Put Yourself in His Place - novelonlinefull.com
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"The little circle is broken up. Mr. Coventry could not amuse them as you did. Ah! she is in the sulks, and he is mortified. I know there's a French proverb 'Les absens ont toujours tort.' But it is quite untrue; judicious absence is a weapon, and I must show you how and when to use it."
"Mother, you are my best friend. What shall we do next?"
"Why, go back to the room with me, and put on an imperturbable good humor, and ignore him; only mind you do that politely, or you will give him an advantage he is too wise to give you."
Henry was about to obey these orders, but Miss Carden took the word out of his mouth.
"Well! the cactus?"
Then, as it is not easy to reply to a question so vague, Henry hesitated.
"There, I thought so," said Grace.
"What did you think?" inquired Mrs. Little.
"Oh, people don't go into hot-houses to see a cactus; they go to flirt or else gossip. I'll tell Mrs. White to set a short-hand writer in the great aloe, next party she gives. Confess, Mrs. Little, you went to criticise poor us, and there is no cactus at all."
"Miss Carden, I'm affronted. You shall smart for this. Henry, take her directly and show her the cactus, and clear your mother's character."
Henry offered his arm directly, and they went gayly off.
"Is she gone to flirt, or to gossip?" asked a young lady.
"Our watches must tell us that," said Mrs. Little. "If they stay five minutes--gossip."
"And how many--flirtation?"
"Ah, my dear, YOU know better than I do. What do you say?
The young ladies giggled.
Then Mr. Coventry came out strong. He was mortified, he was jealous; he saw a formidable enemy had entered the field, and had just outwitted and out-maneuvered him. So what does he do but step up to her, and say to her, with the most respectful grace, "May I be permitted to welcome you back to this part of the world? I am afraid I can not exactly claim your acquaintance; but I have often heard my father speak of you with the highest admiration. My name is Coventry."
"Mr. Coventry, of Bollinghope?" (He bowed.) "Yes; I had the pleasure of knowing your mother in former days."
"You, have deserted us too long."
"I do not flatter myself I have been missed."
"Is anybody ever missed, Mrs. Little? Believe me, few persons are welcomed back so cordially as you are."
"That is very flattering, Mr. Coventry. It is for my son's sake I have returned to society."
"No doubt; but you will remain there for your own. Society is your place. You are at home in it, and were born to shine in it."
"What makes you think that, pray?" and the widow's cheek flushed a little.
"Oh, Mrs. Little, I have seen something of the world. Count me amongst your most respectful admirers. It is a sentiment I have a right to, since I inherit it."
"Well, Mr. Coventry, then I give you leave to admire me--if you can.
Ah, here they come. Two minutes! I am afraid it was neither gossip nor flirtation, but only botany."
Grace and Henry came back, looking very radiant.
"What do you think?" said Grace, "I never was more surprised in my life, there really is a cactus, and a night cereus into the bargain. Mrs.
Little, behold a penitent. I bring you my apology, and a jardenia."
"Oh, how sweet! Never mind the apology. Quarrel with me often, and bring me a jardenia. I'll always make it up on those terms."
"Miss White," said Grace, pompously, "I shall require a few dozen cuttings from your tree, please tell the gardener. Arrangements are such, I shall have to grow jardenias on a scale hitherto unprecedented."
There was a laugh, and, in the middle of it, a servant announced Miss Carden's carriage.
"What attentive servants you have, Miss White. I requested that man to be on the watch, and, if I said a good thing, to announce my carriage directly; and he did it pat. Now see what an effective exit that gives me. Good-by, Miss White, good-by, Mrs. Little; may you all disappear as neatly."
Mr. Coventry stepped smartly forward, and offered her his arm with courteous deference; she took it, and went down with him, but shot over his shoulder a side-glance of reproach at Little, for not being so prompt as his rival.
"What spirits!" said a young lady.
"Yes," said another; "but she was as dull as the grave last time I met her."
So ended that evening, with its little ups and downs.
Soon after this, Henry called on Miss Carden, and spent a heavenly hour with her. He told her his plans for getting on in the world, and she listened with a demure complacency, that seemed to imply she acknowledged a personal interest in his success. She told him she had always ADMIRED his independence in declining his uncle's offer, and now she was beginning to APPROVE it: "It becomes a man," said she.
From the future they went to the past, and she reminded him of the snow-storm and the scene in the church; and, in speaking of it, her eye deepened in color, her voice was low and soft, and she was all tenderness.
If love was not directly spoken, it was constantly implied, and, in fact, that is how true love generally speaks. The eternal "Je vous aime"
of the French novelist is false to nature, let me tell you.
"And, when I come back from London, I hope your dear mother will give me opportunities of knowing her better."
"She will be delighted; but, going to London!"
"Oh, we spend six weeks in London every year; and this is our time. I was always glad to go, before--London is very gay now you know--but I am not glad now."
"No more am I, I can a.s.sure you. I am very sorry."
"Six weeks will soon pa.s.s."
"Six weeks of pain is a good long time. You are the sunshine of my life.
And you are going to shine on others, and leave me dark and solitary."
"But how do you know I shall shine on others? Perhaps I shall be duller than you will, and think all the more of Hillsborough, for being in London."
The melting tone in which this was said, and the coy and tender side-glance that accompanied it, were balm of Gilead to the lover.