Put Yourself in His Place - novelonlinefull.com
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Mrs. Little's rooms being nearly square, she set up a round table, at which eight could dine. But she began with five or six.
Henry used to commit a solecism or two. Mrs. Little always noticed them, and told him. He never wanted telling twice. He was a genial young fellow, well read in the topics of the day, and had a natural wit; Mrs.
Little was one of those women who can fascinate when they choose; and she chose now; her little parties rose to eight; and as, at her table, everybody could speak without rudeness to everybody else, this round table soon began to eclipse the long tables of Hillsborough in attraction.
She and Henry went out a good deal; and, at last, that which Mrs.
Little's good sense had told her must happen, sooner or later, took place. They met.
He was standing talking with one of the male guests, when the servant announced Miss Carden; and, whilst his heart was beating high, she glided into the room, and was received by the mistress of the house with all that superabundant warmth which ladies put on and men don't: guess why?
When she turned round from this exuberant affection, she encountered Henry's black eye full of love and delight, and his tongue tied, and his swarthy cheek glowing red. She half started, and blushed in turn; and with one glance drank in every article of dress he had on. Her eyes beamed pleasure and admiration for a moment, then she made a little courtesy, then she took a step toward him, and held out her hand a little coyly.
Their hands and eyes encountered; and, after that delightful collision, they were both as demure as cats approaching cream.
Before they could say a word of any consequence, a cruel servant announced dinner, to the great satisfaction of every other soul in the room.
Of course they were parted at dinner-time; but they sat exactly opposite each other, and Henry gazed at her so, instead of minding his business, that she was troubled a little, and fain to look another way. For all that, she found opportunity once or twice to exchange thoughts with him.
Indeed, in the course of the two hours, she gave him quite a lesson how to speak with the eye--an art in which he was a mere child compared with her.
She conveyed to him that she saw his mother and recognized her; and also she hoped to know her.
But some of her telegrams puzzled him.
When the gentlemen came up after dinner, she asked him if he would not present her to his mother.
"Oh, thank you!" said he, naively; and introduced them to each other.
The ladies courtesied with grace, but a certain formality, for they both felt the importance of the proceeding, and were a little on their guard.
But they had too many safe, yet interesting topics, to be very long at a loss.
"I should have known you by your picture, Mrs. Little."
"Ah, then I fear it must be faded since I saw it last."
"I think not. But I hope you will soon judge for yourself."
Mrs. Little shook her head. Then she said, graciously, "I hear it is to you I am indebted that people can see I was once--what I am not now."
Grace smiled, well pleased. "Ah," said she, "I wish you could have seen that extraordinary scene, and heard dear Mr. Raby. Oh, madam, let nothing make you believe you have no place in his great heart!"
"Pray, pray, do not speak of that. This is no place. How could I bear it?" and Mrs. Little began to tremble.
Grace apologized. "How indiscreet I am; I blurt out every thing that is in my heart."
"And so do I," said Henry, coming to her aid.
"Ah, YOU," said Grace, a little saucily.
"We do not accept you for our pattern, you see. Pray excuse our bad taste, Harry."
"Oh, excuse ME, Mrs. Little. In some things I should indeed be proud if I could imitate him; but in others--of course--you know!"
"Yes, I know. My dear, there is your friend Mr. Applethwaite."
"I see him," said Henry, carelessly.
"Yes; but you don't see every thing," said Grace, slyly.
"Not all at once, like you ladies. Bother my friend Applethwaite. Well, if I must, I must. Here goes--from Paradise to Applethwaite."
He went off, and both ladies smiled, and one blushed; and, to cover her blush, said, "it is not every son that has the grace to appreciate his mother so."
Mrs. Little opened her eyes at first, and then made her nearest approach to a laugh, which was a very broad smile, displaying all her white teeth. "That is a turn I was very far from expecting," said she.
The ice was now broken, and, when Henry returned, he found them conversing so rapidly and so charmingly, that he could do little more than listen.
At last Mr. Carden came in from some other party, and carried his daughter off, and the bright evening came too soon to a close; but a great point had been gained: Mrs. Little and Grace Carden were acquaintances now, and cordially disposed to be friends.
The next time these lovers met, matters did not go quite so smoothly. It was a large party, and Mr. Coventry was there. The lady of the house was a friend of his, and a.s.signed Miss Carden to him. He took her down to dinner, and Henry sat a long way off but on the opposite side of the table.
He was once more doomed to look on at the a.s.siduities of his rival, and it spoiled his dinner for him.
But he was beginning to learn that these things must be in society; and his mother, on the other side of the table, shrugged her shoulders to him, and conveyed by that and a look that it was a thing to make light of.
In the evening the rivals came into contact.
Little, being now near her he loved, was in high spirits, and talked freely and agreeably. He made quite a little circle round him; and as Grace was one of the party, and cast bright and approving eyes on him, it stimulated him still more, and he became quite brilliant.
Then Coventry, who was smarting with jealousy, set himself to cool all this down by a subtle cold sort of jocoseness, which, without being downright rude, operates on conversation of the higher kind like frost on expanding buds. It had its effect, and Grace chafed secretly, but could not interfere. It was done very cleverly. Henry was bitterly annoyed; but his mother, who saw his rising ire in his eye, carried him off to see a flowering cactus in a hot-house that was accessible from the drawing-room. When she had got him there, she soothed him and lectured him. "You are not a match for that man in these petty acts of annoyance, to which a true gentleman and a n.o.ble rival would hardly descend, I think; at all events, a wise one would not; for, believe me, Mr. Coventry will gain nothing by this."
"Isn't driving us off the field something? Oh, for the good old days when men settled these things in five minutes, like men; the girl to one, and the grave to t'other."
"Heaven forbid those savage days should ever return. We will defeat this gentleman quietly, if you please."
"Well, whenever he does this sort of thing, hide your anger; be polite and dignified; but gradually drop the conversation, and manage to convey to the rest that it is useless contending against a wet blanket. Why, you foolish boy, do you think Grace Carden likes him any the better?
Whilst you and I talk, she is snubbing him finely. So you must stay here with me, and give them time to quarrel. There, to lessen the penance, we will talk about her. Last time we met her, she told me you were the best-dressed gentleman in the room."
"And did she like me any better for that?"
"Don't you be ungracious, dear. She was proud of you. It gratified her that you should look well in every way. Oh, if you think that we are going to change our very natures for you, and make light of dress--why did I send you to a London tailor? and why am I always at you about your gloves?"
"Mother, I am on thorns."
"Well, we will go back. Stop; let me take a peep first."
She took a peep, and reported,