Marjorie Dean's RomanceŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
IN THE STUDY
The sun that pale spring afternoon had appeared only in brief, tantalizing flashes. Of a sudden it burst through the curtain of ashen gray clouds, behind which it had been hiding, into flaming glory. Its warm rays rioted down through the long windows of Brooke Hamiltonís study, filling the stately room with radiant light; transfiguring the face of the single occupant.
ďOh.Ē Marjorie Dean raised her brown eyes from the time-stained sheet of paper she had been studying. She greeted the wealth of cheerful sunburst with a fond friendly smile, blinking a little at its almost too-ardent attention. It caught her, embraced her, caressed her lovely, smiling face; splashed her bright brown curls with gold.
ďYouíre an affectionatious old dear, even though you did skulk behind the clouds all morning.Ē She made a valiant but vain effort to fix her eyes directly upon the king of day. ďCanít do it. You are altogether too dazzling for me.Ē She raised a shielding hand to her eyes. ďAnyway, Iím glad you are here, full force. I saw you peeping out from behind the gray quite a while ago. I was too busy then to be sociable.Ē
ďPlease, Missus Biographeress, were you talking to me?Ē broke in an inquiring, respectful voice. ďI wasnít always like this, so I wasnít.Ē Came an eloquent silence.
Marjorie left off trying to stare the sun out of countenance. She glanced about the study in half startled surprise. The door leading into it from the hall was closed. She suddenly laughed, a merry little gurgle. She fixed an expectant gaze on the studyís back wall.
ďI know where you are,Ē she called out. ďNo; I wasnít talking to you. I was talking to the sun.Ē
ďThen you must be crazy.Ē The voice was now minus respect. Instead it harbored smothered laughter.
ďNo, Jeremiah Macy; I am not crazy. But I am very very busy.Ē
ďThatís almost as bad as being crazy,Ē came the sympathetic opinion of the still unseen conversationalist. ďI hope youíre not too crazy, excuse me, busy, to deign to grant your humble friend, Jeremiah, an interview. Think of our happy bygone campus days and donít be snippy. Be not only great, Bean; be cordial.Ē
ďYou win. Never dare call me snippy again. Since you are right behind the secret panel you may as well appear in the study.Ē Marjorie gave laughing permission.
ďThank you. Your cordiality sounds genuine. I trust nothing has gone wrong with my hearing. Ahem. What?Ē
The secret panel in the back wall of the study slid noiselessly to the left; disappeared into its hidden groove. The square opening it left framed Jerry Macyís chubby, pink and white features decorated with a pleasant smile. Her head was poked forward like that of a speculative turkey. Her intensely blue eyes were trained upon Marjorie with an expression of impudent mischief.
ďHere I come.Ē She bent her back and bundled through the aperture.
ďAh-h!Ē She straightened with satisfaction. ďAlways close the door after you, Jeremiah.Ē She leaned forward; pressed the small oblong of wood which formed the hidden mechanism of the sliding panel. Next instant the opening had vanished. The high brown wainscoting again stretched unbroken along the studyís rear wall.
ďThat secret panel is certainly a comfort to my lonely old age, Bean.Ē Jerry cast a grateful eye in its direction. ďIf I had come to the door of this sacred haunt you might have chased me away. But you couldnít resist the panel method. Result Ė enter Jeremiah.Ē Jerry waved a complacent hand.
ďThatís one version of how I happened to let you in,Ē teased Marjorie. ďHereís another. I knew you knew something new on the campus that I didnít know. So I Ďdeigned to grantí you an interview.Ē
ďHm-m. Youíre not as noble as you might be. Never mind. We wonít speak of that,Ē Jerry hurriedly assured.
ďSo kind in you,Ē Marjorie murmured, ďor rather, so wise.Ē
ďPrecisely my own opinion. I may achieve greatness as soon as you.Ē Without waiting for an invitation Jerry slid into a high-backed chair exactly opposite that of Marjorie at the long library table.
ďThe girls will be here at five,Ē she announced. ďTheyíre going to take us back to Wayland Hall with them. Leila has a new idea for a party. Weíre to stay to dinner at the Hall. Miss Susannaís resigned to it. She was invited, too, but she said she was Ďno buttinski.í What do you think of that? It shows Iíve accomplished some good since I came to the Arms. Iíve taught Miss Susanna several pithy bits of slang, and Jonas is learning fast.Ē
ďI should say he was. The other day when he took me to town in the car he told a motorist, who tried to run in ahead of us to park, that he was Ďtoo freshí and to Ďcut out his nonsense.íĒ Marjorie gave a reminiscent chuckle.
Jerry smiled cheerful gratification of this news. ďTo make use of my own pet vocabulary: Itís up to me to show a hot-foot,Ē she declared. ďWhile I enjoy lingering in this classic spot with you, beautiful Bean, I shall not linger. You heard what I said about five oíclock. Heed my remarks. I must go now.Ē She made a feeble pretense toward rising. She rolled humorous, entreating eyes at Marjorie.
ďOh, you may stay.Ē Marjorie became loftily tolerant. ďFirst you may tell me everything you know about Leilaís new stunt. Afterward, I have a splendid job for you.Ē
ďI donít know a single thing about Leilaís new stunt. She íphoned me about half an hour ago and said she and Vera would come for us with the car at five. She said she had a fine idea but that weíd not hear a word about it until after dinner at Wayland Hall tonight. Anything else I might say on the subject Iíd have to make up. You would not care to have your faithful Jeremiah resort to fiction, would you?Ē
ďYouíre a faithful goose. Iím not so news-hungry as to ask you to desert the truth, Jeremiah,Ē was the merry assurance. ďLeila, the rascal, knows weíre eager for campus news and plans. She loves to create suspense and keep it up till the very last minute. Now Iím going to set you to work. You may sort some letters for me, if you will.Ē
ďWill I? My middle name is willing!Ē Jerry drew her chair closer to the table with a grand flourish. A pleased light shone in her blue eyes. She was very proud of having already assisted Marjorie on several occasions in the work of arranging the data, prior to the writing of Brooke Hamiltonís biography.
Readers of the four volumes comprising the ďMarjorie Dean High School Series,Ē know Marjorie Dean as a high school girl. They have learned to know her still better through the four volumes which comprise the ďMarjorie Dean College Series.Ē
Returned to Hamilton College as a post graduate her work in connection with the building of a free dormitory for ambitious students in adverse circumstances has already been recorded in the three preceding volumes of the ďMarjorie Dean Post Graduate Series,Ē respectively entitled ďMarjorie Dean, College Post Graduate,Ē ďMarjorie Dean, Marvelous ManagerĒ and ďMarjorie Dean at Hamilton Arms.Ē
Because Marjorie had deeply reverenced the memory of Brooke Hamilton, the founder of Hamilton College, she had come into an intimate friendship with his great-niece, Miss Susanna Hamilton, the only living representative of the Hamilton family. For many years Miss Susanna had been at enmity with the college board. Shortly after the death of her distinguished great uncle, Brooke Hamilton, she had turned against Hamilton College and refused to furnish the data for a biography of the founder which was to have been written by the president of the college.
Due entirely to Marjorieís hopeful, sunny influence Miss Susanna had eventually emerged from the shell in which she had lived for years. She had decided that, since Marjorie had most revered the maxims and memory of her great kinsman, she was therefore the one best equipped to present him truly to the world in a biography. She had invited Marjorie to be her guest indefinitely at Hamilton Arms and had turned over to the youthful biographer the data for Brooke Hamiltonís life story.
Marjorie had said good-bye regretfully to Wayland Hall, her college residence of almost five years and moved to the Arms on the first day of March. With her had gone a second cordially invited guest, Jerry Macy, her roommate and chum of Sanford high school days.
During their first weekís stay at the Arms the two girls had been the center of a jolly little social whirl. Miss Susanna had insisted on entertaining their intimate friends at tea, luncheon and dinner. The festive week had ended with a reception to the dormitory girls at which the Travelers, Jerryís and Marjorieís sorority, were the guests of honor.
Then had followed Marjorieís introduction to Brooke Hamiltonís study as her literary work shop. There she had been affectionately established by Miss Susanna and supplied with a cabinet full of Brooke Hamiltonís personal letters and documents.
How long she might be engaged in the pleasantest task she had ever undertaken Marjorie could not say. As a labor of volition it demanded the best effort of thought and judgment that she could summon. With her usual lack of vanity she was not attaching much importance to herself as Brooke Hamiltonís biographer. Her whole heart was set upon doing justice to a great American by a faithful presentation to the world of his integrity and genius.
ďDo you realize, Jerry Macy, that weíve been here at the Arms almost a month?Ē Her back to Jerry, Marjorie asked the question as she delved industriously among the packs of neatly tied letters on the top shelf of the cabinet. ďTodayís the twenty-fifth of March.Ē
ďI know it. How much of Brooke Hamiltonís story have you written?Ē Jerry came back curiously.
ďNot any of it as I intend it shall finally stand,Ē Marjorie confessed. ďIíve made plenty of notes, but they only complicate matters at present. There is so much material, all intensely interesting. It would make a twelve volume biography. Miss Susanna wishes it to be a one volume story. My head is full of Hamilton history. It is positively maddening sometimes to try to keep track of all I read, and plan how I shall arrange it. I was never intended for a biographer, Jeremiah.Ē
ďYou only think you werenít,Ē Jerry encouraged. ďAfter you have got away with Brooke Hamiltonís history and covered your beautiful self with glory you may take up biographing as a steady job. Iíll permit you to jot down the story of my life. Iíll try to persuade my friends to confide their life stories to you for publication. Thereís old Hal, for instance. He Ė . Oh, forgive me, Marjorie. I didnít intend to be personal.Ē Jerryís instant apology was regretful. ďI wasnít thinking of a thing, but the funny side of Halís having his biography written.Ē
ďOh, never mind, Jeremiah.Ē Marjorie was more embarrassed by Jerryís apology than she was at mention of Halís name. Her face flushed hotly. She kept it turned toward the cabinet, rather than let Jerry see her confusion. A pause, then she added generously: ďHal is good enough to do great things in the world. Perhaps you may someday write his biography as that of a personage. There! Found at last.Ē She affected deep interest in two bundles of letters which she took from the cabinet.
ďNo, Marvelous Manager; I canít see myself as Halís biographer. Heíd insist upon seeing every line I biographed before it was hardly off the bat. He wouldnít like a thing I said about him. If I wrote words of glorious praise, heíd say Ďstuffí and Ďslush.í If I failed to glorify him as a baseball artist, a promoter of yacht races and a four-time winner of the Sanford half-mile dash, heíd say I was stingy.Ē Jerry retrieved her blunder with this humorous flow. ďNo, siree. My genius runs toward jingling, not biographing. Get that? If Hal ever longs to see the story of his life in print heíll have to get busy and write it himself.Ē
THE WORLD WIDE SECRET
Marjorie was laughing as she resumed her seat at the study table. She was quick to understand the purpose of Jerryís ridiculous and elaborate objections to her really sincere words concerning Hal. Her flash of self-conscious embarrassment had vanished in quick amusement of Jerryís remarks.
ďThese are letters to Brooke Hamilton from friends,Ē she explained as she shoved the two packs across the table to Jerry.
ďHe must have been right in line for a popularity prize.Ē Jerry eyed the tightly-bound, thick stacks of letters with comical respect.
ďThey represent the correspondence of only four or five men. Each letter isnít from a different person, my child,Ē Marjorie said lightly. ďYour job is to put the letters of each person in separate piles. You may have that end of the table all to yourself.Ē
ďI get you, Bean.Ē Jerry energetically gathered up the two packs of letters and moved with them to the upper end of the table. ďWatch my speed, my efficiency, my celostrous usefulness. By the way, my new word is on the gain. Iíve persuaded Jonas to use it, Miss Susanna thinks well of it and Leila says it is clever enough to be Irish.Ē
ďItís a good imitation. Celostrous Ė sounds like a real word, even though it isnít,Ē laughingly commented Marjorie.
ďSh-h-h. Somebody might hear you.Ē Jerry held up a cautioning finger. She cast a roguish smile toward a vividly handsome face which looked down at her from a portrait on the wall. It was the face of Brooke Hamilton. Life-size and life-like the deep blue eyes seemed almost to twinkle an answer to Jerryís mischievous smile as she continued to gaze at the portrait.
ďHeís so real.Ē Marjorie turned her head over one shoulder to glance up at the pictured face of a strong man in the noon of manhood. A friendly smile played upon her lips. ďI hope you havenít minded my sitting with my back to you this afternoon, Mr. Brooke,Ē she apologized.
ďIf that was a magic portrait this is the way it would be. ĎThen the enchanted portrait spoke from the wall and said: ďDonít mention it, beautiful Bean. Go as far as you like. Even the back of your head is an inspiration to me. I can never be grateful enough to you for writing my biography. How is your friend, Miss Macy? She is a lovely girl and I Ė ĒíĒ
ďJeremiah, you disrespecter of great persons!Ē Marjorie sprang from her chair and made a frolicsome pounce upon Jerry. ďStop it this minute.Ē
The two tussled gently for a brief instant, then fell laughingly apart. The blue eyes of the man in the portrait seemed almost to be watching the merry conflict.
ďYou see how utterly you disrupt serious work,Ē Marjorie pointed out severely. ďI have half a mind to take the job I gave you away from you.Ē
ďYou canít. I have it cinched.Ē Jerry snatched up the two packs of letters and tucked one under each arm. ďI love the job. Iíll do better, Bean. I promise on my sacred Jeremiah honor.Ē
ďI havenít the heart to take those letters away from you,Ē Marjorie jestingly conceded.
ďGlad of it. Kindly donít bother me. I am going to give a violent demonstration of the word Ďwork.í Itís three oíclock now.Ē Jerry peered down at the tiny open-face, necklace watch she wore about her neck on a fine-linked platinum chain.
ďI knew it was nearly three. Iíve learned to tell time by the sun since I came to the Arms and began my work here.Ē There was no timepiece in the study, nor would Marjorie wear a watch when she came into it to work. She did not wish to reckon her daily faithful application to the biography by time. She liked to lose herself in the thought that all time was hers in which to do Brooke Hamiltonís memory honor.
Jerry followed her announcement of industry by a business-like attack upon one of the packs of letters. Soon she was deep in carrying out Marjorieís directions. Marjorie resumed a reading of the paper in which she had been engrossed when Jerry had entered. It was a dissertation on democracy in Brooke Hamiltonís fine, clear hand.
Silence took up its reign in the study. Marjorie was deep in the dissertation. Oblivious to all else Jerry interestedly sorted letters, reading pertinent snatches of them. Neither saw the sliding panel in the back wall of the study begin to move slowly. Neither saw Miss Susannaís head appear in the opened square.
For fully a minute the old lady watched the industrious pair with brooding, tender eyes. She had thought Marjorie alone in the study and had come to her by the secret entrance in the same spirit of play which had prompted Jerry to use the sliding panel. In one hand were three letters for Marjorie which Jonas had just brought from the mail box at the main gates of the Arms.
As soundlessly as she had appeared in the secret doorway the visitant disappeared. In noiseless obedience to her touch the panel slid once more into place. Miss Susanna trotted down the long hall and on down the wide staircase. Her small face was illumined by a bright smile. She looked as though she had suddenly discovered the world-sought secret of happiness.
She continued on out the massive front door, down the steps and across the lawn to where Jonas was clipping long sprays of furry pussy willows for the two tall Chinese vases at each end of the sitting room mantel.
ďYou ought to see them, Jonas,Ē she burst out happily. ďTheyíre both in the study, lost to the world among Uncle Brookeís papers. I came away without their knowing I saw them. I couldnít bear to disturb his helpers, Jonas. And I once thought no one but the president of Hamilton College was fitted to write his biography!Ē
ďStrange things happen, Miss Susanna.Ē Jonasís silver head wagged itself solemnly over the huge bunch of pussy willows he was holding. ďHeíd be better pleased, though, to have things as they are now. I believe heíd rather the little girl would write his story.Ē
Jonas invariably spoke of Brooke Hamilton as one alive, but traveling in a far country, rather than of a man who had passed from earth.
ďI think so, too, Jonas.Ē The instant, eager response brought a pleased gleam to the old manís eyes. ďHe founded Hamilton College for the higher education of girls. It seems as though Hamilton has at last shown appreciation of him by raising up a student after his own heart. That student is Marjorie Dean.Ē She paused, apparently taken with her own fancy. She added sturdily: ďAll the more reason why she should be the one to write his biography.Ē
TWO HAUNTING BLUE EYES
ďHurray for Wayland Hall!Ē Jerry sketched a lively step in front of the dressing table mirror as she gave her reflection a last fleeting glance. ďThe Arms is a magnificent, palatial roost, but where, oh, where, are our little pals?Ē
ďAt Wayland Hall. Sometimes I wonder if you might not be happier there with the girls than here with me.Ē Marjorie brought a half wistful look to bear upon Jerry. She stood gazing at her chum, a lovely contemplative study in black and white. The straight cut of her white corduroy gown with its wide rolling collar and deep cuffs of black satin was so simple as to be exceptionally effective.
ďWant me to shake you until your curls bob straight off your head and your teeth clatter like castanets,Ē Jerry growled menacingly. She made a threatening advance upon Marjorie, her blue eyes set in a determined stare.
ďNo, indeed.Ē Marjorie promptly put a high-backed chair between herself and Jerry. ďIíll protect my coiffure to the last gasp. I took pains to put those curls precisely where I wanted them to be.Ē
ďThen donít make any more foolish remarks, Bean.Ē Jerry halted. The set expression of her eyes changed to one of dancing fun. ďIíll set you a good example by not making any more myself that might even sound foolish. I know my own follies as well as I know yours.Ē
Marjorie leaned her arms on the crest of the tall-backed chair. She smiled rather absently. How like Halís eyes Jerryís were, she was thinking. Recent mention of Hal had brought him to the foreground of her mind. Now she thrust memory of him impatiently aside.
ďIíll be nicer to you than you were to me,Ē she told Jerry. ďYou look very celostrous, Jeremiah.Ē ďCelostrousĒ was a pet word of Jerryís own coining. ďYour dress matches your eyes and the silver beading on it looks like fairy mist. Itís a frock of frocks.Ē Marjorie continued her admiring survey of Jerry and her becoming finery. As she had remarked the gentian blue of the crepe exactly matched her chumís eyes.
Again Halís handsome, resolute features sprang into memory. This time memory played her an unkind trick. She saw Halís eyes as they had appeared in that unforgettable, unguarded moment as he had paused before the portrait of herself at Castle Dean on Christmas Day.
She had then come into a very disturbing realization of how much pain she was causing him through her lack of love for him. She had tried to forget, knowing that she could offer no remedy. Work had largely driven away that disturbing memory since her return to Hamilton. Those two blue, despairing eyes returned to haunt her only upon receipt of a letter from their possessor. There had been only two letters. Marjorie had not answered either very promptly. She sometimes went so far as to feel that she might be better pleased not to hear from Hal. Still she did not wish to deny him friendship.ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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