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- Sara, a Princess - 30/43 -
Sara was so proud of these letters that she could not resist showing them to Madame Grandet and Mrs. Macon, both of whom were greatly amused.
"He has evidently gotten into Henry's good graces, as well as his old clothes!" laughed the latter. "The boy is like you, Sara, he doesn't know how brave he is."
Sara looked up quickly.
"Brave, I brave?" she asked in surprise. "I never did a really brave thing in my life!"
"Didn't you?" smiling, with a meaning look. "I thought you had done a good many."
But she made no explanation of her words, and Sara was too modest to ask what they meant.
Morton came home so brisk and rosy it was good to see him, and regaled Molly for days with the accounts of his wonderful adventures. He seemed to have quite recovered from his longings for a sea-life, and was almost as much interested in certain scientific studies as Sara herself. In fact, their autumn rambles together were pleasures whose memory lingered with both for many a year.
One morning in November, Sara saw, among the letters on the desk, a creamy square with her own name upon it, and nearly had her breath taken away upon opening it, to find it was an invitation to a dinner given by one of the faculty in honor of a distinguished scientist from abroad, who was to deliver a lecture before the students the coming week.
She glanced from it to Professor Macon, who was busy writing, but, seeing no solution of the matter in his face, resolved to consult his wife about it, and stopped in on her way home that noon for the purpose. "Oh, you are invited, then!" cried Mrs. Macon with satisfaction, as Sara explained her errand. "I was sure you would be."
"But how could you think so? I, a fisherman's daughter."
"You, Sara Olmstead, the writer who is already being noticed in the literary world! Why shouldn't you be asked, I'd like to know?"
"But, dear Mrs. Macon, what shall I wear? how shall I act?"
"Ah! now you are talking sense. 'What shall you wear?' Sara, you must have a white dress; something with long, soft folds, and--yes--and trimmed with swan's-down. That will be so becoming."
"Yes, and cost a small fortune!"
"No, not as much as you think. A cashmere will do, and that reminds me, I'm to have a dressmaker here the first of the week; she shall give me an extra day or two, and make your dress, then I can be sure it is all right. And never mind about the swan's-down; for I have some on a dress, I think almost enough, that I have only worn once. She shall rip it off for you to wear on this great occasion."
"O Mrs. Macon, how good you are!"
"Good? Why, this is fun for me. You must go with us, of course. Yes, and we'll ask the Grandets to go in our carriage too; 'twill make five, but no matter; you're little, and can squeeze in between the two gentlemen for that short distance: and, fortunately, cashmere doesn't show mussing badly."
"But, Mrs. Macon, I'm afraid"--
She stopped, coloring daintily.
"Well, of what?"
"Won't you be--ashamed of me? I never went to a dinner-party in my life. There are a great many forks and spoons to manage, aren't there?"
"Simplest thing in the world, that, my dear; begin with whatever is next your plate. If you think you are wrong at any time, dally a little, and watch your hostess. By the way, this invitation is for two weeks ahead, and Thanksgiving is next week, Thursday; you shall practise here! I was going to see you soon, to invite all three of you to dine with us that day; will you come? We shall ask the Grandets also, but no one else."
"You are exceedingly kind, Mrs. Macon; we will be more than happy to come. I had dreaded the day," softly.
"Yes, my dear, anniversaries are sad things; but we will try and enjoy this one. And don't hesitate to ask about anything that puzzles you at our table. These little fads of etiquette are easily learned, after one has acquired that real politeness which must become a part of the character; and that you have, Sara."
"Thank you for your encouragement, dear Mrs. Macon; I shall try not to put you to the blush."
THE PRINCESS HOLDS A "DRAWING-ROOM."
When Morton heard of the two invitations, and something of the foregoing conversation, as they sat over their cosey supper that evening, he kept quite still, while Molly was running on with questions, suggestions, and comments, till there was a lull; then he looked up at his elder sister with a queer expression.
"Supposing, Sara, I had gone with Uncle Jabez Wanamead, and then should come home a rough fisherman, while you were learning how to be polite; would you have been ashamed of me?"
"No, Morton; but I shall be much prouder of you if you will have the bravery and honesty of a fisherman, with the education and manners of a gentleman, and the spirit of a Christian; that ought to make a man for any sister to be proud of."
"Well," he said, drawing in his breath, "I'll say it now, Sara, I'm glad you stuck out so against my going in the Mary Jane. While I was off with the professor we were by the sea a day or two, and I went aboard a smack. It was a better one than that, too; but I was glad I hadn't a berth there, for somehow things did look dreadfully rough to me that day. There was a boy about my age, and the men swore at him nearly every word they said, and he swore too, and chewed and smoked and drank his grog; and he seemed real proud to think he could take it down clear without staggering. I was glad to get back to the professor, Sara, but I _would_ like to have a yacht of my own, and sail all over the world after specimens for the museum; wouldn't that be fine?"
"Perhaps you may some day; who knows? Stranger things than that have happened."
It was a very nice-looking trio which turned into Mrs. Macon's gate after church Thanksgiving Day. The checks Sara received for her articles were of great assistance in clothing them comfortably for the winter; and she glanced with almost motherly pride from tall Morton, in his neat overcoat and derby, to Molly, pretty as a pink, with her flying curls and scarlet cheeks, in a dark blue serge trimmed with fur.
She forgot herself, but no one else would have done so; for the slender figure in black, with a close-fitting jacket and trig little hat, was so symmetrical, while the face above had such a charm, both of feature and expression, that few could pass her by unnoted.
Mrs. Macon welcomed them with gay cordiality.
"Dear me! How sweet you do look, Sara!" giving her a motherly kiss. "But you'll have to look out for this young lady or she'll eclipse you yet!" pinching Molly's dimpled cheek. "How the child is shooting up! I've a surprise for you, Sara. I hope it will be a happy one."
"I think your surprises are always happy, Mrs. Macon."
"As are your remarks, Sara. Well, come, Madame Grandet is below."
They descended to the beautiful drawing-room, where, in the softened light, Sara was conscious of several figures; the madame, lovely in a Frenchy toilet, with a dash of scarlet here and there, rose to greet them, while the little group of black coats just beyond separated and turned, resolving itself into her host, Professor Grandet, and--Robert Glendenning!
The last named came forward with an eager movement, and Sara's heart stood still a minute, then plunged on with rapid beats, as he took her hand and bent over it with an earnest greeting. He looked well, as she quickly observed, having broadened into proportions better suited to his height, and his eyes seemed more brilliant than ever as they met her own.
"This is my surprise, Sara," laughed Mrs. Macon; "and you know," mischievously, "they are always happy ones. I think you have remarked it yourself."
But Sara only answered by a look: her words did not come readily just then.
"He have come last night," said the madame, beaming upon her nephew, "so that it was to all of us a surprise, for we have not expect him."
"Indeed! As if you could think, Aunt Felicie, that I would eat my Thanksgiving turkey in a boarding-house, when"--
"Ah! but that is what you would then do, if our friends had not so kindly invite us here, Robare; are not your uncle and myself also in a boarding-house?" a reply which rather nonplussed the young man for a moment.
But, fortunately for his embarrassment, the domestic just then announced dinner, and Mrs. Macon said,--
"Henry, will you give your arm to madame? And you, Mr. Glendenning, to Miss Olmstead; I will do myself the honor of walking in with Professor Grandet; and I'm sure Morton will be happy to escort his better half, as I suppose a twin sister may be called."
As they passed through the hall, Sara's escort said in a low tone,--
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