“Do you like her ?” he asked of ’Lena, extending his arms to lift her down.
For a moment ’Lena could not speak, her heart was so full. But at last, forcing down her emotion, she replied, “Oh, very, very much; but it isn’t for me, I know—there must be some mistake. Mr. Graham never intended it for me.”
“Yes, he did,” answered Durward. “He has intended it ever since the morning when you and I rode to Woodlawn. A remark which your cousin John made at the table, determined him upon him buying and training a pony for you. So here it is, and as I have done my share toward teaching her, you must grant me the favor of riding her to Frankfort day after to-morrow.”
“Thank you, thank you—you and Mr. Graham too—a thousand times,” said ’Lena, winding her arms around the neck of the docile animal, who did her best to return the caress, rubbing her face against ’Lena, and evincing her gentleness in various ways.
By this time Mr. Livingstone had joined them, and while he was admiring the pony, Durward said to him, “I am commissioned by my father to tell you that he will defray all the expense of keeping Vesta.”
“Don’t mention such a thing again,” hastily interposed Mr. Livingstone. “I can keep fifty horses, if I choose, and nothing will give me more pleasure than to take care of this one for ’Lena, who deserves it if any one does.”
“That’s my Christmas gift from you, uncle, isn’t it?” asked ’Lena, the tears gushing from her shining, brown eyes. “And now please may I return it?”
“Certainly,” said he, and with a nimble spring she caught him around the neck, imprinting upon his lips the first and only kiss she had ever given him; then, amid blushes and tears, which came from a heart full of happiness, she ran away upstairs followed by the envious eyes of Carrie, who repaired to her mother’s room, where she stated all that had transpired—“How Mr. Graham had sent ’Lena a gray pony—how she had presumed to accept it—and how, just to show off before Mr. Bellmont, she had wound her arms around its neck, and then actually kissed pa!”
Mrs. Livingstone was equally indignant with her daughter, wondering if Mr. Graham had lost his reason, and reckoning his wife knew nothing about Vesta! But fret as she would, there was no help for it. Vesta belonged to ’Lena—Mr. Livingstone had given orders to have it well-cared for—and worse than all the rest, ’Lena was to accompany Durward to Frankfort. Something must be done to meet the emergency, but what, Mrs. Livingstone didn’t exactly know, and finally concluded to wait until she saw Mrs. Graham.
Meantime grandma had claimed from her son her promised Christmas gift, which was nothing less than “the freedom of old Aunt Polly.”
“You won’t refuse me, John, I know you won’t,” said she, laying her bony hand on his. “Polly’s arnt her freedom forty times over, even s’posin’ you’d a right to her in the fust place which I and Nancy Scovandyke both doubt; so now set down like a man, make out her free papers, and let me carry ’em to her right away.”