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oven. When we took the house, all the stove we had was a big stone block thing with little square holes. The cook fanned them with a turkey-wing. But now we 've got a range. Don't you want me to show you over the house? There'll be just time before supper."

"I'm afraid it's all dark," said Estelle. "Let me ring and have them light up. Think of a city house without gas!"

"No, they'd be too long. I can take a lamp."

She went for it to her dressing-room, and came back with one easy to carry, long in the stem and small in the tank, from which, to make it brighter, she had lifted. off the shade. Gerald reached to take it from her, but she refused his help.

"The weight 's nothing. I want you to be free to look around. Coming, Estelle?"

"I'll join you in a minute."

They went down the wide stairs side by side. She led through a door, at the right, as you entered the house, of the main door.

"Here's one of the parlors. We have four on this floor, between big and little. Four parlors and a dining-room. Does n't that seem a good many for two lone women?"

The unshaded lamplight showed a crowd of furniture, modern, muffled, expensive, the lack of simplicity in design of which was further rendered dreadful to the artist by every device to make it still less simple: embroidered scarfs thrown over chair-backs, varicolored textiles depending from the mantel-shelf, drooping over the mirror; down pillows of every shape and tint piled in sofa-corners. Nothing was left undecorated. The waste-basket even wore a fat satin bow, like a pet poodle. Every horizontal surface was encumbered with knickknacks.

"This is where we have people come when we don't know them very well," said Mrs. Hawthorne, hardly concealing her pride. "We could n't ask the minister to come right up-stairs, as we did you. How you-"

do

"Mrs. Hawthorne," came hurriedly came hurriedly

from Gerald, "I beg you will not ask me how I like it! It is a peculiarity like—like not liking oysters. I can't bear to be asked how I like things."

"How funny! But, then, you 're different from other people, aren't you? That's what makes you so interesting."

She preceded him into the next room, which was not so bad as the first for the reason that, she explained, "they had n't yet finished with it." He seized the occasion almost eagerly to praise the chairs.

"We found them here when we came," she informed him. "There was a good lot of furniture of this big, bare sort; clumsy, I call it. We stored some of it in the top rooms, but Leslie Foss begged me so to let these stay that we just had the seats covered over with something new and left them."

When she opened the next door and stepped into the space beyond it seemed as if her lamp had dwindled to a taper, the room was so vast. It had nine great windows, five in an unbroken row on the front of the house, the entire width of which it occupied. Aurora's light was faintly reflected in a polished floor; it twinkled in the myriad motionless drops. of two great crystal chandeliers.

"Ah," exclaimed Gerald in a long sigh, "this is superb!"

"Yes," she said, "but you might as well try to furnish all outdoors. You see that we have n't done anything beyond putting up curtains. We never use it. All those chairs along the walls are going to be regilded when we can get them to come and fetch them. Things move awfully slowly over here, don't they, even if you 're willing to pay."

"What a ball-room!"

"Yes. Wish we could give a ball; but we only know about a dozen people. We 've got to wait till we know enough at least for two sets of a quadrille."

She was moving across the wide floor, holding her torch-like lamp high the better to illumine the great pale, silent emptiNo longer hearing his footsteps. echoing behind hers, she looked over her shoulder; whereupon he hurriedly joined

ness.

her, without explaining why he had whispered, "let's get behind the door and lagged. say 'Boo!' as she comes in."

"This," she said, as turning to the left they passed from the ball-room into a small oval room the domed ceiling of which was all tenderly bepainted with Cupids and garlands-"this is almost my favorite."

She set down her lamp on a table of rose-tinged marble, and dropped for a minute on to a little rococo settee.

"The things in here we found just as you see them."

"So I imagined."

"All but the ornaments on the mantel." "Very astute in me; I divined that, too."

"We liked it, so we left it. Pretty, ain't it? Oh, beg pardon!" She blushed and looked at him sidelong, laughing. "That was a bad break! That came mighty near to being the forbidden question how you like it. All the same, it is pretty, is it not?"

"Extremely. Extremely pretty."

"There are going to be some tapestries presently. Oh, don't be afraid! Not those old worsted things full of maggots, but beautiful new ones, painted by hand, all in these same delicate colors. A story in four scenes, one for each panel. 'Fountain of Love' is the subject. It sounds to me like something Biblical, Sunday-schoolish; but Mr. Hunt says no, it is not."

"Mr. Hunt-"

The

"The nephew, Charlie. You know him, don't you? He's getting them done for me. He's a great friend of mine. He's helped me a lot to buy things." "Did he help you to buy the pictures?" "Yes. He knows the dealers, and gets them to make fair prices. I think it perfectly wonderful how cheap everything is over here. He helped me to buy these, too." She lifted the chain of pink corals, graduated from the size of a pea to that of a hazelnut, which with their delicate living color brightened her winter dress. "I can't say, though," she dropped, "that I found these particularly cheap. Hush!" she broke off. "It 's Hat! Quick!" she

Amazingly, incredibly to him, this grown woman appeared about to ensconce herself.

"But won't it make her jump?" he asked, supposing it to be Miss Madison. for whom the little surprise was intended.

"Of course it'll make her jump. No matter how often I do it, she jumps. That's the fun."

"Mrs. Hawthorne, please!" he begged nervously. "As a very special favor to me, don't! It would make me jump, too -horribly."

She stood listening while the footsteps turned away and faded fruitlessly. With a look of disappointment, as at opportunity missed, she took up her lamp and moved on.

"And here," she said, leaving the oval room by the door opposite to the one they had come through, "is the dining-room. Which takes us back to the hall and completes the circle."

This room, of a fine new Pompeian red, was lighted. The table was set, and a butler busy at the sideboard. Gerald's eye was caught by the brightness of a china basket piled high with sumptuous fruit, and similarly caught the next moment by the pattern of the curtains, in which the same rampant red lion was innumerably repeated on a ground of widemeshed lace.

"Would n't it be a lovely house to give a party in?" she asked him. "Is n't it exactly right to give a party in? There are two big spare chambers up-stairs at the back that would do, one for gentlemen, one for ladies, to lay off their things in. No use; we shall have to give a party."

Having returned up-stairs, he was without any false delicacy shown her bedroom and her friend's bedroom and their dressing-rooms, as well as given a peep into the two spare rooms, as yet incompletely furnished, that he might get an idea how beautiful these were going to be when finally industry and good taste had been brought to bear on them.

At dinner, which Mrs. Hawthorne seemed to have a fixed preference for calling supper, it was Gerald who did most of the talking. The ladies abandoned the lead to him, and listened with flattering attention while he called into use his not too sadly rusted social gifts.

Whenever he stopped there was silence, which he hastened again to break.

"You talk like Leslie," suddenly remarked Mrs. Hawthorne.

But now came the hot biscuits and the syrup, borne in by the mystified butler at the same time as the more conventional dessert prepared by the cook.

Aurora smiled at the biscuits' beautiful brown and, having broken one to test its lightness, nodded in self-approval.

"They 're all right. Now you want to put on lots of butter," she said. "Here, that 's not near enough," she reproved him. She reached over, took his biscuit, buttered it as she thought it should be buttered, and returned it to his plate; then, while eating, watched him eat with eyes that expressed her simple love of feeding up any one, man or animal, as lean as he.

There had been shining in Aurora's eyes all this evening, when they rested on him, a look of great kindness, the consequence of knowing how badly life had treated him, and desiring that compensation should be made. He could not fail to feel that warm ray playing over his bleak surface. He could not but think what nice eyes Mrs. Hawthorne had.

When he asked her if she knew how to make many other such delicious things, it became her turn to talk. Estelle here joined in, and they exalted the fare of home, affecting the fiction of having found nothing but frogs' legs, cocks' combs, and snails to feed upon since they struck Italy. Blueberry-pie-did Mr. Fane remember it? Fried oysters! Buckwheat cakes!

He said he remembered, but did not confess to any great emotion.

"You wait till Thursday," said Aurora. "It 's Thanksgiving. We 're going to have chicken-pie, roast turkey, mince-pie, squash-pie, everything but cranberry

sauce. We can't get the cranberries. Will you come?"

In haste and confusion he said, alas! it would be impossible, wholly impossible, intimating that he was a man of a thousand engagements and occupations.

But after an interval, and talk of other things, he inquired, with an effect of enormous discretion, whether he might without too great impertinence ask who was coming to eat that wonderful Thanksgiving dinner which her own hands, he must suppose, would largely have to prepare.

"Just the Fosses. All the Fosses." "Ah, Mr. Foss will feel agreeably like the Great Turk."

"You mean he 'll be the only man? I guess he can stand it. We thought of asking Charlie Hunt, too, but he 's English and would seem an outsider at this particular gathering. Wish you 'd come. You 're such a friend of theirs. Come on, come!"

"Mrs. Hawthorne, you are so very unusually kind. If you would leave it open, and then when the day arrives, if I should find I could do so without-without-" "Oh, yes. Come if you can. sure, now, you come!"

And be

THEY were still sitting at the table-dinner had been retarded by the circumstantial round of the house-when music resounding through the echoing rooms. stopped the talk.

It was the piano across the hall that had been briskly and powerfully attacked. The "Royal March" of Italy was played, first baldly, then with manifold clinging and wreathing variations.

Aurora signed to the servant to open the dining-room door. All three at the table sat in silence till the end of the piece.

Gerald wondered what the evening caller could be who made the moments of waiting light to himself in this fanciful

manner.

"It 's Italo," said Mrs. Hawthorne, rising. "I call him Italo because I never can remember his other name. Come, let's go into the parlor."

It was all rosily lighted. Candles set

on the piano at each side of the music-rest enkindled glossy high lights on the nosebump and forehead bosses of Signor Ceccherelli, who at Mrs. Hawthorne's appearance sprang up to salute. She reached him her hand, over which he deeply bowed.

"You 're to play all those lovely things I'm so fond of," she directed him. "The Swallow and the Prisoner,' 'The Butterflies,' 'The Cascade of Pearls.' And don't forget the 'Souvenir of Saint Helena.' Then the one of the soldiers marching off and the soldiers coming home again. All our favorites. Mr. Fane-are you acquainted with each other? Italo-you'll have to tell him your name yourself. I can think of is Checkerberry."

All

"Yes, yes, we are acquainted," said Gerald, hurriedly. "We have seen each other many times. Come sta?"

"Oh, he can speak English."

"A leetle," Ceccherelli modestly admitted.

"He understands everything I say. We have great conversations. He comes every evening when he is n't engaged to play somewhere else."

She went to sit on the gorgeous brocade sofa, arranging herself amid the multitude of cushions so as to listen long and happily. Estelle preferring a straight-backed chair, Gerald took the other corner of Aurora's sofa. Immediately Ceccherelli opened with "Souvenir de Sainte-Hélène." Aurora, respectful to the artist, talked in a whisper.

"He's so talented! You simply could n't count the pieces he can play. We do enjoy it so! We have n't anything in particular to do evenings if no one calls. We don't often go out. We have n't been here long enough to know many people. And aside from his magnificent playing, the little man is such good company! We do have fun! There, I must n't talk. I'm keeping you from listening."

Gerald settled back, too, as if to listen, but to do the contrary was his fixed purpose, even though the pianist, at last appreciated, put into his playing much feeling and force. Gerald's eyes went wan

dering among the clutter of bric-à-brac, from a green bronze lizard to a mosaic picture of Roman peasants, from a leaning tower of Pisa to a Sorrento box. Then his eyes rose to the paintings. He closed

them.

The music was describing a hero's death-bed, besieged by dreams of battle, at moments so noisy that Gerald had to open his eyes again for a look of curiosity at the person who could produce so much sound. As he watched him and his nose, which was like the magnified beak of a hen, the nose of a man who loves to talk, -he tried a little to imagine those merry evenings spoken of by Aurora. The fellow looked almost ludicrously solemn at this moment. He took himself and his art right seriously, there could be no doubt of it. His face was a map of the emotions expressed by the music, and wore, besides, according to his conception of the part, the look of a great man unacclaimed by his own generation.

Dio! what an ugly little man!
Gerald closed his eyes again.

He was dimly troubled, knowing that there is no hope of an Italian ever really understanding the ways of being and doing of American women, and especially an Italian of that class. But then it would be equally difficult to make this American woman understand just how the Italian might misunderstand her.

He permitted himself a direct look at her, where she rested among the cushions, with eyes closed again and a smile diffused all over her face; her whole person, indeed, permeated with the essence of a smile. Extraordinary that, loving music so much, one could so much love such music.

She surprised him by opening her eyes and whispering:

"Don't you want to smoke?" showing that for a moment at least she had not been thinking of music. "You can, if you want to. Here, we 've got some. Don't go and think, now, that Estelle and I have taken to smoking. Heavens above! We sent out for them the other night when Charlie Hunt was here."

She reached across the table near her and handed him a box of cigarettes.

He was very glad to light one. Το smoke is soothing, and he felt the need of it. Added to his vague distress at the spectacle of such familiarity from these ladies to that impossible little Italian, a ferment of resentment was disquieting him apropos of Hunt-those works of art of which Hunt had facilitated the purchase.

Hunt, of a truth, ever since the first mention of him that evening had been like a fishbone in Gerald's throat.

He checked his thoughts, recognizing that it is not sane or safe to permit oneself to interpret the conduct of a person whom one does not like. The chances of being misled are too great. He uprooted a suspicion dishonoring to both.

Let it be taken for assured, then, that Hunt had in this case no interest to forward beyond his love for making himself important. After all, if the ladies liked bad pictures! Yet it was a shame that he should frequent their house, be accepted as their friend, invited by them, made much of in their innocent and generous way, then should make fun of them, as Gerald felt that Hunt was doing.

Singularly, when next the music stopped, Mrs. Hawthorne, after she with true politeness had taken the box of cigarettes to the other of her guests, spoke of Hunt. Perhaps her thoughts, too, had gone straying, and mysteriously encountered some straying thought of his.

"Charlie Hunt," she said, "is coming on Sunday morning to take us to the picture-galleries. We're going to play hooky from church. His work, don't you see, keeps him at the bank on week-days till everything of that sort is closed."

"Mrs. Hawthorne," cried Gerald, and sat up in unaffected indignation, while mustache, beard, hair, everything about him appeared to bristle, "I thought I had been engaged to take you sight-seeing! I thought it was to be my honor and privilege! Mrs. Hawthorne, my dear friend, if you do not wish deeply to hurt me, deeply to hurt me, you will write to Mr. Hunt at once, this evening, and I will post the let

ter, that you have thought better of that immoral plan for Sunday morning, and are going to church like a good Christian. woman. And to-morrow, Mrs. Hawthorne, at whatever time will be convenient for you, I will come and take you to the Uffizi."

CHAPTER VI

LENDING her spacious front room for the Christmas bazaar in aid of the church, and beholding it full of bustle and brightness, was the thing that brought to the acute stage Mrs. Hawthorne's longing to see her whole house the scene of some huge good time: she sent out innumerable invitations to a ball. Mrs. Foss's card was inclosed with hers. It was a farewell party given for Brenda, whose day of sailing was. very near. The frequent inquiry how Brenda should be crossing the ocean so late in the year met with the answer that her traveling companions had a brother whose wedding had been timed thus awkwardly for them.

On the morning of the day before the ball Gerald came to see Mrs. Hawthorne. He was still intrusting the servant with his message when Aurora, leaning over the railing of the hallway above, called down to him, "Come right up-stairs!"

He was aware of unusual activities all around-workmen, the sound of hammering, housemaids plying brooms and brushes. Leslie Foss, with her hat on, looked from the dining-room and said, "Hello, Gerald!" too busy for anything more. Fräulein seemed to be with her, helping at something.

The great central white-and-gold door, to-day open, permitted a glimpse, as he started up the stairs, of a man on a stepladder fitting tall wax-candles into one of the great chandeliers. From unseen quarters floated Estelle's voice, saying, "Ploo bah! Nong, ploo hoe!"

Mrs. Hawthorne met him at the head of the stairs. The slight disorder of her hair, usually so tidy, pointed to unusual exertions on her part, also. Her face was flushed with excitement and, to judge by her wreathing smiles, with happiness.

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