Cece's summer began with the promise of much merriment. Uncle Dan's three boys came home from Redmond on Monday. Cece woke at dawn every morning to take the cows with her cousins, and went over at twilight to watch them play football in old pasture. Cece was too old to play football -- much to the boys' chagrin, for she was a fast runner with excellent aim - so she sat on the silvery-gray fence and watched avidly. Sometimes Jimmy King sat out with her. He was younger and far smaller than his two tall, strapping brothers, and he was often out of breath. He thought secretly, and with much shame, that if he could trade places with Cece he would.
Cece's own brothers came home at the end of the week. Little Ray Fraser, a mousy second year at Queen's who had persisted in hanging around Cece all winter, came with his Frewen cousins the week after. Nobody knew just when Thoreau Dale came back, or whether he had come home at all, for he had arrived at dusk and slipped quietly through the Markdale woods to Golden Milestone.
The Story Girl's daughter was coming in just over a month.
"She's sailing on the Aragon," Cece told her brother Stephen as they went for one of their long, companionable rambles in the King woods. "She lands in New York at the end of July and will take the boat train up to the Island. She should be here in four weeks, just when August starts, and Uncle Dan is going to throw a midsummer party for her. Isn't that jolly?"
"I thought you didn't like parties much, Cee." Stephen asked.
"I don't. I hated every single one I went to at Queen's. Mother had gotten me such awkward dresses to wear for evening Queen's "socials" - though I suppose all girls' dresses are awkward, and the fancy ones even more so. I spilled coffee all over my lacey white and silver one and ruined it beyond repair. Why must girls were things that are so cumbersome, Stephen? Do you know, the only reason I'm "too old" to play football now isn't really because I'm grown up, for grown men play all the time and the better players they are too. It's because I can't run in my long dresses, and my hair would fall out now that I've put it 'up.' Isn't that silly? I wish I could hitch my skirts up to my knees, and I wish I could shingle my hair as they used to do to children!"
"'The finest clothing made is a person's skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.'" Stephen quoted. "But what makes Uncle Dan's party any better?"
"Oh - it's better just because you are here." Cece laid her head chummily against her brother's shoulder. "You and Jimmy and Dan and Alec are worth a thousand of those Queen's boys. How stupid they would become at a party! They were perfectly intelligent creatures in the lecture halls, with something interesting to say every time! And yet they would utter nothing but nonsense if they were taking you for a dance, and step on your toes. Although I will admit that the girls aren't my better. The girls I roomed with were positively silly. You can't imagine how long they spent on their toilette - or how many long they've spent talking about it for weeks on end, before and after."
"Perhaps I know a thing or two about it." Stephen's eyes twinkled. He was a handsome young man with curly black hair and dark blue eyes, and not oblivious to the attentions of Redmond girls. He knew something, too, of the art of teasing. "After all, if photographs are reliable evidence, your Queen's girls are pretty --"
"Stephen, how can you judge? I didn't think a mere pretty face mattered so - " Cece exclaimed earnestly.
" -- and look sensible and jolly." Stephen appeased. "I'm sure they are excellent creatures of their breed, with high intellect and good taste, even if they will indulge in the frivolities of fashion. You do get along with your room mates, don't you?" he added with brotherly concern.
"Oh," Cece faltered. "I do - I mean, in a way. But somehow - and you know I can't help it, Stephen, - I've always found it easier to be friends with boys than girls. I would like to have a girl friend, though. I hope The Story Girl's daughter will be my friend."
"No-one could help being friends with you, Cee o' mine." Stephen reassured her with all his brotherly affection. He was older than Cece by two years and regarded her as his especial pet. As for Cece, she thought there was no one quite as clever and sympathetic as Stephen. They were both spirited and ambitious and had "ideals" that the rest of Carlisle did not, but Stephen was even-tempered where Cece was passionate and impulsive. Cece admired her brother all the more because he was good and fair.
Presently the leafy arches overhead gave way to a sky of peerless blue, and Cece and Stephen found that they had come out just below Golden Milestone. There were wide green meadows to their left that were swathed in the afternoon sun. On their right, a little up the hill, was a silvered house hung with vines. It had the loveliest garden before it and beyond, with lacey lanes that ran off into the fir copse. It had the fragrance of a thousand blossoms that had ripened in the sun. A robin was twilling merrily in a wild cherry tree near the gate.
"Do you remember the story of the Golden Milestone that Uncle Bev told us, during his visit three years ago?" Stephen asked. "It was one of The Story Girl's tales. I wish we could hear the Story Girl tell it herself."
"Do you know, I was always sorry for Mrs. Dale until I heard about the blue room at Golden Milestone and the books of poetry with 'Alice" 's name on them, long before Mr. and Mrs. Dale were married. Mrs. Dale's name is Alice, you know, and mother used to call her 'Beautiful Alice' - and she used to say it was a shame that 'Beautiful Alice' - that is, Mrs. Dale - married 'The Awkward Man' when she was so pretty that she could have had anyone."
"Oh, our dear mother!" Stephen smiled. "She can't really understand anyone who is different from herself. And the inhabitants of Golden Milestone are different from everybody else in Carlisle - but I have always thought they were perfectly happy."
"I wonder if Thoreau is home. I am so curious about him because no one in Carlisle has seen him for ever so long - not since he began studying his doctorate at McGill. They say he has grown up to become just as shy and bookish as his father, and Roger says they are both infidels because neither of them ever darken the church doors, and they have been known to get books by mail-order on reincarnation."
Stephen did not smile this time. His brows furrowed at the picture of his older brother sanctimoniously casting up the Dale's misdeeds. "I am sure that is only Roger's opinion." he told Cece stiffly. His tone that implied he did not think very highly of Roger's opinion. " 'Judge not, lest ye be judged.' " he added beneath his breath.
"Roger is awfully stern and serious, isn't he? The first thing he asked me when he got home was whether I have been saying my prayers. Of course I have always said my prayers! I am fifteen years old and I have been saying them all my life. But when Roger asked me I had the most contrary urge to shout 'no! I will never say my prayers again.' Then he thought that father's grace was too short, so he has been saying now. And oh, how dull and endless he makes it! When he yowls on for half an hour, all I want to do is tear right into the steak and fling a piece at his jaw!"
They laughed helplessly at the image of Roger, attacked by flying meat and splashed with gravy. "Oh, we shouldn't," shrieked Cece remorsefully. "Do you suppose that's what theology school does to you?"
"It can't be. Father went to the seminary and he is good and jolly. Roger has always been religious, even when we were small. Plus, he doesn't like Thoreau at all. They quarrelled about Mary Magdalen one recess, and Thoreau was going to fight it out with Roger after school, but Roger said the minister's son wouldn't stoop to fight over heresy."
"Thoreau fighting!" Cece said incredulously. "I can't believe that he challenged..."
"Yes, he - s-sshh-- "Stephen hissed. There was a blue figure in the far corner of the garden, who had stood up and was now coming towards them. She waved a white bouquet. It was Beautiful Alice.
She was one of those women who could never grow old. She was straight and slender as a willow. Her hair, black and lustrous as ever, was coiled in a thick braid on the crown of her head. Her face, always very sweet, had only grown sweeter with every passing years. Her dark eyes were full of dreams, and she had a girlish voice that belied her forty years.
"Good afternoon, Cece and Stephen Craig," she called gaily. "How are your mother and father? You must tell me all the news from the manse. But first of all, you must tell me what your mother has made to eat today."
Cece and Stephen burst into peals of laughter.
"We had hot lemon biscuits, a jelly-roll cake, and a rasberry pie of sorts for tea." Cece answered.
"A very toothsome one, with wild rasberry and strawberry and rhubarb filling," Stephen added, smiling.
"It sounds splendid," Beautiful Alice avowed with shining eyes. "You see, I love to hear about good things to eat almost as well as eating them myself. Hearing Felicity's concoctions described make me both hungry and satisfied at the same time. I'm so glad you dropped by to bring me that excitement to-day."
"We have something more exciting to tell you, I believe." Stephen prompted Cece.
"Oh, yes! Mrs. Dale, who do you think is coming to Carlisle?"
Mrs. Dale put a hand on Cece's arm gently. "Don't tell me., Let me guess."
"Let me see- " she shut her eyes rapturously, already catching Cece's excitement. "It isn't - is Sara Stanley coming to visit? It can't be."
"No, but you are very close," Cece cried, amazed. "Aunt Sara's daughter is going to stay will us."
An expression of wonder burst across Beautiful Alice's face. "Of course she had told me she had a daughter years ago. But it seems so hard to imagine that Sara is a mother. I can still picture her at fifteen, standing under the cherry tree in a red dress. I suppose I must be an old woman, Cece, when girls I knew who were fifteen now have fifteen-year olds of their own. The Story Girl's daughter is fifteen, isn't she? Will you tell me everything about her?" Alice added in a conspiratorial whisper.
"She is fifteen, but I'm afraid can't tell you very much more. I don't really know what she's like at all. But I suppose you will see for yourself when she gets here in August."
"What is her name?"
"Félice Leroux. Isn't it pretty?"
"It sounds just like a chord of music," Beautiful Alice agreed dreamily. "With a name like that, violets will bloom where she has walked."
"Isn't she just lovely?" Cece asked Stephen when they had gone away with a sheaf of roses, which Beautiful Alice had given Cece. "There isn't anyone in Carlisle quite like her. She is older than mother, but she seems just like a girl."
"She is one of those who have found the secret of immortal youth. She's given you two dozen white roses, but mother isn't fond of flowers in the house at all. What are you going to do about them?"
"I guess I can smuggle them up to my room." Cece said dubiously.
"I have a better idea. Why don't we leave them on Aunt Cecily's grave?"
Cece did not often think of her namesake aunt, but she agreed with Stephen that early roses would be suited to none better than sweet Aunt Cecily. Carlisle evidently thought so, too, for when they arrived they found that Aunt Cecily's grave was heaped with flowers. She had died one June evening nearly twenty years ago, but those who had known her had not forgotten her goodness and sweetness. Every spring, the red sandstone slab was a veritable bower.
They left the little graveyard on the church hill for supper. Cece closed the white gate behind her with a feeling of great content. She was very hungry, not only for her mother's famous suppers, but for the prospect of a wonderful summer ahead. Here was a beautiful Island evening with her beloved brother beside her, her cousins across the road and a delightful new cousin on her way. Cece was glad to be alive.