Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 25 out of 78
"Where's your mother?"
"She's here--in Boston."
Mrs. Lapham kept her eyes on the girl, but she dropped,
trembling, into her husband's chair, and a sort of amaze
and curiosity were in her voice instead of the fury
she had meant to put there.
"The Colonel," continued Zerrilla, "he's been helping us,
and he's got me a type-writer, so that I can help myself
a little. Mother's doing pretty well now; and when Hen
isn't around we can get along."
"That your husband?"
"I never wanted to marry him; but he promised to try to
get something to do on shore; and mother was all for it,
because he had a little property then, and I thought
may be I'd better. But it's turned out just as I said
and if he don't stay away long enough this time to let me
get the divorce,--he's agreed to it, time and again,--I
don't know what we're going to do." Zerrilla's voice fell,
and the trouble which she could keep out of her face usually,
when she was comfortably warmed and fed and prettily dressed,
clouded it in the presence of a sympathetic listener.
"I saw it was you, when you came in the other day,"
she went on; "but you didn't seem to know me. I suppose
the Colonel's told you that there's a gentleman going
to marry me--Mr. Wemmel's his name--as soon as I get
the divorce; but sometimes I'm completely discouraged;
it don't seem as if I ever could get it."
Mrs. Lapham would not let her know that she was
ignorant of the fact attributed to her knowledge.
She remained listening to Zerrilla, and piecing out
the whole history of her presence there from the facts
of the past, and the traits of her husband's character.
One of the things she had always had to fight him about
was that idea of his that he was bound to take care of Jim
Millon's worthless wife and her child because Millon had
got the bullet that was meant for him. It was a perfect
superstition of his; she could not beat it out of him;
but she had made him promise the last time he had done
anything for that woman that it should BE the last time.
He had then got her a little house in one of the fishing ports,
where she could take the sailors to board and wash for,
and earn an honest living if she would keep straight.
That was five or six years ago, and Mrs. Lapham had heard
nothing of Mrs. Millon since; she had heard quite enough
of her before; and had known her idle and baddish ever
since she was the worst little girl at school in Lumberville,
and all through her shameful girlhood, and the married days
which she had made so miserable to the poor fellow who had
given her his decent name and a chance to behave herself.
Mrs. Lapham had no mercy on Moll Millon, and she had
quarrelled often enough with her husband for befriending her.
As for the child, if the mother would put Zerrilla out
with some respectable family, that would be ONE thing;
but as long as she kept Zerrilla with her, she was against
letting her husband do anything for either of them.
He had done ten times as much for them now as he had any
need to, and she had made him give her his solemn word
that he would do no more. She saw now that she was wrong
to make him give it, and that he must have broken it
again and again for the reason that he had given when she
once scolded him for throwing away his money on that
"When I think of Jim Millon, I've got to; that 's all."
She recalled now that whenever she had brought up the subject
of Mrs. Millon and her daughter, he had seemed shy of it,
and had dropped it with some guess that they were getting
along now. She wondered that she had not thought at once
of Mrs. Millon when she saw that memorandum about Mrs. M.;
but the woman had passed so entirely out of her life,
that she had never dreamt of her in connection with it.
Her husband had deceived her, yet her heart was no
longer hot against him, but rather tenderly grateful
that his deceit was in this sort, and not in that other.
All cruel and shameful doubt of him went out of it.
She looked at this beautiful girl, who had blossomed
out of her knowledge since she saw her last, and she
knew that she was only a blossomed weed, of the same
worthless root as her mother, and saved, if saved,
from the same evil destiny, by the good of her father in her;
but so far as the girl and her mother were concerned,
Mrs. Lapham knew that her husband was to blame for nothing
but his wilful, wrong-headed, kind-heartedness, which her own
exactions had turned into deceit. She remained a while,
questioning the girl quietly about herself and her mother,
and then, with a better mind towards Zerrilla, at least,
than she had ever had before, she rose up and went out.
There must have been some outer hint of the exhaustion in
which the subsidence of her excitement had left her within,
for before she had reached the head of the stairs, Corey came
"Can I be of any use to you, Mrs. Lapham? The Colonel
was here just before you came in, on his way to the train."
"Yes,--yes. I didn't know--I thought perhaps I could catch
him here. But it don't matter. I wish you would let
some one go with me to get a carriage," she begged feebly.
"I'll go with you myself," said the young fellow,
ignoring the strangeness in her manner. He offered her
his arm in the twilight of the staircase, and she was glad
to put her trembling hand through it, and keep it there
till he helped her into a hack which he found for her.
He gave the driver her direction, and stood looking
a little anxiously at her.
"I thank you; I am all right now," she said, and he bade
the man drive on.
When she reached home she went to bed, spent with the tumult
of her emotions and sick with shame and self-reproach.
She understood now, as clearly as if he had told
her in as many words, that if he had befriended those
worthless jades--the Millons characterised themselves so,
even to Mrs. Lapham's remorse--secretly and in defiance
of her, it was because he dreaded her blame, which was
so sharp and bitter, for what he could not help doing.
It consoled her that he had defied her, deceived her;
when he came back she should tell him that; and then it
flashed upon her that she did not know where he was gone,
or whether he would ever come again. If he never came,
it would be no more than she deserved; but she sent
for Penelope, and tried to give herself hopes of escape from
this just penalty.
Lapham had not told his daughter where he was going;
she had heard him packing his bag, and had offered to help him;
but he had said he could do it best, and had gone off,
as he usually did, without taking leave of any one.
"What were you talking about so loud, down in the parlour,"
she asked her mother, "just before he came up ~Is there
any new trouble?"
"No; it was nothing."
"I couldn't tell. Once I thought you were laughing."
She went about, closing the curtains on account of her
mother's headache, and doing awkwardly and imperfectly
the things that Irene would have done so skilfully for
The day wore away to nightfall, and then Mrs. Lapham said
she MUST know. Penelope said there was no one to ask;
the clerks would all be gone home, and her mother said yes,
there was Mr. Corey; they could send and ask him;
he would know.
The girl hesitated. "Very well," she said, then, scarcely
above a whisper, and she presently laughed huskily.
"Mr. Corey seems fated to come in, somewhere. I guess
it's a Providence, mother."
She sent off a note, inquiring whether he could tell
her just where her father had expected to be that night;
and the answer came quickly back that Corey did not know,
but would look up the book-keeper and inquire.
This office brought him in person, an hour later, to tell
Penelope that the Colonel was to be at Lapham that night
and next day.
"He came in from New York, in a great hurry, and rushed
off as soon as he could pack his bag," Penelope explained,
"and we hadn't a chance to ask him where he was to be
to-night. And mother wasn't very well, and----"
"I thought she wasn't looking well when she was at the office
to-day. And so I thought I would come rather than send,"
Corey explained in his turn.
"Oh, thank you!"
"If there is anything I can do--telegraph Colonel Lapham,
"Oh no, thank you; mother's better now. She merely
wanted to be sure where he was."
He did not offer to go, upon this conclusion of his business,
but hoped he was not keeping her from her mother.
She thanked him once again, and said no, that her mother
was much better since she had had a cup of tea; and then
they looked at each other, and without any apparent exchange
of intelligence he remained, and at eleven o'clock he
was still there. He was honest in saying he did not know
it was so late; but he made no pretence of being sorry,
and she took the blame to herself.
"I oughtn't to have let you stay," she said. "But with
father gone, and all that trouble hanging over us----"
She was allowing him to hold her hand a moment at the door,
to which she had followed him.
"I'm so glad you could let me!" he said, "and I want to ask
you now when I may come again. But if you need me, you'll----"
A sharp pull at the door-bell outside made them start asunder,
and at a sign from Penelope, who knew that the maids
were abed by this time, he opened it.
"Why, Irene!" shrieked the girl.
Irene entered with the hackman, who had driven her unheard
to the door, following with her small bags, and kissed
her sister with resolute composure. "That's all," she said
to the hackman. "I gave my checks to the expressman,"
she explained to Penelope.
Corey stood helpless. Irene turned upon him, and gave
him her hand. "How do you do, Mr. Corey?" she said,
with a courage that sent a thrill of admiring gratitude
through him. "Where's mamma, Pen? Papa gone to bed?"
Penelope faltered out some reply embodying the facts,
and Irene ran up the stairs to her mother's room.
Mrs. Lapham started up in bed at her apparition.
"Uncle William thought he ought to tell me the trouble
papa was in; and did you think I was going to stay off
there junketing, while you were going through all this
at home, and Pen acting so silly, too? You ought to have
been ashamed to let me stay so long! I started just as soon
as I could pack. Did you get my despatch? I telegraphed
from Springfield. But it don't matter, now. Here I am.
And I don't think I need have hurried on Pen's account,"
she added, with an accent prophetic of the sort of old maid
she would become, if she happened not to marry.
"Did you see him?" asked her mother. "It's the first
time he's been here since she told him he mustn't come."
"I guess it isn't the last time, by the looks," said Irene,
and before she took off her bonnet she began to undo
some of Penelope's mistaken arrangements of the room.
At breakfast, where Corey and his mother met the next morning
before his father and sisters came down, he told her,
with embarrassment which told much more, that he wished
now that she would go and call upon the Laphams.
Mrs. Corey turned a little pale, but shut her lips tight
and mourned in silence whatever hopes she had lately
permitted herself. She answered with Roman fortitude:
"Of course, if there's anything between you and Miss Lapham,
your family ought to recognise it."
"Yes," said Corey.
"You were reluctant to have me call at first, but now
if the affair is going on----"
"It is! I hope--yes, it is!"
"Then I ought to go and see her, with your sisters;
and she ought to come here and--we ought all to see her
and make the matter public. We can't do so too soon.
It will seem as if we were ashamed if we don't."
"Yes, you are quite right, mother," said the young
man gratefully, "and I feel how kind and good you are.
I have tried to consider you in this matter, though I
don't seem to have done so; I know what your rights are,
and I wish with all my heart that I were meeting even your
tastes perfectly. But I know you will like her when you come
to know her. It's been very hard for her every way--about
her sister,--and she's made a great sacrifice for me.
She's acted nobly."
Mrs. Corey, whose thoughts cannot always be reported,
said she was sure of it, and that all she desired was her
"She's been very unwilling to consider it an engagement on
that account, and on account of Colonel Lapham's difficulties.
I should like to have you go, now, for that very reason.
I don't know just how serious the trouble is; but it isn't
a time when we can seem indifferent."
The logic of this was not perhaps so apparent to
the glasses of fifty as to the eyes of twenty-six;
but Mrs. Corey, however she viewed it, could not allow
herself to blench before the son whom she had taught
that to want magnanimity was to be less than gentlemanly.
She answered, with what composure she could, "I will take
your sisters," and then she made some natural inquiries about
Lapham's affairs. "Oh, I hope it will come out all right,"
Corey said, with a lover's vague smile, and left her.
When his father came down, rubbing his long hands together,
and looking aloof from all the cares of the practical world,
in an artistic withdrawal, from which his eye ranged over
the breakfast-table before he sat down, Mrs. Corey told
him what she and their son had been saying.
He laughed, with a delicate impersonal appreciation
of the predicament. "Well, Anna, you can't say but if
you ever were guilty of supposing yourself porcelain,
this is a just punishment of your arrogance. Here you
are bound by the very quality on which you've prided
yourself to behave well to a bit of earthenware who is
apparently in danger of losing the gilding that rendered
"We never cared for the money," said Mrs. Corey.
"You know that."
"No; and now we can't seem to care for the loss of it.
That would be still worse. Either horn of the dilemma
gores us. Well, we still have the comfort we had in
the beginning; we can't help ourselves; and we should only
make bad worse by trying. Unless we can look to Tom's
inamorata herself for help."
Mrs. Corey shook her head so gloomily that her husband
broke off with another laugh. But at the continued trouble
of her face, he said, sympathetically: "My dear, I know
it's a very disagreeable affair; and I don't think either
of us has failed to see that it was so from the beginning.
I have had my way of expressing my sense of it, and you yours,
but we have always been of the same mind about it.
We would both have preferred to have Tom marry in his
own set; the Laphams are about the last set we could have
wished him to marry into. They ARE uncultivated people,
and so far as I have seen them, I'm not able to believe
that poverty will improve them. Still, it may.
Let us hope for the best, and let us behave as well as we
know how. I'm sure YOU will behave well, and I shall try.
I'm going with you to call on Miss Lapham. This is a thing
that can't be done by halves!"
He cut his orange in the Neapolitan manner, and ate it
IRENE did not leave her mother in any illusion concerning
her cousin Will and herself. She said they had all been
as nice to her as they could be, and when Mrs. Lapham
hinted at what had been in her thoughts,--or her hopes,
rather,--Irene severely snubbed the notion. She said that he
was as good as engaged to a girl out there, and that he had
never dreamt of her. Her mother wondered at her severity;
in these few months the girl had toughened and hardened;
she had lost all her babyish dependence and pliability;
she was like iron; and here and there she was sharpened
to a cutting edge. It had been a life and death struggle
with her; she had conquered, but she had also necessarily
lost much. Perhaps what she had lost was not worth keeping;
but at any rate she had lost it.
She required from her mother a strict and accurate account
of her father's affairs, so far as Mrs Lapham knew them;
and she showed a business-like quickness in comprehending
them that Penelope had never pretended to. With her sister
she ignored the past as completely as it was possible to do;
and she treated both Corey and Penelope with the justice
which their innocence of voluntary offence deserved.
It was a difficult part, and she kept away from them
as much as she could. She had been easily excused,
on a plea of fatigue from her journey, when Mr. and
Mrs. Corey had called the day after her arrival,
and Mrs. Lapham being still unwell, Penelope received
The girl had instinctively judged best that they should know
the worst at once, and she let them have the full brunt
of the drawing-room, while she was screwing her courage
up to come down and see them. She was afterwards--months
afterwards--able to report to Corey that when she entered
the room his father was sitting with his hat on his knees,
a little tilted away from the Emancipation group, as if he
expected the Lincoln to hit him, with that lifted hand
of benediction; and that Mrs. Corey looked as if she
were not sure but the Eagle pecked. But for the time
being Penelope was as nearly crazed as might be by the
complications of her position, and received her visitors
with a piteous distraction which could not fail of
touching Bromfield Corey's Italianised sympatheticism.
He was very polite and tender with her at first, and ended
by making a joke with her, to which Penelope responded,
in her sort. He said he hoped they parted friends,
if not quite acquaintances; and she said she hoped they
would be able to recognise each other if they ever met again.
"That is what I meant by her pertness," said Mrs Corey,
when they were driving away.
"Was it very pert?" he queried. "The child had to answer something."
"I would much rather she had answered nothing,
under the circumstances," said Mrs. Corey. "However!" she
added hopelessly. "Oh, she's a merry little grig, you can
see that, and there's no harm in her. I can understand
a little why a formal fellow like Tom should be taken
with her. She hasn't the least reverence, I suppose,
and joked with the young man from the beginning.
You must remember, Anna, that there was a time when you
liked my joking."
"It was a very different thing!"
"But that drawing-room," pursued Corey; "really, I don't
see how Tom stands that. Anna, a terrible thought occurs
to me! Fancy Tom being married in front of that group,
with a floral horse-shoe in tuberoses coming down on either
side of it!"
"Bromfield!" cried his wife, "you are unmerciful."
"No, no, my dear," he argued; "merely imaginative.
And I can even imagine that little thing finding Tom
just the least bit slow, at times, if it were not for
his goodness. Tom is so kind that I'm convinced he
sometimes feels your joke in his heart when his head
isn't quite clear about it. Well, we will not despond,
"Your father seemed actually to like her," Mrs. Corey
reported to her daughters, very much shaken in her own
prejudices by the fact. If the girl were not so offensive
to his fastidiousness, there might be some hope that
she was not so offensive as Mrs. Corey had thought.
"I wonder how she will strike YOU," she concluded,
looking from one daughter to another, as if trying
to decide which of them would like Penelope least.
Irene's return and the visit of the Coreys formed
a distraction for the Laphams in which their impending
troubles seemed to hang further aloof; but it was only
one of those reliefs which mark the course of adversity,
and it was not one of the cheerful reliefs. At any
other time, either incident would have been an anxiety
and care for Mrs. Lapham which she would have found hard
to bear; but now she almost welcomed them. At the end
of three days Lapham returned, and his wife met him as if
nothing unusual had marked their parting; she reserved
her atonement for a fitter time; he would know now from
the way she acted that she felt all right towards him.
He took very little note of her manner, but met his family
with an austere quiet that puzzled her, and a sort of
pensive dignity that refined his rudeness to an effect
that sometimes comes to such natures after long sickness,
when the animal strength has been taxed and lowered.
He sat silent with her at the table after their girls
had left them alone, and seeing that he did not mean
to speak, she began to explain why Irene had come home,
and to praise her.
"Yes, she done right," said Lapham. "It was time
for her to come," he added gently.
Then he was silent again, and his wife told him of Corey's
having been there, and of his father's and mother's calling.
"I guess Pen's concluded to make it up," she said.
"Well, we'll see about that," said Lapham; and now she
could no longer forbear to ask him about his affairs.
"I don't know as I've got any right to know anything
about it," she said humbly, with remote allusion to her
treatment of him. "But I can't help wanting to know.
How ARE things going, Si?"
"Bad," he said, pushing his plate from him, and tilting
himself back in his chair. "Or they ain't going at all.
"What do you mean, Si?" she persisted, tenderly.
"I've got to the end of my string. To-morrow I shall call
a meeting of my creditors, and put myself in their hands.
If there's enough left to satisfy them, I'm satisfied."
His voice dropped in his throat; he swallowed once or twice,
and then did not speak.
"Do you mean that it's all over with you?" she asked fearfully.
He bowed his big head, wrinkled and grizzled; and after
awhile he said, "It's hard to realise it; but I guess
there ain't any doubt about it." He drew a long breath,
and then he explained to her about the West Virginia people,
and how he had got an extension of the first time they had
given him, and had got a man to go up to Lapham with him
and look at the works,--a man that had turned up in New York,
and wanted to put money in the business. His money would
have enabled Lapham to close with the West Virginians.
"The devil was in it, right straight along," said Lapham.
"All I had to do was to keep quiet about that other company.
It was Rogers and his property right over again. He liked
the look of things, and he wanted to go into the business,
and he had the money--plenty; it would have saved me with those
West Virginia folks. But I had to tell him how I stood.
I had to tell him all about it, and what I wanted to do.
He began to back water in a minute, and the next morning I
saw that it was up with him. He's gone back to New York.
I've lost my last chance. Now all I've got to do is to save
"Will--will--everything go?" she asked.
"I can't tell, yet. But they shall have a chance at
everything--every dollar, every cent. I'm sorry for you,
Persis--and the girls."
"Oh, don't talk of US!" She was trying to realise that
the simple, rude soul to which her heart clove in her youth,
but which she had put to such cruel proof, with her unsparing
conscience and her unsparing tongue, had been equal to
its ordeals, and had come out unscathed and unstained.
He was able in his talk to make so little of them; he hardly
seemed to see what they were; he was apparently not proud
of them, and certainly not glad; if they were victories
of any sort, he bore them with the patience of defeat.
His wife wished to praise him, but she did not know how;
so she offered him a little reproach, in which alone
she touched the cause of her behaviour at parting.
"Silas," she asked, after a long gaze at him, "why didn't
you tell me you had Jim Millon's girl there?"
"I didn't suppose you'd like it, Persis," he answered.
"I did intend to tell you at first, but then I put--I put
it off. I thought you'd come round some day, and find it
out for yourself."
"I'm punished," said his wife, "for not taking enough
interest in your business to even come near it.
If we're brought back to the day of small things,
I guess it's a lesson for me, Silas."
"Oh, I don't know about the lesson," he said wearily.
That night she showed him the anonymous scrawl which had
kindled her fury against him. He turned it listlessly
over in his hand. "I guess I know who it's from," he said,
giving it back to her, "and I guess you do too, Persis."
"But how--how could he----"
"Mebbe he believed it," said Lapham, with patience
that cut her more keenly than any reproach. "YOU did."
Perhaps because the process of his ruin had been so gradual,
perhaps because the excitement of preceding events had
exhausted their capacity for emotion, the actual consummation
of his bankruptcy brought a relief, a repose to Lapham
and his family, rather than a fresh sensation of calamity.
In the shadow of his disaster they returned to something
like their old, united life; they were at least all
together again; and it will be intelligible to those whom
life has blessed with vicissitude, that Lapham should
come home the evening after he had given up everything,
to his creditors, and should sit down to his supper
so cheerful that Penelope could joke him in the old way,
and tell him that she thought from his looks they had concluded
to pay him a hundred cents on every dollar he owed them.
As James Bellingham had taken so much interest in his
troubles from the first, Lapham thought he ought to tell him,
before taking the final step, just how things stood with him,
and what ho meant to do. Bellingham made some futile
inquiries about his negotiations with the West Virginians,
and Lapham told him they had come to nothing. He spoke
of the New York man, and the chance that he might have
sold out half his business to him. "But, of course,
I had to let him know how it was about those fellows."
"Of course," said Bellingham, not seeing till afterwards
the full significance of Lapham's action.
Lapham said nothing about Rogers and the Englishmen.
He believed that he had acted right in that matter, and he
was satisfied; but he did not care to have Bellingham,
or anybody, perhaps, think he had been a fool.
All those who were concerned in his affairs said he behaved well,
and even more than well, when it came to the worst.
The prudence, the good sense, which he had shown in the first
years of his success, and of which his great prosperity
seemed to have bereft him, came back, and these qualities,
used in his own behalf, commended him as much to his creditors
as the anxiety he showed that no one should suffer by him;
this even made some of them doubtful of his sincerity.
They gave him time, and there would have been no trouble
in his resuming on the old basis, if the ground had not
been cut from under him by the competition of the West
Virginia company. He saw himself that it was useless
to try to go on in the old way, and he preferred to go
back and begin the world anew where he had first begun it,
in the hills at Lapham. He put the house at Nankeen Square,
with everything else he had, into the payment of his debts,
and Mrs. Lapham found it easier to leave it for the old
farmstead in Vermont than it would have been to go from
that home of many years to the new house on the water
side of Beacon. This thing and that is embittered to us,
so that we may be willing to relinquish it; the world,
life itself, is embittered to most of us, so that we
are glad to have done with them at last; and this home
was haunted with such memories to each of those who
abandoned it that to go was less exile than escape.
Mrs. Lapham could not look into Irene's room without seeing
the girl there before her glass, tearing the poor little
keep-sakes of her hapless fancy from their hiding-places
to take them and fling them in passionate renunciation
upon her sister; she could not come into the sitting-room,
where her little ones had grown up, without starting at
the thought of her husband sitting so many weary nights
at his desk there, trying to fight his way back to hope
out of the ruin into which be was slipping. When she
remembered that night when Rogers came, she hated the place.
Irene accepted her release from the house eagerly, and was
glad to go before and prepare for the family at Lapham.
Penelope was always ashamed of her engagement there; it must
seem better somewhere else and she was glad to go too.
No one but Lapham in fact, felt the pang of parting
in all its keenness. Whatever regret the others had
was softened to them by the likeness of their flitting
to many of those removals for the summer which they
made in the late spring when they left Nankeen Square;
they were going directly into the country instead of to
the seaside first; but Lapham, who usually remained in
town long after they had gone, knew all the difference.
For his nerves there was no mechanical sense of coming back;
this was as much the end of his proud, prosperous life
as death itself could have been. He was returning to
begin life anew, but he knew as well as he knew that he
should not find his vanished youth in his native hills,
that it could never again be the triumph that it had been.
That was impossible, not only in his stiffened and
weakened forces, but in the very nature of things.
He was going back, by grace of the man whom he owed money,
to make what he could out of the one chance which his
successful rivals had left him.
In one phase his paint had held its own against bad
times and ruinous competition, and it was with the hope
of doing still more with the Persis Brand that he now set
himself to work. The West Virginia people confessed
that they could not produce those fine grades, and they
willingly left the field to him. A strange, not ignoble
friendliness existed between Lapham and the three brothers;
they had used him fairly; it was their facilities that had
conquered him, not their ill-will; and he recognised in them
without enmity the necessity to which he had yielded.
If he succeeded in his efforts to develop his paint
in this direction, it must be for a long time on a small
scale compared with his former business, which it could
never equal, and he brought to them the flagging energies
of an elderly man. He was more broken than he knew
by his failure; it did not kill, as it often does, but it
weakened the spring once so strong and elastic. He lapsed
more and more into acquiescence with his changed condition,
and that bragging note of his was rarely sounded.
He worked faithfully enough in his enterprise, but sometimes
he failed to seize occasions that in his younger days
he would have turned to golden account. His wife saw
in him a daunted look that made her heart ache for him.
One result of his friendly relations with the West
Virginia people was that Corey went in with them,
and the fact that he did so solely upon Lapham's advice,
and by means of his recommendation, was perhaps the Colonel's
proudest consolation. Corey knew the business thoroughly,
and after half a year at Kanawha Falls and in the office
at New York, he went out to Mexico and Central America,
to see what could be done for them upon the ground which he
had theoretically studied with Lapham.
Before he went he came up to Vermont, and urged Penelope
to go with him. He was to be first in the city
of Mexico, and if his mission was successful he was
to be kept there and in South America several years,
watching the new railroad enterprises and the development
of mechanical agriculture and whatever other undertakings
offered an opening for the introduction of the paint.
They were all young men together, and Corey, who had put
his money into the company, had a proprietary interest
in the success which they were eager to achieve.
"There's no more reason now and no less than ever there was,"
mused Penelope, in counsel with her mother, "why I should
say Yes, or why I should say No. Everything else changes,
but this is just where it was a year ago. It don't
go backward, and it don't go forward. Mother, I believe
I shall take the bit in my teeth--if anybody will put
"It isn't the same as it was," suggested her mother.
"You can see that Irene's all over it."
"That's no credit to me," said Penelope. "I ought to be
just as much ashamed as ever."
"You no need ever to be ashamed."
"That's true, too," said the girl. "And I can sneak
off to Mexico with a good conscience if I could make
up my mind to it. "She laughed. "Well, if I could be
SENTENCED to be married, or somebody would up and forbid
the banns! I don't know what to do about it."
Her mother left her to carry her hesitation back to Corey,
and she said now, they had better go all over it and try
to reason it out. "And I hope that whatever I do,
it won't be for my own sake, but for--others!"
Corey said he was sure of that, and looked at her with
eyes of patient tenderness.
"I don't say it is wrong," she proceeded, rather aimlessly,
"but I can't make it seem right. I don't know whether
I can make you understand, but the idea of being happy,
when everybody else is so miserable, is more than I
can endure. It makes me wretched."
"Then perhaps that's your share of the common suffering,"
suggested Corey, smiling.
"Oh, you know it isn't! You know it's nothing.
Oh! One of the reasons is what I told you once before,
that as long as father is in trouble I can't let you
think of me. Now that he's lost everything--?" She bent
her eyes inquiringly upon him, as if for the effect
of this argument.
"I don't think that's a very good reason," he answered seriously,
but smiling still. "Do you believe me when I tell you that I love you?"
"Why, I suppose I must," she said, dropping her eyes.
"Then why shouldn't I think all the more of you on account
of your father's loss? You didn't suppose I cared for you
because he was prosperous?"
There was a shade of reproach, ever so delicate and gentle,
in his smiling question, which she felt.
"No, I couldn't think such a thing of you. I--I don't
know what I meant. I meant that----" She could not go
on and say that she had felt herself more worthy of him
because of her father's money; it would not have been true;
yet there was no other explanation. She stopped, and cast
a helpless glance at him.
He came to her aid. "I understand why you shouldn't wish
me to suffer by your father's misfortunes."
"Yes, that was it; and there is too great a difference
every way. We ought to look at that again. You mustn't
pretend that you don't know it, for that wouldn't be true.
Your mother will never like me, and perhaps--perhaps I
shall not like her."
"Well," said Corey, a little daunted, "you won't have
to marry my family."
"Ah, that isn't the point!"
"I know it," he admitted. "I won't pretend that I don't
see what you mean; but I'm sure that all the differences
would disappear when you came to know my family better.
I'm not afraid but you and my mother will like each
other--she can't help it!" he exclaimed, less judicially
than he had hitherto spoken, and he went on to urge
some points of doubtful tenability. "We have our ways,
and you have yours; and while I don't say but what you
and my mother and sisters would be a little strange
together at first, it would soon wear off, on both sides.
There can't be anything hopelessly different in you all,
and if there were it wouldn't be any difference to me."
"Do you think it would be pleasant to have you on my side
against your mother?"
"There won't be any sides. Tell me just what it is you're
"Thinking of, then."
"I don't know. It isn't anything they say or do,"
she explained, with her eyes intent on his. "It's what
they are. I couldn't be natural with them, and if I
can't be natural with people, I'm disagreeable."
"Can you be natural with me?"
"Oh, I'm not afraid of you. I never was. That was
the trouble, from the beginning."
"Well, then, that's all that's necessary. And it never
was the least trouble to me!"
"It made me untrue to Irene."
"You mustn't say that! You were always true to her."
"She cared for you first."
"Well, but I never cared for her at all!" he besought her.
"She thought you did."
"That was nobody's fault, and I can't let you make it yours.
"Wait. We must understand each other," said Penelope,
rising from her seat to prevent an advance he was making
from his; "I want you to realise the whole affair.
Should you want a girl who hadn't a cent in the world,
and felt different in your mother's company, and had cheated
and betrayed her own sister?"
"I want you!"
"Very well, then, you can't have me. I should always
despise myself. I ought to give you up for all
these reasons. Yes, I must." She looked at him intently,
and there was a tentative quality in her affirmations.
"Is this your answer?" he said. "I must submit.
If I asked too much of you, I was wrong. And--good-bye."
He held out his hand, and she put hers in it.
"You think I'm capricious and fickle!" she said.
"I can't help it--I don't know myself. I can't keep to one
thing for half a day at a time. But it's right for us
to part--yes, it must be. It must be," she repeated;
"and I shall try to remember that. Good-bye! I will try
to keep that in my mind, and you will too--you won't care,
very soon! I didn't mean THAT--no; I know how true you are;
but you will soon look at me differently; and see that
even IF there hadn't been this about Irene, I was not the
one for you. You do think so, don't you?" she pleaded,
clinging to his hand. "I am not at all what they would
like--your family; I felt that. I am little, and black,
and homely, and they don't understand my way of talking,
and now that we've lost everything--No, I'm not fit.
Good-bye. You're quite right, not to have patience with
me any longer. I've tried you enough. I ought to be
willing to marry you against their wishes if you want
me to, but I can't make the sacrifice--I'm too selfish
for that----" All at once she flung herself on his breast.
"I can't even give you up! I shall never dare look any
one in the face again. Go, go! But take me with you! I
tried to do without you! I gave it a fair trial, and it
was a dead failure. O poor Irene! How could she give
Corey went back to Boston immediately, and left Penelope,
as he must, to tell her sister that they were to be married.
She was spared from the first advance toward this by an
accident or a misunderstanding. Irene came straight to
her after Corey was gone, and demanded, "Penelope Lapham,
have you been such a ninny as to send that man away on
Penelope recoiled from this terrible courage; she did
not answer directly, and Irene went on, "Because if
you did, I'll thank you to bring him back again.
I'm not going to have him thinking that I'm dying
for a man that never cared for me. It's insulting,
and I'm not going to stand it. Now, you just send for him!"
"Oh, I will, 'Rene," gasped Penelope. And then she added,
shamed out of her prevarication by Irene's haughty magnanimity,
"I have. That is--he's coming back----"
Irene looked at her a moment, and then, whatever thought
was in her mind, said fiercely, "Well!" and left her to
her dismay--her dismay and her relief, for they both knew
that this was the last time they should ever speak of that again.
The marriage came after so much sorrow and trouble,
and the fact was received with so much misgiving for the past
and future, that it brought Lapham none of the triumph
in which he had once exulted at the thought of an alliance
with the Coreys. Adversity had so far been his friend
that it had taken from him all hope of the social success
for which people crawl and truckle, and restored him,
through failure and doubt and heartache, the manhood
which his prosperity had so nearly stolen from him.
Neither he nor his wife thought now that their daughter
was marrying a Corey; they thought only that she was giving
herself to the man who loved her, and their acquiescence
was sobered still further by the presence of Irene.
Their hearts were far more with her.
Again and again Mrs. Lapham said she did not see how she
could go through it. "I can't make it seem right,"
"It IS right," steadily answered the Colonel.
"Yes, I know. But it don't SEEM so."
It would be easy to point out traits in Penelope's character
which finally reconciled all her husband's family and endeared
her to them. These things continually happen in novels;
and the Coreys, as they had always promised themselves
to do, made the best, and not the worst of Tom's marriage.
They were people who could value Lapham's behaviour
as Tom reported it to them. They were proud of him,
and Bromfield Corey, who found a delicate, aesthetic pleasure
in the heroism with which Lapham had withstood Rogers
and his temptations--something finely dramatic and
unconsciously effective,--wrote him a letter which would
once have flattered the rough soul almost to ecstasy,
though now he affected to slight it in showing it.
"It's all right if it makes it more comfortable for Pen,"
he said to his wife.
But the differences remained uneffaced, if not uneffaceable,
between the Coreys and Tom Corey's wife. "If he had only
married the Colonel!" subtly suggested Nanny Corey.
There was a brief season of civility and forbearance
on both sides, when he brought her home before starting
for Mexico, and her father-in-law made a sympathetic feint
of liking Penelope's way of talking, but it is questionable
if even he found it so delightful as her husband did.
Lily Corey made a little, ineffectual sketch of her,
which she put by with other studies to finish up,
sometime, and found her rather picturesque in some ways.
Nanny got on with her better than the rest, and saw
possibilities for her in the country to which she was going.
"As she's quite unformed, socially," she explained to
her mother, "there is a chance that she will form herself
on the Spanish manner, if she stays there long enough,
and that when she comes back she will have the charm of,
not olives, perhaps, but tortillas, whatever they are:
something strange and foreign, even if it's borrowed.
I'm glad she's going to Mexico. At that distance
Her mother sighed, and said bravely that she was sure
they all got on very pleasantly as it was, and that she
was perfectly satisfied if Tom was.
There was, in fact, much truth in what she said of their
harmony with Penelope. Having resolved, from the beginning,
to make the best of the worst, it might almost be said
that they were supported and consoled in their good
intentions by a higher power. This marriage had not,
thanks to an over-ruling Providence, brought the succession
of Lapham teas upon Bromfield Corey which he had dreaded;
the Laphams were far off in their native fastnesses,
and neither Lily nor Nanny Corey was obliged to sacrifice
herself to the conversation of Irene; they were not even
called upon to make a social demonstration for Penelope
at a time when, most people being still out of town,
it would have been so easy; she and Tom had both begged
that there might be nothing of that kind; and though none
of the Coreys learned to know her very well in the week
she spent with them, they did not find it hard to get
on with her. There were even moments when Nanny Corey,
like her father, had glimpses of what Tom had called
her humour, but it was perhaps too unlike their own to be
Whether Penelope, on her side, found it more difficult
to harmonise, I cannot say. She had much more of the
harmonising to do, since they were four to one; but then
she had gone through so much greater trials before.
When the door of their carriage closed and it drove off
with her and her husband to the station, she fetched
a long sigh.
"What is it?" asked Corey, who ought to have known better.
"Oh, nothing. I don't think I shall feel strange amongst
the Mexicans now."
He looked at her with a puzzled smile, which grew a
little graver, and then he put his arm round her and drew
her closer to him. This made her cry on his shoulder.
"I only meant that I should have you all to myself."
There is no proof that she meant more, but it is certain
that our manners and customs go for more in life than
our qualities. The price that we pay for civilisation
is the fine yet impassable differentiation of these.
Perhaps we pay too much; but it will not be possible
to persuade those who have the difference in their favour
that this is so. They may be right; and at any rate,
the blank misgiving, the recurring sense of disappointment
to which the young people's departure left the Coreys
is to be considered. That was the end of their son and
brother for them; they felt that; and they were not mean
or unamiable people.
He remained three years away. Some changes took place
in that time. One of these was the purchase by the
Kanawha Falls Company of the mines and works at Lapham.
The transfer relieved Lapham of the load of debt which he
was still labouring under, and gave him an interest
in the vaster enterprise of the younger men, which he had
once vainly hoped to grasp all in his own hand. He began
to tell of this coincidence as something very striking;
and pushing on more actively the special branch of the
business left to him, he bragged, quite in his old way,
of its enormous extension. His son-in-law, he said,
was pushing it in Mexico and Central America: an idea that
they had originally had in common. Well, young blood was
what was wanted in a thing of that kind. Now, those fellows
out in West Virginia: all young, and a perfect team!
For himself, he owned that he had made mistakes; he could see
just where the mistakes were--put his finger right on them.
But one thing he could say: he had been no man's enemy but
his own; every dollar, every cent had gone to pay his debts;
he had come out with clean hands. He said all this,
and much more, to Mr. Sewell the summer after he sold out,
when the minister and his wife stopped at Lapham on their
way across from the White Mountains to Lake Champlain;
Lapham had found them on the cars, and pressed them to
There were times when Mrs. Lapham had as great pride in
the clean-handedness with which Lapham had come out as he
had himself, but her satisfaction was not so constant.
At those times, knowing the temptations he had resisted,
she thought him the noblest and grandest of men; but no woman
could endure to live in the same house with a perfect hero,
and there were other times when she reminded him that if he
had kept his word to her about speculating in stocks,
and had looked after the insurance of his property half
as carefully as he had looked after a couple of worthless
women who had no earthly claim on him, they would not
be where they were now. He humbly admitted it all,
and left her to think of Rogers herself. She did not fail
to do so, and the thought did not fail to restore him
to her tenderness again.
I do not know how it is that clergymen and physicians keep
from telling their wives the secrets confided to them;
perhaps they can trust their wives to find them out
for themselves whenever they wish. Sewell had laid
before his wife the case of the Laphams after they came
to consult with him about Corey's proposal to Penelope,
for he wished to be confirmed in his belief that he had
advised them soundly; but he had not given her their names,
and he had not known Corey's himself. Now he had no
compunctions in talking the affair over with her without
the veil of ignorance which she had hitherto assumed,
for she declared that as soon as she heard of Corey's
engagement to Penelope, the whole thing had flashed upon her.
"And that night at dinner I could have told the child
that he was in love with her sister by the way he talked
about her; I heard him; and if she had not been so blindly
in love with him herself, she would have known it too.
I must say, I can't help feeling a sort of contempt for
"Oh, but you must not!" cried Sewell. "That is wrong,
cruelly wrong. I'm sure that's out of your novel-reading,
my dear, and not out of your heart. Come! It grieves me
to hear you say such a thing as that."
"Oh, I dare say this pretty thing has got over it--how
much character she has got!--and I suppose she'll see
Sewell had to content himself with this partial concession.
As a matter of fact, unless it was the young West Virginian
who had come on to arrange the purchase of the Works,
Irene had not yet seen any one, and whether there was
ever anything between them is a fact that would need
a separate inquiry. It is certain that at the end of five
years after the disappointment which she met so bravely,
she was still unmarried. But she was even then still
very young, and her life at Lapham had been varied by visits
to the West. It had also been varied by an invitation,
made with the politest resolution by Mrs. Corey, to visit
in Boston, which the girl was equal to refusing in the
Sewell was intensely interested in the moral spectacle
which Lapham presented under his changed conditions.
The Colonel, who was more the Colonel in those hills
than he could ever have been on the Back Bay, kept him
and Mrs. Sewell over night at his house; and he showed
the minister minutely round the Works and drove him all
over his farm. For this expedition he employed a lively
colt which had not yet come of age, and an open buggy long
past its prime, and was no more ashamed of his turnout
than of the finest he had ever driven on the Milldam.
He was rather shabby and slovenly in dress, and he had
fallen unkempt, after the country fashion, as to his
hair and beard and boots. The house was plain, and was
furnished with the simpler moveables out of the house in
Nankeen Square. There were certainly all the necessaries,
but no luxuries unless the statues of Prayer and Faith
might be so considered. The Laphams now burned kerosene,
of course, and they had no furnace in the winter;
these were the only hardships the Colonel complained of;
but he said that as soon as the company got to paying
dividends again,--he was evidently proud of the outlays
that for the present prevented this,--he should put in steam
heat and naphtha-gas. He spoke freely of his failure,
and with a confidence that seemed inspired by his former trust
in Sewell, whom, indeed, he treated like an intimate friend,
rather than an acquaintance of two or three meetings.
He went back to his first connection with Rogers, and he put
before Sewell hypothetically his own conclusions in regard
to the matter.
"Sometimes," he said, "I get to thinking it all over,
and it seems to me I done wrong about Rogers in the
first place; that the whole trouble came from that.
It was just like starting a row of bricks. I tried to
catch up and stop 'em from going, but they all tumbled,
one after another. It wa'n't in the nature of things
that they could be stopped till the last brick went.
I don't talk much with my wife, any more about it; but I
should like to know how it strikes you."
"We can trace the operation of evil in the physical world,"
replied the minister, "but I'm more and more puzzled
about it in the moral world. There its course is often
so very obscure; and often it seems to involve, so far
as we can see, no penalty whatever. And in your own case,
as I understand, you don't admit--you don't feel sure--that
you ever actually did wrong this man----"
"Well, no; I don't. That is to say----"
He did not continue, and after a while Sewell said,
with that subtle kindness of his, "I should be inclined
to think--nothing can be thrown quite away; and it can't
be that our sins only weaken us--that your fear of having
possibly behaved selfishly toward this man kept you on
your guard, and strengthened you when you were brought face
to face with a greater"--he was going to say temptation,
but he saved Lapham's pride, and said--"emergency."
"Do you think so?"
"I think that there may be truth in what I suggest."
"Well, I don't know what it was," said Lapham; "all I
know is that when it came to the point, although I could
see that I'd got to go under unless I did it--that I
couldn't sell out to those Englishmen, and I couldn't
let that man put his money into my business without
I told him just how things stood."
AN OPEN-EYED CONSPIRACY--AN IDYL OF SARATOGA
By William Dean Howells
This etext was prepared from the 1898 David Douglas edition
by David Price, email email@example.com.
The day had been very hot under the tall trees which everywhere
embower and stifle Saratoga, for they shut out the air as well as
the sun; and after tea (they still have an early dinner at all the
hotels in Saratoga, and tea is the last meal of the day) I strolled
over to the pretty Congress Park, in the hope of getting a breath of
coolness there. Mrs. March preferred to take the chances on the
verandah of our pleasant little hotel, where I left her with the
other ladies, forty fanning like one, as they rocked to and fro
under the roof lifted to the third story by those lofty shafts
peculiar to the Saratoga architecture. As far as coolness was
concerned, I thought she was wise after I reached the park, for I
found none of it there. I tried first a chair in the arabesque
pavilion (I call it arabesque in despair; it might very well be
Swiss; it is charming, at all events), and studied to deceive myself
with the fresh-looking ebullition of the spring in the vast glass
bowls your goblets are served from (people say it is pumped, and
artificially aerated); but after a few moments this would not do,
and I went out to a bench, of the rows beside the gravelled walks.
It was no better there; but I fancied it would be better on the
little isle in the little lake, where the fountain was flinging a
sheaf of spray into the dull air. This looked even cooler than the
bubbling spring in the glass vases, and it sounded vastly cooler.
There would be mosquitoes there, of course, I admitted in the debate
I had with myself before I decided to make experiment of the place,
and the event proved me right. There were certainly some mosquitoes
in the Grecian temple (if it is not a Turkish kiosk; perhaps we had
better compromise, and call it a Grecian kiosk), which you reach by
a foot-bridge from the mainland, and there was a damp in the air
which might pass for coolness. There were three or four people
standing vaguely about in the kiosk; but my idle mind fixed itself
upon a young French-Canadian mother of low degree, who sat, with her
small boy, on the verge of the pavement near the water. She scolded
him in their parlance for having got himself so dirty, and then she
smacked his poor, filthy little hands, with a frown of superior
virtue, though I did not find her so very much cleaner herself. I
cannot see children beaten without a heartache, and I continued to
suffer for this small wretch even after he had avenged himself by
eating a handful of peanut shells, which would be sure to disagree
with him and make his mother more trouble. In fact, I experienced
no relief till his mother, having spent her insensate passion,
gathered him up with sufficient tenderness, and carried him away.
Then, for the first time, I noticed a girl sitting in a chair just
outside the kiosk, and showing a graceful young figure as she partly
turned to look after the departing mother and her child. When she
turned again and glanced in my direction, at the noise I made in
placing my chair, I could see two things--that she had as much
beauty as grace, and that she was disappointed in me. The latter
fact did not wound me, for I felt its profound impersonality. I was
not wrong in myself; I was simply wrong in being an elderly man with
a grey beard instead of the handsome shape and phase of youth which
her own young beauty had a right to in my place. I was not only not
wounded, but I was not sorry not to be that shape and phase of
youth, except as I hate to disappoint any one.
Her face was very beautiful; it was quite perfectly beautiful, and
of such classic mould that she might well have been the tutelary
goddess of that temple (if it was a temple, and not a kiosk), in the
white duck costume which the goddesses were wearing that summer.
Her features were Greek, but her looks were American; and she was
none the less a goddess, I decided, because of that air of something
exacting, of not quite satisfied, which made me more and more
willing to be elderly and grey-bearded. I at least should not be
expected to supply the worship necessary to keep such a goddess in
I do not know just how I can account for a strain of compassion
which mingled with this sense of irresponsibility in me; perhaps it
was my feeling of security that attuned me to pity; but certainly I
did not look at this young girl long without beginning to grieve for
her, and to weave about her a web of possibilities, which grew
closer and firmer in texture when she was joined by a couple who had
apparently not left her a great while before, and who spoke, without
otherwise saluting her, as they sat down on either side of her. I
instantly interpreted her friends to be the young wife and middle-
aged husband of a second marriage; for they were evidently man and
wife, and he must have been nearly twice as old as she. In person
he tended to the weight which expresses settled prosperity, and a
certain solidification of temperament and character; as to his face,
it was kind, and it was rather humorous, in spite of being a little
slow in the cast of mind it suggested. He wore an iron-grey beard
on his cheeks and chin, but he had his strong upper lip clean
shaven; some drops of perspiration stood upon it, and upon his
forehead, which showed itself well up toward his crown under the
damp strings of his scanty hair. He looked at the young goddess in
white duck with a sort of trouble in his friendly countenance, and
his wife (if it was his wife) seemed to share his concern, though
she smiled, while he let the corners of his straight mouth droop.
She was smaller than the young girl, and I thought almost as young;
and she had the air of being somehow responsible for her, and cowed
by her, though the word says rather more than I mean. She was not
so well dressed; that is, not so stylishly, though doubtless her
costume was more expensive. It seemed the inspiration of a village
dressmaker; and her husband's low-cut waistcoat, and his expanse of
plaited shirt-front, betrayed a provincial ideal which she would
never decry--which she would perhaps never find different from the
most worldly. He had probably, I swiftly imagined, been wearing
just that kind of clothes for twenty years, and telling his tailor
to make each new suit like the last; he had been buying for the same
period the same shape of Panama hat, regardless of the continually
changing type of straw hats on other heads. I cannot say just why,
as he tilted his chair back on its hind-legs, I felt that he was
either the cashier of the village bank at home, or one of the
principal business men of the place. Village people I was quite
resolute to have them all; but I left them free to have come from
some small manufacturing centre in western Massachusetts or southern
Vermont or central New York. It was easy to see that they were not
in the habit of coming away from their place, wherever it was; and I
wondered whether they were finding their account in the present
I myself think Saratoga one of the most delightful spectacles in the
world, and Mrs. March is of the same mind about it. We like all the
waters, and drink them without regard to their different properties;
but we rather prefer the Congress spring, because it is such a
pleasant place to listen to the Troy military band in the afternoon,
and the more or less vocal concert in the evening. All the Saratoga
world comes and goes before us, as we sit there by day and by night,
and we find a perpetual interest in it. We go and look at the deer
(a herd of two, I think) behind their wire netting in the southward
valley of the park, and we would feed the trout in their blue tank
if we did not see them suffering with surfeit, and hanging in
motionless misery amid the clear water under a cloud of bread
crumbs. We are such devotees of the special attractions offered
from time to time that we do not miss a single balloon ascension or
pyrotechnic display. In fact, it happened to me one summer that I
studied so earnestly and so closely the countenance of the lady who
went up (in trunk-hose), in order to make out just what were the
emotions of a lady who went up every afternoon in a balloon, that
when we met near the end of the season in Broadway I thought I must
have seen her somewhere in society, and took off my hat to her (she
was not at the moment in trunk-hose). We like going about to the
great hotels, and sponging on them for the music in the forenoon; we
like the gaudy shops of modes kept by artists whose addresses are
French and whose surnames are Irish; and the bazaars of the
Armenians and Japanese, whose rugs and bric-a-brac are not such
bargains as you would think. We even go to the races sometimes; we
are not sure it is quite right, but as we do not bet, and are never
decided as to which horse has won, it is perhaps not so wrong as it
Somehow I could not predicate these simple joys of the people I have
been talking of, for the very reason, that they were themselves so
simple. It was our sophistication which enabled us to taste
pleasures which would have been insipidities to them. Their palates
would have demanded other flavours--social excitements, balls,
flirtations, almost escapades. I speak of the two women; the man,
doubtless, like most other Americans of his age, wanted nothing but
to get back to business in the small town where he was important;
and still more I speak of the young girl; for the young wife I
fancied very willing to go back to her house-keeping, and to be
staying on in Saratoga only on her friend's account.
I had already made up my mind that they had been the closest
friends before one of them married, and that the young wife still
thought the young girl worthy of the most splendid fate that
marriage could have in store for any of her sex. Women often make
each other the idols of such worship; but I could not have justified
this lady's adoration so far as it concerned the mental and moral
qualities of her friend, though I fully shared it in regard to her
beauty. To me she looked a little dull and a little selfish, and I
chose to think the husband modestly found her selfish, if he were
too modest to find her dull.
Yet, after all, I tacitly argued with him, why should we call her
selfish? It was perfectly right and fit that, as a young girl with
such great personal advantages, she should wish to see the world--
even to show herself to the world,--and find in it some agreeable
youth who should admire her, and desire to make her his own for
ever. Compare this simple and natural longing with the insatiate
greed and ambition of one of our own sex, I urged him, and then talk
to me, if you can, of this poor girl's selfishness! A young man has
more egoism in an hour than a young girl has in her whole life. She
thinks she wishes some one to be devoted to her, but she really
wishes some one to let her be devoted to him; and how passively, how
negatively, she must manage to accomplish her self-sacrifice! He,
on the contrary, means to go conquering and enslaving forward; to be
in and out of love right and left, and to end, after many years of
triumph, in the possession of the best and wisest and fairest of her
sex. I know the breed, my dear sir; I have been a young man myself.
We men have liberty, we have initiative; we are not chaperoned; we
can go to this one and that one freely and fearlessly. But women
must sit still, and be come to or shied off from. They cannot cast
the bold eye of interest; they can at most bridle under it, and
furtively respond from the corner of the eye of weak hope and gentle
deprecation. Be patient, then, with this poor child if she darkles
a little under the disappointment of not finding Saratoga so
personally gay as she supposed it would be, and takes it out of you
and your wife, as if you were to blame for it, in something like
He remained silent under these tacit appeals, but at the end he
heaved a deep sigh, as he might if he were acknowledging their
justice, and were promising to do his very best in the
circumstances. His wife looked round at him, but did not speak. In
fact, they none of them spoke after the first words of greeting to
the girl, as I can very well testify; for I sat eavesdropping with
all my might, resolved not to lose a syllable, and I am sure I lost
The young girl did not look round at that deep-drawn sigh of the
man's; she did not lift her head even when he cleared his throat:
but I was intent upon him, for I thought that these sounds preluded
an overture (I am not sure of the figure) to my acquaintance, and in
fact he actually asked, "Do you know just when the concert begins?"
I was overjoyed at his question, for I was poignantly interested in
the little situation I had created, and I made haste to answer:
"Well, nominally at eight o'clock; but the first half-hour is
usually taken up in tuning the instruments. If you get into the
pavilion at a quarter to nine you won't lose much. It isn't so bad
when it really begins."
The man permitted himself a smile of the pleasure we Americans all
feel at having a thing understated in that way. His wife asked
timidly, "Do we have to engage our seats in the--pavilion?"
"Oh, no," I laughed; "there's no such rush as that. Haven't you
been at the concerts before?"
The man answered for her: "We haven't been here but a few days. I
should think," he added to her, "it would be about as comfortable
outside of the house." I perceived that he maintained his
independence of my superior knowledge by refusing to say "pavilion";
and in fact I do not know whether that is the right name for the
"It will be hot enough anywhere," I assented, as if the remark had
been made to me; but here I drew the line out of self-respect, and
resolved that he should make the next advances.
The young girl looked up at the first sound of my voice, and
verified me as the elderly man whom she had seen before; and then
she looked down at the water again. I understood, and I freely
forgave her. If my beard had been brown instead of grey I should
have been an adventure; but to the eye of girlhood adventure can
never wear a grey beard. I was truly sorry for her; I could read in
the pensive droop of her averted face that I was again a
They all three sat, without speaking again, in the mannerless
silence of Americans. The man was not going to feel bound in
further civility to me because I had civilly answered a question of
his. I divined that he would be glad to withdraw from the overture
he had made; he may have thought from my readiness to meet him half
way that I might be one of those sharpers in whom Saratoga probably
abounded. This did not offend me; it amused me; I fancied his
confusion if he could suddenly know how helplessly and irreparably
honest I was.
"I don't know but it's a little too damp here, Rufus," said the
"I don't know but it is," he answered; but none of them moved, and
none of them spoke again for some minutes. Then the wife said
again, but this time to the friend, "I don't know but it's a little
too damp here, Julia," and the friend answered, as the husband had -
"I don't know but it is."
I had two surprises in this slight event. I could never have
imagined that the girl had so brunette a name as Julia, or anything
less blond in sound than, say, Evadne, at the very darkest; and I
had made up my mind--Heaven knows why--that her voice would be
harsh. Perhaps I thought it unfair that she should have a sweet
voice added to all that beauty and grace of hers; but she had a
sweet voice, very tender and melodious, with a plangent note in it
that touched me and charmed me. Beautiful and graceful as she was,
she had lacked atmosphere before, and now suddenly she had
atmosphere. I resolved to keep as near to these people as I could,
and not to leave the place as long as they stayed; but I did not
think it well to let them feel that I was aesthetically shadowing
them, and I got up and strolled away toward the pavilion, keeping an
eye in the back of my head upon them.
I sat down in a commanding position, and watched the people
gathering for the concert; and in the drama of a group of Cubans, or
of South Americans, I almost forgot for a moment the pale idyl of my
compatriots at the kiosk. There was a short, stout little Spanish
woman speaking in the shapely sentences which the Latin race
everywhere delights in, and around her was an increasing number of
serious Spanish men, listening as if to important things, and paying
her that respectful attention which always amuses and puzzles me.
In view of what we think their low estimate of women, I cannot make
out whether it is a personal tribute to some specific woman whom
they regard differently from all the rest of her sex, or whether
they choose to know in her for the nouce the abstract woman who is
better than woman in the concrete. I am sure I have never seen men
of any other race abandon themselves to such a luxury of respect as
these black and grey bearded Spaniards of leaden complexion showed
this dumpy personification of womanhood, with their prominent eyes
bent in homage upon her, and their hands trembling with readiness to
seize their hats off in reverence. It appeared presently that the
matter they were all canvassing so devoutly was the question of
where she should sit. It seemed to be decided that she could not do
better than sit just at that point. When she actually took a chair
the stately convocation ended, and its members, with low obeisances,
dispersed themselves in different directions. They had probably all
been sitting with her the whole afternoon on the verandah of the
Everett House, where their race chiefly resorts in Saratoga, and
they were availing themselves of this occasion to appear to be
meeting her, after a long interval, in society.
I said to myself that of course they believed Saratoga was still
that centre of American fashion which it once was, and that they
came and went every summer, probably in the belief that they saw a
great deal of social gaiety there. This made me think, by a natural
series of transitions, of the persons of my American idyl, and I
looked about the pavilion everywhere for them without discovering,
till the last, that they were just behind me.
I found the fact touching. They had not wished to be in any wise
beholden to me, and had even tried to reject my friendly readiness
to know them better; but they had probably sought my vicinity in a
sense of their loneliness and helplessness, which they hoped I would
not divine, but which I divined instantly. Still, I thought it best
not to show any consciousness of them, and we sat through the first
part of the concert without taking notice of one another. Then the
man leaned forward and touched me on the shoulder.
"Will you let me take your programme a minute?"
"Why, certainly," said I.
He took it, and after a vague glance at it he passed it to his wife,
who gave it in turn to the young girl. She studied it very briefly,
and then, after a questioning look, offered it back to me.
"Won't you keep it?" I entreated. "I've quite done with it."
"Oh, thank you," she answered in her tender voice, and she and the
wife looked hard at the man, whom they seemed to unite in pushing
forward by that means.
He hemmed, and asked, "Have you been in Saratoga much?"
"Why, yes," I said; "rather a good deal. My wife and I have been
here three or four summers."
At the confession of my married state, which this statement
implicated, the women exchanged a glance, I fancied, of triumph, as
if they had been talking about me, and I had now confirmed the
ground they had taken concerning me. Then they joined in goading
the man on again with their eyes.
"Which hotel," he asked, "should you say had the most going on?"
The young girl and the wife transferred their gaze to me, with an
intensified appeal in it. The man looked away with a certain shame-
-the shame of a man who feels that his wife has made him make an ass
of himself. I tried to treat his question, by the quantity and
quality of my answer, as one of the most natural things in the
world; and I probably deceived them all by this effort, though I am
sure that I was most truthful and just concerning the claims of the
different hotels to be the centre of excitement. I thought I had
earned the right to ask at the end, "Are you stopping at the Grand
"No," he said; and he mentioned one of the smaller hotels, which
depend upon the great houses for the entertainment of their guests.
"Are you there?" he asked, meaning the Grand Union.
"Oh no," I said; "we couldn't do that sort of thing, even if we
wanted." And in my turn I named the modest hotel where we were, and
said that I thought it by all odds the pleasantest place in
Saratoga. "But I can't say," I added, "that there is a great deal
going on there, either. If you want that sort of thing you will
have to go to some of the great hotels. We have our little
amusements, but they're all rather mild." I kept talking to the
man, but really addressing myself to the women. "There's something
nearly every evening: prestidigitating, or elocutioning, or a
little concert, or charades, or impromptu theatricals, or something
of that sort. I can't say there's dancing, though really, I
suppose, if any one wanted to dance there would be dancing."
I was aware that the women listened intelligently, even if the man
did not. The wife drew a long breath, and said, "It must be very
The girl said--rather more hungrily, I fancied--"Yes, indeed."
I don't know why their interest should have prompted me to go on and
paint the lily a little, but I certainly did so. I did not stop
till the music began again, and I had to stop. By the time the
piece was finished I had begun to have my misgivings, and I profited
by the brief interval of silence to say to the young girl, "I
wouldn't have you think we are a whirl of gaiety exactly."
"Oh no," she answered pathetically, as if she were quite past
expecting that or anything like it.
We were silent again. At the end of the next piece they all rose,
and the wife said timidly to me, "Well, good-evening," as if she
might be venturing too far; and her husband came to her rescue with
"Well, good-evening, sir." The young girl merely bowed.
I did not stay much longer, for I was eager to get home and tell my
wife about my adventure, which seemed to me of a very rare and
thrilling kind. I believed that if I could present it to her duly,
it would interest her as much as it had interested me. But somehow,
as I went on with it in the lamplight of her room, it seemed to lose
colour and specific character.
"You are always making up these romances about young girls being off
and disappointed of a good time ever since we saw that poor little
Kitty Ellison with her cousins at Niagara," said Mrs. March. "You
seem to have it on the brain."
"Because it's the most tragical thing in the world, and the
commonest in our transition state," I retorted. I was somewhat
exasperated to have my romance treated as so stale a situation,
though I was conscious now that it did want perfect novelty. "It's
precisely for that reason that I like to break my heart over it. I
see it every summer, and it keeps me in a passion of pity.
Something ought to be done about it."
"Well, don't YOU try to do anything, Basil, unless you write to the
"I suppose," I said, "that if the newspapers could be got to take
hold of it, perhaps something might be done." The notion amused me;
I went on to play with it, and imagined Saratoga, by a joint effort
of the leading journals, recolonised with the social life that once
made it the paradise of young people.
"I have been writing to the children," said my wife, "and telling
them to stay on at York Harbour if the Herricks want them so much.
They would hate it here. You say the girl looked cross. I can't
exactly imagine a cross goddess."
"There were lots of cross goddesses," I said rather crossly myself;
for I saw that, after having trodden my romance in the dust, she was
willing I should pick it up again and shake it off, and I wished to
show her that I was not to be so lightly appeased.
"Perhaps I was thinking of angels," she murmured.
"I distinctly didn't say she was an angel," I returned.
"Now, come, Basil; I see you're keeping something back. What did
you try to do for those people? Did you tell them where you were
"Yes, I did. They asked me, and I told them."
"Did you brag the place up?"
"On the contrary, I understated its merits."
"Oh, very well, then," she said, quite as if I had confessed my
guilt; "they will come here, and you will have your romance on your
hands for the rest of the month. I'm thankful we're going away the
first of August."
The next afternoon, while we were sitting in the park waiting for
the Troy band to begin playing, and I was wondering just when they
would reach the "Washington Post March," which I like because I can
always be sure of it, my unknown friends came strolling our way.
The man looked bewildered and bored, with something of desperation
in his troubled eye, and his wife looked tired and disheartened.
The young girl, still in white duck, wore the same air of passive
injury I had noted in her the night before. Their faces all three
lighted up at sight of me; but they faded again at the cold and
meagre response I made to their smiles under correction of my wife's
fears of them. I own it was base of me; but I had begun to feel
myself that it might be too large a contract to attempt their
consolation, and, in fact, after one is fifty scarcely any romance
will keep overnight.
My wife glanced from them to me, and read my cowardly mind; but she
waited till they passed, as they did after an involuntary faltering
in front of us, and were keeping on down the path, looking at the
benches, which were filled on either hand. She said, "Weren't those
"They were the persons of my romance."
"No matter. Go after them instantly and bring them back here, poor
things. We can make room for them."
I rose. "Isn't this a little too idyllic? Aren't you rather
"Don't speak to me, Basil! I never heard of anything so atrocious.
Go on your knees to them if they refuse! They can sit here with me,
and you and he can stand. Fly!"
I knew she was punishing me for her own reluctance; but I flew, in
that sense of the term, and easily overhauled them in the tangle of
people coming and going in the path, and the nursemaids pushing
their perambulators in either direction. Hat in hand I delivered my
message. I could see that it gave the women great pleasure and the
man some doubt. His mouth fell open a little; their cheeks flushed
and their eyes shone.
"I don't know as we better," the wife hesitated; "I'm afraid we'll
crowd you." And she looked wistfully toward my wife. The young
girl looked at her.
"Not at all!" I cried. "There's an abundance of room. My wife's
keeping the places for you,"--in fact, I saw her putting her arm out
along the bench, and explaining to a couple who had halted in front
of her that the seats were taken--"and she'll be disappointed."
"Well," the woman consented, with a little sigh of triumph that
touched me, and reanimated all my interest in her and in her friend.
She said, with a sort of shy, instinctive politeness, "I don't know
as you and Mr. Deering got acquainted last night."
"My name is March," I said, and I shook the hand of Mr. Deering. It
was rather thick.
"And this--is our friend," Mrs. Peering went on, in presentation of
me to the young lady, "Miss Gage, that's come with us."
I was delighted that I had guessed their relative qualities so
perfectly, and when we arrived at Mrs. March I glibly presented
them. My wife was all that I could have wished her to be of
sympathetic and intelligent. She did not overdo it by shaking
hands, but she made places for the ladies, smiling cordially; and
Mrs. Deering made Miss Gage take the seat between them. Her husband
and I stood awhile in front of them, and then I said we would go off
and find chairs somewhere.
We did not find any till we had climbed to the upland at the south-
east of the park, and then only two iron ones, which it was useless
to think of transporting. But there was no reason why we should not
sit in them where they were: we could keep the ladies in plain
sight, and I could not mistake "Washington Post" when the band came
to it. Mr. Deering sank into one of the chairs with a sigh of
satisfaction which seemed to complete itself when he discovered in
the thick grass at his feet a twig from one of the tall, slim pines
above us. He bent over for it, and then, as he took out his
penknife and clicked open a blade to begin whittling, he cast up a
critical glance at the trees.
"Pretty nice pines," he said; and he put his hand on the one next to
us with a sort of appreciation that interested me.
"Yes; the trees of Saratoga are the glory of the place," I returned.
"I never saw them grow anywhere else so tall and slim. It doesn't
seem the effect of crowding either. It's as if there was some
chemical force in the soil that shot them up. They're like rockets
that haven't left the ground yet."
"It's the crowding," he said seriously, as if the subject were not
to be trifled with. "It's the habit of all these trees--pines and
oaks and maples, I don't care what they are--to spread, and that's
what we tell our customers. Give the trees plenty of room; don't
plant 'em too thick if you want to get all the good out of 'em." As
if he saw a question in my eye, he went on: "We do a forest-tree
business exclusively; these shade-trees, and walnuts, hickories,
chestnuts, and all kinds. It's a big trade, getting to be, and
growing all the time. Folks have begun to find out what fools they
were to destroy the forests, and the children want to buy back what
the fathers threw away."
I scarcely needed to prompt him; he was only too glad to talk on
about his business, and he spoke with a sort of homesick fondness.
He told me that he had his nurseries at De Witt Point, up on the St.
Lawrence, where he could raise stock hardy enough for any climate,
and ship by land or water.
"I've got to be getting home right away now," he said finally,
clicking his knife-blade half shut and open with his thumb.
"It's about time for our evergreen trade, and I don't want the trees
to stay a minute in the ground after the middle of the month."
"Won't the ladies find it hard to tear themselves away from the
gaieties of Saratoga?" I asked with apparent vagueness.
"Well, that's it," said Mr. Deering; and he shut his knife and
slipped it into his pocket, in order to take his knee between his
clasped hands and lift his leg from the ground. I have noticed that
this is a philosophical attitude with some people, and I was
prepared by it for some thoughtful generalising from my companion.
"Women would be willing to stay on in a place for a year to see if
something wouldn't happen; and if you take 'em away before anything
happens, they'll always think that if they'd stayed something would
have happened the next day, or maybe the day they left."
He stared upward into the pine boughs, and I said: "Yes, that's so.
I suppose we should be like them if we had the same conditions.
Their whole life is an expectation of something to happen. Men have
the privilege of making things happen--or trying to."
"Oh, I don't know as I want to criticise 'em. As you say, I guess
WE should be just so." He dropped his leg, and bent over as if to
examine the grass; he ended by taking a blade of it between his
teeth before he spoke again, with his head still down. "I don't
want to hurry 'em; I want to give 'em a fair show now we're here,
and I'll let the stock go as long as I can. But I don't see very
much gaiety around."
I laughed. "Why, it's all gaiety, in one way. Saratoga is a
perpetual Fourth of July, we think."
"Oh yes; there's enough going on, and my wife and me we could enjoy
it first rate."
"If the young lady could?" I ventured, with a smile of sympathetic
"Well, yes. You see, we don't know anybody, and I suppose we didn't
take that into account. Well, I suppose it's like this: they
thought it would be easy to get acquainted in the hotel, and
commence having a good time right away. I don't know; my wife had
the idea when they cooked it up amongst 'em that she was to come
with us. But I SWEAR _I_ don't know how to go about it. I can't
seem to make up my mouth to speak to folks first; and then you can't
tell whether a man ain't a gambler, or on for the horse-races
anyway. So we've been here a week now, and you're the first ones
we've spoken to besides the waiters since we came."
I couldn't help laughing, their experience was so exactly as I had
imagined it when I first saw this disconsolate party. In my triumph
at my own penetration, I would not have had their suffering in the
past one pang the less; but the simple frankness of his confession
fixed me in the wish that the future might be brighter for them. I
thought myself warranted by my wife's imprudence in taking a step
toward their further intimacy on my own account, and I said:
"Well, perhaps I ought to tell you that I haven't been inside the
Saratoga Club or bet on the races since I've been here. That's my
name in full,"--and I gave him my card,--"and I'm in the literary
line; that is, I'm the editor of a magazine in New York--the Every
"Oh yes; I know who you are," said my companion, with my card in his
hand. "Fact is, I was round at your place this morning trying to
get rooms, and the clerk told me all about you from my description.
I felt as mean as pu'sley goin'; seemed to be takin' kind of an
advantage of you."
"Not at all; it's a public house," I interrupted; but I thought I
should be stronger with Mrs. March if I did not give the fact away
to her, and I resolved to keep it.
"But they couldn't rest easy till I tried, and I was more than half
glad there wasn't any rooms."
"Oh, I'm very sorry," I said; and I indulged a real regret from the
vantage I had. "It would have been very pleasant to have you there.
Perhaps later--we shall be giving up our rooms at the end of the
"No," he said, with a long breath. "If I've got to leave 'em, I
guess it'll be just as well to leave 'em where they're acquainted
with the house anyway." His remark betrayed a point in his thinking
which had not perhaps been reached in his talk with the ladies.
"It's a quiet place, and they're used to it; and I guess they
wouldn't want to stay through the rest of the month, quite. I don't
believe my wife would, anyway."
He did not say this very confidently, but hopefully rather, and I
thought it afforded me an opening to find out something yet more
definite about the ladies.
"Miss Gage is remarkably fine-looking," I began.
"Think so?" he answered. "Well, so does my wife. I don't know as I
like her style exactly," he said, with a kind of latent grudge.
"Her style is magnificent," I insisted.
"Well, maybe so. I guess she's good enough looking, if that's what
you mean. But I think it's always a kind of a mistake for three
persons to come off together, I don't care who they are. Then
there's three opinions. She's a nice girl, and a good girl, and she
don't put herself forward. But when you've got a young lady on your
hands, you've GOT her, and you feel bound to keep doin' something
for her all the time; and if you don't know what to do yourself, and
your wife can't tell--"
I added intelligently, "Yes."
"Well, that's just where it is. Sometimes I wish the whole dumb
town would burn up." I laughed and laughed; and my friend, having
begun to unpack his heart, went on to ease it of the rest of its
load. I had not waited for this before making some reflections
concerning him, but I now formulated them to myself. He really had
none of that reserve I had attributed to him the night before; it
was merely caution and this is the case with most country people.
They are cautious, but not reserved; if they think they can trust
you, they keep back none of their affairs; and this is the American
character, for we are nearly all country people. I understood him
perfectly when he said, "I ruther break stone than go through what I
have been through the last week! You understand how it is. 'Tain't
as if she said anything; I wish she would; but you feel all the
while that it ain't what she expected it to be, and you feel as if
it was you that was to blame for the failure. By George! if any man
was to come along and make an offer for my contract I would sell out
cheap. It's worse because my wife asked her to come, and thought
she was doin' her all kinds of a favour to let her. They've always
been together, and when we talked of coming to Saratoga this summer,
nothing would do my wife but Julia must come with us. Her and her
father usually take a trip off somewhere in the hot weather, but
this time he couldn't leave; president of our National Bank, and
president of the village, too." He threw in the fact of these
dignities explanatorily, but with a willingness, I could see, that
it should affect me. He went on: "They're kind of connections of
my first wife's. Well, she's a nice girl; too nice, I guess, to get
along very fast. I see girls all the way along down gettin'
acquainted on the cars and boats--we come east on the Ogdensburg
road to Rouse's Point, and then took the boat down Lake Champlain
and Lake George--but she always seemed to hold back. I don't know's
she's proud either; I can't make it out. It balls my wife all up,
too. I tell her she's fretted off all the good her trip's goin' to
do her before she got it."
He laughed ruefully, and just then the band began to play the
"What tune's that?" he demanded.
"'Washington Post,'" I said, proud of knowing it.
"By George! that tune goes right to a fellow's legs, don't it?"
"It's the new march," I said.
He listened with a simple joy in it, and his pleasure strengthened
the mystic bond which had formed itself between us through the
confidences he had made me, so flatteringly corroborative of all my
guesses concerning him and his party.
I longed to have the chance of bragging to my wife; but this chance
did not come till the concert was quite over, after I rejoined her
with my companion, and she could take leave of them all without
seeming to abandon them. Then I judged it best to let her have the
word; for I knew by the way she ran her hand through my arm, and
began pushing me along out of earshot, that she was full of it.
"Well, Basil, I think that is the sweetest and simplest and kindest
creature in the world, and I'm perfectly in love with her."
I did not believe somehow that she meant the girl, but I thought it
best merely to suggest, "There are two."
"You know very well which I mean, and I would do anything I could
for her. She's got a difficult problem before her, and I pity her.
The girl's very well, and she IS a beauty; and I suppose she HAS
been having a dull time, and of course you couldn't please Mrs.
Deering half so well as by doing something for her friend. I
suppose you're feeling very proud that they're just what you
"Not at all; I'm so used to divining people. How did you know I
"I saw you talking to him, and I knew you were pumping him."
"Pumping? He asked nothing better than to flow. He would put to
shame the provoked spontaneity of any spring in Saratoga."
"Well, did he say that he was going to leave them here?"
"He would like to do it--yes. He was very sweet and simple and
kind, too, Isabel. He complained bitterly of the goddess, and all
but said she sulked."
"Why, I don't know," said my wife. "I think, considering, that she
is rather amiable. She brightened up more and more."
"That was prosperity, or the hope of it, my dear. Nothing illumines
us like the prospect of pleasant things. She took you for society
smiling upon her, and of course she smiled back. But it's only the
first smile of prosperity that cheers. If it keeps on smiling it
ends by making us dissatisfied again. When people are getting into
society they are very glad; when they have got in they seem to be
rather gloomy. We mustn't let these things go too far. Now that
you've got your friends in good humour, the right way is to drop
them--to cut them dead when you meet them, to look the other way.
That will send them home perfectly radiant."
"Nonsense! I am going to do all I can for them. What do you think
we can do? They haven't the first idea how to amuse themselves
here. It's a miracle they ever got that dress the girl is wearing.
They just made a bold dash because they saw it in a dressmaker's
window the first day, and she had to have something. It's killingly
becoming to her; but I don't believe they know it, and they don't
begin to know how cheap it was: it was simply THROWN away. I'm
going shopping with them in the morning."
"But now the question is, what we can do to give them some little
glimpse of social gaiety. That's what they've come for."
We were passing the corner of a large enclosure which seems devoted
in Saratoga to the most distracting of its pleasures, and I said:
"Well, we might give them a turn on the circular railway or the
switchback; or we could take them to the Punch and Judy drama, or
get their fortunes told in the seeress's tent, or let them fire in
the shooting-gallery, or buy some sweet-grass baskets of the
Indians; and there is the pop-corn and the lemonade."
"I will tell you what," said Mrs March, who had not been listening
Back to Full Books