"I wants no better proof that he's a fool," muttered old Hannah, who looked upon Nellie as being what she really was, a vain, silly thing.
"A fool, Hannah," retorted Nellie; "I'd like to have Aunt Kelsey hear you say that. Why, he's the very best match in Rochester. All the girls are dying for him, but he don't care a straw for one of them. He's out of health now, and is coming here this summer with Aunt Kelsey, and then you'll see how perfectly refined he is. By the way, Maude, if I had as much money at my command as you have I'd fix up the parlor a little. You know father won't, and that carpet, I'll venture to say, was in the ark. I almost dread to have J.C. come, he's so particular; but then he knows we are rich, and beside that, Aunt Kelsey has told him just how stingy father is, so I don't care so much. Did I tell you J.C. has a cousin James, who may possibly come too. I never saw him, but Aunt Kelsey says he's the queerest man that ever lived. He never was known to pay the slightest attention to a woman unless she was married or engaged. He has a most delightful house at Hampton, where he lives with his mother; but he'll never marry, unless it is some hired girl who knows how to work. Why, he was once heard to say he would sooner marry a good- natured Irish girl than a fashionable city lady who knew nothing but to dress, and flirt, and play the piano--the wretch! "
"Oh! I know I should like him," exclaimed Louis, who had been an attentive listener.
"I dare say you would, and Maude, too," returned Nellie, adding, after a moment: "And I shouldn't wonder if Maude just suited him, particularly if he finds her up to her elbows in dough. So, Maude, it is for your interest to improve the old castle a little. Won't you buy a new carpet?" and she drew nearer to Maude, who made no direct reply.
The three hundred and fifty dollars interest money which she had received the year before had but little of it been expended on herself, though it had purchased many a comfort for the household, for Maude was generous, and freely gave what was her own to give. The parlor carpet troubled even her, but she would not pledge herself to buy another until she had first tried her powers of persuasion upon the doctor, who, as she expected, refused outright.
"He knew the carpet was faded," he said, "but 'twas hardly worn at all, and 'twas a maxim of his to make things last as long as possible."
It was in vain that Nellie, who was present, quoted Aunt Kelsey and J.C. De Vere, the old doctor didn't care a straw for either, unless indeed, J.C. should some time take Nellie off his hands, and pay her bills, which were altogether too large for one of his maxims. That this would probably be the result of the young man's expected visit had been strongly hinted by Mrs. Kelsey, and thus was he more willing to have him come. But on the subject of the carpet he was inexorable, and with tears of anger in her large blue eyes Nellie gave up the contest, while Maude very quietly walked over to the store and gave orders that a handsome three-ply carpet which she had heard her sister admire should be sent home as soon as possible. "You are a dear good girl, after all, and I hope James De Vere will fall in love with you," was Nellie's exclamation as she saw a large roll deposited at their door, but not a stitch in the making of the carpet did she volunteer to take. "She should prick her fingers or callous her hand," she said, "and Mr. De Vere thought so much of a pretty hand."
"Nonsense!" said John, who was still a member of the family, "nonsense, Miss Nellie. I'd give a heap more for one of Miss Maude's little fingers, red and rough as they be, than I would for both them soft, sickish feeling hands of yourn;" and John hastily disappeared from the room to escape the angry words which he knew would follow his bold remark.