Garlands and Love Knots
The proverbial fancy, fun and flowers of returning spring time have tickled us with their romance and arias. The age has not yet been reached in mankind, when a good love story in such a setting as this, does not charm a dull moment. This is a charming story by Zona Gale, author of the “Loves of Pelleas and Ettarre.
BETTY shook her head, once each way, for emphasis.
“Not if I live for ever,” she said. “And ev-er,” she added, to make the matter clear.
Pelleas and I looked at each other in distress. We are seventy years old. We fell in love fifty years ago, and since then we have done our best to bring about as many love-stories as possible in a willing world. But the case in hand was beyond our simple art.
“My dear, child,” Pelleas said in perplexity, “you have not even heard what the will really says.”
“Please, Uncle Pelleas!” said Betty, like a warning.
“Really, the condition is not half so bad as you fancy, dear,” I coaxed; and I could not possibly keep from laughter.
“Please, Aunt Ettarre,” Betty begged. Betty is not even our grandniece, but we all love this innocent pretense, as an apology for our fondness. Pelleas turned to me with a twinkle in his eye.
“Ah, very well, Ettarre,” he said to me. “Betty may be right, after all. I dare say that she is.”
I think that the very flowers in the garden must have understood what Pelleas and I meant as we smiled in each other’s eyes.
Betty kissed me wanderingly on the hair and blew a kiss to Pelleas.
“I could never marry to please anybody else—even you,” she said. “Never, never!” she added, and went away down the walk into the deep heart of the garden. •
Betty had just come ashore that
morning, back from her four years at school in Switzerland. Her return had been hastened by the death of her uncle, Philip Allis ; but when Pelleas, who was executor of the will, had just essayed to make its terms known to her, she had flown into a very pretty passion and refused to hear another word.
“ ‘To my beloved niece, Bettina Allis,’ ” Pelleas had read, “ T bequeath one hundred thousand dollars, on the occasion of her marriage to—-’
Upon which Betty had swiftly risen, and I think I remember that she stamped her foot, though Pelleas has gallantly forgotten.
“Uncle Pelleas—please!” she had cried, “I don’t want to know ! Please—■ I will not know ! Oh, how unspeakable of Uncle Phil!”
Thereupon Pelleas had glanced across at me with a smile and a warning to keep silence.
“Dear,” Betty had gone on steadily, “I know whom Uncle Phil means. I know without your telling me. He sent him to me with a letter, in Zurich. I couldn’t marry anyway; but if I knew certainly that Uncle Phil had done this, I—I especially couldn’t marry him anyway. And besides, I should hate him—don’t you see?”
At this, Pelleas and I had fallen into delighted laughter.
“Oh, no, you wouldn’t, Betty, dear,” we had told her sweepingly.
When she left us alone, Pelleas and I smiled in each other’s eyes, and in his was the adorable look that I have seen in his face whenever something very charming and daring had come into his mind. As for me, I was all sympathetic expectation. For we have both found, in our seventy years, that the world is a place whose seams are embroidered with garlands and whose ragged edges are set with love-knots. Here, we told ourselves delightedly, was about to be a love-knot of our own tying ; and all the flowers in the garden turned toward us little faces which would do excellently for the garlands.
“Suppose,” Pelleas said, “that we were not to tell her?”
“But, Pelleas,” I objected, “she ought
—she really ought, you know—to understand about the codicil.”
“I don’t see it, dear,” said Pelleas. “It will make no difference to her if she is in love. Do you happen to know whether she is?”
“I have only talked with her for fifteen minutes,” I apologized somewhat guiltily, “and I’m not sure. But when I asked her whether there were many Americans in Zurich, she looked up at me almost searchingly. I rather fancied—”
“Ah, well now, of course, that isn’t really evidence,” Pelleas suggested.
To which I reluctantly agreed ; though I am pursuaded that evidence is by no means the only thing in the world which is convincing.
We sat in the garden, smiling a little at our temerity, smiling at all the heavenly possibilities which the days hide and yield. As for me, who am a most sentimental old woman, I never so much as look at a clock without thinking what happiness its hours will harbor, or at a bottle of ink without fancying the most delightful secrets issuing forth from it, or at a rose without trying to read it, as if it were a letter. A great many more things are letters than people dream. At all events, it is not wonderful that a few minutes later, when we saw Betty flying back toward us from the garden’s deep heart, both Pelleas and I were instantly alert to read the meaning of her eyes and her frown and her flushed cheeks.
“Who lives in the lodge, dear — do you know?” she demanded of me, as if 1 were somewhat the one who should have protected her from the situation.
It was Pelleas who answered.
“Herbert,” he said; “young David Herbert, who is—”
The crimson flamed high in Betty’s cheeks, so that Pelleas stopped in amazement.
“David Herbert!” she repeated, and looked from one to the other of us until I think that Pelleas and I all but turned to each other with some sense of unguessed guilt. “So,” Betty said, “he is the man! And you knew ! And you’ve brought me here on purpose! Aunt
Ettarre — Uncle Pelleas — was that fair?”
I looked at Pelleas with mirth in my eyes, but he was answering her with perfect gravity.
“My dear Betty,” he said, “if you will not allow me to tell you who the man is, you must not expect me to tell you who he is not ”--
Betty is irresistible with a hint of sob in her voice.
“Uncle Phil adored him,” she said. “He talked about him all day long that spring we spent on the Riviera; and afterward he sent him to me with a letter, at the school. He was in Zurich twice, this M-Mr. David Herbert. Once
he brought a m-man with him — a M-Mr. Allen Justus. And I thought—”
“Pie brought a man with him—a Mr. Allen Justus?” Pelleas repeated with attention, without so much as meeting my ejyes.
“lies, somebody Mr. Herbert wanted Uncle Phil to know. Pie wanted everybody to know Uncle Phil. Oh, I thought of him first thing when you told me about the will. And I don’t think I like anybody in the world !”
“My dear Betty!” we cried, hastening after her up the path.
We must have looked most absurd, Pelleas and I, with our white heads
bent over her bright hair. We tried to soothe her, knowing all the time that we were in the wrong, and that we should instantly have told her the truth about that young David Herbert.
But no sooner were we alone again on the terrace in the warm noon sun than Pelleas turned to me with all his adorable air of daring.
“Ettarre,” he said hesitatingly, “I thought of it not ten minutes ago. Suppose—suppose—do you think we could prevail upon David Herbert to have down a guest or two at the lodge?”
“I should think that now would be the very time when David Herbert would want a guest,” I agreed, seeing dimly what he meant.
“Since Betty mentioned that he and somebody named Allen Justus are friends how would it be if he asked down this Allen Justus?” Pelleas pursued.
“Of all people in the world,” I assented as gravely as I could, “I should say that Allen Justus is the one to ask; and that now is the time of times.”
I remember how the white terrace, and the summer garden, and the very sun on the green, looked brighter as we surveyed the possibilities.
“Oh, Pelleas,” I said, “I don’t know whether that will be wise or not. But somehow, when I look down in the garden, I feel as if something very charming were about to happen.”
Betty, utterly forgetful that she liked nobody in the world, was singing within doors—some quick little lilt without a word to bless itself with, but very swTeet and tender.
“Something charming is about to happen. I can hear the very prelude for it,” Pelleas said positively.
I THINK it began at noon, three days later—at noon, when I was stupidly indoors, so that Pelleas was obliged to tell me what occurred.
Betty was in the garden, on the side farthest from the lodge. On a seat in a corner of wild grape-vine Pelleas sat, with his morning paper; but the paper hardly counted in that company, for Pelleas dozed and nodded at every para-
graph. When one is seventy, the most alluring head-line will wait till one wakes from a dream or two.
A maple vista skirted the terrace on this side, and from its depths a man walked out and stood looking at Betty, who was gathering sweet peas. Betty glanced up, saw him, and stooped to reach a difficult blossom, without a word of greeting. Pelleas saw this, for a man cannot be expected to sleep all the time over his morning paper. The man— tall, loosely jointed, quizzical — bent surprised eyes upon her, crossed, and thrust a lean brown hand over the fence.
“How do you do, Miss Allis?” he said.
“I beg your pardon,” said Betty.
“I am David Herbert,” he told her. “Don’t you remember me at all?”
Betty gave him two fingers.
“Certainly—in Zurich,” she said.
Herbert hesitated, in doubt. He had admired her immensely when he had called with her uncle’s letter. Later, in passing through Zurich, he had taken Justus to see her, and Justus had thought—
“By the way,” he said, “Allen Justus is spending two weeks with me. He comes to-morrow. We are in the lodire.”
He hesitated interrogatively. The faintest possible color crept into Betty’s face.
“Mr. Justus?” she remembered evenly. “Ah, yes! I will tell my aunt.”
" Herbert stood still, with something else on his lips, in which Betty’s manner betrayed no interest. Whatever he had meant to say, he thought better of it, and, as Pelleas saw, bowed and went away.
“Now, what the deuce—” Pelleas said he looked as if he were wondering, in the seclusion of the maple vista.
And here Pelleas appeared to waken. He shook his paper, and was seized with a longing for a sweet pea in a buttonhole.
“Betty,” he said casually, as she drew the pink bloom in place, “he is a fine fellow, that young man—a very fine fellow.’
Bettv caught up her basket of sweet peas,
“But the idea is odious—odious !” she cried. Here, again, I think she stamped her foot, but I have never been able to have Pelleas say so. “I would never marry David Herbert—never, never !” she concluded solemnly.
When Pelleas told me this, we could say very little about it, for our laughter; though I admit that I grieved not to have been present in the garden that morning.
The very next morning I took care to sit with my sewing in the arbor. My nasturtium-beds extend to the wall of the lodge garden ; and that year the nasturtiums were blooming as if the goblins were pulling at the buds. Every morning the beds were blissfully orange and yellow and old pink. Now, every one knows that if nasturtiums are to bloom,
they must be picked daily ; and who was there to pick mine but Betty? I had made it a personal favor that Betty should gather them that day. While she did this, I had the joy of watching her bright hair above the oright bloom ; and after a time I observed that I was not enjoying this pleasant pastime alone.
I had never seen Allen Justus, but as I looked beyond the nasturtium-beds, I was certain that it was he. He was strolling leisurely in the lodge garden, coming toward the low wall. If he saw the flaming beds of old-fashioned flowers about him, they cannot be said to have impressed him, for he was looking only at Betty.
As for Betty, she had on a wide white hat, and she saw nothing but the flowers above which, butterfly-wise, she hov-
ered. At least, I do not think that she did, for she gave no sign in the world.
Allen Justus came close to the low wall.
“Good morning, Fraulein Allis,” he said. “I have dropped over from Zurich to look at your nasturtiums, please.”
Betty stood up in the orange and yellow and old pink, so that their faint flame glowed a little in her face.
“Good morning, Mr. Justus,” she said, and it crossed my mind that Betty is as charmingly non-committal as a nasturtium. You can tell that she is beautiful, but you cannot in the least tell what she means.
“Have you no nasturtiums in Zurich, .then?” she asked ; but she smiled.
“They have nothing whatever there since you left,” he told her gravely.
Then he vaulted over the low wall, picked his way among the flowers, and held out his hand. Usually, I would as lief that some one should paint my nasturtiums as step among them ; but that morning I was superbly indifferent.
Betty gave him her hand in that little field of color; and he took away her garden shears, quite as if that was why he had come from Switzerland.
“You carry the basket,” he said, “and I’ll snip ’em. When did you land?”
“But you’ll cut off the buds,” Betty objected. “A man always shuts his eyes and cuts flowers in the air.”
Allen Justus snipped away at her feet.
“These buds,” he observed impassively, “are as safe as if I were only imagining myself with you, as I have so many times. When did you land?”
“I landed on Tuesday,” Betty answered obediently.
I have no idea what I was seeing that morning, but I protest that as I sat there in the arbor I embroidered the seams with garlands and set the edges with love-knots. For here was likely to be a love-knot of a heavenly sort of tying, and the very flowers in the garden were making it come true.
Presently I slipped from the other door of the arbor and went to find Pelleas—asleep over his paper, opposite the distant sweet peas,
“Oh, Pelleas,’ I said, sitting beside him, “something charming is about to happen !”
“That,” Pelleas replied, wide-awake on the instant, “is never very difficult to believe.”
“Isn’t it strange, Pelleas,” I said — for I am never tired of thinking so — “that everybody in the world has something special to remember?”
“Like ourselves,” said Pelleas contentedly.
“Oh, no; indeed, no!” I cried..“Not in the least like our love-story, Pelleas. Very few have a story so charming as ours.”
“Ah, well, now,” Pelleas said, “I suppose everybody thinks that. I suppose,” he theorized, “that there isn’t a woman in the world who does not delieve, in her secret heart, that her lovestory would make a wholly absorbing novel.”
“And as for most men,” said I, “I dare say they fancy themselves the possible heroes of whole libraries !”
“Well, everybody is right about it!” cried Pelleas stoutly. “Everybody is* a love-story. Doesn’t that make a very wonderful place of the world?”
But it seemed to me that the matter lay a little nearer to the every-day.
“Not everybody’s love-story would make a story” I objected; “but look into some of the happiest and most loving hearts, and I fancy you would find what is commoner than a story—just some charming little happening of the days when they were in love. A garland or a love-knot, Pelleas,” I explained.
“Yes, garlands and love-knots,” said Pelleas airily, “are what shape the world. They keep it the shape of a heart, instead of a dollar!”
I know no more charming theory.
NEXT day—I am not sure, looking back, that the sun itself was not the shape of a heart that morning, in its rising—Pelleas and I were on the terrace, after lunch, when we caught sight of a carriage driving down the maple vista toward the lodge. On the top of the carriage were two trunks ; and with-
in the carriage we saw—or so we fancied—the flutter of a lace veil, and of a handkerchief signaling us in greeting.
At this we looked at each other, like conspirators.
“Pelleas,” I said hurriedly, “don’t you think this would be a fine day to go over to the Allis house and look through the library, before the sale?”
Pelleas agreed with suspicious alacrity—which made it appear almost as if, for some reason, we were eager to be away from home; though, to be sure, we had long been intending to look through Betty’s uncle’s fine library, which his will directed to be sold at auction. Betty, of course, was to go with us, and it was still early when we left our house to walk through the fields to the Allis estate, adjoining our own.
I shall not soon forget those hours among the beautiful old volumes with which Philip Allis had spent his life. Betty, touched to tears by the recollections of her childhood in the great house, lingered in the hushed library, until Pelleas and I were forced at length to walk outside for a breath of the sweet, summoning afternoon air.
We walked twice and again the length of the terrace, and were returning, when we saw three figures—a woman and two men—cross from the drive and enter the door. There was no mistaking them. The situation which Pelleas and I had wantonly courted, in our love of a jest, was full upon us. We had been conspirators of silence.
We hurried forward—feeling very miserable, I will confess, yet with a little voice of laughter in our hearts, for all that—and we reached the door of the library just at the high moment.
Betty had risen from the window-seat, where we had left her, and the books were scattered about her, and the sun smote through the window in a glory— a kind of glory of laughter, I do protest. Before her stood Allen Justus and David Herbert; and that fine young David Herbert, whom she had so much dreaded, was presenting to her his wife —an adorable creature, the bride of a year, just returned to the lodge that very day from a first fleeting visit to her home.
Betty is quite perfect. I have never known her betray herself by even a glance, and at that moment her delicate, telltale color did not mount. I have always insisted that her lowered eyelids are more alluring than many a woman’s eyes.
“We eame over,” Herbert explained to us, “to see about having Justus’s books sent over to him.”
“Mr. Justus’s books?” Betty repeated a little stiffly.
Allen was bending to speak to Betty, with an expression which Pelleas and I could not regard as unfathonable. Pelleas and I are seventy, as I have said, and our sight is not what it was; but flowers, angels, and that look in the eyes of youth we are still able to discern with perfect clearness.
“Will you come into your uncle’s study?” he said to us all, but looking at Betty. “I want—I do so want to show you my mother’s picture.”
“Your mother’s picture?” Betty repeated again.
“I thought you knew,” he said simply. “I think, if you had not been away, you must have known. Of late Mr. Allis never made it a secret from us that he had loved my mother when she was a girl. He has her picture—it is to be mine. She was very beautiful.”
Betty looked up at Allen Justus breathlessly.
“Uncle Phil!” she said. “I thought you said in Zurich that you didn’t know my Uncle Phil!”
“I never did,” Allen said, “until this last year. He never would let me come to see him, because—because he remembered my mother, and it gave him pain ; but at last David persuaded him, and then I saw him often.”
Betty turned, and she sent to Pelleas and me the little edge of a glance that left us defenseless. We stood there miserably while she moved toward the study to see the portrait. Then Pelleas said, with a beautiful and commendable dignity, that we two found the house very close, and we would walk on before the others, if no one minded. We went away across the terrace, confident that we had ruined the whole matter from first to last, and that the very flow-
ers of the garden were turned toward us accusingly—llowers that should have been garlands for love.
Dinner was at eight o’clock, but at eight o’clock that night Betty had not come to the drawing-room, and a maid came back to tell us that she was not in her room. She had not dressed for dinner. She was not in the house. Pelleas and I, in the middle of the great drawing-room, looked at each other tremblingly.
At last we went through the glass doors to the garden, with the troubled notion that the garden might be able to help us. Indeed, I have seldom known the garden to fail us in any distress, and it did not fail us now. We went a little way into its dusk, and almost at once we saw, moving between us and the veiled brightness of my nasturtiums, a little white figure which must be Betty.
But before we could speak, or go to her, a shadow stirred on the low garden wall, and some one crossed swiftly from one end of my nasturtium-bed to the other. I hardly remembered the presence of my flowers, and only welcomed the shadow that moved over them.
“Betty! Betty!” the shadow said in Allen Justus’s voice.
Betty stood still. We could see her white frock in the starlight. When Allen came to her, and I think—if I am as wise in these matters as I pretend— would have taken her in his arms, she moved sharply away from him.
“Betty!” he cried—and oh, I assure every one that Pelleas and I had as much right there as the nasturtiums themselves, for our hearts were qutie as sympathetic—“I love you ! I love you, dear! This afternoon you wouldn’t listen. You shall listen now! I have loved you ever since I saw you in that Zurich pension. There isn’t a peak of the Alps that I haven’t looked at by the hour in the hope that you had looked at it, too!” cried the young lover. “Betty, I can’t tell you, dear. But if you could only know—”
It was a boy’s wooing—the April of the heart. For very gladness, Pelleas and I clasped each other’s hands as we heard, and trembled a little for all the
heavenlv possibilities that the days hide and yield.
To our amazement, little Betty’s voice was clear and cold as she answered this April message.
“Mr. Justus,” she said, “do you mind telling me whether you were mentioned in my uncle’s will?”
What must have been thought? Pelleas and I, who had lingered in the vague hope that we might somehow be able to set matters right, were minded at this to make the world stand still while we explained.. But I loved Allen Justus for answering quite simply, and and as if, for the happy tumult of his heart, he had hardly time to wonder at her words.
“Mr. Allis left me some books that had been my mother’s,” he said, “and— and a little present. Not—not much, you know.”
“Oh!” Betty said sharply, dimly realizing what she had seemed to be asking. “But I mean, did he mention you —did he mention me—oh,” she cried distressfully. “I am so afraid that he has left me a fortune if I will marry you!”
Ah, and then there was a new note in Allen’s voice. It was easy to guess that he had read something in Betty’s words that I think she did not know that she had said.
“Betty!” he cried. “I don’t know anything at all about that. If it is so, I do not know it. But, dear, do you love me? Do you love me well enough to marry me, even if your uncle wished you to?”
And at that, Pelleas and I turned and fled. There was no more possibility that we should be needed to set things right. Oh, these lovers of to-day! Was not that modernity on the lips of a youthful wooer? And Allem s words must have held divine logic, for I was certain, as we turned away, that Beatty was in his arms, in a world of nasturtiums of dusk.
“Something charming is happening!” said Pelleas, as we hurried between the flowers.
Dinner was disgracefully late. I think we only managed to have it at all when Pelleas had gone calling through
the garden and had brought them both in, with a light in their eyes which the gloom of the garden seemed to have taught.
“Betty,” Pelleas said over our coffee, “there is, you may remember, a certain clause of your uncle’s will which you have never heard. There is also a codicil. Could—could you be persuaded to listen—now?”
“Perhaps so, now,” said Betty. What a word that “now” may become !
So, with Allen looking at Betty, and Betty listening a little fearfully, Pelleas repeated that clause of Philip Allis’s will which had caused us both such happy laughter.
t “To my niece, Bettina Allis,” ’ he quoted—for he could say it off, by now —“ ‘I bequeath one hundred thousand dollars on the occasion of her marriage to the man whom she loves.”
I wish that every one could have seen our dear little Betty’s face.
“Really, Uncle Pelleas? Really, Aunt Ettarre?” she said; and I think she may have wanted to stamp her foot—at
herself—under the table; but Pelleas says that she was too happy to think of that.
“And then the codicil, Pelleas,” I urged with happy tears.
“Oh, the codicil,” Pelleas said carelessly, “provides fifty thousand more to you both in case that man happens to be Allen Justus, son of a loved friend of your uncle’s, Betty, dear.”
We made an excuse to go to the verandah to see about the awnings, so that we might leave them alone over their coffee for a moment or two.
“Everybody is a love-story, Ettarre,” Pelleas repeated with conviction, while we stood there, looking down on our garden.
“Not a love-story like ours, Pelleas,” I protested; “but, at all events, a heart with a garland or a love-knot about it.” “Ah, well,” Pelleas said, “I think that that’s the same thing.”
Perhaps he is right—in a world of possibilities which the days hide and yield.