MONA ATTENDS THE BALL AT HAZELDEAN.
Mona found considerable excitement
and confusion prevailing upon her return, for carpenters
and decorators were busy about the house; flowers
and plants were being carried in from the conservatory;
the caterer and his force were arranging things to
their minds, in the dining-room and kitchen, and everybody,
guests included, was busy and in a flutter of anticipation
over the approaching festivities.
“It seems to me that you were
gone a long while,” Mrs. Montague curtly remarked,
as Mona entered her room.
“Was I?” the young girl
asked, pleasantly; then she added: “Well,
two miles make quite a walk.”
Mrs. Montague flushed at the remark.
She was well aware that she had been
unreasonable in requiring so much, just to secure
a few articles which she might have very well done
without, and this thought did not add to her comfort.
She made no reply, but quietly laid
out some work for Mona, whom she kept busily employed
during the remainder of the day.
The young girl cheerfully performed
all that was required of her, however; her interview
with Ray had served to sweeten every task for that
day, while she hoped that she might secure another
opportunity, before it was over, for a few more words
But after dinner Mrs. Montague came
up stairs better-natured than she had been all day,
and turning to Mona, as she entered the room, she asked:
“Have you none but mourning
dresses with you? nothing white, or pretty, for evening?”
“No; my dresses are all black;
the only thing I have that would be at all suitable
for evening is a black net,” Mona answered, wondering,
with rising color, why she had asked the question.
“That might do with some white
ribbons to liven it up a bit,” said Mrs. Montague,
thoughtfully. Then she explained: “Mr.
Wellington has arranged a balcony in the dancing hall
for some friends who are coming to the ball, just
to look on for a while, and he has just said to me
that there would be a seat for you, if you cared to
see the dancing.”
Mona looked up eagerly at this.
She dearly loved social life, and
she had wished, oh, so much! that she might have the
privilege of witnessing the gay scenes of the evening.
“That is very kind of Mr. Wellington,”
she gratefully remarked.
“Get your dress, and let me
look at it,” continued Mrs. Montague, who would
not commit herself to anything until she could be sure
that her seamstress would make a respectable appearance
among Mr. Wellington’s friends.
He had requested as a favor that Miss
Richards might be allowed this privilege in return
for having so kindly relieved his daughter at the
piano a few evenings previous.
Mona brought the dress-a
rich, heavy net, made over handsome black silk, which
had been among her wardrobe for the previous summer,
when she went to Lenox with her uncle.
“That will be just the thing,
only it needs something to relieve its blackness,”
said Mrs. Montague, while she mentally wondered at
the richness of the costume.
“I have some narrow white taste
in my trunk, which I can perhaps use to make it a
little more suitable for the occasion, if you approve,”
Mona quietly remarked.
“Yes, fix it as you like,”
the lady returned, indifferently, adding: “that
is if you care about going into the pavilion.”
“Thank you; I think I should
enjoy watching the dancers for a while,” the
young girl returned.
Perhaps, she thought, she might be
able to snatch another brief interview with Ray.
At all events she should see him, and that would be
worth a great deal.
Her nimble fingers were very busy
after that running her white ribbons into the meshes
of her dress.
She wove three rows of the narrow,
feather-edged taste into each of the flounces, and
the effect was very pretty. Then she did the same
between the puffs of the full sleeves, tying some
dainty bows where she joined them, and finished the
neck to correspond.
This was hardly completed when she
was called to assist Mrs. Montague in dressing, and
by the time she was ready to descend her good humor
was thoroughly restored, for she certainly was a most
regal looking woman in her elegant and becoming toilet.
“I do not believe there will
be another dress here this evening as beautiful as
this,” Mona remarked, as she fastened the last
fold in place, her pretty face flushing with genuine
admiration for the artistic costume.
“It is handsome, and
I look passably young in it, too; how old should you
take me to be Ruth?” Mrs. Montague asked, with
a smiling glance at her own reflection in the mirror.
“A trifle over thirty, perhaps,”
Mona replied, and the little exultant laugh which
broke from her companion told her that she felt highly
flattered by that estimate of her years.
“There!” she remarked,
as she drew on her gloves, “you need do nothing
more for me; go now and get ready yourself, or you
will miss the opening promenade.”
Mona hastened away to her own room,
where she had everything laid out in the most orderly
manner, ready to put on, and if Mrs. Montague could
have seen the dainty undergarments and skirts spread
upon her bed; the costly kid boots and silken hose
for her pretty feet, she might have arched her eyebrows
more than ever over the extravagant taste of her seamstress.
Mona arranged her hair with great
care, as she had worn it on the evening when she attended
the opera with Ray, and this done she was soon ready.
She looked lovely. The black
net, with its dainty white trimmings, was very becoming
to her delicate complexion. The lining to the
corsage had been cut low, and her pure white neck
gleamed like marble through the meshes of the dusky
lace. There was no lining, either, to her sleeves
and her beautifully rounded arms looked like bits
of exquisite sculpture. She had turned the lace
away in the shape of a V at her throat, and now finished
it by pinning to her corsage the cluster of white violets
which she had purchased in the morning.
She regretted that she had no gloves
with her suitable for the occasion, but since she
was only to sit in the balcony, she thought it would
not matter much if she wore none, and her small white
hands, with their rose-tinted finger-tips, were by
no means unsightly objects.
She was very happy and light-hearted,
as she turned for one last look in her mirror before
leaving her room.
She smiled involuntarily at her own
loveliness, and gave a gay little nod at the charming
reflection as she turned away.
Then she went out and softly down
a back stair-way to avoid the crowds of people who
were going up and down the front way.
But, on reaching the lower floor,
she was obliged to cross the main hall and drawing-room
in order to reach the pavilion, which Mr. Wellington
had caused to be erected outside on the lawn for dancing,
and which was connected with the house by a covered
passage leading from one of the long windows of the
Mona stood in the doorway a moment,
feeling slightly embarrassed at the thought of going
unattended to search for her seat in the balcony.
Just then a round, white arm was slipped
about her waist, and a gay, girlish voice cried in
“Oh, Miss Richards! how perfectly
lovely you look! Are you coming to the ball?”
Mona turned and smiled into the bright
face of Kitty McKenzie, who was radiant in pink silk
and white tulle.
“No, only as a spectator,”
she replied, with an answering smile. “Mr.
Wellington has kindly offered me a seat in the balcony,
where I shall enjoy watching the merrymakers.”
“But do you not like
to dance yourself?” questioned the girl.
“Oh, yes, indeed. I used
to enjoy it very much,” Mona replied, with a
“Then I think it is a great
pity that you cannot join us to-night,” returned
Miss Kitty, regretfully, for she had caught the sigh;
“only,” she added, with sudden thought,
“being in mourning, perhaps you would rather
“No, I should not care to dance
to-night,” Mona returned, and then she became
conscious that a familiar form was approaching the
spot where they stood.
It was not an easy matter for her
to keep back her color as Ray drew near, and try to
appear as if she had never seen him before. She
knew that he was choosing this opportunity to be formally
introduced to her.
But the voluble Miss McKenzie saluted
him in her frank outspoken manner.
“Oh, Mr. Palmer,” she
cried, “are not the rooms lovely?-the
flowers, the lights, indeed all the decorations?”
“They are, truly, Miss McKenzie;
and,” he added, with a merry smile, as he glanced
at her bright face and figure, and then turned his
gaze upon Mona, “there are some other lovely
adornments about the rooms, besides those so skillfully
used by the professional decorator.”
“Thank you-of course
that was intended as a compliment to ourselves,”
the quick-witted little lady returned, as she dropped
him a coquettish courtesy; “and,” turning
to Mona, “perhaps you would like an introduction
to my friend. Miss Richards, allow me to present
you to Mr. Palmer.”
Ray bowed low over the white hand
which Mona mechanically offered him, and which he
clasped in a way to send a thrill leaping along her
nerves that made the violets upon her bosom quiver,
as if a breath of wind had swept over them.
She barely had time to acknowledge
the presentation, however, when an icy voice behind
“Miss Richards, Mr. Wellington
is looking for you to conduct you to your seat in
Turning, Mona saw Mrs. Montague regarding
her with a look of cold displeasure, and she knew
that she must have witnessed her introduction to Ray,
and disapproved of it.
But she was secretly glad that she
had been so near, for now she could feel free to recognize
her lover whenever they met, without the fear of being
questioned as to how she happened to know him.
“Mr. Wellington looking for
Miss Richards, did you say, Mrs. Montague?”
Ray inquired, quickly improving his opportunity, and
looking about him in search of that gentleman.
“Ah! I see him yonder-Miss Richards,
allow me to conduct you to him.”
He offered his arm in a ceremonious
way, as any new acquaintance might have done, and
led her slowly toward the spot where Mr. Wellington
was standing, while Mrs. Montague watched them, with
a frown upon her brow.
“I believe I was a fool to allow
her to come down; she is far too pretty to appear
in public with me; any one would suppose her to be
an equal,” she muttered, irritably. “Who
would have believed,” she added, “that
she could have gotten herself up in that bewitching
style, with only a few bits of white ribbon and not
a single ornament! I wonder where she got her
violets? She has exquisite taste, anyhow.”
But Ray and Mona were unconscious
of these jealous remarks. They were oblivious
of everything just then, except the presence of each
other and the fortunate circumstances which had thrown
“My darling,” Ray said,
under his breath, “that was very cleverly managed,
was it not? Don’t you think I am quite a
tactician? I caught sight of you the moment you
appeared; then that bright fairy, Kitty McKenzie,
arrived upon the scene, and I knew that my opportunity
“But you almost took my breath
away, Ray, when you bore me off so unceremoniously
before Mrs. Montague’s disapproving eyes,”
Mona murmured in response.
“Unceremonious!” the young
man retorted, with assumed surprise, and a roguish
smile. “Why, I thought I was excessively
“Yes, in your manner to me;
but you did not ask the lady’s permission to
conduct me to the host.”
“How was I supposed to know
that Miss Richards, to whom I had just been introduced,
was not a guest as well as the more gorgeous, but less
lovely, Mrs. Montague?” questioned the young
lover, lightly. “But,” he continued,
with a sigh, “I cannot bear this sort of thing
a great while. When I see you looking like some
beautiful young goddess, I find it very difficult
to assume an indifferent exterior. I nearly forgot
myself a moment ago.”
“Perhaps it would have been
better if I had remained quietly in my own room,”
Mona archly returned, as she gave him a mischievous
glance out of her bright eyes.
He drew the hand that lay on his arm
close to his side with a fond pressure.
“Indeed, no!” he said,
tenderly; “it is better to meet you thus than
not at all. But must I give you up to Mr. Wellington?”
he continued, in a wistful tone, as they drew near
the gentleman. “No; I will ask him to direct
me to the balcony, and I will conduct you there myself.”
“Ah, Miss Richards, I have been
looking for you,” Mr. Wellington remarked, as
his eye fell upon the fair girl. “It is
almost time for the opening promenade, and you ought
to be in your seat, so as not to miss anything.
But wait a moment; I must speak to this gentleman first,”
he concluded, as some one approached him.
“Pray, Mr. Wellington, since
you are so engaged, let me conduct Miss Richards to
the balcony,” Ray here interposed, as if the
thought had just occurred to him.
Mr. Wellington, with a look of relief,
readily assented to the proposition, and Ray and his
companion were thus permitted to enjoy a little more
of each other’s society.
They easily found their way to the
balcony, where Ray secured a good position for his
“I suppose I will have to leave
you now,” he whispered in her ear; “I am
engaged to Miss Wellington for the promenade; but,
by and by, Mona, I shall steal away and come to you
“Do not leave the dancing on
my account, Ray,” Mona pleaded; “it is
all so bright and lovely down there. I know you
will enjoy it.”
“I should, if I could have you
with me,” he interrupted, fondly; “but,
as I cannot, I would much prefer to remain quietly
here with you-only that would not do, I
“No, indeed,” she returned,
decidedly. “Now you must go, for
the orchestra is beginning to play.”
He left her, with a fond hand-clasp
that brought a happy smile to her red lips, and went
below to seek his host’s daughter.
Mona was very glad, later on, that
she was not below with the dancers, for she saw quite
a number of people from New York, whom she knew, and
she would not have cared to be recognized by them-or
rather snubbed by them.
It was a brilliant scene when the
grand procession formed.
The pavilion had been very tastefully
decorated, and one would hardly have believed that
there were only bare, rough boards behind the artistically
draped damask silk and lace, which had been used in
profusion to conceal them. The spacious room was
brilliantly lighted; flowers and potted plants were
everywhere, making the place bright with their varied
hues, and sending forth their fragrance into every
nook and corner, while the fine orchestra was concealed
behind a screen of palms, mingled with oleanders in
There must have been at least two
hundred people present, the gentlemen, of course,
in full evening dress, while the ladies’ costumes
were of exceeding richness and beauty, yet among them
all, it is doubtful if there was one so happy as the
lovely girl who sat so quietly in the balcony and
watched the gay scene in which she could not mingle.
There were a good many people sitting
there with her, and not a few regarded her with curious
and admiring interest, and judged from her dress that
she was in mourning, and that she was thus debarred,
by the customs of society, from appearing in a ball-room
as one of the dancers. That she was a lady no
one doubted for a moment, for her every look and movement
Now and then Ray’s fond glances
would seek her, and, catching her eye, a little nod
or smile plainly told her how he longed to be with
Mona saw Mrs. Montague conspicuous
among the dancers, and she appeared to enter into
the spirit of the occasion with almost the zest of
a young girl during her first season; while it was
noticed that Mr. Palmer was her companion more frequently
than any other person.
She had come in with him for the grand
march, and when the procession for supper was formed
she was again upon his arm.
But Mona could not see Ray anywhere
among this crowd, and the occupants of the balcony
also going below for refreshment, she found herself
almost alone in the pavilion.
But it was not for long, for presently
she caught the sound of a quick, elastic step, and
the next moment her lover was beside her.
“Come back a little, dear, where
we can sit in the shadow of the draperies, and we
will have a precious half-hour all by ourselves,”
he said, in a low tone; “then in a few moments
a servant will bring us up some supper.”
“How thoughtful you are, Ray!
But, truly, I do not care for anything to eat,”
Mona returned, as she arose and followed him to a cozy
nook, where the draperies would partially conceal
them from observation.
“I do, my brown-eyed lassie,”
Ray responded, emphatically; “after the violent
exercise of the last two hours I am quite sure my inner
man needs replenishing. Ah, James, you’re
a good fellow,” he continued, as a tan-colored
son of the South now made his appearance, bearing a
tray of tempting viands. “Here, take this
and drink my health by and by; but come back and get
your tray in the course of half an hour.”
The darky showed two rows of brilliant
teeth as Ray slipped a silver dollar into his hand;
then with a cheerful “Yes, sir-thank’ee,
sir,” and a low bow he disappeared as suddenly
as he had come.
Mona was hungry, in spite of her assertion
to the contrary, and she enjoyed the rich treat that
Ray had so thoughtfully provided for her, while he
was full of fun and gayety, and they had a merry time
up there all by themselves.
When the dancers began to return, Ray quietly remarked:
“My darling, I am not going
down to the company again; I feel guilty to have you
sit moping here, while I am playing the gallant cavalier
to other girls.”
Mona laughed out softly, but gleefully, at this speech.
“I trust you will always be
as conscientious and dutiful, my loyal knight,”
she roguishly retorted.
“You will never have cause to
question my loyalty, my own,” he whispered,
with a look that brought a bright color into her cheeks.
“But I have not been moping,”
Mona resumed. “I have enjoyed being here
and watching the dancers very much, and you know I
could not join them even if my present position did
not debar me,” she tremulously concluded.
“True; I had not thought of
that,” the young man said, gravely, as his eye
swept over her black dress.
“So, then, if you feel that
your duty is below, do not hesitate about leaving
me,” Mona urged.
“I am not going,” he firmly
reiterated. “I have been formally introduced
to ‘Miss Richards,’ and I have a perfect
right to cultivate her acquaintance if I choose.”
Mona did not urge him further; she
saw that he really wished to stay, and she was only
too happy to have him there by her side; and so the
lovers passed two delightful hours, watching the gay
throng below, now and then exchanging fond looks or
a few low spoken words, and only one pair of eyes
among the multitude espied and recognized them.
These belonged to Louis Hamblin, whose
eyes lighted with sudden triumph, while an evil smile
played over his face as he saw them.
“I thought so,” he muttered,
as he noticed Ray Palmer’s attitude of devotion.
“That would prove the truth of my suspicions,
if nothing else did so.”