Suit by E. P. Roe
The Christmas holidays had come, and with them a welcome vacation
for Hedley Marstern. Although as yet a briefless young lawyer, he had
a case in hand which absorbed many of his thoughts—the conflicting
claims of two young women in his native village on the Hudson. It must
not be imagined that the young women were pressing their claims except
as they did so unconsciously, by virtue of their sex and various
charms. Nevertheless, Marstern was not the first lawyer who had
clients over whom midnight oil was burned, they remaining unaware of
If not yet a constitutional attorney, he was at least
constitutionally one. Falling helplessly in love with one girl
simplifies matters. There are no distracting pros and cons— nothing
required but a concentration of faculties to win the enslaver, and so
achieve mastery. Marstern did not appear amenable to the subtle
influences which blind the eyes and dethrone reason, inspiring in its
place an overwhelming impulse to capture a fortuitous girl because (to
a heated imagination) she surpasses all her sex. Indeed, he was
level-headed enough to believe that he would never capture any such
girl; but he hoped to secure one who promised to make as good a wife
as he would try to be a husband, and with a fair amount of
self-esteem, he was conscious of imperfections. Therefore, instead of
fancying that any of his fair acquaintances were angels, he had
deliberately and, as some may think, in a very cold-blooded fashion,
endeavored to discover what they actually were. He had observed that a
good deal of prose followed the poetry of wooing and the lunacy of the
honeymoon; and he thought it might be well to criticise a little
before marriage as well as after it.
There were a number of charming girls in the social circle of his
native town; and he had, during later years, made himself quite
impartially agreeable to them. Indeed, without much effort on his
part he had become what is known as a general favorite. He had been
too diligent a student to become a society man, but was ready enough
in vacation periods to make the most of every country frolic, and even
on great occasions to rush up from the city and return at some
unearthly hour in the morning when his partners in the dance were not
half through their dreams. While on these occasions he had shared in
the prevailing hilarity, he nevertheless had the presentiment that
some one of the laughing, light-footed girls would one day pour his
coffee and send him to his office in either a good or a bad mood to
grapple with the problems awaiting him there. He had in a measure
decided that when he married it should be to a girl whom he had played
with in childhood and whom he knew a good deal about, and not to a
chance acquaintance of the world at large. So, beneath all his
diversified gallantries he had maintained a quiet little policy of
observation, until his thoughts had gradually gathered around two of
his young associates who, unconsciously to themselves, as we have
said, put in stronger and stronger claims every time he saw them. They
asserted these claims in the only way in which he would have
recognized them—by being more charming, agreeable, and, as he
fancied, by being better than the others. He had not made them aware,
even by manner, of the distinction accorded to them; and as yet he was
merely a friend.
But the time had come, he believed, for definite action. While he
weighed and considered, some prompter fellows might take the case out
of his hands entirely; therefore he welcomed this vacation and the
opportunities it afforded.
The festivities began with what is termed in the country a "large
party"; and Carrie Mitchell and Lottie Waldo were both there,
resplendent in new gowns made for the occasion. Marstern thought them
both charming. They danced equally well and talked nonsense with much
the same ease and vivacity. He could not decide which was the
prettier, nor did the eyes and attentions of others afford him any
aid. They were general favorites, as well as himself, although it was
evident that to some they might become more, should they give
encouragement. But they were apparently in the heyday of their
girlhood, and thus far had preferred miscellaneous admiration to
individual devotion. By the time the evening was over Marstern felt
that if life consisted of large parties he might as well settle the
question by the toss of a copper.
It must not be supposed that he was such a conceited prig as to
imagine that such a fortuitous proceeding, or his best efforts
afterward, could settle the question as it related to the girls. It
would only decide his own procedure. He was like an old marauding
baron, in honest doubt from which town he can carry off the richest
booty—that is, in case he can capture any one of them. His overtures
for capitulation might be met with the "slings and arrows of
outrageous fortune" and he be sent limping off the field.
Nevertheless, no man regrets that he must take the initiative, and he
would be less than a man who would fear to do so. When it came to this
point in the affair, Marstern shrugged his shoulders and thought, "I
must take my chances like the rest." But he wished to be sure that he
had attained this point, and not lay siege to one girl only to wish
afterward it had been the other.
His course that evening proved that he not only had a legal cast
of mind but also a judicial one. He invited both Miss Mitchell and
Miss Waldo to take a sleigh-ride with him the following evening,
fancying that when sandwiched between them in the cutter he could
impartially note his impressions. His unsuspecting clients laughingly
accepted, utterly unaware of the momentous character of the trial
scene before them.
As Marstern smoked a cigar before retiring that night, he admitted
to himself that it was rather a remarkable court that was about to be
held. He was the only advocate for the claims of each, and finally he
proposed to take a seat on the bench and judge between them. Indeed,
before he slept he decided to take that august position at once, and
maintain a judicial impartiality while noting his impressions.
Christmas Eve happened to be a cold, clear, star-lit night; and
when Marstern drove to Miss Waldo's door, he asked himself, "Could a
fellow ask for anything daintier and finer" than the red-lipped,
dark-eyed girl revealed by the hall-lamp as she tripped lightly out,
her anxious mamma following her with words of unheeded caution about
not taking cold, and coming home early. He had not traversed the mile
which intervened between the residences of the two girls before he
almost wished he could continue the drive under the present auspices,
and that, as in the old times, he could take toll at every bridge, and
encircle his companion with his arm as they bounced over the
"thank-'ee mams." The frosty air appeared to give keenness and
piquancy to Miss Lottie's wit, and the chime of the bells was not
merrier or more musical than her voice. But when a little later he saw
blue-eyed Carrie Mitchell in her furs and hood silhouetted in the
window, his old dilemma became as perplexing as ever. Nevertheless, it
was the most delightful uncertainty that he had ever experienced; and
he had a presentiment that he had better make the most of it, since it
could not last much longer. Meanwhile, he was hedged about with
blessings clearly not in disguise, and he gave utterance to this
truth as they drove away.
"Surely there never was so lucky a fellow. Here I am kept warm and
happy by the two finest girls in town."
"Yes," said Lottie; "and it's a shame you can't sit on both sides
"I assure you I wish it were possible. It would double my
"I'm very well content," remarked Carrie, quietly, "as long as I
can keep on the right side of people—"
"Well, you are not on the right side to-night," interrupted
"Good gracious!" thought Marstern, "she's next to my heart. I
wonder if that will give her unfair advantage;" but Carrie explained:
"Of course I was speaking metaphorically."
"In that aspect of the case it would be a shame to me if any side
I have is not right toward those who have so honored me," he hastened
"Oh, Carrie has all the advantage—she is next to your heart."
"Would you like to exchange places?" was the query flashed back by
"Oh, no, I'm quite as content as you are."
"Why, then, since I am more than content—exultant, indeed—it
appears that we all start from excellent premises to reach a happy
conclusion of our Christmas Eve," cried Marstern.
"Now you are talking shop, Mr. Lawyer—Premises and Conclusions,
indeed!" said Lottie; "since you are such a happy sandwich, you must
be a tongue sandwich, and be very entertaining."
He did his best, the two girls seconding his efforts so genially
that he found himself, after driving five miles, psychologically just
where he was physically—between them, as near to one in his thoughts
and preferences as to the other.
"Let us take the river road home," suggested Lottie.
"As long as you agree," he answered, "you both are sovereign
potentates. If you should express conflicting wishes, I should have
to stop here in the road till one abdicated in favor of the other, or
we all froze."
"But you, sitting so snugly between us, would not freeze," said
Lottie. "If we were obstinate we should have to assume our
pleasantest expressions, and then you could eventually take us home
as bits of sculpture. In fact, I'm getting cold already."
"Are you also, Miss Carrie?"
"Oh, I'll thaw out before summer. Don't mind me."
"Well, then, mind me," resumed Lottie. "See how white and smooth
the river looks. Why can't we drive home on the ice? It will save
miles—I mean it looks so inviting."
"Oh, dear!" cried Carrie, "I feel like protesting now. The longest
way round may be both the shortest and safest way home."
"You ladies shall decide. This morning I drove over the route we
would take to-night, and I should not fear to take a ton of coal over
"A comparison suggesting warmth and a grate-fire. I vote for the
river," said Lottie, promptly.
"Oh, well, Mr. Marstern, if you've been over the ice so recently—
I only wish to feel reasonably safe."
"I declare!" thought Marstern, "Lottie is the braver and more
brilliant girl; and the fact that she is not inclined to forego the
comfort of the home-fire for the pleasure of my company, reveals the
difficulty of, and therefore incentive to, the suit I may decide to
enter upon before New Year's."
Meanwhile, his heart on Carrie's side began to grow warm and
alert, as if recognizing an affinity to some object not far off.
Granting that she had not been so brilliant as Lottie, she had been
eminently companionable in a more quiet way. If there had not been
such bursts of enthusiasm at the beginning of the drive, her enjoyment
appeared to have more staying powers. He liked her none the less that
her eyes were often turned toward the stars or the dark silhouettes of
the leafless trees against the snow. She did not keep saying, "Ah, how
lovely! What a fine bit that is!" but he had only to follow her eyes
to see something worth looking at.
"A proof that Miss Carrie also is not so preoccupied with the
pleasure of my company that she has no thoughts for other things,"
cogitated Marstern. "It's rather in her favor that she prefers Nature
to a grate fire. They're about even yet."
Meanwhile the horse was speeding along on the white, hard expanse
of the river, skirting the west shore. They now had only about a mile
to drive before striking land again; and the scene was so beautiful
with the great dim outlines of the mountains before them that both the
girls suggested that they should go leisurely for a time.
"We shouldn't hastily and carelessly pass such a picture as that,
any more than one would if a fine copy of it were hung in a gallery,"
said Carrie. "The stars are so brilliant along the brow of that
highland yonder that they form a dia—oh, oh! what IS the matter?" and
she clung to Marstern's arm.
The horse was breaking through the ice.
"Whoa!" said Marstern, firmly. Even as he spoke, Lottie was out of
the sleigh and running back on the ice, crying and wringing her
"We shall be drowned," she almost screamed hysterically.
"Mr. Marstern, what SHALL we do? Can't we turn around and go back
the way we came?"
"Miss Carrie, will you do what I ask? Will you believe me when I
say that I do not think you are in any danger?"
"Yes, I'll do my best," she replied, catching her breath. She grew
calm rapidly as he tried to reassure Lottie, telling her that water
from the rising of the tide had overflowed the main ice and that thin
ice had formed over it, also that the river at the most was only two
or three feet deep at that point. But all was of no avail; Lottie
stood out upon the ice in a panic, declaring that he never should have
brought them into such danger, and that he must turn around at once
and go back as they came.
"But, Miss Waldo, the tide is rising, and we may find wet places
returning. Besides, it would bring us home very late. Now, Miss
Carrie and I will drive slowly across this place and then return for
you. After we have been across it twice you surely won't fear."
"I won't be left alone; suppose you two should break through and
disappear, what would become of ME?"
"You would be better off than we," he replied, laughing.
"I think it's horrid of you to laugh. Oh, I'm so cold and
frightened! I feel as if the ice were giving way under my feet."
"Why, Miss Lottie, we just drove over that spot where you stand.
Here, Miss Carrie shall stay with you while I drive back and forth
"Then if you were drowned we'd both be left alone to freeze to
"I pledge you my word you shall be by that grate-fire within less
than an hour if you will trust me five minutes."
"Oh, well, if you will risk your life and ours too; but Carrie
must stay with me."
"Will YOU trust me, Miss Carrie, and help me out of this scrape?"
Carrie was recovering from her panic, and replied, "I have given
you my promise."
He was out of the sleigh instantly, and the thin ice broke with
him also. "I must carry you a short distance," he said. "I cannot
allow you to get your feet wet. Put one arm around my neck, so; now
please obey as you promised."
She did so without a word, and he bore her beyond the water,
inwardly exulting and blessing that thin ice. His decision was coming
with the passing seconds; indeed, it had come. Returning to the sleigh
he drove slowly forward, his horse making a terrible crunching and
splashing, Lottie meanwhile keeping up a staccato accompaniment of
"Ah, my charming creature," he thought, "with you it was only,
'What will become of ME?' I might not have found out until it was too
late the relative importance of 'me' in the universe had we not struck
this bad crossing; and one comes to plenty of bad places to cross in a
The area of thin ice was not very narrow, and he was becoming but
a dim and shadowy outline to the girls. Lottie was now screaming for
his return. Having crossed the overflowed space and absolutely assured
himself that there was no danger, he returned more rapidly and found
Carrie trying to calm her companion.
"Oh," sobbed Lottie, "my feet are wet and almost frozen. The ice
underneath may have borne you, but it won't bear all three of us. Oh,
dear, I wish I hadn't—I wish I was home; and I feel as if I'd never
"Miss Lottie, I assure you that the ice will hold a ton, but I'll
tell you what I'll do. I shall put you in the sleigh, and Miss Carrie
will drive you over. You two together do not weigh much more than I
do. I'll walk just behind you with my hands on the back of the sleigh,
and if I see the slightest danger I'll lift you out of the sleigh
first and carry you to safety."
This proposition promised so well that she hesitated, and he
lifted her in instantly before she could change her mind, then helped
Carrie in with a quiet pressure of the hand, as much as to say, "I
shall depend on you."
"But, Mr. Marstern, you'll get your feet wet," protested Carrie.
"That doesn't matter," he replied good-naturedly. "I shall be no
worse off than Miss Lottie, and I'm determined to convince her of
safety. Now go straight ahead as I direct."
Once the horse stumbled, and Lottie thought he was going down head
first. "Oh, lift me out, quick, quick!" she cried.
"Yes, indeed I will, Miss Lottie, as soon as we are opposite that
grate fire of yours."
They were soon safely over, and within a half-hour reached
Lottie's home. It was evident she was a little ashamed of her
behavior, and she made some effort to retrieve herself. Bat she was
cold and miserable, vexed with herself and still more vexed with
Marstern. That a latent sense of justice forbade the latter feeling
only irritated her the more. Individuals as well as communities must
have scapegoats; and it is not an unusual impulse on the part of some
to blame and dislike those before whom they have humiliated
She gave her companions a rather formal invitation to come in and
get warm before proceeding further; but Marstern said very politely
that he thought it was too late, unless Miss Carrie was cold. Carrie
protested that she was not so cold but that she could easily wait till
she reached her own fireside.
"Well, good-night, then," and the door was shut a trifle
"Mr. Marstern," said Carrie, sympathetically, "your feet must be
very cold and wet after splashing through all that ice-water."
"They are," he replied; "but I don't mind it. Well, if I had tried
for years I could not have found such a test of character as we had
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, well, you two girls did not behave exactly alike. I liked the
way you behaved. You helped me out of a confounded scrape."
"Would you have tried for years to find a test?" she asked,
concealing the keenness of her query under a laugh.
"I should have been well rewarded if I had, by such a fine
contrast," he replied.
Carrie's faculties had not so congealed but that his words set her
thinking. She had entertained at times the impression that she and
Lottie were his favorites. Had he taken them out that night together
in the hope of contrasts, of finding tests that would help his halting
decision? He had ventured where the intuitions of a girl like Carrie
Mitchell were almost equal to second-sight; and she was alert for what
would come next.
He accepted her invitation to come in and warm his feet at the
glowing fire in the grate, which Carrie's father had made before
retiring. Mrs. Mitchell, feeling that her daughter was with an old
friend and playmate, did not think the presence of a chaperon
essential, and left the young people alone. Carrie bustled about,
brought cake, and made hot lemonade, while Marstern stretched his
feet to the grate with a luxurious sense of comfort and complacency,
thinking how homelike it all was and how paradisiacal life would
become if such a charming little Hebe presided over his home. His
lemonade became nectar offered by such hands.
She saw the different expression in his eyes. It was now homage,
decided preference for one and not mere gallantry to two. Outwardly
she was demurely oblivious and maintained simply her wonted
friendliness. Marstern, however, was thawing in more senses than one,
and he was possessed by a strong impulse to begin an open siege at
"I haven't had a single suit of any kind yet, Carrie," he said,
dropping the prefix of "Miss," which had gradually been adopted as
they had grown up.
"Oh, well, that was the position of all the great lawyers once,"
she replied, laughing. Marstern's father was wealthy, and all knew
that he could afford to be briefless for a time.
"I may never be great; but I shall work as hard as any of them,"
he continued. "To tell you the honest truth, however, this would be
the happiest Christmas Eve of my life if I had a downright suit on my
hands. Why can't I be frank with you and say I'd like to begin the
chief suit of my life now and here—a suit for this little hand? I'd
plead for it as no lawyer ever pleaded before. I settled that much
down on the ice."
"And if I hadn't happened to behave on the ice in a manner
agreeable to your lordship, you would have pleaded with the other
girl?" she remarked, withdrawing her hand and looking him directly in
"What makes you think so?" he asked somewhat confusedly.
He sprang up and paced the room a few moments, then confronted her
with the words, "You shall have the whole truth. Any woman that I
would ask to be my wife is entitled to that," and he told her just
what the attitude of his mind had been from the first.
She laughed outright, then gave him her hand as she said, "Your
honesty insures that we can be very good friends; but I don't wish to
hear anything more about suits which are close of kin to lawsuits."
He looked very dejected, feeling that he had blundered fatally in
"Come now, Hedley, be sensible," she resumed, half laughing, half
serious. "As you say, we can be frank with each other. Why, only the
other day we were boy and girl together coasting downhill on the same
sled. You are applying your legal jargon to a deep experience, to
something sacred—the result, to my mind, of a divine instinct.
Neither you nor I have ever felt for each other this instinctive
preference, this subtle gravitation of the heart. Don't you see? Your
head has been concerned about me, and only your head. By a kindred
process you would select one bale of merchandise in preference to
another. Good gracious! I've faults enough. You'll meet some other
girl that will stand some other test far better than I. I want a
little of what you call silly romance in my courtship. See; I can talk
about this suit as coolly and fluently as you can. We'd make a nice
pair of lovers, about as frigid as the ice-water you waded through so
good-naturedly;" and the girl's laugh rang out merrily, awakening
echoes in the old house. Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell might rest securely
when their daughter could laugh like that. It was the mirth of a
genuine American girl whose self-protection was better than the care
of a thousand duennas.
He looked at her with honest admiration in his eyes, then rose
quietly and said, "That's fine, Carrie. Your head's worth two of
mine, and you'd make the better lawyer. You see through a case from
top to bottom. You were right—I wasn't in love with you; I don't know
whether I'm in love with you now, and you haven't an infinitesimal
spark for me. Nevertheless, I begin my suit here and now, and I shall
never withdraw it till you are engaged to another fellow. So there!"
Carrie looked rather blank at this result of her reductio ad
absurdum process; and he did not help her by adding, "A fellow isn't
always in love. There must be a beginning; and when I arrive at this
beginning under the guidance of reason, judgment, and observation, I
don't see as I'm any more absurd than the fellow who tumbles
helplessly in love, he doesn't know why. What becomes of all these
people who have divine gravitations? You and I both know of some who
had satanic repulsions afterward. They used their eyes and critical
faculties after marriage instead of before. The romance exhaled like a
morning mist; and the facts came out distinctly. They learned what
kind of man and woman they actually were, and two idealized creatures
were sent to limbo. Because I don't blunder upon the woman I wish to
marry, but pick her out, that's no reason I can't and won't love her.
Your analysis and judgment were correct only up to date. You have now
to meet a suit honestly, openly announced. This may be bad policy on
my part; yet I have so much faith in you and respect for you that I
don't believe you will let my precipitation create a prejudice. Give
me a fair hearing; that's all I ask."
"Well, well, I'll promise not to frown, even though some finer
paragon should throw me completely in the shade."
"You don't believe in my yet," he resumed, after a moment of
thought. "I felt that I had blundered awfully a while ago; but I
doubt it. A girl of your perceptions would soon have seen it all.
I've not lost anything by being frank from the start. Be just to me,
however. It wasn't policy that led me to speak, but this homelike
scene, and you appearing like the good genius of a home."
He pulled out his watch, and gave a low whistle as he held it
toward her. Then his manner suddenly became grave and gentle.
"Carrie," he said, "I wish you, not a merry Christmas, but a happy
one, and many of them. It seems to me it would be a great privilege
for a man to make a woman like you happy."
"Is this the beginning of the suit?" she asked with a laugh that
was a little forced.
"I don't know. Perhaps it is; but I spoke just as I felt. Good-
She would not admit of a trace of sentiment on her part. "Good-
night," she said. "Merry Christmas! Go home and hang up your
"Bless me!" she thought, as she went slowly up the stairs, "I
thought I was going to be through with him for good and all, except
as a friend; but if he goes on this way—"
The next morning a basket of superb roses was left at her home.
There was no card, and mamma queried and surmised; but the girl knew.
They were not displeasing to her, and somehow, before the day was
over, they found their way to her room; but she shook her head
decidedly as she said, "He must be careful not to send me other gifts,
for I will return them instantly. Flowers, in moderation, never commit
But then came another gift—a book with pencillings here and
there, not against sentimental passages, but words that made her
think. It was his manner in society, however, that at once annoyed,
perplexed, and pleased her. On the first occasion they met in company
with others, he made it clear to every one that he was her suitor; yet
he was not a burr which she could not shake off. He rather seconded
all her efforts to have a good time with any and every one she chose.
Nor did he, wallflower fashion, mope in the meanwhile and look
unutterable things. He added to the pleasure of a score of others, and
even conciliated Lottie, yet at the same time surrounded the girl of
his choice with an atmosphere of unobtrusive devotion. She was
congratulated on her conquest— rather maliciously so by Lottie. Her
air of courteous indifference was well maintained; yet she was a
woman, and could not help being flattered. Certain generous traits in
her nature were touched also by a homage which yielded everything and
The holidays soon passed, and he returned to his work. She learned
incidentally that he toiled faithfully, instead of mooning around. At
every coigne of vantage she found him, or some token of his ceaseless
effort. She was compelled to think of him, and to think well of him.
Though mamma and papa judiciously said little, it was evident that
they liked the style of lover into which he was developing.
Once during the summer she said: "I don't think it's right to let
you go on in this way any longer."
"Are my attentions so very annoying?"
"No, indeed. A girl never had a more agreeable or useful friend."
"Are you engaged to some other fellow?"
"Of course not. You know better."
"There is no 'of course not' about it. I couldn't and wouldn't lay
a straw in the way. You are not bound, but I."
"Certainly. You remember what I said."
"Then I must accept the first man that asks me—"
"I ask you."
"No; some one else, so as to unloose your conscience and give you
a happy deliverance,"
"You would leave me still bound and hopeless in that case. I love
you now, Carrie Mitchell."
"Oh, dear! you are incorrigible. It's just a lawyer's persistence
in winning a suit."
"You can still swear on the dictionary that you don't love me at
"I might—on the dictionary. There, I won't talk about such things
any more," and she resolutely changed the subject.
But she couldn't swear, even on the dictionary. She didn't know
where she stood or how it would all end; but with increasing
frequency the words, "I love you now," haunted her waking and
The holidays were near again, and then came a letter from
Marstern, asking her to take another sleigh-ride with him on
Christmas Eve. His concluding words were: "There is no other woman in
the world that I want on the other side of me." She kissed these
words, then looked around in a startled, shamefaced manner, blushing
even in the solitude of her room.
Christmas Eve came, but with it a wild storm of wind and sleet.
She was surprised at the depth of her disappointment. Would he even
come to call through such a tempest?
He did come, and come early; and she said demurely: "I did not
expect you on such a night as this."
He looked at her for a moment, half humorously, half seriously,
and her eyes drooped before his. "You will know better what to expect
next time," was his comment.
"When is next time?"
"Any and every time which gives me a chance to ses you. Who should
know that better than you?"
"Are you never going to give up?" she asked with averted face.
"Not till you become engaged."
"Hush! They are all in the parlor."
"Well, they ought to know as much, by this time, also."
She thought it was astonishing how he made himself at home in the
family circle. In half an hour there was scarcely any restraint left
because a visitor was present. Yet, as if impelled by some mysterious
influence, one after another slipped out; and Carrie saw with strange
little thrills of dismay that she would soon be alone with that
indomitable lawyer. She signalled to her mother, but the old lady's
eyes were glued to her knitting.
At last they were alone, and she expected a prompt and powerful
appeal from the plaintiff; but Marstern drew his chair to the
opposite side of the hearth and chatted so easily, naturally, and
kindly that her trepidation passed utterly. It began to grow late,
and a heavier gust than usual shook the house. It appeared to waken
him to the dire necessity of breasting the gale, and he rose and said:
"I feel as if I could sit here forever, Carrie. It's just the
impression I had a year ago to-night. You, sitting there by the fire,
gave then, and give now to this place the irresistible charm of home.
I think I had then the decided beginning of the divine
gravitation—wasn't that what you called it?—which has been growing
so strong ever since. You thought then that the ice-water I waded was
in my veins. Do you think so now? If you do I shall have to take
another year to prove the contrary. Neither am I convinced of the
absurdity of my course, as you put it then. I studied you coolly and
deliberately before I began to love you, and reason and judgment have
had no chance to jeer at my love."
"But, Hedley," she began with a slight tremor in her tones, "you
are idealizing me as certainly as the blindest. I've plenty of
"I haven't denied that; so have I plenty of faults. What right
have I to demand a perfection I can't offer? I have known people to
marry who imagined each other perfect, and then come to court for a
separation on the ground of incompatibility of temperament. They
learned the meaning of that long word too late, and were scarcely
longer about it than the word itself. Now, I'm satisfied that I could
cordially agree with you on some points and lovingly disagree with you
on others. Chief of all it's your instinct to make a home. You appear
better at your own fireside than when in full dress at a reception.
"See here, Hedley, you've got to give up this suit at last. I'm
engaged," and she looked away as if she could not meet his eyes.
"Engaged?" he said slowly, looking at her with startled eyes.
"Well, about the same as engaged. My heart has certainly gone from
me beyond recall." He drew a long breath. "I was foolish enough to
begin to hope," he faltered.
"You must dismiss hope to-night, then," she said, her face still
He was silent and she slowly turned toward him. He had sunk into a
chair and buried his face in his hands, the picture of dejected
There was a sudden flash of mirth through tear-gemmed eyes, a
glance at the clock, then noiseless steps, and she was on her knees
beside him, her arm about his neck, her blushing face near his
wondering eyes as she breathed:
"Happy Christmas, Hedley! How do you like your first gift; and
what room is there now for hope?"