Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 11

    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 11
    Previous Chapter

    Mr. William Reynolds arrived late, perhaps because he delayed too long
    over the niceties of his toilet. He was a country young man, fashioned
    upon a well-worn last. His occupation for several years past had been to
    attend to the furnishing and driving of a milk-cart, and, very likely,
    it was this which had hindered the proper development of his figure. At
    all events, he was stoutest where it is generally thought advisable to
    be lean, and narrow where popular prejudice demands breadth. His knees
    were more conspicuous than his legs, and his elbows than his arms. His
    face was striking, chiefly because an accident in early life had
    prostrated his nose; the expression, though lacking force, was in the
    main good-natured, the eyes were modestly veiled behind a pair of
    eye-glasses, which stayed on, as it were, by accident.

    Mr. Reynolds was an admirer of Cornelia's; a fact which was the occasion
    of much pleasant remark and easy witticism. More serious consequences
    were not likely to ensue, for such men as he seldom attain to be other
    than indirectly useful or mildly obnoxious to their fellow-creatures.
    But the strongest instincts he had were social; and it was touching to
    observe the earnestness with which they urged him to lumber the path of
    fashion and gay life. He nearly broke his own heart, and unseated his
    instructor's reason, in his efforts to learn dancing; and, to secure
    elegant apparel for Sundays and parties, he would forswear the butcher's
    wagon for months at a time. Once in a while he would smoke an Havana
    cigar from the assortment to be found at the grocery-store on the
    corner, and sometimes, when a national holiday or the gloom of
    unrequited love rendered strong measures a necessity, he would become
    recklessly convivial over muddy whisky-and-water amid the spittoons and
    colored prints of the hotel bar-room.

    On the present evening he arrived late, and came upon Cornelia and
    Bressant just as the latter was proposing to obtain the professor's
    consent to accompanying her home on foot.

    Mr. Reynolds advanced, smiling; a polka was being played at the moment,
    and he playfully contorted his figure and balanced his head from side to
    side in time with the tune, while with his right forefinger he beckoned
    winningly to Miss Valeyon to join him in the dance. Bressant gave an
    involuntary shudder of disgust; it seemed to him a grisly caricature of
    the inspiration he himself had felt at the beginning of the evening. But
    Cornelia was equal to the emergency.

    "If you'll go and ask papa now," said she, "I'll take care of this
    person meantime. He's known me so long, I don't want to be impolite to

    A good deal of harm may be done in this world by what is called a
    reluctance to be uncivil. There is generally more selfishness than
    consideration about it. All sincere admiration, no matter from how low a
    source, is grateful to us. Cornelia knew that Bill Reynolds worshipped
    her with his whole small capacity, and she was unwilling to deny herself
    the miserable little incense, and give him plainly to understand that,
    though it was not distasteful to her, he was. And who could blame her
    for not wanting to hurt his feelings?

    Bressant had no such delicate scruples, and would gladly have assisted
    poor Bill through the open bow-window. He departed on his errand,
    however, with nothing more than a look of intense dissatisfaction, which
    was entirely lost upon the infatuated Reynolds.

    "How lovely you do look to-night, Miss Valeyon! I almost think sometimes
    it ain't fair anybody should look as lovely as you do. Elegant music
    they've got to-night, ain't it? Come, now--just one turn. What?"

    Cornelia actually had danced with this young gentleman on one or two
    memorable occasions in the past, but was scarcely in the mood to do so
    this evening. As she looked at him, now, she wondered how she ever had.
    What a difference there is in men I and even more in the way we regard
    them at different times. Bressant, simply by being himself, had
    annihilated all such small claims to social life as Bill Reynolds ever

    "I'm not dancing to-night, thank you," said Cornelia; but she smiled so
    as wellnigh to heal the wound her words inflicted. "What makes you so

    Now, the fact was that Mr. Reynolds had been weak enough to allow
    himself to be drawn into conversation with some friends near the
    entrance of the hotel possessing the bar-room with the spittoons and
    colored prints already alluded to; and, being the Fourth of July, which,
    like many other days, comes but once a year, and a "dry night," as his
    friends assured him, he had further given evidence of lack of stamina by
    accepting an invitation to "take a damp," When he had finally succeeded
    in making his escape, he was conscious that it was in a tolerably damp
    condition; and it had occurred to him, as a brilliant idea, to put his
    head beneath the pump by way of freshening up his wits. The effect had
    been, for the moment, undoubtedly clarifying, and he made his entrance
    into Abbie's with a great deal of confidence; more, perhaps, than was
    entirely warrantable; for the muddy whisky was still circulating in his
    blood, and the light, the close, hot air, and the excitement
    within-doors, were rapidly undoing the good work which the pump had
    accomplished. It was probably a dim suspicion that such was the case,
    which made him hesitate, and stick his hands in his pockets, and screw
    his boot-heel into the floor, when Cornelia asked him why he was so
    late. But the question had been asked in pure idleness, and not with any
    interest or purpose to elicit a reply. The next minute she relieved him
    from his embarrassment by speaking again.

    "Would you mind doing me a favor, Bill?"

    It seemed to Bill that, for the sake of hearing his Christian name from
    her lips, he would be willing to forswear all else that made life most
    dear--Havana cigars and muddy whisky included; and he was proceeding
    with impressive gravity to make a statement to that effect, when
    Cornelia once more interrupted him.

    "Thank you; I was sure you would. You're always so kind! You see I'm
    obliged to go home now, but papa will want to stay to supper, probably,
    or to play backgammon, and, of course, I shall leave him the wagon.
    Now, I want you to promise to see that Dolly is properly harnessed
    before he starts--will you? You know that man they have here isn't
    always quite sober, especially when it's Fourth of July, or any thing of
    that sort; and papa is getting old."

    "Yes, Miss Valeyon. I'll attend to it. I'll fix the old gentleman up,
    like he was my own father. And you're just right about that fellow
    that's around here; _I_ wouldn't trust him. Why--" Bill was on the point
    of mentioning that he had made one of the convivial party that evening,
    but checked himself in time, and looked particularly profound.

    Cornelia had probably had more than one motive in making her request of
    Bill Reynolds. She wanted to avoid being urged to dance, by keeping his
    mind otherwise employed; she enjoyed the amusement of making him imagine
    that he was of some consequence and importance to her; and, lastly, she
    was very willing that all this should concur with some possible benefit
    to her father. Of Bill's irresponsible condition she had of course no
    suspicion; indeed, he might have been far worse, with impunity, as far
    as she was concerned. It takes considerable practice to detect the
    effects of liquor, except when very excessive; and Cornelia had no such

    "And," added she, as she saw Bressant making his way toward her, with
    unmistakable signs on his face of having been successful in his errand,
    "and suppose you go now, and find out when papa leaves, so as to be sure
    to be on hand."

    It was very neatly managed, on the whole; and Cornelia, as she put on
    her shoes, and drew the hood around her face, congratulated herself on
    her tact and readiness. Yet she felt a little uneasiness, assignable to
    no particular cause, and upon no definite subject; it may have been
    nothing more than some slight qualms of conscience at having so deluded
    her unfortunate admirer. As she came down from the ladies'
    dressing-room, she felt a strong impulse to go and kiss her papa
    good-by; but reflecting that Bill would probably be with him, and that
    she would see him at any rate before she went to bed, she thought better
    of it; and, taking Bressant's arm--he was waiting her at the foot of the
    stairs--she signified her readiness to start.

    "When did papa say he was coming?" asked she, as they moved through the
    passage-way to the door.

    "He was playing backgammon; he said he should be through in ten minutes;
    he would probably overtake us before we got to the Parsonage," replied
    the young man.

    "I hope he'll be all safe!" said Cornelia, half to herself, the vague
    feeling of uneasiness still working within her.

    At the door they were met by Abbie, who bade them good-night, with the
    same expression upon her lips and in her eyes that she had worn when
    presenting them to one another early in the evening.

    "Take good care of each other, my children," said she, as they passed
    out; but her tone was so low as to be audible to Cornelia alone.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 11
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Julian Hawthorne essay and need some advice, post your Julian Hawthorne essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?