I THINK if I live to be a hundred I shall remember everything which happened that day. It is as if it shone with a light of its own.

And first of all I was wakened by the thought of him. Not but that he had been often enough in my mind during the two years, nearly two years, since I saw him last, but in such sad, aching thoughts. This was clear, quick, gay, as if he had called me.

It struck me wide-a wake, and instantly I remembered that it was Wednesday, the Wednesday of the Sewing Society, and I found myself shivering a little there in the big, white bed, with the April sunshine coming in through the windows. For the Sewing Society at our house meant a great deal, oh, a very great deal, to me! It meant that I was going to give up idle dreams, if I only could, and was going to remember how much our family had always stood for in the community,— that is a quotation from Great-aunt Lucilla, — and to remember how my mother— “and your mother was a very remarkable woman, my dear, a much more remarkable woman than you can ever hope to be ” — had never grudged the time she gave to the church or to society, and to remember how everybody had loved her —

But I could not lie there and think of all Great-aunt Lucilla had said. I jumped out of bed, reminding myself of the preparations to be made for my guests. And then the first thing I did was to stand in front of the mirror and look and look, and wonder and wonder, if he could see me, if he would think I was changed. Now, I was still only twenty-three, and I had a small, rounded face, which, no matter how thin I got, always looked chubby, and rather cheerful, crinkly hair, and some foolish dimples which came out easily; so, on the whole, I decided I should still appear natural to him. But what difference did that make? I should probably never see him’ again, unless perhaps when we were both very old, like King George the Third and Annie Russell in the play, and I was going to settle down and be a comfort to my father, and a pillar of the church, and before I got really old I should probably marry John Stone. Only I. must decide that pretty soon, whether to let John Stone keep on liking me as well as he did; for there must be no more wretched misunderstandings and making people unhappy about me.

Yes, I went on talking to myself seriously and steadily like that all the while I was dressing, and by the time I was ready to go down to breakfast I was more than half over the queer flutter and thrill of having been awakened so suddenly by the thought of him. And when I saw how capable and sensible I was, talking with Nora after breakfast, I could n’t help admiring myself. Duty was to be my guiding star from that day, the day of the Sewing Society. Then, after that, Nora and I were so busy all the morning that I quite forgot about duty and the lovely thing I was going to be in my complete self-abnegation.

And after it was ready the house really did look pretty, though pretty is almost too little a word for such a large, widehalled, square-roomed, broad-windowseated old mansion. Our town is not only old-fashioned in having a flourishing Sewing Society instead of a Woman’s Club; it still keeps its colonial houses, though they are not so full of life as they used to be. Father and I are the only Carstones left in ours. But every Carstone who had ever been happy there would have liked to see the old house when Nora and I had it finally ready, upstairs and down, for the horde we expected. The day was warm and the furnace was out, and good, clean birch-wood with the bark shining was laid behind the shining andirons, ready to be lighted later. I had picked great bunches of daffodils from the terrace, and there were some in every room; the old china and silver looked proud piled up on the dining-room table; the sun came in through the broad windows, mixed with the glimmer of the mist-like green of the trees. And after our stand-up lunch,— Daddy was a dear! — when all the preparations were completed, I put on my new rajah (made princess), which was of a soft, misty green just like the trees that day. I was afraid Aunt Lucilla would think it a bit too dressy for the occasion, but if I was to be good I must be allowed my little liberties.

And at last they were all there, all the old stand-bys. Mrs. Brunton, thin and hurried, had been first to come, though she said she had been cleaning house every minute of the morning. I got her settled in my favorite little wicker chair near a front window, where she could see everybody on the street, — they live in such a lonesome place, the Bruntons,— and by that time the guests began to arrive thick and fast. Presently the room was full and they were all talking about the church carpet, or listening very hard, and as if they had to keep their mouths shut very tight to prevent nuggets of wisdom from dropping out. The ladies of our Society do not know or care about parliamentary law, but though they never voted or made motions or anything like that, I am sure Great-aunt Lucilla was in the chair. It was such an uncomfortable, narrow-seated, straight-backed chair, too, one that usually stands in the hall, and that nobody ever thinks of sitting in. Aunt Lucilla is short, and her feet barely touched the floor, but she rejoiced in the fact that she had saved somebody else from being uncomfortable, knitted on her scarlet slipper, — she is always knitting scarlet slippers, — and found out the “ sense of the meeting ” — is that what they call it ? — quite as well as if she had said, “ Is the motion seconded ? ” and such things.

I’m sure I don’t know why I should remember all they said about that stupid carpet, or rather those two stupid carpets, the one they had and the one they wanted ! But what with Great-aunt Lucilla in the high, straight-backed chair, and the few daffodils which were left on the terrace after my morning’s raid, beckoning me to come out whenever I looked that way, the carpets got to seem to me like Aunt Lucilla’s Duty, and I felt fairly wrapped up and half smothered in their thick, wiry folds, but yet determined to look pleasant and stick to my post whatever happened.

Mrs. Stubbins said it was a good time to buy carpets. I remember she was measuring off some cotton from the point of her nose to the longest stretch of her arm when she said it, and the action was so forceful that I felt at once that she had private tips from all the leading dry-goods merchants in our county town; but Mrs. Brunton was unawed, and the little wicker chair and her delightful position by the window had not appreciably softened her.

“But if we don’t need a new one, Mrs. Stubbins,” she snapped, “ where is the economy in buying it ? ” She had been twisting and turning her own carpet, no doubt, all the morning, trying to get the thin places under the furniture, and who would n’t be a little snappish ?

Apparently not Airs. Leland, who just grows sweeter and gentler and more transparent, the worse her husband acts. She put in a mild little remark, that of course we could get along with the old carpet if it was what we wanted, but she had to confess that its peculiar shade of magenta did get on her nerves; it almost made her forget the sermon sometimes, she was ashamed to say.

But this mild remark aroused another mild lady, little Miss Alsop, all in gray.

“ Oh, how can you say so ?” wailed the little spinster. “ It was new the day Mr. Caruthers was ordained. I shall never forget how beautiful it was that day.”

She almost chanted the words, and her face was lit up. Then I remembered that Mr. Caruthers had died of consumption, and I had heard people say that Miss Alsop was in love with him.

But Mrs. Leland and Miss Alsop could not keep the smart ones quiet long, and there was a voice from the other side of the room. “ Well, I think the women of this town do too much. Has n’t the Sewing Society just painted the steeple ? And how we raked and scraped for that money!”

“Arid are n’t the ladies of the First Church glad and proud to work their fingers off for the old Society ? ” retorted Aunt Lucilla, from her high-backed throne, knitting very fast.

There was a pause, a tribute of silence to the leadership and emotion in Greataunt Lucilla’s voice, but it was broken in a minute by Mrs. Arkwright, large and judicial.

“ I am sure we are all walling to work, Miss Carstone, but the question is — ” and so on and so on.

Would they never stop ? My eyes wandered again to the terraces where the daffodils, struck by the western sun, fairly danced and twinkled. I put my hand to my throat with a wild idea that at last that carpet was really smothering me,— but I only slipped a soft, friendly cushion behind little Miss Alsop’s back, and fixed my eyes with rapt attention on Mrs. Arkwright.

And just then came the miracle, the miracle straight out of heaven.

“If we took the breadths in front of the pulpit,” Mrs. Arkwright was saying; but she stopped suddenly, for Nora stood in the doorway, very alert.

“Miss Helen, a gentleman to see you! ”

The movement and chatter of the Sewing Society stopped. It was as if they all waited for the miracle.

Instantly I was in the hall, and there he stood — he—he! For two years, nearly two years, I had missed him so! oh, how I had missed him ! And there he stood, every bit of him, my blessed, blessed man! I could only run to him and take hold of his hand, half-laughing and halfcrying. Where could we talk best ? I was thinking all the time.

It seemed as if the house were full. I heard voices in the library across the hall; through the door of the diningroom I could see figures moving among the tables.

“Oh, let us go to the summer-house,” I said, “there is no room here.”

We went through the bare orchard, not saying a word. It seemed an age. Perhaps he had stopped caring for me. Of course he had stopped caring for me, and he must think my dragging him out here very queer—very queer. Why had I been so bold ? Why did n’t he speak ? I could n’t, with my heart thumping so.

At the top of the warm western hillslope, beyond the daffodil terraces and the orchard, was the little lattice-work arbor. It was very quiet there, and the sun and shadow checkered us all over as we sat down. He looked at me as if he would never stop, very serious, very solemn. But now I had forgotten to be frightened. My eyes danced at the sight of him, they had ached for it so long. His square shoulders, the line of his hair above his ears, his steady eyes — how glad I was I was wearing my pretty dress!

“Helen, are you going to marry your father’s partner? ” he asked.

What I really wanted to do was to get hold of his hand and press it up against my cheek, just to see how it would feel.

“Why should you think so?” I answered very demurely.

He rose as if he were going to stride up and down, but how could he stride in that little summer-house ? So he stood beside me very straight.

“If I lose you now,” he said, and my heart turned right over, “ it won’t be because I was afraid to ask for the truth. I have never understood — and now, now they say you are going to marry your father’s partner. Tell me the truth, and then—no matter!” His hard voice broke on the last word, and he sat down beside me like a tired boy. “ Please! ”

But then I think he must have begun to feel a little glad to have me right there. A bluebird on a tree near began to sing, and somehow he looked less martial. I fancied he must have been afraid to come, he had appeared so brave up to that time!

“I’ve had an awful time of it. Perhaps you think it was fun. Why did you write me what you did, and why did you send back my letter ? ”

“Because I was engaged to Lloyd Baker,” I almost whispered.

“Engaged to Lloyd Baker?” he shouted.

“Yes, all the time I knew you, all that summer at North Woodstock,” I murmured.

“Engaged to Lloyd Baker! ” He got up and tried to pace again.

“Sit down, be quiet, and let me tell you. We were engaged the winter before. We used to dance together a good deal and he was a lovely dancer, and I think I must have been very young and foolish. Anyway, we were engaged; but it was a secret. And then at North Woodstock I saw you, and we had such a jolly time together, all of us who were in the camps — we were just such good friends — I hardly thought why I was so happy — and I wrote to Lloyd every week, and once you know he came up over Sunday and Labor Day —such a silly holiday it always has seemed ! — but do you know I did n’t mind much when he went away. But when you went!” I found my breath was catching, and my old trouble was creeping up my throat.

He gently laid his hand on mine.

I smiled up at him somewhat mistily. “ Well, you know you never bade me any sort of a nice farewell, after nil the good times we had had. As soon as you were gone I knew that I did not care for Lloyd Baker, but when your letter came, your dear letter, it made me very happy, and then, all in a minute, it made me ashamed, for I saw what I had done. I had let you feel that way when all the time I was promised to Lloyd.”

I was trembling a little. I could not help it. He had taken away his hand and did not try to comfort me.

“ I felt that I must have been very wicked. But I am sure there was never the least bit of love-making while you were there, was there ? ”

But he did not answer my poor little smile, and now I needed him most he would not even look at me.

It was very hard work, but I went on, and my voice sounded far away. “ It seemed as if Something which was not myself at all took hold of me and made me do it. It said, ‘ You have promised. It is your fault. Send back the letter.’ And I did — and I wrote you I could not see you. I Wish I had asked somebody to advise me. But I thought that I must somehow have been very wicked — and I would not think of anything else, only to do what was right. And then when we got back to Broadmeadow and I saw Lloyd I hated the sight of him, though it really was n’t his fault, you know. But I don’t think he was so sorry, after all. He’s married to Mabel Higgins now! ”

I had been looking down, while I talked, like a naughty child, but Mabel Higgins is funny, and I could n’t help taking a little peep at him when I mentioned her. My eyes felt wet, but Mabel Higgins seemed to cheer us both up at once.

“Bless her! The noble girl! ” he intoned. I don’t know what he would have done or said more, but just then Duty and the Sewing Society came, as it were, hand-in-hand into the arbor, and strangely enough, I was glad to obey them. “ I must go,” I said, pulling away from his happy face and his detaining hands. “ I have a house full of people. I am dreadful. Yes, I’ll come back. But it’s terrible the way I am treating them. Why, Great-aunt Lucilla — ”

Then as quickly as the sun had gone behind a cloud, and the bluebird had ceased singing, he changed again all in a second.

“ But your father’s partner ? I’ve been in Broadmeadow two hours and I’ve heard twice that you’re going to marry your father’s partner.”

“Helen!” came in Great-aunt Lucilla’s voice.

“ Let me go, dear, let me go! I ’ll come back. Yes, very soon.”

He was sitting with his head in his hands. I came in softly and pulled the hands away. His face looked almost haggard. It was only ten minutes, but he might have seen me married to John Stone and carried to my grave in the interval.

“ Tell me,” he said, “ tell me, whatever it is ! ”

“No, you foolish boy, I’m going to marry nobody, — nobody! ”

And then — I can’t tell you. It was n’t my happiness I thought of; it was as if I floated a golden spark in his. It was eternity.

But he seemed to think I had nothing to do but to stay there with him. As if I were not disgraced enough already! As if I should ever dare face Great-aunt Lucilla again!

Then when could he come, — this evening ?

No, not this evening. The young people liked to stay. One never knew how soon they would go.

Yes, to-morrow morning.

Yes, of course it was a long time to wait. But he begged no more. He would be very obedient. He kissed me goodby in the little arbor. Yes, it was a long time until to-morrow. If anything should happen!

Then through the bare orchard, past the side piazza, past the front porch and the windows, the whole place alive with the Sewing Society, we went, and by the front gate he took my hand and looked in my eyes, and then he lifted his hat and walked away up the street with his shoulders very square.

I did n’t quite know whether I was standing on the ground or floating in the air,—oh, if anything should happen before to-morrow! — but I turned to go into the house, and there, at the foot of the hill on the other side was John Stone, dear, good man, come from the office early to pass cups and plates to the old ladies at my Sewing Society.

Well, there was one comfort, I had never given him any encouragement, not the least. All the same I could n’t speak to him just then, and I hurried through the hall, crowded with the lately arrived youths and maidens, into the south room, where many of the matrons still remained. Aunt Lucilla’s high-backed chair was vacant; she was, of course, trying to make up for my absence elsewhere.

“ To-morrow, to-morrow, to-morrow! ” my heart kept singing. For me, for me, the miracle had happened ! Little Miss Alsop sat with her hands in her lap; Mrs. Leland was bending her delicate, transparent face over a coarse gingham apron she was hemming; but Mrs. Brunton’s voice rasped high from the little wicker chair :—

“Well, it is n’t that I mind working, the question is whether we really need a carpet! ”