Mr. Smith's answer was prompt and unequivocal. He said he did not believe that such a marriage should take place, nor did he believe that in real life, it would result in happiness. Marriage should be between persons of similar age, tastes, and habits, he said very decidedly. And Miss Maggie blushed and said yes, yes, indeed! And that night, when Miss Maggie gazed at herself in the glass, she looked so happy—that she appeared to be almost as young as Mellicent herself!

Christmas again brought all the young people home for the holidays. It brought, also, a Christmas party at James Blaisdell's home. It was a very different party, however, from the housewarming of a year before.

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To begin with, the attendance was much smaller; Mrs. Hattie had been very exclusive in her invitations this time. She had not invited "everybody who ever went anywhere." There were champagne, and cigarettes for the ladies, too.

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As before, Mr. Smith and Miss Maggie went together. Miss Maggie, who had not attended any social gathering since Father Duff died, yielded to Mr. Smith's urgings and said that she would go to this. But Miss Maggie wished afterward that she had not gone—there were so many, many features about that party that Miss Maggie did not like.

She did not like the champagne nor the cigarettes. She did not like Bessie's showy, low-cut dress, nor her supercilious airs. She did not like the look in Fred's eyes, nor the way he drank the champagne. She did not like Jane's maneuvers to bring Mellicent and Hibbard Gaylord into each other's company—nor the way Mr. Smith maneuvered to get Mellicent for himself.

Of all these, except the very last, Miss Maggie talked with Mr. Smith on the way home—yet it was the very last that was uppermost in her mind, except perhaps, Fred. She did speak of Fred; but because that, too, was so much to her, she waited until the last before she spoke of it.

"You saw Fred, of course," she began then.

"Yes." Short as the word was, it carried a volume of meaning to Miss

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Maggie's fearful ears. She turned to him quickly.

"Mr. Smith, it—it isn't true, is it?"

"I'm afraid it is."

"You saw him—drinking, then?"

"Yes. I saw some, and I heard—more. It's just as I feared. He's got in with Gaylord and the rest of his set at college, and they're a bad lot—drinking, gambling—no good."

"But Fred wouldn't—gamble, Mr. Smith! Oh, Fred wouldn't do that. And he's so ambitious to get ahead! Surely he'd know he couldn't get anywhere in his studies, if—if he drank and gambled!"

"It would seem so."

"Did you see his father? I saw him only a minute at the first, and he didn't look well a bit, to me."

"Yes, I saw him. I found him in his den just as I did last year. He didn't look well to me, either."