Newspaper Page Text
her with affectionate inquiries. Did
she wear warm underwear? Here
Bessie's imitation of Miss Roberts
was inimitable. Bessie was going to
be an actress some day, every one
knew. She had told Miss Roberts so,
and Miss Roberts, always serious,
had pointed out the dangers of a
stage career. There was not much
evil that Bessie did not know by hear
say, and if any one was capable of
protecting herself, Bessie was.
Once, after Bessie had been taunt
ing her, I saw tears on Eileen Rob
erts' face. That hurt me, for I had
taken my part in the teasing. I want
ed to warn Bessie, but then I did not
think she had a heart
All things come to an end, and the
end was in the letter that was sent
to Mr. Wakefield on Christmas eve.
Some of the boys had talked over it
for a joke, but nobody had meant it
seriously. It was only when Bessie
said she would write it, and Joe
Donahue dared her to, ard Bessie
said she would, as she was tired
of the old job anyway, that the pro
posal was regarded seriously. Of
course it would be a first-rate joke on
Eileen Roberts; but then I thought of
the hungry mother-look on Miss
Roberts' face when she saw Bessie,
and, well, I would have stopped it if
The letter was drawn up without
the intention of sending it, and it ran
"Dear Mr. Wakefield:
"I have worked many years for
you, and I feel that it is my right to
be frank. You are an old bachelor
and I am an old maid. I love you.
Why shouldn't we marry? Regard
this as serious and confidential"
Bessje dashed off Eileen Roberts'
signature in a hand that was marvel
ously like hers.
Nobody was much afraid of Wake
field. He was a mild, easy-going old
gentleman, and only once had any of
us seen him moved to anger. That
was when a man who had insulted
one of our woman buyers came into
the office. I thought there was going
to be a fight but the boys got him
out somehow and held Mr. Wakefield
Still, it was a pretty serious thing.
"If you'll all swear not to tell, I'll
mail it," said Bessie, feeling like a
We looked across at the uncon
scious Miss Roberts. "Don't do it,"
Bessie stamped the letter, held it
suspended over the mail-chute, look
ed at us, and dropped it down. We
sat back aghast
The next morning everyone was
very quiet. We were wondering
when the storm would burst We saw
Mr. Wakefield go into his office.
Somebody tiptoed near and reported
that he was opening his mail. But
nothing happened till noon, and then
Miss Roberts was sent for.
She came back ten minutes later,
in tears, and the boys looked sheep
ish, for it was a pretty strong joke
to have played. Only Bessie, with the
usual pert look on her pretty face,
went on with her work.
Miss Roberts sat down in her chair
and wept without any pretense at
restraint And then we saw Wake
field come striding into our room. In
his hand was the letter. On his face
was the look I had seen once only
once before. He held the letter
"Unless the person who wrote this
thing confesses instantly," he said,
"I shall dismiss the entire clerical
force. The entire force," he thun
dered. He must have seen the involuntary
movement of our eyes toward Bessie.
But he said nothing till Bessie sprang
to her feet, white and trembling.
"I wrote it, and I'm sorry," she
cried. "I'll go. I did it, nobody
Mr. Wakefield looked at the girl in
something like horror. He turned to-
ward Miss Roberts. "She doesn't
know, then?" I heard him whisper.
Eileen Roberts looked up, and I
i w ' ) iSS