Among hundreds of beautiful residences sitting in the lap of Ocean View, three companions lean contentedly against her bosom blinking at the water through plate-glass windows. About the verandas of one winds royal wistaria; making fitting canopy for her of queenly heart. At one side an arched way gives passage from street to garage; terraces slope toward Golden Gate; roses hedge the grounds; the great trees, shading hammocks, felt the pull of swings and heard the creak of boards in the see-saw days of the children of the house. The splendid attic, once nursery, now contains boxing gloves and fencing foils; its walls are adorned with the pennants and souvenirs, considered proper for a male den, by very young males. One corner was generously offered to the only sister, to decorate as she would, but she had considered her neighbors too barbarous.
Before the top-spinning days of her own two sons were passed, Agnes Miller took into this beautiful home a lad, whose abode had been the streets; she laid soft raiment upon him who had been naked; the day before he had dined at a garbage barrel, to-day, a bondsman serves his dinner.
No protest comes from Charles Miller, the keen eyed and alert. Should his wife incorporate a whole orphanage into the house, he would stipulate only that he be allowed one small corner to himself.
"Mine the business, hers the home," his motto.
Agnes Miller has not found "Marriage, a failure," nor "Life, a blunder and a shame."
On the right of Wistaria House stands a brick mansion containing Ross and Lillian Kenyon and their baby. True the baby is twenty-five years old and taller than his father, yet he must once have been infantile else why the hobby-horse in the brick attic?
Schoolmates, brides and mothers together, have been Lillian Kenyon and Agnes Miller. To bind a friendship that needed no bonds, this only son and Agnes Miller's only daughter early evinced a fondness for each other, which, like that of their mothers but grew the more as grew the years.
A wizard, caught and imprisoned for three years in Ross Kenyons gilded cage, placed a violin in the hands of the five-year-old boy. Then, though the genius was old and poor, he would away; but Ross Kenyon, the banker, could secure the best teachers of the world, if not the genii for his son; small wonder that the boy played divinely.
Mary Miller performed equally well upon the piano–but divinity doth not dwell within its bones.
The yoke to which Herbert Kenyon gladly bends his neck is neither that of violin nor bank –he has bars upon his shoulders. A military cousin to adore, and a Presidio to visit has timed his life's reveille.
When, after a score of years, Ross and Herbert Kenyon came to realize that to express a wish, was to find it unexpectedly obtained for them by the wife and mother, Lillian Kenyon, they began to grow considerate in their audible longings. If they had ever spoken words to her that left a hurt they had long since ceased to do so, and the sunset of life had grown so satisfying that she cried through happy tears:"O Sun, do not set!"
On Mrs. Miller's left are newer and younger acquaintances. The Thompsons had from the first been congenial, both to herself and to Lillian Kenyon, though the children were too young to be companionable with their own grown-up progeny. Up the side of the house of the newer neighbors struggles a fuchsia, whose one ambition is to peer into the chamber window of a maiden – Susie by name. Each morning the maiden throws open her window, to smile down upon it, after which it twists and clambers afresh.
It is Friday morning in the wistaria-draped house. An extra cook reinforces the kitchen. The only daughter inspects tree, bush and bloom.
" Muddie, what flowers would you choose for the individual bouquets?"
"I'm not choosing," smiled Agnes Miller," this is the reign of Philip and Mary."
"Well, then, I'll wait till Philip comes."
When Philip came, the flower question revived.
" Let's use the flower language," suggested he," and place the bouquets according to the message we wish them to convey."
"Phillip! What a gorgeous idea!"
" Mary! What stunning diction!"
Jeopardized are the lives of tender plants; disunited, friendly boughs, forever separated, dear couplets of flowers.
The great, unsociable, company dining-room is dusted; Philip hangs wreaths; Mary fills vases.
Friday night, in the reign of Philip and Mary, arrived. A party also arrived – just a neighborhood party. Good looking people! the camera declared, for Mary"snapped" them all.
Ross Kenyon: full head of white hair, black eyes.
Lillian Kenyon: gray haired, bright eyed.
Lieutenant Herbert Kenyon: six feet and a uniform.
Merritt Thompson: head of a Greek god; clothed, befitting a prince.
Ida Thompson: brown haired, mild eyed.
Frank Thompson: thirteen and vigilant.
Miss Susie: nine and plump.
Judge Earle: bald; no wedding bells for him.
Dr. Hamilton: widower, big and blond.
Charles Miller: thin, white haired, keen eyed.
Agnes Miller: silver threads among the gold.
Robert Miller: first born, twenty-four years, black eyes, black hair.
Philip Norder: twenty-three, adopted son.
Arthur Miller: fifteen, the baby.
Mary Miller: pointing the camera; gentle and gay, twenty-one years.
At one end of the table, Agnes Miller; at the opposite, her husband – of the discerning eyes.
When the courses had come and gone, and come and gone again, Agnes Miller spoke a word: "Dear friends, we have gathered as now many times, just neighbors, but I never had so glad a word to say as to-night, when I can announce the coming marriage of our daughter and Lieutenant Herbert Kenyon, on the twenty-seventh day of this month, in our daughter's home, to which we most lovingly invite you."
" Hear ye! Hear ye!" cried Robert.
"Thus it is our daughters leave us
Those we love and those who love us"
quoted Charles Miller teasingly, yet wistfully.
Agnes Miller spoke again:"The night is filled with gladness. To-day our beloved son, Philip Norder, has opened offices whose doors bear the inscription:
"'Philip Norder, Attorney-at-Law."
"Never forget, Philip, that when men become angels, lawyers will starve," from Judge Earle.
" Tell us, Philip, what kind of law breaking will best give you a start and Rob and I will enter upon it at once," volunteered Lieutenant Kenyon.
As they dallied with fruits and ices, Mrs. Miller directed attention to the place flowers and beginning with her own, wistaria, interpreted it: "A cordial welcome." Her husband held up a full-blown rose, looking helplessly from one to another.
Mary came to the rescue."That means 'engagement,' you know you have so many engagements, we can hardly ever get you for an evening at the theatre. We are very lucky to have caged you for to-night."
"I should never have suspected it of you, Miller," from Ross Kenyon.
"Judge, what does your flower say?"
He scrutinized it. "It's from the lemon, I think, but my law library does not instruct on cases botanical."
"Then the interpreters must be called in. Philip! Mary!"
"It means discretion, Judge," announced Philip, "you have been exceedingly discreet regarding marriage."
The judge nearly blushed and everybody else quite laughed.
" You are next, Mr. Kenyon."
" Can't even tell the flower, let alone giving information on its conversation."
" It's persimmon, Mr. Kenyon," assisted Mary," and says, 'I'll surprise you by and by'; the trip in the aeroplane that you have set your heart on, don't you see?"
"Don't, don't suggest aeroplanes to him," begged Lillian Kenyon.
"I hold a holly, but my knowledge ends with that statement."
"Holly asks, 'Am I forgotten? Why five years a widower?" queried Philip.
The doctor laughed a jolly laugh.
" Mr. Thompson?"
"I have a small fig and leaf, will Miss Mary please translate?"
"It announces, 'I keep my secrets,"' complied Mary." Secrecy is a prime requisite of a dealer in real estate."
" Lillian," spoke the hostess."
Pink carnation, but I have forgotten my school-girl lore."
"Woman's love," Mary aided.
"Why do I get a withered flower?" complained Philip.
"It's a withered white rose isn't it?" asked Mary.
"Yes," he answered.
" That reads, 'I am in despair.'"
Everybody roared, for everybody knew how a pink-cheeked girl had been sent to Europe to prevent a too early marriage.
Philip bore the hilarity as well as he could, which means that his lips smiled while his feet longed to run.
" Next'!" Robert's mother called to her first born."
Syringa," he called back," but I left my spectacles in my room."
"You shall be happy yet," expounded Philip, "although sweet love has passed you by thus far; while there's life there's hope."
"That's cheering," returned Robert.
" Oh, Mrs. Thompson, pardon me, you've very nearly been left out."
"Blue violet, but I plead ignorance."
"Faithfulness," defined Mary.
"Now to the nursery," teased Robert, as his mother called for Susie's flower.
"It's a daisy," she returned promptly.
"And means 'Innocence,'" explained Mary.
"Don't know what it is," in a don't-care tone.
"It's candy tuft and 'Indifference,"' spoke Philip,"a condition of heart accompanying youths of your age, for an infinitesimally short period of time."
"Arthur," to her baby.
" I haven't any flower," flushing.
"Well, I gave you one," returned his sister.
" You did not," warmly.
A tender, reproving look from his mother.
" She gave me a lettuce leaf, mother," holding it up.
"And that says 'A cold heart,'" exulted his sister.
"True, true," nagged Robert;" there's the girl with the Sis Hopkins braids, and the girl with the Gibson neck, and the little girl, with the little curl right in the middle of her forehead, all throwing goo-goo eyes at him and if he sees one of them anywhere, straightway he searches the sky for comets. And what have you, Miss Mary?" continued the tormenting Robert," and you, Lieutenant Kenyon? Methinks your flowers are identical. This is mystery, indeed."
Mary colored. The lieutenant laughed.
" Hold them up," commanded the brutal Robert. Only the Lieutenant obeyed.
" Oh, bridal roses. No need for schooling on that, no call to utter its speech," quoth the unquenchable big brother.
" But it has a tongue and says ' Happy love,' interposed Philip.
"Of course," spoke on Robert," what else do wedding bells ever bring?"
" Miss Mary, I would fain suggest that you pin these sweet-voiced flowers on the gentlemen, while Philip does like duty for the ladies," said Mr. Thompson.
"Thompson always scores," declared Dr. Hamilton.
Mary and Philip did as requested. When Mary reached Herbert Kenyon, eyes spoke to eyes.
"Oh, hurry, sweet day," said his.
" I fear it – a little," from hers.
When at last the flowers were secured to each one Mr. Thompson scored again:
" Let us drink to the maker of the feast Our Lady Bountiful."
And so it was.
"And now to the bride and groom," added Judge Earle, offering
"To the bachelor who is always free!
To the husband who sometimes may be."
Let love be your lawyer, dear,
To him your case report;
Till both shall need my service dear,
In some divorce court.
"To wish you well, were to wish myself ill," complained Dr. Hamilton.
" You may write it on his tombstone;
You may cut it on his card,
That a young man married
Is a young man marred."
"Jealousy," pronounced Lieutenant Kenyon.
Mr. Thompson had, unobserved, taken out his note-book and written a few lines which he passed on to Mary; then he called out:" From the bride to the groom!"
Mary read from the quotation he had given her:
"Let's be gay, while we may,
And seize love with laughter;
I'll be true as long as you,
And not a minute after."
" From the groom to the bride, now," called Mr. Thompson.
Lieutenant Kenyon rose. The other toasts had been given in conversational tones and with tinkling mirth. His voice thrilled with feeling. He fixed his eyes on Mary and gave:
"I have known many,
Liked a few,
Here's to you,"
bowed and touched his glass to his lips.