“She gets more letters!” Dorothea’s hands came together as if very full. “Every day there is one from the same person, sometimes two, and specials and telegrams; and sometimes he talks over the telephone. I know his handwriting now. She lets me come in her room whenever I want to. I don’t see how one person could have so much to say. I knew he must be her sweetheart, and I asked mother, and mother says she’s engaged to a, man in Washington. Miss Robin French told her. Mother thinks it’s real strange Claudia didn’t tell her.” And he had answered nothing, but had gone down the steps and out of the house, and to no one said good night.
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER
Claudia glanced at the clock. She must be dressed by seven. Hurriedly she put aside the letters which could wait, and began to write.
“Just three days more, precious mother, and I will leave for home. I’ve seen such remarkable things; heard such wonderful music; been to so many parties and luncheons and teas and dinners; met so many people, some fearfully, dreadfully dressed, some beautifully, gorgeously gowned, that my brain is a plum-pudding, and my mind mere moving pictures. It’s been a lovely visit. Channing is a dear, and Hope has done her full duty, but it’s something of a strain to dwell in the tents of the wealthy. I’m so glad we’re not wealthy, mother. There are hundreds of things I’d like money for, but I’ve gotten to be as afraid of it as I am of potato-bugs when the plants are well up. It has a way of making you think things that aren’t so. I do hope Uncle Bushrod’s cold is better.
“I’ve tried to fill all the orders from everybody, but some I haven’t found yet. Hope and her friends shop only in the expensive stores, and the prices are so paralyzing that, though outwardly I don’t blink, I’m inwardly appalled; but I put the things aside as if undecided whether to get them or something nicer. I’m afraid I don’t mean I’m glad we’re not wealthy. Certainly when shopping I don’t wish it. I want millions then. Millions! And when I get among the books I’d like to be a billionaire. To-morrow I’m going out by myself and finish up everything. Hope would be horrified at my purchases, for Hope has forgotten when she, too, had to be careful in her expenditures. Her brother hasn’t.
“Did I tell you about the crazy mistake I made? I thought, from what Dorothea told me, he was an old gentleman, her mother’s uncle, and wrote him a note before I met him. Dorothea adores him, and when his dog died I was so sorry I told him so. I wonder what does make me do such impulsive things! I get so discouraged about myself. I’ll never, never be a proper person. He isn’t old.
“I wish you could see the letter Beverly wrote me from Mammy Malaprop. She says she is ’numberating the date of my return to the dissolute land in which I live, and is a-preparing to serve for supper all the indelicacies of the season.’ If I didn’t know old Malaprop I’d think Beverly was making up her messages, but no imagination could conceive of her twists and turns of the English language.