Ethelyn's Mistake (Chapter 9, page 2 of 9)


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Chapter 9

Ethelyn knew their opinion of her as well as if it had been expressed in
words; but they were so very far beneath her that whatsoever they might
think was not of the slightest consequence. They were a vulgar, ignorant
set, the whole of them, she mentally decided, as she watched their
manners at table, noticing how James and John poured their coffee into
their saucers, blowing it until it was cool, while Richard, feeling more
freedom now that he was again under his mother's wing, used his knife
altogether, even to eating jelly with it. Ethelyn was disgusted, and
once, as Richard's well-filled knife was moving toward his mouth, she
gently touched his foot with her own; but if he understood her he did
not heed her, and went quietly on with his dinner. Indeed, it might be
truly said of him that "Richard was himself again," for his whole manner
was that of a petted child, which, having returned to the mother who
spoiled it, had cast off the restraint under which for a time it had
been laboring. Richard was hungry, and would have enjoyed his dinner
hugely but for the cold, silent woman beside him, who, he knew, was
watching and criticising all he did; but somehow at home he did not care
so much for her criticisms as when alone with her at fashionable hotels
or with fashionable people. Here he was supreme, and none had ever
disputed his will. Perhaps if Ethelyn had known all that was in his
heart she might have changed her tactics and tried to have been more
conciliatory on that first evening of her arrival at his home. But
Ethelyn did not know--she only felt that she was homesick and
wretched--and pleading a headache, from which she was really suffering,
she asked to go to her room as soon as dinner was over.

It was very pleasant up there, for a cheerful wood fire was blazing on
the hearth, and a rocking-chair drawn up before it, with a footstool
which Andy had made and Melinda covered, while the bed in the little
room adjoining looked so fresh, and clean, and inviting, that with a
great sigh of relief, as the door closed between her and the "dreadful
people below," Ethelyn threw herself upon it, and burying her face in
the soft pillows, tried to smother the sobs which, nevertheless, smote
heavily upon Richard's ear when he came in, and drove from him all
thoughts of the little lecture he had been intending to give Ethelyn
touching her deportment toward his folks. It would only be a fair
return, he reflected, for all the Caudles he had listened to so
patiently, and duly strengthened for his task by his mother's remark to
James, accidentally overheard, "Altogether too fine a lady for us. I
wonder what Richard was thinking of," he mounted the stairs resolved at
least to talk with Ethie and ask her to do better.

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