“Of course not,” said Adelaide; “and I should have serious objections to being used as a foil to Elsie’s youth and beauty.”
The Howards and Mr. Travilla stayed to tea, and shortly before that meal the party was increased by the arrival of Walter Dinsmore and Mrs. Dick Percival.
Enna had lost flesh and color; and long indulgence of a fretful, peevish temper had drawn down the corners of her mouth, lined her forehead, and left its ugly pencilings here and there over the once pretty face, so that it already began to look old and care-worn. She was very gayly dressed, in the height of the fashion, and rather overloaded with jewelry; but powder and rouge could not altogether conceal the ravages of discontent and passion. She was conscious of the fact, and inwardly dwelt with mortification and chagrin upon the contrast presented by her own faded face to that of Elsie, so fair and blooming, so almost childish in its sweet purity and innocence of expression.
“So you are single yet,” Enna said, with a covert sneer; “and not likely to marry either, so far as I’ve been able to learn. They’ll soon begin to call you an old maid.”
“Will they?” said Mr. Dinsmore, with a laugh in which all present joined, Enna herself excepted; “well, if she is a fair specimen of that much-abused class, they are far more attractive than is generally supposed.”
“You needn’t laugh,” said Enna; “I was four years younger than she is now, when I married. I wasn’t going to wait till they began to call me an old maid.”
“To bear that reproach is not the worst calamity that can befall a woman,” replied Mr. Dinsmore gravely; then changed the subject by a kind inquiry in regard to Arthur.
“Slowly and steadily improving,” answered Walter. “The doctors are now satisfied that he is not permanently crippled, though he still uses a crutch.”
“Mutual love, the crown of
all our bliss.”
—MILTON’S paradise lost.
After a half hour of waiting for her son’s return, Mrs. Travilla sat down to her lonely cup of tea. There was no lack of delicacies on the table, and in all Edward’s taste had been consulted. To make him comfortable and happy was, next to serving her God, the great aim and object of his mother’s life; and, in a less degree, of that of every servant in the house. They had all been born and brought up at Ion, and had all these years known him as the kindest, most reasonable and considerate of masters.
“Wish Massa Edard come. Dese waffles jes’ prime to-night, an’ he so fond ob dem,” remarked a pretty mulatto girl, handing a plate of them to her mistress.
“Yes, Prilla, he expected to be at home, but is probably taking tea at the Oaks or Roselands.” And the old lady supped her tea and ate her waffles with a serene, happy face, now and then lighted up by a pleased smile which her attendant handmaiden was at a loss to interpret.