Across my absorption in the diary cut the unwelcome clangor of Cookie’s gong. Right on the breathless edge of discovery I was summoned, with my thrilling secret in my breast, to join my unsuspecting companions. I hid the book carefully in my cot. Not until the light of to-morrow morning could I return to its perusal. How I was to survive the interval I did not know. But on one point my mind was made up—no one should dream of the existence of the diary until I knew all that it had to impart.
MISS BROWNE HAS A VISION
Perhaps because of the secret excitement under which I was laboring, I seemed that evening unusually aware of the emotional fluctuations of those about me. Violet looked grimmer than ever, so that I judged her struggles with her mundane consciousness to have been exceptionally severe. Captain Magnus seemed even beyond his wont restless, loose-jointed and wandering-eyed, and performed extraordinary feats of sword-swallowing. Mr. Shaw was very silent, and his forehead knitted now and then into a reflective frown. As for myself, I had much ado to hide my abstraction, and turned cold from head to foot with alarm when I heard my own voice addressing Crusoe as Benjy.
A faint ripple of surprise passed round the table.
“Named your dog over again, Miss Jinny?” inquired Mr. Tubbs. Mr. Tubbs had adopted a facetiously paternal manner toward me. I knew in anticipation of the moment when he would invite me to call him Uncle Ham.
“I say, you know,” expostulated Cuthbert Vane, “I thought Crusoe rather a nice name. Never heard of any chap named Benjy that lived on an island.”
“When I was a little girl, Virginia,” remarked Aunt Jane, with the air of immense age and wisdom which she occasionally assumed, “my grandmother—your great-grandmother, of course, my love—would never allow me to name my dolls a second time. She did not approve of changeableness. And I am sure it must be partly due to your great-grandmother’s teaching that I always know my own mind directly about everything. She was quite a remarkable woman, and very firm. Firmness has been considered a family trait with us. When her husband died—your great-grandfather, you know, dear—she rose above her grief and made him take some very disagreeable medicine to the very last, long after the doctors had given up hope. As some relation or other said, I think your Great-Aunt Susan’s father-in-law, anybody else would have allowed poor John Harding to die in peace, but trust Eliza to be firm to the end.”
Under cover of this bit of family history I tried to rally from my confusion, but I knew my cheeks were burning. Looks of deepening surprise greeted the scarlet emblems of discomfiture that I hung out.
“By heck, bet there’s a feller at home named Benjy!” cackled Mr. Tubbs shrilly, and for once I blessed him.