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Chapter IX--A Strange Happening
 A week went by and not much happened. And, while I was not actively unhappy, I was never once happy. Amy had lots to do, and I didn’t see her often, and of course Evelyn was hardly in at all, and, when she rarely was, she was too cross to talk to. I wondered about her, as I had about Uncle Archie--whether the return paid for what they both gave up? For Evelyn was tired and strained and losing all her sweetness, and Uncle Archie had lost all his talk. I came to feel that it wasn’t worth while in either case. I thought a great deal those days. Thought is almost forced upon you, if you aren’t a social success, or can’t play baseball. You see, in such case, there is nothing to divert you and keep you from reflection. So, I thought. I also wrote home often and sent Willy Jepson post-cards, because he sent me one of the gaol, on which he had written: “My room is marked with a cross.” (There was a cross over the only window that is barred.) And he also sent me a picture of Miss Hooker, taken, I imagine, in 1892, on which he had written: “She has consented to be mine! Sweet love has bloomed within my heart at last!” But I knew he got that out of a book, because it didn’t sound like Willy. Those, with a letter from Uncle Frank, which contained much information about the larv? of the bee, cheered me greatly. The letter sounded so like Uncle Frank that all I had to do was to shut my eyes, and then I could hear him “Ho hum.” And I did that quite a good deal as I re-read his letter.
That week was, I found afterward, a normal week for my aunt and cousins and uncle, but it seemed frightfully hurried to me. Everyone had decided that I had been choked and chloroformed by a sneak thief, and after uncle muttered about speaking to the building’s owner about the fire-escapes, and aunt’s warning Ito and Jane about the pantry window, and one of mine (which opens on an iron balcony, as does one of Amy’s), everyone forgot the episode. It seemed Evelyn once lost a fur coat that way, and that upstairs thieving was not uncommon. But I knew they were wrong. However, nothing strengthened my belief until the event which came in the first part of the following week. But that comes later.
As I said, the week dragged by. I lived through it very slowly (it is strange how time is affected by the way YOU feel, isn’t it?), and at last it was Friday.
My aunt was going out to a luncheon, and because I had been alone all morning and wanted company, I followed her to the hall, and there we found Mr. Kempwood’s letter.
“My dear,” said Aunt Penelope, “what a stunning hand, and what a charming shade for letter paper. . . . For you. Do let’s see whom it’s from.”
I opened it, feeling excited. It was from Mr. Kempwood, and he asked if I would come down and have tea with him at four o’clock on Saturday, and he said that if I liked we would afterward take a drive. My aunt said I most certainly could, and then she kissed me with unusual interest, and left. And I took the letter and read it three more times, especially the end, where he had written: “And it is with genuine pleasure and great pride, my dear Miss Natalie, that I sign myself your friend, Samuel Kempwood.” I did like that!
Well, I went in my room, and thought about all the things I would wear, and I hoped so much that my aunt would let me wear my pink dress, but she didn’t. However, I had such a good time that my disappointment was soon forgotten. I decided I would wear my jewellery, which consists of the Jumel bracelet and a ring with a silver skull on it which Willy Jepson gave me.
I thought my tam would be best for motoring, because it sticks on and Mr. Kempwood likes it. And I meant to accept that part of the invitation very hard, because I love it, and there never seems to be enough room in aunt’s motor. Everyone is always sorry, but someone else always has to go. Amy has so many friends that it is difficult to pay them all sufficient attention. This week she took them motoring each morning--different sets--and deeply regretted she couldn’t take me. But I understood how it was, and said so. I tried to make her just as comfortable as I could about it. They are all being very kind to me.
That night Evelyn had dinner at home; Uncle Archie was there too, and it might have been nice if they’d acted so. But aunt sighed a great deal and said Evelyn needed a new fur coat and that there was a beauty on Fifth Avenue for only twenty-two hundred (and she made a long lecture about getting good things when you bought, because they lasted and it really was an economy), and then Amy began to whine and say that if Evelyn had a new coat she didn’t see why she, Amy, couldn’t have one, and that she felt like a pauper when she went to school. I felt sorry for Uncle Archie. He didn’t seem to mind, but I think it must have bothered him. After he said “Huh” a few times he turned to me and really spoke to me for the first time.
“What do you want?” he asked. “Must want something.”
But I said I didn’t. And I added that I was grateful for all the lovely things aunt had bought me. I told him that they were beautiful. He looked at me hard, said “Huh!” and went on eating.
Then I asked aunt if I could wear the pink dress to Mr. Kempwood’s party.
“Mr. Kempwood’s?” echoed Evelyn, and she did not seem pleased when her mother told her about it. “I think that’s very kind of him,” she said, after her mother finished.
Uncle Archie went out after dinner, and Evelyn went to a dance with some friends at about nine; and Aunt Penelope, sighing and saying thank Heaven she actually had an evening free, wrote a lot of notes, and telephoned friends, making engagements for all the evenings of the next week.
Amy and I went to bed at nine-thirty because we are supposed to at nine. Amy sleeps with me now, because she thinks I may be frightened. At least, that is what she says, but I, privately, think she is scared to be alone. However, that is not vital. After we got in bed Amy told me that lots of men had proposed to Evelyn, but that she had “scorned them all.” However, she said that there was a man in the next house whom Evelyn really liked.
“She’s dippy about him,” Amy said. “You can see it. They both simper and act silly when they meet, and they have a basket strung between the houses on a wire (you know they’re ever so close), and they pass notes that way!”
“Honestly?” I said. It didn’t sound like Evelyn. She seems too hard for anything romantic.
“Honestly,” Amy assured me. “She doesn’t think anyone will notice the wire, and the basket is hidden under her window-box.”
“I see,” I said, and I did. There are flower-boxes on the outsides of a good many of the windows. It would be easy enough to manage to make one a garage for her basket mail-carrier, if she wanted to.
“She’d die if anyone knew it,” Amy confided. “It would fuss her. . . . I just can’t imagine Evelyn mooning around in the dark, waiting for that basket to slide across. I’m dying to get one of those notes.”
“Wouldn’t it be funny to fill that basket full of cold flour paste,” I said. “Just think how she’d jump, if she slid her hand in it--up to the wrist.”
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