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Chapter XIII--Blue Monday
 Everything started wrong Monday morning when Amy found that Evelyn was going to return some violets Mr. Apthorpe sent her. “It’s disgusting,” she said, “for they have an orchid in them.” And then she stood looking out of the window and tapping on the glass with her finger-tips.
“Going to rain all day,” she said next. “I know it will; slow rains like this always do. And I haven’t a decent thing for fall wear. . . . Look how the leaves are blowing--must have come for blocks. It’s a horrid time!” And then she sat down and stared dismally ahead of her. I felt like that too, for the day was depressing, and the happenings of the afternoon before had left me feeling fearful of what might come next.
It had all been reasoned out that a pair of thieves had worked together, and that one, finding Mr. Kempwood alone, had thought what his pockets might hold worth the risk of holding him up. And--the empty Jumel Mansion had afforded another opportunity. It was all reasoned out, as I said, and sounded well, but--I didn’t believe it. I knew it was connected with my bracelet. There were too many signs that pointed to this. I was absolutely sure.
“I’ve never had any orchids,” said Amy after a few moments, “and mother didn’t let me have any summer furs. And sometimes I don’t know what life has held for me--except pain and going without.” Then she fumbled for a handkerchief.
“Consider,” she said oratorically, after she had wiped her eyes, “how I could use that orchid. Here, I am taking Gladys Howell to Bertha Clay’s little party this afternoon (Bertha asked me to stop for her), and I could so easily use it to impress them. I have never liked them because they have constantly impressed upon me that they were older. I think an orchid mashed in a lot of violets would make them sit up and respect me!”
I agreed with her.
“Do you think Evelyn would give them to you?” I asked. “Maybe she could tell him she wouldn’t accept them, but that you would.”
“That’s like you,” said Amy, and almost sneered, so I realized that my suggestion wasn’t a good one. We were quiet after that, for I didn’t know what to say, and Amy didn’t want to talk.
The direction of the rain had changed, and it began to fall more quickly, beating a little, sombre tune upon the window as it fell. . . . The ivy on the house next door was dripping, and the leaves hung their heads. And here and there were thin spots where the arms of the vines stood out boldly against the bricks. . . . Fall had come, I could see. . . . Down below, the pavements would be sticky with rain and dust together making a paste; and here and there a leaf would glue itself tight to the walk, its colours spoiled by the city dirt it had caught after it fell.
I knew what would be happening at home. . . . Every little lane would have a bonfire after dark, and the sparks from those would fly against the first, gray night sky. . . . Then the girls and boys would come out and all play hide-and-seek all over the town and even down by the river in the lumber. . . . And the air would be cool and make you want to run. And the leaves would rustle in every gutter, for there are so many trees that, even with sweeping up and burning the leaves constantly, there are always more--more and more. . . . And the crowd would roast apples and corn, and the creek is lovely in the late afternoons, echoing as it does all the red and golden world. . . . We always had paper chases in the fall, too, and that was great fun because the paper would get lost in the leaves and the trail was easily lost. . . . Sitting there, in that hot, stuffy apartment, I saw it all, and I seemed to smell the burning leaves and the odour of baking apples, and hear the snap of chestnuts as they opened in the heat. . . . And oh, how I wanted it! I wanted to go home and play ball in the middle of the street; to see Miss Hooker mincing along and hear her call: “Natalie, aren’t you ashamed to play ball--a great girl like you!” . . . To go home way after supper-time, so hungry that I ached under my belt, and to find that Bradly-dear had made fresh doughnuts, and that Uncle Frank had all three pairs of glasses on his forehead--and was hunting them all so that he could look more closely at a cocoon he had just found. . . . Oh, I wanted it! I think I would have been utterly miserable, but Amy diverted me.
“Going to take them,” she said, standing up. “Evelyn will never know, and he won’t go rooting around in a returned box. If he has any sense of fitness, he will fling it from him with a curse and bury his head in his arms!”
I knew Amy had read that somewhere, because it wasn’t her style, but I didn’t say I knew it.
“Wouldn’t he?” she questioned.
I said I supposed he would.
“Well, then, what’s the use of those violets and that orchid rotting?” she asked; and she acted exactly as if I were opposing her, although I was not. Often, I have found, people do this when they want to convince themselves. They shout at you, as if you, instead of their conscience, were objecting.
I said there wasn’t any.
“I hate waste,” she stated loudly and stood up. “And hasn’t the Government preached against waste for ages? Orchids are much more valuable than flour!”
I knew that, and said so.
Then she confided that the box was in the hall, waiting for Ito to take it down, and that Evelyn had put a note inside. Amy said she was going to take the note out, slip it under the cord, and weight the box with something light so that its emptiness wouldn’t be suspicious. Then she left, to return in a moment, looking very satisfied.
“Put an old pair of stockings in it,” she said. “Evelyn had thrown them in the waste basket because they had a run up the back, and it feels just right when you lift it. Ito took the flowers and put them in the pantry refrigerator and said he wouldn’t speak of them after I gave him fifty cents. I hated that, but when you consider--an orchid and violets are cheap at fifty cents.”
After that she was quite cheered up, and I became so too. We decided we must right the wrong we had done, and fix up Evelyn’s and Mr. Apthorpe’s quarrel. And it seemed quite safe to blame it on Jane, but it wasn’t. . . . We took a piece of paper out of the waste basket, and Amy wrote: “I did it. I put the paste in the basket as a joke. I beg forgiveness.--Jane.”
I said that wasn’t like Jane. And we compromised on “I done it. I put that there paste in the basket and kindly ask your pardon.--Jane.” And we giggled quite a little over doing it. Then we took it to Evelyn’s room and put it back of the hair receiver.
“Suppose she speaks to Jane?” I asked. Amy looked annoyed.
“You have more sensible suggestions that make trouble----!” she complained, but she wrote this addition: “If this is as much as spoke of, I shall leave!” And she said that she was glad I’d thought of it. . . . “They always mention leaving,” she said. “It’s as much a part of modern servants as their uniforms. It gives just the touch.”
And then, feeling very clever, we went to the living-room, where we had lunch on a little table before the fire. There was a man in the dining-room arranging for new hangings, and I was glad, for eating on the small table was fun and cosy. That part of the day was nice.
We talked to Ito as he served, and told him how tired we got of nourishing food, and asked him if there wasn’t something sweet in the kitchen, beside the blanc-mange which aunt had ordered for us. He thought so and vanished, to return with fruit cake and meringues, which had nothing to go in them, but which we accepted with gratitude. Altogether it was a charming hour.
Amy grew confidential. I suppose the fire-light and the closed-in feeling that the rain pattering on the windows gave us made that; and she told me of her ambitions. She is going to marry a millionaire who worships the ground she walks on, and live on Fifth Avenue in the biggest house there, and have Henry Hutt paint her portrait, because she loves his kind of art. And she said her husband would have her portrait in a little room all lined with pink velvet and put violets under it (the portrait, not the velvet) every day. She has it all arranged. He is to be a broker, and after coming home from down-town he will go in that room, which Amy calls his “Heart Sanctuary,” and kneel before her picture. I asked why he didn’t kneel before her, and she said she’d be off playing auction or at the matinée. Then she ate her third meringue and stared absently into the fire.
“Life is what you make it,” she said; and then: “He is going to wear a checked suit and a red tie.”
I couldn’t see him kneeling in that pink room in that rig, but I didn’t say anything.
“What are you going to do with your future?” she questioned, after an interval of silence.
I told her I only asked to be allowed to climb fences and ride and fish, and stay at home in Queensburg. Then I realized I had not been tactful, and tried ............
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