Miss Sally peered sharply at Willard
Stanley, first through her gold-rimmed glasses and
then over them. Willard continued to look very
innocent. Joyce got up abruptly and went out of
“So you have bought that queer
little house with the absurd name?” said Miss
“You surely don’t call
Eden an absurd name,” protested Willard.
“I do for a house.
Particularly such a house as that. Eden!
There are no Edens on earth. And what are you
going to do with it?”
“Live in it.”
Miss Sally looked at him suspiciously.
“No. The truth is, Miss
Sally, I am hoping to be married in the fall and I
want to fix up Eden for my bride.”
“Oh!” Miss Sally drew
a long breath, partly it seemed of relief and partly
of triumph, and looked at Joyce, who had returned,
with an expression that said, “I told you so”;
but Joyce, whose eyes were cast down, did not see
“And,” went on Willard
calmly, “I want you to help me fix it up, Miss
Sally. I don’t know much about such things
and you know everything. You will be able to
tell me just what to do to make Eden habitable.”
Miss Sally looked as pleased as she
ever allowed herself to look over anything a man suggested.
It was the delight of her heart to plan and decorate
and contrive. Her own house was a model of comfort
and good taste, and Miss Sally was quite ready for
new worlds to conquer. Instantly Eden assumed
importance in her eyes. She might be sorry for
the misguided bride who was rashly going to trust her
life’s keeping to a man, but she would see,
at least, that the poor thing should have a decent
place to begin her martyrdom in.
“I’ll be pleased to help
you all I can,” she said graciously.
Miss Sally could speak very graciously
when she chose, even to men. You would not have
thought she hated them, but she did. In all sincerity,
too. Also, she had brought her niece up to hate
and distrust them. Or, she had tried to do so.
But at times Miss Sally was troubled with an uncomfortable
suspicion that Joyce did not hate and distrust men
quite as thoroughly as she ought. The suspicion
had recurred several times this summer since Willard
Stanley had come to take charge of the biological
station at the harbour. Miss Sally did not distrust
Willard on his own account. She merely distrusted
him on principle and on Joyce’s account.
Nevertheless, she was rather nice to him. Miss
Sally, dear, trim, dainty Miss Sally, with her snow-white
curls and her big girlish black eyes, couldn’t
help being nice, even to a man.
Willard had come a great deal to Miss
Sally’s. If it were Joyce he were after
Miss Sally blocked his schemes with much enjoyment.
He never saw Joyce alone that Miss Sally
knew of, at least and he did not make much
apparent headway. But now all danger was removed,
Miss Sally thought. He was going to be married
to somebody else, and Joyce was safe.
“Thank you,” said Willard.
“I’ll come up tomorrow afternoon, and you
and I will take a prowl about Eden and see what must
be done. I’m ever so much obliged, Miss
“I wonder who he is going to
marry,” said Miss Sally, careless of grammar,
after he had gone. “Poor, poor girl!”
“I don’t see why you should
pity her,” said Joyce, not looking up from her
embroidery. There was just the merest tremor in
her voice. Miss Sally looked at her sharply.
“I pity any woman who is foolish
enough to marry,” she said solemnly. “No
man is to be trusted, Joyce no man.
They are all ready to break a trusting woman’s
heart for the sport of it. Never you allow any
man the chance to break yours, Joyce. I shall
never consent to your marrying anybody, so mind you
don’t take any such notion into your head.
There oughtn’t to be any danger, for I have instilled
correct ideas on this subject into you from childhood.
But girls are such fools. I know, because I was
one myself once.”
“Of course, I would never marry
without your consent, Aunt Sally,” said Joyce,
smiling faintly but affectionately at her aunt.
Joyce loved Miss Sally with her whole heart.
Everybody did who knew her. There never was a
more lovable creature than this pretty little old
maid who hated the men so bitterly.
“That’s a good girl,”
said Miss Sally approvingly. “I own that
I have been a little afraid that this Willard Stanley
was coming here to see you. But my mind is set
at rest on that point now, and I shall help him fix
up his doll house with a clear conscience. Eden,
Miss Sally sniffed and tripped out
of the room to hunt up a furniture catalogue.
Joyce sighed and let her embroidery slip to the floor.
“Oh, I’m afraid Willard’s
plan won’t succeed,” she murmured.
“I’m afraid Aunt Sally will never consent
to our marriage. And I can’t and won’t
marry him unless she does, for she would never forgive
me and I couldn’t bear that. I wonder what
makes her so bitter against men. She is so sweet
and loving, it seems simply unnatural that she should
have such a feeling so deeply rooted in her.
Oh, what will she say when she finds out dear
little Aunt Sally? I couldn’t bear to have
her angry with me.”
The next day Willard came up from
the harbour and took Miss Sally down to see Eden.
Eden was a tiny, cornery, gabled grey house just across
the road and down a long, twisted windy lane, skirting
the edge of a beech wood. Nobody had lived in
it for four years, and it had a neglected, out-at-elbow
“It’s rather a box of
a place, isn’t it?” said Willard slowly.
“I’m afraid she will think so. But
it is all I can afford just now. I dream of giving
her a palace some day, of course. But we’ll
have to begin humbly. Do you think anything can
be made of it?”
Miss Sally was busily engaged in sizing
up the possibilities of the place.
“It is pretty small,”
she said meditatively. “And the yard is
small too and there are far too many trees
and shrubs all messed up together. They must
be thinned out and that paling taken down.
I think a good deal can be done with it. As for
the house well, let us see the inside.”
Willard unlocked the door and showed
Miss Sally over the place. Miss Sally poked and
pried and sniffed and wrinkled her forehead, and finally
stood on the stairs and delivered her ultimatum.
“This house can be done up very
nicely. Paint and paper will work wonders.
But I wouldn’t paint it outside. Leave it
that pretty silver weather-grey and plant vines to
run over it. Oh, we’ll see what we can
do. Of course it is small a kitchen,
a dining room, a living room, and two bedrooms.
You won’t want anything stuffy. You can
do the painting yourself, and I’ll help you
hang the paper. How much money can you spend
Willard named the sum. It was not a large one.
“But I think it will do,”
mused Miss Sally. “We’ll make
it do. There’s such satisfaction getting
as much as you possibly can out of a dollar, and twice
as much as anybody else would get. I enjoy that
sort of thing. This will be a game, and we’ll
play it with a right good will. But I do wish
you would give the place a sensible name.”
“I think Eden is the most appropriate
name in the world,” laughed Willard. “It
will be Eden for me when she comes.”
“I suppose you tell her all
that and she believes it,” said Miss Sally sarcastically.
“You’ll both find out that there is a good
deal more prose than poetry in life.”
“But we’ll find it out
together,” said Willard tenderly.
“Won’t that be worth something, Miss Sally?
Prose, rightly written and read, is sometimes as beautiful
Miss Sally deigned no reply.
She carefully gathered up her grey silken skirts from
the dusty floor and walked out. “Get Christina
Bowes to come up tomorrow and scrub this place out,”
she said practically. “We can go to town
and select paint and paper. I should like the
dining room done in pale green and the living room
in creamy tones, ranging from white to almost golden
brown. But perhaps my taste won’t be hers.”
“Oh, yes, it will,” said
Willard with assurance. “I am quite certain
she will like everything you like. I can never
thank you enough for helping me. If you hadn’t
consented I should have had to put it into the hands
of some outsider whom I couldn’t have helped
at all. And I wanted to help. I wanted
to have a finger in everything, because it is for
her, you see, Miss Sally. It will be such a delight
to fix up this little house, knowing that she is coming
to live in it.”
“I wonder if you really mean
it,” said Miss Sally bitterly. “Oh,
I dare say you think you do. But do you?
Perhaps you do. Perhaps you are the exception
that proves the rule.”
This was a great admission for Miss Sally to make.
For the next two months Miss Sally
was happy. Even Willard himself was not more
keenly interested in Eden and its development.
Miss Sally did wonders with his money. She was
an expert at bargain hunting, and her taste was excellent.
A score of times she mercilessly nipped Willard’s
suggestions in the bud. “Lace curtains for
the living room never! They would
be horribly out of place in such a house. You
don’t want curtains at all just a
frill is all that quaint window needs, with a shelf
above it for a few bits of pottery. I picked up
a love of a brass platter in town yesterday got
it for next to nothing from that old Jew who would
really rather give you a thing than suffer you
to escape without taking something. Oh, I know
how to manage them.”
“You certainly do,” laughed
Willard. “It amazes me to see how far you
can stretch a dollar.”
Willard did the painting under Miss
Sally’s watchful eye, and they hung the paper
together. Together they made trips to town or
junketed over the country in search of furniture and
dishes of which Miss Sally had heard. Day by
day the little house blossomed into a home, and day
by day Miss Sally’s interest in it grew.
She began to have a personal affection for its quaint
rooms and their adornments. Moreover, in spite
of herself, she felt a growing interest in Willard’s
bride. He never told her the name of the girl
he hoped to bring to Eden, and Miss Sally never asked
it. But he talked of her a great deal, in a shy,
reverent, tender way.
“He certainly seems to be very
much in love with her,” Miss Sally told Joyce
one evening when she returned from Eden. “I
would believe in him if it were possible for me to
believe in a man. Anyway, she will have a dear
little home. I’ve almost come to love that
Eden house. Why don’t you come down and
see it, Joyce?”
“Oh, I’ll come some day I
hope,” said Joyce lightly. “I think
I’d rather not see it until it is finished.”
“Willard is a nice boy,”
said Miss Sally suddenly. “I don’t
think I ever did him justice before. The finer
qualities of his character come out in these simple,
homely little doings and tasks. He is certainly
very thoughtful and kind. Oh, I suppose he’ll
make a good husband, as husbands go. But he doesn’t
know the first thing about managing. If his wife
isn’t a good manager, I don’t know what
they’ll do. And perhaps she won’t
like the way we’ve done up Eden. Willard
says she will, of course, because he thinks her perfection.
But she may have dreadful taste and want the lace
curtains and that nightmare of a pink rug Willard
admired, and I dare say she’d rather have a new
flaunting set of china with rosebuds on it than that
dear old dull blue I picked up for a mere song down
at the Aldenbury auction. I stood in the rain
for two mortal hours to make sure of it, and it was
really worth all that Willard has spent on the dining
room put together. It will break my heart if
she sets to work altering Eden. It’s simply
perfect as it is though I suppose I shouldn’t
In another week Eden was finished.
Miss Sally stood in the tiny hall and looked about
“Well, it is done,” she
said with a sigh. “I’m sorry.
I have enjoyed fixing it up tremendously, and now
I feel that my occupation is gone. I hope you
are satisfied, Willard.”
“Satisfied is too mild a word,
Miss Sally. I am delighted. I knew you could
accomplish wonders, but I never hoped for this.
Eden is a dream the dearest, quaintest,
sweetest little home that ever waited for a bride.
When I bring her here oh, Miss Sally, do
you know what that thought means to me?”
Miss Sally looked curiously at the
young man. His face was flushed and his voice
trembled a little. There was a far-away shining
look in his eyes as if he saw a vision.
“I hope you and she will be
happy,” said Miss Sally slowly. “When
will she be coming, Willard?”
The flush went out of Willard’s
face, leaving it pale and determined.
“That is for her and
you to say,” he answered steadily.
“Me!” exclaimed Miss Sally. “What
have I to do with it?”
“A great deal for
unless you consent she will never come here at all.”
“Willard Stanley,” said
Miss Sally, with ominous calm, “who is the girl
you mean to marry?”
“The girl I hope to marry
is Joyce, Miss Sally. Wait don’t
say anything till you hear me out.” He
came close to her and caught her hands in a boyish
grip. “Joyce and I have loved each other
ever since we met. But we despaired of winning
your consent, and Joyce will not marry me without
it. I thought if I could get you to help me fix
up my little home that you might get so interested
in it and so well acquainted with me that
you would trust me with Joyce. Please do, Miss
Sally. I love her so truly and I know I can make
her happy. If you don’t, Eden shall never
have a mistress. I’ll shut it up, just as
it is, and leave it sacred to the dead hope of a bride
that will never come to it.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t,”
protested Miss Sally. “It would be a shame such
a dear little house and after all the trouble
I’ve taken. But you have tricked me oh,
you men couldn’t be straightforward in anything ”
“Wasn’t it a fair device
for a desperate lover, Miss Sally?” interrupted
Willard. “Oh, you mustn’t hold spite
because of it, dear; And you will give me Joyce, won’t
you? Because if you don’t, I really will
shut up Eden forever.”
Miss Sally looked wistfully around
her. Through the open door on her left she saw
the little living room with its quaint, comfortable
furniture, its dainty pictures and adornments.
Through the front door she saw the trim, velvet-swarded
little lawn. Upstairs were two white rooms that
only wanted a woman’s living presence to make
them jewels. And the kitchen on which she had
expended so much thought and ingenuity the
kitchen furnished to the last detail, even to the
kindling in the range and the match Willard had laid
ready to light it! It gave Miss Sally a pang
to think of that altar fire never being lighted.
It was really the thought of the kitchen that finished
“You’ve tricked me,”
she said again reproachfully. “You’ve
tricked me into loving this house so much that I cannot
bear the thought of it never living. You’ll
have to have Joyce, I suppose. And I believe I’m
glad that it isn’t a stranger who is to be the
mistress of Eden. Joyce won’t hanker after
pink rugs and lace curtains. And her taste in
china is the same as mine. In one way it’s
a great relief to my mind. But it’s a fearful
risk a fearful risk. To think that
you may make my dear child miserable!”
“You know you don’t think
that I will, Miss Sally. I’m not really
such a bad fellow, now, am I?”
“You are a man and
I have no confidence whatever in men,” declared
Miss Sally, wiping some very real tears from her eyes
with a very unreal sort of handkerchief one
of the cobwebby affairs of lace her daintiness demanded.
“Miss Sally, why have you such
a rooted distrust of men?” demanded Willard
curiously. “Somehow, it seems so foreign
to your character.”
“I suppose you think I am a
perfect crank,” said Miss Sally, sighing.
“Well, I’ll tell you why I don’t
trust men. I have a very good reason for it.
A man broke my heart and embittered my life. I’ve
never spoken about it to a living soul, but if you
want to hear about it, you shall.”
Miss Sally sat down on the second
step of the stairs and tucked her wet handkerchief
away. She clasped her slender white hands over
her knee. In spite of her silvery hair and the
little lines on her face she looked girlish and youthful.
There was a pink flush on her cheeks, and her big
black eyes sparkled with the anger her memories aroused
“I was a young girl of twenty
when I met him,” she said, “and I was
just as foolish as all young girls are foolish
and romantic and sentimental. He was very handsome
and I thought him but there, I won’t
go into that. It vexes me to recall my folly.
But I loved him yes, I did, with all my
heart with all there was of me to love.
He made me love him. He deliberately set himself
to win my love. For a whole summer he flirted
with me. I didn’t know he was flirting I
thought him in earnest. Oh, I was such a little
fool and so happy. Then he
went away. Went away suddenly without even a word
of goodbye. But he had been summoned home by
his father’s serious illness, and I thought
he would write I waited I hoped.
I never heard from him never saw him again.
He had tired of his plaything and flung it aside.
That is all,” concluded Miss Sally passionately.
“I never trusted any man again. When my
sister died and gave me her baby, I determined to
bring the dear child up safely, training her to avoid
the danger I had fallen into. Well, I’ve
failed. But perhaps it will be all right perhaps
there are some men who are true, though Stephen Merritt
demanded Willard abruptly. Miss Sally coloured.
“I didn’t mean to tell
you his name,” she said, getting up. “It
was a slip of the tongue. Never mind forget
it and him. He was not worthy of remembrance and
yet I do remember him. I can’t forget him and
I hate him all the more for it for having
entered so deeply into my life that I could not cast
him out when I knew him unworthy. It is humiliating.
There let us lock up Eden and go home.
I suppose you are dying to see Joyce and tell her
your precious plot has succeeded.”
Willard did not appear to be at all
impatient. He had relapsed into a brown study,
during which he let Miss Sally lock up the house.
Then he walked silently home with her. Miss Sally
was silent too. Perhaps she was repenting her
confidence or perhaps she was thinking of
her false lover. There was a pathetic droop to
her lips, and her black eyes were sad and dreamy.
“Miss Sally,” said Willard
at last, as they neared her house, “had Stephen
Merritt any sisters?”
Miss Sally threw him a puzzled glance.
“He had one Jean
Merritt whom I disliked and who disliked
me,” she said crisply. “I don’t
want to talk of her she was the only woman
I ever hated. I never met any of the other members
of his family his home was in a distant
part of the state.”
Willard stayed with Joyce so brief
a time that Miss Sally viewed his departure with suspicion.
This was not very lover-like conduct.
“I dare say he’s like
all the rest when his aim is attained the
prize loses its value,” reflected Miss Sally
pessimistically. “Poor Joyce poor
child! But there there isn’t
a single inharmonious thing in his house that
is one comfort. I’m so thankful I didn’t
let Willard buy those brocade chairs he wanted.
They would have given Joyce the nightmare.”
Meanwhile, Willard rushed down to
the biological station and from there drove furiously
to the station to catch the evening express. He
did not return until three days later, when he appeared
at Miss Sally’s, dusty and triumphant.
“Joyce is out,” said Miss Sally.
“I’m glad of it,”
said Willard recklessly. “It’s you
I want to see, Miss Sally. I have something to
show you. I’ve been all the way home to
From his pocketbook Willard drew something
folded and creased and yellow that looked like a letter.
He opened it carefully and, holding it in his fingers,
looked over it at Miss Sally.
“My grandmother’s maiden
name was Jean Merritt,” he said deliberately,
“and Stephen Merritt was my great-uncle.
I never saw him he died when I was a child but
I’ve heard my father speak of him often.”
Miss Sally turned very pale.
She passed her cobwebby handkerchief across her lips
and her hand trembled. Willard went on.
“My uncle never married.
He and his sister Jean lived together until her late
marriage. I was not very fond of my grandmother.
She was a selfish, domineering woman very
unlike the grandmother of tradition. When she
died everything she possessed came to me, as my father,
her only child, was then dead. In looking over
a box of old papers I found a letter an
old love letter. I read it with some interest,
wondering whose it could be and how it came among
Grandmother’s private letters. It was signed
‘Stephen,’ so that I guessed my great-uncle
had been the writer, but I had no idea who the Sally
was to whom it was written, until the other day.
Then I knew it was you and I went home to
bring you your letter the letter you should
have received long ago. Why you did not receive
it I cannot explain. I fear that my grandmother
must have been to blame for that she must
have intercepted and kept the letter in order to part
her brother and you. In so far as I can I wish
to repair the wrong she has done you. I know it
can never be repaired but at least I think
this letter will take the bitterness out of the memory
of your lover.”
He dropped the letter in Miss Sally’s lap and
Pale, Miss Sally picked it up and
read it. It was from Stephen Merritt to “dearest
Sally,” and contained a frank, manly avowal of
love. Would she be his wife? If she would,
let her write and tell him so. But if she did
not and could not love him, let her silence reveal
the bitter fact; he would wish to spare her the pain
of putting her refusal into words, and if she did
not write he would understand that she was not for
When Willard and Joyce came back into
the twilight room they found Miss Sally still sitting
by the table, her head leaning pensively on her hand.
She had been crying the cobwebby handkerchief
lay beside her, wrecked and ruined forever but
she looked very happy.
“I wonder if you know what you
have done for me,” she said to Willard.
“But no you can’t know you
can’t realize it fully. It means everything
to me. You have taken away my humiliation and
restored to me my pride of womanhood. He really
loved me he was not false he
was what I believed him to be. Nothing else matters
to me at all now. Oh, I am very happy but
it would never have been if I had not consented to
give you Joyce.”
She rose and took their hands in hers, joining them.
“God bless you, dears,”
she said softly. “I believe you will be
happy and that your love for each other will always
be true and faithful and tender. Willard, I give
you my dear child in perfect trust and confidence.”
With her yellowed love letter clasped
to her heart, and a raptured shining in her eyes,
Miss Sally went out of the room.