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'Lena Rivers
by Mary J. Holmes
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But she was mistaken; for much as Malcolm Everett might admire 'Lena, another image than hers was enshrined in his heart, and most carefully guarded was the little golden curl, cut in seeming sport from the head it once adorned, and, now treasured as a sacred memento of the past. Believing that it would be so because she wished it to be so, Mrs. Livingstone had more than once whispered to her female friends her surmises that Malcolm Everett would marry 'Lena, and at the time of which we are speaking, it was pretty generally understood that a strong liking, at least, if not an engagement, existed between them.

Old Captain Atherton, grown more smooth and portly, rubbed his fat hands complacently, and while applying Twigg's Preparation to his hair, congratulated himself that the only rival he had ever feared was now out of his way. Thinking, too, that 'Lena had conferred a great favor upon himself by taking Mr. Everett from off his mind, became exceedingly polite to her, making her little presents and frequently asking her to ride. Whenever these invitations were accepted, they were sure to be followed by a ludicrous description to Anna, who laughed merrily over her cousin's letters, declaring herself half jealous of her "gray-haired lover," as she termed the captain.

All such communications were eagerly seized by Carrie, and fully discussed in the presence of Durward, who gradually received the impression that 'Lena was a flirt, a species of womankind which he held in great abhorrence. Just before he left New Haven, he received a letter from his stepfather, requesting him to stop for a day or two at Captain Atherton's, where he would join him, as he wished to look at a country-seat near Mr. Livingstone's, which was now for sale. This plan gave immense satisfaction to Carrie, and when her brother proposed that Durward should stop at their father's instead of the captain's, she seconded the invitation so warmly, that Durward finally consented, and word was immediately sent to Mrs. Livingstone to hold herself in readiness to receive Mr. Bellmont.

"Oh, I do hope your father will secure Woodlawn," said Carrie, as in the parlor of the Burnett House, Cincinnati, they were discussing the projected purchase.

The other young ladies had gone out shopping, and John Jr., who was present, and who felt just like teasing his sister, replied, "What do you care? Mrs. Graham has no daughters, and she won't fancy such a chit as you, so it must be Durward's society that you so much desire, bit I can assure you that your nose will be broken when once he sees our 'Lena."

Carrie turned toward the window to hide her wrath at this speech, while Durward asked if "Miss Rivers were so very handsome?"

"Handsome!" repeated John. "That don't begin to express it. Cad is what I call handsome, but 'Lena is beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful—now you have it superlatively. Such complexion—such eyes—such hair—I'll be hanged if I haven't been more than half in love with her myself."

"I really begin to tremble," said Durward, laughingly while Carrie rejoined, "You've only to make the slightest advance, and your love will be returned ten-fold, for 'Lena is very susceptible, and already encourages several admirers."

"There, my fair sister, you are slightly mistaken," interrupted John Jr., who was going on farther in his remarks, when Durward asked if "she ever left any marks of her affection," referring to the scratch she had given Carrie; who, before her brother had time to speak, replied that "the will and the claws remained the same, though common decency kept them hidden when it was necessary."

"That's downright slander," said John Jr., determined now upon defending his cousin, "'Lena has a high temper, I acknowledge, but she tries hard to govern it, and for nearly two years I've not seen her angry once, though she's had every provocation under heaven."

"She knows when and where to be amiable," retorted Carrie. "Any one of her admirers would tell the same story with yourself."

At this juncture John Jr. was called for a moment from the room, and Carrie, fearing she had said too much, immediately apologized to Durward, saying, "it was not often that she allowed herself to speak against her cousin, and that she should not have done so now, were not John so much blinded, that her mother, knowing Lena's ambitious nature, sometimes seriously feared the consequence. I know," said she, "that John fancies Nellie, but 'Lena's influence over him is very great."

Durward made no reply, and Carrie continued: "I'm always sorry when I speak against 'Lena; she is my cousin, and I wouldn't prejudice any one against her; so you must forget my unkind remarks, which would never have been uttered in the presence of a stranger. She is handsome and agreeable, and you must like her in spite of what I said."

"I cannot refuse when so fair a lady pleads her cause," was Durward's gallant answer, and as the other young ladies then entered the room, the conversation ceased.

Meanwhile 'Lena was very differently employed. Nearly a year had elapsed since she had seen her cousins, and her heart bounded with joy at the thought of meeting Anna, whom she dearly loved. Carrie was to her an object of indifference, rather than dislike, and ofttimes had she thought, "If she would only let me love her." But it could not be, for there was no affinity between them. Carrie was proud and overbearing—jealous of her high-spirited cousin, who, as John Jr. had said, strove hard to subdue her temper, and who now seldom resented Carrie's insults, except when they were leveled at her aged grandmother.

As we have before stated, news' had been received at Maple Grove that Durward would accompany her cousins home. Mr. Graham would, of course, join him there, and accordingly, extensive preparations were immediately commenced. An unusual degree of sickness was prevailing among the female portion of Mrs. Livingstone's servants, and the very day before the company was expected, Aunt Milly, the head cook was taken suddenly ill. Coaxing, scolding, and threatening were alike ineffectual. The old negress would not say she was well when she wasn't, and as Hagar, the next in command, was also sick (lazy, as her mistress called it,) Mrs. Livingstone was herself obliged to superintend the cookery.

"Crosser than a bar," as the little darkies said, she flew back and forth, from kitchen to pantry, her bunch of keys rattling, the corners of her mouth drawn back, and her hands raised ready to strike at anything that came in her way. As if there were a fatality attending her movements, she was unfortunate in whatever she undertook. The cake was burned black, the custard curdled, the preserves were found to be working, the big preserve dish got broken, a thunder shower soured the cream, and taking it all in all, she really had trouble enough to disconcert the most experienced housekeeper. Still, the few negroes able to assist, thought "she needn't be so fetch-ed cross."

But cross she was, feeling more than once inclined to lay witchcraft to the charge of old Milly, who comfortably ensconced in bed, listened in dismay to the disastrous accounts brought her from time to time from the kitchen, mentally congratulating herself the while upon not being within hearing of her mistress' tongue. Once Mrs. Nichols attempted to help, but she was repulsed so angrily that 'Lena did not presume to offer her services until the day of their arrival, when, without a word, she repaired to the chambers, which she swept and dusted, arranging the furniture, and making everything ready for the comfort of the travelers. Then descending to the parlors, she went through the same process there, filled the vases with fresh flowers, looped back the curtains, opened the piano, wheeled the sofa a little to the right, the large chair a little to the left, and then going to the dining-room, she set the table in the most perfect order, doing all so quietly that her aunt knew nothing of it until it was done. Jake the coachman, had gone down to Frankfort after them, and as he was not expected to return until between three and four, dinner was deferred until that hour.

From sunrise Mrs. Livingstone had worked industriously, until her face and temper were at a boiling heat. The clock was on the point of striking three, and she was bending over a roasting turkey, when 'Lena ventured to approach her, saying, "I have seen Aunt Milly baste a turkey many a time, and I am sure I can do it as well as she."

"Well, what of it?" was the uncivil answer.

'Lena's temper choked her, but forcing it down, she replied: "Why, it is almost three, and I thought perhaps you would want to cool and dress yourself before they came. I can see to the dinner, I know I can. Please let me try."

Somewhat mollified by her niece's kind manner, Mrs. Livingstone resigned her post and repaired to her own room, while 'Lena, confining her long curls to the top of her head and donning the wide check-apron which her aunt had thrown aside, set herself at work with a right good will.

"What dat ar you say?" exclaimed Aunt Milly, lifting her woolly head from her pillow, and looking at the little colored girl, who had brought to her the news that "young miss was in de kitchen." "What dat ar you tellin'? Miss 'Leny pokin' 'mong de pots and kittles, and dis ole nigger lazin' in bed jes like white folks. Long as 'twas ole miss, I didn't seer. Good 'nough for her to roast, blister, and bile; done get used to it, case she's got to in kingdom come, no mistake—he!—he! But little Miss 'Leny, it's too bad to bake her lamb's-wool hands and face, and all de quality comin': I'll hobble up thar, if I can stand."

Suiting the action to the word she got out of bed, and crawling up to the kitchen, insisted upon taking 'Lena's place, saying, "she could sit in her chair and tell the rest what to do."

For a time 'Lena hesitated, the old woman seemed so faint and weak, but the sound of wheels decided her. Springing to the sideboard in the dining-room, she brought Aunt Milly a glass of wine, which revived her so much that she now felt willing to leave her. By this time the carriage was at the door, and to escape unobserved was now her great object. But this she could not do, for as she was crossing the hall, Anna espied her, and darting forward, seized her around the neck, at the same time dragging her toward Carrie, who, with Durward's eye upon her, kissed her twice; then turning to him, she said, "I suppose you do not need an introduction to Miss Rivers?"

Durward was almost guilty of the rudeness of staring at the strangeness of 'Lena's appearance, for as nearly as she could, she looked like a fright. Bending over hot stoves and boiling gravies is not very beneficial to one's complexion, and 'Lena's cheeks, neck, forehead, and nose were of a purplish red—her hair was tucked back in a manner exceedingly unbecoming, while the broad check-apron, which came nearly to her feet, tended in nowise to improve her appearance. She felt it keenly, and after returning Durward's salutation, she broke away before Anna or John, Jr., who were both surprised at her looks, had time to ask a question.

Running up to her room, her first impulse was to cry, but knowing that would disfigure her still more, she bathed her burning face and neck, brushed out her curls, threw on a simple muslin dress, and started for the parlor, of which Durward and Carrie were at that moment the only occupants. As she was passing the outer door, she observed upon one of the piazza pillars a half-blown rose, and for a moment stopped to admire it. Durward, who sat in a corner, did not see her, but Carrie did, and a malicious feeling prompted her to draw out her companion, who she felt sure was disappointed in 'Lena's face. They were speaking of a lady whom they saw at Frankfort, and whom Carrie pronounced "perfectly beautiful," while Durward would hardly admit that she was even good-looking.

"I am surprised at your taste," said Carrie, adding, as she noticed the proximity of her cousin, "I think she resembles 'Lena, and of course you'll acknowledge she is beautiful."

"She was beautiful five years ago, but she's greatly changed since then," answered Durward, never suspecting the exquisite satisfaction his words afforded Carrie, who replied, "You had better keep that opinion to yourself, and not express it before Captain Atherton or brother John."

"Who takes my name in vain?" asked John Jr., himself appearing at a side door.

"Oh, John," said Carrie, "we were just disputing about 'Lena. Durward does not think her handsome."

"Durward be hanged!" answered John, making a feint of drawing from his pocket a pistol which was not there. "What fault has he to find with 'Lena?"

"A little too rosy, that's all," said Durward, laughingly, while John continued, "She did look confounded red and dowdyish, for her. I don't understand it myself."

Here the hem of the muslin dress on which Carrie's eye had all the while been resting, disappeared, and as there was no longer an incentive for ill-natured remarks, the amiable young lady adroitly changed the conversation.

John Jr. also caught a glimpse of the retreating figure, and started in pursuit, in the course of his search passing the kitchen, where he was instantly hailed by Aunt Milly, who, while bemoaning her own aches and pains, did not fail to tell him how "Miss 'Lena, like aborned angel dropped right out of 'tarnity, had been in thar, burning her skin to a fiery red, a-tryin' to get up a tip-top dinner."

"So ho!" thought the young man, "that explains it;" and turning on his heel, he walked back to the house just as the last bell was ringing for dinner.

On entering the dining-room, he found all the family assembled, except 'Lena. She had excused herself on the plea of a severe headache, and now in her own room was chiding herself for being so much affected by a remark accidentally overheard. What did she care if Durward did think her plain? He was nothing to her, and never would be—and again she bathed her head, which really was aching sadly.

"And so 'Lena's got the headache," said John Jr. "Well, I don't wonder, cooking all the dinner as she did."

"What do you mean?" asked Anna, while Mrs. Livingstone's angry frown bade her son keep silence,

Filial obedience, however, was not one of John Jr.'s cardinal virtues, and in a few words, he repeated what Aunt Milly had told him, adding aside to Durward, "This explains the extreme rosiness which so much offended your lordship. When next you see her, you'll change your mind."

Suddenly remembering that his grandmother had not been introduced, he now presented her to Durward. The Noble's blood had long been forgotten, but grandma was never at a loss for a subject, and she commenced talking notwithstanding Carrie's efforts to keep her still.

"Now I think on't, Car'line," said she at last, turning to her granddaughter, "now I think on't, what made you propose to have my dinner sent up to my room. I hain't et there but once this great while, and that was the day General Fontaine's folks were here, and Matilda thought I warn't able to come down."

Durward's half-concealed smile showed that he understood it all, while John Jr., in his element when his grandmother was talking, managed, to lead her on, until she reached her favorite theme—Nancy Scovandyke. Here a look from her son silenced her, and as dinner was just then over, Durward missed of hearing that remarkable lady's history.

Late in the afternoon, as the family were sitting upon the piazza, 'Lena joined them. Her headache had passed away, leaving her face a shade whiter than usual. The flush was gone from her forehead and nose, but mindful of Durward's remark, the roses deepened on her cheek, which only increased her loveliness.

"I acknowledge that I was wrong—your cousin is beautiful," whispered Durward to Carrie, who, mentally hating the beauty which had never before struck her so forcibly, replied in her softest tones, "I knew you would, and I hope you'll be equally ready to forgive her for winning hearts only to break them, for with that face how can she help it?"

"A handsome face is no excuse for coquetry," answered Durward; "neither can I think Miss Rivers guilty of it. At all events, I mean to venture a little nearer," and before Carrie could frame a reasonable excuse for keeping him at her side, he had crossed ever and taken a seat by 'Lena, with whom he was soon in the midst of an animated conversation, his surprise each moment increasing at the depth of intellect she displayed, for the beauty of her mind was equal to that of her person. Had it not been for the remembrance of Carrie's insinuations, his admiration would have been complete. But anything like coquetry he heartily despised, and one great secret of his liking for Carrie, was her evident freedom from that fault. As yet he had seen nothing to condemn in 'Lena's conduct. Wholly unaffected, she talked with him as she would have talked with any stranger, and still there was in her manner a certain coldness for which he could not account.

"Perhaps she thinks me not worth the winning," thought he, and in spite of his principles, he erelong found himself exerting all his powers to please and interest her.

About tea-time, Captain Atherton rode into the yard, and simultaneously with his arrival, Mr. Everett came also. Immediately remembering what he had heard, Durward, in his eagerness to watch 'Lena, failed to note the crimson flush on Anna's usually pale cheek, as Malcolm bent over her with his low-spoken, tender words of welcome, and when the phthisicky captain, claiming the privilege of an old friend, kissed the blushing Anna, Durward in his blindness attributed the scornful expression of 'Lena's face to a feeling of unwillingness that any save herself should share the attentions even of the captain! And in this impression he was erelong confirmed.

Drawing his chair up to Anna, Captain Atherton managed to keep Malcolm at a distance, while he himself wholly monopolized the young girl, who cast imploring glances toward her cousin, as if asking for relief. Many a time, on similar occasions, had 'Lena claimed the attention of the captain, for the sake of leaving Anna free to converse with Malcolm, and now understanding what was wanted of her, she nodded in token that she would come to the rescue. Just then, Mrs. Livingstone, who had kept an eye upon her niece, drew near, and as she seemed to want a seat; 'Lena instantly arose and offered hers, going herself to the place where the captain was sitting. Erelong, her lively sallies and the captain's loud laugh began to attract Mrs. Livingstone's attention, and observing that Durward's eyes were frequently drawn that way, she thought proper to make some remarks concerning the impropriety of her niece's conduct.

"I do wish," said she, apparently speaking more to herself than to Durward, "I do wish 'Lena would learn discretion, and let Captain Atherton alone, when she knows how much her behavior annoys Mr. Everett."

"Is Mr. Everett anything to her!" asked Durward, half hoping that she would not confirm what Carrie had before hinted.

"If he isn't he ought to be," answered Mrs. Livingstone, with an ominous shake of the head. "Rumor says they are engaged, and though when questioned she denies it, she gives people abundant reason to think so, and yet every chance she gets, she flirts with Captain Atherton, as you see her doing now."

"What can she or any other young girl possibly want of that old man?" asked Durward, laughing at the very idea.

"He is rich. 'Lena is poor, proud, and ambitious—there lies the secret," was Mrs. Livingstone's reply, and thinking she had said enough for the present, she excused herself, while she went to give orders concerning supper.

John Jr., and Carrie, too, had disappeared, and thus left to himself, Durward had nothing to do but to watch 'Lena, who, as she saw symptoms of desertion in the anxious glances which the captain cast toward Anna, redoubled her exertions to keep him at her side, thus confirming Durward in the belief that she really was what her aunt and Carrie had represented her to be. "Poor, proud, and ambitious," rang in his ears, and as he mistook the mischievous look which 'Lena frequently sent toward Anna and Malcolm, for a desire to see how the latter was affected by her conduct, he thought "Fickle as fair," at the same time congratulating himself that he had obtained an insight into her real character, ere her exceeding beauty and agreeable manners had made any particular impression upon him.

Knowing she had done nothing to offend him, and feeling piqued at his indifference, 'Lena in turn treated him so coldly, that even Carrie was satisfied with the phase which affairs had assumed, and that night, in the privacy of her mother's dressing-room, expressed her pleasure that matters were progressing so finely.

"You've no idea, mother," said she, "how much he detests anything like coquetry. Nellie Douglass thinks it's a kind of monomania with him, and I am inclined to believe it is so."

"In that case," answered Mrs. Livingstone, "it behooves you, in his presence, to be very careful how you demean yourself toward other gentlemen."

"I haven't lived nineteen years for nothing," said Carrie, folding her soft white hands complacently one over the other.

"Speaking of Nellie Douglass," continued Mrs. Livingstone, who had long desired this interview with her daughter, "speaking of Nellie, reminds me of your brother, who seems perfectly crazy about her."

"And what if he does ?" asked Carrie, her thoughts far more intent upon Durward Bellmont than her brother. "Isn't Nellie good enough for him?"

"Yes, good enough, I admit," returned her mother, "but I think I can find a far more suitable match—Mabel Ross, for instance. Her fortune is said to be immense, while Mr. Douglass is worth little or nothing."

"When you bring about a union between John Livingstone Jr. and Mabel Ross, I shall have full confidence in your powers to do anything, even to the marrying of Anna and Grandfather Atherton," answered Carrie, to whom her mother's schemes were no secret.

"And that, too, I'll effect, rather than see her thrown away upon a low bred northerner, who shall never wed her—never;" and the haughty woman paced up and down her room, devising numerous ways by which her long cherished three-fold plan should be effected.

The next morning, Durward arose much earlier than was his usual custom, and going out into the garden he came suddenly upon 'Lena. "This," said he, "is a pleasure which I did not expect when I rather unwillingly tore myself from my pillow."

All the coldness of the night before was gone, but 'Lena could not so soon forget, and quite indifferently she answered, that "she learned to rise early among the New England hills."

"An excellent practice, and one which more of our young ladies would do well to imitate," returned Durward, at the same time speaking of the beautifying effect which the morning air had upon her complexion.

'Lena reddened, for she recalled his words of yesterday concerning her plainness, and somewhat sharply she replied, that "any information regarding her personal appearance was wholly unnecessary, as she knew very well how she looked."

Durward bit his lip, and resolving never to compliment her again, walked on in silence at her side, while 'Lena, repenting of her hasty words, and desirous of making amends, exerted herself to be agreeable; and by the time the breakfast-bell rang, Durward mentally pronounced her "a perfect mystery," which he would take delight in unraveling!



CHAPTER X.

MR. AND MRS. GRAHAM.

Breakfast had been some time over, when the roll of carriage wheels and a loud ring at the door, announced the arrival of Mr. Graham, who, true to his appointment with Durward, had come up to meet him, accompanied by Mrs. Graham. This lady, who could boast of having once been the bride of an English lord, to say nothing of belonging to the "very first family of Virginia," was a sort of bugbear to Mrs. Livingstone, who, haughty and overbearing to her equals, was nevertheless cringing and cowardly in the presence of those whom she considered her superiors. Never having seen Mrs. Graham, her ideas concerning her were quite elevated, and now when she came unexpectedly, it quite overcame her. Unfortunately, too, she was this morning suffering from a nervous headache, the result of the excitement and late hours of the night before, and on learning that Mrs. Graham was in the parlor, she fell back in her rocking-chair, and between a groan and a sigh, declared her utter inability to see her at present, saying that Carrie must play the part of hostess until such time as she felt composed enough to undertake it.

"Oh, I can't—I shan't—that ends it!" said Carrie, who, though a good deal dressed on Durward's account, still felt anxious to give a few more finishing touches to her toilet, and to see if her hair and complexion were all right, ere she ventured into the august presence ef her "mother-in-law elect," as she confidently considered Mrs. Graham.

"Anna must go, then," persisted Mrs. Livingstone, who knew full well how useless it would be to press Carrie farther. "Anna must go—where is she? Call her, 'Lena."

But Anna was away over the fields, enjoying with Mr. Everett a walk which had been planned the night previous, and when 'Lena returned with the intelligence that she was nowhere to be found, her aunt in great distress exclaimed, "Mercy me! what will Mrs. Graham think—and Mr. Livingstone, too, keeps running back and forth for somebody to entertain her. What shall I do! I can't go in looking so yellow and jaded as I now do!"

'Lena's first thought was to bring her aunt's powderball, as the surest way of remedying the yellow skin, but knowing that such an act would be deeply resented, she quickly repressed the idea, offering instead to go herself to the parlor.

"You! What could you say to her?" returned Mrs. Livingstone, to whom the proposition was not altogether displeasing.

"I can at least answer her questions," returned 'Lena and after a moment her aunt consented, wondering the while how 'Lena, in her plain gingham wrapper and linen collar, could be willing to meet the fashionable Mrs. Graham.

"But then," thought she, "she has so little sensibility, I don't s'pose she cares! and why should she? Mrs. Graham will of course look upon her as only a little above a servant"—and with this complimentary reflection upon her niece, Mrs. Livingstone retired to her dressing-room, while 'Lena, with a beating heart and slightly heightened color, repaired to the parlor.

On a sofa by the window sat Mrs. Graham, and the moment 'Lena's eye fell upon her, her fears vanished, while she could hardly repress a smile at the idea of being afraid of her. She was a short, dumpy, florid looking woman, showily, and as 'Lena thought, overdressed for morning, as her person was covered with jewelry, which flashed and sparkled with every movement. Her forehead was very low, and marked by a scowl of discontent which was habitual, for with everything to make her happy, Mrs. Graham was far from being so. Exceedingly nervous and fidgety, she was apt to see only the darker side, and when her husband and son, who were of exactly opposite temperaments, strove to laugh her into good spirits, they generally made the matter worse, as she usually reproached them with having no feeling or sympathy for her.

Accustomed to a great deal of attention, she had fretted herself into quite a fever at Mrs. Livingstone's apparent lack of courtesy in not hastening to receive her, and when 'Lena's light step was heard in the hall, she turned toward the door with a frown which seemed to ask why she had not come sooner. Durward, who was present immediately introduced his mother, at the same time admiring the extreme dignity of 'Lena's manner as she received the lady's greeting, apologizing for her aunt's non-appearance, saying "she was suffering from a severe headache, and begged to be excused for an hour or so."

"Quite excusable," returned Mrs. Graham, at the same time saying something in a low tone about it's not being her wish to stop there so early, as she knew she was not expected.

"But perfectly welcome, nevertheless," 'Lena hastened to say, thinking that for the time being the reputation of her uncle's house was resting upon her shoulders.

"I dare say," was Mrs. Graham's ungracious answer, and then her little gray, deep-set eyes rested upon 'Lena, wondering if she were "a governess or what?" and thinking it strange that she should seem so perfectly self-possessed.

Insensibly, too, 'Lena's manner won upon her, for spite of her fretfulness, Mrs. Graham at heart was a kindly disposed woman. Ill health and long years of dissipation had helped to make her what she was. Besides this, she was not quite happy in her domestic relations, for though Mr. Graham possessed all the requisites of a kind and affectionate husband, he could not remove from her mind the belief that he liked others better then he did herself! 'Twas in vain that he alternately laughed at and reasoned with her on the subject. She was not to be convinced, and so poor Mr. Graham, who was really exceedingly polite and affable to the ladies, was almost constantly provoking the green-eyed monster by his attentions to some one of the fair sex. In spite of his nightly "Caudle" lectures, he would transgress again and again, until his wife's patience was exhausted, and now she affected to have given him up, turning for comfort and affection toward Durward, who was her special delight, "the very apple of her eye—he was so much like his father, Sir Arthur, who during the whole year that she lived with him had never once given her cause for jealousy."

Just before 'Lena entered the parlor Mr. Graham, had for a moment stepped out with Mr. Livingstone, but soon returning, he, too, was introduced to the young lady. It was strange, considering 'Lena's uncommon beauty, that Mrs. Graham did not watch her husband's manner, but for once in her life she felt no fears, and looking from the window, she failed to note the sudden pallor which overspread his face when Mr. Livingstone presented to him "Miss Rivers—my niece."

Mr. Graham was a tall, finely-formed man, with a broad, good-humored face, whose expression instantly demanded respect from strangers, while his pleasant, affable deportment universally won the friendship of ail who knew him. And 'Lena was not an exception to the general rule, for the moment his warm hand grasped hers and his kindly beaming eye rested upon her, her heart went toward him as a friend, while she wondered why he looked at her so long and earnestly, twice repeating her name—"Miss Rivers—Rivers."

From the first, 'Lena had recognized him as the same gentleman whom Durward had called father in the cars years ago, and when, as if to apologize for his singular conduct, he asked if they had never met before, she referred him to that time, saying "she thought it strange that he should remember her."

"Old acquaintances—ah—indeed !" and little Mrs. Graham nodded and fanned, while her round, florid face grew more florid, and her linen cambric went up to her forehead as if trying to smooth out the scowl which was of too long standing to be smoothed.

"Yes, my dear," said Mr. Graham, turning toward his wife, "I had entirely forgotten the circumstance, but it seems I saw her in the cars when we took our eastern tour six or seven years ago. You were quite a little girl then"—turning to 'Lena.

"Only ten," was the reply, and Mrs. Graham, ashamed of herself and anxious to make amends, softened considerable toward 'Lena, asking "how long she had lived in Kentucky—where she used to live—and where her mother was."

At this question, Mr. Graham, who was talking with Mr. Livingstone, suddenly stopped.

"My mother is dead," answered 'Lena.

"And your father?"

"Gone to Canada!" interrupted Durward, who had heard vague rumors of 'Lena's parentage, and who did not quite like his mother's being so inquisitive.

Mrs. Graham laughed; she always did at whatever Durward said; while Mr. Graham replied to a remark made by Mr. Livingstone some time before. Here John Jr. appeared, and after being formally introduced, he seated himself by his cousin, addressing to her some trivial remark, and calling her 'Lena. It was well for Mr. Graham's after peace that his wife was just then too much engrossed with Durward to observe the effect which that name produced upon him.

Abruptly rising he turned toward Mr. Livingstone, saying, "You were telling me about a fine species of cactus which you have in your yard—suppose we go and see it."

The cactus having been duly examined, praised, and commented upon, Mr. Graham casually remarked, "Your niece is a fine-looking girl—'Lena, I think your son called her?"

"Yes, or Helena, which was her mother's name."

"And her mother was your sister, Helena Livingstone?"

"No, sir, Nichols. I changed my name to gratify a fancy of my wife," returned Mr. Livingstone, thinking it better to tell the truth at once.

Again Mr. Graham bent over the cactus, inspecting it minutely, and keeping his face for a long time concealed from his friend, whose thoughts, as was usually the case when his sister was mentioned, were far back in the past. When at last Mr. Graham lifted his head there were no traces of the stormy emotions which had shaken his very heart-strings, and with a firm, composed step he walked back to the parlor, where he found both Mrs. Livingstone and Carrie just paying their respects to his lady.

Nothing could be more marked than the difference between Carrie's and 'Lena's manner toward Mrs. Graham. Even Durward noticed it, and while he could not sufficiently admire the quiet self-possession of the latter, who in her simple morning wrapper and linen collar had met his mother on perfectly equal terms, he for the first time in his life felt a kind of contempt (pity he called it,) for Carrie, who, in an elegantly embroidered double-gown confined by a rich cord and tassels, which almost swept the floor, treated his mother with a fawning servility as disgusting to him as it was pleasing to the lady in question. Accustomed to the utmost deference on account of her wealth and her husband's station, Mrs. Graham had felt as if something were withheld from her, when neither Mrs. Livingstone nor her daughters rushed to receive and welcome her; but now all was forgotten, for nothing could be more flattering than their attentions. Both mother and daughter having the son in view, did their best, and when at last Mrs. Graham asked to be shown to her room, Carrie, instead of ringing for a servant, offered to conduct her thither herself; whereupon Mrs. Graham laid her hand caressingly upon her shoulders, calling her a "dear little pet," and asking "where she stole those bright, naughty eyes!"

A smothered laugh from John Jr. and a certain low soft sound which he was in the habit of producing when desirous of reminding his sister of her nose, made the "bright, naughty eyes" flash so angrily, that even Durward noticed it, and wondered if 'Lena's temper had not been transferred to her cousin.

"That young girl—'Lena, I think you call her—is a relative of yours," said Mrs. Graham to Carrie, as they were ascending the stairs.

"Ye-es, our cousin, I suppose," answered Carrie.

"She bears a very aristocratic name, that of Rivers—does she belong to a Virginia family?"

Carrie looked mysterious and answered, "I never knew anything of her father, and indeed, I reckon no one does"—then after a moment she added, "Almost every family has some objectionable relative, with which they could willingly dispense."

"Very true," returned Mrs. Graham, "What a pity we couldn't all have been born in England. There, dear, you can leave me now."

Accordingly Carrie started for the parlor, meeting in the hall her 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 him."

"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 Car'line's handkercher."

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 Scovandyke's kin."

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 Nancy Scovandyke."

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 qualification."

"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 husband.

"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 daughter."

"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 pretty closely."

"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 it is."

"Capital! capital!" exclaimed Carrie, never suspecting that there had been a listener, even John Jr., who all the while was sitting in the back parlor.

"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 it."

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 to-night."

"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 pony."

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.



CHAPTER XI.

WOODLAWN.

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 matter?"

"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 me?"

"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 commence.

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 ease.

"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 long."

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 'Lena's ambition."

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 here?"

"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 declare."

"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 others."

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 slightly pale.

"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 possible.

"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 October.



CHAPTER XII.

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 NICHOLS!'"

"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 seen.

"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 girl."

'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 attendance.

'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 her needle-work.

"'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 Thursday night?"

"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 complete."

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!"

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