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Adrift in New York: Tom and Florence Braving the World, a novel by Horatio Alger

Chapter 29. Mrs. Leighton's Party

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_ Chapter XXIX. Mrs. Leighton's Party

"Miss Linden," said Mrs. Leighton, one day in the fourth month of Dodger's absence, "Carrie has perhaps told you that I give a party next Thursday evening."

"She told me," answered the governess.

"I expected Prof. Bouvier to furnish dancing music--in fact, I had engaged him--but I have just received a note stating that he is unwell, and I am left unprovided. It is very inconsiderate on his part," added the lady, in a tone of annoyance.

Florence did not reply. She took rather a different view of the professor's letter, and did not care to offend Mrs. Leighton.

"Under the circumstances," continued the lady, "it has occurred to me that, as you are really quite a nice performer, you might fill his place. I shall be willing to allow you a dollar for the evening. What do you say?"

Florence felt embarrassed. She shrank from appearing in society in her present separation from her family, yet could think of no good excuse. Noticing her hesitation, Mrs. Leighton added, patronizingly:

"On second thought, I will pay you a dollar and a half"--Prof. Bouvier was to have charged ten dollars--"and you will be kind enough to come in your best attire. You seem to be well provided with dresses."

"Yes, madam, there will be no difficulty on that score."

"Nor on any other, I hope. As governess in my family, I think I have a right to command your services."

"I will come," said Florence, meekly. She felt that it would not do to refuse after this.

As she entered the handsomely decorated rooms on the night of the party, she looked around her nervously, fearing to see some one whom she had known in earlier days. She noticed one only--Percy de Brabazon, whose face lighted up when he saw her, for he had been expecting to see her.

She managed to convey a caution by a quiet movement, as it would not be wise for Mrs. Leighton to know of their previous acquaintance. But Percy was determined to get an opportunity to speak to her.

"Who is that young lady, Aunt Mary?" he asked. "The one standing near the piano."

"That is Carrie's governess," answered Mrs. Leighton, carelessly.

"She seems quite a ladylike person."

"Yes. I understand she has seen better days. She is to play for us in the absence of Prof. Bouvier."

"Will you introduce me, aunt?"

"Why?" asked Mrs. Leighton, with a searching look.

"I should like to inquire about Carrie's progress in her studies," said the cunning Percy.

"Oh, certainly," answered the aunt, quite deceived by his words.

"Miss Linden," she said, "let me introduce my nephew, Mr. de Brabazon. He wishes to inquire about Carrie's progress in her studies."

And the lady sailed off to another part of the room.

"I can assure you, Mr. de Brabazon," said Florence, "that my young charge is making excellent progress."

"I can easily believe it, under your instruction," said Percy.

"I am very glad you take such an interest in your cousin," added Florence, with a smile. "It does you great credit."

"It's only an excuse, you know, to get a chance to talk with you, Miss Linden. May I say Miss Florence?"

"No," answered Florence, decidedly. "It won't do. You must be very formal."

"Then tell me how you like teaching."

"Very well, indeed."

"It must be an awful bore, I think."

"I don't think so. Carrie is a warm-hearted, affectionate girl. Besides, she is very bright and gives me very little trouble."

"Don't you think you could take another pupil, Miss Linden?"

"A young girl?"

"No, a young man. In fact, myself."

"What could I teach you, Mr. de Brabazon?"

"Lots of things. I am not very sound in--in spelling and grammar."

"What a pity!" answered Florence, with mock seriousness. "I am afraid your aunt would hardly consent to have a boy of your size in the schoolroom."

"Then perhaps you could give me some private lessons in the afternoon?"

"That would not be possible."

Just then Mrs. Leighton came up.

"Well," she said, "what does Miss Linden say of Carrie?"

"She has quite satisfied my mind about her," answered Percy, with excusable duplicity. "I think her methods are excellent. I was telling her that I might be able to procure her another pupil."

"I have no objection, as long as it does not interfere with Carrie's hours. Miss Linden, there is a call for music. Will you go to the piano and play a Stauss waltz?"

Florence inclined her head obediently.

"Let me escort you to the piano, Miss Linden," said Percy.

"Thank you," answered Florence, in a formal tone.

For an hour Florence was engaged in playing waltzes, gallops and lanciers music. Then a lady who was proud of her daughter's proficiency volunteered her services to relieve Florence.

"Now you can dance yourself," said Percy, in a low tone. "Will you give me a waltz?"

"Not at once. Wait till the second dance."

Percy de Brabazon was prompt in presenting himself as soon as permitted, and he led Florence out for a dance.

Both were excellent dancers, and attracted general attention.

Florence really enjoyed dancing, and forgot for a time that she was only a guest on sufferance, as she moved with rhythmic grace about the handsome rooms.

Percy was disposed to prolong the dance, but Florence was cautious.

"I think I will rest now, Mr. de Brabazon," she said.

"You will favor me again later in the evening?" he pleaded.

"I hardly think it will be wise."

But when, half an hour later, he asked her again, Florence could not find it in her heart to say no. It would have been wise if she had done so. A pair of jealous eyes was fixed upon her. Miss Emily Carter had for a considerable time tried to fascinate Mr. de Brabazon, whose wealth made him a very desirable match, and she viewed his decided penchant for Florence with alarm and indignation.

"To be thrown in the shade by a governess is really too humiliating!" she murmured to herself in vexation. "If it were a girl in my own station I should not care so much," and she eyed Florence with marked hostility.

"Mamma," she said, "do you see how Mr. de Barbazon is carrying on with Mrs. Leighton's governess? Really, I think it very discreditable."

Mrs. Carter looked through her gold eye-glasses at the couple.

"Is the girl really a governess?" she added. "She is very well dressed."

"I don't know where she got her dress, but she is really a governess."

"She seems very bold."

"So she does."

Poor Florence! She was far from deserving their unkindly remarks.

"I suppose she is trying to ensnare young de Brabazon," said Emily, spitefully. "People of her class are very artful. Don't you think it would be well to call Mrs. Leighton's attention? Percy de Brabazon is her nephew, you know."

"True. The suggestion is a good one, Emily."

Mrs. Carter was quite as desirous as her daughter of bringing about an alliance with Percy, and she readily agreed to second her plans.

She looked about for Mrs. Leighton, and took a seat at her side.

"Your nephew seems quite attentive to your governess," she commenced.

"Indeed! In what way?"

"He has danced with her three or four times, I believe. It looks rather marked."

"So it does," said Mrs. Leighton. "He is quite inconsiderate."

"Oh, well, it is of no great consequence. She is quite stylish for a governess, and doubtless your nephew is taken with her."

"That will not suit my views at all," said Mrs. Leighton, coldly. "I shall speak to her to-morrow."

"Pray don't. It really is a matter of small consequence--quite natural, in fact."

"Leave the matter with me. You have done quite right in mentioning it."

At twelve o'clock the next day, when Florence had just completed her lessons with Carrie, Mrs. Leighton entered the room.

"Please remain a moment, Miss Linden," she said. "I have a few words to say to you."

Mrs. Leighton's tone was cold and unfriendly, and Florence felt that something unpleasant was coming. _

Read next: Chapter 30. Florence Is Followed Home

Read previous: Chapter 28. Florence Receives A Letter

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