Father could not come to me, so I would go to Father and be home by the time Billy got there. It was only the 3d of September, but I decided I would leave as soon as I could do so without remarks being made about my going sooner than I expected, and to prevent remarks I would have to invent a good reason for getting away. Father’s loneliness would make a perfect reason for Twickenham Town, and a most dutiful one, and no one would be apt to ask me why I hadn’t thought of his loneliness before; but it wouldn’t do for the family. They wanted me to stay out of the city as long as possible, and while I was wondering what I could do to get back, Mrs. Pettigrew passed with five of the children in the buggy and asked if I knew there was a telegram for me at the station. I told her I did not, and my heart got right where hearts always get when telegrams are mentioned, and in the twinkling of an eye Skylark’s bridle was on and I on Skylark, and we raced like mad to town.
On the way I was thinking all the awful things that telegrams start one to thinking, and I remembered it was just eleven days since I had sent the letter to Billy, who had, of course, gotten it by this time, and, not realizing how fast I was going, I was at the station before it seemed possible to get there, and so out of breath I could not speak. I slipped off the horse and held out my hand to Mr. Pepper for the telegram, and when he handed me the yellow envelope I slid down on a bench and held it as if it were a death-warrant, and not for some time could I open it. I was positive it was about Mother, who wasn’t very well when she last wrote, and everything I had ever done that I ought not to have done, and everything I had left undone which I should have done, walked right up in front of me and clutched me by the throat, and I had to shut my eyes to keep my head steady. I had inside the same sinky feeling I felt the first time I went to Europe, on the first day out.
Mr. Pepper was looking at me, and so were several other people who happened to be standing around, so I tried to get a grip on, and after awhile I opened the envelope; but at first I couldn’t see the words on it. Finally I took them in after three times reading them over, and at last I understood.
Cut it out. You are engaged to me. Sailing to-morrow. See you September fifteenth.—BILLY.
There never was a sinner saved by grace who so wanted to make a noise as I wanted to make one when I got into my head what had happened. The relief from fear and the joyfulness of knowing I had been pulled out of another ditch made me dizzy for a moment, and down went my elbows into my lap and down my face into my hands, and not until Mr. Pepper said something to me did I lift my head and get up. Then I threw my riding-crop in the air, tossed up the Pepper baby, danced around with him, and, suddenly seeing all present