The one day in the year I heartily hate is the first day of January. Yesterday was January first. Its usual effect is to make me feel as the grate in my sitting-room looks when the fire is dead. Knowing the day would get ahead of me if I did not get ahead of it, I decided to give a party. Last night I gave it.
All through the busy rush of Christmas with its compelling demands I have been trying not to think; trying to put from me memories that come and go of Mrs. Cotter, of my disappointment in not hearing from her where Etta Blake could be found, and my anxiety about little Nora, now in the care of a woman I know well who lives just out of town. The child will not be here next Christmas. Kitty is paying for all her needs. She asked that I would let her the day before I received Selwyn’s note concerning Nora. I promised her first.
Mr. Crimm cannot find Etta Blake. She must have gone away.
In the past few weeks I have seen little of Selwyn. I have been a bit more than busy with Christmas preparations, and his mortification over Harrie’s behavior since the latter’s return from El Paso has kept him away even from me. Madeleine Swink I have seen several times, also Tom Cressy, but Mrs. Swink I have been spared, owing to absence from home when she returned my call.
I have told Madeleine that she must not meet Tom here again until she breaks her engagement with Harrie and tells her mother she will not marry him. I cannot help her marry Tom unless she is open and square with her mother. She thinks I am hard, but I will agree to nothing else.
It isn’t easy to be patient with halting, hesitating, helpless people, and Madeleine, having long been dominated, is a rather spiritless person. Still, she is the sort one always feels sorry for. I wish I wasn’t mixed up in her affairs, however. They aren’t my business and fingers put in other people’s pies are likely to get pinched. Then, too, my fingers have many other things to do.
Last night’s party was a great success. During most of the day I was telephoning messages, sending notes of invitations, and helping Mrs. Mundy with the preparation of certain substantial refreshments which must be abundant; and when at last I stood ready to receive my guests a thrill I had long thought dead became alive again. At other parties I knew what to expect. At this one I didn’t.
Lucy Hobbs, resplendent in a green silk, lace-trimmed dress, was dashingly handsome with her carefully curled hair and naturally colored cheeks; and her big, black eyes missed no detail of my holly-bedecked and brightly lighted rooms. It was difficult to associate her with the girl in shabby clothes who hurried through the streets in the dark of early mornings, and whose days were spent in a factory, year in and year out; and yet the factory had left its imprint in a shyness that was new to one whose usual role was that of boss, and at first she was ill at ease.