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Miss Middleton
by [?]


“MAY I come in?” said Miss Middleton.

I looked up from my book and stared at her in amazement.

“Hullo,” I said.

“Hullo,” said Miss Middleton doubtfully.

“Are you going to have tea with me?”

“That’s what I was wondering all the way up.”

“It’s all ready; in fact, I’ve nearly finished. There’s a cake to-day, too.”

Miss Middleton hesitated at the door and looked wistfully at me.

“I suppose–I suppose,” she said timidly, “you think I ought to have brought somebody, with me?”

“In a way, I’m just as glad you didn’t.”

“I’ve heaps of chaperons outside on the stairs, you know.”

“There’s no place like outside for chaperons.”

“And the liftman believes I’m your aunt. At least, perhaps he doesn’t, but I mentioned it to him.”

I looked at her, and then I smiled. And then I laughed.

“So that’s all right,” she said breathlessly. “And I want my tea.” She came in, and began to arrange her hat in front of the glass.

“Tea,” I said, going to the cupboard. “I suppose you’ll want a cup to yourself. There you are–don’t lose it. Milk. Sugar.”

Miss Middleton took a large piece of cake. “What were you studying so earnestly when I came in?” she asked as she munched.

“A dictionary.”

“But how lucky I came. Because I can spell simply everything. What is it you want to know?”

“I don’t want to know how to spell anything, thank you; but I believe you can help me all the same.”

Miss Middleton sat down and drank her tea. “I love helping,” she said.

“Well, it’s this. I’ve just been asked to be a godfather.”

Miss Middleton stood up suddenly. “Do I salute,” she asked.

“You sit down and go on eating. The difficulty is–what to call it?”

“Oh, do godfathers provide the names?”

“I think so. It is what they are there for, I fancy. That is about all there is in it, I believe.”

“And can’t you find anything in the dictionary?”

“Well, I don’t think the dictionary is helping as much as I expected. It only muddles me. Did you know that Algernon meant ‘with whiskers’? I’m not thinking of calling it Algernon, but that’s the sort of thing they spring on you.”

“But I hate Algernon anyhow. Why not choose quite a simple name? Had you thought of ‘John,’ for instance?”

“No, I hadn’t thought of ‘John,’ somehow.”

“Or ‘Gerald’?”

“‘Gerald’ I like very much.”

“What about ‘Dick’?” she went on eagerly.

“Yes, ‘Dick’ is quite jolly. By the way, did I tell you it was a girl?”

Miss Middleton rose with dignity.

“For your slice of plum cake and your small cup of tea I thank you,” she said; “and I am now going straight home to mother.”

“Not yet,” I pleaded.

“I’ll just ask you one question before I go. Where do you keep the biscuits?”

She found the biscuits and sat down again.

“A girl’s name,” I said encouragingly.

“Yes. Well, is she fair or dark?”

“She’s very small at present. What there is of her is dark, I believe.”

“Well, there are millions of names for dark girls.”

“We only want one or two.”

“‘Barbara’ is a nice dark name. Is she going to be pretty?”

“Her mother says she is. I didn’t recognize the symptoms. Very pretty and very clever and very high-spirited, her mother says. Is there a name for that?”

I always call them whoppers,” said Miss Middleton.

“How do you like ‘Alison Mary’? That was my first idea.”

“Oh, I thought it was always ‘William and Mary.’ Or else ‘Victoria and Albert.'”

“I didn’t say ‘Alice AND Mary,’ stoopid. I said ‘Alison,’ a Scotch name.”

“But how perfectly sweet! Why weren’t you MY godfather? Would you have given me a napkin ring?”

“Probably. I will now, if you like. Then you approve of ‘Alison Mary’?”

“I love it. Thank you very much. And will you always call me ‘Alison’ in future?”

“I say,” I began in alarm, “I’m not giving that name to you. It’s for my godchild.”

“Oh no! ‘Alisons’ are ALWAYS fair.”

“You’ve just made that up,” I said suspiciously. “How do you know?”