“You say ‘we.’”
“I mean my mother and I; I should have said ‘poorly,’ perhaps, instead of ‘quietly,’ And I am busy.”
She bowed her head kindly, and said, smiling:
“But you are not busy to-night; and if you’ll not think me forward, I will reverse the etiquette, and ask you to dance with me.”
“Indeed I will do so with very great pleasure.”
“Are you sure?”
“Could you doubt it?”
“I was so very rude to you!”
And she hung her head. That, then, was the secret of her choice of my arm. I could only assure her that I did not think her rude, and I hoped she would forget the whole incident. I was pleased in spite of all—for I like to think well of women. The cynical writers say they are all mean, and mercenary, and cowardly. Was Annie? She had left many finely-dressed gentlemen, faultlessly appointed, to dance with a poor stranger, quite out at elbows.
I saw many cold looks directed at myself; and when Annie took my arm to go into supper, the gloom in the faces of some gentlemen who had been refused, made me smile. When the party was over, Annie gave me her hand at the foot of the staircase. I saw a triumphant light in her mischievous eyes, as she glanced at the departing gallants; her rosy cheeks dimpled, and she flitted up, humming a gay tune.
It is singular how beautiful she is when she laughs—as when she sighs. Am I falling in love with her? I shall be guilty of no such folly. I think that my pride and self-respect will keep me rational. Pshaw! why did I dream of such nonsense!
So—a month has passed.
My coat, it seems, is to be the constant topic of attention.
A day or two since, I was sitting in my chamber, reflecting upon a variety of things. My thoughts, at last, centred on the deficiencies of my wardrobe, and I muttered, “I must certainly have my coat mended soon;” and I looked down, sighing, at the hole in my elbow.... It had disappeared! There was no longer any rent. The torn cloth had been mended in the neatest manner; so neatly, indeed, that the orifice was almost invisible. Who could have done it, and how? I have one coat only, and—yes! it must have been! I saw, in a moment, the whole secret: that noise, and the voice of Sarah, the old chambermaid.
I rose and went out on the staircase; I met the good crone.
“How did you find my coat in the dark?” I said, smiling; “and now you must let me make you a present for mending it, Sarah.”
Sarah hesitated, plainly; but honesty conquered. She refused the money, which, nevertheless, I gave her; and, from her careless replies, I soon discovered the real truth.
The coat had been mended by Annie!
I descended to the drawing-room, and finding her alone, thanked her with simplicity and sincerity. She blushed and pouted.