Mary Jane Holmes.

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Many and amusing were the disputes between the two girls concerning
their peculiarities of speech, Carrie bidding 'Lena "quit her Yankee
habit of eternally _guessing_," and 'Lena retorting that "she would
when Carrie stopped her everlasting _reckoning_." To avoid the
remarks of the neighbors, who she knew were watching her narrowly,
Mrs. Livingstone had purchased 'Lena two or three dresses, which,
though greatly inferior to those worn by Carrie and Anna, were still
fashionably made, and so much improved 'Lena's looks, that her
manners improved, also, for what child does not appear to better
advantage when conscious of looking well? More than once had her
uncle's hand rested for a moment on her brown curls, while his
thoughts were traversing the past, and in fancy his fingers were
again straying among the silken locks now resting in the grave. It
would seem as if the mother from her coffin was pleading for her
child, for all the better nature of Mr. Livingstone was aroused; and
when he secured the services of Mr. Everett, who was highly
recommended both as a scholar and gentleman, he determined that 'Lena
should share the same advantages with his daughters. To this Mrs.
Livingstone made no serious objection, for as Mr. Everett would teach
in the house, it would not do to debar 'Lena from the privilege of
attending his school; and as the highest position to which she could
aspire was to be governess in some private family, she felt willing,
she said, that she should have a chance of acquiring the common
branches.

And now Mr. Everett was daily expected. Anna, who had no fondness
for books, greatly dreaded his arrival, thinking within herself how
many pranks she'd play off upon him, provided 'Lena would lend a
helping hand, which she much doubted. John Jr., too, who for a time,
at least, was to be placed under Mr. Everett's instruction, felt in
no wise eager for his arrival, fearing, as he told 'Lena that
"between the 'old man' and the tutor, he would be kept a little too
straight for a gentleman of his habits;" and it was with no
particular emotions of pleasure that he and Anna saw the stage stop
before the gate one pleasant morning toward the middle of November.
Running to one of the front windows, Carrie, 'Lena, and Anna watched
their new teacher, each after her own fashion commenting upon his
appearance.

"Ugh," exclaimed Anna, "what a green, boyish looking thing! I reckon
nobody's going to be afraid of him."

"I say he's real handsome," said Carrie, who being thirteen years of
age, had already, in her own mind, practiced many a little coquetry
upon the stranger.

"I like him," was 'Lena's brief remark.

Mr. Everett was a pale, intellectual looking man, scarcely twenty
years of age, and appearing still younger so that Anna was not wholly
wrong when she called him boyish. Still there was in his large black
eye a firmness and decision which bespoke the man strong within him,
and which put to flight all of Anna's preconceived notions of
rebellion. With the utmost composure he returned Mrs. Livingstone's
greeting, and the proud lady half bit her lip with vexation as she
saw how little he seemed awed by her presence.

Malcolm Everett was not one to acknowledge superiority where there
was none, and though ever polite toward Mrs. Livingstone, there was
something in his manner which forbade her treating him as aught save
an equal. He was not to be trampled down, and for once in her life
Mrs. Livingstone had found a person who would neither cringe to her
nor flatter. The children were not presented to him until dinner
time, when, with the air of a young desperado, John Jr. marched into
the dining-room, eying, his teacher askance, calculating his
strength, and returning his greeting with a simple nod. Mr. Everett
scanned him from head to foot, and then turned to Carrie half smiling
at the great dignity which she assumed. With 'Lena and Anna he
seemed better pleased, holding their hands and smiling down upon them
through rows of teeth which Anna pronounced the whitest she had ever
seen.

Mr. Livingstone was not at home, and when his mother appeared, Mrs.
Livingstone did not think proper to introduce her. But if by this
omission she thought to keep the old lady silent, she was mistaken,
for the moment Mrs. Nichols was seated, she commenced with, "Your
name is Everett, I b'lieve?"

"Yes, ma'am," said he, bowing very gracefully toward her.

"Any kin to the governor that was?"

"No, ma'am, none whatever," and the white teeth became slightly
visible for a moment, but soon disappeared.

"You are from Rockford, 'Lena tells me?"

"Yes, ma'am. Have you friends there?"

"Yes - or that is, Nancy Scovandyke's sister, Betsy Scovandyke that
used to be, lives there. May be you know her. Her name is
Bacon - Betsy Bacon. She's a widder and keeps boarders."

"Ah," said he, the teeth this time becoming wholly visible, "I've
heard of Mrs. Bacon, but have not the honor of her acquaintance. You
are from the east, I perceive."

"Law, now! how did you know that!" asked Mrs. Nichols, while Mr.
Everett answered, "I _guessed_ at it," with a peculiar emphasis on
the word guessed, which led 'Lena to think he had used it purposely
and not from habit.

Mr. Everett possessed in a remarkable degree the faculty of making
those around him both respect and like him, and ere six weeks had
passed, he had won the love of all his pupils. Even John Jr. was
greatly improved, and Carrie seemed suddenly reawakened into a thirst
for knowledge, deeming no task too long, and no amount of study too
hard, if it won the commendation of her teacher. 'Lena, who
committed to memory with great ease, and who consequently did not
deserve so much credit for her always perfect lessons, seldom
received a word of praise, while poor Anna, notoriously lazy when
books were concerned, cried almost every day, because as she said,
"Mr. Everett didn't like her as he did the rest, else why did he look
at her so much, watching her all the while, and keeping her after
school to get her lessons over, when he knew how she hated them."

Once Mrs. Livingstone ventured to remonstrate, telling him that Anna
was very sensitive, and required altogether different treatment from
Carrie. "She thinks you dislike her," said she, "and while she
retains this impression, she will do nothing as far as learning is
concerned; so if you do not like her, try and make her think you do!"

There was a peculiar look in Mr. Everett's dark eyes as he answered,
"You may think it strange, Mrs. Livingstone, but of all my pupils I
love Anna the best! I know I find more fault with her, and am
perhaps more severe with her than with the rest, but it's because I
would make her what I wish her to be. Pardon me, madam, but Anna
does not possess the same amount of intellect with her cousin or
sister, but by proper culture she will make a fine, intelligent
woman."

Mrs. Livingstone hardly relished being told that one child was
inferior to the other, but she could not well help herself - Mr.
Everett would say what he pleased - and thus the conference ended.
From that time Mr. Everett was exceedingly kind to Anna, wiping away
the tears which invariably came when told that she must stay with him
in the school-room after the rest were gone; then, instead of seating
himself in rigid silence at a distance until her task was learned, he
would sit by her side, occasionally smoothing her long curls and
speaking encouragingly to her as she pored over some hard rule of
grammar, or puzzled her brains with some difficult problem in
Colburn. Erelong the result of all this became manifest. Anna grew
fonder of her books, more ready to learn, and - more willing to be
kept after school!

Ah, little did Mrs. Livingstone think what she was doing when she
bade young Malcolm Everett make her warm-hearted, impulsive daughter
_think_ he liked her!

CHAPTER VIII.

SCHEMING.

"Mother, where's 'Lena's dress? Hasn't she got any?" asked Anna, one
morning, about two weeks before Christmas, as she bent over a
promiscuous pile of merinoes, delaines, and plaid silks, her own and
Carrie's dresses for the coming holidays. "Say, mother, didn't you
buy 'Lena any?"

Thus interrogated, Mrs. Livingstone replied, "I wonder if you think
I'm made of money! 'Lena is indebted to me now for more than she can
ever pay. As long as I give her a home and am at so much expense in
educating her, she of course can't expect me to dress her as I do
you. There's Carrie's brown delaine and your blue one, which I
intend to have made over for her, and she ought to be satisfied with
that, for they are much better than anything she had when she came
here."

And the lady glanced toward the spot where 'Lena sat, admiring the
new things, in which she had no share, and longing to ask the
question which Anna had asked for her, and which had now been
answered. John Jr., who was present, and who knew that Mr. Everett
had been engaged to teach in the family long before it was known that
'Lena was coming, now said to his cousin, who arose to leave, "Yes,
'Lena, mother's a model of generosity, and you'll never be able to
repay her for her kindness in allowing you to wear the girls' old
duds, which would otherwise be given to the blacks, and in permitting
you to recite to Mr. Everett, who, of course, was hired on your
account."

The slamming together of the door as 'Lena left the room brought the
young gentleman's remarks to a close, and wishing to escape the
lecture which he saw was preparing for him, he, too, made his exit.

Christmas was coming, and with it Durward Bellmont, and about his
coming Mrs. Livingstone felt some little anxiety. Always scheming,
and always looking ahead, she was expecting great results from this
visit. Durward was not only immensely wealthy, but was also
descended on his father's side from one of England's noblemen.
Altogether he was, she thought, a "decided catch," and though he was
now only sixteen, while Carrie was but thirteen, lifelong impressions
had been made at even an earlier period, and Mrs. Livingstone
resolved that her pretty daughter should at least have all the
advantages of dress with which to set off her charms. Concerning
Anna's appearance she cared less, for she had but little hope of her,
unless, indeed - but 'twas too soon to think of that - she would wait,
and perhaps in good time 't would all come round naturally and as a
matter of course. So she encouraged her daughter's intimacy with
Captain Atherton, who, until Malcolm Everett appeared, was in Anna's
estimation the best man living. Now, however, she made an exception
in favor of her teacher, "who," as she told the captain, "neither
wore false teeth, nor kept in his pocket a pair of specks, to be
slyly used when he fancied no one saw him."

Captain Atherton coughed, colored, laughed, and saying that "Mr.
Everett was a mash kind of a boy," swore eternal enmity toward him,
and under the mask of friendship - watched! Eleven years before, when
Anna was a baby, Mrs. Livingstone had playfully told the captain, who
was one day deploring his want of a wife, that if he would wait he
should have her daughter. To this he agreed, and the circumstance,
trivial as it was, made a more than ordinary impression upon his
mind; and though he as yet had no definite idea that the promise
would ever be fulfilled, the little girl was to him an object of
uncommon interest. Mrs. Livingstone knew this, and whenever Anna's
future prospects were the subject of her meditations, she generally
fell back upon that fact as an item not to be despised.

Now, however, her thoughts were turned into another and widely
different channel. Christmas week was to be spent by Durward
Bellmont partly at Captain Atherton's and partly at her own house,
and as Mrs. Livingstone was not ignorant of the effect a becoming
dress has upon a pretty face, she determined that Carrie should, at
least, have that advantage. Anna, too, was to fare like her sister,
while no thought was bestowed upon poor 'Lena's wardrobe, until her
husband, who accompanied her to Frankfort, suggested that a certain
pattern, which he fancied would be becoming to 'Lena should be
purchased.

With an angry scowl, Mrs. Livingstone muttered something about
"spending so much money for other folks' young ones." Then
remembering the old delaines, and knowing by the tone of her
husband's voice that he was in earnest, she quickly rejoined, "Why,
'Lena's got two new dresses at home."

Never doubting his wife's word, Mr. Livingstone was satisfied, and
nothing more was said upon the subject. Business of importance made
it necessary for him to go for a few weeks to New Orleans, and he was
now on his way thither, his wife having accompanied him as far as
Frankfort, where he took the boat, while she returned home. When
'Lena left the room after learning that she had no part in the mass
of Christmas finery, she repaired to the arbor bridge, where she had
wept so bitterly on the first day of her arrival, and which was now
her favorite resort. For a time she sat watching the leaping waters,
swollen by the winter rains, and wondering if it were not possible
that they started at first from the pebbly spring which gushed so
cool and clear from the mountain-side near her old New England home.
This reminded her of where and what she was now - a dependent on the
bounty of those who wished her away, and who almost every day of her
life made her feel it so keenly, too. Not one among them loved her
except Anna, and would not her affection change as they grew older?
Then her thoughts took another direction.

Durward Bellmont was coming - but did she wish to see him? Could she
bear the sneering remarks which she knew Carrie would make concerning
herself? And how would he be affected by them? Would he ask her of
her father? and if so, what had she to say?

Many a time had she tried to penetrate the dark mystery of her birth,
but her grandmother was wholly non-committal. Once, too, when her
uncle seemed kinder than usual, she had ventured to ask him of her
father, and with a frown he had replied, that "the least she knew of
him the better!" Still 'Lena felt sure that he was a good man, and
that some time or other she would find him.

All day long the clouds had been threatening rain, which began to
fall soon after 'Lena entered the arbor, but so absorbed was she in
her own thoughts, that she did not observe it until her clothes were
perfectly dampened; then starting up, she repaired to the house. For
several days she had not been well, and this exposure brought on a
severe cold, which confined her to her room for nearly two weeks.
Meantime the dress-making process went on, Anna keeping 'Lena
constantly apprised of its progress, and occasionally wearing in some
article for her inspection. This reminded 'Lena of her own wardrobe,
and knowing that it would not be attended to while she was sick, she
made such haste to be well, that on Thursday at tea-time she took her
accustomed seat at the table. After supper she lingered awhile in
the parlor, hoping something would be said, but she waited in vain,
and was about leaving, when a few words spoken by Carrie in an
adjoining room caught her ear and arrested her attention.

They were - "And so 'Lena came down to-night. I dare say she thinks
you'll set Miss Simpson at work upon my old delaine."

"Perhaps so," returned Mrs. Livingstone, "but I don't see how Miss
Simpson can do it, unless you put off having that silk apron
embroidered."

"I shan't do any such thing," said Carrie, glad of an excuse to keep
'Lena out of the way. "What matter is it if she don't come down when
the company are here? I'd rather she wouldn't, for she's so green
and awkward, and Durward is so fastidious in such matters, that I'd
rather he wouldn't know she's a relative of ours! I know he'd tell
his mother, and they say she is very particular about his associates."

'Lena's first impulse was to defy her cousin to her face - to tell her
she had seen Durward Bellmont, and that he didn't laugh at her
either. But her next thought was calmer and more rational. Possibly
under Carrie's influence he might make fun of her, and resolving on
no condition whatever to make herself visible while he was in the
house, she returned to her room, and throwing herself upon the bed,
wept until she fell asleep.

"When is Miss Simpson going to fix 'Lena's dress?" asked Anna, as day
after day passed, and nothing was said of the brown delaine.

For an instant Miss Simpson's nimble fingers were still, as she
awaited the answer to a question which had occurred to her several
times. She was a kind-hearted, intelligent girl, find at a glance
had seen how matters stood. She, too, was an orphan, and her
sympathies were all enlisted in behalf of the neglected 'Lena. She
had heard from Anna of the brown delaine, and in her own mind she had
determined that it should be fitted with the utmost taste of which
she was capable.

Her speculations, however, were brought to a close by Mrs.
Livingstone's saying in reply to Anna, that "'Lena seemed so wholly
uninterested, and cared so little about seeing the company, she had
decided not to have the dress fixed until after Christmas week."

The fiery expression of two large, glittering eyes, which at that
moment peered in at the door, convinced Miss Simpson that her
employer had hardly told the truth, and she secretly determined that
'Lena should have the dress whether she would or not. Accordingly,
the next time she and Anna were alone, she asked for the delaine,
entrusting her secret to Anna, who, thinking no harm, promised to
keep it from her mother. But to get 'Lena fitted was a more
difficult matter. Her spirit was roused, and for a time she resisted
their combined efforts. At last, however, she yielded, and by
working late at night in her own room, Miss Simpson managed to
finished the dress, in which 'Lena really looked better than did
either of her cousins in their garments of far richer materials.
Still she was resolved not to go down, and Anna, fearing what her
mother might say, dared not urge her very strongly hoping, though,
that "something would turn up."

* * * * * *

Durward Bellmont, Nellie Douglass, and Mabel Ross had arrived at
Captain Atherton's. Mrs. Livingstone and her daughters had called
upon them, inviting them to spend a few days at Maple Grove, where
they were to meet some other young people "selected from the
wealthiest families in the neighborhood," Mrs. Livingstone said, at
the same time patting the sallow cheek of Mabel, whose reputed
hundred thousand she intended should one day increase the importance
of her own family.

The invitation was accepted - the day had arrived, the guests were
momentarily expected, and Carrie, before the long mirror, was
admiring herself, alternately frowning upon John Jr., who was
mimicking her "airs," and scolding Anna for fretting because 'Lena
could not be induced to join them. Finding that her niece was
resolved not to appear, Mrs. Livingstone, for looks' sake, had
changed her tactics, saying, "'Lena could come down if she chose - she
was sure there was nothing to prevent."

Knowing this, Anna had exhausted all her powers of eloquence upon her
cousin. But she still remained inexorable, greatly to the
astonishment of her grandmother who for several days had been
suffering from a rheumatic affection, notwithstanding which she
"meant to hobble down if possible, for" said she, "I want to see this
Durward Bellmont. Matilda says he's got _Noble_ blood in him. I
used to know a family of Nobles in Massachusetts, and I think like as
not he's some kin!"

Carrie, to whom this remark was made, communicated it to her mother,
who forthwith repaired to Mrs. Nichols' room, telling her "that 'twas
a child's party," and hinting pretty strongly that she was neither
wanted nor expected in the parlor, and would confer a great favor by
keeping aloof.

"Wall, wall," said Mrs. Nichols, who had learned to dread her
daughter's displeasure, "I'd as lief stay up here as not, but I do
want 'Lena to jine 'em. She's young and would enjoy it."

Without a word of answer Mrs. Livingstone walked away, leaving 'Lena
more determined than ever not to go down. When the evening at last
arrived, Anna insisted so strongly upon her wearing the delaine, for
fear of what might happen, that 'Lena consented, curling her hair
with great care, and feeling a momentary thrill of pride as she saw
how well she looked.

"When we get nicely to enjoying ourselves," said Anna, "you come down
and look through the glass door, for I do want you to see Durward,
he's so handsome - but there's the carriage - I must go;" and away ran
Anna down the stairs, while 'Lena flew to one of the front windows to
see the company as they rode up.

First came Captain Atherton's carriage, and in it the captain and his
maiden sister, together with a pale, sickly-looking girl, whom 'Lena
knew to be Mabel Ross. Behind them rode Durward Bellmont, and at his
side, on a spirited little pony was another girl, thirteen or
fourteen years of age, but in her long riding-dress looking older,
because taller. 'Lena readily guessed that this was Nellie Douglass,
and at a glance she recognized the Durward of the cars - grown
handsomer and taller since then, she thought. With a nimble bound he
leaped from his saddle, kissing his hand to Carrie, who with her
sunniest smile ran past him to welcome Nellie. A pang, not of
jealousy, but of an undefined something, shot through 'Lena's heart,
and dropping the heavy curtain, she turned away, while the tears
gathered thickly in her large brown eyes.

"Where's 'Lena?" asked Captain Atherton, of Anna, warming his red
fingers before the blazing grate, and looking round upon the group of
girls gathered near. Glancing at her mother, Anna replied, "She says
she don't want to come down."

"Bashful," returned the captain, while Nellie Douglass asked, "who
'Lena was," at the same time returning the _pinch_ which John Jr.
had slyly given her as a mode of showing his preference, for Nellie
_was_ his favorite.

Fearful of Anna's reply, Mrs. Livingstone answered, carelessly,
"She's the child of one of Mr. Livingstone's poor relations, and
we've taken her awhile out of charity."

At any other time John Jr. would doubtless have questioned his
mother's word, but now so engrossed was he with the merry, hoydenish
Nellie, that he scarcely heard her remark, or noticed the absence of
'Lena. With the exception of his cousin, Nellie was the only girl
whom John Jr. could endure - "the rest," he said, "were so stuck up
and affected."

For Mabel Ross, he seemed to have a particular aversion. Not because
she was so very disagreeable, but because his mother continually
reminded him of what she hoped would one day be, "and this," he said,
"was enough to make a 'feller' hate a girl." So without considering
that Mabel was not to blame, he ridiculed her unmercifully, calling
her "a bundle of medicine," and making fun of her thin, sallow face,
which really appeared to great disadvantage when contrasted with
Nellie's bright eyes and round, rosy cheeks.

When the guests were all assembled, Carrie, not knowing whether
Durward Bellmont would relish plays, seated herself demurely upon the
sofa, prepared to act the dignified young lady, or any other
character she might think necessary.

"Get up, Cad," said John Jr. "Nobody's going to act like they were
at a funeral; get up, and let's play something."

As the rest seemed to be similarly inclined, Carrie arose, and
erelong the joyous shouts reached 'Lena, making her half wish that
she, too, was there. Remembering Anna's suggestion of looking
through the glass door she stole softly down the stairs, and
stationing herself behind the door, looked in on the scene. Mr.
Everett, usually so dignified, had joined in the game, claiming
"forfeits" from Anna more frequently than was considered at all
necessary by the captain, who for a time looked jealously on, and
then declaring himself as young as any of them, joined them with a
right good will.

"Blind man's buff," was next proposed, and 'Lena's heart leaped up,
for that was her favorite game. John Jr. was first blinded, but he
caught them so easily that all declared he could see, and loud were
the calls for Durward to take his place. This he willingly did, and
whether he could see or not, he suffered them to pass directly under
his hands, thus giving entire satisfaction. On account of the heat



Online LibraryMary Jane Holmes'Lena Rivers → online text (page 6 of 29)