Laura assisted me in making my toilette, and insisted that I should allow her to place a few natural flowers in my hair, and to please her I consented to wear them. Laura looked very lovely in the costly dress purchased for the occasion; she also wore a set of diamond ornaments, which her father had presented to her on her return from school.
As soon as we had finished our toilettes, we descended to the drawing-room, where Mr. and Mrs. Leighton had already taken their places, as it was near the hour when they might expect their guests to begin to assemble.
I went down thus early to avoid the unpleasantness of entering the brilliantly lighted drawing-room after it should be filled with guests. I had requested of the Leightons that I might receive as few introductions as possible under the circumstances. Truly it was a brilliant assembly which soon filled those spacious apartments. Among the guests who first arrived were a Mr. and Mrs. Lawton, with their daughter, to whom Laura gave me an introduction.
Their kind attentions and lively conversation soon dispelled the feeling of embarrassment with which I first found myself in the company of so many wealthy and distinguished people.
Dancing was soon introduced. Dancing was an accomplishment which I had never learned, as my mother disapproved of the amusement. Willie seemed disappointed when he invited me to become his partner for the quadrille then forming, and I replied that I did not dance. When he learned that I did not dance he introduced to me a young gentleman by the name of Shirley, who was seated near us, and who, for some reason or other, did not join the dancers. Mr. Shirley’s conversational powers were extremely good, and we engaged in conversation for some time, in the course of which I enquired why he refrained from dancing? A shade of sadness passed over his countenance as he replied,—
“When a mere youth I was very fond of the amusement, and devoted much time to the practice of it. I believe it is the only thing which I ever knowingly did against the wishes of my parents; but my fondness for dancing amounted almost to a passion, and I often frequented the giddy ball-room when I knew that I was grieving my fond parents by so doing. My father and mother considered dancing a sinful amusement; but as my inclination to follow it was so strong, they finally forbore to admonish me further.
“When I was about twenty years of age my mother died. I was then residing at a distance from home. When mother’s illness became alarming, I was summoned home. I was tenderly attached to my mother, and my grief was overwhelming when I saw that she must die. A short time before her death, she said to me one day, when we chanced to be left alone, ’My dear son, there is one subject upon which I wish to speak with you, ’ere I leave you for ever. You know I have ever considered dancing to be a sinful amusement. There may be