don’t even know.”
She laughed and glanced at Stephen, but he was not looking at her. If she had known it, he was drinking in with his eyes the lovely coloring of Mrs. Christy’s dark hair, which made so charming a setting for the clear whiteness of her face and throat, and of her deep grey eyes which were the color of the soft dress she was wearing. Stephen adored good taste in womenkind.
“You two are very unlike for sisters, if you don’t
mind my commenting upon it,” he said before he was aware.
“Meaning what?” asked Molly, saucily.
“Meaning—oh—er nothing in particular,” floundered Stephen, avoiding her eye. “Just unusual to find sisters such different types, that’s all.”
“Bouquet for you, Cicely Anne,” concluded Molly, thi-owing a kiss to her sister. For once, Stephen did not rise to the occasion.
After that, Mrs. Christy contrived to conduct the conversation into less personal channels, and Molly, who was not particularly keen about hearingsome of Stephen’s war tales, tucked herself up in the corner of the chesterfield, and demanded one of Stephen’s cigarettes.
He gave her one, lit it for her, and said, lookingsolemn, “Were you sick the first time you smoked, Molly?”
Mrs. Christy could not repress a laugh, and Molly assumed her most sophisticated air. “No, of course not, Stephen. Why do you ask?”
Stephen sat down again, and smiled enigmatically. “Nothing, Molly. I was just wondering if you really enjoy smoking.” Molly’s chin took an offended tilt, but she said nothing, and the war tales were re' sumed. Shortly after six, Molly explained that she hated to hurry away, but as she was going out to dinner, she simply had to go and dress. Would Stephen excuse her? she asked, smiling sweetly. After that the obvious thing for him to do seemed to be to depart.
Mrs. Christy held out her hand. “Do come again,” she said, “some time when Molly has a little more time to be sociable,” adding with a little wistful expression in her eyes, “and tell us more about your experiences in the army, and—and—the people you knew—in France.”
“I should like to come again very much,” he acknowledged. “I shall try not to startle you so next time.”
THE FOLLOWING Tuesday evening Molly departed for the theatre, accompanied by a youngman whose appearance was much smarter than his conversational ability, only Molly was not particular in that respect. After they had gone Mrs. Christy settled down with a book for a quiet evening. Her father and mother were diningout, and she had no company but her own thoughts, which were not always as cheerful as her face would lead one to suppose. She did not read more than a page or two when the door-bell rang, and in came Stephen.
He looked very big and nice and cheery, and Mrs. Christy realized all of a sudden that she had been feeling a bit lonely, and that Stephen was very welcome.
“Don’t get up,” he began, advancing with outstretched hand, “you look so cosy by the fire.”
Then came one of the smiles that Stephen so appreciated, and she exclaimed, “Oh, what a pity, Mr. Roblinn. You’re always out of luck in timing your visits. Molly just left a few minutes ago for the theatre.” Stephen stood in front of the fire, and smiled into it, and the smile crept into his eyes, too, and seated itself mischievously in them. “Yes,” he said. “I sawher going.”
Mrs. Christy made an involuntary little movement, exclaimed, “Oh!” and stopped, watching his amused expression until he moved. Then: “You’ll have to put up with me for entertainment, as even father and mother are out to dinner.”
Stephen laughed. “I didn’t see them go,” he said, “but it wouldn’t have made any difference. You see, I was feeling a bit stupid so I thought you wouldn’t mind if I came over to see you and be amused.”
Mrs. Christy affected great incredulity. “Lonely! You!” she exclaimed, “why, I thought you were always too busy to be.”
Stephen lit a cigarette for her, one for himself, and sat down. “Your sister,” he remarked, reflectively, “keeps me quite busy—she and a lot of other young butterflies—but once in a while I take time to stop and think, and to collect my senses. Tonight is one of those times.” After a moment’s pause he added, “I was getting a bit out of my depth, so I’m wading back.”
She said nothing, awaiting his explanation. “Now,” he continued, leaning back comfortably, while the smoke from his cigarette wound upwards in a thin, grey spiral, “tell me something about Molly’s sister.”
She glanced at him a little shyly. “Oh, there isn’t-much to tell,” she continued. “Molly’s sisterleads a very quiet life since she—came home. You see being away from here so long I rather lost touch with my old friends; it’s hard to pick up the threads after—let me see—five years.”
“Well.” There was a little upward quirk of the corners of Stephen’s mouth, “leave the old ones alone, then, and make new ones. I’m willing,” he concluded, with smiling candor.
So the conversation drifted on; mutual friends were discovered, places in England which both had known during the war were re-visited in recollection, various war incidents were recounted by Stephen, though only the most amusing of his experiences. She did not ask him to tell her further about her husband. He seemed to understand that she was completely satisfied when he had said that Dick Christy was a brave man. That was the sum total of his war record, and it needed no details.
Most of the time, when Stephen was talking, she looked into the heart of the glowing fire, and at such times Stephen’s eyes never left her face, and he foundhimself longing to stop the clock, so that they could
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Stephen Surprises Everybody
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sit thus forever, talking in this quiet room, with nothing to disturb them but the occasional falling-apart of a log in the fire.
It was about eleven when Stephen rose to go, and Molly had not returned. but for several reasons, he was not anxious to encounter her just then. Stephen, to tell the truth, was suddenly beginning to regard Molly as a very attractive third party. Only, Molly was blissfully unaware of this decis-
“Molly will be sorry not to have seen you,” observed Mrs. Clrristy, roguishly, as Stephen was leaving'.
“Oh, g'ive Molly my love,” said he from the door, “and tell her I shall expect her to save me at least three dances and supper at the Layburn’s
Friday night. If she doesn’t, I’ll go home and to bed, where I belong.”
He laughed and departed. Mrs Christy turned off the lights and sat in the fire-glow—to think.
A little later Molly arrived, threw off her wrap and switched on the lights. “Good gracious, Cicely Anne,” she exclaimed, “have you been sitting all evening in this dim religious light?”
Her sister ignored the question. “How was the play?” she asked.
“Not too bad,” this was the studied unenthusiasm of eighteen, “hut I’m frozen.”
She moved over to the fire. Then. “Goodness gracious! What a pile of cigarette butts! Did you smoke all those, or have you had a visitor?”
Mrs. Christy laughed. “Yes,” she
said, “Mr. Roblinn has been here. He left not long before you came.”
Molly turned quickly and faced her sister. “What ! Stephen was here?” she said, incredulously. “Well, of all the exasperating people! I saw him down town this morning, and I told him I was going to the theatre tonight. Really, some people’s memories are exactly like a sieve. What did he say when he found I’d gone?”
Mrs. Christy looked away. “Oh, nothing in particular—just said he might as well stay for a chat since he was
“Well,” Molly shrugged, “I’m awfully sorry he had his trip for nothing, but it is his own fault for forgetting.” Mrs. Christy’s face wore quite an innocent expression as she said, “He sent his love to you, Molly dear, and said—let me see—that he counts on your saving him three dances and supper on Friday, otherwise ...”
“Oh, he does, does he? Well, we shall see. He doesn’t deserve any.” Mrs. Christy glanced at Molly, and sighed. “What a little spitfire you are, Molly,” she said. “Now go to bed and you’ll feel more charitably disposed towards him by tomorrow.”
Molly shrugged her shoulders, and went over and kissed her sister. “All right, dear old thing. Just tell me one thing. Did he look sorry he’d missed
“Yes, very, dear,” replied Mrs. Christy, quickly, and then wondered if, after all, that had been entirely true. A week later Stephen invited Molly and Mrs. Christy to the opera with him, a younger man completing the party.
“Fancy!” said Molly, as she did up her sister’s dress for her. “He seems to think I can’t go to the opera unchaperoned. Of course, I think it’s lovely—your going,” she added hastily, leaving a kiss on her sister’s smooth cheek, “but I’d so much rather go alone with him. At least—I
Mrs. Christy smiled quietly. “Yes, I know,” she said. “Well, perhaps you’ll find he has arranged it so that we’ll sit in pairs on opposite sides of the house. Do hurry, my dear, with my frock.”
The evening, Molly decided, was quite a success, in spite of the chaperonage. The opera was, of course, quite incidental, for she was busy being very nice to Stephen, and making an impression on “the other man,” Stephen was in a particularly cheerful mood, and his little personal asides to Molly were all that she could desire in complimentary finish. In between these, Molly amused herself prodigiously with a little harmless flirting with “the other man”; and as for Stephen he was really enjoying the music, and was keenly aware of the pleasure Mrs. Christy was finding in it, and of the pleasure he was finding in sitting beside her.
Once, as the lights went up, he turned to speak to her, and her grey eyes were soft with tears. “Oh, it is so very, very beautiful,” was all she said.
Later at supper Stephen had Mrs. Christy almost to himself, for Molly danced with “the other man” and was in her element.
“Stephen,” she declared, as she sat down at their table after one particularly jazzy fox-trot, “if you ever learn to dance really well, I’ll give you seven dances all in a row.”
“Thank you,” said Stephen solemnly. “I’ll be too old by that time.”
Before they left, he induced Mrs. Christy to dance with him once.
_ “You may not believe it, but it’s the first time I’ve danced in two years. I’d almost forgotten how I love it,” she
She was looking her best, in a simple black gown, with a string of beautiful pearls around her white throat. Stephen’s heart repeated so often, “You beautiful, beautiful woman,” that he almost said it aloud, and wished that the other two were a thousand miles away.
From that on, Stephen appeared at the house frequently. He came to dinner, discussed politics with Mr. Martin, was charmingly attentive to i Mrs. Martin, and made pretty speeches
to Molly. And he was the only one who> knew how he longed to sit once more before the crackling fire with Mrs. Christy in her low chair near him. For Stephen had been ail at once confronted with the astounding fact that the barriers were down, and he was very much in love. This new emotion was most disturbing to him, and he found it necessary to order his proceedings with the utmost care, so as not to ruin his cause by undue haste. Molly, he felt, was his greatest obstacle. If he were to lose her friendship, he felt sure that things would go very much against him.
So, when he once or twice invited Mrs. Christy to lunch or dine with him down-town, he included Molly in the invitation, and wisely paid her all the attention she had grown to expect; and she was quite sure that her sister went along as chaperone, which rather puzzled and considerably annoyed her.
“Stephen,” she asked him on one occasion, “do you think I’m not old enough to go out with you without a chaper-
Stephen regarded her with a humorously sad expression. “No, Molly,” he said, “you see I really need a chaperone, so I thought your sister wouldn’t mind keeping her eye on me. I’m really a very wild character, you know, and not quite responsible for my actions. For instance, if I felt disposed to kiss you, which is highly probable, your sister would have a restraining effect upon
Still, the achievement of having won Stephen by her charms, was a little robbed of its glory by having the other girls see them always accompanied by Mrs. Christy. Molly would have liked to flaunt her victorious flag unattended by another female.
One evening Stephen dropped in at the Martins’ house, casually, hoping to find that Molly had gone to a party. Instead, he found her very much at home, and racking her brains for some| thing to do. She seized upon Stephen the moment he appeared.
“Hurray! You’re just the person,” she cried. “I was threatening to drag Cicely Anne out to a movie, though she usually embarrasses me horribly when I take her by laughing when she should weep, and the other way around.”
Mrs. Christy rose to greet him. She looked a little tired, and her smile seemed to Stephen a little more wistful than usual. “I dare say Molly will make you play dummy-bridge, Mr. Roblinn, since you’ve come in time to solve her problem,” she predicted.
“Exactly,” said Molly, going to get the cards. “If you like, Stephen, you can get the table and put it up.”
It was the last thing Stephen wanted to do just then, and he guessed that Mrs. Christy was not in a mood to enjoy the game. So he mentally shook his fist at Molly, and proceeded to play a very bad game.
After an hour, Molly threw down her cards, and burst out: “Oh, Stephen,
you’re simply hopeless tonight. Each game so far you’ve played a little worse than the last.”
Stephen was gazing at Mrs. Christy's slim white fingers; he dared not look in her eyes. “I need to make up lost sleep, Molly, I’ll go home and begin now, before you hurl the whole pack of cards and the table at me for my stupidity.”
Just then the telephone rang for Molly, and Stephen and Mrs. Christy were left alone for a moment. “Molly will have to go unchaperoned for a while,” she remarked. “I’m going away tomor-
“Away?” Stephen sat up quickly. “How long? And where to?”
“Not more than a fortnight, I think. But I want a bit of a change, and a cousin of mine in Philadelphia has written and asked me to stay with her. So I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Oh,” said Stephen, in a very low voice, “do you have to stay the whole fortnight?”
“Why, that isn’t very long, is it?” “Maybe not. Is Molly going too?” “No. I’ve just told you she’ll have to do without a chaperone for a while.” Then Stephen got up and stood over her. His mouth was set, and his hands-
in his pockets were clenched. “I wonder if you really believe you’re chaperoning Molly,” he said, slowly. “Maybe it’s Molly who is the chaperone. You never can tell.”
He stopped abruptly, leaned over, took one of her slim hands, and kissed it gently. Then he went away, leaving her sitting very, very still, and Molly still chattering elsewhere over the tele-
STEPHEN spent until far into the night walking up and down, up and down, in his room. His hands were clasped behind him, his eyes were troubled, and there were numerous lines across his forehead. The immediate remit of this silent communion with himself was that he hurried to his office in the morning and spent most of the day inquiring into business with his Philadelphia agency, and was gratified to find that there was a considerable amount of business there to which he could attend by going to Philadelphia at once. It was not like Stephen to hunt up unusual business.
After he got home he spent nearly an hour, with the aid of a good dinner, trying to remember the name of that young married cousin of Cicely Anne’s and Molly’s who lived in Philadelphia. Molly, at some time or other, had told him about her; as far as he knew, she was the only cousin they had in Philadelphia. At any rate, it would be a clue whereby .to find Cicely Anne while he was there. He hardly liked to call up any of the Martins, and ask pointblank for her address; it would be awkward explaining his interest in it. Thus does love create many imaginary hurdles to be jumped. At length, by concentration. he remembered it; if it h -dn’t been unusual, he wouldn’t have. “Cooke—no! Baker—no! Kitchen—ah, that's it! Mrs. Charlie Kitchin,” and he wrote it down at once in his note-book.
During the evening he telephoned Molly, told her he was unexpectedly called away on business, and devoted himself for twenty minutes or so to amusing her.
“Where are you going?” asked Molly. “Oh—er—I shall have to go to several places before I’m through — New York and so on.” He changed the subject quickly.
As far as Molly was concerned, the fortnight rather dragged. She found that she missed Stephen’s attentions a good deal as soon as they were removed. It wasn’t so much fun receiving the attentions of young men who had been more easily captured. There was always the uncertainty of holding Stephen, even after he was won, which had added zest to the game. To add to her annoyance, no fewer than three swains whom she had persistently scorned, turned up during the fortnight, and clamored for her favor. It was most aggravating, and she longed for Cicely Anne so that she could turn them over to her to dispose of them politely.
ONE AFTERNOON, seventeen days after her sister’s departure, Molly came home from a tea at the Country Club and found her mother and Cicely Anne together in her mother’s room. Cicely Anne was sitting on a hassock at her mother’s feet, just as she used to when a little girl, and she looked very much as if she had been crying.
“By the way,” Molly announced, at dinner that same day, “Stephen’s home. I saw him on my way home just now.” Cicely Anne opened her mouth quicklv, as if to say something, shut it again, but went on after a moment: “I saw him—er—while he was in Philadelphia on business, and he expected to be home yesterday.”
“Oh, was he there?” asked Molly. “Well, he might have let me know last night that he was back. How did he know Cousin Ella’s address? I never gave it to him. Maybe you ran into him down-town by accident, did you? I’m always doing that with people. It’s almost uncanny,” she concluded, sparing her sister the trouble of answering.
Immediately after dinner, Molly was called to the telephone. She reappeared in a moment and announced: “That fun-
: ny friend of Stephen’s, Mr. Lewis—you know, Cicely Anne—the one who dances so well, is taking me to the movies in exactly ten minutes.”
\ FTER SHE had gone, the other il three went into the library to look for a book which Mr. Martin wa ; sure ought to be. among those on the shelves and which could not be found. The j hunt had hardly begun, when Stephen j arrived, and Cicely Anne went out into j the hall to see him.
He looked haggard, and his . eyes searched her face, as he held out both hands. “Where’s Molly?” was the first thing he asked.
• “She’s gone out with Mr. Lewis.” “Good. I told him to.”
Stephen smiled a grim little smile. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I had to have you to myself tonight, for a little talk. Where can we he alone?”
She raised one hand in a beseeching gesture. “There’s nobody in the livingroom—but, not now, Stephen, please! I I’m very tired.”
j Stephen put a hand on each of her shoulders and steered her gentlv inti : the living room, settled her in her own i low chair, and shut the door.
“Please, Stephen! We may be interrupted any minute.”
“Your mother,” said Stephen, impressively. “is a sensible woman. When she sees the door shut and hears voices behind it, she’ll understand. And I hope we won’t have to keep her out too long.”
He pulled up a chair to the fire, and sat down in it, leaning far forward in his effort to look into her eyes. “Cicely Anne,” he began, and his voice was little more than a whisper, “the last time I saw you—in Philadelphia—I tried to tell you how much you mean to me. You—I did it badly—perhaps I—Oh, dear heart,” he broke off, and passing his hand over his forehead, went on in a moment, “I hoped that—before I came away from Philadelphia you would answer the question. I—must know soon—now—whether you can care for me enough to marry me!”
He stopped, and she kept her face half-turned from him and in shadow. The elusive perfume of violets hung about her, and her hands, cold as ice, were tightly clasped in her lap.
After several moments, which seemed like a series of eternities to Stephen, he got up, bent over her and took her i face between his hands.
“Dear,” he pleaded, very slowly, “you must look at me—while I tell you—that I love you—more than I can seem to . put into .words—and I want you, Cicely Anne. Won’t you take me?”
She unclasped her hands, and put ! them over his, and then she said, in a ! voice full of nappy laughter and tears. “Oh, Stephen! I can’t keep it from you any longer—how happy I am—because I love you. Yes, Stephen, I can care for you enough to . . .”
The rest was smothered within the circle of Stephen’s arms.