A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chapter XV: The Little Blue Butterfly." by Enid Yandell (1870-), Jean Loughborough, and Laura Hayes
Publication: Three Girls in a Flat. by Enid Yandell, Jean Loughborough, and Laura Hayes. Chicago: Knight, Leonard & Co., 1892. pp. 158-165.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 158] 

CHAPTER XV.

THE LITTLE BLUE BUTTERFLY.

WHEN Gene refused to open the large box she received at the breakfast table one sunny April morning, the Duke gave me a very significant glance, for Gene is never selfish, and neither is she afraid of a joke. However, she calmly ignored us on this occasion, and carried the package off to her room, while we lingered over our coffee to discuss the situation. "I'm afraid it may have something to do with that young man who comes every night," declared the Duke. "Oh, nonsense," I replied, "Gene isn't going to do anything precipitate," but nevertheless I had my misgivings, for I had noticed that our ten o'clock rule was being broken with ominous regularity, and only the night before I had preferred taking my book over to the studio with the Duke, to interrupting a very interesting tête-a-tête in the library.

The evening of our conversation in the dining-room one of our neighbors was to give a large party. We had all been invited, but the Duke had to work on one of her [Page 159]  models, and I was fathoms deep in the "Chevalier of Pensieri Vani," so we sent our regrets. Gene had decided to go, however, and we went to her room after dinner to assist her to dress. When she had donned her dainty gown of white chiffon, and gathered her pretty bronze hair high on her head, she made a charming picture. "How do I look ?" and she turned to the Duke a little defiantly. There was a sparkle and brilliancy about her that was quite enchanting, and a subdued brightness in her glance that was far from commonplace. I looked at her in surprise, but the Duke was not to be conquered by this radiant young beauty. She drew back critically. "Yes, you will do very well, but I wish you had some flowers–you need a bit of color;".and she stepped to the bureau to examine the ornaments in Gene's cushion. "Here, this makes it perfect;" and drawing the little blue butterfly from its resting-place she fastened it among the burnished coils. It certainly was lovely. How well the opalescent tints brought out the lights in her eyes !

Just then a familiar ring was heard at the door, and I rushed out to admit Mr. Middleton. I had never seen him look so distinguished, and he, too, seemed rather exalted. While we were talking in the parlor he asked me casually if Gene had received a box that morning, and smiled with satisfaction at my affirmative reply. Just then she entered; but what was there about that lovely vision to make his face blanch and the light die out of his eyes? And why, when she offered her hand so sweetly in greeting did he ignore it and pretend to be picking up a glove ?

Gene, poor child, drew back proudly, but I caught the gleam of a tear that sparkled more brightly than the little jeweled ornament that glinted above it. [Page 160] 

After they had gone the Duke and I held an indignation meeting that culminated in nothing more serious than a dainty luncheon and a cup of hot chocolate, which we spread on the low table by the hearth. We waited until the rumble of the carriage announced that the wanderers had returned, and then giving a last touch to the table, and a final thrust at the cannel fire, which made the room blaze with ruddy light and sent the sparks flying up the wide chimney, we escaped to our rooms. But our tempting preparations were in vain, for we heard a formal good-night at the door, and a moment later the key turned in Gene's room, and no notice had been taken of our little feast. We slipped into the parlor, extinquished the hissing kettle, and removed everything quietly that she might not be wounded by seeing our preparations in the morning, and then we hurried off to bed.

But when the morning came Gene was in no condition to notice our futile efforts, for the Duke found her ill with a violent headache, and made her stay in bed in spite of her protests.

When I returned at night she seemed much better and joined us at dinner, but she appeared listless and heavy-eyed, and the succeeding days brought no change.

One day we heard casually that Mr. Middleton was about to sail for Europe, and so the Duke resolved upon a bold stroke.

We were at dinner–Gene, as usual, making a pretense of eating–when the Duke remarked to me; "Have you heard, Marjorie, that Jack Middleton is going to Europe?" Of course I had heard, but Gene hadn't, and as the Duke afterward confessed, she could have bitten her tongue out [Page 161]  for having uttered the words, when she saw the stricken look in the poor child's eyes. She tried to smile and say something, but the words would not come. However, she stayed bravely until we finished our coffee, but it was a relief to us all when we heard her lock the door of her room. We went across to the studio where she could not hear us talk, but we could not solve the problem, and as we did not want to leave her long we stayed but a few minutes.

When we returned to the flat Katie let us in, whispering in awe-struck tones: "Mrs. Brown's gone into Miss Fairfax's room, mum." "How did she get in?" demanded the Duke angrily, but stopped when she heard the sobs behind Gene's locked door. "Why, she said she must see Miss Fairfax; she knew she hadn't been well, and she wanted to cheer her up, and so I let her knock. Miss Gene wouldn't answer, and so Mrs. Brown went into your room, Miss Marjorie, and got in through the closet door."

The Duke's eyes flashed with indignation, but I thought it might do Gene good to have Mrs. Brown rush in, though we had feared to attempt it.

We sat down quietly in the dining-room, and in a few minutes, Mrs. Brown came out wiping her eyes, and with a sweetness and tenderness in her manner that we would not have believed possible. "Yes, girls, she's told me all about it," she said, "and unless there's some mistake that Mr. Middleton ought to be ashamed, for they've never had a single quarrel, and she doesn't know what's made him angry." Just here she was interrupted by a procession of little boys who came to our back door dragging in Lycurgus, who was protesting with many howls. [Page 162] 

"Make him tell what's in that box, ma," cried Thomas Jefferson. "I saw him hiding it under Phil's bed."

"What is in that box, my son ?" demanded Mrs. Brown sternly, and the offender, amid bitter tears, removed the string, lifted the cover and revealed–a mass of faded roses. "It came to Miss Fairfax on April Fool's morning," he sobbed, "and I just changed it and sent a box of newspaper instead. I meant to send it back, but I forgot all about it until to-day;" and the miserable infant wept copious floods of tears. His mother leaned forward and with one large hand dealt him a generous cuff on the ear that sent him home yelling, while with the other she plucked a card from among the faded flowers, and handed it to the Duke. It read: "If I may hope, wear one of these roses in your hair tonight."

Nothing was said for a moment, and then Mrs. Brown rose abruptly. "I am going down stairs to telephone," and she disappeared. We didn't exchange a word after she left, but I could hear a French heel tapping the floor impatiently, and I knew by this infallible sign that our Duke was laboring under strong excitement. It was but a moment until Mrs. Brown returned, like young Lochinvar's Ellen, "with a smile on her lip but a tear in her eye." "Yes, girls, I got the telephone number I wanted, and you had better go and take a walk just as quick as you can. I am going home," and she suited the action to the word.

The Duke rose to open the door, and as the good woman passed she threw her arms around her and kissed her good-night. [Page 163] 

THE Duke and I walked silently down the Lake Shore Drive. The summer sea smiled before us; a few white-winged ships gave substance to the dreamlike expanse; the Crib seemed floating between two oceans; the sky spread its glory from zenith to horizon, and the shining lake flushed and changed each moment with the rainbow tints of the sunset. As we advanced the glowing crimson paled to ashes of roses, and the rich purple became a faint violet–the day was departing.

We walked to the end of the esplanade and turned to retrace our steps. The shadowy veil of night had hidden the Crib, the ships were phantoms, and lo! there hung in the west a slender sickle of silvery light–the sweet young moon with her attendant, the evening star.

As we passed Elm street we noticed two figures standing by the sea-wall, the silhouettes sharply defined against the pale background. And what was it in the pose of that proud, upturned head that made the Duke start in surprise ?

* * * * **

When we reached home we found the flat deserted. The hammock in the library swung gently in the breeze; the flowers in the jardiniere yielded their spiciest fragrance to the evening dews; the lamp shed its rosy light softly on the pretty tea-table, and touched with brightness the branches of apple blossoms that filled the fireless grate, but all was mute; there was no sign.

The Duke sighed, and stooping, picked from among the snowy petals that had fallen to the hearth, the crushed semblance of a little blue butterfly. [Page 164] 

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom