Ethelyn's Mistake (Chapter 9, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 9

Eunice had not fully seen the stranger, and so, when dinner was
announced and Richard led her out, with Andy hovering at her side, she
stood ready to be introduced, with the little speech she had been
rehearsing about "I hope to see you well," etc., trembling on the tip of
her tongue. But her plans were seriously disarranged. Six months before
Richard would have presented her himself, as a matter of course; but he
had learned some things since then, and he tried not to see his mother's
meaning as she glanced from him to Eunice and then to Ethelyn, whose
proud, dignified bearing awed and abashed even her. Eunice, however, had
been made quite too much of to be wholly ignored now, and Mrs. Markham
felt compelled to say, "Ethelyn, this--ah, this is--Eunice--Eunice
Plympton."

That Eunice Plympton was the hired girl Ethelyn did not for a moment
dream; but that she was coarse and vulgar, like the rest of Richard's
family, she at once decided, and if she bowed at all it was not
perceptible to Eunice, who mentally resolved "to go home in the morning
if such a proud minx was to live there."

Mrs. Markham saw the gathering storm, and Richard knew by the drop of
her chin that Ethelyn had not made a good impression. How could she with
that proud cold look, which never for an instant left her face, but
rather deepened in its expression as the dinner proceeded, and one after
the other Mrs. Markham and Eunice left the table in quest of something
that was missing, while Andy himself, being nearest the kitchen, went to
bring a pitcher of hot water for Ethelyn's coffee, lifting the kettle
with the skirt of his coat, and snapping his fingers, which were
slightly burned with the scalding steam. From the position she occupied
at the table Ethelyn saw the whole performance, and had it been in any
other house she would have smiled at Andy's grotesque appearance as he
converted his coat skirts into a holder; but now it only sent a colder
chill to her heart as she reflected that these were Richard's people and
this was Richard's home. Sadly and vividly there arose before her
visions of dear Aunt Barbara's household, where Betty served so quietly
and where, except that they were upon a smaller scale, everything was as
well and properly managed as in Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's family. It was
several hours since she had tasted food, but she could scarcely swallow
a morsel for the terrible homesick feeling swelling in her throat. She
knew the viands before her were as nicely cooked as even Aunt Barbara or
Betty could have cooked them--so much she conceded to Mrs. Markham and
Eunice; but had her life depended upon it she could not have eaten them
and the plate which James had filled so plentifully scarcely diminished
at all. She did pick a little with her fork at the white, tender turkey,
and tried to drink her coffee, but the pain in her head and the pain at
her heart were both too great to allow of her doing more, and Mrs.
Markham and Eunice both felt a growing contempt for a dainty thing who
could not eat the dinner they had been at so much pains to prepare.

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