"John, John" said Mrs. Nichols, "them niggers won't scent my things, will they?"
"Don't talk, granny," whispered 'Lena, painfully conscious of the curious eyes fixed upon them by the bevy of blacks, who had come out to greet their master, and who with sidelong glances at each other, were inspecting the new comers.
"Don't talk! why not?" said Mrs. Nichols, rather sharply. "This is a free country I suppose." Then bethinking herself, she added quickly, "Oh, I forgot, 'taint free here!"
After examining the satchel and finding that the night gown sleeve was safe, Mrs. Nichols took up her line of march for the house, herself carrying her umbrella and band-box, which she would not intrust to the care of the negroes, "as like enough they'd break the umberell, or squash her caps."
"The trumpery room is plenty good enough for 'em," thought Corinda, retreating into the kitchen and cutting sundry flourishes in token of her contempt.
The moment 'Lena came in sight, Mrs. Livingstone exclaimed, "Oh, mercy, which is the oldest?" and truly, poor 'Lena did present a sorry figure,
Her bonnet, never very handsome or fashionable, had received an ugly crook in front, which neither her grandmother or uncle had noticed, and of which John Jr. would not tell her, thinking that the worse she looked the more fun he would have! Her skirts were not very full, and her dress hung straight around her, making her of the same bigness from her head to her feet. Her shoes, which had been given to her by one of the neighbors, were altogether too large, and it was with considerable difficulty that she could keep them on, but then as they were a present, Mrs. Nichols said "it was a pity not to get all the good out of them she could."
In front of herself and grandmother, walked Mr. Livingstone, moody, silent, and cross. Behind them was John Jr., mimicking first 'Lena's gait and then his grandmother's. The negroes, convulsed with laughter, darted hither and thither, running against and over each other, and finally disappearing, some behind the house and some into the kitchen, and all retaining a position from which they could have a full view of the proceedings. On the piazza stood Anna and Carrie, the one with her handkerchief stuffed in her mouth, and the other with her mouth open, astounded at the unlooked-for spectacle.
"Oh, what shall I do, what shall I do?" groaned Mrs. Livingstone.
"Do? Get up and dress yourself, and come and see your new relations: that's what I should do," answered John Jr., who, tired of mimicking, had run forward, and now rushed unceremoniously into his mother's sleeping-room, leaving the door open behind him.
"John Livingstone, what do you mean?" said she, "shut that door this minute."
Feigning not to hear her, John Jr. ran back to the piazza, which he reached just in time to hear the presentation of his sisters.
"This is Carrie, and this is Anna," said Mr. Livingstone, pointing to each one as he pronounced her name.
Marching straight up to Carrie and extending her hand, Mrs. Nichols exclaimed, "Now I want to know if this is Car'line. I'd no idee she was so big. You pretty well, Car'line?"
Very haughtily Carrie touched the ends of her grandmother's fingers, and with stately gravity replied that she was well.
Turning next to Anna, Mrs. Nichols continued, "And this is Anny. Looks weakly 'pears to me, kind of blue around the eyes as though she was fitty. Never have fits, do you, dear?"
"No, ma'am," answered Anna, struggling hard to keep from laughing outright.
Here Mr. Livingstone inquired for his wife, and on being told that she was sick, started for her room.
"Sick? Is your marm sick?" asked Mrs. Nichols of John Jr. "Wall, I guess I'll go right in and sea if I can't do somethin' for her. I'm tolerable good at nussin'."
Following her son, who did not observe her, she entered unannounced into the presence of her elegant daughter-in-law, who, with a little shriek, covered her head with the bed-clothes. Knowing that she meant well, and never dreaming that she was intruding, Mrs. Nichols walked up to the bedside, saying, "How de do, 'Tilda? I suppose you know I'm your mother—come all the way from Massachusetts to live with you. What is the matter? Do you take anything for your sickness?"
A groan was Mrs. Livingstone's only answer.
"Little hystericky, I guess," suggested Mrs. Nichols, adding that "settin' her feet in middlin' hot water is good for that."
"She is nervous, and the sight of strangers makes her worse. So I reckon you'd better go out for the present," said Mr. Livingstone, who really pitied his wife. Then calling Corinda, he bade her show his mother to her room.
Corinda obeyed, and Mrs. Nichols followed her, asking her on the way "what her surname was, how old she was, if she knew how to read, and if she hadn't a good deal rather be free than to be a slave!" to which Corinda replied, that "she didn't know what a surname meant, that she didn't know how old she was, that she didn't know how to read, and that she didn't know whether she'd like to be free or not, but reckoned she shouldn't."
"A half-witted gal that," thought Mrs. Nichols, "and I guess 'Tilda don't set much store by her." Then dropping into the wooden rocking-chair and laying aside her bonnet, she for the first time noticed that 'Lena was not with her, and asked Corinda to go for her.
Corinda complied, leaving the room just in time to stifle a laugh, as she saw Mrs. Nichols stoop down to examine the hearth-rug, wondering "how much it cost when 'twas new."
We left 'Lena standing on the steps of the piazza.
At a glance she had taken in the whole—had comprehended that there was no affinity whatever between herself and the objects around her, and a wild, intense longing filled her heart to be once more among her native hills. She had witnessed the merriment of the blacks, the scornful curl of Carrie's lip, the half-suppressed ridicule of Anna, when they met her grandmother, and now uncertain of her own reception, she stood before her cousins not knowing whether to advance or run away. For a moment there was an awkward silence, and then John Jr., bent on mischief, whispered to Carrie, "Look at that pinch in her bonnet, and just see her shoes! Big as little sailboats!"
This was too much for Lena. She already disliked John Jr., and now, flying into a violent passion, she drew off her shoes, and hurling them at the young gentleman's head fled away, away, she knew not, cared not whither, so that she got out of sight and hearing. Coming at last to the arbor bridge across the brook in the garden, she paused for breath, and throwing herself upon a seat, burst into a flood of tears. For several minutes she sobbed so loudly that she did not hear the sound of footsteps upon the graveled walk. Anna had followed her, partly out of curiosity, and partly out of pity, the latter of which preponderated when she saw how bitterly her cousin was weeping. Going up to her she said, "Don t cry so, 'Lena. Look up and talk. It's Anna, your cousin."
'Lena had not yet recovered from her angry fit, and thinking Anna only came to tease her, and perhaps again ridicule her bonnet, she tore the article, from her head, and bending it up double, threw it into the stream, which carried it down to the fish-pond, where for two or three hours it furnished amusement for some little negroes, who, calling it a crab, fished for it with hook and line! For a moment Anna stood watching the bonnet as it sailed along down the stream, thinking it looked better there than on its owner's head, but wondering why 'Lena had thrown it away. Then again addressing her cousin, she asked why she had done so?
"It's a homely old thing, and I hate it," answered 'Lena, again bursting into tears. "I hate everybody, and I wish I was dead, or back in Massachusetts, I don't care which!"
With her impressions of the "Bay State," where her mother said folks lived on "cold beans and codfish," Anna thought she should prefer the first alternative, but she did not say so; and after a little she tried again to comfort 'Lena, telling her "she liked her, or at least she was going to like her a heap."
"No, you ain't," returned 'Lena. "You laughed at me and granny both. I saw you do it, and you think I don't know anything, but I do. I've been through Olney's geography, and Colburn's arithmetic twice!"
This was more than Anna could say. She had no scholarship of which to boast; but she had a heart brimful of love, and in reply to 'Lena's accusation of having laughed at her, she replied, "I know I laughed, for grandma looked so funny I couldn't help it. But I won't any more. I pity you because your mother is dead, and you never had any father, ma says."
This made 'Lena cry again, while Anna continued, "Pa'll buy you some new clothes I reckon, and if he don't, I'll give you some of mine, for I've got heaps, and they'll fit you I most know. Here's my mark—" pointing to a cut upon the door-post. "Here's mine, and Carrie's and brother's. Stand up and see if you don't measure like I do,"
'Lena complied, and to Anna's great joy they were just of a height.
"I'm so glad," said she. "Now, come to my room and Corinda will fix you up mighty nice before mother sees you."
Hand-in-hand the two girls started for the house, but had not gone far when they heard some one calling, "Ho, Miss 'Lena, whar is you? Ole miss done want you." At the same time Corinda made her appearance round the corner of the piazza.
"Here, Cora," said Anna. "Come with me to my room; I want you."
With a broad grin Corinda followed her young mistress, while 'Lena, never having been accustomed to any negro save the one with whom many New England children are threatened when they cry, clung closer to Anna's side, occasionally casting a timid glance toward the dark-browed girl who followed them. In the upper hall they met with Carrie, who in passing 'Lena held back her dress, as if fearing contamination from a contact with her cousin's plainer garments. Painfully alive to the slightest insult, 'Lena reddened, while Anna said, "Never mind—that's just like Cad, but nobody cares for her."
Thus reassured 'Lena followed on, until they reached Anna's room, which they were about to enter, when the shrill voice of Mrs. Nichols fell upon their ears, calling, "'Leny, 'Leny, where upon airth is she?"
"Let's go to her first," said 'Lena, and leading the way Anna soon ushered her into her grandmother's room which, child as she was, 'Lena readily saw was far different from the handsome apartments of which she had obtained a passing glance.
But Mrs. Nichols had not thought of this—and was doubtless better satisfied with her present quarters than she would have been with the best furnished chamber in the house. The moment her granddaughter appeared, she exclaimed, "'Leny Rivers, where have you been? I was worried to death, for fear you might be runnin' after some of them paltry niggers. And now whilst I think on't, I charge you never to go a nigh 'em; I'd no idee they were such half-naked, nasty critters."
This prohibition was a novelty to Anna, who spent many happy hours with her sable-hued companions, never deeming herself the worse for it. Her grandmother's first remark, however, struck her still more forcibly, and she immediately asked, "Grandma, what did you call 'Lena, just now? 'Lena what?"
"I called her by her name, 'Lena Rivers. What should I call her?" returned Mrs. Nichols.
"Why, I thought her name was 'Lena Nichols; ma said 'twas," answered Anna.
Mrs. Nichols was very sensitive to any slight cast upon 'Lena's birth, and she rather tartly informed Anna, that "her mother didn't know everything," adding that "'Lena's father was Mr. Rivers, and there wasn't half so much reason why she should be called Nichols as there was why Anna should, for that was her father's name, the one by which he was baptized, the same day with Nancy Scovandyke, who's jest his age, only he was born about a quarter past four in the morning, and she not till some time in the afternoon!"
"But where is Mr. Rivers?" asked Anna more interested in him than in the exact minute of her father's birth.
"The Lord only knows," returned Mrs. Nichols. "Little girls shouldn't ask too many questions."
This silenced Anna, and satisfied her that there was some mystery connected with 'Lena. The mention of Nancy Scovandyke reminded Mrs. Nichols of the dishes which that lady had packed away, and anxious to see if they were safe, she turned to 'Lena saying, "I guess we'll have time before dinner to unpack my trunks, for I want to know how the crockery stood the racket. Anny, you run down and tell your pa to fetch 'em up here, that's a good girl."
In her eagerness to know what those weather-beaten boxes contained, Anna forgot her scheme of dressing 'Lena, and ran down, not to call her father, but the black boy, Adam. It took her a long time to find him, and Mrs. Nichols, growing impatient, determined to go herself, spite of 'Lena's entreaties that she would stay where she was. Passing down the long stairway, and out upon the piazza, she espied a negro girl on her hands and knees engaged in cleaning the steps with a cloth. Instantly remembering her mop, she greatly lamented that she had left it behind—"'twould come so handy now," thought she, but there was no help for it.
Walking up to the girl, whose name she did not know, she said, "Sissy, can you tell me where John is?"
Quickly "Sissy's" ivories became visible, as she replied, "We hain't got any such nigger as John."
With a silent invective upon negroes in general, and this one in particular, Mrs. Nichols choked, stammered, and finally said, "I didn't ask for a nigger; I want your master, John!"
Had the old lady been a Catholic, she would have crossed herself for thus early breaking her promise to Nancy Scovandyke. As it was, she mentally asked forgiveness, and as the colored girl "didn't know where marster was," but "reckoned he had gone somewhar," she turned aside, and seeking her son's room, again entered unannounced. Mrs. Livingstone, who was up and dressed, frowned darkly upon her visitor. But Mrs. Nichols did not heed it, and advancing forward, she said, "Do you feel any better, 'Tilda? I'd keep kinder still to-day, and not try to do much, for if you feel any consarned about the housework, I'd just as lief see to't a little after dinner as not."
"I have all confidence in Milly's management, and seldom trouble myself about the affairs of the kitchen," answered Mrs. Livingstone.
"Wall, then," returned her mother-in-law, nothing daunted, "Wall, then, mebby you'd like to have me come in and set with you a while."
It would be impossible for us to depict Mrs. Livingstone's look of surprise and anger at this proposition. Her face alternately flushed and then grew pale, until at last she found voice to say, "I greatly prefer being alone, madam. It annoys me excessively to have any one round."
"Considerable kind o' touchy," thought Mrs. Nichols, "but then the poor critter is sick, and I shan't lay it up agin her."
Taking out her snuff-box, she offered it to her daughter, telling her that "like enough 'twould cure her headache." Mrs. Livingstone's first impulse was to strike it from her mother's hand, but knowing how unladylike that would be, she restrained herself, and turning away her head, replied, "Ugh! no! The very sight of it makes me sick."
"How you do talk! Wall, I've seen folks that it sarved jest so; but you'll get over it. Now there was Nancy Scovandyke—did John ever say anything about her? Wall, she couldn't bear snuff till after her disappointment—John told you, I suppose?"
"No, madam, my husband has never told me anything concerning his eastern friends, neither do I wish to hear anything of them," returned Mrs. Livingstone, her patience on the point of giving out.
"Never told you nothin' about Nancy Scovandyke! If that don't beat all! Why, he was——"
She was prevented from finishing the sentence, which would undoubtedly have raised a domestic breeze, when Anna came to tell her that the trunks were carried to her room.
"I'll come right up then," said she, adding, more to herself than any one else, "If I ain't mistaken, I've got a little paper of saffron somewhere, which I mean to steep for 'Tilda. Her skin looks desput jandissy!"
When Mr. Livingstone again entered his wife's room, he found her in a collapsed state of anger and mortification.
"John Nichols," said she, with a strong emphasis on the first word, which sounded very much like Jarn, "do you mean to kill me by bringing that vulgar, ignorant thing here, walking into my room without knocking—calling me 'Tilda, and prating about Nancy somebody——"
John started. His wife knew nothing of his affaire du coeur with Miss Nancy, and for his own peace of mind 't was desirable that she should not. Mentally resolving to give her a few hints, he endeavored to conciliate his wife, by saying that he knew "his mother was troublesome, but she must try not to notice her oddities."
"I wonder how I can help it, when she forces herself upon me continually," returned his wife. "I must either deep the doors locked, or live in constant terror."
"It's bad, I know," said he, smoothing her glossy hair, "but then, she's old, you know. Have you seen 'Lena?"
"No, neither do I wish to, if she's at all like her grandmother," answered Mrs. Livingstone.
"She's handsome," suggested Mr. Livingstone.
"Pshaw! handsome!" repeated his wife, scornfully, while he replied, "Yes, handsomer than either of our daughters, and with the same advantages, I've no doubt she'd surpass them both."
"Those advantages, then, she shall never have," returned Mrs. Livingstone, already jealous of a child she had only seen at a distance.
Mr. Livingstone made no reply, but felt that he'd made a mistake in praising 'Lena, in whom he began to feel a degree of interest for which he could not account. He did not know that way down in the depths of his heart, calloused over as it was by worldly selfishness, there was yet a tender spot, a lingering memory of his only sister whom 'Lena so strongly resembled. If left to himself, he would undoubtedly have taken pride in seeing his niece improve, and as it was, he determined that she should at home receive the same instruction that his daughters did. Perhaps he might not send her away to school. He didn't know how that would be—his wife held the purse, and taking refuge behind that excuse, he for the present dismissed the subject. (So much for marrying a rich wife and nothing else. This we throw in gratis!)
Meantime grandma had returned to her room, at the door of which she found John Jr. and Carrie, both curious to know what was in those boxes, one of which had burst open and been tied up with a rope.
"Come, children," said she, "don't stay out there—come in."
"We prefer remaining here," said Carrie, in a tone and manner so nearly resembling her mother, that Mrs. Nichols could not refrain from saying, "chip of the old block!"
"That's so, by cracky. You've hit her this time, granny," exclaimed John Jr., snapping his fingers under Carrie's nose, which being rather long, was frequently a subject of his ridicule.
"Let me be, John Livingstone," said Carrie, while 'Lena resolved never again to use the word "granny," which she knew her cousin had taken up on purpose to tease her.
"Come, 'Lena, catch hold and help me untie this rope, I b'lieve the crockery's in here," said Mrs. Nichols to 'Lena, who soon opened the chest, disclosing to view as motley a variety of articles as is often seen.
Among the rest was the "blue set," a part of her "setting out," as his grandmother told John Jr., at the same time dwelling at length upon their great value. Mistaking Carrie's look of contempt for envy, Mrs. Nichols chucked her under the chin, telling her "May be there was something for her, if she was a good girl."
"Now, Cad, turn your nose up clear to the top of your head," said John Jr., vastly enjoying his sister's vexation.
"Where does your marm keep her china? I want to put this with it," said Mrs. Nichols to Anna, who, uncertain what reply to make, looked at Carrie to answer for her.
"I reckon mother don't want that old stuff stuck into her china-closet," said Carrie, elevating her nose to a height wholly satisfactory to John Jr., who unbuttoned one of his waistband buttons to give himself room to laugh.
"Mortal sakes alive! I wonder if she don't," returned Mrs. Nichols, beginning to get an inkling of Carrie's character, and the estimation in which her valuables were held.
"Here's a nice little cupboard over the fireplace; I'd put them here," said 'Lena.
"Yes," chimed in John Jr., imitating both his grandmother and cousin; "yes, granny, put 'em there; the niggers are awful critters to steal, and like enough you'd 'lose 'em if they sot in with marm's!"
This argument prevailed. The dishes were put away in the cupboard, 'Lena thinking that with all his badness John Jr., was of some use after all. At last, tired of looking on, Anna suggested to 'Lena, who did not seem to be helping matters forward much, that the should go and be dressed up as had been first proposed. Readily divining her sister's intention, Carrie ran with it to her mother, who sent back word that "'Lena must mind her own affairs, and let Anna's dresses alone!"
This undeserved thrust made 'Lena cry, while Anna declared "her mother never said any such thing," which Carrie understood as an insinuation that she had told a falsehood. Accordingly a quarrel of words ensued between the two sisters, which was finally quelled by John Jr., who called to Carrie "to come down, as she'd got a letter from Durward Bellmont."
Durward! How that name made 'Lena's heart leap! Was it her Durward—the boy in the cars? She almost hoped not, for somehow the idea of his writing to Carrie was not a pleasant one. At last summoning courage, she asked Anna who he was, and was told that he lived in Louisville with his stepfather, Mr. Graham, and that Carrie about two months before had met him in Frankfort at Colonel Douglass's, where she was in the habit of visiting. "Colonel Douglass," continued Anna, "has got a right nice little girl whose name is Nellie. Then there's Mabel Ross, a sort of cousin, who lives with them part of the time. She's an orphan and a great heiress. You mustn't tell anybody for the world, but I overheard ma say that she wanted John to marry Mabel, she's so rich—but pshaw! he won't for she's awful babyish and ugly looking. Captain Atherton is related to Nellie, and during the holidays she and Mabel are coming up to spend a week, and I'll bet Durward is coming too. Cad teased him, and he said may be he would if he didn't go to college this fall. I'll run down and see."
Soon returning, she brought the news that it was as she had conjectured. Durward, who was now travelling, was not going to college until the next fall and at Christmas he was coming to the country with his cousin.
"Oh, I'm so glad," said Anna. "We'll have a time, for ma'll invite them here, of course. Cad thinks a heap of Durward, and I want so bad to see him. Don't you?"
'Lena made no direct reply, for much as she would like to see her compagnon du voyage, she felt an unwillingness to meet him in the presence of Carrie, who she knew would spare no pains to mortify her. Soon forgetting Durward, Anna again alluded to her plan of dressing 'Lena, wishing "Cad would mind her own business." Then, as a new idea entered her head, she brightened up, exclaiming, "I know what I can do. I'll have Corinda curl your hair real pretty. You've got beautiful hair. A heap nicer than my yellow flax."
'Lena offered no remonstrance, and Corinda, who came at the call of her young mistress, immediately commenced brushing and curling the bright, wavy hair which Anna had rightly called beautiful. While this was going on, Grandma Nichols, who had always adhered to the good old puritanical custom of dining exactly at twelve o'clock, began to wonder why dinner was not forthcoming. She had breakfasted in Versailles, but like many travelers, could not eat much at a hotel, and now her stomach clamored loudly for food. Three times had she walked back and forth before what she supposed was the kitchen, and from which a savory smell of something was issuing, and at last determining to stop and reconnoiter, she started for the door.
The northern reader at all acquainted with southern life, knows well that a kitchen there and a kitchen here are two widely different things—ours, particularly in the country, being frequently used as a dining-room, while a southern lady would almost as soon think of eating in the barn as in her cook-room. Like most other planters, Mr. Livingstone's kitchen was separate and at some little distance from the main building, causing grandma to wonder "how the poor critters managed to carry victuals back and to when it was cold and slippery."
When Aunt Milly, who was up to her elbows in dough, saw her visitor approaching, she exclaimed, "Lor'-a-mighty, if thar ain't ole miss coming straight into this lookin' hole! Jeff, you quit that ar' pokin' in dem ashes, and knock Lion out that kittle; does you har? And you, Polly," speaking to a superannuated negress who was sitting near the table, "you just shove that ar' piece of dough, I done save to bake for you and me, under your char, whar she won't see it."
Polly complied, and by this time Mrs. Nichols was at the door, surveying the premises, and thinking how differently she'd make things look after a little.
"Does missus want anything?" asked Aunt Milly, and grandma replied, "Yes, I want to know if 'tain't nigh about noon."
This is a term never used among the blacks, and rolling up her white eyes, Aunt Milly answered, "You done got me now, sartin, for this chile know nothin' what you mean more'n the deadest critter livin'."
As well as she could, Mrs. Nichols explained her meaning, and Aunt Milly replied, "Oh, yes, yes, I know now. 'Is it most _dinner time?' Yes—dinner'll be done ready in an hour. We never has it till two no day, and when we has company not till three."
Confident that she should starve, Mrs. Nichols advanced a step or two into the kitchen, whereupon Aunt Milly commenced making excuses, saying, "she was gwine to clar up one of these days, and then if Thomas Jefferson and Marquis De Lafayette didn't quit that litterin' they'd cotch it"
Attracted by the clean appearance of Aunt Polly, who, not having to work, prided herself upon always being neatly dressed, Mrs. Nichols walked up to her, and, to use a vulgar expression, the two old ladies were soon "hand-in-glove," Mrs. Nichols informing her of her loss, and how sorry Nancy Scovandyke would feel when she heard of it, and ending by giving her the full particulars of her husband's sickness and death. In return Aunt Polly said that "she was born and bred along with ole Marster Richards, Miss Matilda's father, and that she, too, had buried a husband."
With a deep sigh, Mrs. Nichols was about, to commiserate her, when Aunt Polly cut her short by saying, "'Twant of no kind o' count, as she never relished him much."
"Some drunken critter, I warrant," thought Mrs. Nichols, at the same time asking what his name was.
"Jeems," said Aunt Polly.
This was not definite enough for Mrs. Nichols, who asked for the surname, "Jeems what?"
"Jeems Atherton, I reckon, bein' he 'longed to ole Marster Atherton," said Polly.
For a time Mrs. Nichols had forgotten her hunger but the habit of sixty years was not so easily broken and she now hinted so strongly of the emptiness of her stomach that Aunt Polly, emboldened by her familiarity, said, "I never wait for the rest, but have my cup of tea or coffee just when I feel like it, and if missus wouldn't mind takin' a bite with a nigger, she's welcome."
"Say nothin' about it. We shall all be white in heaven."
"Dat am de trufe," muttered Milly, mentally assigning Mrs. Nichols a more exalted occupation than that of turning hoe-cakes!
Two cups and saucers were forthwith produced, Milly acting as a waiter for fear Aunt Polly would leave her seat and so disclose to view the loaf of bread which had been hidden under the chair! Some coffee was poured from the pot, which still stood on the stove, and then the little negroes, amused with the novelty of the thing, ran shouting and yelling that, "ole miss was eatin' in the kitchen 'long with Lion, Aunt Polly and the other dogs!"
The coffee being drank, Mrs. Nichols returned to the house, thinking "what sights of comfort she should take with Mrs. Atherton," whom she pronounced to be "a likely, clever woman as ever was."
Scarcely had she reached her room when the dinner-bell rang, every note falling like an ice-bolt on the heart of 'Lena, who, though hungry like her grandmother, still greatly dreaded the dinner, fearing her inability to acquit herself creditably. Corinda had finished her hair, and Anna, looking over her wardrobe and coming upon the black dress which her father had purchased for her, had insisted upon 'Lena's wearing it. It was of rather more modern make than any of her other dresses, and when her toilet was completed, she looked uncommonly well. Still she trembled violently as Anna led her to the dining-room.
Neither Mrs. Nichols nor Mrs. Livingstone had yet made their appearance, but the latter soon came languidly in, wrapped in a rose-colored shawl, which John Jr., said "she wore to give a delicate tint to her yellow complexion." She was in the worst of humors, having just been opening her husband's trunk, where she found the numerous articles which had been stowed away by Nancy Scovandyke. Very angrily she had ordered them removed from her sight, and at this very moment the little negroes in the yard were playing with the cracked bellows, calling them a "blubber," and filling them with water to see it run out!
Except through the window, Mrs. Livingstone had not yet seen 'Lena, and now dropping into her chair, she never raised her eyes until Anna said, "Mother, mother, this is 'Lena. Look at her."
Thus importuned, Mrs. Livingstone looked up, and the frown with which she was prepared to greet her niece softened somewhat, for 'Lena was not a child to be looked upon and despised. Plain and humble as was her dress, there was something in her fine, open face, which at once interested and commanded respect, John Jr., had felt it; his father had felt it; and his mother felt it too, but it awoke in her a feeling of bitterness as she thought how the fair young girl before her might in time rival her daughters. At a glance, she saw that 'Lena was beautiful, and that it was quite as much a beauty of intellect as of feature and form.
"Yes," thought she, "husband was right when he said that, with the same advantages, she'd soon outstrip her cousins—but it shall never be—never," and the white teeth shut firmly together, as the cold, proud woman bowed a welcome.
At this moment Mrs. Nichols appeared. Stimulated by the example of 'Lena, she, too, had changed her dress, and now in black bombazine, white muslin cap, and shining silk apron, she presented so respectable an appearance that her son's face instantly brightened.
"Come, mother, we are waiting for you," said he, as she stopped on her way to ask Vine, the fly girl, "how she did, and if it wasn't hard work to swing them feathers."
Not being very bright, Vine replied with a grim, "Dun know, miss."
Taking her seat next to her son, Mrs. Nichols said when offered a plate of soup, "I don't often eat broth, besides that, I ain't much hungry, as I've just been takin' a bite with Miss Atherton?"
"With whom?" asked Mr. Livingstone, John Jr., Carrie, and Anna, in the same breath.
"With Miss Polly Atherton, that nice old colored lady in the kitchen," said Mrs. Nichols.
The scowl on Mrs. Livingstone's face darkened visibly, while her husband, thinking it time to speak, said, "It is my wish, mother, that you keep away from the kitchen. It does the negroes no good to be meddled with, and besides that, when you are hungry the servants will take you something."
"Accustomed to eat in the kitchen, probably," muttered Carrie, with all the air of a young lady of twenty.
"Hold on to your nose, Cad," whispered John Jr., thereby attracting his sister's attention to himself.
By this time the soup was removed, and a fine large turkey appeared.
"What a noble great feller. Gobbler, ain't it?" asked Mrs. Nichols, touching the turkey with the knife.
John Jr., roared, and was ordered from the table by his father, while 'Lena, who stepped on her grandmother's toes to keep her from talking, was told by that lady "to keep her feet still." Along with the desert came ice-cream, which Mrs. Nichols had never before tasted, and now fancying that she was dreadfully burned, she quickly deposited her first mouthful upon her plate.
"What's the matter, grandma? Can't you eat it?" asked Anna.
"Yes, I kin eat it, but I don't hanker arter it," answered her grandmother, pushing the plate aside.
Dinner being over, Mrs. Nichols returned to her room, but soon growing weary, she started out to view the premises. Coming suddenly upon a group of young negroes, she discovered her bellows, the water dripping from the nose, while a little farther on she espied 'Lena's bonnet, which the negroes had at last succeeded in catching, and which, wet as it was, now adorned the head of Thomas Jefferson! In a trice the old lady's principles were forgotten, and she cuffed the negroes with a right good will, hitting Jeff, the hardest, and, as a matter of course, making him yell the loudest. Out came Aunt Milly, scolding and muttering about "white folks tendin' to thar own business," and reversing her decision with regard to Mrs. Nichols' position in the next world. Cuff, the watch-dog, whose kennell was close by, set up a tremendous howling, while John Jr., always on hand, danced a jig to the sound of the direful music.
"For heaven's sake, husband, go out and see what's the matter," said Mrs. Livingstone, slightly alarmed at the unusual noise.
John complied, and reached the spot just in time to catch a glimpse of John Jr.'s heels as he gave the finishing touch to his exploit, while Mrs. Nichols, highly incensed, marched from the field of battle with the bonnet and bellows, thinking "if them niggers was only her'n they'd catch it!"
It would be tiresome both to ourselves and our readers, were we to enumerate the many mortifications which both Mr. and Mrs. Livingstone were compelled to endure from their mother, who gradually came to understand her true position in the family. One by one her ideas of teaching them economy were given up, as was also all hopes of ever being at all familiar with her daughter, whom, at her son's request, she had ceased to call "'Tilda."
"Mebby you want me to say Miss Livingstone," said she, "but I shan't. I'll call her Miss Nichols, or Matilda, just which she chooses."
Of course Mrs. Livingstone chose the latter, wincing, though, every time she heard it. Dreading a scene which he knew was sure to follow a disclosure of his engagement with Miss Nancy, Mr. Livingstone had requested his mother to keep it from his wife, and she, appreciating his motive, promised secrecy, lamenting the while the ill-fortune which had prevented Nancy from being her daughter-in-law, and dwelling frequently upon the comfort she should take were Nancy there in Matilda's place. On the whole, however, she was tolerably contented; the novelty of Kentucky life pleased her, and at last, like most northern people, she fell in with the habits of those around her. Still her Massachusetts friends were not forgotten, and many a letter, wonderful for its composition and orthography, found its way to Nancy Scovandyke, who wrote in return that "some time or other she should surely visit Kentucky," asking further if the "big bugs" didn't prefer eastern teachers for their children, and hinting at her desire to engage in that capacity when she came south!
"Now, that's the very thing," exclaimed Mrs. Nichols, folding the letter (directed wrong side up) and resuming her knitting. "Nancy's larnin' is plenty good enough to teach Caroline and Anny, and I mean to speak to John about it right away."
"I wouldn't do any such thing," said 'Lena, seeing at a glance how such a proposal would be received.
"Why not?" asked Mrs. Nichols, and 'Lena replied, "I don't think Nancy would suit Aunt Livingstone at all, and besides that, they've engaged a teacher, a Mr. Everett, and expect him next week."
"You don't say so?" returned Mrs. Nichols. "I never hearn a word on't. Where 'bouts is he from, and how much do they give him a week?"
The latter 'Lena knew nothing about, but she replied that "she believed he was from Rockford, a village near Rochester, New York."
"Why, Nancy Scovandyke's sister lives there. I wouldn't wonder if he knew her."
"Very likely," returned Lena, catching her bonnet and hurrying off to ride with Captain Atherton and Anna.
As we have once before observed, Anna was a great favorite with the captain, who had petted her until John Jr. teased her unmercifully, calling him her gray-haired lover, and the like. This made Anna exceedingly sensitive, and now when the captain called for her to ride, as he frequently did, she refused to go unless the invitation was also extended to 'Lena, who in this way got many a pleasant ride around the country. She was fast learning to like Kentucky, and would have been very happy had her aunt and Carrie been a little more gracious. But the former seldom spoke to her, and the latter only to ridicule something which she said or did.
Many and amusing were the disputes between the two girls concerning their peculiarities of speech, Carrie bidding 'Lena "quit her Yankee habit of eternally guessing," and 'Lena retorting that "she would when Carrie stopped her everlasting reckoning." To avoid the remarks of the neighbors, who she knew were watching her narrowly, Mrs. Livingstone had purchased 'Lena two or three dresses, which, though greatly inferior to those worn by Carrie and Anna, were still fashionably made, and so much improved 'Lena's looks, that her manners improved, also, for what child does not appear to better advantage when conscious of looking well? More than once had her uncle's hand rested for a moment on her brown curls, while his thoughts were traversing the past, and in fancy his fingers were again straying among the silken locks now resting in the grave. It would seem as if the mother from her coffin was pleading for her child, for all the better nature of Mr. Livingstone was aroused; and when he secured the services of Mr. Everett, who was highly recommended both as a scholar and gentleman, he determined that 'Lena should share the same advantages with his daughters. To this Mrs. Livingstone made no serious objection, for as Mr. Everett would teach in the house, it would not do to debar 'Lena from the privilege of attending his school; and as the highest position to which she could aspire was to be governess in some private family, she felt willing, she said, that she should have a chance of acquiring the common branches.
And now Mr. Everett was daily expected. Anna, who had no fondness for books, greatly dreaded his arrival, thinking within herself how many pranks she'd play off upon him, provided 'Lena would lend a helping hand, which she much doubted. John Jr., too, who for a time, at least, was to be placed under Mr. Everett's instruction, felt in no wise eager for his arrival, fearing, as he told 'Lena that "between the 'old man' and the tutor, he would be kept a little too straight for a gentleman of his habits;" and it was with no particular emotions of pleasure that he and Anna saw the stage stop before the gate one pleasant morning toward the middle of November. Running to one of the front windows, Carrie, 'Lena, and Anna watched their new teacher, each after her own fashion commenting upon his appearance.
"Ugh," exclaimed Anna, "what a green, boyish looking thing! I reckon nobody's going to be afraid of him."
"I say he's real handsome," said Carrie, who being thirteen years of age, had already, in her own mind, practiced many a little coquetry upon the stranger.
"I like him," was 'Lena's brief remark.
Mr. Everett was a pale, intellectual looking man, scarcely twenty years of age, and appearing still younger so that Anna was not wholly wrong when she called him boyish. Still there was in his large black eye a firmness and decision which bespoke the man strong within him, and which put to flight all of Anna's preconceived notions of rebellion. With the utmost composure he returned Mrs. Livingstone's greeting, and the proud lady half bit her lip with vexation as she saw how little he seemed awed by her presence.
Malcolm Everett was not one to acknowledge superiority where there was none, and though ever polite toward Mrs. Livingstone, there was something in his manner which forbade her treating him as aught save an equal. He was not to be trampled down, and for once in her life Mrs. Livingstone had found a person who would neither cringe to her nor flatter. The children were not presented to him until dinner time, when, with the air of a young desperado, John Jr. marched into the dining-room, eying, his teacher askance, calculating his strength, and returning his greeting with a simple nod. Mr. Everett scanned him from head to foot, and then turned to Carrie half smiling at the great dignity which she assumed. With 'Lena and Anna he seemed better pleased, holding their hands and smiling down upon them through rows of teeth which Anna pronounced the whitest she had ever seen.
Mr. Livingstone was not at home, and when his mother appeared, Mrs. Livingstone did not think proper to introduce her. But if by this omission she thought to keep the old lady silent, she was mistaken, for the moment Mrs. Nichols was seated, she commenced with, "Your name is Everett, I b'lieve?"
"Yes, ma'am," said he, bowing very gracefully toward her.
"Any kin to the governor that was?"
"No, ma'am, none whatever," and the white teeth became slightly visible for a moment, but soon disappeared.
"You are from Rockford, 'Lena tells me?"
"Yes, ma'am. Have you friends there?"
"Yes—or that is, Nancy Scovandyke's sister, Betsy Scovandyke that used to be, lives there. May be you know her. Her name is Bacon—Betsy Bacon. She's a widder and keeps boarders."
"Ah," said he, the teeth this time becoming wholly visible, "I've heard of Mrs. Bacon, but have not the honor of her acquaintance. You are from the east, I perceive."
"Law, now! how did you know that!" asked Mrs. Nichols, while Mr. Everett answered, "I guessed at it," with a peculiar emphasis on the word guessed, which led 'Lena to think he had used it purposely and not from habit.
Mr. Everett possessed in a remarkable degree the faculty of making those around him both respect and like him, and ere six weeks had passed, he had won the love of all his pupils. Even John Jr. was greatly improved, and Carrie seemed suddenly reawakened into a thirst for knowledge, deeming no task too long, and no amount of study too hard, if it won the commendation of her teacher. 'Lena, who committed to memory with great ease, and who consequently did not deserve so much credit for her always perfect lessons, seldom received a word of praise, while poor Anna, notoriously lazy when books were concerned, cried almost every day, because as she said, "Mr. Everett didn't like her as he did the rest, else why did he look at her so much, watching her all the while, and keeping her after school to get her lessons over, when he knew how she hated them."
Once Mrs. Livingstone ventured to remonstrate, telling him that Anna was very sensitive, and required altogether different treatment from Carrie. "She thinks you dislike her," said she, "and while she retains this impression, she will do nothing as far as learning is concerned; so if you do not like her, try and make her think you do!"
There was a peculiar look in Mr. Everett's dark eyes as he answered, "You may think it strange, Mrs. Livingstone, but of all my pupils I love Anna the best! I know I find more fault with her, and am perhaps more severe with her than with the rest, but it's because I would make her what I wish her to be. Pardon me, madam, but Anna does not possess the same amount of intellect with her cousin or sister, but by proper culture she will make a fine, intelligent woman."
Mrs. Livingstone hardly relished being told that one child was inferior to the other, but she could not well help herself—Mr. Everett would say what he pleased—and thus the conference ended. From that time Mr. Everett was exceedingly kind to Anna, wiping away the tears which invariably came when told that she must stay with him in the school-room after the rest were gone; then, instead of seating himself in rigid silence at a distance until her task was learned, he would sit by her side, occasionally smoothing her long curls and speaking encouragingly to her as she pored over some hard rule of grammar, or puzzled her brains with some difficult problem in Colburn. Erelong the result of all this became manifest. Anna grew fonder of her books, more ready to learn, and—more willing to be kept after school!
Ah, little did Mrs. Livingstone think what she was doing when she bade young Malcolm Everett make her warm-hearted, impulsive daughter think he liked her!
"Mother, where's 'Lena's dress? Hasn't she got any?" asked Anna, one morning, about two weeks before Christmas, as she bent over a promiscuous pile of merinoes, delaines, and plaid silks, her own and Carrie's dresses for the coming holidays. "Say, mother, didn't you buy 'Lena any?"
Thus interrogated, Mrs. Livingstone replied, "I wonder if you think I'm made of money! 'Lena is indebted to me now for more than she can ever pay. As long as I give her a home and am at so much expense in educating her, she of course can't expect me to dress her as I do you. There's Carrie's brown delaine and your blue one, which I intend to have made over for her, and she ought to be satisfied with that, for they are much better than anything she had when she came here."
And the lady glanced toward the spot where 'Lena sat, admiring the new things, in which she had no share, and longing to ask the question which Anna had asked for her, and which had now been answered. John Jr., who was present, and who knew that Mr. Everett had been engaged to teach in the family long before it was known that 'Lena was coming, now said to his cousin, who arose to leave, "Yes, 'Lena, mother's a model of generosity, and you'll never be able to repay her for her kindness in allowing you to wear the girls' old duds, which would otherwise be given to the blacks, and in permitting you to recite to Mr. Everett, who, of course, was hired on your account."
The slamming together of the door as 'Lena left the room brought the young gentleman's remarks to a close, and wishing to escape the lecture which he saw was preparing for him, he, too, made his exit.
Christmas was coming, and with it Durward Bellmont, and about his coming Mrs. Livingstone felt some little anxiety. Always scheming, and always looking ahead, she was expecting great results from this visit. Durward was not only immensely wealthy, but was also descended on his father's side from one of England's noblemen. Altogether he was, she thought, a "decided catch," and though he was now only sixteen, while Carrie was but thirteen, lifelong impressions had been made at even an earlier period, and Mrs. Livingstone resolved that her pretty daughter should at least have all the advantages of dress with which to set off her charms. Concerning Anna's appearance she cared less, for she had but little hope of her, unless, indeed—but 'twas too soon to think of that—she would wait, and perhaps in good time 't would all come round naturally and as a matter of course. So she encouraged her daughter's intimacy with Captain Atherton, who, until Malcolm Everett appeared, was in Anna's estimation the best man living. Now, however, she made an exception in favor of her teacher, "who," as she told the captain, "neither wore false teeth, nor kept in his pocket a pair of specks, to be slyly used when he fancied no one saw him."
Captain Atherton coughed, colored, laughed, and saying that "Mr. Everett was a mash kind of a boy," swore eternal enmity toward him, and under the mask of friendship—watched! Eleven years before, when Anna was a baby, Mrs. Livingstone had playfully told the captain, who was one day deploring his want of a wife, that if he would wait he should have her daughter. To this he agreed, and the circumstance, trivial as it was, made a more than ordinary impression upon his mind; and though he as yet had no definite idea that the promise would ever be fulfilled, the little girl was to him an object of uncommon interest. Mrs. Livingstone knew this, and whenever Anna's future prospects were the subject of her meditations, she generally fell back upon that fact as an item not to be despised.
Now, however, her thoughts were turned into another and widely different channel. Christmas week was to be spent by Durward Bellmont partly at Captain Atherton's and partly at her own house, and as Mrs. Livingstone was not ignorant of the effect a becoming dress has upon a pretty face, she determined that Carrie should, at least, have that advantage. Anna, too, was to fare like her sister, while no thought was bestowed upon poor 'Lena's wardrobe, until her husband, who accompanied her to Frankfort, suggested that a certain pattern, which he fancied would be becoming to 'Lena should be purchased.
With an angry scowl, Mrs. Livingstone muttered something about "spending so much money for other folks' young ones." Then remembering the old delaines, and knowing by the tone of her husband's voice that he was in earnest, she quickly rejoined, "Why, 'Lena's got two new dresses at home."
Never doubting his wife's word, Mr. Livingstone was satisfied, and nothing more was said upon the subject. Business of importance made it necessary for him to go for a few weeks to New Orleans, and he was now on his way thither, his wife having accompanied him as far as Frankfort, where he took the boat, while she returned home. When 'Lena left the room after learning that she had no part in the mass of Christmas finery, she repaired to the arbor bridge, where she had wept so bitterly on the first day of her arrival, and which was now her favorite resort. For a time she sat watching the leaping waters, swollen by the winter rains, and wondering if it were not possible that they started at first from the pebbly spring which gushed so cool and clear from the mountain-side near her old New England home. This reminded her of where and what she was now—a dependent on the bounty of those who wished her away, and who almost every day of her life made her feel it so keenly, too. Not one among them loved her except Anna, and would not her affection change as they grew older? Then her thoughts took another direction.
Durward Bellmont was coming—but did she wish to see him? Could she bear the sneering remarks which she knew Carrie would make concerning herself? And how would he be affected by them? Would he ask her of her father? and if so, what had she to say?
Many a time had she tried to penetrate the dark mystery of her birth, but her grandmother was wholly non-committal. Once, too, when her uncle seemed kinder than usual, she had ventured to ask him of her father, and with a frown he had replied, that "the least she knew of him the better!" Still 'Lena felt sure that he was a good man, and that some time or other she would find him.
All day long the clouds had been threatening rain, which began to fall soon after 'Lena entered the arbor, but so absorbed was she in her own thoughts, that she did not observe it until her clothes were perfectly dampened; then starting up, she repaired to the house. For several days she had not been well, and this exposure brought on a severe cold, which confined her to her room for nearly two weeks. Meantime the dress-making process went on, Anna keeping 'Lena constantly apprised of its progress, and occasionally wearing in some article for her inspection. This reminded 'Lena of her own wardrobe, and knowing that it would not be attended to while she was sick, she made such haste to be well, that on Thursday at tea-time she took her accustomed seat at the table. After supper she lingered awhile in the parlor, hoping something would be said, but she waited in vain, and was about leaving, when a few words spoken by Carrie in an adjoining room caught her ear and arrested her attention.
They were—"And so 'Lena came down to-night. I dare say she thinks you'll set Miss Simpson at work upon my old delaine."
"Perhaps so," returned Mrs. Livingstone, "but I don't see how Miss Simpson can do it, unless you put off having that silk apron embroidered."
"I shan't do any such thing," said Carrie, glad of an excuse to keep 'Lena out of the way. "What matter is it if she don't come down when the company are here? I'd rather she wouldn't, for she's so green and awkward, and Durward is so fastidious in such matters, that I'd rather he wouldn't know she's a relative of ours! I know he'd tell his mother, and they say she is very particular about his associates."
'Lena's first impulse was to defy her cousin to her face—to tell her she had seen Durward Bellmont, and that he didn't laugh at her either. But her next thought was calmer and more rational. Possibly under Carrie's influence he might make fun of her, and resolving on no condition whatever to make herself visible while he was in the house, she returned to her room, and throwing herself upon the bed, wept until she fell asleep.
"When is Miss Simpson going to fix 'Lena's dress?" asked Anna, as day after day passed, and nothing was said of the brown delaine.
For an instant Miss Simpson's nimble fingers were still, as she awaited the answer to a question which had occurred to her several times. She was a kind-hearted, intelligent girl, find at a glance had seen how matters stood. She, too, was an orphan, and her sympathies were all enlisted in behalf of the neglected 'Lena. She had heard from Anna of the brown delaine, and in her own mind she had determined that it should be fitted with the utmost taste of which she was capable.
Her speculations, however, were brought to a close by Mrs. Livingstone's saying in reply to Anna, that "'Lena seemed so wholly uninterested, and cared so little about seeing the company, she had decided not to have the dress fixed until after Christmas week."
The fiery expression of two large, glittering eyes, which at that moment peered in at the door, convinced Miss Simpson that her employer had hardly told the truth, and she secretly determined that 'Lena should have the dress whether she would or not. Accordingly, the next time she and Anna were alone, she asked for the delaine, entrusting her secret to Anna, who, thinking no harm, promised to keep it from her mother. But to get 'Lena fitted was a more difficult matter. Her spirit was roused, and for a time she resisted their combined efforts. At last, however, she yielded, and by working late at night in her own room, Miss Simpson managed to finished the dress, in which 'Lena really looked better than did either of her cousins in their garments of far richer materials. Still she was resolved not to go down, and Anna, fearing what her mother might say, dared not urge her very strongly hoping, though, that "something would turn up."
* * * * * *
Durward Bellmont, Nellie Douglass, and Mabel Ross had arrived at Captain Atherton's. Mrs. Livingstone and her daughters had called upon them, inviting them to spend a few days at Maple Grove, where they were to meet some other young people "selected from the wealthiest families in the neighborhood," Mrs. Livingstone said, at the same time patting the sallow cheek of Mabel, whose reputed hundred thousand she intended should one day increase the importance of her own family.
The invitation was accepted—the day had arrived, the guests were momentarily expected, and Carrie, before the long mirror, was admiring herself, alternately frowning upon John Jr., who was mimicking her "airs," and scolding Anna for fretting because 'Lena could not be induced to join them. Finding that her niece was resolved not to appear, Mrs. Livingstone, for looks' sake, had changed her tactics, saying, "'Lena could come down if she chose—she was sure there was nothing to prevent."
Knowing this, Anna had exhausted all her powers of eloquence upon her cousin. But she still remained inexorable, greatly to the astonishment of her grandmother who for several days had been suffering from a rheumatic affection, notwithstanding which she "meant to hobble down if possible, for" said she, "I want to see this Durward Bellmont. Matilda says he's got Noble blood in him. I used to know a family of Nobles in Massachusetts, and I think like as not he's some kin!"
Carrie, to whom this remark was made, communicated it to her mother, who forthwith repaired to Mrs. Nichols' room, telling her "that 'twas a child's party," and hinting pretty strongly that she was neither wanted nor expected in the parlor, and would confer a great favor by keeping aloof.
"Wall, wall," said Mrs. Nichols, who had learned to dread her daughter's displeasure, "I'd as lief stay up here as not, but I do want 'Lena to jine 'em. She's young and would enjoy it."
Without a word of answer Mrs. Livingstone walked away, leaving 'Lena more determined than ever not to go down. When the evening at last arrived, Anna insisted so strongly upon her wearing the delaine, for fear of what might happen, that 'Lena consented, curling her hair with great care, and feeling a momentary thrill of pride as she saw how well she looked.
"When we get nicely to enjoying ourselves," said Anna, "you come down and look through the glass door, for I do want you to see Durward, he's so handsome—but there's the carriage—I must go;" and away ran Anna down the stairs, while 'Lena flew to one of the front windows to see the company as they rode up.
First came Captain Atherton's carriage, and in it the captain and his maiden sister, together with a pale, sickly-looking girl, whom 'Lena knew to be Mabel Ross. Behind them rode Durward Bellmont, and at his side, on a spirited little pony was another girl, thirteen or fourteen years of age, but in her long riding-dress looking older, because taller. 'Lena readily guessed that this was Nellie Douglass, and at a glance she recognized the Durward of the cars—grown handsomer and taller since then, she thought. With a nimble bound he leaped from his saddle, kissing his hand to Carrie, who with her sunniest smile ran past him to welcome Nellie. A pang, not of jealousy, but of an undefined something, shot through 'Lena's heart, and dropping the heavy curtain, she turned away, while the tears gathered thickly in her large brown eyes.
"Where's 'Lena?" asked Captain Atherton, of Anna, warming his red fingers before the blazing grate, and looking round upon the group of girls gathered near. Glancing at her mother, Anna replied, "She says she don't want to come down."
"Bashful," returned the captain, while Nellie Douglass asked, "who 'Lena was," at the same time returning the pinch which John Jr. had slyly given her as a mode of showing his preference, for Nellie was his favorite.
Fearful of Anna's reply, Mrs. Livingstone answered, carelessly, "She's the child of one of Mr. Livingstone's poor relations, and we've taken her awhile out of charity."
At any other time John Jr. would doubtless have questioned his mother's word, but now so engrossed was he with the merry, hoydenish Nellie, that he scarcely heard her remark, or noticed the absence of 'Lena. With the exception of his cousin, Nellie was the only girl whom John Jr. could endure—"the rest," he said, "were so stuck up and affected."
For Mabel Ross, he seemed to have a particular aversion. Not because she was so very disagreeable, but because his mother continually reminded him of what she hoped would one day be, "and this," he said, "was enough to make a 'feller' hate a girl." So without considering that Mabel was not to blame, he ridiculed her unmercifully, calling her "a bundle of medicine," and making fun of her thin, sallow face, which really appeared to great disadvantage when contrasted with Nellie's bright eyes and round, rosy cheeks.
When the guests were all assembled, Carrie, not knowing whether Durward Bellmont would relish plays, seated herself demurely upon the sofa, prepared to act the dignified young lady, or any other character she might think necessary.
"Get up, Cad," said John Jr. "Nobody's going to act like they were at a funeral; get up, and let's play something."
As the rest seemed to be similarly inclined, Carrie arose, and erelong the joyous shouts reached 'Lena, making her half wish that she, too, was there. Remembering Anna's suggestion of looking through the glass door she stole softly down the stairs, and stationing herself behind the door, looked in on the scene. Mr. Everett, usually so dignified, had joined in the game, claiming "forfeits" from Anna more frequently than was considered at all necessary by the captain, who for a time looked jealously on, and then declaring himself as young as any of them, joined them with a right good will.
"Blind man's buff," was next proposed, and 'Lena's heart leaped up, for that was her favorite game. John Jr. was first blinded, but he caught them so easily that all declared he could see, and loud were the calls for Durward to take his place. This he willingly did, and whether he could see or not, he suffered them to pass directly under his hands, thus giving entire satisfaction. On account of the heat of the rooms, Anna, on passing the glass door, threw it open, and the next time Durward came round he marched directly into the hall, seizing 'Lena, who was trying to hide.
Feeling her long curls, he exclaimed, "Anna, you are caught."
"No, I ain't Anna; let me go," said 'Lena, struggling to escape.
This brought all the girls to the spot, while Durward, snatching the muffler from his eyes, looked down with astonishment upon the trembling 'Lena, who would have escaped had she not been so securely hemmed in.
"Ain't you ashamed, 'Lena, to be peeking?" asked Carrie, while Durward repeated—"'Lena! 'Lena! I've seen her before in the cars between Springfield and Albany; but how came she here?"
"She lives here—she's our cousin," said Anna, notwithstanding the twitch given to her sleeve by Carrie, who did not care to have the relationship exposed.
"Your cousin," said Durward, "and where's the old lady who was with her?"
"The one she called granny?" asked John Jr., on purpose to rouse up his fiery little cousin.
"No, I don't call her granny, neither—I've quit it," said 'Lena, angrily, adding, as a sly hit at Kentucky talk, "she's up stars, sick with the rheumatism."
"Good," said Durward, "but why are you not down here with us?"
"I didn't want to come," was her reply; and Durward, leading her into the parlor, continued, "but now that you are here, you must stay."
"Pretty, isn't she," said Nellie, as the full blaze of the chandelier fell upon 'Lena.
"Rath-er," was Carrie's hesitating reply.
She felt annoyed that 'Lena should be in the parlor, and provoked that Durward should notice her in any way, and at the first opportunity she told him "how much she both troubled and mortified them, by her vulgarity and obstinacy," adding that "she had a most violent temper." From Nellie she had learned that Durward particularly disliked passionate girls, and for this reason she strove to give him the impression that 'Lena was such an one. Once or twice she fancied him half inclined to disbelieve her, as he saw how readily 'Lena joined in their amusements, and how good-humoredly she bore John Jr.'s teasing, and then she hoped something would occur to prove her words true. Her wish was gratified.
The next day was dark and stormy, confining the young people to the house. About ten o'clock the negro who had been to the post-office returned, bringing letters for the family, among which was one for 'Lena, so curious in its shape and superscription, that even the negro grinned as he handed it out. 'Lena was not then present, and Carrie, taking the letter, exclaimed, "Now if this isn't the last specimen from Yankeedom. Just listen,—" and she spelled out the direction—"To Mis HELL-ENY RIVERS, state of kentucky, county of woodford, Dorsey post offis, care of Mis nichals."
Unobserved by any one, 'Lena had entered the parlor in time to hear every word, and when Carrie, chancing to espy her, held out the letter, saying, "Here, Helleny, I guess this came from down east," she darted forward, and striking the letter from Carrie's hands stamped upon it with her foot, declaring "she'd never open it in the world," and saying "they might do what they pleased with it for all of her."
"Read it—may we read it?" eagerly asked Carrie, delighted to see 'Lena doing such justice to her reputation.
"Yes, read it!" almost screamed 'Lena, and before any one could interpose a word, Carrie had broken the seal and commenced reading, announcing, first, that it came from "Joel Slocum!" It was as follows:
"Dear Helleny, mebby you'll wonder when you see a letter from me, but I'll be hanged if I can help 'ritin', I am so confounded lonesome now you are gone, that I dun know nothing what to do with myself. So I set on the great rock where the saxefax grows; and think, and think till it seems 's ef my head would bust open. Wall, how do you git along down amongst them heathenish Kentucks & niggers? I s'pose there ain't no great difference between 'em, is there? When I git a little more larnin', I b'lieve I'll come down there to keep school. O, I forgot to tell you that our old line back cow has got a calf—the prettiest little critter—Dad has gin her to me, and I call her Helleny, I do, I swow! And when she capers round she makes me think of the way you danced 'High putty Martin' the time you stuck a sliver in your heel—"
Up to this point 'Lena had stood immovable, amid the loud shouts of her companions, but the fire of a hundred volcanoes burned within and flashed from her eyes. And now springing forward, she caught the letter from Carrie's hand, and inflicting a long scratch upon her forehead, fled from the room. Had not Durward Bellmont been present, Carrie would have flown after her cousin, to avenge the insult, and even now she was for a moment thrown off her guard, and starting forward, exclaimed, "the tigress!"
Drawing his fine cambric handkerchief from his pocket, Durward gently wiped the blood from her white brow, saying "Never mind. It is not a deep scratch."
"I wish 'twas deeper," muttered John Jr. "You'd no business to serve her so mean."
An angry retort rose to Carrie's lips, but, just in time to prevent its utterance, Durward also spoke, saying, "It was too bad to tease her so, but we were all more or less to blame, and I'm not sure but we ought to apologize."
Carrie felt that she would die, almost, before she'd apologize to such as 'Lena, and still she thought it might be well enough to give Durward the impression that she was doing, her best to make amends for her fault. Accordingly, the next time her cousin appeared in the parlor she was all smiles and affability, talking a great deal to 'Lena, who returned very short but civil answers, while her face wore a look which Durward construed into defiance and hatred of everybody and everything.
"Too passionate," thought he, turning from her to Carrie, whose voice, modulated to its softest tones, rang out clear and musical, as she sported and laughed with her moody cousin, appearing the very essence of sweetness and amiability!
Pity he could not have known how bitterly 'Lena had wept over her hasty action—not because he witnessed it, but because she knew it was wrong! Pity he could not have read the tear-blotted note, which she laid on Carrie's work-box, and in which was written, "I am sorry, Carrie, that I hurt you so. I didn't know what I was about, but I will try and not get so angry again."
Pity, too, that he did not see the look of contempt with which Carrie perused this note; and when the two girls accidentally met in the upper hall, and 'Lena laid her hand gently on Carrie's arm, it is a thousand pities he was not present to see how fiercely she was repulsed, Carrie exclaiming, "Get out of my sight! I hate you, and so do all of them downstairs, Durward in particular."
Had he known all this he would have thought differently of 'Lena, who, feeling that she was not wanted in the parlor, kept herself entirely aloof, never again appearing during the remainder of his stay. Once Durward asked for her, and half laughingly Carrie replied, that "she had not yet recovered from her pouting fit." Could he have known her real occupation, he might have changed his mind again. The stormy weather had so increased Mrs. Nichols' rheumatic complaint, that now, perfectly crippled, she lay as helpless as a child, carefully nursed by 'Lena and old Aunt Polly, who, spite of her own infirmities, had hobbled in to wait upon her friend. Never but once did Mrs. Livingstone go near her mother's sick-room—"the smell of herbs made her faint," she said! But to do her justice, we must say that she gave Polly unqualified permission to order anything she pleased for the invalid.
Toward the close of the third day, the company left. Nellie Douglass, who really liked 'Lena, and wished to bid her good-bye, whispered to John Jr., asking him to show her the way to his cousin's room. No one except members of the family had ever been in Mrs. Nichols' apartment, and for a moment John Jr. hesitated, knowing well that Nellie could not fail to observe the contrast it presented to the other richly-furnished chambers.
"They ought to be mortified—it'll serve 'em right," he thought, at last, and motioning Nellie to fallow him, he silently led the way to his grandmother's room, where their knock was answered by Aunt Polly's gruff voice, which bade them "come in."
They obeyed, but Nellie started back when she saw how greatly inferior was this room to the others around it. In an instant her eye took in everything, and she readily comprehended the whole.
"It isn't my doings, by a jug-full!" whispered John Jr., himself reddening as he noted the different articles of furniture which had never before seemed so meager and poor.
On the humble bed, in a half-upright position, lay Mrs. Nichols, white as the snowy cap-border which shaded her face. Behind her sat 'Lena, supporting her head, and when Nellie entered, she was carefully pushing back the few gray locks which had fallen over the invalid's forehead, her own bright curls mingling with them, and resting, some on her neck, and some on her grandmother's shoulder. A deep flush dyed her cheeks when she saw Nellie, who thought she had never looked upon a sight more beautiful.
"I did not know your grandmother was ill," said she, coming forward and gently touching the swollen hand which lay outside the counterpane.
Mrs. Nichols was not too ill to talk, and forthwith she commenced a history of her malady, beginning at the time she first had it when 'Lena's mother was a year and a day old, frequently quoting Nancy Scovandyke, and highly entertaining Nellie, who listened until warned by the sound of the carriage, as it came round to the door, that she must go.
"We are going back to Uncle Atherton's," said she, "but I wanted to bid you good-bye, and ask you to visit me in Frankfort with your cousins. Will you do so?"
This was wholly unexpected to 'Lena, who, without replying, burst info tears. Nellie hardly knew what to do. She seldom cried herself—she did not like to see others cry—and still she did not blame 'Lena, for she felt that she could not help it. At last, taking her hand, she bade her farewell, asking if she should not carry a good-bye to the others.
"Yes, to Mabel," said 'Lena.
"And not Durward?" asked Nellie.
With something of her old spirit 'Lena answered, "No, he hates me—Carrie says so."
"Cad's a fool," muttered John Jr., while Nellie rejoined, "Durward never hated anybody, and even if he did, he would not say so—I mean to tell him;" and with another good-bye she was gone.
On the stairs she met Durward, who was looking for her, and asked where she had been.
"To bid 'Lena good-bye; don't you want to go too?" said Nellie.
"Why, yes, if you are sure she won't scratch my eyes out," he returned, gayly, following his cousin.
"I reckon I'd better tell 'Lena to come out into the hall—she may not want you in there," said John Jr., and hastening forward he told his cousin what was wanted.
Oh, how 'Lena longed to go, but pride, and the remembrance of Carrie's words, prevented her, and coldly answering, "No, I don't wish to see him," she turned away to hide the tears and pain which those words had cost her.
This visit to Grandma Nichols' room was productive of some good, for John Jr., did not fail of repeating to his mother the impression which he saw was made on Nellie's mind, adding, that "though Durward did not venture in, Nellie would of course tell him all about it. And then," said he, "I wouldn't give much for his opinion of your treatment of your mother."
Angry, because she felt the truth of what her son said, Mrs. Livingstone demanded "what he'd have her do."
"Do?" he repeated, "give grandmother a decent room, or else fix that one up, so it won't look like the old scratch had been having a cotillon there. Paper and paint it, and make it look decent."
Upon this last piece of advice Mrs. Livingstone resolved to act, for recently several vague rumors had reached her ear, touching her neglect of her mother-in-law, and she began herself to think it just possible that a little of her money would be well expended in adding to the comfort of her husband's mother. Accordingly, as soon as Mrs. Nichols was able to sit up, her room underwent a thorough renovation, and though no great amount of money was expended upon it, it was fitted up with so much taste that the poor old lady, whom John Jr., 'Lena and Anna, had adroitly kept out of the way until her room was finished, actually burst into tears when first ushered into her light, airy apartment, in which everything looked so cheerful and pleasant.
"'Tilda has now and then a good streak," said she, while Aunt Milly, who had taken a great deal of interest in the repairing of the room, felt inclined to change her favorite theory with regard to her mistress' future condition.
FIVE YEARS LATER.
And in the fair city of elms we again open the scene. It was commencement at Yale, and the crowd which filled the old Center church were listening breathlessly to the tide of eloquence poured forth by the young valedictorian.
Durward Bellmont, first in his studies, first in his class, and first in the esteem of his fellow-students, had been unanimously chosen to that post of honor, and as the gathered multitude hung upon his words and gazed upon his manly beauty, they felt mat a better choice could not well have been made. At the right of the platform sat a group of ladies, friends, it would seem, of the speaker, for ever and anon his eyes turned in that direction, and as if each glance incited him to fresh efforts, his eloquence increased, until at last no sound save that of his deep-toned voice was heard, so rapt was every one in the words of the young orator. But when his speech was ended, there arose deafening shouts of applause, while bouquets fell in perfect showers at his feet. Among them was one smaller and more elegant than the rest, and as if it were more precious, too, it was the first which Durward took from the floor.
"See, Carrie, he gives you the preference," whispered one of the young ladies on the right, and Carrie Livingstone for she it was, felt a thrill of gratified pride, when she saw how carefully he guarded the bouquet, which during all the exercises she had made her especial care, calling attention to it in so many different ways that hardly any one who saw it in Durward's possession, could fail of knowing from what source it same.
But then everybody said they were engaged—so what did it matter? Everybody but John Jr., who was John Jr. still, and who while openly denying the engagement, teasingly hinted "that 'twas no fault of Cad's."
For the last three years, Carrie, Nellie, Mabel, and Anna had been inmates of the seminary in New Haven, and as they were now considered sufficiently accomplished to enter at once upon all the gayeties of fashionable life, John Jr. had come on "to see the elephant," as he said, and to accompany them home. Carrie had fulfilled the promise of her girlhood, and even her brother acknowledged that she was handsome in spite of her nose, which like everybody's else, still continued to be the most prominent feature of her face. She was proud, too, as well as beautiful, and throughout the city she was known as the "haughty southern belle," admired by some and disliked by many. Among the students she was not half so popular as her unpretending sister, whose laughing blue eyes and sunny brown hair were often toasted, together with the classical brow and dignified bearing of Nellie Douglass, who had lost some of the hoydenish propensities of her girlhood, and who was now a graceful, elegant creature just merging into nineteen—the pride of her widowed father, and the idol still of John Jr., whose boyish preference had ripened into a kind of love such as only he could feel.
With poor Mabel Ross it had fared worse, her plain face and dumpy little figure never receiving the least attention except from Durward Bellmont, who pitying her lonely condition, frequently left more congenial society for the sake of entertaining her. Of any one else Carrie would have been jealous, but feeling sure that Mabel had no attraction save her wealth, and knowing that Durward did not care for that, she occasionally suffered him to leave her side, always feeling amply repaid by the evident reluctance with which he left her society for that of Mabel's.
When ill-naturedly rallied by his companions upon his preference for Carrie, Durward would sometimes laughingly refer them to the old worn-out story of the fox and the grapes, for to scarcely any one save himself did Carrie think it worth her while to be even gracious. This conduct was entirely at variance with her natural disposition, for she was fond of admiration, come from what source it might, and she would never have been so cold and distant to all save Durward, had she not once heard him say that "he heartily despised a flirt; and that no young lady could at all interest him if he suspected her of being a coquette."
This, then, was the secret of her reserve. She was resolved upon winning Durward Bellmont, deeming no sacrifice too great if in the end it secured the prize. It is true there was one sophomore, a perfumed, brainless fop, from Rockford, N. Y., who, next to Durward, was apparently most in favor, but the idea of her entertaining even a shadow of a liking for Tom Lakin, was too ludicrous to be harbored for a moment, so his attentions went for naught, public opinion uniting in giving her to Mr. Bellmont.
With the lapse of years, Anna, too, had greatly improved. The extreme delicacy of her figure was gone, and though her complexion was as white and pure as marble, it denoted perfect health. With John Jr. she was still the favorite sister, the one whom he loved the best. "Carrie was too stiff and proud," he said, and though when he met her in New Haven, after a year's absence, his greeting was kind and brotherly, he soon turned from her to Anna and Nellie, utterly neglecting Mabel, who turned away to her chamber to cry, because no one cared for her.
Frequently had his mother reminded him of the importance of securing a wealthy bride, always finishing her discourse by speaking of Mr. Douglass' small income, and enlarging upon the immense wealth of Mabel Ross, whose very name had become disagreeable to John Jr. At one time his father had hoped he, too, would enter college, but the young man derided the idea of his ever making a scholar, saying, however, more in sport than in earnest, that "he was willing to enter a store, or learn a trade, so that in case he was ever obliged to earn his own living, he would have some means of doing it;" but to this his mother would not listen. He was her "darling boy," and "his hands, soft and white as those of a girl, should never become hardened and embrowned by labor!" So, while his sisters were away at school, he was at home, hunting, fishing, riding, teasing his grandmother, tormenting the servants, and shocking his mother by threatening to make love to his cousin 'Lena, to whom he was at once a pest and a comfort, and who now claims a share of our attention.
When it was decided to send Carrie and Anna to New Haven, Mr. Livingstone proposed that 'Lena should also accompany them, but this plan Mrs. Livingstone opposed with all her force, declaring that her money should never be spent in educating the "beggarly relatives" of her husband, who in this, as in numerous other matters, was forced to yield the point. As Mr. Everett's services were now no longer needed, he accepted the offer of a situation in the family of General Fontaine, a high-bred, southern gentleman, whose plantation was distant but half a mile from "Maple Grove;" and as he there taught a regular school, having under his charge several of the daughters of the neighboring planters, it was decided that 'Lena also should continue under his instruction.
Thus while Carrie and Anna were going through the daily routine of a fashionable boarding-school, 'Lena was storing her mind with useful knowledge, and though her accomplishments were not quite so showy as those of her cousins, they had in them the ring of the pure metal. Although her charms were as yet but partially developed, she was a creature of rare loveliness, and many who saw her for the first time, marveled that aught so beautiful could be real. She had never seen Durward Bellmont since that remarkable Christmas week, but many a time had her cheeks flushed with a feeling which she could not define, as she read Anna's accounts of the flattering attentions which he paid to Carrie, who, when at home, still treated her with haughty contempt or cool indifference.
But for this she did not care. She knew she was loved by Anna, and liked by John Jr., and she hoped—nay, half believed—that she was not wholly indifferent to her uncle, who, while he seldom made any show of his affection, still in his heart admired and felt proud of her. With his wife it was different. She hated 'Lena—hated her because she was beautiful and talented, and because in her presence Carrie and Anna were ever in the shade. Still her niece was too general a favorite in the neighborhood to allow of open hostility at home, and so the proud woman ground together her glittering teeth—and waited!
Among the many who admired 'Lena, there was no one who gave her such full and unbounded homage as did her grandmother, whose life at Maple Grove had been one of shadow, seldom mingled with sunshine. Gradually had she learned the estimation in which she was held by her son's wife, and she felt how bitter it was to eat the bread of dependence. As far as she was able, 'Lena shielded her from the sneers of her aunt, who thinking she had done all that was required of her when she fixed their room, would for days and even weeks appear utterly oblivious of their presence, or frown darkly whenever chance threw them in her way. She had raised no objection to 'Lena's continuing a pupil of Mr. Everett, who, she hoped, would not prove indifferent to her charms, fancying that in this way she would sooner be rid of one whom she feared as a rival of her daughters.