Part 3 out of 7
mother, who was in a sea of trouble concerning the dinner. "Old
Milly," she said, "had gone to bed out of pure hatefulness,
pretending she had got a _collapse_, as she called it."
"Can't Hagar do," asked Carrie, anxious that Mrs. Graham's first
dinner with them should be in style.
"Yes, but she can't do everything--somebody must superintend her, and
as for burning myself brown over the dishes and then coming to the
table, I won't."
"Why not make 'Lena go into the kitchen--it won't hurt her to-day
more than it did yesterday," suggested Carrie.
"A good idea," returned her mother, and stepping to the parlor door
she called 'Lena from a most interesting conversation with Mr.
Graham, who, the moment his wife was gone, had taken a seat by her
side, and now seemed oblivious to all else save her.
There was a strange tenderness in the tones of his voice and in the
expression of his eyes as they rested upon her, and Durward, who well
knew his mother's peculiarities, felt glad that she was not present,
while at the same time he wondered that his father should appear so
deeply interested in an entire stranger.
"'Lena, I wish to speak with you," said Mrs. Livingstone, appearing
at the door, and 'Lena, gracefully excusing herself, left the room,
while Mr. Graham commenced pacing the floor in a slow, abstracted
manner, ever and anon wiping away the beaded drops which stood
thickly on his forehead.
Meantime, 'Lena, having learned for what she was wanted, went without
a word to the kitchen, though her proud nature rebelled, and it was
with difficulty she could force down the bitter spirit which she felt
rising within her. Had her aunt or Carrie shared her labors, or had
the former _asked_ instead of commanded her to go, she would have
done it willingly. But now in quite a perturbed state of mind she
bent over pastry and pudding, scarcely knowing which was which, until
a pleasant voice at her side made her start, and looking up she saw
Anna, who had just returned from her walk, and who on learning how
matters stood, declared her intention of helping too.
"If there's anything I like, it's being in a muss," said she, and
throwing aside her leghorn flat, pinning up her sleeves, and
fastening back her curls in imitation of 'Lena, she was soon up to
her elbows in cooking--her dress literally covered with flour, eggs,
and cream, and her face as red as the currant jelly which Hagar
brought from the china closet. "There's a pie fit for a queen or
Lady Graham either," said she, depositing in the huge oven her first
attempt in the pie line.
But alas! Malcolm Everett's words of love spoken beneath the
wide-spreading sycamore were still ringing in Anna's ears, so it was
no wonder she _salted_ the custard instead of sweetening it. But no
one noticed the mistake, and when the pie was done, both 'Lena and
Hagar praised its white, uncurdled appearance.
"Now we shall just have time to change our dresses," said Anna, when
everything pertaining to the dinner was in readiness, but 'Lena,
knowing how flushed and heated she was, and remembering Durward's
distaste of high colors, announced her determination of not appearing
at the table.
"I shall see that grandma is nicely dressed," said she, "and you must
look after her a little, for I shall not come down."
So saying she ran up to her room, where she found Mrs. Nichols in a
great state of fermentation to know "who was below, and what the
doin's was, I should of gone down," said she, "but I know'd 'Tilda
would be madder'n a hornet."
'Lena commended her discretion in remaining where she was, and then
informing her that Mr. Bellmont's father and mother were there, she
proceeded to make some alterations in her dress. The handsome black
silk and neat lace cap, both the Christmas gift of John Jr., were
donned, and then, staff in hand, the old lady started for the
dining-room, 'Lena giving her numerous charges not to talk much, and
on no account to mention her favorite topic--Nancy Scovandyke!
"Nancy's as good any day as Miss Graham, if she did marry a live
lord," was grandma's mental comment, as the last-mentioned lady,
rustling in a heavy brocade and loaded down with jewelry, took her
place at the table.
Purposely, Mrs. Livingstone omitted an introduction which her
husband, through fear of her, perhaps, failed to give. But not so
with John Jr. To be sure, he cared not a fig, on his grandmother's
account, whether she were introduced or not, for he well knew she
would not hesitate to make their acquaintance; but knowing how it
would annoy his mother and Carrie, he called out, in a loud tone, "My
grandmother, Mrs. Nichols--Mr. and Mrs. Graham."
Mr. Graham started so quickly that his wife asked "if anything stung
"Yes--no,'' said he, at the same time indicating that it was not
worth while to mind it.
"Got stung, have you?" said Mrs. Nichols. "Mebby 'twas a
bumble-bee--seems 'sef I smelt one; but like enough it's the scent on
Mrs. Graham frowned majestically, but it was entirely lost on
grandma, who, after a time, forgetful of 'Lena's caution, said, "I
b'lieve they say you're from Virginny!"
"Yes, madam, Virginia is my native state,"' returned Mrs. Graham,
clipping off each word as if it were burning her tongue.
"Anywheres near Richmond?" continued Mrs. Nichols.
"I was born in Richmond, madam."
"Law, now I who knows but you're well acquainted with Nancy
Mrs. Graham turned as red as the cranberry sauce upon her plate, as
she replied, "I've not the honor of knowing either Miss Scovandyke or
any of her relatives."
"Wall, she's a smart, likely gal, or woman I s'pose you'd call her,
bein' she's just the age of my son."
Here Mrs. Nichols, suddenly remembering 'Lena's charge, stopped, but
John Jr., who loved to see the fun go on, started her again, by
asking what relatives Miss Scovandyke had in Virginia.
"'Leny told me not to mention Nancy, but bein' you've asked a civil
question, 'tain't more'n fair for me to answer it. Better'n forty
year ago Nancy's mother's aunt----"
"Which would be Miss Nancy's great-aunt," interrupted John Jr.
"Bless the boy," returned the old lady, "he's got the Nichols' head
for figgerin'. Yes, Nancy's great-aunt though she was six years and
two months younger'n Nancy's mother. Wall, as I was sayin', she went
off to Virginny to teach music. She was prouder'n Lucifer, and after
a spell she married a southerner, rich as a Jew, and then she never
took no more notice of her folks to hum, than's ef they hadn't been.
But the poor critter didn't live long to enjoy it, for when her first
baby was born, she died. 'Twas a little girl, but her folks in
Massachusetts have never heard a word whether she's dead or alive.
Joel Slocum, that's Nancy's nephew, says he means to go down there
some day, and look her up, but I wouldn't bother with 'em, for that
side of the house always did feel big, and above Nancy's folks,
thinkin' Nancy's mother married beneath her."
Mrs. Graham must have enjoyed her dinner very much, for during
grandma's recital she applied herself assiduously to her plate, never
once looking up, while her face and neck were literally spotted,
either with heat, excitement or anger. These spots at last attracted
Mrs. Nichols' attention, causing her to ask the lady "if she warn't
pestered with erysipelas."
"I am not aware of it, madam," answered Mrs. Graham, and grandma
replied, "It looks mighty like it to me, and I've seen a good deal
on't, for Nancy Scovandyke has allers had it more or less. Now I
think on't," she continued, as if bent on tormenting her companion,
"now I think on't, you look quite a considerable like Nancy--the same
forehead and complexion--only she's a head taller. Hain't you
noticed it, John?"
"No, I have not," answered John, at the same time proposing a change
in the conversation, as he presumed "they had all heard enough of
At this moment the dessert appeared, and with it Anna's pie. John
Jr. was the first to taste it, and with an expression of disgust he
exclaimed, "Horror, mother, who made this pie?"
Mrs. Livingstone needed but one glance at her guests to know that
something was wrong, and darting an angry frown at Hagar, who was
busy at a side-table, she wondered "if there ever was any one who had
so much trouble with servants as herself."
Anna saw the gathering storm, and knowing full well that it would
burst on poor Hagar's head, spoke out, "Hagar is not in the fault,
mother--no one but myself is to blame. _I_ made the pie, and must
have put in salt instead of sugar."
"You made the pie!" repeated Mrs. Livingstone angrily, "What business
had you in the kitchen? Pity we hadn't a few more servants, for then
we should all be obliged to turn drudges."
Anna was about to reply, when John Jr. prevented her, by asking, "if
it hurt his sister to be in the kitchen any more than it did 'Lena,
who," he said, "worked there both yesterday and to-day, burning
herself until she is ashamed to appear at the table."
Mortified beyond measure at what had occurred, Mrs. Livingstone
hastened to explain that her servants were nearly all sick, and that
in her dilemma, 'Lena had volunteered her services, adding by way of
compliment, undoubtedly, that "her niece seemed peculiarly adapted to
such work--indeed, that her forte lay among pots and kettles."
An expression of scorn, unusual to Mr. Graham, passed over his face,
and in a sarcastic tone he asked Mrs. Livingstone, "if she thought it
detracted from a young lady's worth, to be skilled in whatever
pertained to the domestic affairs of a family."
Ready to turn whichever way the wind did, Mrs. Livingstone replied,
"Not at all--not at all. I mean that my daughters shall learn
everything, so that their husbands will find in them every necessary
"Then you confidently expect them to catch husbands some time or
other," said John Jr., whereupon Carrie blushed, and looked very
interesting, while Anna retorted, "Of course we shall. I wouldn't be
an old maid for the world--I'd run away first!"
And amidst the laughter which this speech called forth the company
retired from the table. For some time past Mrs. Nichols had walked
with a cane, limping even then. Observing this, Mr. Graham, with his
usual gallantry, offered her his arm, which she willingly accepted,
casting a look of triumph upon her daughter-in-law, who apparently
was not so well pleased. So thorough had been grandma's training,
that she did not often venture into the parlor without a special
invitation from its mistress, but on this occasion, Mr. Graham led
her in there as a matter of course, and placing her upon the sofa,
seated himself by her side, and commenced questioning her concerning
her former home and history. Never in her life had Mrs. Nichols felt
more communicative, and never before had she so attentive a listener.
Particularly did he hang upon every word, when she told him of her
Helena, of her exceeding beauty, her untimely death, and rascally
"Rivers--Rivers," said he, "what kind of a looking man was he?"
"The Lord only knows--I never see him," returned Mrs. Nichols. "But
this much I do know, he was one scandalous villain, and if an old
woman's curses can do him any harm, he's had mine a plenty of times."
"You do wrong to talk so," said Mr. Graham, "for who knows how
bitterly he may have repented of the great wrong done to your
"Then why in the name of common sense don't he hunt up her child, and
own her--he needn't be ashamed of 'Leny."
"Very true," answered Mr. Graham. "No one need be ashamed of her. I
should be proud to call her my daughter. But as I was saying,
perhaps this Rivers has married a second time, keeping his first
marriage a secret from his wife, who is so proud and high-spirited
that now, after the lapse of years, he dares not tell her for fear of
what might follow."
"Then she's a good-for-nothing, stuck-up thing, and he's a cowardly
puppy! That's my opinion on 'em, and I'll tell 'em so, if ever I see
'em!" exclaimed Mrs. Nichols, her wrath waxing warmer and warmer
toward the destroyer of her daughter.
Pausing for breath, she helped herself to a pinch of her favorite
Maccaboy, and then passed it to Mr. Graham, who, to her astonishment,
took some, slyly casting it aside when she did not see him. This
emboldened the old lady to offer it to Mrs. Graham, who, languidly
reclining upon the end of the sofa, sat talking to Carrie, who, on a
low stool at her feet, was looking up into her face as if in perfect
admiration. Without deigning other reply than a haughty shake of the
head, Mrs. Graham cast a deprecating glance toward Carrie, who
muttered, "How disgusting! But for pa's sake we tolerate it."
Here 'Lena entered the parlor, very neatly dressed, and looking fresh
and blooming as a rose. There was no vacant seat near except one
between Durward and John Jr., which, at the invitation of the latter,
she accepted. A peculiar smile flitted over Carrie's face, which was
noticed by Mrs. Graham, and attributed to the right cause. Ere long
Durward, John Jr., 'Lena and Anna, who had joined them, left the
house, and from the window Carrie saw that they were amusing
themselves by playing "Graces." Gradually the sound of their voices
increased, and as 'Lena's clear, musical laugh rang out above the
rest, Mrs. Graham and Carrie looked out just in time to see Durward
holding the struggling girl, while John Jr., claimed the reward of
his having thrown the "grace hoop" upon her head.
Inexpressily shocked, the precise Mrs. Graham asked, "What kind of a
girl is your cousin?" to which Carrie replied, "You have a fair
sample of her," at the same time nodding toward 'Lena, who was
unmercifully pulling John Jr.'s ears as a reward for his presumption.
"Rather hoydenish, I should think," returned Mrs. Graham, secretly
hoping Durward would not become enamored of her.
At length the party left the yard, and repairing to the garden, sat
down in one of the arbor bridges, where they were joined by Malcolm
Everett, who naturally, and as a matter of course, appropriated Anna
to himself, Durward observed this, and when he saw them walk away
together, while 'Lena appeared wholly unconcerned, he began to think
that possibly Mrs. Livingstone was mistaken when she hinted of an
engagement between her niece and Mr. Everett. Knowing John Jr.'s
straightforward way of speaking, he determined to sound him, so he
said, "Your sister and Mr. Everett evidently prefer each other's
society to ours."
"Oh, yes," answered John. "I saw that years ago, when Anna wasn't
knee-high; and I'm glad of it, for Everett is a mighty fine fellow."
'Lena, too, united in praising her teacher, until Durward felt
certain that she had never entertained for him any feeling stronger
than that of friendship; and as to her flirting seriously with
Captain Atherton, the idea was too preposterous to be harbored for a
single moment. Once exonerated from these charges, it was strange
how fast 'Lena rose in his estimation, and when John Jr., with a loud
yawn, asked if they did not wish he would leave them alone, more in
earnest than in fun Durward replied, "Yes, yes, do."
"I reckon I will," said John, shaking down his tight pants, and
pulling at his long coat sleeves. "I never want anybody round when
I'm with Nellie Douglass."
So saying, he walked off, leaving Durward and 'Lena alone. That
neither of them felt at all sorry, was proved by the length of time
which they remained together, for when more than an hour afterward
Mrs. Graham proposed to Carrie to take a turn in the garden, she
found the young couple still in the arbor, so wholly engrossed that
they neither saw nor heard her until she stood before them.
'Lena was an excellent horsewoman, and Durward had just proposed a
ride early the next morning, when his mother, forcing down her wrath,
laid her hand on his shoulder, and as if the proposition had come
from 'Lena instead of her son, she said, "No, no, Miss Rivers,
Durward can't go--he has got to drive me over to Woodlawn, together
with Carrie and Anna, whom I have asked to accompany me; so you see
'twill be impossible for him to ride with you."
"Unless she goes with us," interrupted Durward. "You would like to
visit Woodlawn, would you not, Miss Rivers?"
"Oh, very much," was 'Lena's reply, while Mrs. Graham continued, "I
am sorry I cannot extend my invitation to Miss Rivers, but our
carriage will be full, and I cannot endure to be crowded."
"It has carried six many a time," said Durward, "and if she will go,
I will take you on my lap, or anywhere."
Of course 'Lena declined--he knew she would--and determined not to be
outwitted by his mother, whose aim he saw, he continued, "I shan't
release you from your engagement to ride with me. We will start
early and get back before mother is up, so our excursion will in no
way interfere with my driving her to Woodlawn after breakfast."
Mrs. Graham was too polite to raise any further objection, but
resolving not to leave them to finish their _tete-a-tete_, she threw
herself upon one of the seats, and commenced talking to her son,
while Carrie, burning with jealousy and vexation, started for the
house, where she laid her grievances before her mother, who, equally
enraged, declared her intention of "hereafter watching the vixen
"And she's going to ride with him to-morrow morning, you say. Well,
I fancy I can prevent that."
"How?" asked Carrie, eagerly, and her mother replied, "You know she
always rides Fleetfoot, which now, with the other horses, is in the
Grattan woods, two miles away. Of course she'll order Caesar to
bring him up to the stable, but I shall countermand that order,
bidding him say nothing to her about it. He dare not disobey me, and
when in the morning she asks for the pony, he can tell her just how
"Capital! capital!" exclaimed Carrie, never suspecting that there had
been a listener, even John Jr., who all the while was sitting in the
"Whew!" thought the young man. "Plotting, are they? Well, I'll see
how good I am at counterplotting."
So, slipping quietly out of the house, he went in quest of his
servant, Bill, telling him to go after Fleetfoot, whom he was to put
in the lower stable instead of the one where she was usually kept;
"and then in the morning, long before the sun is up," said he, "do
you have her at the door for one of the young ladies to ride."
"Yes, marster," answered Bill, looking around for his old straw hat.
"Now, see how quick you can go," John Jr. continued, adding as an
incentive to haste, that if Bill would get the pony stabled before
old Caesar, who had gone to Versailles, should return, he would give
him ten cents.
Bill needed no other inducement than the promise of money, and
without stopping to find his hat, he started off bare-headed, upon
the run, returning in the course of an hour and claiming his reward,
as Caesar had not yet got home.
"All right," said John Jr., tossing him the silver. "And now
remember to keep your tongue between your teeth."
Bill had kept too many secrets for his young master to think of
tattling about something which to him seemed of no consequence
whatever, and he walked off, eying his dime, and wishing he could
earn one so easily every day.
Meantime John Jr. sought out 'Lena, to whom he said, "And so you are
going to ride to-morrow morning?"
"How did you know ?" she asked, and John, looking very wise, replied,
that "little girls should not ask too many questions," adding, that
as he supposed she would of course want Fleetfoot, he had ordered
Bill to have her at the door early in the morning.
"Much obliged," answered 'Lena. "I was about giving it up when I
heard the pony was in the Grattan woods, for Caesar is so cross I
hated to ask him to go for her; but now I'll say nothing to him about
That night when Caesar was eating his supper in the kitchen, his
mistress suddenly appeared, asking, "if he had received any orders to
go for Fleetfoot."
The old negro, who was naturally cross, began to scowl, "No, miss,
and Lord knows I don't want to tote clar off to the Grattan woods
"You needn't, either, and if any one tells you to go don't you do
it," returned Mrs. Livingstone.
"Somebody's playin' possum, that's sartin," thought Bill, who was
present, and began putting things together. "Somebody's playin'
possum, but they don't catch this child leakin'."
"Have you told him?" whispered Carrie, meeting her mother in the hall.
Mrs. Livingstone nodded, adding in an undertone, that "she presumed
the ride was given up, as Lena had said nothing to Caesar about the
With her mind thus at ease, Carrie returned to the parlor, where she
commenced talking to Mrs. Graham of their projected visit to
Woodlawn, dwelling upon it as if it had been a tour to Europe, and
evidently exulting that 'Lena was to be left behind.
Next morning, long before the sun appeared above the eastern horizon,
Fleetfoot, attended by Bill, stood before the door saddled and
waiting for its young rider, while near by it was Firelock, which
Durward had borrowed of John Jr. At last 'Lena appeared, and if
Durward had admired her beauty before, his admiration was now greatly
increased when he saw how well she looked in her neatly fitting
riding dress and tasteful straw hat. After bidding her good morning,
he advanced to assist her in mounting, but declining his offer, she
with one bound sprang into the saddle,
"Jumps like a toad," said Bill. "Ain't stiff and clumsy like Miss
Carrie, who allus has to be done sot on."
At a word from Durward they galloped briskly away, the clatter of
their horses' hoofs arousing and bringing to the window Mrs. Graham,
who had a suspicion of what was going on. Pushing aside the silken
curtain, she looked uneasily after them, wondering if in reality her
son cared aught for the graceful creature at his side, and thinking
if he did, how hard she would labor to overcome his liking. Mrs.
Graham was not the only one who watched them, for fearing lest Bill
should not awake, John Jr. had foregone his morning nap, himself
calling up the negro, and now from his window he, too, looked after
them until they entered upon the turnpike and were lost to view.
Then, with some very complimentary reflections upon Lena's riding, he
returned to his pillow, thinking to himself, "There's a girl worth
having. By Jove, if I'd never seen Nellie Douglass, and 'Lena wasn't
my cousin, wouldn't I keep mother in the hysterics most of the time!"
On reaching the turnpike, Durward halted, while he asked 'Lena "where
she wished to go."
"Anywhere you please," said she, when, for reasons of his own, he
proposed that they should ride over to Woodlawn.
'Lena was certainly excusable if she felt a secret feeling of
satisfaction in thinking she was after all the first of the family to
visit Woodlawn, of which she had heard so much, that it seemed like a
perfect Eldorado. It was a grand old building, standing on a cross
road about three miles from the turnpike, and commanding quite an
extensive view of the country around. It was formerly owned by a
wealthy Englishman, who spent his winters in New Orleans and his
summers in the country. The year before he had died insolvent,
Woodlawn falling into the hands of his creditors, who now offered it
for sale, together with the gorgeous furniture which still remained
just as the family had left it. To the left of the building was a
large, handsome park, in which the former owner had kept a number of
deer, and now as Durward and 'Lena rode up and down the shaded
avenues, these graceful creatures would occasionally spring up and
bound away with the fleetness of the wind.
The garden and yard in front were laid out with perfect taste, the
former combining both the useful and the agreeable. A luxurious
grape-vine wreathed itself over the arched entrance, while the wide,
graveled walks were bordered, some with box, and others with choice
flowers, now choked and overgrown with weeds, but showing marks of
great beauty, when properly tended and cared for. At the extremity
of the principal walk, which extended the entire length of the
garden, was a summer house, fitted up with everything which could
make it attractive, during the sultry heat of summer, while farther
on through the little gate was a handsome grove or continuation of
the park, with many well-beaten paths winding through it and
terminating finally at the side of a tiny sheet of water, which
within a few years had forced itself through the limestone soil
natural to Kentucky.
Owing to some old feud, the English family had not been on visiting
terms with the Livingstones; consequently, 'Lena had never before
been at Woodlawn, and her admiration increased with every step, and
when at last they entered the house and stood within the elegant
drawing-rooms, it knew no bounds. She remembered the time when she
had thought her uncle's furniture splendid beyond anything in the
world, but it could not compare with the magnificence around her, and
for a few moments she stood as if transfixed with astonishment.
Durward had been highly amused at her enthusiastic remarks concerning
the grounds, and now noticing her silence, he asked "what was the
"Oh, I am half-afraid to speak, lest this beautiful room should prove
an illusion and fade away," said she.
"Is it then so much more beautiful than anything you ever saw
before?" he asked; and she replied, "Oh, yes, far more so," at the
same time giving him a laughable description of her amazement when
she first saw the inside of her uncle's house, and ending by saying,
"But you can imagine it all, for you saw me in the cars, and can
judge pretty well what were my ideas of the world."
Wishing to see if 'Lena would attempt to conceal her former humble
mode of living Durward said, "I have never heard anything concerning
your eastern home and how you lived there--will you please to tell
"There's nothing to tell which will interest you," answered 'Lena;
but Durward thought there was, and leading her to a sofa, he bade her
Durward had a peculiar way of making people do what he pleased, and
now at his bidding 'Lena told him of her mountain-home, with its
low-roof, bare walls, and oaken floors--of herself, when, a
bare-footed little girl, she picked _huckleberries_ with _Joel
Slocum_! And then, in lower and more subdued tones, she spoke of her
mother's grave in the valley, near which her beloved grandfather--the
only father she had ever known--was now sleeping. 'Lena never spoke
of her grandfather without weeping. She could not help it. Her
tears came naturally, as they did when first they told her he was
dead, and now laying her head upon the arm of the sofa, she sobbed
like a child.
Durward's sympathies were all enlisted, and without stopping to
consider the propriety or impropriety of the act, he drew her gently
toward him, trying to soothe her grief, calling her '_Lena_, and
smoothing back the curls which had fallen over her face. As soon as
possible 'Lena released herself from him, and drying her tears,
proposed that they should go over the house, as it was nearly time
for them to return home. Accordingly, they passed on through room
after room, 'Lena's quick eye taking in and appreciating everything
which she saw, while Durward was no less lost in admiration of her,
for speaking of herself so frankly as she had done. Many young
ladies, he well knew, would shrink from acknowledging that their home
was once in a brown, old-fashioned house among wild and rugged
mountains, and 'Lena's truthfulness in speaking not only of this, but
many similar things connected with her early history, inspired him
with a respect of her which he had never before felt for any young
lady of his acquaintance.
But little was said by either of them as they went over the house,
until Durward, prompted by something, he could not resist suddenly
asked his companion "how she would like to be mistress of Woodlawn?"
Had it been Carrie to whom this question was put, she would have
blushed and simpered, expecting nothing short of an immediate offer,
but 'Lena quickly replied, "Not at all," laughingly giving as an
insuperable objection, "the size of the house and the number of
windows she would have to wash!"
With a loud laugh Durward proposed that they should now return home,
and again mounting their horses, they started for Maple Grove, which
they reached just after the family had finished breakfast. With the
first ring of the bell, John Jr., eager not to lose an iota of what
might occur, was at the table, and when his mother and Carrie,
anxious at the non-appearance of Durward and 'Lena, cast wistful
glances toward each other, he very indifferently asked Mrs. Graham
"if her son had returned from his ride."
"I've not seen him," answered the lady, her scowl deepening and her
lower jaw dropping slightly, as it usually did when she was ill at
"Who's gone to ride?" asked Mr. Graham; and John Jr. replied that
Durward and 'Lena had been riding nearly two hours, adding, that
"they must find each other exceedingly interesting to be gone so
This last was for the express benefit of his mother, whose frown kept
company with Mrs. Graham's scowl. Chopping her steak into
mince-meat, and almost biting a piece from her cup as she sipped her
coffee, she at last found voice to ask, "what horse 'Lena rode!"
"Fleetfoot, of course," said John Jr., at the same time telling his
father he thought "he ought to give 'Lena a pony of her own, for she
was accounted the best rider in the county, and Fleetfoot was getting
old and clumsy."
The moment breakfast was over, Mrs. Livingstone went in quest of
Caesar, whom she abused for disobeying her orders, threatening him
with the calaboose, and anything else which came to her mind. Old
Caesar was taken by surprise, and being rather slow of speech, was
trying to think of something to say, when John Jr., who had followed
his mother, came to his aid, saying that "he himself had sent Bill
for Fleetfoot," and adding aside to his mother, that "the next time
she and Cad were plotting mischief he'd advise them to see who was in
the back parlor!"
Always ready to suspect 'Lena of evil, Mrs. Livingstone immediately
supposed it was she who had listened; but before she could frame a
reply, John Jr. walked off, leaving her undecided whether to cowhide
Caesar, 'Lena, or her son, the first of whom, taking advantage of the
pause followed the example of his young master and stole away. The
tramp of horses' feet was now heard, and Mrs. Livingstone, mentally
resolving that Fleetfoot should be sold, repaired to the door in time
to see Durward carefully lift 'Lena from her pony and place her upon
the ground. Mrs. Graham, Carrie, and Annie were all standing upon
the piazza, and as 'Lena came up the walk, her eyes sparkling and her
bright face glowing with exercise, Anna exclaimed, "Isn't she
beautiful?" at the same time asking her "where she had been."
"To Woodlawn," answered 'Lena.
"To Woodlawn!" repeated Mrs. Graham.
"To Woodlawn!" echoed Mrs. Livingstone, while Carrie brought up the
rear by exclaiming, "To Woodlawn! pray what took you there?"
"The pony," answered 'Lena, as she passed into the house.
Thinking it best to put Mrs. Graham on her guard, Mrs. Livingstone
said to her, in a low tone, "I would advise you to keep an eye upon
your son, if he is at all susceptible, for there is no bound to
Mrs. Graham made no direct reply, but the flashing of her little gray
eye was a sufficient answer, and satisfied with the result of her
caution, Mrs. Livingstone reentered the house. Two hours afterward,
the carriage stood at the door waiting to convey the party to
Woodlawn. It had been arranged that Mrs. Graham, Carrie, Anna, and
Durward should ride in the carriage, while Mr. Graham went on
horseback. Purposely, Carrie loitered behind her companions, who
being first, of course took the back seat, leaving her the privilege
of riding by the side of Durward. This was exactly what she wanted,
and leaning back on her elbow, she complacently awaited his coming.
But how was she chagrined, when, in his stead, appeared Mr. Graham,
who sprang into the carriage and took a seat beside her; saying to
his wife's look of inquiry, that as John Jr. had concluded to go,
Durward preferred riding on horseback with him, adding, in his
usually polite way, "And I, you know, would always rather go with the
ladies. But where is Miss Rivers?" he continued. "Why isn't she
"Simply because she wasn't invited, I suppose," returned his wife,
detecting the disappointment in his face.
"Not invited!" he repeated; "I didn't know as this trip was of
sufficient consequence to need a special invitation. I thought, of
course, she was here----"
"Or you would have gone on horseback," said his wife, ever ready to
catch at straws.
Mr. Graham saw the rising jealousy in time to repress the truthful:
answer--"Yes"--while he compromised the matter by saying that "the
presence of three fair ladies ought to satisfy him."
Carrie was too much disappointed even to smile, and during all the
ride she was extremely taciturn, hardly replying at all to Mr.
Graham's lively sallies, and winning golden laurels in the opinion of
Mrs. Graham, who secretly thought her husband altogether too
agreeable. As they turned into the long avenue which led to
Woodlawn, and Carrie thought of the ride which 'Lena had enjoyed
alone with its owner--for such was Durward reported to be--her heart
swelled with bitterness toward her cousin, in whom she saw a dreaded
rival. But when they reached the house, and Durward assisted her to
alight, keeping at her side while they walked over the grounds, her
jealousy vanished, and with her sweetest smile she looked up into his
face, affecting a world of childish simplicity, and making, as she
believed, a very favorable impression.
"I wonder if you are as much pleased with Woodlawn as your cousin,"
said Durward, noticing that her mind seemed to be more intent on
foreign subjects than the scenery around her.
"Oh, no, I dare say not," returned Carrie. "'Lena was never
accustomed to anything until she came to Kentucky, and now I suppose
she thinks she must go into ecstacies over everything, though I
sometimes wish she wouldn't betray her ignorance quite so often."
"According to her description, her home in Massachusetts was widely
different from her present one," said Durward, and Carrie quickly
replied, "I wonder now if she bored you with an account of her former
home! You must have been edified, and had a delightful ride, I
"And I assure you I never had a pleasanter one, for Miss Rivers is, I
think, an exceedingly agreeable companion," returned Durward,
beginning to see the drift of her remarks.
Here Mr. Graham called to his son, and excusing himself from Carrie,
he did not again return to her until it was time to go home.
Meantime, at Maple Grove, Mrs. Livingstone, in the worst possible
humor, was finding fault with poor 'Lena, accusing her of
eavesdropping, and asking her if she did not begin to believe the old
adage, that listeners never heard any good of themselves. In perfect
astonishment 'Lena demanded what she meant, saying she had never, to
her knowledge, been guilty of listening.
Without any explanation, whatever, Mrs. Livingstone declared herself
"satisfied now, for a person who would listen and then deny it, was
capable of almost anything."
"What do you mean, madam ?" said 'Lena, her temper getting the
ascendency. "Explain yourself, for no one shall accuse me of lying
without an attempt to prove it."
With a sneer Mrs. Livingstone replied, "I wonder what you can do!
Will you bring to your assistance some one of your numerous admirers?"
"Admirers! What admirers?" asked 'Lena, and her aunt replied, "I'll
give you credit for feigning the best of any one I ever saw, but you
can't deceive me. I know very well of your intrigues to entrap Mr.
Bellmont. But it is not strange that you should inherit something of
your mother's nature; and you know what she was!"
This was too much, and with eyes flashing fire through the glittering
tears, which shone like diamonds, 'Lena sprang to her feet,
exclaiming, "Yes, I do know what she was. She was a far more worthy
woman than you, and if in my presence you dare again breathe aught
against her name, you shall rue it----"
"That she shall, so help me heaven," murmured a voice near, which
neither Mrs. Livingstone nor 'Lena heard, nor were they aware of any
one's presence until Mr. Graham suddenly appeared in the doorway.
At his wife's request he had exchanged places with his son, and
riding on before the rest, had reached home first, being just in time
to overhear the last part of the conversation between Mrs.
Livingstone and 'Lena. Instantly changing her manner, Mrs.
Livingstone motioned her niece from the room, heaving a deep sigh as
the door closed after her, and saying that "none but those who had
tried it knew what a thankless job it was to rear the offspring of
There was a peculiar look in Mr. Graham's eyes, as he answered, "In
your case I will gladly relieve you, if my wife is willing. I have
taken a great fancy to Miss Rivers, and would like to adopt her as my
daughter. I will speak to Mrs. Graham to-night."
Much as she disliked 'Lena, Mrs. Livingstone would not for the world
have her become an inmate of Mr. Graham's family, where she would be
constantly thrown in Durward's way; and immediately changing her
tactics, she replied, "I thank you for your kind offer, but I know my
husband would not think of such a thing; neither should I be quite
willing for her to leave us, much as she troubles me."
Mr. Graham bowed stiffly, and left the house. That night, after he
had retired to his room, he seemed unusually distracted, pacing up
and down the apartment, occasionally pausing to gaze out into the
moonlit sky, and then resuming his measured tread. At last nerving
himself to brave the difficulty, he stopped before his wife, to whom
he made known his plan of adopting 'Lena.
"It seems hasty, I know," said he, "but she is just the kind of
person I would like to have round--just such a one as I would wish my
daughter to be if I had one. In short, I like her, and with your
consent I will adopt her as my own, and take her from this place
where I know she's not wanted. What say you, Lucy?"
"Will you adopt the old woman too?" asked Mrs. Graham, whose face was
turned away so as to hide its expression.
"That is an after consideration," returned her husband, "but if you
are willing, I will either take her to our home, or provide for her
elsewhere--but come, what do you say?"
All this time Mrs. Graham had sat bolt upright, her little dumpling
hands folded one within the other, the long transparent nails making
deep indentures in the soft flesh, and her gray eyes emitting _green_
gleams of scorn. The answer her husband sought came at length, and
was characteristic of the woman. Hissing out the words from between
her teeth, she replied, "When I take 'Lena Rivers into my family for
my husband and son to make love to, alternately, I shall be ready for
the lunatic asylum at Lexington."
"And what objection have you to her?" asked Mr. Graham; to which his
wife replied, "The very fact, sir, that you wish it, is a sufficient
reason why I will not have her; besides that, you must misjudge me
strangely if you think I'd be willing for my son to come daily in
contact with a girl of her doubtful parentage."
"What know you of her parentage?" said Mr. Graham, his lips turning
"Yes, what do I know?" answered his wife. "Her father, if she has
any, is a rascal, a villain----"
"Yes, yes, all of that," muttered Mr. Graham, while his wife
continued, "And her mother a poor, low, mean, ignorant----"
"Hold!" thundered Mr. Graham. "You shall not speak so of any woman
of whom you know nothing, much less of 'Lena Rivers' mother."
"And pray what do you know of her--is she an old acquaintance?" asked
Mrs. Graham, throwing into her manner as much of insolence as
"I know," returned Mr. Graham, "that 'Lena's mother could be nothing
else than respectable."
"Undoubtedly; but of this be assured--the daughter shall never, by my
permission, darken my doors," said Mrs. Graham, growing more and more
excited, and continuing--"I know you of old, Harry Graham; and I know
now that your great desire to secure Woodlawn was so as to be near
her, but it shan't be."
In her excitement, Mrs. Graham forgot that it was herself who had
first suggested Woodlawn as a residence, and that until within a day
or two her husband and 'Lena were entire strangers. But this made no
difference. She was bent upon being unreasonable, and for nearly an
hour she fretted and cried, declaring herself the most abused of her
sex, and wishing she had never seen her husband, who, in his heart,
warmly seconded that wish, wisely resolving not to mention the
offending 'Lena again in the presence of his wife.
The next day the bargain for Woodlawn was completed; after which, Mr.
and Mrs. Graham, together with Durward, returned to Louisville,
intending to take possession of their new home about the first of
MRS. GRAHAM AT HOME.
As the summer advanced, extensive preparations were commenced for
repairing Woodlawn, which was to be fitted up in a style suited to
the luxurious taste of its rightful owner, which, as report said, was
in reality Durward. He had conceived a fancy for the place five
years before, when visiting in the neighborhood, and on learning that
it was for sale, he had purchased it, at the suggestion of his
mother, proposing to his father that for a time, at least, he should
be its nominal possessor. What reason he had for this he hardly knew
himself, unless it was that he disliked being flattered as a man of
great wealth, choosing rather to be esteemed for what he really was.
And, indeed, few of his age were more generally beloved than was he.
Courteous, kind-hearted, and generous almost to a fault, he gained
friends wherever he went, and it was with some reason that Mrs.
Graham thought herself blessed above mothers, in the possession of
such a son. "He is so like me," she would say, in speaking of his
many virtues, when, in fact, there was scarcely anything in common
between them, for nearly all of Durward's sterling qualities were
either inherited from his own father, or the result of many years'
companionship with his stepfather. Possessed of the most exquisite
taste, he exercised it in the arrangement of Woodlawn, which, under
his skillful management, began in a few weeks to assume a more
beautiful appearance than it had ever before worn.
Once in two weeks either Mr. Graham or Durward came out to see how
matters were progressing, the latter usually accepting Mrs.
Livingstone's pressing invitation to make her house his home. This
he was the more willing to do, as it threw him into the society of
'Lena, who was fast becoming an object of absorbing interest to him.
The more he saw of her, the more was his admiration increased, and
oftentimes, when joked concerning his preference for Carrie, he
smiled to think how people were deceived, determining, however, to
keep his own secret until such time as he should be convinced that
'Lena was all he could desire in a wife. For her poverty and humble
birth he cared nothing. If she were poor, he was rich, and he
possessed too much good sense to deem himself better than she,
because the blood of a nobleman flowed in his veins. He knew that
she was highly gifted and beautiful, and could he be assured that she
was equally true-hearted, he would not hesitate a moment.
But Mrs. Livingstone's insinuation that she was a heartless coquette,
troubled him, and though he could not believe it without more proof
than he had yet received, he determined to wait and watch, studying
her character, the while, to see if there was in her aught of evil.
In this state of affairs, it was hardly more than natural that his
manner toward her should be rather more reserved than that which he
assumed toward Carrie, for whom he cared nothing, and with whom he
talked laughed, and rode, forgetting her the moment she was out of
his sight, and never suspecting how much importance she attached to
his every word and look, construing into tokens of admiration the
most casual remark, such as he would utter to any one. This was of
advantage to 'Lena, for, secure of their prize, both Mrs. Livingstone
and Carrie, for a time, at least, ceased to persecute her, seldom
speaking of her in Durward's presence, and, as a general thing,
acting as though she were not in existence.
John Jr., too, who had imposed upon himself the duty of watching his
mother and sister, seeing no signs of hostility, now withdrew his
espionage, amusing himself, instead, by galloping three times a week
over to Frankfort, the home of Nellie Douglass, and by keeping an eye
upon Captain Atherton, who, as a spider would watch a fly, was lying
in wait for the unsuspecting Anna.
At last all was in readiness at Woodlawn for the reception of Mrs.
Graham, who came up early in October, bringing with her a larger
train of house servants than was often seen in Woodford county.
About three weeks after her arrival, invitations were issued for a
party or "house warming," as the negroes termed it. Nero, Durward's
valet, brought the tiny notes to Mr. Livingstone's, giving them into
the care of Carrie, who took them immediately to her mother's room.
"It's Durward's handwriting," said she, glancing at the
superscriptions, and reading as she did so--"Mr. and Mrs.
Livingstone"--"Mr. John Livingstone, Jr."--"Miss Carrie
Livingstone"--"Miss Anna Livingstone"--"_Miss 'Lena Rivers_;" and
here she stopped, in utter dismay, continuing, as her mother looked
up inquiringly--"And as I live, one for _grandma_--'MRS. MARTHA
"Impossible!" exclaimed Mrs. Livingstone, reaching out her hand for
the billet. "Yes, 'tis Mrs. Martha Nichols!--what can it mean?"
A peep behind the scenes would have told her what it meant. For once
in his life Mr. Graham had exercised the right of being master in his
own house, declaring that if Mrs. Nichols were not invited with the
family, there should be no party at all. Mrs. Graham saw that he was
in earnest, and yielded the point, knowing that in all probability
the old lady would not be permitted to attend. Her husband had
expected a like opposition with regard to 'Lena, but he was
disappointed, for his wife, forgetting her declaration that 'Lena
should never darken her doors and thinking it would not do to slight
her, consented that, on her uncle's account, she should be invited.
Accordingly, the notes were despatched, producing the effect we have
"How perfectly ridiculous to invite grandma!" said Carrie. "It's bad
enough to have 'Lena stuck in with us, for of course _she'll_ go."
"Why of course?" asked Mrs. Livingstone. "The invitations are at my
disposal now; and if I choose to withhold two of them, no one will be
blamed but Nero, who was careless and dropped them! 'Lena has
nothing decent to wear, and I don't feel like expending much more for
a person so ungrateful as she is. You ought to have heard how
impudent she was that time you all went to Woodlawn."
Then followed a one-sided description of that morning's occurrence,
Mrs. Livingstone working herself up to such a pitch of excitement,
that before her recital was finished, she had determined at all
events to keep back 'Lena's invitation, as a method of punishing her
for her "insolence," as she termed it.
"Mrs. Graham will thank me for it, I know," said she, "for she cannot
endure her; and besides that, I don't think 'Lena expects to be
invited, so there's no harm done."
Carrie was not yet quite so hardened as her mother, and for a moment
her better nature shrank from so mean a transaction, which might,
after all, be found out, involving them in a still worse difficulty;
but as the thought flashed upon her that possibly 'Lena might again
attract Durward toward her, she assented, and they were about putting
the notes aside, when John Jr. came in, catching up his
grandmother's note the first thing, and exclaiming, "Oh,
_rich_!--_capital_! I hope she'll go!" Then, before his mother could
interpose a word, he darted away in quest of Mrs. Nichols, whose
surprise was fully equal to that of Mrs. Livingstone and Carrie.
"Now, you don't say I've got an invite," said she, leaving the
darning-needle in the stocking-heel which she was mending, and wiping
her steel-bowed spectacles. "Come, 'Leny, you read it, that's a good
'Lena complied, and taking the note from her cousin's hand, read that
Mrs. Graham would be at home Thursday evening, etc.
"But where's the invite? That don't say anything about _me_!" said
Mrs. Nichols, beginning to fear that it was a humbug after all.
As well as they could, 'Lena and John Jr. explained it to her, and
then, fully convinced that she was really invited, Mrs. Nichols began
to wonder what she should wear, and how she should go, asking John
"if he couldn't tackle up and carry her in the shay," as she called
the single buggy.
"Certainly," answered John Jr. willing to do anything for the sake
of the fun which he knew would ensue from his grandmother's
'Lena thought otherwise, for much as she desired to gratify her
grandmother, she would not for the world expose her to the ridicule
which her appearance at a fashionable party would call forth.
Glancing reprovingly at her cousin, she said, "I wouldn't think of
going, grandma, for you are lame and old, and there'll be so many
people there, all strangers, too, that you won't enjoy it at all.
Besides that, we'll have a nice time at home together---I'll read to
you all the evening."
"_We_," repeated John Jr. "Pray, are you not going?"
"Not without an invitation," said 'Lena smilingly.
"True, true," returned her cousin. "It's downstairs, I dare say. I
only stopped to look at this. I'll go and get yours now."
Suiting the action to the word, he descended to his mother's room,
asking for "'Lena's card."
"'Lena's card! What do you mean?" said Mrs. Livingstone, looking up
from the book she was reading, while Carrie for a moment suspended
"'Lena's invitation; you know well enough what I mean," returned John
Jr., tumbling over the notes which lay upon the table, and failing to
find the one for which he was seeking.
"You'll have to ask Mrs. Graham for it, I presume, as it's not here,"
was Mrs. Livingstone's quiet answer.
"Thunder!" roared John Jr., "'Lena not invited! That's a smart
caper. But there's some mistake about it, I know. Who brought them?"
"Nero brought them," said Carrie, "and I think it is strange that
grandmother should be invited and 'Lena left out. But I suppose Mrs.
Graham has her reasons. She don't seem to fancy 'Lena much."
"Mrs. Graham go to grass," muttered John Jr., leaving the room and
slamming the door after him with great violence.
'Twas a pity he did not look in one of the drawers of his mother's
work-box, for there, safe and sound, lay the missing note! But he
did not think of that. He only knew that 'Lena was slighted, and for
the next two hours he raved and fretted, sometimes declaring he would
not go, and again wishing Mrs. Graham in a temperature but little
suited to her round, fat proportions.
"Wall, if they feel too big to invite 'Leny, they needn't expect to
see me there, that's just all there is about it," said grandma,
settling herself in her rocking-chair, and telling 'Lena "she
wouldn't care an atom if she's in her place."
But 'Lena did care. No one likes to be slighted, and she was not an
exception to the general rule. Owing to her aunt's skillful
management she had never yet attended a large party, and it was but
natural that she should now wish to go. But it could not be, and she
was obliged to content herself with the hopes of a minute description
from Anna; Carrie she would not trust, for she well knew that
whatever she told would be greatly exaggerated.
Mrs. Graham undoubtedly wished to give her friends ample time to
prepare, for her invitations were issued nearly a week in advance.
This suited Carrie, who had a longer time to decide upon what would
be becoming, and when at last a decision was made, she could do
nothing but talk about her dress, which really was beautiful,
consisting of a pink and white silk, with an over-skirt of soft, rich
lace. This, after it was completed, was tried on at least half a
dozen times, and the effect carefully studied before the long mirror.
Anna, who cared much less for dress than her sister, decided upon a
black flounced skirt and velvet basque. This was Mr. Everett's
taste, and whatever suited him suited her.
"I do think it's too bad that 'Lena is not invited," said she one
day, when Carrie, as usual, was discussing the party. "She would
enjoy it so much. I don't understand, either, why she is omitted,
for Mr. Graham seemed to like her, and Durward too----"
"A great ways off, you mean," interrupted Carrie. "For my part, I
see nothing strange in the omission. It is no worse to leave her out
than scores of others who will not be invited."
"But to come into the house and ask all but her," said Anna. "It
does not seem right. She is as good as we are."
"That's as people think," returned Carrie, while John Jr., who was
just going out to ride, and had stopped a moment at the door,
exclaimed, "Zounds, Cad, I wonder if you fancy yourself better than
'Lena Rivers. If you do, you are the only one that thinks so. Why,
you can't begin to compare with her, and it's a confounded shame that
she isn't invited, and so I shall tell them if I have a good chance."
"You'll look smart fishing for an invitation, won't you?" said
Carrie, her fears instantly aroused, but John Jr. was out of her
hearing almost before the words were uttered.
Mounting Firelock, he started off for Versailles, falling in with
Durward, who was bound for the same place. After the usual greetings
were exchanged, Durward said, "I suppose you are all coming on
"Yes," returned John Jr., "I believe the old folks, Cad, and Anna
intend doing so."
"But where's Miss Rivers? Doesn't she honor us with her presence?"
asked Durward, in some concern.
John Jr.'s first impulse, as he afterwards said, was "to knock him
off from his horse," but a second thought convinced him there might
be some mistake; so he replied that "it was hardly to be supposed
Miss Rivers would attend without an invitation--she wasn't quite so
verdant as that!"
"Without an invitation!" repeated Durward, stopping short in the
road. "'Lena not invited! It isn't so! I directed one to her
myself, and gave it to Nero, together with the rest which were
designed for your family. He must have lost it. I'll ask him the
moment I get home, and see that it is all made right. She must come,
any way, for I wouldn't give----"
Here he stopped, as if he had said too much, but John Jr. finished
the sentence for him.
"Wouldn't give a picayune for the whole affair without her--that's
what you mean, and why not say so? I speak right out about Nellie,
and she isn't one half as handsome as 'Lena."
"It isn't 'Lena's beauty that I admire altogether," returned Durward.
"I like her for her frankness, and because I think her conduct is
actuated by the best of principles; perhaps I am mistaken----"
"No, you are not," again interrupted John Jr., "'Lena is just what
she seems to be. There's no deception in her. She isn't one thing
to-day and another to-morrow. Spunky as the old Nick, you know, but
still she governs her temper admirably, and between you and me, I
know I'm a better man than I should have been had she never come to
live with us. How well I remember the first time I saw her," he
continued, repeating to Durward the particulars of their interview in
Lexington, and describing her introduction to his sisters. "From the
moment she refused to tell that lie for me, I liked her," said he,
"and when she dealt me that blow in my face, my admiration was
Durward thought he could dispense with the blow, but he laughed
heartily at John's description of his spirited cousin, thinking, too,
how different was his opinion of her from that which his mother
evidently entertained. Still, if Mrs. Livingstone was prejudiced,
John Jr. might also be somewhat biased, so he would not yet make up
his mind; but on one thing he was resolved--she should be invited,
and for fear of contingencies, he would carry the card himself.
Accordingly, on his return home, Nero was closely questioned, and
negro-like, called down all manner of evil upon himself "if he done
drapped the note any whar. 'Strue as I live and breathe, Mas'r
Bellmont," said he, "I done carried Miss 'Leny's invite with the
rest, and guv 'em all to the young lady with the big nose!"
Had Durward understood Mrs. Livingstone a little better, he might
have believed him; but now it was but natural for him to suppose that
Nero had accidentally dropped it. So he wrote another, taking it
himself, and asking for "Miss Rivers." Carrie, who was in the parlor
and saw him coming up to the house, instantly flew to the glass,
smoothing her collar, puffing out her hair a little more, pinching
her cheek, which was not quite so red as usual, and wishing that she
was alone. But unfortunately, both Anna and 'Lena were present, and
as there was no means of being rid of them, she retained her seat at
the piano, carelessly turning over the leaves of her music book, when
the door opened and Corinda, not Durward, appeared.
"If you please, Miss 'Lena," said the girl, "Marster Bellmont want to
speak with you in the hall."
"With 'Lena! How funny!" exclaimed Carrie. "Are you sure it was
"Yes, sure--he done ask for Miss Rivers."
"Ask him in, why don't you?" said Carrie, suspecting his errand, and
thinking to keep herself from all suspicion by appearing "wonderfully
pleased" that 'Lena was not intentionally neglected. Before Corinda
could reply, 'Lena had stepped into the hall, and was standing face
to face with Durward, who retained her hand, while he asked if "she
really believed they, intended to slight her," at the same time
explaining how it came to his knowledge, and saying "he hoped she
would not fail to attend."
'Lena hesitated, but he pressed her so hard, saying he should surely
think she distrusted them if she refused, that she finally consented,
and he took his leave, playfully threatening to come for her himself
if she were not there with the rest.
"You feel better, now, don't you ?" said Carrie with a sneer, as
'Lena re-entered the parlor.
"Yes, a great deal," was 'Lena's truthful answer.
"Oh, I'm real glad!" exclaimed Anna. "I most knew 'twas a mistake
all the time, and I did so want you to go. What will you wear? Let
me see. Why, you haven't got anything suitable, have you?"
This was true, for 'Lena had nothing fit for the occasion, and she
was beginning to wish she had not been invited, when her uncle came
in, and to him Anna forthwith stated the case, saying 'Lena must have
a new dress, and suggesting embroidered muslin.
"How ridiculous!" muttered Carrie, thrumming away at the piano.
"There's no time to make dresses now. They should have invited her
"Isn't Miss Simpson still here?" asked her father.
Anna replied that she was, and then turning to 'Lena, Mr. Livingstone
asked if "she wanted to go very much."
The tears which shone in her eyes were a sufficient answer, and when
at supper that night, inquiry was made for Mr. Livingstone, it was
said that he had gone to Frankfort.
"To Frankfort!" repeated his wife. "What has he gone there for?"
No one knew until late in the evening, when he returned home,
bringing with him 'Lena's dress, which Anna pronounced "the sweetest
thing she ever saw," at the same time running with it to her cousin.
There was company in the parlor, which for a time kept down the
gathering storm in Mrs. Livingstone's face, but the moment they were
gone, and she was alone with her husband in their room, it burst
forth, and in angry tones she demanded "what he meant by spending her
money in that way, and without her consent?"
Before making any reply, Mr. Livingstone stepped to her work-box, and
opening the little drawer, held to view the missing note. Then
turning to his wife, whose face was very pale, he said, "This morning
I made a discovery which exonerates Nero from all blame. I
understand it fully, and while I knew you were capable of almost
anything, I must say I did not think you would be guilty of quite so
mean an act. Stay," he continued, as he saw her about to speak, "you
are my wife, and as 'Lena is at last invited, your secret is safe,
but remember, it must not be repeated. You understand me, do you?"
Mrs. Livingstone was struck dumb with mortification and
astonishment--the first, that she was detected, and the last, that
her husband dare assume such language toward her. But he had her in
his power--she knew that--and for a time it rendered her very docile,
causing her to consult with Miss Simpson concerning the fitting of
'Lena's dress, herself standing by when it was done, and suggesting
one or two improvements, until 'Lena, perfectly bewildered, wondered
what had come over her aunt, that she should be so unusually kind.
Carrie, too, learning from her mother how matters stood, thought
proper to change her manner, and while in her heart she hoped
something would occur to keep 'Lena at home, she loudly expressed her
pleasure that she was going, offering to lend her several little
ornaments, and doing many things which puzzled 'Lena, who readily saw
that she was feigning what she did not feel.
Meanwhile, grandma, learning that 'Lena was invited, declared her
intention of going. "I shouldn't of gin up in the first on't," said
she, "only I wanted to show 'em proper resentment; but now it's
different, and I'll go, anyway--'Tilda may say what she's a mind to."
It was in vain that 'Lena reasoned the case. Grandma was decided,
and it was not until both her son and daughter interfered, the one
advising and the other commanding her to stay at home, that she
yielded with a burst of tears, for grandma was now in her second
childhood, and easily moved. It was terrible to 'Lena to see her
grandmother weep, and twining her arms around her neck, she tried to
soothe her, saying, "she would willingly stay at home with her if she
Mrs. Nichols was not selfish enough to suffer this. "No, 'Leny,"
said she, "I want you to go and enjoy yourself while you are young,
for you'll sometime be old and in the way;" and the old creature
covered her face with her shriveled hands and wept.
But she was of too cheerful a nature long to remember grief, and
drying her tears, she soon forgot her trouble in the pride and
satisfaction which she felt when she saw how well the white muslin
became 'Lena, who, John Jr., said, never looked so beautifully as she
did when arrayed for the party. Mr. Livingstone had not been sparing
of his money when he purchased the party dress, which was a richly
embroidered muslin, and fell in soft folds around 'Lena's graceful
figure. Her long flowing curls were intertwined with a few natural
flowers, her only attempt at ornament of any kind, and, indeed,
ornaments would have been sadly out of place on 'Lena'.
It was between nine and ten when the party from Maple Grove reached
Woodlawn, where they found a large company assembled, some in the
drawing-rooms below, and others still lingering at the toilet in the
dressing chamber. Among these last were Nellie Douglass and Mabel
Ross, the latter of whom Mrs. Livingstone was perfectly delighted to
see, overwhelming her with caresses, and urging her to stop for
awhile at Maple Grove.
"I shall be so glad to have you with us, and the country air will do
you so much good, that you must not refuse," said she, pinching
Mabel's sallow cheek, and stroking her straight, glossy hair, which,
in contrast with the bandeau of pearls that she wore, looked dark as
Spite of her wealth, Mabel had long been accustomed to neglect, and
there was something so kind in Mrs. Livingstone's _motherly_
demeanor, that the heart of the young orphan warmed toward her, and
tears glittered in her large, mournful eyes, the only beauty, save
her hair, of which she could boast. Very few had ever cared for poor
Mabel, who, though warm-hearted and affectionate, required to be
known in order to be appreciated, and as she was naturally shy and
retiring, there were not many who felt at all acquainted with her.
Left alone in the world at a very early age, she had never known what
it was to possess a real, disinterested friend, unless we except
Nellie Douglass, who, while there was nothing congenial between them,
had always tried to treat Mabel as she herself would wish to be
treated, were she in like circumstances.
Many had professed friendship for the sake of the gain which they
knew would accrue, for she was generous to a fault, bestowing with a
lavish hand upon those whom she loved, and who had too often proved
false, denouncing her as utterly spiritless and insipid. So often
had she been deceived, that now, at the age of eighteen, she had
learned to distrust her fellow creatures, and oftentimes in secret
would she weep bitterly over her lonely condition, lamenting the
plain face and unattractive manners, which she fancied rendered her
an object of dislike. Still there was about her a depth of feeling
of which none had ever dreamed, and it only required a skillful hand
to mold her into an altogether different being. She was, perhaps,
too easily influenced, for in spite of her distrust, a pleasant word
or kind look would win her to almost anything.
Of this weakness Mrs. Livingstone seemed well aware, and for the
better accomplishment of her plan, she deemed it necessary that Mabel
should believe her to be the best friend she had in the world.
Accordingly, she now flattered and petted her, calling her "darling,"
and "dearest," and urging her to stop at Maple Grove, until she
consented, "provided Nellie Douglas were willing."
"Oh, I don't care," answered Nellie, whose gay, dashing disposition
poorly accorded with the listless, sickly Mabel, and who felt it
rather a relief than otherwise to be rid of her.
So it was decided that she should stay at Maple Grove, and then Mrs.
Livingstone, passing her arm around her waist, whispered, "Go down
with me," at the same time starting for the parlor, followed by her
daughters, Nellie, and 'Lena. In the hall they met with John Jr. He
had heard Nellie's voice, and stationing himself at the head of the
stairs, was waiting her appearance.
"Miss Ross," said Mrs. Livingstone to her son, at the same time
indicating her willingness to give her into his care.
But John Jr. would not take the hint. Bowing stiffly to Mabel, he
passed on toward Nellie, in his eagerness stepping on Carrie's train
and drawing from her an exclamation of anger at his awkwardness.
Mrs. Livingstone glanced backward just in time to see the look of
affection with which her son regarded Nellie, as she placed her soft
hand confidingly upon his arm, and gazed upward smilingly into his
face. She dared not slight Miss Douglass in public, but with a
mental invective against her, she drew Mabel closer to her side, and
smoothing down the heavy folds of her _moire antique_, entered the
drawing-room, which was brilliantly lighted, and filled with the
beauty and fashion of Lexington, Frankfort, and Versailles.
At the door they met Durward, who, as he took 'Lena's hand, said, "It
is well you remembered your promise, for I was about starting after
you." This observation did not escape Mrs. Livingstone, who, besides
having her son and Nellie under her special cognizance, had also an
eye upon her niece and Anna. Her espionage of the latter, however,
was not needed immediately, owing to her being straightway
appropriated by Captain Atherton, who, in dainty white kids, and vest
to match (the color not the material), strutted back and forth with
Anna tucked under his arm, until the poor girl was ready to cry with
When the guests had nearly all arrived, both Mr. Graham and Durward
started for 'Lena, the latter reaching her first, and paying her so
many little attentions, that the curiosity of others was aroused, and
frequently was the question asked, "Who is she, the beautiful young
lady in white muslin and curls?"
Nothing of all this escaped Mrs. Livingstone, and once, in passing
near her niece, she managed to whisper, "For heaven's sake don't show
your ignorance of etiquette by taxing Mr. Bellmont's good nature any
longer. It's very improper to claim any one's attention so long, and
you are calling forth remarks."
Then quickly changing the whisper into her softest tones, she said to
Durward, "How _can_ you resist such beseeching glances as those
ladies send toward you?" nodding to a group of girls of which Carrie
'Lena colored scarlet, and gazed wistfully around the room in quest
of some other shelter when Durward should relinquish her, as she felt
he would surely do, but none presented itself. Her uncle was playing
the agreeable to Miss Atherton, Mr. Graham to some other lady, while
John Jr. kept closely at Nellie's side, forgetful of all else.
"What shall I do?" said 'Lena, unconsciously and half aloud.
"Stay with me," answered Durward, drawing her hand further within his
arm, and bending upon her a look of admiration which she could not
Several times they passed and repassed Mrs. Graham, who was highly
incensed at her son's proceedings, and at last actually asked him "if
he did not intend noticing anyone except Miss Rivers," adding, as an
apology for her rudeness (for Mrs. Graham prided herself upon being
very polite in her own house), "she has charms enough to win a dozen
gallants, but there are others here who need attention from you.
There's Miss Livingstone, you've hardly spoken with her to-night."
Thus importuned, Durward released 'Lena and walked away, attaching
himself to Carrie, who clung to him closer, if possible, than did the
old captain to Anna. About this time Mr. Everett came. He had been
necessarily detained, and now, after paying his respects to the host
and hostess, he started in quest of Anna, who was still held "in
durance vile" by the captain. But the moment she saw Malcolm, she
uttered a low exclamation of joy, and without a single apology, broke
abruptly away from her ancient cavalier, whose little watery eyes
looked daggers after her for an instant; then consoling himself with
the reflection that he was tolerably sure of her, do what she would,
he walked up to her mother, kindly relieving her for a time of her
charge, who was becoming rather tiresome. Frequently, by nods,
winks, and frowns, had Mrs. Livingstone tried to bring her son to a
sense of his improper conduct in devoting himself exclusively to one
individual, and neglecting all others.
But her efforts were all in vain. John Jr. was incorrigible, slyly
whispering to Nellie, that "he had no idea of beauing a medicine
chest." This he said, referring to Mabel's ill health, for among his
other oddities, John Jr. had a particular aversion to sickly ladies.
Of course Nellie reproved him for his unkind remarks, at the same
time warmly defending Mabel, "who," she said, "had been delicate from
infancy, and suffered far more than was generally suspected."
"Let her stay at home, then," was John Jr.'s answer, as he led Nellie
toward the supper-room, which the company were just then entering.
About an hour after supper the guests began to leave, Mrs.
Livingstone being the first to propose going. As she was ascending
the stairs, John Jr. observed that Mabel was with her, and turning to
'Lena, who now leaned on his arm, he said, "There goes the future
Mrs. John Jr.--so mother thinks!"
"Where?" asked 'Lena, looking around.
"Why, there," continued John, pointing toward Mabel. "Haven't you
noticed with what parental solicitude mother watches over her?"
"I saw them together," answered 'Lena, "and I thought it very kind in
my aunt, for no one else seemed to notice her, and I felt sorry for
her. She is going home with us, I believe.",
"Going home with _us_!" repeated John Jr. "In the name of the
people, what is she going home with us for?"
"Why," returned 'Lena, "your mother thinks the country air will do
"_Un_-doubtedly," said John, with a sneer. "Mother's motives are
usually very disinterested. I wonder she don't propose to the old
captain to take up _his_ quarters with us, so she can nurse him!"
With this state of feeling, it was hardly natural that John Jr.
should be very polite toward Mabel, and when his mother asked him to
help her into the carriage, he complied so ungraciously, that Mabel
observed it, and looked wonderingly at her _patroness_ for an
"Only one of his freaks, love--he'll get over it," said Mrs.
Livingstone, while poor Mabel, sinking back amoung the cushions, wept
silently, thinking that everybody hated her.
When 'Lena came down to bid her host and hostess good-night, the
former retained her hand, while he expressed his sorrow at her
leaving so soon. "I meant to have seen more of you," said he, "but
you must visit us often--will you not?"
Neither the action nor the words escaped Mrs. Graham's observation,
and the lecture which she that night read her offending spouse, had
the effect to keep him awake until the morning was growing gray in
the east. Then, when he was asleep, he so far forgot himself and the
wide-open ears beside him as actually to breathe the name of 'Lena in
Mrs. Graham needed no farther confirmation of her suspicions, and at
the breakfast-table next morning, she gave her son a lengthened
account of her husband's great sin in dreaming of a young girl, and
that girl 'Lena Rivers. Durward laughed heartily and then, either to
tease his mother, or to make his father's guilt less heinous in her
eyes, he replied, "It is a little singular that our minds should run
in the same channel, for, I, too, dreamed of 'Lena Rivers!"
Poor Mrs. Graham. A double task was now imposed upon her--that of
watching both husband and son; but she was accustomed to it, for her
life, since her second marriage, had been one continued series of
watching for evil where there was none. And now, with a growing
hatred toward 'Lena, she determined to increase her vigilance,
feeling sure she should discover something if she only continued
faithful to the end.
The morning following the party, Mr. Livingstone's family were
assembled in the parlor, discussing the various events of the
previous night. John Jr., 'Lena, and Anna declared themselves to
have been highly pleased with everything, while Carrie in the worst
of humors, pronounced it "a perfect bore," saying she never had so
disagreeable a time in all her life, and ending her ill-natured
remarks by a malicious thrust at 'Lena, for having so long kept Mr.
Bellmont at her side.
"I suppose you fancy he would have looked better with you, but I
think he showed his good taste by preferring 'Lena," said John Jr.;
then turning toward the large easy-chair, where Mabel sat, pale,
weary, and spiritless, he asked "how she had enjoyed herself."
With the exception of his accustomed "good-morning," this was the
first time he had that day addressed her, and it was so unexpected,
that it brought a bright glow to her cheek, making John Jr. think she
was "not so horribly ugly after all."
But she was very unfortunate in her answer, which was, "that on
account of her ill health, she seldom enjoyed anything of the kind."
Then pressing her hand upon her forehead, she continued, "My head is
aching dreadfully, as a punishment for last night's dissipation."
Three times before, he had heard her speak of her aching head, and
now, with an impatient gesture, he was turning away, when his mother
said, "Poor girl, she really looks miserable. I think a ride would
do her good. Suppose you take her with you--I heard you say you were
going to Versailles."
If there was anything in which Mabel excelled, it was horsemanship,
she being a better rider, if possible; than 'Lena, and now, at Mrs.
Livingstone's proposition, she looked up eagerly at John Jr., who
"Oh, hang it all! mother, I can't always be bothered with a girl;"
then as he saw how Mabel's countenance fell, he continued, "Let 'Lena
ride with her--she wants to, I know."
"Certainly," said 'Lena, whose heart warmed toward the orphan girl,
partly because she was an orphan, and partly because she saw that she
was neglected and unloved.
As yet Mabel cared nothing for John Jr., nor even suspected his
mother's object in detaining her as a guest. So when 'Lena was
proposed as a substitute she seemed equally well pleased, and the
young man, as he walked off to order the ponies, mentally termed
himself a bear for his rudeness; "for after all," thought he, "it's
mother who has designs upon me, not Mabel. She isn't to blame."
This opinion once satisfactorily settled, it was strange how soon
John Jr. began to be sociable with Mabel, finding her much more
agreeable than he had at first supposed, and even acknowledging to
'Lena that "she was a good deal of a girl, after all, were it not for
her everlasting headaches and the smell of medicine," which he
declared she always carried about with her.
"Hush-sh," said 'Lena--"you shan't talk so, for she is sick a great
deal, and she does not feign it, either."
"Perhaps not," returned John Jr., "but she can at least keep her
_miserable feelings_ to herself. Nobody wants to know how many times
she's been blistered and bled!"
Still John Jr. acknowledged that there were somethings in Mabel which
he liked, for no one could live long with her and not admire her
gentleness and uncommon sweetness of disposition, which manifested
itself in numerous little acts of kindness to those around her.
Never before in her life had she been so constantly associated with a
young gentleman, and as she was quite susceptible, it is hardly more
than natural that erelong thoughts of John Jr. mingled in both her
sleeping and waking dreams. She could not understand him, but the
more his changeful moods puzzled her, the more she felt interested in
him, and her eyes would alternately sparkle at a kind word from him,
or fill with tears at the abruptness of his speeches; while he seemed
to take special delight in seeing how easily he could move her from
one extreme to the other.
Silently Mrs. Livingstone looked on, carefully noting each change,
and warily calculating its result. Not once since Mabel became an
inmate of her family had she mentioned her to her son, for she deemed
it best to wait, and let matters take their course. But at last,
anxious to know his real opinion, she determined to sound him.
Accordingly, one day when they were alone, she spoke of Mabel, asking
him if he did not think she improved upon acquaintance, at the same
time enumerating her many excellent qualities, and saying that
whoever married her would get a prize, to say nothing of a fortune.
Quickly comprehending the drift of her remarks, John Jr. replied, "I
dare say, and whoever wishes for both prize and fortune, is welcome
to them for all me."
"I thought you liked Mabel," said his mother; and John answered, "So
I do like her, but for pity's sake, is a man obliged to marry every
girl he likes? Mabel does very well to tease and amuse one, but when
you come to the marrying part, why, that's another thing."
"And what objection have you to her," continued his mother, growing
very fidgety and red.
"Several," returned John, "She has altogether too many aches and
pains to suit me; then she has no spirit whatever; and last, but not
least, I like somebody else. So, mother mine, you may as well give
up all hopes of that hundred thousand down in Alabama, for I shall
never marry Mabel Ross, never."
Mrs. Livingstone was now not only red and fidgety but very angry,
and, in an elevated tone of voice, she said, "I s'pose it's Nellie
Douglass you mean, but if you knew all of her that I do, I reckon----"
Here she paused, insinuating that she could tell something dreadful,
if she would! But John Jr. took no notice of her hints, and when he
got a chance, he replied, "You are quite a Yankee at guessing, for if
Nellie will have me, I surely will have her."
"Marry her, then," retorted his mother--"marry her with all her
poverty, but for heaven's sake, don't give so much encouragement to a
poor defenseless girl."
Wishing Mabel in Guinea, and declaring he'd neither speak to nor look
at her again, if common civilities were construed into encouragement,
John Jr. strode out of the room, determining, as the surest method of
ending the trouble, to go forthwith to Nellie, and in a plain,
straight-forward way make her an offer of himself. With him, to will
was to do, and in about an hour he was descending the long hill which
leads into Frankfort. Unfortunately, Nellie had gone for a few weeks
to Madison, and again mounting Firelock, the young man galloped back,
reaching home just as the family were sitting down to supper. Not
feeling hungry, and wishing to avoid, as long as possible, the sight
of his mother and Mabel, whom he believed were leagued against him,
he repaired to the parlor, whistling loudly, and making much more
noise than was at all necessary.
"If you please, Mr. Livingstone, won't you be a little more quiet,
for my head aches so hard to-night," said a languid voice, from the
depths of the huge easy-chair which stood before the glowing grate.
Glancing toward what he had at first supposed to be a bundle of
shawls, John Jr. saw Mabel Ross, her forehead bandaged up and her
lips white as ashes, while the purple rings about her heavy eyes,
told of the pain she was enduring.
"Thunder!" was John's exclamation, as he strode from the room,
slamming together the door with unusual force.
When Mrs. Livingstone came in from supper, with a cup of hot tea and
a slice of toast for Mabel, she was surprised to find her sobbing
like a child. It did not take long for her to learn the cause, and
then, as well as she could, she soothed her, telling her not to mind
John's freaks--it was his way, and he always had a particular
aversion to sick people, never liking to hear them talk of their
ailments. This hint was sufficient for Mabel, who ever after strove
hard to appear well and cheerful in his presence. But in no way, if
he could help it, would he notice her.
Next to Mrs. Livingstone, 'Lena was Mabel's best friend, and when she
saw how much her cousin's rudeness and indifference pained her, she
determined to talk with him about it, So the first time they were
alone, she broached the subject, speaking very kindly of Mabel, and
asking if he had any well-grounded reason for his uncivil treatment
of her. There was no person in the world who possessed so much
influence over John Jr. as did 'Lena, and now, hearing her patiently
through, he replied, "I know I'm impolite to Mabel, but hang me if I
can help it. She is so flat and silly, and takes every little
attention from me as a declaration of love. Still, I don't blame her
as much as I do mother, who is putting her up to it, and if she'd
only go home and mind her own business, I should like her well
"I don't understand you," said 'Lena, and her cousin continued; "Why,
when Mabel first came here, I do not think she knew what mother was
fishing for, so she was not so much at fault, but she does now----"
"Are you sure?" interrupted 'Lena, and John Jr. replied, "She's a
confounded fool if she don't. And what provokes me, is to think
she'll still keep staying here, when modesty, if nothing else, should
prompt her to leave. You wouldn't catch Nellie doing so. Why,
she'll hardly come her at all, for fear folks will say she comes to
see me, and that's why I like her so well."
"I think you are mistaken with regard to Mabel," said Lena, "for I've
no idea she's in love with you a bit more than I am. I dare say she
likes you well enough, for there's nothing in you to dislike."
"Thank you," interrupted John Jr., returning the compliment with a
kiss, a liberty he often took with her.
"Behave, can't you?" said 'Lena, at the same time continuing--"No, I
don't suppose Mabel is dying for you at all. All of us girls like to
receive attention from you gentlemen, and she's not an exception.
Besides that, you ought to be polite to her, because she's your
mother's guest, if for nothing else. I don't ask you to love her,"
said she, "but I do ask you to treat her well. Kind words cost
nothing, and they go far toward making others happy."
"So they do," answered John, upon whom 'Lena's words were having a
good effect. "I've nothing under heaven against Mabel Ross, except
that mother wants me to marry her; but if you'll warrant me that the
young lady herself has no such intentions, why, I'll do my very best."
"I'll warrant you," returned 'Lena, who really had no idea that Mabel
cared aught in particular for her cousin, and satisfied with the
result of her interview she started to leave the room.
As she reached the door, John Jr. stopped her, saying, "You are sure
she don't care for me?"
"Perfectly sure," was 'Lena's answer.
"The plague, she don't," thought John, as the door closed upon 'Lena;
and such is human nature, that the young man began to think that if
Mabel didn't care for him, he'd see if he couldn't make her, for
after all, there was something pleasant in being liked, even by Mabel!
The next day, as the young ladies were sitting together in the
parlor, John Jr. joined them, and after wringing Carrie's nose,
pulling 'Lena's and Anna's curls, he suddenly upset Mabel's work-box,
at the same time slyly whispering to his cousin, "Ain't I coming
Abrupt as this proceeding, was, it pleased Mabel, who with the utmost
good humor, commenced picking up her things, John Jr. assisting her,
and managing once to bump his head against hers! After this, affairs
at Maple Grove glided on as smoothly as even Mrs. Livingstone could
wish. John and Mabel were apparently on the most amicable terms, he
deeming 'Lena's approbation a sufficient reward for the many little
attentions which he paid to Mabel, and she, knowing nothing of all
that had passed, drinking in his every word and look, learning to
live upon his smile, and conforming herself, as far as possible, to
what she thought would best please him.
Gradually, as she thought it would do, Mrs. Livingstone unfolded to
Mabel her own wishes, saying she should be perfectly happy could she
only call her "daughter," and hinting that such a thing "by wise
management could easily be brought about." With a gush of tears the
orphan girl laid her head in Mrs. Livingstone's lap, mentally
blessing her as her benefactress, and thanking the Giver of all good
for the light and happiness which she saw dawning upon her pathway.
"John is peculiar," said Mrs. Livingstone, "and if he fancied you
liked him very much, it might not please him as well as indifference
on your part."
So, with this lesson, Mabel, for the first time in her life attempted
to act as she did not feel, feigning carelessness or indifference
when every pulse of her heart was throbbing with joy at some little
attention paid her by John Jr., who could be very agreeable when he
chose, and who, observing her apparent indifference, began to think
that what 'Lena had said was true, and that Mabel really cared
nothing for him. With this impression he exerted himself to be
agreeable, wondering how her many good qualities had so long escaped
"There is more to her than I supposed," said he one day to 'Lena, who
was commending him for his improved manner. "Yes, a heap more than I
supposed. Why, I really like her!"
And he told the truth, for with his prejudice laid aside, he, as is
often the case, began to find virtues in her the existence of which
he had never suspected. Frequently, now, he talked, laughed, and
rode with her, praising her horsemanship, pointing out some points
wherein it might be improved, and never dreaming the while of the
deep affection his conduct had awakened in the susceptible girl.
"Oh, I am so happy," said she one day to 'Lena, who was speaking of
her improved health. "I never thought it possible for _me_ to be so
happy. I dreaded to come here at first, but now I shall never regret
She was standing before the long mirror in the parlor, adjusting the
feathers to her tasteful velvet cap, which, with her neatly fitting
riding-dress, became her better than anything else. The excitement
of her words sent a deep glow to her cheek, while her large black
eyes sparkled with unusual brilliancy. She was going out with John
Jr., who, just as she finished speaking, appeared in the doorway, and
catching a glimpse of her face, exclaimed in his blunt, jocose way,
"Upon my word, Meb, if you keep on, you'll get to be quite decent
looking in time."
'Twas the first compliment of the kind he had ever paid her, and
questionable as it was, it tended to strengthen her fast forming
belief that her affection for him was returned.
"I can't expect him to do anything like other people, he's so odd,"
thought she, and yet it was this very oddness which charmed her.
At length Nellie, who had returned from Madison, and felt rather
lonely, wrote to Mabel, asking her to come home. This plan Mrs.
Livingstone opposed, but Mabel was decided, and the week before
Christmas was fixed upon for her departure. John Jr., anxious to see
Nellie, proposed accompanying her, but when the day came he was
suffering from a severe cold, which rendered his stay in the house
absolutely necessary. So his mother, who had reasons of her own for
doing so, went in his stead. Carrie, who never had any fancy for
Mabel, and only endured her because she was rich, was coolly polite,
merely offering her hand, and then resumed the novel she was reading,
even before Mabel had left. Anna and 'Lena bade her a more
affectionate adieu, and then advancing toward John Jr., who, in his
dressing-gown and slippers, reclined upon the sofa, she offered him
As if to atone for his former acts of rudeness, the young man
accompanied her to the door, playfully claiming the privilege of
taking leave just as his sister and cousin had done.
"It's only me, you know," said he, imprinting upon her forehead a
kiss which sent the rich blood to her neck and face.
John Jr. would not have dared to take that liberty with Nellie, while
Mabel, simple-hearted, and wholly unused to the world, saw in it a
world of meaning, and for a long time after the carriage roiled away
from Maple Grove the bright glow on her cheek told of happy thoughts
"Did my son say anything definite to you before you left?" asked Mrs.
Livingstone, as they came within sight of the city.
"No, madam," answered Mabel, and Mrs. Livingstone continued, "That's
strange. He confessed to me that he--ah--he--loved you, and I
supposed he intended telling you so; but bashfulness prevented, I
Accustomed as she was to equivocation, this down-right falsehood cost
Mrs. Livingstone quite an effort, but she fancied the case required
it, and after a few twinges, her conscience felt easy, particularly
when she saw how much satisfaction her words gave to her companion,
to whom the improbability of the affair never occurred. Could she
have known how lightly John Jr. treated the matter, laughingly
describing his leave-taking to his sisters and 'Lena, and saying,
"Meb wasn't the worst girl in the world, after all," she might not
have been so easily duped.
But she did not know all this, and thus was the delusion perfect.
NELLIE AND MABEL.
Nellie Douglass sat alone in her chamber, which was filled with
articles of elegance and luxury, for her father, though far from
being wealthy, still loved to surround his only daughter with
everything which could increase her comfort. So the best, the
fairest, and the most Costly was always for her, his "darling
Nellie," as he called her, when with bounding footsteps she flew to
greet him on his return at night, ministering to his wants in a
thousand ways, and shedding over his home such a halo of sunshine
that ofttimes he forgot that he was a lonely widower, while in the
features of his precious child he saw again the wife of his bosom,
who years before had passed from his side forever.
But not on him were Nellie's thoughts resting, as she sat there alone
that afternoon. She was thinking of the past--of John Livingstone,
and the many marked attentions, which needed not the expression of
words to tell her she was beloved. And freely did her heart respond.
That John Jr. was not perfect, she knew, but he was noble and
generous, and so easily influenced by those he loved, that she knew
it would be an easy task to soften down some of the rougher shades of
his character. Three times during her absence had he called,
expressing so much disappointment, that with woman's ready instinct
she more than half divined his intentions, and regretted that she was
gone. But Mabel was coming to-day, and he was to accompany her, for
so had 'Lena written, and Nellie's cheeks glowed and her heart beat
high, as she thought of what might occur. She knew well that in
point of wealth she was not his equal, for though mingling with the
first in the city, her father was poor--but one of John Jr.'s nature
would never take that into consideration. They had known each other
from childhood, and he had always evinced for her the same preference
which he now manifested. Several weeks had elapsed since she had
seen him, and now, rather impatiently, she awaited his arrival,
"If you please, ma'am, Mrs. Livingstone and Miss Mabel are in the
parlor," said a servant, suddenly appearing and interrupting her
"Mrs. Livingstone!" she repeated, as she glanced at herself in a
mirror, and rearranged one side of her shining hair, "Mrs.
Livingstone!--and so _he_ has not come. I wonder what's the matter!"
and with a less joyous face she descended to the back parlor, where,
with rich furs wrapped closely about her, as if half frozen, sat Mrs.
Livingstone, her quick eye taking an inventory of every article of
furniture, and her proud spirit whispering to herself, "Poverty,
With a cry of joy, Mabel flew to meet Nellie, who, while welcoming
her back, congratulated her upon her improved health and looks,
saying, "the _air_ of Maple Grove must have agreed with her;" then
turning toward Mrs. Livingstone, who saw in her remark other meaning
than the one she intended, she asked her to remove her wrappings,
apologizing at the same time for the fire being so low.
"Father is absent most of the day," said she; "and as I am much in my
chamber, we seldom keep a fire in the front parlor."
"Just as well," answered Mrs. Livingstone, removing her heavy furs.
"One fire is _cheaper_ than two, and in these times I suppose it is
necessary for some people to economize."
Nellie colored, not so much at the words as at the manner of her
visitor. After a moment, Mrs. Livingstone again spoke, looking
straight in Nellie's face.
"My son was very anxious to ride over with Mabel, but a bad cold
prevented him, so she rather unwillingly took me as a substitute."
Here not only Nellie, but Mabel, also colored, and the latter left
the room. When she was gone, Nellie remarked upon the visible
improvement in her health.
"Yes," said Mrs. Livingstone, settling herself a little more easily
in her chair, "Yes, Mabel isn't the same creature she was when she
came to us, but then it's no wonder, for love, you know, will work
No answer from Nellie, who almost instinctively felt what was coming
"Upon my word, Miss Douglass, you've no curiosity whatever. Why
don't you ask with whom Mabel is in love?"
"Who is it?" laughingly asked Nellie, nervously playing with the
tassel of her blue silk apron.
After a moment, Mrs. Livingstone replied, "It may seem out of place
for me to speak of it, but I know you, Miss Douglass, for a girl of
excellent sense, and feel sure you will not betray me to either
"Certainly not," answered Nellie, rather haughtily, while her
tormentor continued: "Well, then, it is my son, and I assure you,
both myself and husband are well pleased that it should be so. From
the moment I first saw Mabel, I felt for her a motherly affection for
which I could not account, and if I were now to select my future
daughter-in-law, I should prefer her to all others."
Here ensued a pause which Nellie felt no inclination to break, and
again Mrs. Livingstone spoke: "It may be a weakness, but I have
always felt anxious that John should make a match every way worthy of
him, both as to wealth and station. Indeed, I would hardly be
willing for him to marry one whose fortune is less than Mabel's. But
I need have no fears, for John has his own views on that subject, and
though he may sometimes be attentive to girls far beneath him, he is
pretty sure in the end to do as I think best!"
Poor Nellie! How every word sank into her soul, torturing her almost
to madness. She did not stop to consider the improbability of what
she heard. Naturally impulsive and excitable, she believed it all,
for if John Jr. really loved her, as once she had fondly believed,
had there not been a thousand opportunities for him to tell her so?
At this moment Mabel reentered the parlor, and Nellie, on the plea of
seeing to the dinner, left the room, going she scarce knew whither,
until she found herself in a little arbor at the foot of the garden,
where many and many a time John Jr. had sat with her, and where he
would never sit again--so she thought, so she believed--and throwing
herself upon one of the seats, she struggled hard to school herself
to meet the worst--to conquer the bitter resentment which she felt
rising within her toward Mabel, who had supplanted her in the
affections of the only one she had ever loved.
Nellie had a noble, generous nature, and after a few moments of
calmer reflection, she rose up, strengthened in her purpose of never
suffering Mabel to know how deeply she had wronged her. "She is an
orphan--a lonely orphan," thought she, "and God forbid that through
me one drop of bitterness should mingle in her cup of joy."
With a firm step she walked to the kitchen, gave some additional
orders concerning the dinner, and then returned to the parlor, half
shuddering when Mabel came near her, and then with a strong effort
pressing the little blue-veined hand laid so confidingly upon her
own. Dinner being over, Mrs. Livingstone, who had some other calls
to make, took her leave, bidding a most affectionate adieu to Mabel,
who clung to her as if she had indeed been her mother.
"Good-bye, darling Meb," said she. "I shall come for you to visit us
erelong." Turning to Nellie, she said, "Do take care of her health,
which you know is now precious to more than one;" then in a whisper
she added, "Remember that what I have told you is sacred."
The next moment she was gone, and mechanically, Nellie returned to
the parlor, together with Mabel, whose unusual buoyancy of spirits
contrasted painfully with the silence and sadness which lay around
her heart. That night, Mr. Douglass had some business in the city,
and the two girls were left alone. The lamps were unlighted, for the
full golden moonlight, which streamed through the window-panes,
suited better the mood of Nellie, who leaning upon the arm of the
sofa, looked listlessly out upon the deep beauty of the night. Upon
a little stool at her feet sat Mabel, her head resting on Nellie's
lap, and her hand searching in vain for another, which involuntarily
moved farther and farther away, as hers advanced.
At length she spoke: "Nellie, dear Nellie--there is something I want
so much to tell you--if you will hear it, and not think me foolish."
With a strong effort, the hand which had crept away under the
sofa-cushion, came back from its hiding-place, and rested upon
Mabel's brow, while Nellie's voice answered, softly and slow, "What
is it, Mabel? I will hear you."
Briefly, then, Mabel told the story of her short life, beginning at
the time when a frowning nurse tore her away from her dead mother,
chiding her for her tears, and threatening her with punishment if she
did not desist. "Since then," said she, "I have been so lonely--how
lonely, none but a friendless orphan can know. No one has ever loved
me, or if for a time they seemed to, they soon grew weary of me, and
left me ten times more wretched than before. I never once dreamed
that--that Mr. Livingstone could care aught for one so ugly as I know
I am. I thought him better suited for you, Nellie. (How cold your