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"Mavis," he said very softly, "Mavis with the amber hair and the deep brown eyes. Mavis, child and poet and--all mine."
"You're not laughing?" I asked anxiously. "I mean, about the verses?"
"Laughing?" he raised his head from my hair. My cap had fallen off, and it blew in wildest confusion about my face and his. "I'm very far from laughing. I'm proud and happy. But," said he, with a change of tone, "to steal my thunder! You'll be dabbling in my pill-boxes yet! I suppose I may as well reconcile myself to being known as 'the husband of Mavis Denton.' Appalling outlook!"
"Is it?" I asked impishly.
"Well--in that sense at least. 'Husband of The Poetess.' It wounds my masculine pride."
"It shouldn't," said I, triumphantly, "if it ever happened--which, of course, it won't. But I will be quite content to be known as Richard Warren's wife--"
"You dear! But, of course, you have a better disposition than I have--"
"I haven't! I'm a petulant, snappish, mean--"
"You're the loveliest thing G.o.d ever made!"
And so on, ad infinitum.
The lazy, happy trip over, we sailed importantly into New York once more. Father and Uncle John were on the dock, two bronzed, happy men, and it was late that night before I got to sleep, in that same, old-fas.h.i.+oned room, my head in a perfect whirl. How we had talked and laughed, questioned and answered! From the twinkle in Uncle John's eyes, the tenderest, most quizzical twinkle, I half-suspected that he knew more than I had thought. He didn't say so, but if he didn't know--well, he had developed perfectly miraculous powers of teasing since I had left. But he was a dear. And it was so amazing to sit there and listen to him and Bill discuss the new volume, and to put my little, critical oar in now and then, while Father sat by, my hand in his, a look of the most wonderful content on his face. They had great difficulty to persuade me to go to bed. It was fascinating to linger in the smoky old room, with its rows and rows of books and its untidy, comfortable, masculine atmosphere. After I had three times refused to leave them, Bill unceremoniously picked me up and carried me up the stairs, kicking, and losing my slippers on the way.
Did I say that a wire was waiting for me when I reached Uncle John's?
"LOVE TO YOU BOTH," it read. "WILL BE WITH YOU WEDNESDAY AT THE LATEST," and it was addressed to me, and signed, "MOTHER." Wednesday was two days off. I spent the intervening time in the outrageous shops, Bill stalking uneasily behind me, deferred to by the lithe, wonderfully coiffured, purring G.o.ddesses who paraded mannequin after pretty mannequin before my startled eyes. I think, however, that Bill was a little more embarra.s.sed than I.
"How they live," he said to me, seriously, on one occasion, "I don't see. I should think they'd spend most of their time in a pneumonia ward!"
We drove in the Park one afternoon. It was gay with Spring flowers and pretty girls. We had a hansom, because I had read about them in books.
Coming back, through the falling dusk, with the lights of the city twinkling out, yellow and beckoning, and the great, ma.s.sive bulk of the Plaza, illuminated like a birthday cake, just ahead, I suddenly conceived an affection for New York. But I didn't want to live there.
"Next time we come," said Bill, "in the Fall, perhaps, I want to take you to the theatres and to the gayest restaurants, and concerts. Why, you funny child, your eyes are as big as saucers!"
Our lean horse stumbled just then, and the hansom gave a seasick lurch. I felt as people mounting camels must feel. When the horse and I had somewhat recovered, I answered,
"I'd love it! And you'll teach me to dance--sometime?--May I?"
"Well," said Bill gravely, "I'm not much of a dancer--too big and all that. I always step on the dear things' feet. But you may, I think, and we'll take lessons together, if you like--"
"I'd adore it!" I said.
My husband drew me close--,
"You baby," he said. "Sometimes I think I have been selfish, tying you down to a cross old husband before you've had your good times--"
"Don't want any good times without you!" I said, obstinately.
"All right," said he. "We'll have them together. I'll renew my youth!"
"Don't be absurd! You're a mere infant!"
"Second childhood," he said, "you've been an elixir of youth to me; of life itself."
"You do say such nice things," I sighed. "That comes of being a poet!"
"Poet be hanged!" said Bill. "It comes of being in love--with--you--with you--"
That was a very nice drive. After all, the hansom has advantages. One can sit awfully close, and hold hands under the s.h.i.+ny, wooden ap.r.o.n.
Wednesday Mother came. I called her that right off. She was the dearest thing, with such curly red hair and eyes the color of Bill's, only a different shape. She was littler than I even, with hands and feet that were wholly ridiculous. Father was immediately enchanted with her. The four of us had a long talk, all one soft Spring day, interrupted by Uncle John, and by getting Peter and Sarah safely off to Green Hill. And then, while I was resting, she had her talk with her son, and came to me later, after I had gone to bed.
She curled up beside me in a wonderful blue negligee which made her look like a girl. And we talked--and talked.
"You're the nicest thing that Bill has given me," I said, happily, before she left, "and Bill's the nicest thing you could give me. You don't feel," I begged, "that I am taking him away from you--?"
"I love you," she answered, the laughter gone from her eyes, and her face very sweet to see, "for yourself--for Bill too, but most of all for yourself. I have wanted this since he first wrote me about you. I have prayed for it every night. You were so exactly the sort of a girl I wanted my boy to marry--"
"But," I said, "I was just a little, bed-ridden, useless creature then--"
"I knew that Bill would cure you," said Mother. "He always gets what he wants--"
"Doesn't he though?" I interrupted, proudly.
"And he wanted you!"
"I love him so," I whispered against the soft lace at her breast.
She put her arms very closely around me. I don't know why I cried.
And then, she talked to me. Just as my own Mother would have done--very gravely and tenderly for a long half-hour. When she left my room, I lay awake a long time, thinking about her and Bill, wondering if I could ever be to him all that she had said I would be.
I was happy, a little frightened, and so grateful--so grateful.
The entire household saw us off on our motor trip. Uncle John beaming, Mrs. Cardigan and the maids waving hands and ap.r.o.ns, Mother smiling at us through a mist. She was coming to Green Hill as soon as we were settled, and help me with my first housekeeping. She had demurred at first when I begged her to: had said that "young people were better off alone." But I, and then Bill, when he found how much I really wanted her and finally Father had overridden all her objections. I didn't tell my menfolk that it was delightful to have someone to whom you could talk "Bill" by the hour, and who never grew tired of listening and encouraging and interrupting with paeans of praise of her own.
"What will she think of Mercedes?" I asked, as we rolled through the city, out toward the suns.h.i.+ne and open s.p.a.ces.
"She'll like her," said Bill. "Mother's a judge, and she adopted Wright long ago."
"Those two wild children," I said, tolerantly.
The maddest cablegram had come to us just before we left. I was still convulsed by it:
Mercedes willing wedding in fall out of my head with happiness everything wonderful thank you a thousand times will see you very soon most marvelous girl in the world sends her love so do _I_.