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CHAPTER XIII A SURPRISING ANNOUNCEMENT
"Nothing exciting has happened for ever so long," said the Story Girl discontentedly, one late May evening, as we lingered under the wonderful white bloom of the cherry trees. There was a long row of them in the orchard, with a Lombardy poplar at either end, and a hedge of lilacs behind. When the wind blew over them all the spicy breezes of Ceylon's isle were never sweeter.
It was a time of wonder and marvel, of the soft touch of silver rain on greening fields, of the incredible delicacy of young leaves, of blossom in field and garden and wood. The whole world bloomed in a flush and tremor of maiden loveliness, instinct with all the evasive, fleeting charm of spring and girlhood and young morning. We felt and enjoyed it all without understanding or analyzing it. It was enough to be glad and young with spring on the golden road.
"I don't like excitement very much," said Cecily. "It makes one so tired. I'm sure it was exciting enough when Paddy was missing, but we didn't find that very pleasant."
"No, but it was interesting," returned the Story Girl thoughtfully. "After all, I believe I'd rather be miserable than dull."
"I wouldn't then," said Felicity decidedly. "And you need never be dull when you have work to do. 'Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do!'"
"Well, mischief is interesting," laughed the Story Girl. "And I thought you didn't think it lady-like to speak of that person, Felicity?"
"It's all right if you call him by his polite name," said Felicity stiffly.
"Why does the Lombardy poplar hold its branches straight up in the air like that, when all the other poplars hold theirs out or hang them down?" interjected Peter, who had been gazing intently at the slender spire showing darkly against the fine blue eastern sky.
"Because it grows that way," said Felicity.
"Oh I know a story about that," cried the Story Girl. "Once upon a time an old man found the pot of gold at the rainbow's end. There IS a pot there, it is said, but it is very hard to find because you can never get to the rainbow's end before it vanishes from your sight. But this old man found it, just at sunset, when Iris, the guardian of the rainbow gold, happened to be absent. As he was a long way from home, and the pot was very big and heavy, he decided to hide it until morning and then get one of his sons to go with him and help him carry it. So he hid it under the boughs of the sleeping poplar tree.
"When Iris came back she missed the pot of gold and of course she was in a sad way about it. She sent Mercury, the messenger of the gods, to look for it, for she didn't dare leave the rainbow again, lest somebody should run off with that too. Mercury asked all the trees if they had seen the pot of gold, and the elm, oak and pine pointed to the poplar and said,
"'The poplar can tell you where it is.'
"'How can I tell you where it is?' cried the poplar, and she held up all her branches in surprise, just as we hold up our hands - and down tumbled the pot of gold. The poplar was amazed and indignant, for she was a very honest tree. She stretched her boughs high above her head and declared that she would always hold them like that, so that nobody could hide stolen gold under them again. And she taught all the little poplars she knew to stand the same way, and that is why Lombardy poplars always do. But the aspen poplar leaves are always shaking, even on the very calmest day. And do you know why?"
And then she told us the old legend that the cross on which the Saviour of the world suffered was made of aspen poplar wood and so never again could its poor, shaken, shivering leaves know rest or peace. There was an aspen in the orchard, the very embodiment of youth and spring in its litheness and symmetry. Its little leaves were hanging tremulously, not yet so fully blown as to hide its development of bough and twig, making poetry against the spiritual tints of a spring sunset.
"It does look sad," said Peter, "but it is a pretty tree, and it wasn't its fault."
"There's a heavy dew and it's time we stopped talking nonsense and went in," decreed Felicity. "If we don't we'll all have a cold, and then we'll be miserable enough, but it won't be very exciting."
"All the same, I wish something exciting would happen," finished the Story Girl, as we walked up through the orchard, peopled with its nun-like shadows.
"There's a new moon tonight, so may be you'll get your wish," said Peter. "My Aunt Jane didn't believe there was anything in the moon business, but you never can tell."
The Story Girl did get her wish. Something happened the very next day. She joined us in the afternoon with a quite indescribable expression on her face, compounded of triumph, anticipation, and regret. Her eyes betrayed that she had been crying, but in them shone a chastened exultation. Whatever the Story Girl mourned over it was evident she was not without hope.
"I have some news to tell you," she said importantly. "Can you guess what it is?"
We couldn't and wouldn't try.
"Tell us right off," implored Felix. "You look as if it was something tremendous."
"So it is. Listen - Aunt Olivia is going to be married."
We stared in blank amazement. Peg Bowen's hint had faded from our minds and we had never put much faith in it.
"Aunt Olivia! I don't believe it," cried Felicity flatly. "Who told you?"
"Aunt Olivia herself. So it is perfectly true. I'm awfully sorry in one way - but oh, won't it be splendid to have a real wedding in the family? She's going to have a big wedding - and I am to be bridesmaid."
"I shouldn't think you were old enough to be a bridesmaid," said Felicity sharply.
"I'm nearly fifteen. Anyway, Aunt Olivia says I have to be."
"Who's she going to marry?" asked Cecily, gathering herself together after the shock, and finding that the world was going on just the same.
"His name is Dr. Seton and he is a Halifax man. She met him when she was at Uncle Edward's last summer. They've been engaged ever since. The wedding is to be the third week in June."
"And our school concert comes off the next week," complained Felicity. "Why do things always come together like that? And what are you going to do if Aunt Olivia is going away?"
"I'm coming to live at your house," answered the Story Girl rather timidly. She did not know how Felicity might like that. But Felicity took it rather well.
"You've been here most of the time anyhow, so it'll just be that you'll sleep and eat here, too. But what's to become of Uncle Roger?"
"Aunt Olivia says he'll have to get married, too. But Uncle Roger says he'd rather hire a housekeeper than marry one, because in the first case he could turn her off if he didn't like her, but in the second case he couldn't."
"There'll be a lot of cooking to do for the wedding," reflected Felicity in a tone of satisfaction.
"I s'pose Aunt Olivia will want some rusks made. I hope she has plenty of tooth-powder laid in," said Dan.
"It's a pity you don't use some of that tooth-powder you're so fond of talking about yourself," retorted Felicity. "When anyone has a mouth the size of yours the teeth show so plain."
"I brush my teeth every Sunday," asseverated Dan.
"Every Sunday! You ought to brush them every DAY."
"Did anyone ever hear such nonsense?" demanded Dan sincerely.
"Well, you know, it really does say so in the Family Guide," said Cecily quietly.
"Then the Family Guide people must have lots more spare time than I have," retorted Dan contemptuously.
"Just think, the Story Girl will have her name in the papers if she's bridesmaid," marvelled Sara Ray.
"In the Halifax papers, too," added Felix, "since Dr. Seton is a Halifax man. What is his first name?"
"And will we have to call him Uncle Robert?"
"Not until he's married to her. Then we will, of course."
"I hope your Aunt Olivia won't disappear before the ceremony," remarked Sara Ray, who was surreptitiously reading "The Vanquished Bride," by Valeria H. Montague in the Family Guide.
"I hope Dr. Seton won't fail to show up, like your cousin Rachel Ward's beau," said Peter.
"That makes me think of another story I read the other day about Great-uncle Andrew King and Aunt Georgina," laughed the Story Girl. "It happened eighty years ago. It was a very stormy winter and the roads were bad. Uncle Andrew lived in Carlisle, and Aunt Georgina - she was Miss Georgina Matheson then - lived away up west, so he couldn't get to see her very often. They agreed to be married that winter, but Georgina couldn't set the day exactly because her brother, who lived in Ontario, was coming home for a visit, and she wanted to be married while he was home. So it was arranged that she was to write Uncle Andrew and tell him what day to come. She did, and she told him to come on a Tuesday. But her writing wasn't very good and poor Uncle Andrew thought she wrote Thursday. So on Thursday he drove all the way to Georgina's home to be married. It was forty miles and a bitter cold day. But it wasn't any colder than the reception he got from Georgina. She was out in the porch, with her head tied up in a towel, picking geese. She had been all ready Tuesday, and her friends and the minister were there, and the wedding supper prepared. But there was no bridegroom and Georgina was furious. Nothing Uncle Andrew could say would appease her. She wouldn't listen to a word of explanation, but told him to go, and never show his nose there again. So poor Uncle Andrew had to go ruefully home, hoping that she would relent later on, because he was really very much in love with her."
"And did she?" queried Felicity.
"She did. Thirteen years exactly from that day they were married. It took her just that long to forgive him."
"It took her just that long to find out she couldn't get anybody else," said Dan, cynically.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XIV A PRODIGAL RETURNS