The morning following the party, Mr. Livingstone’s family were assembled in the parlor, discussing the various events of the previous night. John Jr., ’Lena, and Anna declared themselves to have been highly pleased with everything, while Carrie in the worst of humors, pronounced it “a perfect bore,” saying she never had so disagreeable a time in all her life, and ending her ill-natured remarks by a malicious thrust at ’Lena, for having so long kept Mr. Bellmont at her side.
“I suppose you fancy he would have looked better with you, but I think he showed his good taste by preferring ’Lena,” said John Jr.; then turning toward the large easy-chair, where Mabel sat, pale, weary, and spiritless, he asked “how she had enjoyed herself.”
With the exception of his accustomed “good-morning,” this was the first time he had that day addressed her, and it was so unexpected, that it brought a bright glow to her cheek, making John Jr. think she was “not so horribly ugly after all.”
But she was very unfortunate in her answer, which was, “that on account of her ill health, she seldom enjoyed anything of the kind.” Then pressing her hand upon her forehead, she continued, “My head is aching dreadfully, as a punishment for last night’s dissipation.”
Three times before, he had heard her speak of her aching head, and now, with an impatient gesture, he was turning away, when his mother said, “Poor girl, she really looks miserable. I think a ride would do her good. Suppose you take her with you—I heard you say you were going to Versailles.”
If there was anything in which Mabel excelled, it was horsemanship, she being a better rider, if possible; than ’Lena, and now, at Mrs. Livingstone’s proposition, she looked up eagerly at John Jr., who replied,
“Oh, hang it all! mother, I can’t always be bothered with a girl;” then as he saw how Mabel’s countenance fell, he continued, “Let ’Lena ride with her—she wants to, I know.”
“Certainly,” said ’Lena, whose heart warmed toward the orphan girl, partly because she was an orphan, and partly because she saw that she was neglected and unloved.
As yet Mabel cared nothing for John Jr., nor even suspected his mother’s object in detaining her as a guest. So when ’Lena was proposed as a substitute she seemed equally well pleased, and the young man, as he walked off to order the ponies, mentally termed himself a bear for his rudeness; “for after all,” thought he, “it’s mother who has designs upon me, not Mabel. She isn’t to blame.”
This opinion once satisfactorily settled, it was strange how soon John Jr. began to be sociable with Mabel, finding her much more agreeable than he had at first supposed, and even acknowledging to ’Lena that “she was a good deal of a girl, after all, were it not for her everlasting headaches and the smell of medicine,” which he declared she always carried about with her.