Senator North by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Betty amused herself for the next day or two observing Jack Emory and Sally Carter. They unquestionably enjoyed each other's society, and Sally at times looked almost pretty again. But at the end of the second day Miss Madison shook her head.
"He is not in love," she thought. "It does not affect him in that way." And she felt more satisfaction in her discovery than she would have anticipated. A woman would have a man go through life with only a skull cap where his surrendered scalp had been. To grow another is an insult to her power and pains her vanity.
It occurred to Betty that she was not the only observant person in the house. She seemed always stumbling over Miss Trumbull, who did not appear to listen at doors but was usually as closely within ear-shot as she could get. It was idle to suppose that the woman had any malignant motive in that well-conducted household, and she seemed to be good-natured and even kindly. Interest in other people's affairs was evidently, save vanity, her strongest passion. It was the natural result of an empty life and a common mind. But simple or not, it was objectionable.
Her vanity, her mistress had cause to discover, was more so. On Wednesday morning Betty returned home from a long tramp, earlier than was her habit, and went to her room. Miss Trumbull was standing before the mirror trying on one of her hats.
"That's real becomin' to me," she drawled, as Miss Madison entered the room. "I always could wear a hat turned up on one side, and most of your colours would suit me."
Betty controlled her temper, but the effort hurt her. She would have liked to pour her scorn all over the creature.
"You may have the hat," she said. "Only do me the favour not to enter my room again unless I send for you. The maid is very neat, and it needs no inspection."
The woman's face turned a dark red. "I'm sorry you're mad," she said, "but there's no harm, as I can see, in tryin' on a hat."
"It is a matter of personal taste, not of right or wrong. I particularly dislike having my things touched."
"Oh, of course I won't, then; but I like nice things, and I haven't seen too many of them."
Again Betty relented. "I will leave you a good many at the end of the summer," she said. And the woman thanked her very nicely and went away.
"I am glad I was not brutal to her," thought Betty. "Democracy is a great institution in spite of its nuisances. Still, I admire Hamilton more than Jefferson."
When, that night, Mrs. Madison had a painful seizure, and Miss Trumbull was sympathetic and efficient, sacrificing every hour of her night's rest, Betty was doubly thankful that she had not been brutal. In the morning she gave her a wrap that matched the hat. Miss Trumbull tried it on at once, and revolved three times before the mirror, then strutted off with such evident delight in her stylish appearance that Betty's smile was almost sympathetic. But she dared not be more gracious, and Miss Trumbull only approached her when it was necessary.
On Thursday afternoon Betty and Sally were rowing on the lake when the latter said abruptly,--
"Have you noticed anything between Jack and Harriet?"
Betty nearly dropped her oars. "What--Jack and Harriet?"
Sally nodded. Her mouth was set. There was an angry sparkle in her eyes. "Yes, yes. They pretend to avoid each other, but they are in love or I never saw two people in love. I suspected it in Washington, but I have become sure of it up here. What is the matter? I don't think she is his equal, if she is our thirty-first cousin, for I would bet my last dollar there was a misalliance somewhere--but you look almost horror-struck."
"I was, but I can't tell you why. I don't believe it's true, though. She is not Jack's style. She hasn't a grain of humour in her."
"When a man's imagination is captured by a beauty as perfect as that, he doesn't discover that it is without humour till he has married it. Besides, any man can fall in love with any woman; I'm convinced of that. You might as well try to turn this lake upside down as to mate types."
"I don't think she would deceive me," exclaimed Betty, hopefully. "I cannot tell you all, but I am nearly sure she would never do that."
"Any woman who has a secret constantly on her mind is bound to become secretive, not to say deceitful in other ways. What is her secret?" she asked abruptly. "Has she negro blood in her veins?"
"Oh, Sally!" This time Betty did drop the oars, and her face was scarlet as she lunged after them. She was furious at having betrayed Harriet's secret, but Sally Carter had a fashion of going straight for the truth and getting it.
"I thought so," said Miss Carter, dryly. "Don't take the trouble to deny it. And don't think for a moment, Betty dear, that I am going to embarrass you with further questions. I could never imagine you actuated by any but the highest motives. I should consider the whole thing none of my business if it were not for Jack. Faugh! how he would hate her if he knew!"
"I am afraid he would. I don't believe he is man enough to love her better for her miserable inheritance."
"He is a Southern gentleman; I should hope he would not. I am by no means without sympathy for her. I pity her deeply, and have ever since I discovered that she loved him. For he must be told."
"Shall you tell him?"
Sally did not answer for a moment, and her face flushed deeply. Then she said unsteadily: "No; for I could not be sure of my motive. Here is my secret. I have loved Jack Emory ever since I can remember. It is impossible for me to assure myself that I would consider interference in their affairs warrantable if I cared nothing for him. I cannot afford to despise myself for tattling out of petty jealousy. But you are responsible for her. You should tell him."
"I will speak to her as soon as we go back. If it is true that they are engaged, and if she refuses to tell him, I shall. But I'd almost rather come out here and drown myself."
"So should I."
"You're a brick, Sally, and I wish to heaven you were going to marry Jack to-morrow. That would be a really happy marriage."
"So I have thought for years! When he got over his attack of you, I began to hope, although I'd got wrinkles crying about him. I never thought of any other woman in the case." She laughed, with a defiant attempt to recover her old spirits. "And I cannot have the happiness of seeing him one day in bronze, and feeling that he is all mine! For he hasn't even that spark of luck which so often passes for infinitesimal greatness, poor dear!"
"How did you guess that she had the taint in her?" asked Betty, as they were about to land. "She has not a suggestion of it in her face."
"I felt it. So vaguely that I scarcely put it in words to myself until lately. And I never saw such an amount of pink on finger-nails in my life."