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Vol. 95



No. 1

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The Happiest Time of Their Lives


Author of "Come Out of the Kitchen," etc.

Illustrations by Paul Meylan

ITTLE Miss Severance sat with her hands as cold as ice. The stage of her coming adventure was beautifully set -the conventional stage for the adventure

of a young girl, her mother's drawingroom. Her mother had the art of setting stages. The room was not large, a New York brownstone front in the upper Sixties, even though altered as to entrance, and allowed to sprawl backward over yards not originally intended for its use, is not a palace, but it was a room and not a corridor; you had the comfortable sense of four walls about you when its one small door was once shut. It was filled, perhaps a little too much filled, with objects which seemed to have nothing in common except beauty; but propinquity, propinquity of older date than the house. in which they now were, had given them harmony. Nothing in the room was modern except some uncommonly comfortable sofas and chairs, and the pink and yellow roses that stood about in Chinese bowls.

Miss Severance herself was hardly aware of the charm of the room. On the third floor she had her own room, which she liked much better. There was a great

deal of bright chintz in it, and maple furniture of a late colonial date, inherited from her mother's family, the Lanleys, and discarded by her mother, who described the taste of that time as "pure, but provincial." Crystal and ivories and carved wood and Italian embroideries did not please Miss Severance half so well as the austere lines of those work-tables and high-boys.

It was after five, almost half-past, and he had said "about five." Miss Severance, impatient to begin the delicious experience of anticipation, had allowed herself to be ready at a quarter before the hour. Not that she had been entirely without some form of anticipation since she woke up; not, perhaps, since she had parted from him under the windy awning the night before. They had held up a long line of restless motors as she stood huddled in her fur-trimmed cloak, and he stamped and jigged to keep warm, bareheaded, in his thin pumps and shining shirt-front, with his shoulders drawn up and his hands in his pockets, while they almost awkwardly arranged this meeting for the next day. Several times during the preceding eve

Copyright, 1917, by THE CENTURY Co. All rights reserved.

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ning she had thought he was going to say something of the kind, for they had danced. together a great deal; but they had always danced in silence. At the time, with his arm about her, silence had seemed enough; but in separation there is something wonderfully solid and comforting in the memory of a spoken word; it is like coin in the pocket. And after Miss Severance had bidden him good night at the long glass door of the paneled ballroom without his saying anything of a future meeting, she had gone up-stairs with a heavy heart to find her maid and her wrap. She knew as soon as she reached the dressing-room that she had actually hurried her departure for the sake of the parting, for the hope, as their time together grew short, of having some certainty to look forward to. But he had said nothing, and she had been ashamed to find that she was waiting, leaving her hand in his too long; so that at last she snatched it away, and was gone up-stairs in an instant, fearing he might have guessed what was going on in her mind.

She had thought it just an accident that he was in the hall when she came down again, and he had n't much choice, she said to herself, about helping her into her motor. Then at the very last moment he had asked if he might n't come and see her the next afternoon. Miss Severance, who was usually sensitive to inconveniencing other people, had not cared at all about the motor behind hers that was tooting its horn or for the elderly lady in feathers and diamonds who was waiting to get into it. She had cared only about arranging the hour and impressing the address upon him. He had given her back the pleasure of her whole evening like a parting gift.

As she drove home she could n't bring herself to doubt, though she tried to be rational about the whole experience, that it had meant as much to him as it had to her, perhaps more. Her lips curved a little at the thought, and she glanced quickly at her maid to see if the smile had been visible in the glare of the tall, double lamps of Fifth Avenue.

To say she had not slept would be untrue, but she had slept close to the surface of consciousness, as if a bright light were shining somewhere near, and she had waked with the definite knowledge that this light was the certainty of seeing him. that very day. The morning had gone very well; she had even forgotten once or twice for a few seconds, and then remembered with a start of joy that was almost painful: but, after lunch, time had begun to drag like the last day of a long seavoyage.

About three she had gone out with her mother in the motor, with the understanding that she was to be left at home at four; her mother was going on to tea with an elderly relative. Fifth Avenue had seemed unusually crowded even for Fifth Avenue, and the girl had fretted and wondered. at the perversity of the police, who held them up just at the moment most promising for slipping through; and why Andrews, the chauffeur, could not see that he would do better by going to Madison Avenue. She did not speak these thoughts aloud, for she had not told her mother, not from any natural love of concealment, but because any announcement of her plans for the afternoon would have 'made them seem less certain of fulfilment. Perhaps, too, she had felt an unacknowledged fear of certain of her mother's phrases that could delicately puncture delight.

She had been dropped at the house by ten minutes after four, and exactly at a quarter before five she had been in the drawing-room, in her favorite dress, with her best slippers, her hands cold, but her heart warm with the knowledge that he would soon be there.

Only after forty-five minutes of waiting did that faith begin to grow dim. She was too inexperienced in such matters to know that this was the inevitable consequence of being ready too carly. She had had time to run through the whole cycle of certainty, eagerness, doubt, and she was now rapidly approaching despair. He was not coming. Perhaps he had never meant to come. Possibly he had merely yielded

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