And they changed the subject. I had, however, heard quite enough to spoil my enjoyment for the rest of the evening. I was young and inexperienced then, and this was my first, though by no means my last, lesson in those distinctions which the world draws between the rich and the poor. Had I possessed a little more knowledge of the world I should better have understood the matter, knowing as I did, that Mrs. Kingsley had an unmarried daughter present, of uncertain age, with a fair prospect of remaining for some time longer in her state of single blessedness. I forbear describing Miss Kingsley, and will only say that if Mrs. Kingsley thought me common-looking, I, on the contrary, thought her daughter, Miss Kingsley, to be very uncommon-looking.
After the remarks to which I had been an unwilling listener, I derived very little pleasure from the party. I mentally said, if my poverty is to be made a subject of conversation in parties like this, I wish never to attend another; and I was heartily glad when the gay assembly departed, at two o’clock in the morning.
Thus ended my first party, which would have afforded me much enjoyment had I not chanced to hear those annoying remarks from Mrs. Kingsley.
The party given by the Leightons was soon succeeded by others among their numerous acquaintances. To several of those parties I was favored with invitations, which I invariably declined, for I had decided to attend no more fashionable parties. At length, when urged by the Leightons to give my reasons for steadily refusing all invitations, I informed them of the remarks I had overheard from Mrs. Kingsley on the night of Laura’s party. Never shall I forget the look of scorn and contempt with which Willie Leighton listened as I related the circumstance; but he made no remark, as he knew Mrs. Kingsley to be one of his mother’s most intimate friends. Mrs. Leighton remarked that Mrs. Kingsley possessed many good qualities, although she was sometimes inclined to make malicious remarks.
Failing health of Clara’s mother.
I soon had a far more serious cause for disquiet than the remarks of Mrs. Kingsley or any one else could have occasioned. I had many times during the past year feared that my mother’s health was failing. She looked thin and pale, and seemed to lack her usual activity in performing her household duties. I frequently enquired if she were ill, and she had ever replied that she was quite well; only it might be a little fatigued. But the truth could no longer be concealed. My mother was ill, and that seriously. She still attended to her daily occupations, but she was greatly changed; she seemed during the past few weeks to have grown thin almost to attenuation. She was very pale, except at times there was a feverish glow upon her cheeks. I was then too young to detect, as I should now do,