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said his sister. " She has made a mistake as
much as we have made one. Heaven only
knows what she expected to find us — a set of
prigs and blue-stockings, I am beginning to
fancy. You do her an injustice when you
speak slightingly of her. She 's a very nice
girl, in her way. Only it is not our way. It
has come over me since dinner that we can
never do anything with her."



A HOPELESS CASE.



27



" Oh, pshaw, Augusta," said Rivington, who
wanted to smoke, and was searching the vel-
vet-draped mantel for a certain bronze match-
safe, " what have you discovered ? "

" I can't explain it, Rivington ; it 's a sort
of atmosphere. Her entrance into our circle
of friends will be the most preposterous thing !
Why, she is a girl who spends four or five
hours a day in reading ; she makes a duty of
it."

" Oh^" said Rivington, giving his martial
gray moustache one rather flurried stroke,
"you don't tell me ! "

"When you spoke to her to-night of the
best sort of people," pursued Mrs. Leroy,
*'she thought that you meant authors, poets,
and notorieties of that description."

"Oh, come, now," said Rivington ; "did she
really tell you that ? "

" Do you know what that girl's matrimonial
ambition is .? " went on Mrs. Leroy. " I 'm
sure it is to marry a professor in a college."



28 A HOPELESS CASE.

A bitterly sarcastic smile now touched the
lady's lips as she added: **Some person with
an eternal ink-stain on his middle finger, short
pantaloons, and the habit of forgetfully wear-
ing a pen behind his ear when he goes into
the street."

"You don t mean that, now ! " cried Riving-
ton, softly.

Mrs. Leroy's voice became plaintive. *' I
shall do my best," she said. " I shall remem-
ber that her mother was a Van Corlear. But
I have a presentiment that she will do a great
deal to make us forget it."

"Oh, by Jove," said Rivington, throwing
himself into a chair, " if you think that, why,
send her away again."

"It is too late," declared Mrs. Lercy.




II.




EANWHILE, during this same even-
ing, Agnes had been seated in her
chamber, writing a letter. She was
writing to her relatives who had gone into the
West. Sometimes she would turn away from
the paper, with a quivering lip, and a desire
not to let her tears drop there. But not many
tears fell, after all ; for this self-reliant girl
kept the emotional flood-gates rather stoutly
barred ; she had an enormous dislike to " giv-
ing way ; " perhaps she thought it morally
wrong ; she thought a good many things mor-
ally wrong that numerous other girls do not
think about at all. She had read profusely,
though imsystematically, and the sure result
of such a course had been to entanfrle some



30 A HOPELESS CASE.

falsities with her truths. Her mind had en-
deavored to keep a distinct souvenir of every
greater mind whose work it had looked upon ;
it had, so to speak, brought away specimens
from its travels. But a fragment of the
Sphinx's nose, such as tourists sometimes get,
cannot be called a very representative me-
mento. Poor Agnes had peeped down into
one or two craters that were quite too fiery
for her, and perhaps the bits of cold lava that
she now and then looked at only served to
remind her of past bewilderments. She had
been very fond of the three relatives from
whom she was now separated. One had been
her dead father's sister, a wiry little lady who
had taught school before her marriage, and
whose neatness and economy should have
found husbandly sympathy ; but in reality
Mrs. Cliffe's lord was a big, florid creature,
who did everything in a lolUng, reckless fash-
ion, and perpetually tormented her for this
reason, as though he had been a spot in her



A HOPELESS CASE. 3 1

carpet which she could not rub away, or a
rent that her deft fingers could not darn out
of sight. Then there had been a daughter,
Marianna, whose age was within a few months
of her young cousin's. Marianna was her
father's own daughter ; she was a great, rosy,
bouncing girl, with a way of breaking into a
wild roar of laughter when anything pleased
her; and, as a rule, everything pleased her.
Years of lecturing from her poor shocked lit-
tle mother had reduced Marian na's laugh by
several distinct tones ; but it w^as still an aw-
ful fact ; it was a sort of household ^tna,
whose eruptive caprices one could never cal-
culate upon.

All three of these relatives, aunt, uncle, and
cousin, were devotedly fond of Agnes. She
had lived among them as an unconscious law-
giver ; she had taken her place naturally ; it
was like water finding its level ; hers had been
the strongest and clearest mind, the most
even-poised temperament. But at length her



32 A HOPELESS CASE.

subjects had revolted. After days of hard
fighting, Agnes found herself a deposed mon-
arch. They would not let her go West with
them. Since Uncle Cliffe had had the ground
taken from under his feet here, and must seek
a new strip somewhere else, this was no rea-
son why Agnes should accompany him in the
risky search for another foothold. Mrs. Cliffe
thought wonderful things of her niece ; she
believed that Agnes was a light under a
bushel, the bushel being cruelly secretive, and
the light especially brilliant. If they went
into the West, which Mrs. Cliffe shrank from
as a doleful wilderness, Agnes must go and
live with some of her mother's grand New-
York relations. At least she must try it for
a year. "Then you can come and join us, my
dear," her aunt had said ; " only I am sure
that you will not want to come. As for our-
selves, we shall get on very well. If we live
all alone in the midst of a prairie, no one will
hear Marianna laugh there, and that will be
all the better ; perhaps it wiJl cure her."



A HOPELESS CASE. 33

Agnes had yielded at last, but not before
she had assured herself that Mr. Cliffe was
going into a really prosperous clerkship, more
lucrative than anything he had enjoyed for at
least two years past. The farewells had been
painful ; on poor Marianna's part they had
been quite explosive. But all were convinced
that it was for the best to leave Agnes behind!,.
— all except Agnes herself. Only Marianna
had been at home on the day when Mrs. Le-
roy called at the quiet little house in Brooklyn ;.
but Marianna's account of this lady had been
fervidly complimentary. Then circumstances
had quickened the Cliffes' departure, and it
had so happened that Agnes and Mrs. Leroy
had never met each other until to-day.

Agnes had promised to " write immediately,"
and she was now keeping her promise. " I
have been greatly surprised," were some of
the words that she wrote. "I will not yet say
that I have been disappointed as well, for of
course I have not yet had time to be disap-
3



34 A HOPELESS CASE.

pointed. You know what I expected to find
Mrs. Russell Leroy. With her wealth and
opportunities, it seemed to me that she must
be surrounded by the most remarkable minds
of the time ; I was prepared for a woman of
splendid force. Whatever put this idea into
our heads, none of us can tell ; can we 1 But
we must all remember the Mrs. Leroy of our
i-magi nation — and expectation. Well, I have
found my cousin very different from all that.
She is extremely graceful, and she dresses
lake the figures in the fashion-magazines. I
fancy she would rather die than be out of the
fashion. But she carries herself with an air,
I can assure you, and already it has grown a
pleasure for me to watch her. You know I
like to study people ; she represents an idea
so distinctly that she interests me. I think
that I have already got to understand her
thoroughly, though for my own sake I hope
not. I am afraid, however, that I in turn am
rather a puzzle to her. Let me tell you of a



A HOPELESS CASE, 35

little conversation which we had this evening,
while I was unpacking my trunk. . . .

"My cousin Rivington Van Corlear is ex-
ceptionally handsome. He has such a state-
ly look that I immediately imagined him on
some sort of dais, standing up to be presented
with something by a grateful assemblage of
grandees. But it would not be a reward for
conversational powers, I already feel certain.
Perhaps my cousin thinks that complete phys-
ical grandeur is all that should be expected
of him; but I can't be sure of this ... I
have not yet 'placed' Rivington." . . .

On the following day Agnes found herself
watching Mrs. Leroy with an involuntary sus-
pense. She felt that so large a chasm had
widened between them as to make some sort
of congenial air-bridge an actual necessity.
** My dear," said her cousin, the next morn-
ing, "you had a visitor last evening; but I
did not tell you about it. You seemed tired."

" A visitor ! " repeated Agnes, with a start



36 A HOPELESS CASE.

and a little flush of rosy color. " Oh, cousin
Augusta, was it I\Ir. Speed ? "

Mrs. Leroy turned a shade paler. " No,"
she presently said. " Who is Mr. Speed } "

"A friend of mine," answered Agnes. She
seemed, for an instant, on the verge of saying
more, but some afterthought kept her silent.

Mrs. Leroy had been working at a small
scrap of embroidery, where twenty rich colors
seemed clustered in delicious turmoil. She
dropped this upon her lap for a moment, let-
ting it make a radiant spot against her black
robe, while both hands also rested there, with
the uplifted needle gleaming in one of them.

" Tell me about Mr. Speed," she said.

*' Oh, there is nothing to tell," said Agnes.
" He is the only gentleman whom I know . . .
at all intimately. You shall see him and judge
for yourself." There was a little silence, and
then Agnes went on : " Who was the visitor
of whom you spoke .? "

Mrs. Leroy seemed ^o wake from a reverie.



A HOPELESS CASE. 37

"A cousin of mine — on my mother's side.
Mr. Livingston Maxwell." Her pale-gray eyes
swept Agnes's face for an instant, and then
were lowered. " My dear Agnes," she said,
" shall you not let me take you to my dress-
maker's and have a few new costumes made .'' "

Agnes bit her lip ever so slightly. " Do
you mean ball-dresses .'' " she asked.

Mrs. Leroy brightened a little. '* Yes, my
dear. Three or four ball-dresses in the latest
fashion, and perhaps an evening dress or two.
We might go round to Fourbellini's this morn-
ing. I will have the coup^ ordered."

" Very well," said Agnes, musingly, after a
pause.

The ladies entered a glossy little carriage,
about a half-hour later, drawn by a muscular
horse of faultless grooming, with orgate sil-
ver-plated trappings, and superintended by a
coachman, in a shining, cockaded hat, with a
tiny bunch of violets on the left lappet of his
dark-blue livery. They were driven through



38 A HOPELESS CASE.

prosperous -looking streets in what we call
the upper portion of the town, and at length
alighted before a brown-stone mansion of lofty
elegance.

" Did you not say you were going to your
dressmaker's, cousin Augusta ?" asked Agnes,
as they ascended the imposing stoop.

" Yes," said Mrs. Leroy. "This is Fourbel-
lini's.^'

An extremely smart butler admitted the
ladies, and ushered them into a drawing-room
furnished with sumptuous richness.

" Your dressmaker must be a very grand
person," said Agnes, as they seated them-
selves on a lounge that bloomed with kalei-
doscopic needlework from a ground of gar-
net satin.

" Fourbellini } Oh, she 's a great lady,"
said Mrs. Leroy, with one of her faint, cold
laughs. *' You '11 be immensely impressed by
her. Everybody is, at first. She 's horribly
spoiled ; she 's the fashion, you know. But



A HOPELESS CASE. 39

then she is a wonderful artist — a pupil of
Worth's, I believe ; at least she says so. She
is a Frenchwoman, who married an Italian.
He is a little pale man, with eyes like needles.
He goes about and collects the bills from his
insolvent customers. They say that he fixes
them with his glittering eye, like the Ancient
Mariner. They are a wonderful pair ; they
are having their day, like everything else."

A large lady in dull, voluminous silk pres-
ently rustled into the room. She had vivid
black eyes and gray hair worn rolled over a
cushion with quite imperial effect. She went
up to Mrs. Leroy and put out a hand that
flashed with jewels.

" My dear Madame Leroy," she began, in
voluble French, '' you have come to reproach
me. Ca saiite aiix yeux ; I see it plainly
enough in your face. We should have had
your black satin ready sooner. But, vion
Dieu, we have been giving immense reflec-
tion to it ! You must pardon the delay. It



40 A HOPELESS CASE.

is SO difficult, Madame, to achieve a real sen-
timent in black satin. It is like making a fine
picture out of two or three pigments. But
you will be generous ; you will give us two
or three days longer. By then you shall have
a masterpiece."

Mrs. Leroy answered in admirable French.
" I have not come to speak about my own af-
fairs, Madame Fourbeilini," she said. " You
see, I have brought my cousin, Miss Wolver-
ton, with me to-day. You must get her up
some dresses as soon as possible. First of all,
a dinner-dress and a street costume. After
that "... Mrs. Leroy here suddenly paused
and turned toward Agnes. " You speak
French, my dear, do you not .? " she asked.

" No," said Agnes, calmly. " I read it very
well. But I do not speak it, and I under-
stand it very slightly when spoken."

" Oh," said Mrs. Leroy, with a sort of un-
conscious, off-hand commiseration. " But it is
of no consequence," she went on. " Madame
Fourbeilini speaks Enghsh perfectly."



A HOPELESS CASE. 4 1

"Yes, Mademoiselle," said the majestic
dressmaker, in that language, looking at Ag-
nes with a gracious smile.

" I have been saying," continued Mrs. Le-
roy, now addressing Agnes, ** that you will
require something nice to wear." And she
repeated the words that she had just addressed
to Madame Fourbellini.

Before Agnes could reply, the Frenchwom-
an began again, in her vehement, exclam-
atory way. " It is a most delightful type.
Pardon me. Mademoiselle ; this is no mere
banalite that I am talking ; it is prodigiously
sincere, I assure you. Light-blue eyes and
hair of raven blackness — the night and the
morning mixed together — the pale North
mingled with the tropics. It is astonishingly
rare when accompanied by such a beauty as
Mademoiselle's." Here Madame Fourbellini
lifted her plump silken shoulders and heaved
a great sigh. " But tencz, it is a very hard
type for us — oh, enormously hard ! I should



^



42 A HOPELESS CASE.

say that, in her street-costume, INIademoiselle
had best choose only symbolic colorings. We
shall produce for her a charming discord ; she
is a charming discord herself ; the result will
be a delicious harmony. For example, the
bonnet shall be a mass of concordant tints,
but these again shall clash with the waist,
which must in turn reconcile bonnet and skirt.
The conception is not easy ; but it will come ;
leave everything to us, my dear jMademoiselle.
. . . Then, for your evening robes, we will
think out some doiic^itQ fa7itaisies — musical
and poetic, you know, and with great feeling
in them. Have no fear, Mademoiselle ; we
shall not fail ; we make no claim to genius ; it
is genius, you know, that sometimes fails ; we
have but talent — painstaking talent — and,
as Madame Leroy can tell you, a supreme love
for art."

" Now you must give me your promise," said
]\Irs. Leroy, decisively, at this point, '^ that at
least two of these dresses shall be ready in- *
side of three days."



A HOPELESS CASE. 43

" I shall only want three dresses," Agnes
here said; "one for the street and two for
company." The young girl spoke very qui
etly, and looked full in her cousin's face.

" My dear ! " faltered Mrs. Leroy.

Agnes went on speaking. She now looked
Madame Fourbellini full in the face. ** I
should like an exact estimate," she said, " of
how much these dresses will cost."

Madame seemed very much astonished for
an instant ; she turned to Mrs. Leroy ; she
began to laugh in a little clucking, mirthless
way, that had a peculiarly French sound.
" Ma foil' she said, " how can I tell the young
lady .'' — I, who never concern myself with
these stupid prices. That is Fourbellini's af-
fair." The dressmaker laughed again. "I tell
him that is what I married him for — to let
me follow my art only — exploiter vion ideal f'

** In that case," said Agnes, " perhaps I had
best see your husband."

Madame Fourbellini smiled w^ith vast po-



44 A HOPELESS CASE.

liteness, but the smile had a Httle icy glitter
about it. " Really, Mademoiselle, he is not at
home."

There was a slight silence. It was now
Agnes's turn to smile. " I am not accus-
tomed," she said, with gentle directness, "to
make purchases without knowing their cost."
She looked at Mrs. Leroy. " Perhaps we had
better come again," she went on, "at some
time when ]\Iadame Fourbellini's husband is
at home."

" That is so seldom, Mademoiselle," said the
dressmaker, with the least drawl, and a very
brilliant smile indeed ; " he has so much to
keep him away from home."

"You are very good to warn me," said Ag-
nes, taking several steps toward the door. " I
shall be saved the trouble of looking for him."

Mrs. Leroy followed her cousin. It was
perhaps this fact that sent a sort of politic
pang through Madame's breast. Art was Art, -
of course, and should resent sordidness ; but



A HOPELESS CASE. 45

Mrs. Leroy was nevertheless a customer worth
saving.

'* I am so wretched at remembering prices ! "
the dressmaker now^ piteously exclaimed. ** It
is not my fault ; it is my calamity. Dame, let
me think . . . the street-costume, Mademoi-
selle, would probably be " . . . And here
Madame Fourbellini lightly tapped her stately
forehead. Presently she named a sum which
made Agnes retire at once to the threshold
of the drawinsf-room.

o

"That is much more than I can afford to
pay," she said. " Excuse me for having taken
any of your valuable time, Madame Fourbel-
lini."

" Oh, do not speak of it ! " murmured the
lady, in tones whose politeness smothered the
least trace of irony.

" Good morning," said Agnes, amiably.
She turned to Mrs, Leroy. '* I will wait for
you in the carriage, cousin Augusta, if you
desire it."



46 A HOPELESS CASE.

*' Oh, no ! " said Mrs. Leroy, with disconso-
late coolness. " We will go together."

The two cousins were seated in the coiip^
before either of them again spoke. " I am
sorry to have inconvenienced you," Agnes
said, at length. Her clear eyes were shining
a little more than usual.

'* It has been no inconvenience," said Mrs.
Leroy, dryly, " but it has been rather unpleas-
ant."

'' That is what I mean," said Agnes. Then
she added, after a moment, " I thought it a
trifle amusing, too."

Mrs. Leroy looked out of the carriage-win-
dow. Then she turned quite abruptly toward
her cousin. " Of course it was amusing," she
said. ^* I don't pretend to approve of Four-
bellini ; I told you she was spoiled ; I take
her as I find her ; everybody does."

Agnes raised her dark brows a little. " Ev-
erybody 1 " she repeated. '' Do you not mean
only a class of people whose pocket-books per-
mit of expensive follies } "



A HOPELESS CASE. 47

" Oh, come, my clear, that is a trifle per-
sonal." Mrs. Leroy laid on Agnes's sleeve a
slim hand in a glove whose tiny row of but-
tons went far over the wrist. " I had no idea
about your troubling yourself in any way what-
ever with expenses," she said. " I supposed
that you would allow the dresses to be charged
to me. I am aware that your income is not
large, and I thought we would let the whole
matter go without saying."

Agnes looked at her cousin very directly ;
she had colored somewhat, but her expression
was brightly serene. " Upon my word," she
exclaimed, with an odd smile, " I wish that
you wotdd let the matter go without saying ;
I should like it much better."

Mrs. Leroy understood her. The rebuke
had pricked deep, but she showed no sign of
a wound ; it was not her way. But perhaps
disappointment annoyed her even more than
secret pique. She had an income of generous
amplitude ; she was to have taken pride in



48 A HOPELESS CASE.

"bringing Agnes out" with a wardrobe wor-
thy of a regenerated kinswoman. She wanted
simply to waive the whole question of Miss
Wolverton's being her pensioner ; it was not
to be thought about at all. But suddenly
Agnes had thrust the ugly fact up into her
face, and made the future wear a very imprac-
ticable look. Some women, of precisely Mrs.
Leroy's general worldly surroundings, would
have lost their tempers under present cir-
cumstances. But Mrs. Leroy was not such a
woman. She had a tireless obstinacy, and she
was nerved, as we know, by a strong sense of
social duty.

" We shall have to go somewhere else, and
do a little bargaining," she said, the faint sar-
casm escaping her almost unawares.

" Yes, if you please," said Agnes. " I should
like to secure some good, cheap dressmaker,
if you have no objection."

"Dear me, what a little economist 1 have
found!" said her cousin, with neatly playful



A HOPELESS CASE. 49

satire. " You will be wanting to take me back
with you to Brooklyn, if I am not careful."

" I am beginning to prefer Brooklyn dress-
makers," said Agnes, in even tones ; *' they
are not so aesthetic."

" I wish they were," Mrs. Leroy felt a mo-
mentary impulse to retort ; for something in
her cousin's voice and manner had irritated
her like the presence of hidden ridicule. But
she crushed down the impertinence as it rose
to her lips, and leaned forward to knock on
the front glass-pane of the coup^.

" Are we going to Brooklyn ? " asked Ag-
nes, with quaint gravity, as the coachman bent
down to catch his mistress's new order.

Mrs. Leroy pretended that she did not hear
this question, as she called out to the man a
certain address which she had just remem-
bered.

At dinner, that evening, Rivington looked
toward his sister, and said, " You seem tired,
Augusta."

4



50 A HOPELESS CASE.

" I am," said Mrs. Leroy. Her eyes wan-
dered in the direction of Agnes. "We have
had a rather hard day of it."

" Cousin Augusta has been very good to
me," said Agnes, in her mild, collected way.
'* She has been telling me how I ought to
dress myself. In a few days I shall be splen-
did to look upon. I shall be like Solomon in
all his glory."

" Solomon was a very wise person," said
Mrs. Leroy, scanning the table-cloth.

"Ah, but he was not so fortunate as I am,"
replied Agnes, placidly.

"Why not .? " asked Rivington.

" He sometimes had evil counselors, you
know."

There was a brief silence. Rivington
stroked his moustache. He stole a glance at
his sister, which was not returned. Mrs. Le-
roy went to her room for a short time, after
dinner was concluded, having a slight head-
ache, though not pleading one as an excuse



A HOPELESS CASE. 5 I

for her disappearance. She had spoken truly ;
to-day she had really been through an ordeal.
They had visited four separate establishments
before Agnes had consented to accept the
proposed charges. She had attempted no
haggling, no " beating down " as to terms ;
she had simply listened to the various prop-
ositions made her, and refused them with un-
flinching suavity. " It is too much ; I am not
prepared to give that amount," she had firm-
ly objected, and the ladies had been driven
somewhere else. But at last it was all settled.
Certain orders had at last been given, and
their prompt execution faithfully promised.
*' Only," now mused Mrs. Leroy, smelling a
flacon in the dim seclusion of her private
chamber, " if I am called upon next week to
chaperone a fright, it will be her fault and
not mine."

At the same moment Agnes and Rivington
were seated together in one of the lower
rooms. It will be remembered that Agnes



52 A HOPELESS CASE.

had expressed doubts, in her recent letter to
the Cliffes, regarding her male cousin. Her
opportunities for taking anything like accurate
observations in this quarter had thus far been
few and limited. She had already made up
her mind that Rivington was to be set down
as a silent force, though what his silence con-
cealed still remained unknown to her. If a
deep stream, he certainly ran with a very
noiseless current.

" Well, you have had a very quiet time thus
far, have you not .'* " said her cousin, sitting
down beside her.

Agnes thought w^hat a lordly presence he
had ; no king could have looked more kingly ;
she had a strong passing desire that he should
surprise her with some noble mental qualities;
she had never before seen so completely hand-


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