The Girl Next Door (Crimson Romance)

The Girl Next Door (Crimson Romance) by Peggy Gaddis Read Free Book Online

Book: The Girl Next Door (Crimson Romance) by Peggy Gaddis Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peggy Gaddis
Tags: Romance, Classic
Betsy looked up, white-faced and angry. But Pete, his sightless eyes on Marcia, merely tensed a little.
    “Yes, I
am
fortunate. I admit it — and I’m grateful,” he said. It was as though he spoke to himself, as well as to those who sat about him.
    “I knew you realized it,” Marcia told him. “This lovely house, a beautiful garden, all the creature comforts — ”
    “While a heck of a lot of fellows in my position have nothing,” finished Peter. “I know.”
    Marcia turned to Mrs. Marshall, who was looking at her with frightened eyes, and said lightly, “I was wondering, Mrs. Marshall, if you and Mr. Marshall could possibly endure an evening in the chamber of horrors? I’m asking you for dinner, if you can.”
    Peter laughed. “The chamber of horrors? That’s the old Cunningham place where you’re staying — a pretty apt description, at that!”
    “It’s very kind of you, Mrs. Eldon. We’d like it, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Marshall.
    Marcia laid a hand on the older woman’s arm and said, “Please, won’t you call me Marcia? ‘Mrs. Eldon’ makes me feel — oh, old and stiff and done with life! I can’t afford a feeling like that, now that I’m losing a year out of my life, and I have so many things to do before I really
am
old.”
    “Losing a year out of your life?” Peter repeated, interested.
    Marcia nodded, as though he could see her.
    “I am going to be a good singer,” she announced. “I have a very fine voice. But I made a fool of myself and overworked it. Now I have to take a year to rest up, and let my voice mend. I could have gone a long, long way this year, if I hadn’t been a fool!”
    She mentioned her voice and her future as casually, as frankly, as though she were speaking of some other person. There was no attitude of false modesty, no pretense of deprecation. She was obviously quite firm in her belief in her voice and its future.
    “That’s a rotten break,” said Pete.
    “We’ll have to cheer each other up.” Marcia smiled. “I’ve offended the town’s best people by confessing that I look on my year in Centerville as little less than a prison sentence. I suppose it’s an affront to their civic pride — just as though I wouldn’t consider a year in Shangri-La a prison sentence, under the circumstances!”
    She stood up to go. “Then I shall expect you for dinner — shall we say Thursday?” she said to Mrs. Marshall.
    Pete echoed his mother’s enthusiastic acceptance of the invitation and, as Marcia and Betsy drove away, Betsy said enviously:
    “You made him laugh! And you’ve coaxed him to accept an invitation away from home. Nobody else has been able to do either of those things.”
    “That’s because he’s sorry for me.”
    Betsy stared at her. “Sorry for you?”
    “And not sorry for himself, pet!” Marcia added. “That’s the whole keynote of Pete’s character. He can be sorry for others, but he’s got too much courage to be sorry for himself! That’s why he’s — well, such a marvelous person.”
    “Are
you
telling
me?”
Betsy demanded, indignantly.
    Marcia laughed. “I don’t have to, do I?”
    As she let Betsy out at the drive that led up to the Drummond house, Marcia said, “Of course, dear, you know I meant you are to come to dinner, too, on Thursday. You understood that, didn’t you?”
    Betsy’s eyes brightened. “Well, no, I didn’t. But I’d love to come. Thanks a lot”

Chapter Seven
    When Betsy ran across the lawn and up the weed-grown drive to the Cunningham place on Thursday night, she was thinking of nothing but that in a few minutes now she would see Peter. But the little tight pain of the thought that was always just behind — that Peter would never see anybody or anything again — made her wince.
    She was startled when she entered the ugly old living room to see that there was already a group of people there. Peter and his mother had not yet arrived, but two young men and two pretty girls perched about on the

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