“Law, now,” said Mrs. Nichols, “let him talk if he wants to. I like to hear him. He’s the only grandson I’ve got.”
This speech had the effect of silencing John Jr. quite as much as his father’s command. If he could tease his grandmother by talking to her, he would take delight in doing so, but if she wanted him to talk—that was quite another thing. So moving away from her, he took a seat near ’Lena, telling her her dress was “a heap too short,” and occasionally pinching her, just to vary the sport! This last, however, ’Lena returned with so much force that he grew weary of the fun, and informing her that he was going to a circus which was in town that evening, he arose to leave the room.
Mr. Livingstone, who partially overheard what he had said, stopped him and asked “where he was going?”
Feigning a yawn and rubbing his eyes, John Jr. replied that “he was confounded sleepy and was going to bed.”
“’Lena, where did he say he was going?” asked her uncle.
’Lena trembled, for John Jr. had clinched his fist, and was shaking it threateningly at her.
“Where did he say he was going?” repeated her uncle.
Poor ’Lena had never told a lie in her life, and now braving her cousin’s anger, she said, “To the circus, sir. Oh, I wish you had not asked me.”
“You’ll get your pay for that,” muttered John Jr. sullenly reseating himself by his father, who kept an eye on him until he saw him safely in his room.
Much as John Jr. frightened ’Lena with his threats, in his heart he respected her for telling the truth, and if the next morning on their way home in the stage, in which his father compelled him to take a seat, he frequently found it convenient to step on her feet, it was more from a natural propensity to torment than from any lurking feeling of revenge. ’Lena was nowise backward in returning his cousinly attentions, and so between an interchange of kicks, wry faces, and so forth, they proceeded toward “Maple Grove,” a description of which will be given in another chapter.
The residence of Mr. Livingstone, or rather of Mr. Livingstone’s wife, was a large, handsome building, such as one often finds in Kentucky, particularly in the country. Like most planters’ houses, it stood at some little distance from the street, from which its massive walls, wreathed with evergreen, were just discernible. The carriage road which led to it passed first through a heavy iron gate guarded by huge bronze lions, so natural and life-like, that Mrs. Nichols, when first she saw them, uttered a cry of fear. Next came a beautiful maple grove, followed by a long, green lawn, dotted here and there with forest trees and having on its right a deep running brook, whose waters, farther on at the rear of the garden, were formed into a miniature fish-pond.