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I did not need the explanation. The rich farmer's daughter, who had been polished, but not spoiled, by educational advantages, was easy recognizable. Miss Essie's manner had not lost any fresh, natural charm by being subjected to boarding-school revision; but it had gained something, doubtless, in ease and courtesy. There was an air of style about her dress, too, as became the heiress, yet nothing showy or vulgar. Without being beautiful, her face was extremely pleasing; the eyes were dark blue, and met mine frankly, the nose piquant, the complexion a clear shade of tan, the cheeks blooming. A frank, bright, brisk, fun-loving New England maiden was Miss Essie, with but little imagination, but much good sense and good humor; whose sphere was, even now, more in the Actual than the Ideal; and who would, in due course of time, tone down into the most domestic, practical, and devoted of wives.

I took the hand with real pleasure. "Thank you, Miss Volger. Introductions are such stupid things. I am glad you did not wait for one."

"So they are!" she answered. "They tell you nothing that you want to know. I do not care a rush whether my vis-a-vis at a dinner party is called Brown or Green, so what is the use of telling me? If we were introduced something in this wise,- Mr. Brown, who has been travelling in China for a year, and is about to open a tea-store in Blankville; and Miss Volger, just from boarding-school, with a ridiculous smattering of ologies, and a solid accumulation of long repressed fun,'-we should know where we stand. But if we have to pick up these items by chance, why not leave us to slide into acquaintance in the same way, when we like; and not bring us face to face to discharge stiff commonplaces at each other, when nothing else is possible? Names furnish no ground of meeting, except for people who have genealogical tastes. But I thought I heard Cousin Priscilla's voice in here; did she ot come with you?"

I looked around; Mrs. Prescott had disappeared.

"She went into the bedroom with Mrs. Seber," said a

lady near us.

"Oh!" exclaimed Miss Essie, with a queer, dry intonation. And she went after them.

In my vicinity, there was a dead silence. In other parts of the room, conversation went on in most subdued tones. Obviously, these good people were very much afraid of me. By way of offset, I was getting to be afraid of them. The spectacle of a roomful of strange, stiff people, awfully afraid of doing something wrong, and consequently doing nothing but send surreptitious glances around them, is always discomposing to me. In sheer desperation, I turned to my next neighbor and said,—“ What a very lovely view we have from this window!"

"Yes, marm."

I tried again. "That is a pretty little lake down there; has it a name?


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"Perhaps she means the pond," faintly suggested the next in the row.

"Oh! I don't know, marm," said the first.

I went on, scarcely knowing what I was saying, but determined to say something. "It is so pretty in itself, it deserves a pretty name. See how the sunshine glints across it! I wonder if Longfellow could tell us the Indian for Sparkling Water.""

Profound and awful silence for some moments. Then a stout, cheerful looking dame over the way came to the rescue. "We call it Rustic's Pond, around here-that's the man's name who owns it. He lives right down to the foot of the hill, two hundred rod or so, in that white house with a piazzy in front, and green blinds, and a red barn, with a vane, with a horse on top,-you must have took notice of it, if you've ever ben that way. His wife's a kind of cousin o' mine-Marietty Hine, her name was afore she was

married, mine was Lucindy Hine:-we come from the Hines of Winteford, which was a wonderful spreadin' family;-my grandfather had nineteen children, all by one wife, and most on 'em lived to marry and have children of their own, not quite so many as he had, but Peter (that's the oldest un) had eleven right smart children, as ever you see, and one fool, who wasn't born so (I shouldn't want you to believe that), but was made so by the scarlet fever, as often makes children fools, or lame, or somethin' aruther; it made one of my sisters deaf, and I've heerd tell—”

There seems to be no good reason why this stream of recollections, continually fed by fresh tributaries, should not have flowed on till now, if it had met with no interruption. Indeed, I had a fantastic, oppressive vision of the spell-bound auditory sitting there till doomsday, and the archangel's trump breaking in upon some ludicrously petty detail with tragic, untimely, irreconcilable awfulness; upon whose terrible and grotesque grouping, my imagination would linger, to the poignant distress of my conscience. It was a relief, therefore, to see the gaunt form of Miss Lavinia Rust at the door, and to be hailed by her with the cordiality due to old acquaintanceship,-albeit, a little tempered by that grim shake of the head.

"Why, bless me! if here ain't Miss Frost! I didn't participate seeing you here,-though it's strange I didn't, too, you have such a dereliction for good works. Have you seen any of the Warrens to-day?"

"Yes, Miss Rust, I went down this morning and renewed the flowers around Maggie. Mrs. Warren was her usual calm self. Sam is much better."

"I'm desperate glad to hear it. But, Miss Frost, did you ever see a woman with such exposure as Mrs. Warren has got? I expected yesterday morning, to see her break down all at once, and have a historical turn, but she kept around like a marble statute. Such women ain't as numberous as grass-seed, I can tell you. Why, only yesterday

afternoon they sent for me into one of the neighbors,—her little boy had cut his foot,—and before I could stop the confusion of blood she'd gone into a dead faint, and I didn't know which to take hold of first. I never was in such a digamma before."

"Aunt Vin," here interposed the loquacious dame opposite, "have you found out why Tom Sharp and his wife have separated?"

"Yes'm," responded Miss Rust, promptly, "on account of compatibility of temper."

"Oh! I didn't know but 'twas something worse," returned the other, in perfect good faith.

"You'd think that was bad enough, I guess," said Aunt Vin, "if you had any idea what sort of man Sharp is! He comes of a distempered family. His brother was tried for murder once, and only let off, Lawyer Pound says, because there was nothing to discriminate him, but substantial evidence. But there's plenty of people who think he ought to have been hung, to this day."

Mrs. Prescott now entered. Mrs. Seber and Essie Vol ger followed her, the former looking annoyed, the latter with a quizzical expression and dancing eyes. Essie came directly to my corner, found a chair, and compelled the whole row of wall- flowers to move and make room for her, next to me. Then she whispered, confidentially,-" Such a time as we've had with Mrs. Seber! I doubt if Mrs. Danforth herself has less taste for playing second fiddle. But she has consented to do it once, though you see her mouth has a twist in it; as if, after making up her mind to dine off turkey and truffles, she had been forced to take up with boiled pork and cabbage."

I looked at the lady in question, and could not suppress a smile at the appositeness of the simile. Miss Essie continued, "I suppose you like keeping accounts, I am glad somebody has that useful penchant. I would rather hoe corn and potatoes."

I looked at her in infinite amazement at the apparent irrelevancy of the remark; seeing which, she appeared nearly as much surprised as myself.

"I took it for granted," she said, apologetically, "that you were in all Cousin Priscilla's secrets. Well, no matter, she will open her budget pretty soon, and then you will understand. We are only waiting for-umph!-Speak of an angel and you see his wings!'-there she is now-Mrs. Danforth."

Looking up, I beheld a new-comer in the doorway,—a striking figure of a woman, just at the height of her richest maturity, and fashioned upon a most spacious and luxuriant plan of physical development. The haughty air, the gracious manner, the sweeping silken robe (no longer untidy), the diamonds, the gestures-all the details of Mrs. Prescott's recent sketch were there; and I mentally complimented that lady's skill in portraiture, while she received and introduced the original. In two minutes, Mrs. Danforth had glided easily into conversation with those nearest her; in four, she was relating some incident of her life with a varied modulation, an illustrative play of feature, and a rich and happy exuberance of gesticulation, that would have made her fortune on the stage; in six, everybody was listening to her, half in wonder, half in admiration. As her hands moved, her diamonds flashed and scintillated; and, after a moment or two, as Mrs. Prescott had said, it became impossible to conceive of her without them; so readily did they amalgamate themselves with one's idea of her charac ter; so subtile was their correspondence with some luxuri ant inward growth of pride and pomp; so perfectly did they assimilate their richness to the brilliancy and showi ness of her person and manner. There was a charm, almost amounting to fascination, about her conversation; and yet something strongly repellant, at least to me, in her personality. Watching her closely, I was nearly as much puzzled where to place her as Mrs. Prescott had been. That lady's

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