How tired and faint poor Mrs. Worthington was, sinking down upon the high-post bed! How she wished she had stayed at home, like a sensible woman, instead of coming here to be made so uncomfortable in this hot room. But it could not now be helped, ’Lina said; they must do the best they could; and with a forlorn glance at the luxuriant patch of weeds, the most prominent view from the window, ’Lina opened one of her trunks, and spreading a part of its contents upon the bed, began to dress for dinner. The dinner bell had long since ceased ringing, and the tread of feet ceased in the halls below ere she descended to the deserted parlor, followed by her mother, nervous and frightened at the prospect of this, her first appearance at Saratoga.
“Pray, rouse yourself,” ’Lina whispered, “and not let them guess you were never at a watering place before,” and ’Lina thoughtfully smoothed her mother’s cap by way of reassuring her.
But even ’Lina herself quailed when she reached the door and caught a glimpse of the busy life within, the terrible ordeal she must pass.
“Oh, for a pair of pantaloons to walk beside one, even if Hugh were in them,” she thought, as her own and her mother’s lonely condition arose before her.
“Courage, mother,” she whispered again, and then advanced into the room, growing bolder at every step, for with one rapid glance she had swept the hall, and felt that amid that bevy of beauty and fashion there were few more showy than ’Lina Worthington in her rustling dress of green, with Ellen Tiffton’s bracelet on one arm and the one bought with Adah’s money on the other.
Not having been an heiress long enough to know just what was expected of her, and fancying it quite in character to domineer over every colored person just as she did over Lulu, ’Lina issued her commands with a dignity worthy of the firm of Mrs. Worthington & Daughter. Bowing deferentially, the polite attendant quickly drew back her chair, while she spread out her flowing skirts to an extent which threatened to envelop her mother, sinking meekly into her seat, not confused and flurried. But alas for ’Lina. The servant did not calculate the distance aright, and my lady, who had meant to do the thing so gracefully, who had intended showing the people that she had been to Saratoga before, suddenly found herself prostrate upon the floor, the chair some way behind her, and the plate, which, in her descent, she had grasped unconsciously, flying off diagonally past her mother’s head, and fortunately past the head of her mother’s left-hand neighbor.
Poor ’Lina! How she wished she might never get up again.
At first, ’Lina thought nothing could keep her tears back, they gathered so fast in her eyes, and her voice trembled so that she could not answer the servant’s question:
“Soup, madam, soup?”
But he of the white hand did it for her.
“Of course she’ll take soup,” then in an aside, he said to her gently: “Never mind, you are not the first lady who has been served in that way. It’s quite a common occurrence.”