At length Nellie, who had returned from Madison, and felt rather lonely, wrote to Mabel, asking her to come home. This plan Mrs. Livingstone opposed, but Mabel was decided, and the week before Christmas was fixed upon for her departure. John Jr., anxious to see Nellie, proposed accompanying her, but when the day came he was suffering from a severe cold, which rendered his stay in the house absolutely necessary. So his mother, who had reasons of her own for doing so, went in his stead. Carrie, who never had any fancy for Mabel, and only endured her because she was rich, was coolly polite, merely offering her hand, and then resumed the novel she was reading, even before Mabel had left. Anna and ’Lena bade her a more affectionate adieu, and then advancing toward John Jr., who, in his dressing-gown and slippers, reclined upon the sofa, she offered him her hand.
As if to atone for his former acts of rudeness, the young man accompanied her to the door, playfully claiming the privilege of taking leave just as his sister and cousin had done.
“It’s only me, you know,” said he, imprinting upon her forehead a kiss which sent the rich blood to her neck and face.
John Jr. would not have dared to take that liberty with Nellie, while Mabel, simple-hearted, and wholly unused to the world, saw in it a world of meaning, and for a long time after the carriage roiled away from Maple Grove the bright glow on her cheek told of happy thoughts within.
“Did my son say anything definite to you before you left?” asked Mrs. Livingstone, as they came within sight of the city.
“No, madam,” answered Mabel, and Mrs. Livingstone continued, “That’s strange. He confessed to me that he—ah—he—loved you, and I supposed he intended telling you so; but bashfulness prevented, I dare say!”
Accustomed as she was to equivocation, this down-right falsehood cost Mrs. Livingstone quite an effort, but she fancied the case required it, and after a few twinges, her conscience felt easy, particularly when she saw how much satisfaction her words gave to her companion, to whom the improbability of the affair never occurred. Could she have known how lightly John Jr. treated the matter, laughingly describing his leave-taking to his sisters and ’Lena, and saying, “Meb wasn’t the worst girl in the world, after all,” she might not have been so easily duped.
But she did not know all this, and thus was the delusion perfect.
NELLIE AND MABEL.
Nellie Douglass sat alone in her chamber, which was filled with articles of elegance and luxury, for her father, though far from being wealthy, still loved to surround his only daughter with everything which could increase her comfort. So the best, the fairest, and the most Costly was always for her, his “darling Nellie,” as he called her, when with bounding footsteps she flew to greet him on his return at night, ministering to his wants in a thousand ways, and shedding over his home such a halo of sunshine that ofttimes he forgot that he was a lonely widower, while in the features of his precious child he saw again the wife of his bosom, who years before had passed from his side forever.