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HOME > Short Stories > The Queen of Farrandale > CHAPTER XXIII MILLICENT
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 Very soon Millicent’s familiar figure appeared at the iron gate. Before she started from home she had talked with her grandfather. “You’re sending a message to Hugh by me that it will be more convenient for you to see him in the morning after this,” she said.
“But it wouldn’t.” Colonel Duane looked surprised.
“Yes, it will be,” returned Millicent firmly.
The old gentleman blinked. “What’s this? Tired of the walks over here together?”
“Never mind details, dear.”
“You’re a funny child, Milly. Hugh will feel something unfriendly in the change, just at the present time.”
Millicent seized her grandfather’s arm. “Dearest, everything wonderful is going to come to Hugh, now,” she said earnestly, “and I would like to be out of it. I don’t want to hear him talk about it. Hugh Sinclair isn’t Hugh Stanwood. He won’t be anything to us; not even a friend except at long intervals and—can’t you understand? I’d rather be the one to do the dropping.”
She released him suddenly and ran out of the house. Her grandfather stood in the same spot for some minutes, considering.
“It’s the most natural thing in the world,” he said to himself at last. “I don’t see how she could help it; but Milly has plenty of spirit, and I’ll take the hint till he goes away. Of course, he’ll be going away to law school.”
Now, as Millicent entered Miss Frink’s grounds and discerned Hugh on the porch, she saw him rise and throw away his cigarette. He came down the steps to meet her, looking unusually grave. His eyes studied her as if he must know her attitude before she spoke. She put her hand in the one he offered.
“How now that the cat is out of the bag?” he asked.
“What difference can it make to me?” she returned with a coolness that did not satisfy him.
“I’m glad if it doesn’t make any. I thought perhaps there wouldn’t be any route sufficiently roundabout for you to take me home this afternoon.”
His gaze continued to study her as they ascended the steps.
“Oh, I was to tell you that Grandpa can’t have you to-day. He will be glad to see you to-morrow[275] morning if you can come—and always in the morning hereafter.”
Hugh nodded. Millicent started to go into the house.
“Sit down a few minutes,” he said. “Aunt Susanna and Mr. Ogden are busy in the study. He is leaving to-night. She said she would call you as soon as she was ready.”
Millicent seated herself in the swinging couch and Hugh promptly took the place beside her.
“So our walks are over, are they?” he asked, still grave.
“Yes. Life is just like chapters in a story, isn’t it?” she replied hurriedly. “One closes and another begins. This swing makes me think of Mrs. Lumbard. Grandpa is perfectly wild about her ever since last night. Mr. Ogden said she was going to live at the Coopers’, and on my way over here I met a friend who said he had heard that the manager of the Koh-i-noor is going to try to get her to provide their music.”
Hugh nodded. “That would solve a problem for her,” he said.
There was nothing natural about Millicent to-day, and he had seen her shrink when he took the place beside her in the swing.
She went on: “Something big like that would seem more fitted to Mrs. Lumbard than teaching.[276] I wonder if she will take the position. You’ll miss her here, won’t you?”
“Yes, another of those chapters that close while another begins. If only the story grows more interesting as life goes on.”
“I’m sure it will for you.” That was too personal. She hurried headlong. “And I think it does for all of us. You talked to that cute girl Damaris Cooper last night. She will be delirious with Mrs. Lumbard living there, and playing at the Koh-i-noor. Who said Farrandale was dull!” Millicent laughed.
Hugh had not smiled since she came, and she was so uncomfortable under his questioning eyes that she welcomed the opening of the door and the appearance of John Ogden who took in the deceptively intimate appearance of the swing.
“Your sleepy lady awaits you, Miss Duane,” he announced, “and you certainly will do a missionary act to make her rest. She needs it.” Millicent sprang up. “So I’ll say good-bye once more.” He held out his hand, and the girl gave him hers.
“Farrandale will be very glad to see you back some day, Mr. Ogden.” She vanished into the house.
“It’s just as I expected,” said Hugh gloomily.[277] “Millicent is entirely changed, and Colonel Duane can see me only in the mornings after this. It’s significant of the whole spirit that I shall have to meet.”
John Ogden viewed the downcast gaze.
“You crazy—” he began—“I’ll say I hate to leave you. You’ll be deserting Miss Frink between two days, as likely as not.”
“No, I won’t,” returned Hugh decidedly. “I’ve made up my mind to stay with her.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that.”
“But it makes me—if Millicent had cried or done anything natural, I could stand it; or if she would say right out that she is disgusted, I could stand it; but to have her feel that it is too bad to talk about; that gets me because what she feels is what everybody worth caring about will feel.”
John Ogden regarded the boy as he sat there in the swing, dejected, and his own lips twitched.
Hugh looked up suddenly. “Don’t you think she’s a fine girl, Ogden?”
“I do. Pure as a drop of dew; fine as a rose-leaf, softly iridescent as a bird’s wing, transparent as crystal—”
Hugh frowned in displeased surprise.
“I wish you could do anything but chaff,” he said.
“I’m not chaffing,” replied Ogden; “but I must modify that a little, I should have said, sometimes as transparent as crystal.”
“Are you in love with her?” blurted out Hugh.
“Perhaps I should be if I hadn’t known Carol. The man that she loves will be in luck, for though tender as a flower she’s as stanch as an oak tree.”
“You should write poetry,” said Hugh dryly. “After all that, you can’t blame me for preferring that that sort of person should approve of me.”
Ogden, sitting in a hammock and swinging his foot, regarded the other quizzically for a silent moment.
“Your lions in the way are going to turn into kittens, boy,” he said at last. “And if they didn’t, isn’t it worth something to have transformed the life of another human as you have Miss Frink’s? Isn’t it worth meeting with some annoyance?”
Hugh shrugged his shoulders in silence.
When Millicent entered her employer’s room, the lady was not lying down as usual. She met the girl with a sort of smiling exaltation.
“Do I look any different to-day?” she asked.
“You do look different. You have such pink[279] cheeks. I suppose you are still excited from last night.”
“Perhaps so.” As she spoke, Miss Frink drew the girl down beside her on the divan and looked blissfully into her face. “What a comment it is on me, Millicent, that you are the only woman friend I have to pour out to at a time like this—and you not a woman yet, just a little girl who can’t appreciate happiness, because you’ve never had anything else.”
“Oh, I have, Miss Frink, I’ve been terribly unhappy—is it because you’re happy that you look so rosy?” Millicent’s heart beat under the full, bright gaze bent upon her.
“Yes, all at once. The last time you saw me I was nobody. I was grubbing along the way I have all my life, nobody caring about me except to get the better of me in a business deal, and now to-day—do you wonder my cheeks are pink? I’m a grandmother, Millicent.”
“You are!” The girl’s lips were parted.
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