I very nearly forgot to relate what followed the little scene on the portico. During all that evening, and the whole of the next day, Annie scarcely looked at me, and retained her angry and offended expression. I was pained, but could add nothing more to my former assurance that I was not offended.
Toward evening, I was sitting with a book upon the portico, when Annie came out of the parlor. She paused on the threshold, evidently hesitated, but seemed to resolve all at once, what to do. She came quickly to my side, and holding out her hand said frankly and kindly, with a little tremor in her voice, and a faint rose-tint in the delicate cheeks:
“I did not mean to hurt your feelings, Mr. Cleave, indeed I did not, sir; my speech was the thoughtless rudeness of a child. I am sorry, very sorry that I was ever so ill-bred and unkind; will you pardon me, sir?”
I rose from my seat, and bowed low above the white little hand which lay in my own, slightly agitated,—
“I have nothing to pardon, Miss Annie,” I said, “if you will let me call you by your household name. I think it very fortunate that my coat was shabby; had it been a new one, you would never have observed it, and I should have lost these sweet and friendly accents.”
And that is the “incident of the coat.”
The week that has just passed has been a pleasant one. I have thought, a hundred times, “how good a thing it is to live!”
I must have been a good deal cramped and confined in the city; but I enjoy the fair landscapes here all the more. The family are very friendly and kind—except Mrs. Barrington, who does not seem to like me. She scarcely treats me with anything more than scrupulous courtesy. The squire and Annie, however, make up for this coldness. They are both extremely cordial. It was friendly in the squire to give me this mass of executorial accounts to arrange. So far it has been done to his entire satisfaction; and the payment for my services is very liberal. How I long for money!
There was a splendid party at the hall on Tuesday. It reminded me of old times, when we, too,—but that is idle to remember. I do not sigh for the past. I know all is for the best. Still, I could not help thinking, as I looked on the brilliant spectacle, that the world was full of changes and vicissitudes. Well, the party was a gay and delightful one; the dancing quite extravagant. Annie was the beauty of the assemblage—the belle of the ball—and she gave me a new proof of the regret which she felt for the speech about my coat. At the end of a cotillon she refused the arms of half a dozen eager gallants to take mine, and promenade out on the portico.
“Do you ever dance?” she said.
“Oh, yes,” I replied; “that is, I did dance once; but of late years I have been too much occupied. We live quietly.”