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For months she had looked forward with secret longing to this seventh
anniversary. Every morning she had taken down the rose-embossed calendar
that stood on the top of her gold-and-white writing-desk and tallied off
another of the days that intervened before her birthday. And the
previous evening she had measured herself against the pier glass without
even a single misgiving.
She rose at an early hour. Her waking look was toward the pier glass.
Her one thought was to gauge her new height. But the morning was the
usual busy one. When Jane finished bathing and dressing her, Miss Royle
summoned her to breakfast. An hour in the school-room followed--an hour
of quiet study, but under the watchful eye of the governess. Next,
Gwendolyn changed her dressing-gown for a riding-habit, and with Jane
holding her by one small hand, and with Thomas following, stepped into
the bronze cage that dropped down so noiselessly from nursery floor to
wide entrance-hall. Outside, the limousine was waiting. She and Jane
entered it. Thomas took his seat beside the chauffeur. And in a moment
the motor was speeding away.
At the riding-school, her master gave her the customary lesson: She
circled the tanbark on her fat brown pony--now to the right, at a walk;
now to the left, at a trot; now back to the right again at a rattling
canter, with her yellow hair whipping her shoulders, and her
three-cornered hat working farther and farther back on her bobbing head,
and tugging hard at the elastic under her dimpled chin. After nearly an
hour of this walk, trot and canter she was very rosy, and quite out of
breath. Then she was put back into the limousine and driven swiftly
home. And it was not until after her arrival that she had a moment
entirely to herself, and the first opportunity of comparing her height
with the tiny ink-line on the edge of the mirror's bevel.
Now as she lay, face down, on the window-seat, she know how vain had
been all the longing of months. The realization, so sudden and
unexpected, was a blow. The slender little figure among the cushions
quivered under it.
But all at once she sat up. And disappointment and grief gave place to
apprehension. "I wonder what's the matter with me," she faltered aloud.
"Oh, something awful, I guess."
The next moment caution succeeded fear. She sprang to her feet and ran
across the room. That tell-tale mark was still on the mirror, for nurse
or governess to see and question. And it was advisable that no one
should learn the unhappy truth. Her handkerchief was damp with tears.
She gathered the tiny square of linen into a tight ball and rubbed at
the ink-line industriously.
She was not a moment too soon. Scarcely had she regained the
window-seat, when the hall door opened and Thomas appeared on the sill,
almost filling the opening with his tall figure. As a rule he wore his
very splendid footman's livery of dark blue coat with dull-gold buttons,
blue trousers, and striped buff waistcoat. Now he wore street clothes,
and he had a leash in his hand.
"Is Jane about, Miss Gwendolyn?" he inquired. Then, seeing that
Gwendolyn was alone, "Would you mind tellin' her when she comes that I'm
out takin' the Madam's dogs for a walk?"
Gwendolyn had a new thought. "A--a walk?" she repeated. And stood up.
"But tell Jane, if you please," continued he, "that I'll be back in time
to go--well, _she_ knows where." This was said significantly. He turned.
"Thomas!" Gwendolyn hastened across to him. "Wait till I put on my hat.
I'm--I'm going with you." Her riding-hat lay among the dainty
pink-and-white articles on her crystal-topped dressing-table. She caught
"Miss Gwendolyn!" exclaimed Thomas, astonished.
"I'm seven," declared Gwendolyn, struggling with the hat-elastic. "I'm
a whole year older than I was yesterday. And--and I'm grown-up."
An exasperating smile lifted Thomas's lip. "Oh, _are_ you!" he observed.
The hat settled, she met his look squarely. (Did he suspicion anything?)
"_Yes_. And you take the dogs out to walk. So"--she started to pass
him--"_I'm_ going to walk."
His hair was black and straight. Now it seemed fairly to bristle with
amazement. "I couldn't take you if you _was_ grown-up," he asserted
firmly, blocking her advance; "--leastways not without Miss Royle or
Jane'd say Yes. It'd be worth my job."
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