Chapter XXI. Miss Longwood's Party
 

At eight o'clock Walter reached the Longwood mansion. It would have been early for a party in the city, but Glenwood people were sensible, and, beginning early, were able to close in good season.

The house was a handsome one, and the rooms, tastefully furnished, were blazing with light, and already half full.

Walter was quite at home in society, and advancing, greeted Hugh and his sister, by whom he was cordially received, and introduced to other members of the family.

About nine o'clock dancing commenced. Walter did not think it out of place to ask the hand of Laura Longwood, being so intimate with her brother. She had just accepted his invitation to dance, when a dark- complexioned young man, dressed in the extreme of the fashion, and evidently possessing a very high opinion of his appearance and position, approached, and with a ceremonious bow said: "Miss Longwood, may I have the pleasure of dancing with you?"

"Not this time, Mr. Murdock," answered the young lady. "I am engaged to Mr. Sherwood."

Murdock upon this turned his glance upon Walter, whose dress, it must be confessed, was scarcely befitting the occasion, but it will readily be understood that he could not carry a dress suit about with him.

"Oh!" said Murdock, and his scornful glance spoke volumes.

"Let me introduce you to Mr. Sherwood, my brother's friend," continued the young lady.

"I am indeed honored by the introduction," said Murdock, bowing very low.

Walter colored, for it was evident that the tone was ironical. He bowed coldly, but did not speak.

The music struck up, and the dancing began. Though Walter was plainly dressed, he was a good dancer, and Miss Longwood had no occasion to be ashamed of her partner.

Murdock approached Hugh Longwood, who was busy in forming sets and was not dancing.

"Who is that dancing with your sister?" he asked abruptly.

"A college friend of mine--Walter Sherwood."

"He looks poor."

"I believe he has met with a reverse of fortune."

"His face looks familiar. I am quite sure I have seen him somewhere."

"He only arrived in town to-day."

"I have it! He was playing the violin for a faker on the town common this afternoon."

"Yes; it was there I met him."

"Good heavens! and you invited him to your party?"

"Why not?" demanded Hugh coldly.

"The assistant and companion of a wandering faker!"

"No, Mr. Murdock, I did not invite him, for my sister saved me the trouble."

"I don't see how you could sanction her doing it."

"It strikes me, Murdock, you are interfering beyond your province. Walter Sherwood, you will be good enough to remember, is a gentleman by birth and education, and a college classmate of mine."

"That may all be, but think of his position!"

"Suppose we drop this discussion," said Hugh frigidly. "I shall invite whom I please, and shall ask advice of no one."

"Oh, if you take it that way, I will be silent."

"It will be as well."

The dance was over, and Murdock, approaching Miss Longwood once more, asked her hand for the next dance. She accepted, and they took their places on the floor.

"I can hardly expect to equal your last partner," said Murdock, in an ill-tempered tone.

Laura Longwood looked at him for a moment without speaking. She was ashamed of his ill breeding.

"Perhaps not," she answered composedly. "Mr. Sherwood is a very good dancer."

"I did not refer to that. I referred rather to his social position."

"He is of good family, I believe, but you need not be too modest as regards yourself."

"You overwhelm me," returned Murdock, with an exaggerated bow; "and you really think me the equal of Mr. Sherwood?"

"Is it necessary to discuss this question?" asked Laura, becoming more and more disgusted with her partner.

"I think I saw the gentleman this afternoon playing the violin on the wagon of a traveling faker."

"Yes, I saw him also."

"It is an excellent position for a young man--of family!" continued Murdock, with a scornful curl of the lip.

"Suppose we change the subject, Mr. Murdock," said Laura Longwood, with dignity. "If you desire a similar position you can speak to Mr. Sherwood."

"You are really very--very amusing, Miss Longwood," said Murdock, biting his lip. "I really don't aspire to such prominence. Besides, I don't play on the violin."

"That is a pity. It is a very fine instrument."

When the dance was concluded Murdock sought another, but was rather curtly refused. His efforts to injure Walter had only led to his own discomfiture. When, a little later, he saw Walter a second time dancing with Miss Longwood, he began to hate him.

During the last hour Walter obligingly consented to play on his favorite instrument, and his performance gave pleasure to the entire company, Murdock alone excepted.

When the party broke up, it chanced that Murdock and Walter took leave at the same time. Walter was slightly in advance when Murdock, quickening his pace, came up with him.

"Mr. Sherwood, I believe," he said.

"Yes, sir," answered Walter. "I believe I am addressing Mr. Murdock."

"You are. I hope you will pardon my giving you a little kindly advice."

"I certainly will if it is friendly," answered Walter.

"Then, don't you think you were a little out of place this evening?"

"What do you mean?" asked Walter quickly. "Where was I out of place?"

"At Miss Longwood's party."

"Why should I be? She invited me."

"No doubt."

"As her brother's friend and classmate."

"That is all very well, but you don't seem to consider your present position."

"Will you be good enough to tell me what is my present position?"

"You know better than I can tell you. You are the assistant of a low faker."

"I accompany Professor Robinson as a musical assistant, if that is what you mean."

"Professor Robinson!" repeated Murdock scornfully. "Where did he get his title?"

"You will have to ask him," said Walter, smiling.

"That is not the point, however. You are in his employ?"

"Well?"

"And yet you attend an evening party given by a young lady of high social position."

"Mr. Murdock, you may be surprised to learn that it is by no means the first social party of the kind that I have attended."

"That was before you became a faker."

"You will oblige me by not calling me a faker. I am earning my living honestly. I don't know your business."

"I am a lawyer," said Murdock haughtily.

"I wish you success in your chosen profession."

"You are truly kind!" said Murdock, in an unpleasant tone.

Walter looked at him gravely.

"Mr. Murdock," he said, "you have volunteered to give me advice."

"Which you are not inclined to take."

"Because I consider you officious in offering it. Now let me give you some advice."

"I shall be grateful, I am sure."

"Then let me advise you hereafter to mind your own business!"

"You are impertinent!" said Murdock angrily.

"That is my opinion of you. One thing more; you are quite at liberty to advise Miss Longwood not to take any notice of me."

"I shall do so."

"And you may be sure that I shall not call upon her without an invitation. It is hardly necessary to say this, as I leave town to- morrow, and it may be a long time before I visit Glenwood again."

Murdock heard this with satisfaction, for Walter's good looks and the evident favor with which he was regarded by Laura Longwood had made him jealous. He could not help, however, launching a final sarcasm.

"Don't think me unkind, my good fellow!" he said patronizingly. "I feel kindly disposed and as a proof will ask you to send round a bottle of your balm to my office. Shall I pay for it in advance?"

"No. I will mention your request to the professor, and he will probably be glad to furnish you with his medicine. Goodnight!"

They had reached the hotel, and Walter entered.

"That fellow is a snob," he said to himself. "He wishes me to feel that one in my position cannot be a gentleman. If he is one, I don't want to be. All his sneers won't make me ashamed of earning my living by an honest use of any gift that God has given me."