FANNY WELCOMED BY MRS. CAMERON
Contrary to his first intention, Stanton concluded to come North in July. He had of course learned from Nellie that her mysterious guardian had proved to be Judge Fulton, his sister's husband. And more recently she had written to him of Judge Fulton's removal to New York City. Mr. Miller was apprised of Stanton's return by a letter, in which he was also informed that the wedding would take place in Grace Church on the morning of the 22d.
Not long after there came invitations for himself, wife and Fanny to attend the bridal party, at the residence of Judge Fulton, on the evening of July 25. Frank, who was also invited, had his own reason for not wishing his mother or sister to see Fanny until they met her at Judge Fulton's. Consequently he was not sorry when both ladies graciously informed him that Miss Middleton would not be invited by them to visit at their house. "Of course," said Mrs. Cameron, "we shall invite Kate and her husband, and shall be glad to see them. If you choose, you can in your own name invite Fanny, but if she knows anything she will not come."
Frank knew there was no possible danger of Fanny's accepting an invitation, which came simply from himself, but he did not say so, and next day he started again for his Uncle Wilmot's. To his cousin Kate he imparted a knowledge of his mother's and Gertrude's feelings and also told of his own plans. Kate readily fell in with them and when Frank returned to the city he was accompanied by Mr. Miller, Kate and Fanny, who took rooms at the Astor House. As soon as Mrs. Cameron and Gertrude learned that Kate was in the city, they called upon her. Fanny they of course did not see, neither did they mention her name. Kate expected as much, but nevertheless felt vexed, and when they urged her to spend the remainder of her time with them, she replied, "I have a young friend from Kentucky with me, and unless you invite her too, I do not feel at liberty to accept your polite invitation."
In answer to this, Gertrude muttered something about "not wishing to enlarge the circle of her acquaintance," while Mrs. Cameron said nothing, and the two ladies soon swept haughtily out of the room.
"Never mind," said Frank, to whom Kate related her adventure, "they will both sing another tune ere long," and he was right too.
The 25th of July at last arrived. Frank had informed Gertrude that she must look to her father for a beau that evening, as he should be otherwise engaged; so she was not surprised when her brother, long before sunset, left the house all equipped for the party. She well knew where he was going and for whose society she was deserted. One hour later found her seated in a large armchair before the mirror in her dressing room.
Gertrude was a tall, fine-looking girl, but in the expression of her handsome features there was something wanting. She lacked soul, and no one ever looked on the cold, proud face of Gertrude Cameron, without being convinced that she was altogether heartless and selfish.
On this occasion, as she sat in the large armchair, she said to her waiting maid, "I say, Jane, you must do your best tonight to have me splendidly dressed."
"Yes, ma'am, I understand," said Jane, and she proceeded to bedeck her young mistress with all sorts of finery. Her dress consisted of a rich, white satin, over which was thrown a skirt of handsomely embroidered lace. All the ornaments of gold and diamonds for which a place could possibly be found were heaped upon her, and when her toilet was completed, she seemed one gorgeous mass of jewelry.
"There, that will do," said she, as Jane clasped the last diamond bracelet on her arm. "I presume this Fanny Middleton has never dreamed of so costly a dress as I shall appear in tonight."
Meanwhile in another part of the city, another toilet was being made, but of a different nature. Kate and Frank both were anxious that for once Fanny should deviate from her usually simple style of dress, and adopt something more in keeping with her father's wealth. At first Fanny hesitated, but was finally persuaded, and gave Kate permission to select for her anything she chose.
As, on the evening of the party, she glanced at the image which her mirror reflected, she was pardonable for feeling a slight thrill of pleasure. Frank was in raptures, declaring nothing had ever been seen in New York so perfectly lovely. And truly, Fanny was beautiful as she stood there arrayed for the party.
She was dressed in a French robe of white tarlatan, embroidered in boquets of lilies of the valley in silver. A single japonica rested among the curls of her bright hair, while her neck was encircled by a necklace of pearls, and costly bracelets of the same clasped her white, slender wrists.
"Why, Fanny," said Mr. Miller, "how beautiful you look. What would your father say could he see you now?"
At the mention of her father's name the teardrops glistened for a moment in Fanny's eye, and she felt how gladly she would have foregone all the expected pleasure of that night for the pleasure of again seeing her distant father. She, however, dashed the tears away, and replied, "I fear he would think his Sunshine wholly covered up and spoiled by trumpery, as he calls fashionable dress."
Frank noticed her emotion when speaking of her father, and he thought how priceless must be the love of one who thus so truly honored her parents. A feeling of sadness was blended with his admiration of Fanny, for constantly in his heart was the knowledge that she never would be his. And here Frank showed how truly noble he was, for he could still love and cling to Fanny, although he knew that for him there was no hope.
Let us now transport our readers to the elegant residence of Judge Fulton, which was situated upon Fifth Avenue. Stanton, with his fair bride, had returned from visiting his parents near Geneva, and now in the large parlors of Judge Fulton, they were receiving the congratulations of their friends, whose numbers each moment increased, until the rooms were filled to overflowing. Frank and his party had not yet arrived. He designed to be late, for he well knew his mother and sister would not be early, and he wished to give them the full benefit of Fanny's introduction into the drawing room.
But a part of his scheme was frustrated, for his mother, who was suffering with a violent headache, was obliged to remain above stairs for a time, and Gertrude alone witnessed her brother's triumph. She was standing near Mr. and Mrs. Stanton, carelessly twirling a costly boquet, which one of her obsequious beaux had given her, when she overheard Nellie say to her husband, "I do hope she will come, for I am all impatience to see one whom you have praised until I am half jealous."
Gertrude wondered much whom Mrs. Stanton could mean, but her wonder soon ceased, for there was a stir at the door. The crowd around it fell back as Frank Cameron walked proudly into the room, bearing upon his arm Fanny Middleton. Her fame had preceded her, for many of those present had learned that a Kentucky belle and heiress was stopping at the Astor, and would be present at the party. As she advanced into the room, Gertrude felt, rather than heard the murmur of admiration which ran round the room, and her quick ear caught the words, "Yes, that's she; that's the heiress; that's Miss Middleton from Frankfort."
Gladly would Gertrude have escaped her brother's eye, which instantly sought her out; but she felt unable to move, and stood watching the animated face and graceful manners of Fanny, who, in being presented to Mrs. Fulton and Stanton, passed near her. Every article of Fanny's dress was noted, and an estimate made as to its probable cost. "She must be wealthy," thought she, "or she could not dress so expensively." Suddenly one of Gertrude's acquaintances touched her elbow, and said, "Come, Miss Gertrude, do gratify our curiosity and tell us about this Kentucky belle. Of course you know her, as she is attended by your brother."
Deeply mortified Gertrude was obliged to confess that she had no acquaintance with her. "That's strange," said the lady. "We all supposed she stopped at your father's with your cousin."
A new idea entered Gertrude's mind, and instead of replying to this last remark, she said, "I shall know her well, though, for Frank has proposed to her."
"Did she accept him?" asked the lady eagerly.
"Of course," was Gertrude's haughty answer. "Do you think he would offer himself unless sure of success?"
Ten minutes more and dozens of persons were gossiping about the engagement between Frank Cameron and the beautiful Kentuckian. Scores of questions were poured in upon Gertrude relative to her future sister-in-law, but none of them could she answer. Vexed at her own ignorance, she ran upstairs to her mother, whom she told to "come down immediately and see what fools they had made of themselves."
"Why, what is the matter, child?" said Mrs. Cameron, much alarmed at Gertrude's excited looks and manners.
"All the city is ready to fall down and worship this Fanny Middleton, whom we have treated with such neglect," said Gertrude, and then she added what was of more consequence than all the rest, "Why, mother, she's the most elegantly dressed lady in the room!"
In a moment Mrs. Cameron was descending the broad staircase. There was the sound of the piano and someone singing. Gertrude pressed forward until she caught sight of the singer, then pulling her mother's sleeve, she whispered, "This way, mother; that is Miss Middleton playing."
Mrs. Cameron's first emotion, on beholding Fanny and the flattering attentions she everywhere received, was one of intense mortification, to think she had not been first to notice and chaperone her. "I will, however, make all possible amends now," thought she, and finding Frank she desired for herself and Gertrude an introduction to Miss Middleton; but Frank did not feel disposed to grant his mother's request immediately, and he said, "Pardon me, mother, but you see Miss Middleton is very much engaged at present with some of her friends, so you must wait awhile."
Mrs. Cameron was too proud to ask any one else to introduce her, and it seemed that she and Gertrude were not likely to make Fanny's acquaintance at all. Toward the close of the party, however, Frank thought proper to introduce them. Mrs. Cameron determined to do her best, and she overwhelmed Fanny with so much flattery, that the poor girl longed for some way of escape, thinking to herself, "Is it possible that Frank Cameron's mother is such a silly woman?" Once Mrs. Cameron went so far as to hint the probability that Miss Middleton would one day be her daughter.
"What can she possibly mean?" thought Fanny; at the same time gracefully excusing herself she ran upstairs after her shawl and veil, as Kate had signified her intention of returning home. But Mrs. Cameron was not to be thus foiled. She started in pursuit, and reaching the bonnet room as soon as Fanny, insisted that she and Kate should stop with her during the remainder of her stay in the city. As Frank soon appeared and joined his entreaties with those of his mother, Fanny said she would do just as Mrs. Miller thought proper. Kate, who had expected a similar denouement, expressed her perfect willingness to visit at her uncle's.
Accordingly, the next morning they left their rooms at the Astor House and repaired to Mrs. Cameron's, where they were most affectionately received by Mrs. Cameron and Gertrude. And now commenced a series of toadyism which was vastly amusing to their acquaintances, many of whom had witnessed Mrs. Cameron's manner at the party and had since learned a part of the story. It was strange how soon Mrs. Cameron and Gertrude discovered how many fine qualities Fanny possessed. Even the "odious scarecrow of a father" was transformed into an "odd old gentleman," and in speaking of him to one of her acquaintances, Mrs. Cameron said "he was a very generous, wealthy, but eccentric old man, and was one of the first citizens in Frankfort." The good lady forgot that Uncle Joshua did not reside in Frankfort, but twelve miles from that city! Her word, however, was not questioned, for of course she would know all about the family of her son's intended wife.
Meanwhile the report of Frank's engagement was circulated freely, and the whole matter would undoubtedly have been arranged, marriage ceremony and all, had not Frank put an end to the matter by utterly denying the story. Some young gentlemen were one morning congratulating him on his future prospects, and declaring their intention of going to Kentucky, if there were any more Fannys there, when Frank asked upon whose authority they were repeating a story for which there was no foundation.
"Why," answered one of them, "my sister heard it from your sister Gertrude."
"From Gertrude!" said Frank in amazement, "from Gertrude! Well, I cannot answer for what Gertrude says, but I assure you I am not engaged to Miss Middleton, and have never been."
This was in the morning, and that evening when Frank entered the sitting room where his mother and sister were, they beset him to know why he had denied his engagement with Fanny.
"Because," said he, rather indignantly, "there is no engagement between us."
"Oh, Frank," said Gertrude, "you told us so."
"I never told you so," answered he, rather warmly. "I told you I had proposed, and I did propose, and was refused."
"But why didn't you tell us?" continued Gertrude.
"Because you didn't ask me," replied Frank. "You supposed, of course, none could refuse me, so jumped at conclusions and have got yourself into a fine spot."
There was no need of telling this, for Mrs. Cameron readily saw it and went off into a fit of hysterics, while Gertrude burst into tears.
"What a strange girl you are!" said Frank. "Once you cried because you thought I was engaged to Fanny, and now you cry because I am not." So saying he gave a low mocking whistle and left his mother and sister to console themselves as best they could.
We will not weary the reader by repeating the conversation between Gertrude and her mother. We will only say that Mrs. Cameron decided to go as soon as possible to Saratoga, "and when once there," said she, "I will use all my influence with Miss Middleton; nay, if necessary, I will even beg her to marry Frank, for I know she likes him."
Gertrude was delighted with this idea. She had forgotten how determined she once was not to visit Saratoga with Fanny Middleton. Next morning Mrs. Cameron proposed to her guests that as the weather was getting warm, they should start directly for the Springs. The visitors of course could make no objections, and as Mr. and Mrs. Stanton, who were to accompany them, also acquiesced in the plan, two days more found our friends at Saratoga, together with crowds more of the fashionable from the north, south, east and west.
On the first day of their arrival, Fanny noticed seated opposite her at the dinner table, a dark-eyed, sprightly looking girl, whose eyes so constantly met hers, that at last both blushed and the stranger girl half smiled. By her side sat a gentleman, whom Fanny concluded was the young lady's brother. Something in their appearance interested Fanny, and she could not help thinking that they were from the South. That evening as she was walking alone upon the piazza, she was suddenly joined by the unknown lady, who accosted her with, "Pardon me, ma'am, but am I not speaking to Miss Middleton from Kentucky?"
Fanny was too much surprised to answer immediately, but soon recovering her self-possession, she answered, "You are, but I have not the pleasure of knowing you."
"I presume not," said the lady. "We have never met before, and yet I knew you instantly."
"Knew me! How?" asked Fanny.
"From description," replied the lady. "You have been so accurately described to me by our mutual friend Miss Woodburn, of New Orleans, that I could not mistake you."
"Florence Woodburn! New Orleans!" exclaimed Fanny. "And are you from New Orleans, and do you know Florence, and have you seen Julia?"
To all these questions the stranger answered "Yes," continuing, "and now let me introduce myself. I am Lida Gibson, but I might as well be John Smith for any idea my name will convey. However, I am from New Orleans, and know Florence and your Uncle William well. Just before I left the city, I made your sister's acquaintance. When she learned I was coming this way, she said I might possibly see you, and made me the bearer of many messages of love."
Fanny had never heard of Lida Gibson, but it was sufficient that she knew her uncle and Julia, so her hand was immediately offered, and the remainder of the evening the two young girls promenaded the piazza arm in arm, talking of their distant homes and absent friends.
"Where did you see Julia?" asked Fanny.
"Your uncle's house was not quite ready, consequently he and Julia were spending a few days at the residence of Dr. Lacey," answered Lida.
"Dr. Lacey!" said Fanny, in some surprise. "Julia at Dr. Lacey's?"
"Yes, why not?" said Lida, laughing merrily at Fanny's manner. "There is nothing improper about that, for Dr. Lacey's father was then absent, and his mother, for the time, stayed with her son. I fancied it was not at all unpleasant either to Dr. Lacey or Julia, that they were thus thrown together, and I should not wonder if the doctor should one day call you sister!"
Lida Gibson, whom our readers will recollect as having met at Mabel Mortimer's party in New Orleans, was a thoughtless, but kind-hearted girl, and never felt happier than when employed in canvassing matches. On the morning when the Cameron party arrived at the Springs, she had sent her brother to learn the names of the newcomers. On his return he mentioned Fanny Middleton as being one of the new arrivals, so 'twas not surprising that Lida should so readily recognize her.
As days passed on Lida too heard of the supposed engagement between Fanny and Frank Cameron, and for once kept silent upon the subject, at least in Fanny's presence. Dearly as she loved to discuss such matters, she felt there was something in the character of her new friend which forbade an approach to anything like jesting about so personal an affair as one's own engagement. She, however, fully believed the report, for everything she saw tended to confirm it, and she was anxious to return home that she might carry the important news to Julia and Dr. Lacey. Poor Fanny! The clouds were gathering darkly about her, but she, all unconscious of the consequence, talked, laughed, rode and sang with Frank, never thinking that she was thus confirming Lida in a belief which would tend to remove Dr. Lacey farther and farther from her. Could Lida have heard a conversation which one evening took place between Mrs. Cameron and Fanny, different, very different would have been the report which she carried back.
One evening as Fanny, Lida and Gertrude were walking upon the piazza, a servant came, saying that Mrs. Cameron desired to see Miss Middleton in her room. Fanny immediately obeyed the summons, and as soon as she was gone, Lida laughingly congratulated Gertrude upon the project of having so pleasant a sister. Gertrude smilingly received Miss Gibson's congratulations. "For," thought she, "even if Fanny does not marry Frank, Miss Gibson will probably never know it, as she is to leave in a few days."
Let us now with Fanny repair to Mrs. Cameron's room, but not like her wondering why she was sent for. We well know why, and consequently are prepared for the look of mingled indignation and astonishment which appeared on Fanny's face when she learned that Mrs. Cameron was pleading the cause of her son! Fanny answered, "Madam, I have always entertained the highest respect for your son, but I must confess it is lessened if it is with his knowledge you are speaking to me."
Mrs. Cameron, who had at first intimated that it was Frank's request that she should thus intercede for him, now saw her mistake, and veering about, declared what was indeed true, that Frank was wholly ignorant of the whole. Then followed a long, eloquent speech, in which Mrs. Cameron by turns tried to coax, flatter, importune, or frighten Fanny into a compliance with her wishes, but Fanny could only repeat her first answer. "I cannot, Mrs. Cameron, I cannot marry Frank. I acknowledge that I like him, but only as I would love a brother. Further remonstrance is useless, for I shall never marry him."
"And why not?" asked Mrs. Cameron. "Do you love another? Are you engaged to another?"
"I cannot answer these questions," said Fanny. "Frank knows my reason and has my permission to give it to you." Then rising, she added, "I suppose our conference is now ended, and with your leave I will retire."
Mrs. Cameron nodded her head in assent, and Fanny immediately left the room. A moment after she quitted the apartment, Gertrude entered, all impatient to know her mother's success.
"Baffled, baffled," was Mrs. Cameron's reply to her interrogatories. "I can do nothing with her. She is as stubborn as a mule, and we shall either have to conjure up for some reason why the engagement was broken off, or else run the risk of being well laughed at among our circle in New York."
A few days after this, Lida Gibson started for the South, promising Fanny that she would see Julia as soon as possible after her return home. Ere long Mrs. Cameron too was seized with a desire to return to the city. The remainder of the party made no objections, and accordingly Mr. and Mrs. Stanton, Mrs. Cameron, Frank and Gertrude were soon in New York.
Soon after their return, Mrs. Cameron said, in speaking of Fanny, "that 'twas quite doubtful whether Frank would marry her or not. She was so young, and had, too, so many suitors in Kentucky that she probably would soon forget him, and for her part she was pleased to have it so!"