Chapter 22: Short and Sweet

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In the hall she found Steve and Kitty, for he had hidden his little sweetheart behind the big couch, feeling that she had a right there, having supported his spirits during the late anxiety with great constancy and courage. They seemed so cozy, billing and cooing in the shadow of the gay vase, that Rose would have slipped silently away if they had not seen and called to her. “He’s not gone I guess you’ll find him in the parlor,” said Steve, divining with a lover’s instinct the meaning of the quick look she had cast at the hat rack as she shut the study door behind her.

“Mercy, no! Archie and Phebe are there, so he’d have the sense to pop into the sanctum and wait, unless you’d like me to go and bring him out?” added Kitty, smoothing Rose’s ruffled hair and settling the flowers on the bosom where Uncle Alec’s head had lain until he fell asleep.

“No, thank you, I’ll go to him when I’ve seen my Phebe. She won’t mind me,” answered Rose, moving on to the parlor.

“Look here,” called Steve, “do advise them to hurry up and all be married at once. We were just ready when Uncle fell ill, and now we cannot wait a day later than the first of May.”

“Rather short notice,” laughed Rose, looking back with the doorknob in her hand.

“We’ll give up all our splendor, and do it as simply as you like, if you will only come too. Think how lovely! Three weddings at once! Do fly round and settle things there’s a dear,” implored Kitty, whose imagination was fired with this romantic idea.

“How can I, when I have no bridegroom yet?” began Rose, with conscious color in her telltale face.

“Sly creature! You know you’ve only got to say a word and have a famous one. Una and her lion will be nothing to it,” cried Steve, bent on hastening his brother’s affair, which was much too dilatory and peculiar for his taste.

“He has been in no haste to come home, and I am in no haste to leave it. Don’t wait for me, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Harry Walmers, Jr.,’ I shall be a year at least making up my mind, so you may lead off as splendidly as you like and I’ll profit by your experience.” And Rose vanished into the parlor, leaving Steve to groan over the perversity of superior women and Kitty to comfort him by promising to marry him on May Day “all alone.”

A very different couple occupied the drawing room, but a happier one, for they had known the pain of separation and were now enjoying the bliss of a reunion which was to last unbroken for their lives. Phebe sat in an easy chair, resting from her labors, pale and thin and worn, but lovelier in Archie’s eyes than ever before. It was very evident that he was adoring his divinity, for, after placing a footstool at her feet, he had forgotten to get up and knelt there with his elbow on the arm of her chair, looking like a thirsty man drinking long drafts of the purest water.

“Shall I disturb you if I pass through?” asked Rose, loath to spoil the pretty tableau.

“Not if you stop a minute on the way and congratulate me, Cousin, for she says ‘yes’ at last!” cried Archie, springing up to go and bring her to the arms Phebe opened as she appeared.

“I knew she would reward your patience and put away her pride when both had been duly tried,” said Rose, laying the tired head on her bosom with such tender admiration in her eyes that Phebe had to shake some bright drops from her own before she could reply in a tone of grateful humility that showed how much her heart was touched: “How can I help it, when they are all so kind to me? Any pride would melt away under such praise and thanks and loving wishes as I’ve had today, for every member of the family has taken pains to welcome me, to express far too much gratitude, and to beg me to be one of you. I needed very little urging, but when Archie’s father and mother came and called me ‘daughter,’ I would have promised anything to show my love for them.”

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