Chapter XXVII. At the Concert
 

Herbert felt a little diffident about accepting his employer's invitation to dinner. Brought up in the country in comparative poverty, he felt afraid that he should show, in some way, his want of acquaintance with the etiquette of the dining table. But he had a better than ordinary education, and, having read diligently whatever books he could get hold of, possessed a fund of general information which enabled him to converse intelligently. Then his modest self-possession was of value to him, and enabled him to acquit himself very creditably.

Julia Godfrey, the merchant's only daughter, was a lively and animated girl, a year or two younger than Herbert. She had been the belle of the dancing school, and Tom Stanton, among other boys, had always been proud to have her for a partner. She, however, had taken no particular fancy to Tom, whose evident satisfaction with himself naturally provoked criticisms on the part of others. Of this, however, Tom was unconscious, and flattered himself that his personal appearance was strikingly attractive, and was quite convinced that his elaborate and gorgeous neckties must attract admiration.

Julia awaited the advent of her father's young guest with interest, and her verdict was favorable. He was, to be sure, very plainly dressed, but his frank and open face and pleasant expression did not need fine clothes to set them off. Julia at once commenced an animated conversation with our hero.

"Weren't you frightened when you saw the robber?" she asked, for her father had told her of Herbert's adventure with the burglar.

"No," said Herbert, "I did not feel afraid."

"How brave you must be?" said Julia, with evident admiration.

"There was no need of my being frightened," said Herbert, modestly. "I was expecting him."

"I know I should have been frightened to death," said Julia, decidedly.

"You are a girl, you know," said Herbert. "I suppose it is natural for girls to be timid."

"I don't know but it is, but I am sure it is not natural to all boys to be brave."

Herbert smiled.

"I was out in the country, one day, walking with Frank Percy," proceeded Julia, "when a big, ugly-looking dog met us. Frank, instead of standing by, and defending me, ran away as fast as his feet could carry him. I laughed at him so much about it that he doesn't like to come near me since that."

"How did you escape?" asked Herbert, with interest.

"I saw there was no use in running away, so I patted him on the head, and called him 'Poor dog,' though I expected every minute he was going to bite me. That calmed him down, and he went off without doing any harm."

Herbert found Mrs. Godfrey to be a pleasant, motherly-looking lady, who received him kindly. He felt that he should like it very much if she was his aunt, instead of Mrs. Stanton, whom he had never seen, and did not think he should care about meeting.

"What do you think of Tom Stanton?" asked Julia, "Of course, you know him--the other boy in pa's counting-room."

"I am not very well acquainted with him yet," said Herbert, evasively, for he did not care to say anything unfavorable of Tom. "Do you know him?"

"Yes, he used to go to the same dancing school with me last winter."

"Then you know him better than I do."

"I don't like him much," said Julia. "He's always thinking of himself and his neckties. He always came to dancing school in a different necktie; to let us know how many he had, I suppose. Didn't you notice his necktie?"

"It was pretty large, I thought," said Herbert, smiling.

"Yes, he's fond of wearing large ones."

"I am afraid you are talking uncharitably, Julia," said her mother, mildly. "Girls, you know, are sometimes fond of dress."

So the conversation drifted on to other topics. Julia, at first, addressed our hero as Mr. Mason, until he requested her to call him Herbert, a request which she readily complied with. They were soon on excellent terms, and appeared to be mutually pleased.

"Young people," said Mr. Godfrey, after dinner, "there is to be an attractive concert at the Academy of Music this evening. I secured seats this morning for four. Suppose we all go?"

"I shall be delighted, for one, papa," said Julia. "You will like to go, Herbert, won't you?"

"Very much," said our hero.

"Then you can escort me, while papa and mamma walk together."

Herbert felt that this arrangement would be very agreeable, so far as he was concerned. It was, in fact, adopted, and the four paired off together, as Julia had suggested, Julia amusing Herbert by her lively remarks.

Entering the hall, they followed the usher to their seats, which were eligibly located only a few rows back from the stage.

Just behind them sat a party, among whom the new arrivals produced quite a sensation. Not to keep the reader in suspense, that party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Stanton, Tom and Maria. There was but slight acquaintance between the two families, as Mr. Godfrey's stood higher, socially, than Mr. Stanton's. The gentlemen, however, had a bowing acquaintance, and the young people had met at dancing school.

"Why, there's Mr. Godfrey and his family, Tom," said Maria, turning towards her brother. "Who's that boy with them? Julia hasn't got any brother, has she?"

Tom had watched the entrance of the party with lively dissatisfaction. That his beggarly cousin should appear in public on such intimate terms with Julia Godfrey, to whom he himself had paid attention, but without any special encouragement, struck him as particularly mortifying.

"Mr. Godfrey's son!" he said, disdainfully. "That boy is Herbert Mason."

"Our cousin?" asked Maria, with interest. "Ma, did you hear?" she whispered, eagerly. "That boy in front of us is Cousin Herbert."

"That boy with the Godfreys?" said Mrs. Stanton, in surprise.

"Yes, he's talking with Julia now."

"Are you sure? Who told you?"

"Tom."

"Is it true, Tom?"

"Yes," said Tom, frowning.

"What could have induced the Godfreys to bring him along?" said Mrs. Stanton, who was no better pleased than Tom at the social success of the poor relation.

"He's quite good-looking," said Maria.

"Nonsense," said her mother, sharply. "He has a very countrified look."

The news was communicated to Mr. Stanton, who looked with interest at his sister's son, whom he had not seen since he was a very young child. He fervently wished him back again in Ohio, where he might conveniently forget his existence. Here in New York, especially since an unlucky chance, as he considered it, had brought him into the same counting-room as his son, it would be difficult to avoid taking some notice of him. But, so far as pecuniary assistance was concerned, Mr. Stanton determined that he would give none, unless it was forced upon him. Had he known our hero better, he would have been less alarmed.

With all his prejudices, Mr. Stanton could not help confessing that Herbert was a boy of whom any uncle might be proud. Though plainly dressed, he did not seem out of place at a fashionable concert, surrounded by well-dressed people.

It must not be supposed that Herbert was left in ignorance of the vicinity of the only relations he had in the city.

"There's Tom Stanton, just behind you, with his father and mother and sister," whispered Julia.

Herbert turned his head slightly. He was desirous of seeing what his uncle and aunt were like. His uncle met his gaze, and turned uncomfortably away, appearing not to know him, yet conscious that in his affected ignorance he was acting shabbily. Mrs. Stanton did not flinch, but bent a cold gaze of scrutiny upon the unwelcome nephew. Tom looked supercilious, and elevated his pug nose a trifle. Maria, only, looked as if she would like to know her cousin.

It was only a hasty glance on Herbert's part, but it brought him to a rapid conclusion that he would not claim relationship. If any advances were made, they must come from the other side.

Tom fidgeted in his seat, watching with ill-concealed vexation the confidential conversation which appeared to be going on between Julia and his cousin.

"What she can see in that boor, I can't imagine," he said to himself.

Moreover, though Julia had looked around, she had not deigned any recognition of himself, and this hurt his pride. He finally determined to overlook the neglect, and address her, which he could readily do, as he sat almost directly behind her.

"Good-evening, Miss Julia," he said, familiarly, bending forward.

"Oh, good-evening, Mr. Stanton," said Julia, coldly, just turning slightly. "Herbert, isn't that a beautiful song?"

"She calls him Herbert," said Tom, in scornful disgust. "I wonder if she knows he is nothing but a beggar?"

"How are you enjoying the concert, Miss Julia?" he continued, resolved not to take the rebuff.

"Very well," said Julia. "By the way," she continued, with a sudden thought, "I believe you are acquainted with Mr. Mason."

Herbert, upon this, bowed pleasantly, but Tom said, in rather a disagreeable tone, "I know Mr. Mason slightly."

"Oh," said Julia, arching her eyebrows, "I thought you were both in papa's counting-room."

"We shall know each other better by and by," said Herbert, smiling.

Tom did not appear to hear this, but tried to keep up the conversation with Julia, desiring to have it appear that they were intimate friends; but the young lady gave brief replies, and finally, turning away, devoted herself once more to Herbert, much to Tom's disgust. In fact, what he saw made Tom pass a very unpleasant evening, and when, on their return home, Maria suggested that Julia had taken a fancy to Herbert, he told her to mind her own business, which Maria justly considered a piece of rudeness wholly uncalled for.