“I should have remembered that it was not your fault. But here is your handkerchief, flying like a flag of truce; so let bygones be bygones. My terms are that you come again another year, and give me a chance to entertain my brother’s friend as a sister ought.”
“I am only too glad to submit to them,” he eagerly replied, and then added, so ardently as to deepen the roses already in her cheeks, “If such are your punishments, Miss Alford, how delicious must be your favors!”
By common consent the subject was dropped; and with tongues released from awkward restraint, they chatted freely together, till in the early twilight they reached her home. The moment they entered George exultingly saw that the skies were serene.
But Elsie would never be the frolicsome child of the past again. As she surprised the family at dinner, so now at supper they could scarcely believe that the elegant, graceful young lady was the witch of yesterday. She had resolved with all her soul to try to win some place in Mr. Stanhope’s respect before he departed, and never did a little maiden succeed better.
In the evening they had music; and Mr. Stanhope pleased them all with his fine tenor, while Elsie delighted him by her clear, birdlike voice. So the hours fled away.
“You think better of the ‘horrid man,’ little Sis,” said George, as he kissed her good-night.
“I was the horrid one,” said Elsie, penitently. “I can never forgive myself my absurd conduct. But he has promised to come again next Thanksgiving, and give me a chance to do better; so don’t you fail to bring him.”
George gave a long, low whistle, and then said: “Oh! ah! Seems to me you are coming on, for an innocent. Are we to get mixed up again in the twilight?”
“Nonsense!” said Elsie, with a peony face, and she slammed her door upon him.
The next morning the young man took his leave, and Elsie’s last words were:
“Mr. Stanhope, remember your promise.”
And he did remember more than that, for this brief visit had enshrined a sweet, girlish face within his heart of hearts, and he no longer felt lonely and orphaned. He and George became the closest friends, and messages from the New England home came to him with increasing frequency, which he returned with prodigal interest. It also transpired that he occasionally wrote for the papers, and Elsie insisted that these should be sent to her; while he of course wrote much better with the certainty that she would be his critic. Thus, though separated, they daily became better acquainted, and during the year George found it not very difficult to induce his friend to make several visits.
But it was with joy that seemed almost too rich for earthly experience that he found himself walking up the village street with George the ensuing Thanksgiving Eve. Elsie was at the door; and he pretended to be disconsolate that his reception was not the same as on the previous year. Indeed she had to endure not a little chaffing, for her mistake was a family joke now.