It was a cold night in September. For three days the rain had fallen almost unceasingly. It had been impossible for us to get out; and no visitors had been in. Everything looked dreary enough, and we felt so, truly. Of course the stoves were not prepared for use; and this night we (that is, Nell, Floy, Aunt Edna, and myself) were huddled in the corners of the sofa and arm-chairs, wrapped in our shawls. We were at our wits’ end for something to while the hours away. We had read everything that was readable; played until we fancied the piano sent forth a wail of complaint, and begged for rest; were at the backgammon board until our arms ached; and I had given imitations of celebrated actresses, until I was hoarse, and Nell declared I was in danger of being sued for scandal. What more could we do? To dispel the drowsiness that was stealing over me, I got up, walked up and down the floor, and then drew up the blind, and gazed out into the deserted street. Not a footfall to be heard, neither man’s nor beast’s; nothing but patter, patter, patter. At length, after standing fully fifteen minutes—oh, joyful sound!—a coming footstep, firm and quick. My first thought was that those steps would stop at our door. But, directly after, I felt that very improbable, for who was there that would come such a night? Papa was up north with mamma; Nell and Floy were visiting Aunt Edna and me, the only ones home, save the servants. Neither of us had as yet a lover so devoted or so demented as to come out, if he had anywhere to stay in.
On and past went the steps. Turning away, I drew down the blind, and said: “Some one must be ill, and that was the doctor, surely: for no one else would go out, only those from direst necessity sent.”
A deep sigh escaped Aunt Edna’s lips, and although partially shaded by her hand, I could see the shadow on the beautiful face had deepened.
Why my aunt had never married was a mystery to me, for she was lovable in every way, and must have been very beautiful in her youth. Thirty-six she would be next May-day, she had told me. Thirty-six seemed to me, just sixteen, a very great many years to have lived. But aunt always was young to us; and the hint of her being an old maid was always resented, very decidedly, by all her nieces.
“Aunt Edna,” I said, “tell us a story—a love-story, please.”
“Oh, little one, you have read so many! And what can I tell you more?” she answered, gently.
“Oh, aunty, I want a true story! Do, darling aunty, tell us your own. Tell us why you are blessing our home with your presence, instead of that of some noble man, for noble he must have been to have won your heart, and—hush-sh! Yes, yes; I know something about somebody, and I must know all. Do, please!”
I plead on. I always could do more with Aunt Edna than any one else. I was named for her, and many called me like her—“only not nearly so pretty” was always added.