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The Happiest Time of Their Lives   By: (1874-1942)

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THE HAPPIEST TIME OF THEIR LIVES

BY ALICE DUER MILLER

Author of "Come Out of the Kitchen," "Ladies Must Live," "Wings in the Nights," etc.

1918

TO CLARENCE DAY, JR.

"... and then he added in a less satisfied tone: "But friendship is so uncertain. You don't make any announcement to your friends or vows to each other, unless you're at an age when you cut your initials in the bark of a tree. That's what I'd like to do."

THE HAPPIEST TIME OF THEIR LIVES

CHAPTER I

Little Miss Severance sat with her hands as cold as ice. The stage of her coming adventure was beautifully set the conventional stage for the adventure of a young girl, her mother's drawing room. Her mother had the art of setting stages. The room was not large, a New York brownstone front in the upper Sixties even though altered as to entrance, and allowed to sprawl backward over yards not originally intended for its use, is not a palace, but it was a room and not a corridor; you had the comfortable sense of four walls about you when its one small door was once shut. It was filled, perhaps a little too much filled, with objects which seemed to have nothing in common except beauty; but propinquity, propinquity of older date than the house in which they now were, had given them harmony. Nothing in the room was modern except some uncommonly comfortable sofas and chairs, and the pink and yellow roses that stood about in Chinese bowls.

Miss Severance herself was hardly aware of the charm of the room. On the third floor she had her own room, which she liked much better. There was a great deal of bright chintz in it, and maple furniture of a late colonial date, inherited from her mother's family, the Lanleys, and discarded by her mother, who described the taste of that time as "pure, but provincial." Crystal and ivories and carved wood and Italian embroideries did not please Miss Severance half so well as the austere lines of those work tables and high boys.

It was after five, almost half past, and he had said "about five." Miss Severance, impatient to begin the delicious experience of anticipation, had allowed herself to be ready at a quarter before the hour. Not that she had been entirely without some form of anticipation since she woke up; not, perhaps, since she had parted from him under the windy awning the night before. They had held up a long line of restless motors as she stood huddled in her fur trimmed cloak, and he stamped and jigged to keep warm, bareheaded, in his thin pumps and shining shirt front, with his shoulders drawn up and his hands in his pockets, while they almost awkwardly arranged this meeting for the next day.

Several times during the preceding evening she had thought he was going to say something of the kind, for they had danced together a great deal; but they had always danced in silence. At the time, with his arm about her, silence had seemed enough; but in separation there is something wonderfully solid and comforting in the memory of a spoken word; it is like a coin in the pocket. And after Miss Severance had bidden him good night at the long glass door of the paneled ball room without his saying anything of a future meeting, she had gone up stairs with a heavy heart to find her maid and her wrap. She knew as soon as she reached the dressing room that she had actually hurried her departure for the sake of the parting; for the hope, as their time together grew short, of having some certainty to look forward to. But he had said nothing, and she had been ashamed to find that she was waiting, leaving her hand in his too long; so that at last she snatched it away, and was gone up stairs in an instant, fearing he might have guessed what was going on in her mind.

She had thought it just an accident that he was in the hall when she came down again, and he hadn't much choice, she said to herself, about helping her into her motor. Then at the very last moment he had asked if he mightn't come and see her the next afternoon. Miss Severance, who was usually sensitive to inconveniencing other people, had not cared at all about the motor behind hers that was tooting its horn or for the elderly lady in feathers and diamonds who was waiting to get into it... Continue reading book >>




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