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by [?]

“Must you really go?” asked the mendacious Petronella.

An hour later she was alone. The visit had been a failure. She admitted that, as she gazed with a sort of agonized dismay through the wide window to where the sea was churned by the wildness of the northeast gale. Snow had come with the wind, shutting out the view of the great empty hotels on the Point, shutting out, too, the golden star of hope which gleamed from the top of the lighthouse.

Petronella turned away from the blank scene with a little shudder. Thus had Justin Hare shut her out of his life. He had talked of his mother in Maine, of his hospital plans for the winter, but not a word had he said of those moonlight nights when he had masterfully swayed her by the force of his own passion, had wooed her, won her.

And now there was nothing that she could do. There was never anything that a woman could do! And so she must bear it. Oh, if she could bear it!

A little later, when a maid slipped in to light the candles, Petronella said out of the shadows, “When Jenkins goes to the post-office, I have a parcel for the mail.”

“He’s been, miss, and there won’t be any train out to-night; the snow has stopped the trains.”

“Not any train!” At first the remark held little significance, but finally the fact beat against her brain. If the one evening train could not leave, then Justin Hare must stay in town, and he would have to stay until Christmas morning!

Petronella went at once to the telephone, and called up the only hotel which was open at that season. Presently she had Hare at the other end of the line.

“You must come to my house to dinner,” she said. “Jenkins has told me about your train. Please don’t dress–there’ll be only Miss Danvers and uncle; and you shall help me trim my little tree.”

Although she told him not to dress, she changed her gown for one of dull green velvet, built on the simple lines of the white wool she had worn in the afternoon. The square neck was framed by a collar of Venetian point, and there was a queer old pin of pearls.

The Admiral, arriving early, demanded: “My dear, what is this? I was just sitting down to bread and milk and a handful of raisins, and now I must dine in six courses, and drink coffee, which will keep me awake.”

She laid her cheek against his arm. “Mr. Hare’s train couldn’t get out of town on account of the snow.”

“And he’s coming?”


“But what of this afternoon, my dear?”

She slipped her hand into his, and they stood gazing into the fire. “It was dreadful, uncle. I had a feeling that I had compelled him to come–against his will.”

“Yet you have asked him to come again to-night?”

She shivered a little, and her hand was cold. “Perhaps I shall regret it–but oh, uncle, can’t I have for this one evening the joy of his presence? And if to-morrow my heart dies–“

“Nella, my dear child–“

The Admiral’s own Petronella had never drawn in this way upon his emotions. She had been gentle, perhaps a little cold. But then he had always worshiped at her shrine. Perhaps a woman denied the lore she yearns for learns the value of it. At any rate, here in his arms was the dearest thing in his lonely life, sobbing as if her heart would break.

When Justin came, a half-hour later, he found them still in front of the fire in the great hall, and as she rose to welcome him he saw that Petronella had been sitting on a stool at her uncle’s feet.

“When I was a little girl,” she explained, when Hare had taken a chair on the hearth and she had chosen another with, a high, carved back, in which she sat with her silken ankles crossed and the tips of her slipper toes resting on a leopard-skin which the Admiral had brought back from India–“when I was a little girl we always spent Christmas Eve in this house by the sea instead of in town. We were all here then–mother and dad and dear Aunt Pet, and we hung our stockings at this very fireplace–and now there is no one but Miss Danvers and me, and uncle, who lives up aloft in his big house across the way, where he has a lookout tower. I always feel like calling up to him when I go there, ‘Oh, Anne, Sister Anne, do you see anybody coming?'”