Chapter 11: Small Temptations

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“Oh, Rose, I’ve got something so exciting to tell you!” cried Kitty Van Tassel, skipping into the carriage next morning when her friend called for her to go shopping.

Kitty always did have some “perfectly thrilling” communication to make and Rose had learned to take them quietly, but the next demonstration was a new one, for, regardless alike of curious observers outside and disordered hats within, Kitty caught Rose around the neck, exclaiming in a rapturous whisper: “My dearest creature, I’m engaged!”

“I’m so glad! Of course it is Steve?”

“Dear fellow, he did it last night in the nicest way, and Mama is so delighted. Now what shall I be married in?” And Kitty composed herself with a face full of the deepest anxiety.

“How can you talk of that so soon? Why, Kit, you unromantic girl, you ought to be thinking of your lover and not your clothes,” said Rose, amused yet rather scandalized at such want of sentiment.

“I am thinking of my lover, for he says he will not have a long engagement, so I must begin to think about the most important things at once, mustn’t I?”

“Ah, he wants to be sure of you, for you are such a slippery creature he is afraid you’ll treat him as you did poor Jackson and the rest,” interrupted Rose, shaking her finger at her prospective cousin, who had tried this pastime twice before and was rather proud than otherwise of her brief engagements.

“You needn’t scold, for I know I’m right, and when you’ve been in society as long as I have you’ll find that the only way to really know a man is to be engaged to him. While they want you they are all devotion, but when they think they’ve got you, then you find out what wretches they are,” answered Kitty with an air of worldly wisdom which contrasted oddly with her youthful face and giddy manners.

“A sad prospect for poor Steve, unless I give him a hint to look well to his ways.”

“Oh, my dear child, I’m sure of him, for my experience has made me very sharp and I’m convinced I can manage him without a bit of trouble. We’ve known each other for ages” Steve was twenty and Kitty eighteen “and always been the best of friends. Besides, he is quite my ideal man. I never could bear big hands and feet, and his are simply adorable. Then he’s the best dancer I know and dresses in perfect taste. I really do believe I fell in love with his pocket handkerchiefs first, they were so enchanting I couldn’t resist,” laughed Kitty, pulling a large one out of her pocket and burying her little nose in the folds, which shed a delicious fragrance upon the air.

“Now, that looks promising, and I begin to think you have got a little sentiment after all,” said Rose, well pleased, for the merry brown eyes had softened suddenly and a quick color came up in Kitty’s cheek as she answered, still half hiding her face in the beloved handkerchief: “Of course I have, lots of it, only I’m ashamed to show it to most people, because it’s the style to take everything in the most nonchalant way. My gracious, Rose, you’d have thought me a romantic goose last night while Steve proposed in the back parlor, for I actually cried, he was so dreadfully in earnest when I pretended that I didn’t care for him, and so very dear and nice when I told the truth. I didn’t know he had it in him, but he came out delightfully and never cared a particle, though I dropped tears all over his lovely shirtfront. Wasn’t that good of him? For you know he hates his things to be mussed.”

“He’s a true Campbell, and has got a good warm heart of his own under those fine fronts of his. Aunt Jane doesn’t believe in sentiment, so he has been trained never to show any, but it is there, and you must encourage him to let it out, not foolishly, but in a way to make him more manly and serious.”

“I will if I can, for though I wouldn’t own this to everybody, I like it in him very much and feel as if Steve and I should get on beautifully. Here we are now, be sure not to breathe a word if we meet anyone. I want it to be a profound secret for a week at least,” added Kitty, whisking her handkerchief out of sight as the carriage stopped before the fashionable store they were about to visit.

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