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Agnes. " My severe things are generally
true ones. Is society very hard on you if
you tell the truth t "

" Yes," he said, with a sort of dance in his
eyes. " It never forgives that. Ah ! " he
added, shaking his head with arch gravity,
" you are going into it like a critic. Another
fault that it never forgives."

" How must you go into it, pray } "

"As a blind disciple. You must do what-
ever it tells you to do, in devout, unquestion-
ing faith."

" How does it punish you when you don't
do this 1 when you are disobedient .'' "



A HOPELESS CASE. 8 1

" It drives you to the wall."

" Yes, I have heard," said Agnes. " You
are made a wall-flower of."

" Precisely."

" Which means that you are generally ig-
nored and neglected."

" Yes, I am afraid it does. But there can
be no such disagreeable possibility in your
case. Let yourself drift with the current.
It will carry you along very safely."

" Is that your own plan } " asked Agnes.

Livingston Maxwell nodded. " Always.
It 's my nature, too. I can't help having a
jolly time, no matter where I go. I can
amuse myself with anybody. Of course I
have my preferences — who does n't.?" He
broke into a full, fresh laugh. *' Upon my
word, I find the world a remarkably fine
place, and human beings an immense suc-
cess. Now tell me about yourself, please.
Have n't you a strong respect for sunshine 1
6



82 A HOPELESS CASE.

I mean its warmth ; one need n't ask you
about its brilliancy."

But this honeyed sort of question received
no answer, for the whereabouts of Agnes had
at length been discovered, and people began
to claim her conversational attention, whether
from a sense of duty or because of her win-
ning looks. Livvy Maxwell (as almost every-
body called him) stood at her side for a long
time, and many quick, private words passed
between them during the pauses in other more
ceremonious talk. They sometimes spoke of
the various persons who approached Agnes,
and then her companion's comments never
wore the least sting ; he had something kindly
and genial to say of everybody. After a little
while Agnes began to place a very high esti-
mate upon his charity ; she was herself con-
stantly tempted toward the harshest severities
of criticism. Most of the gentlemen who
stood about her were seemingly quite youth-
ful ; from nineteen to four - and - twenty ap-



A HOPELESS CASE. 83

peared the prevailing age. A great many dif-
fering types were represented. Here was the
slim, blond tyro, of unnatural height and ex-
treme timidity ; he had nerved himself to
grapple with fashion, and he meant to perse-
vere. Here was the dapper little veteran of
two seasons, who affected to be forlornly blas^ ;
he spoke in a kind of languid epigram, and
now and then smoothed a moustache of mi-
croscopic down. Here was the redundantly
garrulous beau, who rattled along as though
silence were some personified enemy that lay
in wait for him. Here was the precise delib-
erator, who went through all his stock of set
phrases with a suggestion of oiled machinery.
Here was the acquiescent stripling, who oscil-
lated between "yes" and "no" in solemn see-
saw, till you were convinced that he would
agree with you just the same, were it point-
less platitude or daring paradox. Here was
the inexorable listener, with whom to talk was
like dropping pebbles into a well, and not hav-



84 A HOPELESS CASE.

ing any sound tell you where they had fallen.
But every separate individuality bore, as it
were, a family resemblance to the other. It
was somewhat as though you should run your
eye along the files of dissimilar faces in a reg-
iment of soldiers, whose uniforms made them
nevertheless alike. You saw that all were at
least well-bred after the same pattern, and
striving for one ideal of blameless deportment.

" Most of these gentlemen are younger than
I expected to find them," said Agnes to Livvy
Maxwell, in cautious undertone.

"Oh, this is the young clique, you know,"
he answered. " Society is all divided up into
cliques. The young men always come to re-
ceptions of this kind ; the older ones usually
yawn at the mere idea of coming."

" Are there no distinguished persons in the
rooms } " asked Agnes, looking round at the
loquacious throng, whose clamors were half
deadened by the music.

" Distinguished } Oh, yes, there 's Lord



A HOPELESS CASE. 85

Heatherington, and the French minister, and
a general or two of the regular army, and an
ex-governor, and a bishop."

"That is not exactly what I mean," said
Agnes. " Are there any very famous people .''
Great writers, for example, or artists ? "

Livvy Maxwell shook his head. " None
whom I know of," he replied. The question
seemed to have puzzled him a trifle — or to
have set him thinking.

" They are beginning to go," said Agnes.

" Yes ; but you say that in a rather relieved
tone. Are you glad } "

She laughed, with her curious little raising
of the brows. " I shall remain non-commit-
tal," she answered, " and make no awkward
confessions."

" I think it has been a great success, so
far," said Maxwell, with a meaning smile. " I
have enjoyed it prodigiously."

"But you always enjoy everything. You
said so."



S6 A HOPELESS CASE.

*' Still, I have my grades of amusement. It
is n't one dead-level of delight with me, by
any means. Did you suppose that it was ? "

She ignored his last question ; she was
looking at him with self-forgetful directness.
" You have been here with me for a long
time," she presently said. " I don't see how
you can have enjoyed that, unless my discom-
fiture has entertained you,"

*' Your discomfiture ! " he exclaimed. " Oh,
that is delicious ! The self-possessed way in
which you have been managing matters com-
pletely amazed me. I never saw anything
like it before."

Agnes slowly nodded her head. '* That is
because you never saw anything just like me
before."

" Granted that you are very original."

" Only because I have gone astray into a
new sort of world," she said, softly. " I don't
at all claim to be unique. I have simply been
put where I do not belong. Everything here



A HOPELESS CASE. 8/

is strange to me. I am not in the spirit of
it."

Maxwell leaned closer toward her, with an
interested glow lighting his face. " How does
it strike you } " he asked.

She was silent for a moment. " It is a
flourish of trumpets," she at length said, " that
announces nothing. I can discover no mean-
ing in it. I had expected that it would be
so different — that is, before I came here to
live."

"Tell me what you expected that it would
be," said Maxwell, with his eyes riveted on her
face.

" I was prepared to feel abashed. I calcu-
lated on no element of flippancy. I thought
the women might be beautiful and the men
gallant, but I anticipated brilliancy, wit, learn-
ing — the most famed people of the time
gathering about cousin Augusta, whom I had
grown to fancy a sort of celebrity herself. I
thought to meet here minds whose works I



88 A HOPELESS CASE.

have read and loved, — thinkers, philanthro-
pists, poets, dreamers, — all that is great in
human intellect or human aspiration "...
She paused and looked about her, with a faint
flush deepening in her face. " But these very
words of mine have an odd sound here," she
added, with lowered voice. "They make a
discord."

Livvy Maxwell did not answer. His eyes
were so steadily fixed on Agnes's profile, and
something seemed so thoroughly to have ab-
sorbed his attention, that he failed to perceive
the approach of Mrs. Leroy until she had be-
gun addressing Agnes.

'*Well, my dear," said that lady, "you are
found at last. I have asked Oscar Schuyler
and one or two other people to dine with us
this evening. I think you will like Mr. Schuy-
ler. He can be immensely agreeable when
he wants — like dear Livvy there. The de-
partures are beginning. Had n't you better
come and be a little more conspicuous } I



A HOPELESS CASE. 89

would have invited a few of the young people
to stay and make up a German — Livvy leads
so well, you know — if you had only decided
to dance. Still, matters have gone off very
nicely as it is. You seem to have made a
charming impression ; I should not dare tell
you all the complimentary things that have
been said about you." ....

The rooms were soon afterwards nearly
emptied. Agnes went up to her own cham-
ber as soon as the festivity was over. The
solitude seemed strange to her, but it was re-
freshing. She felt pierced with disappoint-
ment, and yet the wound had not been un-
expectedly dealt ; circumstances had prepared
her for it. She seated herself before her writ-
ing-desk, in her modish, rustling dress, and
thought of beginning a letter to the Cliffes.
But after all her pen remained untouched.
" I might be needlessly bitter in my judgment
now," she reflected. '' I will distrust first im-
pressions and wait a little longer."



90 . A HOPELESS CASE.

Her thoughts left the babbling multitude of
which she had so lately formed a part. She
saw her aunt, her uncle, and Marianna in their
new, remote home. Perhaps they had not yet
received her letter, and were picturing her en-
girt with the happy emancipation which they
had been so sure that Mrs. Leroy's compan-
ionship must afford. She could imagine how
her aunt might be saying, at this very mo-
ment, with a resigned smile that hid her re-
gret, — " We ought to be so thankful that
Agnes has gone to shine among her equals."

Marianna and Mrs. Cliffe had both already
written. Agnes opened her desk, took forth
their letters, and read them for the twentieth
time. The close-lined pages held so little
about themselves, and breathed so deeply of
tender love for her ! Now and then there
were a few sentences about their long jour-
ney and their present novel encompassments ;
but each letter was mainly a warm, unselfish
congratulation that she, their treasured and



A HOPELESS CASE. 91

admired Agnes, had passed at length amid
that congenial sphere which her virtues and
talents merited. The unconscious tears filled
Agnes's eyes while she read, and her heart
beat with the weary throb of homesickness.
Just then there was a low knock at the door.
It proved to be Frangolse, who bore a mes-
sage that dinner was almost served, and that
Mrs. Leroy was awaiting Miss Wolverton in
the drawing-room.

Agnes went down-stairs shortly afterward.
Mrs. Leroy and Rivington were in the draw-
ing-room, and with them was Miss Meta Schuy-
ler, Mr. Oscar Schuyler, and a gentleman with
a small baM head, a stiff little canary-colored
moustache, and very brisk movements, who
was presented to Agnes as Mr. Gascoigne.
" You and Mr. Gascoigne are the only stran-
gers, I believe," said Mrs. Leroy, as Agnes
seated herself after the introduction. " But it
is his own fault," she proceeded, raising a re-
proachful forefinger at that gentleman. '' He



92 A HOPELESS CASE.

got here late this afternoon, and then rushed
off somewhere else before he had a chance of
seeing you."

"Gascoigne always comes late and stays a
few minutes," said Oscar Schuyler, who had
taken a portion of the sofa where Agnes now
sat. " He has a theory that even too much of
a good thing may be fatiguing."

'' He is a comet with an eccentric orbit,"
said Aleta Schuyler, giving one of her laughs
that always had a ring of languor. " He likes
to startle the fixed stars."

" Well, he never comes into collision with
them," said Mrs. Leroy. *'He 's too good-nat-
ured for that."

" Gascoigne," said Oscar Schuyler, cruelly,
"an apology to Miss Wolverton is in order.
If I were she I should insist on its being a
very humble one, for having so slighted her
at her coming-out entertainment."

Mr. Gascoigne, at whom everybody was now
looking, had creased his small forehead in a



A HOPELESS CASE. 93

funny, monkeyish way, that almost completely
hid his twinkling eyes. " Rivington Van Cor-
lear, my dear old friend," he cried, "are you
going to sit by and see me thus publicly
slandered in your own house ? That horrid
cynic of a Schuyler ought to be suppressed.
I exposed his incapacity at whist, the other
night, in three successive games, and have
since been wounded by his envenomed fangs
whenever the opportunity offered. Don't
mind my detractors, Miss Wolverton," he hur-
ried on, addressing Agnes with a galloping
glibness that never failed him. *' I came here
this afternoon prepared to prostrate myself be-
fore you with the most slavish homage. But
I utterly failed to find you, after an eager
search "...

" Of two minutes," broke in Meta Schuyler,
with calm irony. Everybody burst into a
laugh except Oscar Schuyler, who quickly fol-
\ovved up the persecution with cutting com-
posure.



94 A HOPELESS CASE.

"And then he let the French minister's
wife carry him off to the Montgomerys' ket-
tle drum."

A moment later dinner was announced.
Oscar Schuyler offered his arm to Agnes ;
Mrs. Leroy and Mr. Gascoigne led the way ;
Rivington and Meta Schuyler went in to-
gether.

" I think you have no recollection of having
rhet me," said Agnes's companion, as they
approached the dining-room, whose table al-
ready glittered beyond back-drawn velvet tap-
estries.

Agnes turned her candid look upon his face.
It was dark, tranquil, and aquiline. " No,"
she said. '' And if I had caught your name,
Mr. Schuyler, I should certainly have thanked
you for the bouquet which you so kindly sent
me."

" There is a frank avowal," he said, with
amused grimness. " How you will recover
from this sort of thing when you have been



A HOPELESS CASE,



95



out a little longer ! A few months from now
you will never think of telling a man that his
first meeting with you created no impression
— unless you want to be unkind."

" Upon my word," said Agnes, bluntly, '' I
hope I shall not be corrupted into speaking
falsehoods."

They were now seating themselves at the
luxurious dinner-table. " Society knows noth-
ing about falsehoods," said Oscar Schuyler.
" It calls them diplomatic evasions."

Agnes smiled. " I am afraid Mr. Gascoigne
was right, after all," she said, " in declaring
you a cynic."

Schuyler let his tiny silver fork, shaped like
a trident, hover over the moist drab of a raw
oyster. "Do you object to cynics?" he
asked.

" Decidedly," said Agnes.

" Then I will go in for optimism. I will
cultivate rosy views of things from now until
dessert."



96 A HOPELESS CASE.

" Might it not be better, for your own sake,
if you made the reformation permanent ? "

Schuyler started a little. He may have felt
like laughing, but his face kept a serious look ;
he was a man who even smiled rarely.

" Oh, I will do anything you ask," he said.
" Do you put it in the form of a request t "

'' No, I merely offer it as a wholesome sug-
gestion."

" But it is n't wholesome to be hypocritical,
is it 1 I 'm such a confirmed old Diogenes, you
know, that if I got out of my tub 1 could n't
walk."

" I should like to chop up your tub for
kindling-wood," said Agnes, laughing, " and
make as cheerful a blaze out of it as possible."

Schuyler had an air of half-pleased aston-
ishment. He had been lounging through so-
ciety for years, saying his bitter, bright things
wherever and whenever he chose, often piqu-
ing women into liking him and sometimes
making men cordially hate him. Mrs. Leroy



A HOPELESS CASE. 97

was one of his allies, and among her sex he
had not a few ; that fact and his name and
fortune had won for him toleration where his
lazy sarcasms would have made another di-
rectly shunned. In a certain way he was
feared ; people often cultivated him to gain
his good-will ; the celebrity of his biting
tongue silenced would-be adversaries ; it was
like the famed spear of Lancelot, at whose
first blow, however slight, tough warriors went
down. He had consented to pass through a
dinner at Agnes's side, because Mrs. Leroy
had put her desire for him to do so in the
form of a special request. He had expected
to find her vapid and unsatisfactory, as he
had found most young girls during their ''first
seasons." Still, it was to be a small dinner,
and the talk would be general. Gascoigne
was to be there, and Gascoigne was always
diverting. Then there was to be Meta Schuy-
ler, his distant cousin, between whom and
himself a fitful and peculiar intimacy had for
7



9$ A HOPELESS CASE.

several years existed. After all, Schuyler had
concluded, he could not very well be bored
more than usual ; was he not always more or
less bored everywhere ?

Agnes had given him a sharp surprise.
She was like coming upon a fresh, tinkling
woodland stream where one has expected to
find a lifeless pool. '' If you imagine that I
pose for a cynic," he now said, in his placid
way, "you are mistaken. I did n't know that
I was one till you told me so. I have never
given much attention to the subject of what
I am. Miss Wolverton. But I feel sure — if
you will pardon the vulgarism — that I am
rather too old a dog to teach new tricks."

" Perhaps it is more a question of un-learn-
ing than of learning them," smiled Agnes.
"Or perhaps," she added, with mischievous
quickness, "the dog should consent to wear
a muzzle now and then."

She had read Schuyler rather keenly, if not
thoroughly, in these few brief minutes of their



A HOPELESS CASE.



99



acquaintance. He could not help coloring at
her last words, they bore so stinging a perti-
nence ; but the demonstration was one which
his closest intimates had never before seen
him make. The small eyes of Mr. Gascoigne
detected it at once ; he had a grudge against
Schuyler because of recent thrusts ; his good-
humor was proverbial, but he knew how to
make it serve, when occasion demanded, as a
sort of velvet scabbard for satire.

"Goodness gracious! " he cried, in his gro-
tesque, pouncing manner, " what is Schuyler
blushing about ? Why, it 's something phe-
nomenal, like an eclipse ! I feel like looking
at it through burnt glass."

" Oscar would never allow himself to be
eclipsed," said Meta, carelessly.

" He never does good, even by stealth ; so
he can't be blushing to find it fame," rattled
on Mr. Gascoigne. " He has fame of a very
different sort. I Ve found out where all the
lost pins go to. Oscar picks them up and



lOO A HOPELESS CASE.

Sticks them into people. We let him enjoy
himself, and it really does n't hurt us very
much."

"Not if we're stuffed with sawdust," said
Schuyler, who had quite regained his wonted
self-possession.

" I am afraid we all are," said Meta Schuy-
ler, in her soft, tired voice. "The difference
is only in the quahty, I begin to think."

" Oh, Meta ! " exclaimed ]\Irs. Leroy, " what
a horrible sentiment ! You will be going into
a nunnery soon."

" I know more than one poor fellow who
would like her to take the veil," said Mr. Gas-
coigne, with great gallantry.

"That's pointed," said Rivington, in jocu-
lar comment ; " and very pretty, too."

" It does n't mean anything," drawled Schuy-
ler. " Whenever Gascoigne talks with an
agreeable woman he fills up the pauses by
offering himself."

The conversation flowed along with desul-



A HOPELESS CASE. lOI

tory and hap-hazard current until dinner was
ended. Agnes felt as if she had been watch-
ing a troop of colts scamper about, when the
ladies at length rose, leaving the gentlemen
over their wines. She had never before heard
such completely aimless talk ; it all had the
artificial flash of gas-lit tinsel. She would
have given a great deal, just then, to hear
Mariannas hearty, boisterous laugh.

She and Meta Schuyler seated themselves
on a sofa together in the front drawing-room,
and here Mrs. Leroy joined them, remaining
for some little time, and at length excusing
herself. Perhaps this absence was intention-
ally made, for the purpose of bringing Agnes
and her dinner-guest into closer acquaintance.

" You are Mr. Schuyler's sister, are you
not .'' " Agnes asked of her companion.

*' Oh, dear, no ! " was the prompt reply.
'*We are third or fourth cousins; I forget
which. Did you fancy there was any resem-
blance between us } "



102 A HOPELESS CASE.

Agnes looked perplexed. "No," she said,
slowly, "not a personal one."

" But you thought us alike ? " questioned
Meta, quickly. She seldom spoke quickly, or
seemed surprised, as now.

" Yes," said Agnes, decisively, " I thought
you a little alike. It seemed to me that you
look at things in the same way, somehow —
that you think and talk the same."

" What an idea ! " said Meta, with her usual
repose oddly ruffled, and a sort of jar amid her
easy laughter. *' Why, we are as different as
the poles. Oscar Schuyler is forever sneering
— and very often at his betters. He is with-
out purpose, ambition, or energy. He might
have been something in the world, if he had
chosen, but he has sunk into indolent failure."

" How bitterly you speak ! " said Agnes.
A new idea had struck her as she saw that
Meta's color had visibly heightened, and that
the lovely dullness of her brown eyes had
taken a liquid sparkle.



A HOPELESS CASE. 103

" Pshaw," said Meta, suddenly becoming
her former languid self, " I forgot that we
once took an interest in each other, and used
to give each other advice. That is some time
ago, however. We are still good friends, of
course. We hold little chats at parties, you
know, and now and then he takes me in at
dinners."

" But you no longer give each other ad-
vice .'' " said Agnes.

"Oh, dear, no! We have got over that."

" I suppose you agreed to disobey each
other's counsels."

" Yes. We made a compact to disagree."

" And pray," asked Agnes, " did you both
radically disapprove of one another } "

Meta laughed. The self-poised woman of
society now breathed from every line of her
graceful posture, and spoke in her serene face
bloomy with the delicate tintings of a pas-
tel. "You have precisely hit it," she said.
" We disapproved of each other very much



104 ^ HOPELESS CASE.

indeed. We almost came to a quarrel. But
we are excellent friends now, in a certain
way."

Agnes was silent for a moment. " I wonder
if you will be offended at a question of mine,"
she presently said.

" I am not easily offended," said Meta, with
complaisance.

" I was thinking whether Mr. Schuyler was
as severe upon you as you are upon him."

" Oh, a good deal more so, I assure you.
He considers me an enormous mistake. He
declares that I take nothing seriously enough.
He once told me that I treated life as if it
were a big boarding-school, and I was one of
the pupils who felt homesick, and longed for
graduation-day. If you knew him better, you
would understand the exquisite audacity of
this criticism, coming from a man Avho so ob-
viously deserves it himself."

" And you did not think there was the least
truth in what he said 1 " asked Agnes, after a
pause, looking straight at her companion.



A HOPELESS CASE. 1 05

Meta caught one of Agnes's hands, and
bent toward her a smiling face. ** Upon my
word," she exclaimed, " you are delicious !
You are a bit of the novelty that I have been
wearying after."

Agnes did not smile, but she pressed the
other's hand quite warmly for a second or two.
" Yes," she said, " I knew that you were weary.
Will you tell me what it is that you weary
after 1 "

Meta started, and dropped Agnes's hand.
*' Really," she answered, in a very changed
voice, *' I don't think that I know. Do you t "

Agnes was again silent. " Yes," she at
length said, with a sweet positiveness, " I be-
lieve that I do know. You want more things
than one."

" Tell me a few of those that I want."

" Perhaps I will tell you at some other time,"
said Agnes. Just then the closed draperies
which hid the dining-room were parted, and
the gentlemen came forth. Simultaneously
Mrs. Leroy entered the room at a side-door.



I06 A HOPELESS CASE.

"Ah, ladies," cried Mr. Gascoigne, "you see
that we could not stay away from you long."

'' I think you have stayed shamefully long,"
said Mrs. Leroy.

"So do I," said Oscar Schuyler. " It was
Gascoigne's fault. He would n't leave till the
Burgundy was ordered from the table."

" Slander will yet drive Oscar to a police
court," exclaimed Mr. Gascoigne.

" We will go together, in that case," said
Meta to Mr. Gascoigne, "and sit in the gal-
lery. I have always wanted to see the inside
of a police court."

"Agreed," said Mr. Gascoigne, "we will go
and hiss the plaintiff."

" I will be merciful, and throw him a bou-
quet," laughed Mrs. Leroy. ** What will you
do, Agnes ? " she added.

Agnes looked at Schuyler, who had just


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