Gentle Julia (Chapter Three, page 1 of 21)


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Julia, like Herbert, had been a little puzzled by Florence's expression of a partiality for the young man, Noble Dill; it was not customary for anybody to confess a weakness for him. However, the aunt dismissed the subject from her mind, as other matters pressed sharply upon her attention; she had more worries than most people guessed.

The responsibilities of a lady who is almost officially the prettiest person in a town persistently claiming sixty-five thousand inhabitants are often heavier than the world suspects, and there were moments when Julia found the position so trying that she would have preferred to resign. She was a warm-hearted, appreciative girl, naturally unable to close her eyes to sterling merit wherever it appeared: and it was not without warrant that she complained of her relatives. The whole family, including the children, she said, regaled themselves with her private affairs as a substitute for theatre-going. But one day, a week after the irretrievable disappearance of Fifi and Mimi, she went so far as to admit a note of unconscious confession into her protest that she was getting pretty tired of being mistaken for a three-ring circus! Such was her despairing expression, and the confession lies in her use of the word "three."

The misleading moderation of "three" was pointed out to her by her niece, whose mind at once violently seized upon the word and divested it of context--a process both feminine and instinctive, for this child was already beginning to be feminine. "Three!" she said. "Why, Aunt Julia, you must be crazy! There's Newland Sanders and Noble Dill and that old widower, Ridgley, that grandpa hates so, and Mister Clairdyce and George Plum and the two new ones from out of town that Aunt Fanny Patterson said you had at church Sunday morning--Herbert said he didn't like one of 'em's looks much, Aunt Julia. And there's Parker Kent Usher and that funny-lookin' one with the little piece of whiskers under his underlip that Noble Dill got so mad at when they were calling, and Uncle Joe laughed about, and I don't know who all! Anyhow, there's an awful lot more than three, Aunt Julia."

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