“I have heard their story,” returned Mrs. Atherton, “and I have no doubt the son is a very fine specimen of an old bachelor; thirty-five, isn’t he, or thereabouts?”
“Thirty-five!” and Kitty Maynard raised her hands in dismay. “My dear Mrs. Atherton, he’s hardly thirty yet, and those who have seen him since his return from Europe, pronounce him a splendid looking man, with an air of remarkably high breeding. I wonder if there is any truth in the report that he is to bring with him a bride.”
“A bride, Kitty!” and the massive silver fork dropped from Grace Atherton’s hand.
She was interested now, and nervously pulling the gathers of her white morning gown, she listened while the loquacious Kitty told her what she knew of the imaginary wife of Richard Harrington. The hands ceased their working at the gathers, and assuming an air of indifference, Grace rang her silver bell, which was immediately answered by a singular looking girl, whom she addressed as Edith, bidding her bring some orange marmalade from an adjoining closet. Her orders were obeyed, and then the child lingered by the door, listening eagerly to the conversation which Grace had resumed concerning Collingwood and its future mistress.
Edith Hastings was a strange child, with a strange habit of expressing her thoughts aloud, and as she heard the beauties of Collingwood described in Kitty Maynard’s most glowing terms, she suddenly exclaimed, “Oh, jolly don’t I wish I could live there, only I’d be afraid of that boy who haunts the upper rooms.”
“Edith!” said Mrs. Atherton, sternly, “why are you waiting here? Go at once to Rachel and bid her give you something to do.”
Thus rebuked the black-eyed, black-haired, black-faced little girl waited away, not cringingly, for Edith Hastings possessed a spirit as proud as that of her high born mistress, and she went slowly to the kitchen, where, under Rachel’s directions, she was soon in the mysteries of dish-washing, while the ladies in the parlor continued their conversation.
“I don’t know what I shall do with that child,” said Grace, as Edith’s footsteps died away. I sometimes wish I had left her where I found her.”
“Why, I thought her a very bright little creature,” said Kitty, and her companion replied,
“She’s too bright, and that’s the trouble. She imitates me in everything, walks like me, talks like me, and yesterday I found her in the drawing-room going through with a pantomime of receiving calls the way I do. I wish you could have seen her stately bow when presented to an imaginary stranger.”
“Did she do credit to you?” Kitty asked, and Grace replied,
“I can’t say that she did not, but I don’t like this disposition of hers—to put on the airs of people above her. Now if she were not a poor—”
“Look, look!” interrupted Kitty, “that must be the five hundred dollar piano sent up from Boston,” and she directed her companion’s attention to the long wagon which was passing the house on the way to Collingwood.