“Cupid’s Whispers” was written by Marion King, and first appeared in the pages of “The People’s Friend” in 1960.
It’s a nice little story, with an important message . . . on a sweetie!
Bill Cochrane’s laugh had been getting him into trouble all his life.
Isabel Lindsay could remember the time he had chortled loudly when the headmaster tripped over a low stool in the art room. Then there was the time he had laughed as the holder of the tennis title served his fourth double fault in the finals.
Bill had been laughing at something quite different, but the defeated champion had never spoken to him since.
But this was the end, she told her family as she stormed into the living-room one Saturday night. She had been at the pictures with Bill.
“Has he not proposed yet?” asked her twelve-year-old sister, Beryl.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Isabel held her head high. “Mum, Bill actually laughed right in the middle of the love scene in the big picture. And everybody turned round to look at us. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life.”
“Oh dear, how awkward !” Mrs Lindsay sighed in sympathy, but Isabel saw a twinkle in her eye.
For a moment Isabel wanted to be angry with her mother too, then her rage began to simmer down.
Her father looked up from his paper.
“There were bits in that picture which made me want to laugh as well. Only I lacked Bill’s courage.”
And before Isabel knew it, the whole family was laughing.
“Oh, dear,” she wiped the tears from her eyes at last. “And to think I left him without even saying good-night. He’ll never speak to me again.”
“Why not?” put in George, her younger brother. “He always has after your other quarrels. What we want to know is, will he speak to any purpose. It’s high time he popped the question.”
“Oh, mind your own business,” Isabel snapped, for this was a sore point. After all, she had been friends with Bill since she was five, and they were both twenty-two now. But he never seemed to think of mentioning marriage, though once or twice he had seemed near it.
Then he had grown embarrassed and changed the subject.
“I think he’s shy.” Mrs Lindsay answered her daughter’s unspoken thought.
“Bill? Shy?” George roared with laughter.
“We managed better in our young days, didn’t we, Meg?” Mr Lindsay said seriously.
“We certainly did.”
“Cupid’s whispers, we called them — sweets with sentimental remarks printed on them.”
“Like’ will you be my love?'” Mrs Lindsay added eagerly. “Or ‘meet me in the moonlight’, or ‘thine for ever’.
“And there were always a few with ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘if you really want me’, so that your partner could find an answer.”
“If you couldn’t find the words to propose, you could always give your sweetheart the right cupid’s whisper.”
“And what a hunt there was through the dish to find one that said ‘yes’.”
Mrs Lindsay was smiling, too, as if at some secret shared with her husband.
“Is that how you and Dad got engaged?” Beryl asked suddenly.
But they both refused to answer, though the look that passed between them told their children a great deal.
“Can you still buy them?” Beryl asked next.
“Probably, though I haven’t seen any. Give me a hand with the tablecloth, Isabel. And I don’t know if they have the same remarks on them now.”
“Anyway,” said Isabel firmly, “if Bill can’t find words of his own to propose, I’ve no time for him. In any case, he maybe doesn’t want to ask me.”
“Oh, no !” cried Beryl. “I’m sure he does.”
Isabel and Bill made up their quarrel the next day on their way home from church.
Isabel had been watching him from her seat at the front of the choir, and she saw his slow smile as he looked up at her from his seat directly opposite. At the end of the service she ran quickly down the three steps to where he was waiting.
“Sorry, Bill,” she whispered. “I was horrible last night.”
“You couldn’t be horrible if you tried,” he answered comfortingly. Come for a walk this afternoon?”
Take a look at our Manon creating the illustration for this week’s story:
After that the week went its usual way until Saturday.
Then Mrs Lindsay took Beryl to visit some friends in the country for the day, and Isabel became housekeeper.
She invited Bill to lunch and tea, and heard his enthusiastic comments on her cooking. They didn’t go to the pictures as usual, but sat comfortably before the fire, waiting for the travellers
George was out with his girl, and Mr Lindsay was away to the station to meet his wife and Beryl.
It was very cosy, just the two of them, and Bill said so once or twice before becoming awkwardly silent. Occasionally he seemed about to speak, then just coughed and went on gazing into the fire.
“Is he really shy about proposing?” Isabel thought, aware for the first time of the uneasy silence between them. Was there anything she could do to help him get over being tongue-tied?
She turned to look at him and found him gazing at her tenderly.
He leaned forward to grasp her hand.
“Isabel—” he was beginning when the front door opened and voices filled the hall.
With an exclamation of disgust, Bill jumped to his feet. A moment later the others came into the room, full of chatter. The moment had passed.
“Did you have a nice day?” asked Isabel.
“Lovely!” answered her mother. “And Beryl was thrilled when we found one of those little country shops where they sell everything, and—”
“Mum,” Beryl interrupted quickly. “Tell them about the man in the train. You know, the one who made my penny disappear and come back.”
They laughed and chatted till it was time for Bill to go.
Isabel didn’t sleep for a while that night. She was too near tears to rest comfortably. It looked as if Bill had been coming to the point at last. Dearly as she loved her family, she could have done without them at that moment.
Her pillow was wet when finally she fell asleep, but next day she was her usual self again.
Indeed, she felt quite cheerful, for she had a new coat to put on. It had a large fur collar and slender pockets.
“I haven’t a proper bag to match this coat,” she said to her mother. “I’ll just carry my collection in my pocket. I can wrap it in a hankie so that it won’t be lost.”
When it was time to get ready she came back to the bedroom to find Beryl leaning over her coat.
“I was just admiring it,” explained the younger girl, moving away. “It’s got a lovely feel, Isabel.”
It certainly had, though once in church, Isabel began to regret putting her hankie and collection into the pocket. They seemed to make too much of a bulge.
“I must get a handbag this week,” she thought, then smiled down to Bill.
“The offering will now be received.” The minister was nearing the end of the service, and Isabel put her hand into her pocket for her collection.
It was difficult to get the hankie out. She gave it an extra hard tug and out it came, accompanied by a paper bag which she hadn’t known was there.
In the dead silence the sweets it had contained cascaded down the three steps to lie in a heap on the floor.
The sound each made in falling was like the roar of a cannon to Isabel, and she grew scarlet with embarrassment. Then she heard Bill’s laugh! Rising above the opening notes of the organ, it was all that was needed to complete Isabel’s discomfiture.
Then the sound of the organ grew louder and it was all over, save for the little pile of sweets on the floor. As she peered down Isabel grew even hotter. The sweets were cupid’s whispers!
She had a vision of Beryl leaning over her coat, and recalled her quick change of subject when Mum mentioned the little village shop last night. What better place was there to buy cupid’s whispers? Beryl must have hidden them in the pocket of her sister’s coat as a surprise.
She must have thought Isabel could urge Bill on with one of the sweets. Bill!
Isabel’s face flamed again. She wanted nothing more to do with him. To think he had laughed at her misfortune, and in church too!
She met his anxious gaze and turned her head away at once. She would not give him the chance to humiliate her again.
Meanwhile she must apologise to the minister. She sat out the rest of the service impatiently. At the close she ran down the steps to go to the vestry and bumped into Bill
“Isabel,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry!” she choked. “Well you might be! But it’s for the last time. Good-bye!”
And ignoring the amused looks around her, she went into the vestry.
“Mr Gray, I do apologise.” she said to the minister. “I didn’t know there were sweets in my pocket. I’m terribly sorry.”
“Don’t worry, my dear!” The old man reassured her. ” You couldn’t help it. I mind dropping an imperial once myself when I was a laddie, right down a sloping gallery.
“It has its funny side later. What kind of sweets were they?”
“Cupid’s whispers . . .” Isabel confessed, and the minister began to laugh.
“Oh, Isabel,” he said when he had recovered. “Looking back, can you not see it was funny?”
But Isabel was still too embarrassed. And when Mr Gray escorted her out of the vestry only to meet Bill at the door, her face flamed again.
“Mr Gray, I’ve come to apologise,” Bill said at once.
“Not another !” chuckled the old man. “Bill, I think it was funny, too. And so does Isabel, though she won’t admit it.”
He chuckled again, and soon Bill was laughing too. Suddenly Isabel had to join in. After all, no harm had been done.
“It’s time I went home for my lunch.” Mr Gray became more serious. “You’ll not hold his laughing against him, Isabel?”
“No, Mr Gray, but it’ll get him into real trouble some day.”
“I doubt it. It’s good to be able to laugh.”
“I must go and pick the sweets up,” Isabel said to Bill when the minister had left them.
“I’ll help you.”
But most of them had been picked up, and there were just one or two lying in odd corners.
“Isabel?” Bill straightened up suddenly.
“It seemed quite natural for the two of us to be seeing the minister together.
“I was — well, I was wishing we were speaking to him about something else. Our marriage, for instance. How about it, Isabel?”
And it was Isabel, the one who thought people ought to find words of their own, who was stuck for words.
Then she spied the last cupid’s whisper lying on the step.
“Be mine”, it said.
Bill’s voice was full of love as he read the message of the little sweet.
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