The young lady was quite frightened, when she found the "ugly heiress" was her near neighbour, and even the dandy was abashed; but Elinor herself was rather amused with the circumstance, and she smiled at the evident mortification of the speakers. Never was there a woman more free from personal vanity than Elinor Wyllys; and she was indifferent to remarks of this kind, to a degree that would seem scarcely credible to that class of young ladies, who think no sound so delightful as that of a compliment. On the evening in question, the piazzas were crowded with the inmates of the hotels; those who had feeling for the beauties of nature, and those who had not, came out alike, to admire an unusual effect of moonlight upon a fine mass of clouds. Elinor was soon aware that she was in the neighbourhood of Mrs. Hilson and her sister, by the silly conversation they were keeping up with their companions. These Longbridge ladies generally kept with their own party, which was a large one. The Wyllyses were not sorry that they seldom met; for, little as they liked the sisters, they wished always to treat them civilly, on account of their father. The English art of "cutting" is, indeed, little practised in America; except in extreme cases; all classes are too social in their feelings and habits to adopt it. It is, indeed, an honourable characteristic of those who occupy the highest social position in America--those who have received, in every respect, the best education in the country--that, as a class, they are free from the little, selfish, ungenerous feeling of mere exclusiveism.
"Oh, here you are, Miss Wyllys!" exclaimed Emmeline Hubbard to Elinor, who was talking to Mrs. Creighton. "I have been wishing to see you all the afternoon--I owe you an apology."
"An apology to me, Miss Hubbard?--I was not at all aware of it."
"Is it possible? I was afraid you would think me very rude this morning, when I spoke to you in the drawing-room, for there was a gentleman with you at the time. Of course I ought not to have joined you at such a moment, but I was anxious to give you the Longbridge news."
"Certainly; I was very glad to hear it: the conversation you interrupted was a very trifling one."
"Oh, I did not wish to insinuate that you were conversing on a PARTICULARLY interesting subject. But, of course, I am too well acquainted with the etiquette of polished circles, not to know that it is wrong for one young lady to intrude upon another while conversing with a gentleman.
"If there be such a point of etiquette, I must have often broken it very innocently, myself. I have never practised it, I assure you."
"Ah, that is very imprudent, Miss Wyllys!" said the fair Emmeline, shaking her fan at Elinor. "Who knows how much mischief one may do, in that way? You might actually prevent a declaration. And then a young lady is, of course, always too agreeably occupied in entertaining a beau, to wish to leave him for a female friend. It is not everybody who would be as good-natured as yourself at such an interruption."
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