Early in October Mrs. Stetson arrived
at the Beacon Street house, but she did not stay long.
“I’ve come for just a
few things I want, and to do some shopping,”
“But Aunt Hannah,” remonstrated
William, “what is the meaning of this?
Why are you staying up there at Hampden Falls?”
“I like it there, William; and
why shouldn’t I stay? Surely there’s
no need for me to be here now, with Billy away!”
“But Billy’s coming back!”
“Of course she’s coming
back,” laughed Aunt Hannah, “but not this
winter, certainly. Why, William, what’s
the matter? I’m sure, I think it’s
a beautiful arrangement. Why, don’t you
remember? It’s just what we said we wanted to
keep Billy away for awhile. And the best part
of it is, it’s her own idea from the start.”
“Yes, I know, I know,”
frowned William: “but I’m not sure,
after all, that that idea of ours wasn’t a mistake, a
mistake that she needed to get away.”
“Never! We were just right
about it,” declared Aunt Hannah, with conviction.
“And is Billy happy?”
“She seems to be.”
“Hm-m; well, that’s
good,” said William, as he turned to go up to
his room. But as he climbed the stairs he sighed;
and to hear him, one would have thought it anything
but good to him that Billy was happy.
One by one the weeks passed.
Mrs. Stetson had long since gone back to Hampden Falls;
and Bertram said that the Strata was beginning to look
natural again. There remained now, indeed, only
Spunkie, the small gray cat, to remind any one of
the days that were gone though, to be sure,
there were Billy’s letters, if they might be
called a reminder.
Billy did not write often. She
said that she was “too busy to breathe.”
Such letters as did come from her were addressed to
William, though they soon came to be claimed by the
entire family. Bertram and Cyril frankly demanded
that William read them aloud; and even Pete always
contrived to have some dusting or “puttering”
within earshot a subterfuge quite well
understood, but never reproved by any of the brothers.
When the Christmas vacation drew near,
William wrote that he hoped Billy and Aunt Hannah
would spend it with them; but Billy answered that
although she appreciated their kindness and thanked
them for it, yet she must decline their invitation,
as she had already invited several of the girls to
go home with her to Hampden Falls for a country Christmas.
For the Easter vacation William was
even more insistent but so was Billy:
she had already accepted an invitation to go home with
one of the girls, and she did not think it would be
at all polite to change her plans now.
William fretted not a little.
Even Cyril and Bertram said that it was “too
bad”; that they themselves would like to see
the girl so they would!
It was in the spring, at the close
of school, however, that the heaviest blow fell:
Billy was not coming to Boston even then. She
wrote that she and Aunt Hannah were going to “run
across the water for a little trip through the British
Isles”; and that their passage was already engaged.
“And so you see,” she
explained, “I shall not have a minute to spare.
There’ll be only time to skip home for Aunt Hannah,
and to pack the trunks before it’ll be time
Bertram looked at Cyril significantly
when this letter was read aloud; and afterward he
muttered in Cyril’s ear:
“You see! It’s Hampden
Falls she calls ‘home’ now not
“Yes, I see,” frowned Cyril. “It
does look suspicious.”
Two days before the date of Billy’s
expected sailing, William announced at the breakfast
table that he was going away on business; might be
gone until the end of the week.
“You don’t say,”
commented Bertram. “I’m going
to-morrow, but I’m coming back in a couple of
William, abstractedly. “Oh, well, I may
be back before the end of the week.”
Only one meal did Cyril eat alone
after his brothers had gone; then he told Pete that
he had decided to take the night boat for New York.
There was a little matter that called him there, he
said, and he believed the trip by water would be a
pleasure, the night was so fine and warm.
In New York Cyril had little trouble
in finding Billy, as he knew the steamship she was
“I thought as long as I was
in New York to-day I’d just come and say good-by
to you and Aunt Hannah,” he informed her, with
an evident aim toward making his presence appear to
“That was good of you!”
exclaimed Billy. “And how are Uncle William
and Mr. Bertram?”
“Very well, I fancy, though
they weren’t there when I left,” replied
“Oh! gone away?”
“Yes. A little matter of
business they said; but well, by Jove!”
he broke off, his gaze on a familiar figure hurrying
at that moment toward them. “There’s
William, with no eyes but for Billy,
came rapidly forward.
“Well, well, Billy! I thought
as long as I happened to be in New York to-day I’d
just run down to the boat and see you and Aunt Hannah
off, and wish Cyril! Where did
you come from?”
“He just happened to be in town,
too, Uncle William, like you,” she explained.
“And I’m sure I think it’s lovely
of you to be so kind. Aunt Hannah’ll be
up right away. She went down to the stateroom
to ” This time it was Billy who stopped
abruptly. The two men facing her could not see
what she saw, and not until their brother Bertram’s
merry greeting fell on their ears did they understand
her sudden silence.
“And is this the way you meant
to run away from us, young lady?” cried Bertram.
“Not so fast! You see, I happened to be
in New York this morning, and so I ”
Something in Billy’s face sent a pause to his
words just as his eyes spied the two men at the girl’s
side. For a moment he stared dumbly; then he
gave a merry gesture of defeat.
“It’s all up! I might
as well confess. I’ve been planning
this thing for three weeks, Billy, ever since your
letter came, in fact. As for my two fellow-sinners
here, I’ll wager they weren’t two days
behind me in their planning. So now, own up,
William and Cyril, however, did not
have to “own up.” Mrs. Stetson appeared
at the moment and created, for them, a very welcome
Long minutes later, when the good-byes
had become nothing but a flutter of white handkerchiefs
from deck to shore, and shore to deck, William drew
a long sigh.
“That’s a nice little
girl, boys, a nice little girl!” he exclaimed.
“I declare! I didn’t suppose I’d
mind so much her going so far away.”