Cecily Brayton lay on her bed, staring at the edge of the window and thinking about James Haddaway. She had seen him once in the week since their furtive encounter at the Granville Hotel — they had driven one of his fatherâ€™s motorcars down a solitary country road, with time only to exchange a series of desperate kisses and impassioned sighs before returning to town. She wondered when she would see him again, if it would be today or tomorrow, if he would finally propose, or perhaps seize her in the middle of the night and persuade her to elope in some far-flung locale.
A knock at the door roused her from this familiar avenue of thought. It was Carol, summoning her to breakfast.
â€œIâ€™m not hungry, thank you,â€ Cecily called lazily from the bed. The door burst open and Carol stared at her in amazement.
â€œNot hungry? Go down there and tell Arianna yourself! She made her famous pancakes especially for this occasion! Donâ€™t you want to see Mayhew?â€
Cecily sprang up suddenly, her eyes large. â€œOh dear! I forgot! Mayhewâ€™s back!â€ Within a moment she was following Carol down the staircase. â€œHow is he?â€ she whispered excitedly. â€œHas he proposed to you yet?â€
Carol hushed her with a violent wave of her hand and hurried off to the kitchen, leaving Cecily to wander into the dining room alone. She found her father and Mayhew already seated there, chatting amiably. Cecily greeted Mayhew with apprehension, feeling a twinge of guilt for having borrowed his hotel room without his consent while he had been away, but he seemed glad to see her and gave no indication that he suspected her of anything wicked.
Arianna served her famous pancakes while Carol sat down next to Mayhew, and everyone attacked the meal with vigor, forgetting conversation for a time. Finally Arianna spoke, addressing Mayhew.
â€œI havenâ€™t heard anything about your trip yet,â€ she said in her mild way. â€œDid you find great inspiration for the new hotel?â€
The young architect, who had nearly finished all of his pancakes, set down his fork. â€œWhy, yes, actually,â€ he replied with a grin. â€œI was so inspired that I drew a set of preliminary plans while I was in Castello and shared them with Mr. De Groff as soon as I got in last night. He seemed quite pleased with them. So pleased, in fact, that he gave me a handsome bonus, which will allow me to buy a house of my own here in May Green.â€
Cecily couldnâ€™t help but beam with happiness for Carol and Mayhew as she heard this news, though the mention of Max De Groff had unsettled her for a moment. She remembered all too vividly his face peering at her from across the street when she had slipped out of the alley by the Granville. Had he seen James, too, and would he say something to Mayhew now that he had returned? Blushing uncomfortably at the idea, she returned to her pancakes.
â€œBuy a house?â€ Harry Brayton said, raising a distinguished brow. â€œI thought youâ€™d build your own, given the chance.â€
Mayhew smiled as he finished chewing his last bit of pancake. â€œOh, believe me, I intend to, someday, of course. But I have to save up for a fewâ€¦other thingsâ€¦at the moment.â€ At this he glanced at Carol, who acted indifferent, though a tinge of pink colored her cheeks.
Cecily didnâ€™t know how Carol could stand it. She herself was itching to leap out of the chair and dance around the table in joy for the happy couple, but they sat so poised and patient, as if they were discussing the weather.
As the conversation did, in fact, veer off into weather and other mundane concerns, Cecily assisted Arianna with clearing the table, hoping it would give Carol a chance to be alone with Mayhew. But as long as Harry kept talking, Mayhew remained seated, and eventually Carol rose and entered the kitchen to do dishes. When Cecily caught her eye, she grinned knowingly, causing Carol to blush and shake her head.
Eventually Harry moved into the living room, taking Mayhew with him, and the two talked about the possibility of building a new wing onto the Hutchins Memorial Hospital. Arianna and Cecily joined them, and as the talk grew merrier, everyone wondered where Carol had gone.
â€œSheâ€™s busied herself with chores, no doubt,â€ sighed Arianna. â€œI told her she didnâ€™t need to worry about it today, of all days!â€ She exchanged smiles with her cousin. â€œMayhew, why donâ€™t you see if you can find her?â€
Grinning, Mayhew rose and strode out of the room as quickly as he could without seeming too anxious. Harry looked after him with his eyebrows raised. â€œWell, he certainly left in a hurry,â€ he said, oblivious to the general mood.
â€œArianna, why donâ€™t you play a song while we wait,â€ suggested Cecily, curling her feet up casually upon the sofa and trying to appear nonchalant.
As Arianna moved gracefully to the piano, Harry finally caught up with everyone else. â€œOh!â€ he said, making himself more comfortable in his chair. â€œYes, Ariannaâ€¦play something sentimentalâ€¦playâ€¦â€™Sweet Mystery of Lifeâ€™.â€ He gave Cecily a wink and leaned back, a contented expression sweeping over his face.
By the time Arianna had plunked out the last note of the song, Carol and Mayhew entered the room, glowing radiantly, and proceeded to announce their engagement.
(continued on Page 2)