“You said ‘Sophy’ a while ago. ‘Sophy’ sounds all right to me.”
“It sounds fine to me, too, Sophy.” And he reached out and seized my hand with a grip that made me wince.
“I told you I was a bear!” he said, regretfully.
When Alicia returned, she came, as usual, to my room.
“I am tired!” she yawned, and curled herself up on the bed.
“Didn’t you have a nice time?”
“Oh, I suppose so! Everybody was lovely to me, and I could have divided my dances. These Southerners are easy to love, aren’t they? I find it very easy for me! And oh, Sophy, there’s to be a picnic day after to-morrow, at the Meade plantation, in my honor, if you please! We go by automobile.—I never thought I could get tired dancing, Sophy. But I am. Tired!”
“Go to bed and sleep it off.”
“Did you have time to make out that grocery list? They’ve been overcharging us on butter.”
“Yes: I finished it after Doctor Geddes left”
“Oh! He was here, then?” She yawned again.
“Yes. But somebody sent for him, and he had to cut his visit short.”
“I wonder he keeps so healthy, running out at all hours of the night; and heaven knows how he manages about meals! His cook told me that sometimes he has to rush away in the middle of a meal, and sometimes he misses one altogether.”
“I remembered that, so I made him wait for a cup of coffee and an omelet.”
She reached over and squeezed my hand. “You’re always thinking about other people’s comfort, Sophy.” She paused, and looked at me half-questioningly:
“I wish he had somebody to look after him,” she said in a low voice, “somebody like you.” She added, as if to herself: “He takes two lumps of sugar in his coffee, one in his tea, wants dry toast, and likes his omelet buttered.”
And when I stared at her, she slipped nearer, and laid her cheek against mine.
“Sophy,” in a soft whisper, “you’ve made up to me for my father and my mother, and for the sisters and brothers I never had. We’re all sorts and conditions of folks, aren’t we, Sophy?—but none like you, Sophy; not any one of them all like you!”
At that moment, through the open window, there stole in on the night air the faintest whisper of music. It wasn’t mournful, it wasn’t joyful, but both together; a singing voice, a crying voice, wild and sweet, part of the night and the trees and the wind, and part, I think, of the secretest something in the human heart. We had no idea where it came from; out of the sky, perhaps!
Somebody ran down-stairs, and a moment later the front door opened softly. The Author had heard, and was afoot. But even as he stepped outside, Ariel’s ghostly music ceased. There was nothing; nobody; only the night.