When Helen awoke upon the following morning, the resolution to withstand her aunt’s urging was still strong within her; as she strove to bring back the swift events of the night before, the first discovery she made was a headache and a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction that was new to her. She arose and looked in the glass, and seeing that she was pale, vowed again, “They shall not torment me in this way! I do not even mean that he shall propose to me; I must have time to realize it!”
And so firm was she in her own mind that she rang the bell and sent the maid to call her aunt. It was then only nine o’clock in the morning, and Helen presumed that neither Mrs. Roberts nor any of the other guests would be awake, they not being fresh from boarding school as she was; but the girl was so nervous and restless, and so weighed upon by her urgent resolution, that she felt she could do nothing else until she had declared it and gotten rid of the matter. “I’m going to tell her once for all,” she vowed; “they shall not torment me any more.”
It turned out, however, that Mrs. Roberts had been up and dressed a considerable time,—for a reason which, when Helen learned it, prevented her delivering so quickly the speech she had upon her mind; she noticed a worried expression upon her aunt’s face as soon as the latter came into the room.
“What is the matter?” she asked, in some surprise.
“A very dreadful misfortune, my dear,” said Mrs. Roberts; “I don’t know how to tell you, you’ll be so put out.”
Helen was quite alarmed as she saw her aunt sink down into a chair; but then it flashed over her that Mr. Harrison might have for some reason been called away.
“What is it? Tell me!” she asked eagerly.
“It’s Mr. Howard, my dear,” said the other; and Helen frowned.
“Oh, bother!” she cried; “what about him?”
“He’s been ill during the night,” replied Aunt Polly.
“Ill!” exclaimed Helen. “Dear me, what a nuisance!”
“Poor man,” said the other, deprecatingly; “he cannot help it.”
“Yes,” exclaimed Helen, “but he ought not to be here. What is the matter with him?”
“I don’t know,” was the reply, “but he has been suffering so all night that the doctor has had to give him an opiate.”
The wan countenance of Mr. Howard rose up before Helen just then, and she shuddered inwardly.
“Dear me, what a state of affairs!” she exclaimed. “It seems to me as if I were to have nothing but fright and worry. Why should there be such things in the world?”
“I don’t know, Helen,” said the other, “but it is certainly inopportune for you. Of course the company will all have to leave.”
“To leave!” echoed Helen; she had never once thought of that.
“Why, of course,” said her aunt. “It would not be possible to enjoy ourselves under such very dreadful circumstances.”
“But, Aunt Polly, that is a shame!” cried the girl. “The idea of so many people being inconvenienced for such a cause. Can’t he be moved?”