At any rate, as Helen rose from the piano she received a complete ovation, everyone coming to her to thank her and to praise her, and to share in the joy of her beauty; she herself had never been more radiant and more exulting in all her exulting life, drinking in even Mr. Harrison’s rapturous compliments and finding nothing exaggerated in them. And in the meantime, Aunt Polly having suggested a waltz to close the festivities, the furniture was rapidly moved to one side, and the hostess herself took her seat at the piano and struck up the “Invitation to the Dance;” Mr. Harrison, who had been at Helen’s side since her singing had ceased, was of course her partner, and the girl, flushed and excited by all the homage she had received, was soon waltzing delightedly in his arms. The man danced well, fortunately for him, and that he was the beautiful girl’s ardent admirer was by this time evident, not only to Helen, but to everyone else.
In the mood that she was then, the fact was as welcome to her as it could possibly have been, and when, therefore, Mr. Harrison kept her arm and begged for the next dance, and the next in turn, Helen was sufficiently carried away to have no wish to refuse him; when after the third dance she was tired out and sat down to rest, Mr. Harrison was still her companion.
Helen was at the very height of her happiness then, every trace of her former vexation gone, and likewise every trace of her objections to the man beside her. The music was still sounding merrily, and everyone else was dancing, so that her animation did not seem at all out of taste; and so brilliant and fascinating had she become, and so completely enraptured was Mr. Harrison, that he would probably have capitulated then and there if the dancing had not ceased and the company separated when it did. The end of all the excitement was a great disappointment to Helen; she was completely happy just then, and would have gone just as far as the stream had carried her. It being her first social experience was probably the reason that she was less easily wearied than the rest; and besides, when one has thus yielded to the sway of the senses, he dreads instinctively the subsiding of the excitement and the awakening of reason.
The awakening, however, is one that must always come; Helen, having sent away the maid, suddenly found herself standing alone in the middle of her own room gazing at herself in the glass, and seeing a frightened look in her eyes. The merry laughter of the guests ceased gradually, and silence settled about the halls of the great house; but even then Helen did not move. She was standing there still when her aunt came into the room.
Mrs. Roberts was about as excited as was possible in a matron of her age and dignity; she flung her arms rapturously around Helen, and clasped her to her. “My dear,” she cried, “it was a triumph!”
“Yes, Auntie,” said Helen, weakly.
“You dear child, you!” went on the other, laughing; “I don’t believe you realize it yet! Do you know, Helen, that Mr. Harrison is madly in love with you? You ought to be the happiest girl in the land tonight!”