“Children should be left at home,” said Mrs. Loring. “That is my doctrine. This crowding of young girls into company, and crowding out grown up people, is a great mistake; but, who else was there? What gentlemen?”
Mrs. Loring curled her flexible lip.
The eyes of Jessie drooped as those of her aunt were directed in close scrutiny to her face.
“He’s a catch. Set your cap for him, Jessie, and you may ride in your own carriage.” There was a vulgar leer in Mrs. Loring’s eye. The color rose to Jessie’s face, but she did not answer.
“Did he show you any attentions?” inquired the aunt.
“Yes. He was quite as attentive as I could desire.”
“Indeed! And what does ‘as you could desire,’ mean?”
Jessie turned her face partly away to hide its crimson.
“Ah, well; I see how it is, dear. You needn’t blush so. I only hope you may get him. He was attentive, then, was he?”
“I have no reason to complain of his lack of attentions, said Jessie, her voice cold and firm. “They would have been flattering to most girls. But, I do not always give to compliments and ’company manners,’ the serious meanings that some attach to them.”
“Jessie,” Mrs. Loring spoke with sudden seriousness; “take my advice, and encourage Leon Dexter. I am pleased to know that you were so much an object of his attentions as your remarks lead me to infer. I know that you will make him a good wife; one of whom he can never be ashamed; and I know that a union with him will give you a proud position.”
“Will you waive the subject, at present, dear aunt?” said Jessie, with a pleading look, at the same time glancing covertly towards her cousins, who were drinking in every word with girlish eagerness.
“Oh, by all means,” answered Mrs. Loring, “if it is in the least annoying. I was forgetting myself in the interest felt for your welfare.”
“And so Mr. Dexter showed you marked attentions last evening?” said Jessie’s aunt, joining her in the sitting-room, after Amanda and Dora had left for school.
“Did I say so, aunt?” inquired Jessie, looking into her relative’s face.
“You said enough to make the inference clear, my child.”
“Well, Aunt Phoebe, he was attentive—more so, by a great deal, than I desired!”
“Than you desired!” There was unfeigned surprise in the voice of Mrs. Loring. “What do you mean, Jessie?”
“The man’s position is all well enough; but the man himself is not altogether to my liking.”
“You must have grown remarkably fastidious all at once. Why, girl! there isn’t a handsomer man to be found anywhere. He is a noble looking fellow! Where are your eyes?”
“The man that a wife has to deal with, is the man of the spirit, Aunt Phoebe—the real man. The handsome outside is nothing, if the inner man is not beautiful!” Jessie spoke with a sudden glow of feeling.