“Sorry for him?” echoed the girl with a start.
“Yes, my dear, he is an invalid, with some very dreadful affliction.”
And Helen stared at her aunt. “An affliction!” she cried. “Aunt Polly, that is horrible! What in the world did you invite an invalid for at this time, with all the other people? I hate invalids!”
“I had asked him before,” was the apologetic reply, “and so I couldn’t help it. I had great difficulty in getting him to promise to come anyway, for he’s a very strange, solitary man. But I wanted to have my little romance, and renew our acquaintance, and this was the only time the third party could come.”
“Oh, the third one is here too?”
“He will be in a day or two.”
“Who is he?”
“His name is Lieutenant Maynard, and he’s in the navy; he’s stationed at Brooklyn just now, but he expects to get leave for a while.”
“That is a little better,” Helen remarked, as the carriage was drawing up in front of the great house. “I’d marry a naval officer.”
“No,” laughed Aunt Polly; “he leaves a wife and some children in Brooklyn. We three are going to keep to ourselves and talk about old times and what has happened to us since then, and so you young folks will not be troubled by us.”
“I hope you will,” said the other, “for I can’t ever be happy with invalids.”
And there, as the carriage door was opened, the conversation ended abruptly. When Helen had sprung out she found that there were six or eight people upon the piazza, to whom the excitement of being introduced drove from her mind for a time all thoughts which her aunt’s words had brought.
“If chance will have me king, why
chance may crown me,
Without my stir.”
Most of the people whom Helen met upon her arrival were of her own sex, so that she did not feel called upon to make special exertions to please them; but she was naturally cheerful and happy with everyone, and the other matters of which Mrs. Roberts had talked took on such vast proportions before her mind that it was a relief to her to put them aside and enjoy herself for a while in her usual way. Helen was glad that most of the men were to arrive later, so that she might make her appearance before them under the most favorable circumstances. When she heard the distant whistle of the afternoon train a couple of hours later, it was with that thought that she retired to her room to rest before dressing.
Aunt Polly, following her plan of accustoming the girl to a proper style of living, had engaged a maid to attend her during her stay; and Helen found therefore that her trunks were unpacked and everything in order. It was a great relief to her to be rid of all care, and she took off her dress and flung herself down upon the bed to think.