Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 27 out of 78
paying her attention in this way she can't help thinking that he is
interested in her. Men never can see such things as women do. They
think that, until a man has actually asked a girl to marry him, he
hasn't done anything to warrant her in supposing that he is in love
with her, or that she has any right to be in love with him."
"That is true; we can't imagine that she would be so indelicate."
"I see that you're determined to tease, my dear," said Mrs. March,
and she took up her book with an air of offence and dismissal. "If
you won't talk seriously, I hope you will think seriously, and try
to realise what we've got in for. Such a girl couldn't imagine that
we had simply got Mr Kendricks to go about with her from a romantic
wish to make her have a good time, and that he was doing it to
oblige us, and wasn't at all interested in her."
"It does look a little preposterous, even to the outsider," I
"I am glad you are beginning to see it in that light, my dear, and
if you can think of anything to do by morning I shall be humbly
thankful. _I_ don't expect to."
"Perhaps I shall dream of something," I said more lightly than I
felt. "How would it do for you to have a little talk with her--a
little motherly talk--and hint round, and warn her not to let her
feelings run away with her in Kendricks's direction?" Mrs. March
faced her book down in her lap, and listened as if there might be
some reason in the nonsense I was talking. "You might say that he
was a society man, and was in great request, and then intimate that
there was a prior attachment, or that he was the kind of man who
would never marry, but was really cold-hearted with all his
sweetness, and merely had a passion for studying character."
"Do you think that would do, Basil?" she asked.
"Well, I thought perhaps you might think so."
"I'm afraid it wouldn't," she sighed.
"All that we can do now is to watch them, and act promptly, if we
see that they are really in love, either of them."
"I don't believe," I said, "that I should know that they were in
love even if I saw it. I have forgotten the outward signs, if I
ever knew them. Should he give her flowers? He's done it from the
start; he's brought her boxes of Huyler candy, and lent her books;
but I dare say he's been merely complying with our wishes in doing
it. I doubt if lovers sigh nowadays. I didn't sigh myself, even in
my time; and I don't believe any passion could make Kendricks
neglect his dress. He keeps his eyes on her all the time, but that
may be merely an effort to divine her character. I don't believe I
should know, indeed I don't."
"I shall," said Mrs. March.
We were to go the next day to the races, and I woke with more
anxiety about the weather than about the lovers, or potential
lovers. But after realising that the day was beautiful, on that
large scale of loveliness which seems characteristic of the summer
days at Saratoga, where they have them almost the size of the summer
days I knew when I was a boy, I was sensible of a secondary worry in
my mind, which presently related itself to Kendricks and Miss Gage.
It was a haze of trouble merely, however, such as burns off, like a
morning fog, when the sun gets higher, and it was chiefly on my
I suppose that the great difference between her conscience and one
originating outside of New England (if any conscience can originate
outside of New England) is that it cannot leave the moral government
of the universe in the hands of divine Providence. I was willing to
leave so many things which I could not control to the Deity, who
probably could that she accused me of fatalism, and I was held to be
little better than one of the wicked because I would not forecast
the effects of what I did in the lives of others. I insisted that
others were also probably in the hands of the somma sapienza e il
primo amore, and that I was so little aware of the influence of
other lives upon my own, even where there had been a direct and
strenuous effort to affect me, that I could not readily believe
others had swerved from the line of their destiny because of me.
Especially I protested that I could not hold myself guilty of
misfortunes I had not intended, even though my faulty conduct had
caused them. As to this business of Kendricks and Miss Gage, I
denied in the dispute I now began tacitly to hold with Mrs. March's
conscience that my conduct had been faulty. I said that there was
no earthly harm in my having been interested by the girl's
forlornness when I first saw her; that I did not do wrong to
interest Mrs. March in her; that she did not sin in going shopping
with Miss Gage and Mrs. Deering; that we had not sinned, either of
us, in rejoicing that Kendricks had come to Saratoga, or in letting
Mrs. Deering go home to her sick husband and leave Miss Gage on our
hands; that we were not wicked in permitting the young fellow to
help us make her have a good time. In this colloquy I did all the
reasoning, and Mrs. March's conscience was completely silenced; but
it rose triumphant in my miserable soul when I met Miss Gage at
breakfast, looking radiantly happy, and disposed to fellowship me in
an unusual confidence because, as I clearly perceived, of our last
night's adventure. I said to myself bitterly that happiness did not
become her style, and I hoped that she would get away with her
confounded rapture before Mrs. March came down. I resolved not to
tell Mrs. March if it fell out so, but at the same time, as a sort
of atonement, I decided to begin keeping the sharpest kind of watch
upon Miss Gage for the outward signs and tokens of love.
She said, "When you began to talk that way last night, Mr. March, it
almost took my breath, and if you hadn't gone so far, and mentioned
about the sunset through the sleety trees, I never should have
"Ah, that's the trouble with men, Miss Gage." And when I said "men"
I fancied she flushed a little. "We never know when to stop; we
always overdo it; if it were not for that we should be as perfect as
women. Perhaps you'll give me another chance, though."
"No; we shall be on our guard after this." She corrected herself
and said, "I shall always be looking out for you now," and she
certainly showed herself conscious in the bridling glance that met
my keen gaze.
"Good heavens!" I thought. "Has it really gone so far?" and more
than ever I resolved not to tell Mrs. March.
I went out to engage a carriage to take us to the races, and to
agree with the driver that he should wait for us at a certain corner
some blocks distant from our hotel, where we were to walk and find
him. We always did this, because there were a number of clergymen
in our house, and Mrs. March could not make it seem right to start
for the races direct from the door, though she held that it was
perfectly right for us to go. For the same reason she made the
driver stop short of our destination on our return, and walked home
the rest of the way. Almost the first time we practised this
deception I was met at the door by the sweetest and dearest of these
old divines, who said, "Have you ever seen the races here? I'm told
the spectacle is something very fine," and I was obliged to own that
I had once had a glimpse of them. But it was in vain that I pleaded
this fact with Mrs. March; she insisted that the appearance of not
going to the races was something that we owed the cloth, and no
connivance on their part could dispense us from it.
As I now went looking up and down the street for the driver who was
usually on the watch for me about eleven o'clock on a fair day of
the races, I turned over in my mind the several accidents which are
employed in novels to bring young people to a realising sense of
their feelings toward each other, and wondered which of them I might
most safely invoke. I was not anxious to have Kendricks and Miss
Gage lovers; it would be altogether simpler for us if they were not;
but if they were, the sooner they knew it and we knew it the better.
I thought of a carriage accident, in which he should seize her and
leap with her from the flying vehicle, while the horses plunged
madly on, but I did not know what in this case would become of Mrs.
March and me. Besides, I could think of nothing that would frighten
our driver's horses, and I dismissed the fleeting notion of getting
any others because Mrs. March liked their being so safe, and she
had, besides, interested herself particularly in the driver, who had
a family and counted upon our custom. The poor fellow came in sight
presently, and smilingly made the usual arrangement with me, and an
hour later he delivered us all sound in wind and limb at the
I watched in vain for signs of uncommon tenderness in the two young
people. If anything they were rather stiff and distant with each
other, and I asked myself whether this might not be from an access
of consciousness. Kendricks was particularly devoted to Mrs. March,
who, in the airy detachment with which she responded to his
attentions, gave me the impression that she had absolutely dismissed
her suspicions of the night before, or else had heartlessly
abandoned the affair to me altogether. If she had really done this,
then I saw no way out of it for me but by an accident which should
reveal them to each other. Perhaps some one might insult Miss Gage-
-some ruffian--and Kendricks might strike the fellow; but this
seemed too squalid. There might be a terrible jam, and he interpose
his person between her and the danger of her being crushed to death;
or the floor of the grand stand might give way, and everybody be
precipitated into the space beneath, and he fight his way, with her
senseless form on his arm, over the bodies of the mangled and dying.
Any of these things would have availed in a novel, and something of
the kind would have happened, too. But, to tell the truth, nothing
whatever happened, and if it had not been for that anxiety on my
mind I should have thought it much pleasanter so.
Even as it was I felt a measure of the hilarity which commonly fills
me at a running race, and I began to lose in the charm of the gay
scene the sense of my responsibility, and little by little to abate
the vigilance apparently left all to me. The day was beautiful; the
long heat had burned itself out, and there was a clear sparkle in
the sunshine, which seemed blown across the wide space within the
loop of the track by the delicate breeze. A vague, remote smell of
horses haunted the air, with now and then a breath of the pines from
the grove shutting the race-ground from the highway. We got
excellent places, as one always may, the grand stand is so vast, and
the young people disposed themselves on the bench in front of us,
but so near that we were not tempted to talk them over. The
newsboys came round with papers, and the boys who sold programmes of
the races; from the bar below there appeared from time to time
shining negroes in white linen jackets, with trays bearing tall
glasses of lemonade, and straws tilted in the glasses. Bookmakers
from the pool-rooms took the bets of the ladies, who formed by far
the greater part of the spectators on the grand stand, and
contributed, with their summer hats and gowns, to the gaiety of the
ensemble. They were of all types, city and country both, and of the
Southern dark as well as the Northern fair complexion, with so thick
a sprinkling of South Americans that the Spanish gutturals made
themselves almost as much heard as the Yankee nasals. Among them
moved two nuns of some mendicant order, receiving charity from the
fair gamblers, who gave for luck without distinction of race or
I leaned forward and called Kendricks's attention to the nuns, and
to the admirable literary quality of the whole situation. He was
talking to Miss Gage, and he said as impatiently as he ever suffered
himself to speak, "Yes, yes; tremendously picturesque."
"You ought to get something out of it, my dear fellow. Don't you
feel copy in it?"
"Oh, splendid, of course; but it's your ground, Mr. March. I
shouldn't feel it right to do anything with Saratoga after you had
discovered it," and he turned eagerly again to Miss Gage.
My wife put her hand on my sleeve and frowned, and I had so far lost
myself in my appreciation of the scene that I was going to ask her
what the matter was, when a general sensation about me made me look
at the track, where the horses for the first race had already
appeared, with their jockeys in vivid silk jackets of various dyes.
They began to form for the start with the usual tricks and feints,
till I became very indignant with them, though I had no bets
pending, and did not care in the least which horse won. What I
wanted was to see the race, the flight, and all this miserable
manoeuvring was retarding it. Now and then a jockey rode his horse
far off on the track and came back between the false starts; now and
then one kept stubbornly behind the rest and would not start with
them. How their several schemes and ambitions were finally
reconciled I never could tell, but at last the starter's flag swept
down and they were really off. Everybody could have seen perfectly
well as they sat, but everybody rose and watched the swift swoop of
the horses, bunched together in the distance, and scarcely
distinguishable by the colours of their riders. The supreme moment
came for me when they were exactly opposite the grand stand, full
half a mile away--the moment that I remembered from year to year as
one of exquisite illusion--for then the horses seemed to lift from
the earth as with wings, and to skim over the track like a covey of
low-flying birds. The finish was tame to this. Mrs. March and I
had our wonted difference of opinion as to which horse had won, and
we were rather uncommonly controversial because we had both decided
upon the same horse, as we found, only she was talking of the
jockey's colours, and I was talking of the horse's. We appealed to
Kendricks, who said that another horse altogether had won the race,
and this compromise pacified us.
We were all on foot, and he suggested, "We could see better,
couldn't we, if we went farther down in front?" And Mrs. March
"No, we prefer to stay here; but you two can go." And when they had
promptly availed themselves of her leave, she said to me, "This is
killing me dead, Basil, and if it keeps up much longer I don't
believe I can live through it. I don't care now, and I believe I
shall throw them together all I can from this out. The quicker they
decide whether they're in love or not the better. _I_ have some
Her whirling words expressed the feeling in my own mind. I had the
same sense of being trifled with by these young people, who would
not behave so conclusively toward each other as to justify our
interference on the ground that they were in love, nor yet treat
each other so indifferently as to relieve us of the strain of
apprehension. I had lost all faith in accident by this time, and I
was quite willing to leave them to their own devices; I was so
desperate that I said I hoped they would get lost from us, as they
had from me the night before, and never come back, but just keep on
wandering round for ever. All sorts of vengeful thoughts went
through my mind as I saw them leaning toward each other to say
something, and then drawing apart to laugh in what seemed an
indefinite comradery instead of an irrepressible passion. Did they
think we were going to let this sort of thing go on? What did they
suppose our nerves were made of? Had they no mercy, no
consideration? It was quite like the selfishness of youth to wish
to continue in that fool's paradise, but they would find out that
middle age had its rights too. I felt capable of asking them
bluntly what they meant by it. But when they docilely rejoined us
at the end of the races, hurrying up with some joke about not
letting me get lost this time, and Miss Gage put herself at my
wife's side and Kendricks dropped into step with me, all I had been
thinking seemed absurd. They were just two young people who were
enjoying a holiday-time together, and we were in no wise culpable
I suggested this to Mrs. March when we got home, and, in the need of
some relief from the tension she had been in, she was fain to accept
the theory provisionally, though I knew that her later rejection of
it would be all the more violent for this respite.
There was to be a hop at the Grand Union that night, and I had got
tickets for it in virtue of my relation to Every Other Week. I must
say the clerk who gave them me was very civil about it; he said they
were really only for the hotel guests, but he was glad to give them
to outsiders who applied with proper credentials; and he even
offered me more tickets than I asked for.
Miss Gage was getting a dress for the hop, and it was to be finished
that day. I think women really like the scare of thinking their
dresses will not be done for a given occasion, and so arrange to
have them at the last moment. Mrs. March went with the girl early
in the afternoon to have it tried on for the last time, and they
came home reporting that it was a poem. My wife confided to me that
it was not half done--merely begun, in fact--and would never be
finished in time in the world. She also assured Miss Gage that she
need not be the least uneasy; that there was not an hour's work on
the dress; and that the dress-maker's reputation was at stake, and
she would not dare to fail her. I knew she was perfectly sincere in
both these declarations, which were, indeed, merely the expression
of two mental attitudes, and had no relation to the facts.
She added to me that she was completely worn out with anxiety and
worry, and I must not think of her going to the hop. I would have
to do the chaperoning for her, and she did hope that I would not
forget what I was sent for, or get talking with somebody, and leave
Miss Gage altogether to Kendricks. She said that quite likely there
might be friends or acquaintances of his at the hop--such a large
affair--whom he would want to show some attention, and I must take
charge of Miss Gage myself, and try to find her other partners. She
drilled me in the duties of my position until I believed that I was
letter-perfect, and then she said that she supposed I would commit
some terrible blunder that would ruin everything.
I thought that this was very likely, too, but I would not admit it.
The dress came home at nine o'clock, and operated a happy diversion
from my imaginable shortcomings; for it appeared from Mrs. March's
asides to me that it was a perfect horror in the set, and that
everybody could see that it had been simply SLUNG together at the
last moment, and she would never, as long as the world stood, go to
that woman for anything again.
I must say I could not myself see anything wrong about the dress. I
thought it exquisite in tint and texture; a delicate, pale-greenish
film that clung and floated, and set off the girl's beauty as the
leafage of a flower heightens the loveliness of a flower. I did not
dare to say this in the face of Mrs. March's private despair, and I
was silent while the girl submitted to be twirled about for my
inspection like a statue on a revolving pedestal. Kendricks,
however, had no such restrictions upon him, and I could see him
start with delight in the splendid vision before he spoke.
"ISN'T it a poem?" demanded Mrs. March. "Isn't it a perfect LYRIC?"
"Why should you have allowed her to be transported altogether into
the ideal? Wasn't she far enough from us before?" he asked; and I
found myself wishing that he would be either less or more
articulate. He ought to have been mute with passion, or else he
ought to have been frankly voluble about the girl's gown, and gone
on about it longer. But he simply left the matter there, and though
I kept him carefully under my eye, I could not see that he was
concealing any further emotion. She, on her part, neither blushed
nor frowned at his compliment; she did nothing by look or gesture to
provoke more praise; she took it very much as the beautiful evening
might, so undeniably fine, so perfect in its way.
She and the evening were equally fitted for the event to which they
seemed equally dedicated. The dancing was to be out of doors on a
vast planking, or platform, set up in the heart of that bosky court
which the hotel incloses. Around this platform drooped the slim,
tall Saratogan trees, and over it hung the Saratogan sky, of a
nocturnal blue very rare in our latitude, with the stars faint in
its depths, and by and by a white moon that permitted itself a
modest competition with the electric lights effulgent everywhere.
There was a great crowd of people in the portico, the vestibule, and
the inner piazzas, and on the lawn around the platform, where "the
trodden weed" sent up the sweet scent of bruised grass in the cool
night air. My foolish old heart bounded with a pulse of youth at
the thought of all the gay and tender possibilities of such a scene.
But the young people under my care seemed in no haste to mingle in
it. We oldsters are always fancying youth impatient, but there is
no time of life which has so much patience. It behaves as if it had
eternity before it--an eternity of youth--instead of a few days and
years, and then the frosty poll. We who are young no longer think
we would do so and so if we were young, as women think they would do
so and so if they were men; but if we were really young again, we
should not do at all what we think. We should not hurry to
experience our emotions; we should not press forward to discharge
our duties or repair our mistakes; we should not seize the occasion
to make a friend or reconcile an enemy; we should let weeks and
months go by in the realisation of a passion, and trust all sorts of
contingencies and accidents to help us out with its confession. The
thoughts of youth are very long, and its conclusions are deliberate
and delayed, and often withheld altogether. It is age which is
tremulously eager in these matters, and cannot wait with the fine
patience of nature in her growing moods.
As soon, even, as I was in the hotel I was impatient to press
through to the place where the dancing was, and where I already
heard the band playing. I knew very well that when we got there I
should have to sit down somewhere on the edge of the platform with
the other frumps and fogies, and begin taking cold in my dress-coat,
and want to doze off without being able to, while my young people
were waltzing together, or else promenading up and down ignoring me,
or recognising me by the offer of a fan, and the question whether I
was not simply melting; I have seen how the poor chaperon fares at
such times. But they, secure of their fun, were by no means
desirous to have it over, or even to have it begin. They dawdled
through the thronged hotel office, where other irresponsible pairs
were coming and going under the admiring eyes of the hotel loungers,
and they wandered up and down the waste parlours, and sat on tete-a-
tetes just to try them, apparently; and Miss Gage verified in the
mirrors the beauty which was reflected in all eyes. They amused
themselves with the extent of the richly-carpeted and upholstered
desolation around them, where only a few lonely and aging women
lurked about on sofas and ottomans; and they fell to playing with
their compassion for the plebeian spectators at the long verandah
windows trying to penetrate with their forbidden eyes to the hop
going on in the court far beyond the intermediary desert of the
When they signified at last that they were ready for me to lead them
on to the dance, I would so much rather have gone to bed that there
are no words for the comparison. Then, when we got to the place,
which I should never have been able to reach in the world if it had
not been for the young energy and inspiration of Kendricks, and they
had put me in a certain seat with Miss Gage's wraps beside me where
they could find me, they went off and danced for hours and hours.
For hours and hours? For ages and ages! while I withered away amid
mouldering mothers, and saw my charges through the dreadful half-
dreams of such a state whirling in the waltz, hopping in the polka,
sliding in the galop, and then endlessly walking up and down between
the dances, and eating and drinking the chill refreshments that it
made my teeth chatter to think of. I suppose they decently came to
me from time to time, though they seemed to be always dancing, for I
could afterward remember Miss Gage taking a wrap from me now and
then, and quickly coming back to shed it upon my lap again. I got
so chilled that if they had not been unmistakably women's wraps I
should have bundled them all about my shoulders, which I could
almost hear creak with rheumatism. I must have fallen into a sort
of drowse at last; for I was having a dispute with some sort of
authority, which turned out to be Mrs. March, and upbraiding her
with the fact that there were no women's wraps which would also do
for a man, when the young people stood arm in arm before me, and
Miss Gage said that she was tired to death now, and they were going.
But it appeared that they were only going as far as the parlours for
the present; for when they re-entered the hotel, they turned into
them, and sat down there quite as if that had been the
understanding. When I arrived with the wraps, I was reminded of
something, and I said, "Have you two been dancing together the whole
They looked at each other as if for the first time they now realised
the fact, and Kendricks said, "Why, of course we have! We didn't
"Very well, then," I said; "you have got me into a scrape."
"Oh, poor Mr. March!" cried the girl. "How have we done it?"
"Why, Mrs. March said that Mr. Kendricks would be sure to know
numbers of people, and I must get you other partners, for it
wouldn't do for you to dance the whole evening together."
She threw herself back in the chair she had taken, and laughed as if
this were the best joke in the world.
He said hardily, "You see it HAS done."
"And if it wouldn't do," she gasped, "why didn't you bring me the
"Because I didn't know any," I said; and this seemed to amuse them
both so much that I was afraid they would never get their breath.
She looked by and by at her dancing-card, and as soon as she could
wipe the tears from her eyes she said, "No; there is no other name
there"; and this seemed even a better joke than the other from the
way they joined in laughing at it.
"Well, now," I said, when they were quiet again, "this won't do, my
young friends. It's all very well for you, and you seem to like it;
but I am responsible for your having passed a proper evening under
my chaperonage, and something has got to be done to prove it." They
saw the reasonableness of this, and they immediately became sober.
"Kendricks," I asked, "can't you think of something?"
No, he said, he couldn't; and then he began to laugh again.
I applied to her in the same terms; but she only answered, "Oh,
don't ask ME," and she went off laughing too.
"Very well, then," I said; "I shall have to do something desperate,
and I shall expect you both to bear me out in it, and I don't want
any miserable subterfuges when it comes to the point with Mrs.
March. Will you let me have your dancing-card Miss Gage?" She
detached it, and handed it to me. "It's very fortunate that Mr.
Kendricks wrote his name for the first dance only, and didn't go on
and fill it up."
"Why, we didn't think it was worth while!" she innocently explained.
"And that's what makes it so perfectly providential, as Mrs. March
says. Now then," I went on, as I wrote in the name of a rising
young politician, who happened just then to have been announced as
arriving in Saratoga to join some other leaders in arranging the
slate of his party for the convention to meet a month later, "we
will begin with a good American."
I handed the card to Kendricks. "Do you happen to remember the name
of the young French nobleman who danced the third dance with Miss
"No," he said; "but I think I could invent it." And he dashed down
an extremely probable marquis, while Miss Gage clapped her hands for
"Oh, how glorious! how splendid!"
I asked, "Will you ever give me away the longest day you live?"
"Never," she promised; and I added the name of a South American
doctor, one of those doctors who seem to be always becoming the
presidents of their republics, and ordering all their patients of
opposite politics to be shot in the plaza.
Kendricks entered a younger son of an English duke, and I
contributed the hyphenated surname of a New York swell, and between
us we soon had all the dances on Miss Gage's card taken by the most
distinguished people. We really studied probability in the forgery,
and we were proud of the air of reality it wore in the carefully
differenced handwritings, with national traits nicely accented in
The fun of it all was that Mrs. March was not deceived for an
instant. "Oh, nonsense!" she said, when she glanced at our pretty
deception, which we presented with perhaps too perfect seriousness.
"Then you danced only the first dance?"
"No, no!" Miss Gage protested. "I danced every dance as long as I
stayed." She laughed with her handkerchief to her mouth and her
eyes shining above.
"Yes; I can testify to that, Mrs. March," said Kendricks, and he
laughed wildly, too. I must say their laughter throughout was far
beyond the mirthfulness of the facts. They both protested that they
had had the best time in the world, and the gayest time; that I had
been a mirror of chaperons, and followed them round with my eyes
wherever they went like a family portrait; and that they were the
most exemplary young couple at the hop in their behaviour. Mrs.
March asked them all about it, and she joined in their fun with a
hilarity which I knew from long experience boded me no good.
When Kendricks had gone away, and Miss Gage had left us for the
night with an embrace, whose fondness I wondered at, from Mrs.
March, an awful silence fell upon us in the deserted parlour where
she had waited up.
I knew that when she broke the silence she would begin with, "Well,
my dear!" and this was what she did. She added, "I hope you're
I did not even pretend not to understand. "You mean that they are
in love? I suppose that their we-ing and us-ing so much would
indicate something of the kind."
"It isn't that alone; everything indicates it. She would hardly let
go of him with her eyes. I wish," sighed Mrs. March, and she let
her head droop upon her hand a moment, "I could be as sure of him as
I am of her."
''Wouldn't that double the difficulty?" I ventured to suggest,
though till she spoke I had not doubted that it was the case.
"I should make you speak to him if I were sure of him; but as it is
I shall speak to her, and the sooner the better."
"To-night?" I quaked.
"No; I shall let the poor thing have her sleep to-night. But the
first thing in the morning I shall speak, and I want you to send her
up to me as soon as she's had her breakfast. Tell her I'm not well,
and shall not be down; I shall not close my eyes the whole night.
And now," she added, "I want you to tell me everything that happened
this evening. Don't omit a word, or a look, or a motion. I wish to
I hope I was accurate in the history of the hop which I gave Mrs.
March; I am sure I was full. I think my account may be justly
described as having a creative truthfulness, if no other merit. I
had really no wish to conceal anything except the fact that I had
not, in my utter helplessness, even tried to get Miss Gage any other
partners. But in the larger interest of the present situation, Mrs.
March seemed to have lost the sense of my dereliction in this
respect. She merely asked, "And it was after you went back to the
parlour, just before you came home, that you wrote those names on
"Kendricks wrote half of them," I said.
"I dare say. Well, it was very amusing, and if the circumstances
were different, I could have entered into the spirit of it too. But
you see yourself, Basil, that we can't let this affair go any
further without dealing frankly with her. YOU can't speak to her,
and _I_ MUST. Don't you see?"
I said that I saw, but I had suddenly a wild wish that it were
practicable for me to speak to Miss Gage. I should have liked to
have a peep into a girl's heart at just such a moment, when it must
be quivering with the unconfessed sense of love, and the confident
hope of being loved, but while as yet nothing was assured, nothing
was ascertained. If it would not have been shocking, if it would
not have been sacrilegious, it would have been infinitely
interesting, and from an aesthetic point of view infinitely
important. I thought that I should have been willing to undergo all
the embarrassment of such an inquiry for the sake of its precious
results, if it had been at all possible; but I acquiesced that it
would not be possible. I felt that I was getting off pretty lightly
not to have it brought home to me again that I was the cause of all
this trouble, and that if it had not been for me there would have
been, as far as Mrs. March was concerned, no Miss Gage, and no love-
affair of hers to deal with. I debated in my mind a moment whether
I had better urge her to let me speak to Kendricks after all; but I
forbore, and in the morning I waited about in much perturbation,
after I had sent Miss Gage to her, until I could know the result of
their interview. When I saw the girl come away from her room, which
she did rather trippingly, I went to her, and found her by no means
the wreck I had expected the ordeal to leave her.
"Did you meet Miss Gage?" she asked.
"Yes," I returned, with tremulous expectation.
"Well, don't you think she looks perfectly divine in that gown?
It's one of Mme. Cody's, and we got it for thirty dollars. It would
have been fifty in New York, and it was, here, earlier in the
season. I shall always come here for some of my things; as soon as
the season's a little past they simply FLING them away. Well, my
"I didn't speak to her after all."
"You didn't! Don't you think she's in love with him, then?"
"Well, I couldn't somehow seem to approach the subject as I had
expected to. She was so happy, and so good, and so perfectly
obedient, that I couldn't get anything to take hold of. You see, I
didn't know but she might be a little rebellious, or resentful of my
interference; but in the little gingerly attempts I did make she was
so submissive, don't you understand? And she was very modest about
Mr. Kendricks' attentions, and so self-depreciatory that, well--"
"Look here, Isabel," I broke in, "this is pretty shameless of you.
You pretend to be in the greatest kind of fidge about this girl; and
you make me lie awake all night thinking what you're going to say to
her; and now you as much as tell me you were so fascinated with the
modest way she was in love that you couldn't say anything to her
against being in love on our hands in any sort of way. Do you call
"Well, I don't care if I DID encourage her--"
"Oh, you even encouraged her!"
"I DIDN'T encourage her. I merely praised Mr. Kendricks, and said
how much you thought of him as a writer."
"Oh! then you gave the subject a literary cast. I see! Do you
think Miss Gage was able to follow you?"
"That doesn't matter."
"And what do you propose to do now?"
"I propose to do nothing. I think that I have done all my duty
requires, and that now I can leave the whole affair to you. It was
your affair in the beginning. I don't see why I should worry myself
"It seems to me that this is a very strange position for a lady to
take who was not going to close an eye last night in view of a
situation which has not changed in the least, except for the worse.
Don't you think you are rather culpably light-hearted all of a
"I am light-hearted, but if there is any culpability it is yours,
I reflected, but I failed to find any novelty in the fact. "Very
well, then; what do you propose that I should do?"
"I leave that entirely to your own conscience."
"And if my conscience has no suggestion to make?"
"That's your affair."
I reflected again, and then I said, more than anything to make her
uncomfortable, I'm afraid: "I feel perfectly easy in my conscience,
personally, but I have a social duty in the matter, and I hope I
shall perform it with more fidelity and courage than you have shown.
I shall speak to Kendricks."
She said: "That is just what you ought to do. I'm quite
surprised." After this touch of irony she added earnestly, "And I
do hope, my dear, you will use judgment in speaking to him, and
tact. You mustn't go at it bluntly. Remember that Mr. Kendricks is
not at all to blame. He began to show her attention to oblige us,
and if she has fallen in love with him it is our fault."
"I shall handle him without gloves," I said. "I shall tell him he
had better go away."
I was joking, but she said seriously, "Yes; he must go away. And I
don't envy you having to tell him. I suppose you will bungle it, of
"Well, then, you must advise me," I said; and we really began to
consider the question. We could hardly exaggerate the difficulty
and delicacy of the duty before me. We recognised that before I
made any explicit demand of him I must first ascertain the nature of
the whole ground and then be governed by the facts. It would be
simple enough if I had merely to say that we thought the girl's
affections were becoming engaged, and then appeal to his eager
generosity, his delicate magnanimity; but there were possible
complications on his side which must be regarded. I was to
ascertain, we concluded, the exact nature of the situation before I
ventured to say anything openly. I was to make my approaches by a
series of ambushes before I unmasked my purpose, and perhaps I must
not unmask it at all. As I set off on my mission, which must begin
with finding Kendricks at his hotel, Mrs. March said she pitied me.
She called me back to ask whether I thought I had really better do
anything. Then, as I showed signs of weakening, she drove me from
her with, "Yes, yes! You must! You must!"
It was still so early that I had my doubts whether I should find
Kendricks up after the last night's revelry, but he met me half-way
between our hotel and his. He said he was coming to see how Mrs.
March was bearing Miss Gage's immense success at the ball; but
perhaps this was not his sole motive. He asked frankly how the
young lady was, and whether I thought Mrs. March would consider a
lunch at a restaurant by the lake a good notion. When I said I had
very little doubt she would, and proposed taking a turn in the park
before I went back with him, he looked at his watch and laughed, and
said he supposed it WAS rather early yet, and came very willingly
We had the pretty place almost to ourselves at that hour. There
were a half-dozen or so nursemaids, pushing their perambulators
about, or standing the vehicles across the walk in front of the
benches where they sat, in the simple belief of all people who have
to do with babies that the rest of the world may be fitly
discommoded in their behalf. But they did not actively molest us,
and they scarcely circumscribed our choice of seats. We were by no
means driven to the little kiosk in the lake for them, and I should
rather say that we were fatefully led there, so apt were the
associations of the place to my purpose. Nothing could have been
more natural than that I should say, as we sat down there, "This was
where I first saw Miss Gage with her friends"; and it was by a
perfectly natural transition that I should go on to speak, in a
semi-humorous strain, of the responsibility which Mrs. March and
myself had incurred by letting our sympathy for her run away with
us. I said I supposed that if we had not been willing from the
first to try to realise for her some of the expectations we imagined
she had in coming to Saratoga, she never would have fallen to our
charge; that people really brought a great many more things upon
themselves than they were willing to own; and that fate was perhaps
more the fulfilment of our tacit ambitions than our overt acts.
This bit of philosophy, which I confess I thought fine, did not seem
to impress Kendricks. He merely said that it must be great fun to
have the chance of baffling the malice of circumstance in a case
like that, and I perceived that he felt nothing complex in the
situation. In fact, I doubt whether youth perceives anything
complex in life. To the young, life is a very plain case. To be
sure, they are much more alarmed than their elders at getting
tangled up in its web at times, but that is because they have not
had our experience in getting untangled, and think they are never
going to get out alive. When they do, they think that it is the
only tangle they are ever going to be in, and do not know that they
are simply going on from one to another as long as there is enough
of them left to be caught in a mesh. To Kendricks we Marches were
simply two amiable people, who had fancied doing a pleasant thing
for a beautiful girl that accident had thrown it in our power to
befriend, and were by no means the trembling arbiters of her destiny
we felt ourselves to be. The difference between his objective sense
and my subjective sense was the difference between his twenty-seven
years and my fifty-two, and while this remained I saw that it would
be useless to try to get on common ground with him, or to give him
our point of view. If I were to speak to him at all, it must be
with authority, with the right of one who stood in the place of the
girl's parents, and had her happiness at heart. That is, it was
something like that; but my words say it too bluntly. I found
myself beginning, "I have rather had a notion that her father might
come on, and take the enterprise off our hands," though, to tell the
truth, I had never imagined such a thing, which came into my head at
that moment through an association with the thought of parents.
"Have you any idea what sort of man he is?" asked Kendricks.
"Oh, some little local magnate, president of the village and
president of the village bank; I fancy the chief figure in the
place, but probably as ignorant of our world as a Cherokee."
"Well, I don't know," said the young fellow. "Do you think that
follows because he doesn't live in it?" I could see that he did not
quite like what I had said. "I suppose ours is rather a small
"The smallest of all worlds," I answered. "And in the eyes of Papa
Gage, if they could once be focused upon it, our world would shrivel
to an atom."
"Do you think," he asked, with a manifest anxiety, "that it would in
"No; she is not the American people, and her father is, as I fancy
him. I make out from the vague hints that Brother Deering (as
Fulkerson would call him) dropped when he talked about him that Papa
Gage is a shrewd, practical, home-keeping business man, with an eye
single to the main chance, lavish, but not generous, Philistine to
the backbone, blindly devoted to his daughter, and contemptuous of
all the myriad mysteries of civilisation that he doesn't understand.
I don't know why I should be authorised to imagine him personally
long and lank, with possibly a tobacco habit of some sort. His
natural history, upon no better authority, is that of a hard-headed
farmer, who found out that farming could never be more than a
livelihood, and came into the village, and began to lend money, and
get gain, till he was in a position to help found the De Witt Point
National Bank, and then, by weight of his moneyed solidity, imposed
himself upon the free and independent voters of the village--a
majority of them under mortgage to him--and became its president.
It isn't a pleasant type, but it's ideally American."
"Yes," said Kendricks ruefully.
"But his daughter," I continued, "is probably altogether different.
There is something fine about her--really fine. Our world wouldn't
shrivel in her eye; it would probably swell up and fill the
universe," I added by an impulse that came from nowhere irresistibly
upon me: "that is, if she could see YOU in it."
"What do you mean?" he asked with a start.
"Oh, now I must tell you what I mean," I said desperately. "It's
you that have complicated this case so dreadfully for us. Can't you
"No, I can't," he said; but he had to say that.
His fine, sensitive face flamed at once so fire-red that it could
only turn pale for a change when I plunged on: "I'm afraid we've
trifled with her happiness"; and this formulation of the case
disgusted me so much that I laughed wildly, and added, "unless we've
trifled with yours, too."
"I don't know why you call it trifling with happiness," he returned
with dignity, but without offence. "If you will leave her out of
the question, I will say that you have given me the greatest
happiness of my life in introducing me to Miss Gage."
"Now," I demanded, "may I ask what YOU mean? You know I wouldn't if
I didn't feel bound for her sake, and if you hadn't said just what
you have said. You needn't answer me unless you like! It's
pleasant to know that you've not been bored, and Mrs. March and I
are infinitely obliged to you for helping us out."
Kendricks made as if he were going to say something, and then he did
not. He hung his head lower and lower in the silence which I had to
break for him--"I hope I haven't been intrusive, my dear fellow.
This is something I felt bound to speak of. You know we couldn't
let it go on. Mrs. March and I have blamed ourselves a good deal,
and we couldn't let it go on. But I'm afraid I haven't been as
delicate with you--"
"Oh! delicate!" He lifted his head and flashed a face of generous
self-reproach upon me. "It's _I_ that haven't been delicate with
YOU. I've been monstrously indelicate. But I never meant to be,
and--and--I was coming to see you just now when we met--to see you--
Miss Gage--and ask her--tell her that we--I--must tell you and Mrs.
March--Mr. March! At the hop last night I asked her to be my wife,
and as soon as she can hear from her father--But the first thing
when I woke this morning, I saw that I must tell Mrs. March and you.
And you--you must forgive us--or me, rather; for it was my fault--
for not telling you last night--at once--oh, thank you! thank you!"
I had seized his hand, and was wringing it vehemently in expression
of my pleasure in what he had told me. In that first moment I felt
nothing but pure joy and an immeasurable relief. I drew my breath,
a very deep and full one, in a sudden, absolute freedom from
anxieties which had been none the less real and constant because so
often burlesqued. Afterward considerations presented themselves to
alloy my rapture, but for that moment, as I say, it was nothing but
rapture. There was no question in it of the lovers' fitness for
each other, of their acceptability to their respective families, of
their general conduct, or of their especial behaviour toward us.
All that I could realise was that it was a great escape for both of
us, and a great triumph for me. I had been afraid that I should not
have the courage to speak to Kendricks of the matter at all, much
less ask him to go away; and here I had actually spoken to him, with
the splendid result that I need only congratulate him on his
engagement to the lady whose unrequited affections I had been
wishing him to spare. I don't remember just the terms I used in
doing this, but they seemed satisfactory to Kendricks; probably a
repetition of the letters of the alphabet would have been equally
acceptable. At last I said, "Well, now I must go and tell the great
news to Mrs. March," and I shook hands with him again; we had been
shaking hands at half-minutely intervals ever since the first time.
I saw Mrs. March waiting for me on the hotel verandah. She wore her
bonnet, and she warned me not to approach, and then ran down to meet
"Well, my dear," she said, as she pushed her hand through my arm and
began to propel me away from the sight and hearing of people on the
piazza, "I hope you didn't make a fool of yourself with Kendricks.
She apparently expected me to be prostrated by this stroke. "Yes,"
I said very coolly; "I was just coming to tell you."
"How did you know it? Who told you? Did Kendricks? I don't
believe it!" she cried in an excitement not unmixed with resentment.
"No one told me," I said. "I simply divined it."
She didn't mind that for a moment. "Well, I'm glad he had the grace
to do so, and I hope he did it before you asked him any leading
questions." Without waiting to hear whether this was so or not, she
went on, with an emphasis on the next word that almost blotted it
out of the language, "SHE came back to me almost the instant you
were gone, and told me everything. She said she wanted to tell me
last night, but she hadn't the courage, and this morning, when she
saw that I was beginning to hint up to Mr. Kendricks a little, she
hadn't the courage at all. I sent her straight off to telegraph for
her father. She is behaving splendidly. And now, what are we going
"What the rest of the world is--nothing. It seems to me that we are
out of the story, my dear. At any rate, I shan't attempt to compete
with Miss Gage in splendid behaviour, and I hope you won't. It
would be so easy for us. I wonder what Papa Gage is going to be
I felt my thrill of apprehension impart itself to her. "Yes!" she
gasped; "what if he shouldn't like it?"
"Well, then, that's his affair." But I did not feel so lightly
about it as I spoke, and from time to time during the day I was
overtaken with a cold dismay at the thought of the unknown quantity
in the problem.
When we returned to the hotel after a tour of the block, we saw
Kendricks in our corner of the verandah with Miss Gage. They were
both laughing convulsively, and they ran down to meet us in yet
wilder throes of merriment.
"We've just been comparing notes," he said, "and at the very moment
when I was telling you, Mr. March, Julia was telling Mrs. March."
"Wonderful case of telepathy," I mocked.
"Give it to the Psychical Research."
They both seemed a little daunted, and Miss Gage said, "I know Mr.
March doesn't like the way we've done."
"Like it!" cried Mrs. March, contriving to shake me a little with
the hand she still had in my arm. "Of course he likes it. He was
just saying you had behaved splendidly. He said HE wouldn't attempt
to compete with you. But you mustn't regard him in the least."
I admired the skill with which Isabel saved her conscience in this
statement too much to dispute it; and I suppose that whatever she
had said, Miss Gage would have been reassured. I cannot
particularly praise the wisdom of her behaviour during that day, or,
for the matter of that, the behaviour of Kendricks either. The
ideal thing would have been for him to keep away now till her father
came, but it seemed to me that he was about under our feet all the
while, and that she, so far from making him remain at his own hotel,
encouraged him to pass the time at ours. Without consulting me,
Mrs. March asked him to stay to dinner after he had stayed all the
forenoon, and he made this a pretext for spending the afternoon in
our corner of the verandah. She made me give it up to him and Miss
Gage, so that they could be alone together, though I must say they
did not seem to mind us a great deal when we were present; he was
always leaning on the back of her chair, or sitting next her with
his hand dangling over it in a manner that made me sick. I wondered
if I was ever such an ass as that, and I quite lost the respect for
Kendricks's good sense and good taste which had been the ground of
my liking for him.
I felt myself withdrawn from the affair farther and farther in
sympathy, since it had now passed beyond my control; and I resented
the strain of the responsibility which I had thrown off, I found,
only for a moment, and must continue to suffer until the girl's
father appeared and finally relieved me. The worst was that I had
to bear it alone. It was impossible to detach Mrs. March's interest
from Miss Gage, as a girl who had been made love to, long enough to
enable her to realise her as a daughter with filial ties and duties.
She did try in a perfunctory way to do it, but I could see that she
never gave her mind to it. I could not even make her share my sense
of my own culpability, a thing she was only too willing to do in
most matters. She admitted that it was absurd for me to have let my
fancy play about the girl when I first saw her until we felt that I
must do something for her; but I could not get her to own that we
had both acted preposterously in letting Mrs. Deering leave Miss
Gage in our charge. In the first place, she denied that she had
been left in our charge. She had simply been left in the hotel
where we were staying, and we should have been perfectly free to do
nothing for her. But when Kendricks turned up so unexpectedly, it
was quite natural we should ask him to be polite to her. Mrs. March
saw nothing strange in all that. What was I worrying about? What
she had been afraid of was that he had not been in love with the
girl when she was so clearly in love with him. But now!
"And suppose her father doesn't like it!"
"Not like Mr. Kendricks!" She stared at me, and I could see how
infatuated she was.
I was myself always charmed with the young fellow. He was not only
good and generous and handsome, and clever--I never thought him a
first-class talent--but he was beautifully well bred, and he was
very well born, as those things go with us. That is, he came of
people who had not done much of anything for a generation, and had
acquired merit with themselves for it. They were not very rich, but
they had a right to think that he might have done nothing, or done
something better than literature; and I wish I could set forth
exactly the terms, tacit and explicit, in which his mother and
sisters condoned his dereliction to me at a reception where he
presented me to them. In virtue of his wish to do something, he had
become a human being, and they could not quite follow him; but they
were very polite in tolerating me, and trying to make me feel that I
was not at all odd, though he was so queer in being proud of writing
for my paper, as they called it. He was so unlike them all that I
liked him more than ever after meeting them. Still, I could imagine
a fond father, as I imagined Miss Gage's father to be, objecting to
him, on some grounds at least, till he knew him, and Mrs. March
apparently could not imagine even this.
I do not know why I should have prefigured Miss Gage's father as
tall and lank. She was not herself so very tall, though she was
rather tall than short, and though she was rather of the Diana or
girlish type of goddess, she was by no means lank. Yet it was in
this shape that I had always thought of him, perhaps through an
obscure association with his fellow-villager, Deering. I had
fancied him saturnine of spirit, slovenly of dress, and lounging of
habit, upon no authority that I could allege, and I was wholly
unprepared for the neat, small figure of a man, very precise of
manner and scrupulous of aspect, who said, "How do you do, sir? I
hope I see you well, sir," when his daughter presented us to each
other, the morning after the eventful day described, and he shook my
hand with his very small, dry hand.
I could not make out from their manner with each other whether they
had been speaking of the great matter in hand or not. I am rather
at a loss about people of that Philistine make as to what their
procedure will be in circumstances where I know just what people of
my own sort of sophistication would do. These would come straight
at the trouble, but I fancy that with the other sort the convention
is a preliminary reserve. I found Mr. Gage disposed to prolong,
with me at least, a discussion of the weather, and the aspects of
Saratoga, the events of his journey from De Witt Point, and the
hardship of having to ride all the way to Mooer's Junction in a
stage-coach. I felt more and more, while we bandied these
futilities, as if Mr. Gage had an overdue note of mine, and was
waiting for me, since I could not pay it, to make some proposition
toward its renewal; and he did really tire me out at last, so that I
said, "Well, Mr. Gage, I suppose Miss Gage has told you something of
the tremendous situation that has developed itself here?"
I thought I had better give the affair such smiling character as a
jocose treatment might impart, and the dry little man twinkled up
responsively so far as manner was concerned. "Well, yes, yes.
There has been some talk of it between us," and again he left the
word to me.
"Mrs. March urged your daughter to send for you at once because that
was the right and fit thing to do, and because we felt that the
affair had now quite transcended our powers, such as they were, and
nobody could really cope with it but yourself. I hope you were not
unduly alarmed by the summons?"
"Not at all. She said in the despatch that she was not sick. I had
been anticipating a short visit to Saratoga for some days, and my
business was in a shape so that I could leave."
"Oh!" I said vaguely, "I am very glad. Mrs. March felt, as I did,
that circumstances had given us a certain obligation in regard to
Miss Gage, and we were anxious to discharge it faithfully and to the
utmost. We should have written to you, summoned you, before, if we
could have supposed--or been sure; but you know these things go on
so obscurely, and we acted at the very first possible moment. I
wish you to understand that. We talked it over a great deal, and I
hope you will believe that we studied throughout--that we were most
solicitous from beginning to end for Miss Gage's happiness, and that
if we could have foreseen or imagined--if we could have taken any
steps--I trust you will believe--" I was furious at myself for
being so confoundedly apologetic, for I was thinking all the time of
the bother and affliction we had had with the girl; and there sat
that little wooden image accepting my self-inculpations, and
apparently demanding more of me; but I could not help going on in
the same strain: "We felt especially bound in the matter, from the
fact that Mr. Kendricks was a personal friend of ours, whom we are
very fond of, and we both are very anxious that you should not
suppose that we promoted, or that we were not most vigilant--that we
were for a moment forgetful of your rights in such an affair--"
I stopped, and Mr. Gage passed his hand across his little meagre,
"Then he is not a connection of yours, Mr. March?"
"Bless me, no!" I said in great relief; "we are not so swell as
that." And I tried to give him some notion of Kendricks's local
quality, repeating a list of agglutinated New York surnames to which
his was more or less affiliated. They always amuse me, those names,
which more than any in the world give the notion of social
straining; but I doubt if they affected the imagination of Mr. Gage,
either in this way or in the way I meanly meant them to affect him.
"And what did you say his business was?" he asked, with that
implication of a previous statement on your part which some people
think it so clever to make when they question you.
I always hate it, and I avenged myself by answering simply, "Bless
my soul, he has no business!" and letting him take up the word now
or not, as he liked.
"Then he is a man of independent means?"
I could not resist answering, "Independent means? Kendricks has no
means whatever." But having dealt this blow, I could add, "I
believe his mother has some money. They are people who live
"Then he has no profession?" asked Mr. Gage, with a little more
stringency in his smile.
"I don't know whether you will call it a profession. He is a
"Ah!" Mr. Gage softly breathed. "Does he write for your--paper?"
I noted that as to the literary technicalities he seemed not to be
much more ignorant than Kendricks's own family, and I said,
tolerantly, "Yes; he writes for our magazine."
"Magazine--yes; I beg your pardon," he interrupted.
"And for any others where he can place his material."
This apparently did not convey any very luminous idea to Mr. Gage's
mind, and he asked after a moment, "What kind of things does he
"Oh, stories, sketches, poems, reviews, essays--almost anything, in
The light left his face, and I perceived that I had carried my
revenge too far, at least for Kendricks's advantage, and I
determined to take a new departure at the first chance. The chance
did not come immediately.
"And can a man support a wife by that kind of writing?" asked Mr.
I laughed uneasily. "Some people do. It depends upon how much of
it he can sell. It depends upon how handsomely a wife wishes to be
supported. The result isn't usually beyond the dreams of avarice,"
I said, with a desperate levity.
"Excuse me," returned the little man. "Do you live in that way? By
"No," I said with some state, which I tried to subdue; "I am the
editor of Every Other Week, and part owner. Mr. Kendricks is merely
"Ah," he breathed again. "And if he were successful in selling his
writings, how much would he probably make in a year?"
"In a year?" I repeated, to gain time. "Mr. Kendricks is
comparatively a beginner. Say fifteen hundred--two thousand--
"And that would not go very far in New York."
"No; that would not go far in New York." I was beginning to find a
certain pleasure in dealing so frankly with this hard little man. I
liked to see him suffer, and I could see that he did suffer; he
suffered as a father must who learns that from a pecuniary point of
view his daughter is imprudently in love. Why should we always
regard such a sufferer as a comic figure? He is, if we think of it
rightly, a most serious, even tragical figure, and at all events a
most respectable figure. He loves her, and his heart is torn
between the wish to indulge her and the wish to do what will be
finally best for her. Why should our sympathies, in such a case, be
all for the foolish young lovers? They ought in great measure to be
for the father, too. Something like a sense of this smote me, and I
was ashamed in my pleasure.
"Then I should say, Mr. March, that this seems a most undesirable
engagement for my daughter. What should you say? I ask you to make
the case your own."
"Excuse me," I answered; "I would much rather not make the case my
own, Mr. Gage, and I must decline to have you consult me. I think
that in this matter I have done all that I was called upon to do. I
have told you what I know of Mr. Kendricks's circumstances and
connections. As to his character, I can truly say that he is one of
the best men I ever knew. I believe in his absolute purity of
heart, and he is the most unselfish, the most generous--"
Mr. Gage waved the facts aside with his hand. "I don't undervalue
those things. If I could be master, no one should have my girl
without them. But they do not constitute a livelihood. From what
you tell me of Mr. Kendricks's prospects, I am not prepared to say
that I think the outlook is brilliant. If he has counted upon my
supplying a deficiency--"
"Oh, excuse me, Mr. Gage! Your insinuation--"
"Excuse ME!" he retorted. "I am making no insinuation. I merely
wish to say that, while my means are such as to enable me to live in
comfort at De Witt Point, I am well aware that much more would be
needed in New York to enable my daughter to live in the same
comfort. I'm not willing she should live in less. I think it is my
duty to say that I am not at all a rich man, and if there has been
any supposition that I am so, it is a mistake that cannot be
corrected too soon."
This time I could not resent his insinuation, for since he had begun
to speak I had become guiltily aware of having felt a sort of ease
in regard to Kendricks's modesty of competence from a belief, given
me, I suspect, by the talk of Deering, that Mr. Gage had plenty of
money, and could come to the rescue in any amount needed. I could
only say, "Mr. Gage, all this is so far beyond my control that I
ought not to allow you to say it to me. It is something that you
must say to Mr. Kendricks."
As I spoke I saw the young fellow come round the corner of the
street, and mount the hotel steps. He did not see me, for he did
not look toward the little corner of lawn where Mr. Gage and I had
put our chairs for the sake of the morning shade, and for the
seclusion that the spot afforded us. It was at the angle of the
house farthest from our peculiar corner of the piazza, whither I had
the belief that the girl had withdrawn when she left me to her
father. I was sure that Kendricks would seek her there, far enough
beyond eyeshot or earshot of us, and I had no doubt that she was
"You are Mr. Kendricks's friend--"
"I have tried much more to be Miss Gage's friend; and Mrs. March--"
It came into my mind that she was most selfishly and shamelessly
keeping out of the way, and I could not go on and celebrate her
magnanimous impartiality, her eager and sleepless vigilance.
"I have no doubt of that," said the little man, "and I am very much
obliged to you for all the trouble you have taken on my daughter's
account. But you are his friend, and I can speak to you much more
fully and frankly than I could to him."
I did not know just what to say to this, and he went on: "In point
of fact, I don't think that I shall speak to him at all."
"That is quite your affair, my dear sir," I said dryly. "It isn't
to be supposed that you would seek an interview with him."
"And if he seeks an interview with me, I shall decline it." He
looked at me defiantly and yet interrogatively. I could see that he
was very angry, and yet uncertain.
"I must say, then, Mr. Gage, that I don't think you would be right."
"How, not right?"
"I should say that in equity he had a full and perfect right to meet
you, and to talk this matter over with you. He has done you no
wrong whatever in admiring your daughter, and wishing to marry her.
It's for you and her to decide whether you will let him. But as far
as his wish goes, and his expression of it to her, he is quite
within his rights. You must see that yourself."
"I consider," he answered, "that he has done me a wrong in that very
thing. A man without means, or any stated occupation, he had no
business to speak to my daughter without speaking to me. He took
advantage of the circumstances. What does he think? Does he
suppose I am MADE of money? Does he suppose I want to support a
son-in-law? I can tell you that if I were possessed of unlimited
means, I should not do it." I began to suspect that Deering was
nearer right, after all, in his representations of the man's
financial ability; I fancied something of the anxiety, the tremor of
avarice, in his resentment of poor Kendricks's possible, or rather
impossible, designs upon his pocket. "If he had any profession, or
any kind of business, I should feel differently, and I should be
willing to assist him to a reasonable degree; or if he had a
business training, I might take him in with me; but as it is, I
should have a helpless burden on my hands, and I can tell you I am
not going in for that sort of thing. I shall make short work of it.
I shall decline to meet Mr. Hendricks, or Kendricks, and I shall ask
you to say as much to him from me."
"And I shall decline to be the bearer of any such message from you,
Mr. Gage," I answered, and I saw, not without pleasure, the
bewilderment that began to mix with his arrogance.
"Very well, then, sir," he answered, after a moment; "I shall simply
take my daughter away with me, and that will end it."
The prim little, grim little man looked at me with his hard eyes,
and set his lips so close that the beard on the lower one stuck out
at me with a sort of additional menace I felt that he was too
capable of doing what he said, and I lost myself in a sense of his
sordidness, a sense which was almost without a trace of compassion.
It seemed as if I were a long time under the spell of this, and the
sight of his repugnant face; but it could really have been merely a
moment, when I heard a stir of drapery on the grass near us, and the
soft, rich voice of Miss Gage saying, "Papa!"
We both started to our feet. I do not know whether she had heard
what he said or not. We had spoken low, and in the utmost vehemence
of his speech he did not lift his voice. In any case, she did not
heed what he said.
"Papa," she repeated, "I want you to come up and see Mrs. March on
the piazza. And--Mr. Kendricks is there."
I had a wild desire to laugh at what followed, and yet it was not
without its pathos. "I--I--hm! hm! I--cannot see Mr. Kendricks
just at present. I--the fact is, I do not want to see him. It is
better--not. I think you had better get ready to go home with me at
once, daughter. I--hm!--cannot approve of any engagement to Mr.
Kendricks, and I--prefer not to meet him." He stopped.
Miss Gage said nothing, and I cannot say that she looked anything.
She simply CLOUDED UP, if I may so express the effect that came and
remained upon her countenance, which was now the countenance she had
shown me the first evening I saw her, when I saw the Deerings
cowering in its shadow. I had no need to look at the adamantine
little man before her to know that he was softening into wax, and,
in fact, I felt a sort of indecency in beholding his inteneration,
for I knew that it came from his heart, and had its consecration
through his love for her.
That is why I turned away, and do not know to this moment just how
the change she desired in him was brought about. I will not say
that I did not look back from a discreet distance, and continue
looking until I saw them start away together and move in the
direction of that corner of the piazza where Kendricks was waiting
with Mrs. March.
It appeared, from her account, that Mr. Gage, with no uncommon show
of ill-will, but with merely a natural dryness, suffered Kendricks
to be presented to him, and entered upon some preliminary banalities
with him, such as he had used in opening a conversation with me.
Before these came to a close Mrs. March had thought it well to leave
the three together.
Afterward, when we knew the only result that the affair could have,
she said, "The girl has a powerful will. I wonder what the mother
"Yes; evidently she didn't get that will from her father. I have
still a sense of exhaustion from it in our own case. What do you
think it portends for poor Kendricks!"
"Poor Kendricks!" she repeated thoughtfully. "Yes; in that sense I
suppose you might call him poor. It isn't an equal thing as far as
nature, as character, goes. But isn't it always dreadful to see two
people who have made up their minds to get married?"
"It's very common," I suggested.
"That doesn't change the fact, or lessen the risk. She is very
beautiful, and now he is in love with her beautiful girlhood. But
after a while the girlhood will go."
"And the girl will remain," I said.
THE LANDLORD AT LION'S HEAD
By William Dean Howells
In those dim recesses of the consciousness where things have their
beginning, if ever things have a beginning, I suppose the origin of this
novel may be traced to a fact of a fortnight's sojourn on the western
shore of lake Champlain in the summer of 1891. Across the water in the
State of Vermont I had constantly before my eyes a majestic mountain form
which the earlier French pioneers had named "Le Lion Couchant," but which
their plainer-minded Yankee successors preferred to call "The Camel's
Hump." It really looked like a sleeping lion; the head was especially
definite; and when, in the course of some ten years, I found the scheme
for a story about a summer hotel which I had long meant to write, this
image suggested the name of 'The Landlord at Lion's Head.' I gave the
title to my unwritten novel at once and never wished to change it, but
rejoiced in the certainty that, whatever the novel turned out to be, the
title could not be better.
I began to write the story four years later, when we were settled for the
winter in our flat on Central Park, and as I was a year in doing it, with
other things, I must have taken the unfinished manuscript to and from
Magnolia, Massachusetts, and Long Beach, Long Island, where I spent the
following summer. It was first serialized in Harper's Weekly and in the
London Illustrated News, as well as in an Australian newspaper--I forget
which one; and it was published as a completed book in 1896.
I remember concerning it a very becoming despair when, at a certain
moment in it, I began to wonder what I was driving at. I have always had
such moments in my work, and if I cannot fitly boast of them, I can at
least own to them in freedom from the pride that goes before a fall.
My only resource at such times was to keep working; keep beating harder
and harder at the wall which seemed to close me in, till at last I broke
through into the daylight beyond. In this case, I had really such a very
good grip of my characters that I need not have had the usual fear of
their failure to work out their destiny. But even when the thing was
done and I carried the completed manuscript to my dear old friend, the
late Henry Loomis Nelson, then editor of the Weekly, it was in more fear
of his judgment than I cared to show. As often happened with my
manuscript in such exigencies, it seemed to go all to a handful of
shrivelled leaves. When we met again and he accepted it for the Weekly,
with a handclasp of hearty welcome, I could scarcely gasp out my
unfeigned relief. We had talked the scheme of it over together; he had
liked the notion, and he easily made me believe, after my first dismay,
that he liked the result even better.
I myself liked the hero of the tale more than I have liked worthier men,
perhaps because I thought I had achieved in him a true rustic New England
type in contact with urban life under entirely modern conditions. What
seemed to me my esthetic success in him possibly softened me to his
ethical shortcomings; but I do not expect others to share my weakness for
Jeff Durgin, whose strong, rough surname had been waiting for his
personality ever since I had got it off the side of an ice-cart many
At the time the story was imagined Harvard had been for four years much
in the direct knowledge of the author, and I pleased myself in realizing
the hero's experience there from even more intimacy with the university
moods and manners than had supported me in the studies of an earlier
fiction dealing with them. I had not lived twelve years in Cambridge
without acquaintance such as even an elder man must make with the
undergraduate life; but it is only from its own level that this can be
truly learned, and I have always been ready to stand corrected by
undergraduate experience. Still, I have my belief that as a jay--the
word may now be obsolete--Jeff Durgin is not altogether out of drawing;
though this is, of course, the phase of his character which is one of the
least important. What I most prize in him, if I may go to the bottom of
the inkhorn, is the realization of that anti-Puritan quality which was
always vexing the heart of Puritanism, and which I had constantly felt
one of the most interesting facts in my observation of New England.
As for the sort of summer hotel portrayed in these pages, it was
materialized from an acquaintance with summer hotels extending over
quarter of a century, and scarcely to be surpassed if paralleled. I had
a passion for knowing about them and understanding their operation which
I indulged at every opportunity, and which I remember was satisfied as to
every reasonable detail at one of the pleasantest seaside hostelries by
one of the most intelligent and obliging of landlords. Yet, hotels for
hotels, I was interested in those of the hills rather than those of the
I worked steadily if not rapidly at the story. Often I went back over
it, and tore it to pieces and put it together again. It made me feel at
times as if I should never learn my trade, but so did every novel I have
written; every novel, in fact, has been a new trade. In, the case of
this one the publishers were hurrying me in the revision for copy to give
the illustrator, who was hurrying his pictures for the English and
KITTERY POINT, MAINE, July, 1909.
THE LANDLORD AT LION'S HEAD
If you looked at the mountain from the west, the line of the summit was
wandering and uncertain, like that of most mountain-tops; but, seen from
the east, the mass of granite showing above the dense forests of the
lower slopes had the form of a sleeping lion. The flanks and haunches
were vaguely distinguished from the mass; but the mighty head, resting
with its tossed mane upon the vast paws stretched before it, was boldly
sculptured against the sky. The likeness could not have been more
perfect, when you had it in profile, if it had been a definite intention
of art; and you could travel far north and far south before the illusion
vanished. In winter the head was blotted by the snows; and sometimes the
vagrant clouds caught upon it and deformed it, or hid it, at other
seasons; but commonly, after the last snow went in the spring until the
first snow came in the fall, the Lion's Head was a part of the landscape,
as imperative and importunate as the Great Stone Face itself.
Long after other parts of the hill country were opened to summer sojourn,
the region of Lion's Head remained almost primitively solitary and
savage. A stony mountain road followed the bed of the torrent that
brawled through the valley at its base, and at a certain point a still
rougher lane climbed from the road along the side of the opposite height
to a lonely farm-house pushed back on a narrow shelf of land, with a
meagre acreage of field and pasture broken out of the woods that clothed
all the neighboring steeps. The farm-house level commanded the best view
of Lion's Head, and the visitors always mounted to it, whether they came
on foot, or arrived on buckboards or in buggies, or drove up in the
Concord stages from the farther and nearer hotels. The drivers of the
coaches rested their horses there, and watered them from the spring that
dripped into the green log at the barn; the passengers scattered about
the door-yard to look at the Lion's Head, to wonder at it and mock at it,
according to their several makes and moods. They could scarcely have
felt that they ever had a welcome from the stalwart, handsome woman who
sold them milk, if they wanted it, and small cakes of maple sugar if they
were very strenuous for something else. The ladies were not able to make
much of her from the first; but some of them asked her if it were not
rather lonely there, and she said that when you heard the catamounts
scream at night, and the bears growl in the spring, it did seem lonesome.
When one of them declared that if she should hear a catamount scream or a
bear growl she should die, the woman answered, Well, she presumed we must
all die some time. But the ladies were not sure of a covert slant in her
words, for they were spoken with the same look she wore when she told
them that the milk was five cents a glass, and the black maple sugar
three cents a cake. She did not change when she owned upon their urgence
that the gaunt man whom they glimpsed around the corners of the house was
her husband, and the three lank boys with him were her sons; that the
children whose faces watched them through the writhing window panes were
her two little girls; that the urchin who stood shyly twisted, all but
his white head and sunburned face, into her dress and glanced at them
with a mocking blue eye, was her youngest, and that he was three years
old. With like coldness of voice and face, she assented to their
conjecture that the space walled off in the farther corner of the orchard
was the family burial ground; and she said, with no more feeling that the
ladies could see than she had shown concerning the other facts, that the
graves they saw were those of her husband's family and of the children
she had lost there had been ten children, and she had lost four. She did
not visibly shrink from the pursuit of the sympathy which expressed
itself in curiosity as to the sickness they had died of; the ladies left
her with the belief that they had met a character, and she remained with
the conviction, briefly imparted to her husband, that they were tonguey.
The summer folks came more and more, every year, with little variance in
the impression on either side. When they told her that her maple sugar
would sell better if the cake had an image of Lion's Head stamped on it,
she answered that she got enough of Lion's Head without wanting to see it
on all the sugar she made. But the next year the cakes bore a rude
effigy of Lion's Head, and she said that one of her boys had cut the
stamp out with his knife; she now charged five cents a cake for the
sugar, but her manner remained the same. It did not change when the
excursionists drove away, and the deep silence native to the place fell
after their chatter. When a cock crew, or a cow lowed, or a horse
neighed, or one of the boys shouted to the cattle, an echo retorted from
the granite base of Lion's Head, and then she had all the noise she
wanted, or, at any rate, all the noise there was most of the time. Now
and then a wagon passed on the stony road by the brook in the valley, and
sent up its clatter to the farm-house on its high shelf, but there was
scarcely another break from the silence except when the coaching-parties
The continuous clash and rush of the brook was like a part of the
silence, as the red of the farm-house and the barn was like a part of the
green of the fields and woods all round them: the black-green of pines
and spruces, the yellow-green of maples and birches, dense to the tops of
the dreary hills, and breaking like a bated sea around the Lion's Head.
The farmer stooped at his work, with a thin, inward-curving chest, but
his wife stood straight at hers; and she had a massive beauty of figure
and a heavily moulded regularity of feature that impressed such as had
eyes to see her grandeur among the summer folks. She was forty when they
began to come, and an ashen gray was creeping over the reddish heaps of
her hair, like the pallor that overlies the crimson of the autumnal oak.
She showed her age earlier than most fair people, but since her marriage
at eighteen she had lived long in the deaths of the children she had
lost. They were born with the taint of their father's family, and they
withered from their cradles. The youngest boy alone; of all her brood,
seemed to have inherited her health and strength. The rest as they grew
up began to cough, as she had heard her husband's brothers and sisters
cough, and then she waited in hapless patience the fulfilment of their
doom. The two little girls whose faces the ladies of the first
coaching-party saw at the farm-house windows had died away from them; two
of the lank boys had escaped, and in the perpetual exile of California
and Colorado had saved themselves alive. Their father talked of going,
too, but ten years later he still dragged himself spectrally about the
labors of the farm, with the same cough at sixty which made his oldest
son at twenty-nine look scarcely younger than himself.
One soft noon in the middle of August the farmer came in from the
corn-field that an early frost had blighted, and told his wife that they
must give it up. He said, in his weak, hoarse voice, with the catarrhal
catching in it, that it was no use trying to make a living on the farm
any longer. The oats had hardly been worth cutting, and now the corn was
gone, and there was not hay enough without it to winter the stock; if
they got through themselves they would have to live on potatoes. Have a
vendue, and sell out everything before the snow flew, and let the State
take the farm and get what it could for it, and turn over the balance
that was left after the taxes; the interest of the savings-bank mortgage
would soon eat that up.
The long, loose cough took him, and another cough answered it like an
echo from the barn, where his son was giving the horses their feed. The
mild, wan-eyed young man came round the corner presently toward the porch
where his father and mother were sitting, and at the same moment a boy
came up the lane to the other corner; there were sixteen years between
the ages of the brothers, who alone were left of the children born into
and borne out of the house. The young man waited till they were within
whispering distance of each other, and then he gasped: "Where you been?"
The boy answered, promptly, "None your business," and went up the steps
before the young man, with a lop-eared, liver-colored mongrel at his
heels. He pulled off his ragged straw hat and flung it on the floor of
the porch. "Dinner over?" he demanded.
His father made no answer; his mother looked at the boy's hands and face,
all of much the same earthen cast, up to the eaves of his thatch of
yellow hair, and said: "You go and wash yourself." At a certain light in
his mother's eye, which he caught as he passed into the house with his
dog, the boy turned and cut a defiant caper. The oldest son sat down on
the bench beside his father, and they all looked in silence at the
mountain before them. They heard the boy whistling behind the house,
with sputtering and blubbering noises, as if he were washing his face
while he whistled; and then they heard him singing, with a muffled sound,
and sharp breaks from the muffled sound, as if he were singing into the
towel; he shouted to his dog and threatened him, and the scuffling of his
feet came to them through all as if he were dancing.
"Been after them woodchucks ag'in," his father huskily suggested.
"I guess so," said the mother. The brother did not speak; he coughed
vaguely, and let his head sink forward.
The father began a statement of his affairs.
The mother said: "You don't want to go into that; we been all over it
before. If it's come to the pinch, now, it's come. But you want to be
The man did not answer directly. "If we could sell off now and get out
to where Jim is in Californy, and get a piece of land--" He stopped, as
if confronted with some difficulty which he had met before, but had hoped
he might not find in his way this time.
His wife laughed grimly. "I guess, if the truth was known, we're too
poor to get away."
"We're poor," he whispered back. He added, with a weak obstinacy:
"I d'know as we're as poor as that comes to. The things would fetch
"Enough to get us out there, and then we should be on Jim's hands," said
"We should till spring, maybe. I d'know as I want to face another winter
here, and I d'know as Jackson does."
The young man gasped back, courageously: "I guess I can get along here
"It's made Jim ten years younger. That's what he said," urged the
The mother smiled as grimly as she had laughed. "I don't believe it 'll
make you ten years richer, and that's what you want."
"I don't believe but what we should ha' done something with the place by
spring. Or the State would," the father said, lifelessly.
The voice of the boy broke in upon them from behind. "Say, mother, a'n't
you never goin' to have dinner?" He was standing in the doorway, with a
startling cleanness of the hands and face, and a strange, wet sleekness
of the hair. His clothes were bedrabbled down the front with soap and
His mother rose and went toward him; his father and brother rose like
apparitions, and slanted after her at one angle.
"Say," the boy called again to his mother, "there comes a peddler." He
pointed down the road at the figure of a man briskly ascending the lane
toward the house, with a pack on his back and some strange appendages
dangling from it.
The woman did not look round; neither of the men looked round; they all
kept on in-doors, and she said to the boy, as she passed him: "I got no
time to waste on peddlers. You tell him we don't want anything."
The boy waited for the figure on the lane to approach. It was the figure
of a young man, who slung his burden lightly from his shoulders when he
arrived, and then stood looking at the boy, with his foot planted on the
lowermost tread of the steps climbing from the ground to the porch.
The boy must have permitted these advances that he might inflict the
greater disappointment when he spoke. "We don't want anything," he said,
"Don't you?" the stranger returned. "I do. I want dinner. Go in and
tell your mother, and then show me where I can wash my hands."
The bold ease of the stranger seemed to daunt the boy, and he stood
irresolute. His dog came round the corner of the house at the first word
of the parley, and, while his master was making up his mind what to do,
he smelled at the stranger's legs. "Well, you can't have any dinner,"
said the boy, tentatively. The dog raised the bristles on his neck, and
showed his teeth with a snarl. The stranger promptly kicked him in the
jaw, and the dog ran off howling. "Come here, sir!" the boy called to
him, but the dog vanished round the house with a fading yelp.
"Now, young man," said the stranger, "will you go and do as you're bid?
I'm ready to pay for my dinner, and you can say so." The boy stared at
him, slowly taking in the facts of his costume, with eyes that climbed
from the heavy shoes up the legs of his thick-ribbed stockings and his
knickerbockers, past the pleats and belt of his Norfolk jacket, to the
red neckcloth tied under the loose collar of his flannel outing-shirt,
and so by his face, with its soft, young beard and its quiet eyes, to the
top of his braidless, bandless slouch hat of soft felt. It was one of
the earliest costumes of the kind that had shown itself in the hill
country, and it was altogether new to the boy. "Come," said the wearer
of it, "don't stand on the order of your going, but go at once," and he
sat down on the steps with his back to the boy, who heard these strange
terms of command with a face of vague envy.
The noonday sunshine lay in a thin, silvery glister on the slopes of the
mountain before them, and in the brilliant light the colossal forms of
the Lion's Head were prismatically outlined against the speckless sky.
Through the silvery veil there burned here and there on the densely
wooded acclivities the crimson torch of a maple, kindled before its time,
but everywhere else there was the unbroken green of the forest, subdued
to one tone of gray. The boy heard the stranger fetch his breath deeply,
and then expel it in a long sigh, before he could bring himself to obey
an order that seemed to leave him without the choice of disobedience. He
came back and found the stranger as he had left him. "Come on, if you
want your dinner," he said; and the stranger rose and looked at him.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Thomas Jefferson Durgin."
"Well, Thomas Jefferson Durgin, will you show me the way to the pump and
bring a towel along?"
"Want to wash?"
"I haven't changed my mind."
"Come along, then." The boy made a movement as if to lead the way
indoors; the stranger arrested him.
"Here. Take hold of this and put it out of the rush of travel
somewhere." He lifted his burden from where he had dropped it in the
road and swung it toward the boy, who ran down the steps and embraced it.
As he carried it toward a corner of the porch he felt of the various
shapes and materials in it.
Then he said, "Come on!" again, and went before the guest through the
dim hall running midway of the house to the door at the rear. He left
him on a narrow space of stone flagging there, and ran with a tin basin
to the spring at the barn and brought it back to him full of the cold
"Towel," he said, pulling at the family roller inside the little porch at
the door; and he watched the stranger wash his hands and face, and then
search for a fresh place on the towel.
Before the stranger had finished the father and the elder brother came
out, and, after an ineffectual attempt to salute him, slanted away to the
barn together. The woman, in-doors, was more successful, when he found
her in the dining-room, where the boy showed him. The table was set for
him alone, and it affected him as if the family had been hurried away
from it that he might have it to himself. Everything was very simple:
the iron forks had two prongs; the knives bone handles; the dull glass
was pressed; the heavy plates and cups were white, but so was the cloth,
and all were clean. The woman brought in a good boiled dinner of
corned-beef, potatoes, turnips, and carrots from the kitchen, and a
teapot, and said something about having kept them hot on the stove for
him; she brought him a plate of biscuit fresh from the oven; then she
said to the boy, "You come out and have your dinner with me, Jeff," and
left the guest to make his meal unmolested.
The room was square, with two north windows that looked down the lane he
had climbed to the house. An open door led into the kitchen in an ell,
and a closed door opposite probably gave access to a parlor or a ground-
floor chamber. The windows were darkened down to the lower sash by green
paper shades; the walls were papered in a pattern of brown roses; over
the chimney hung a large picture, a life-size pencil-drawing of two
little girls, one slightly older and slightly larger than the other, each
with round eyes and precise ringlets, and with her hand clasped in the
The guest seemed helpless to take his gaze from it, and he sat fallen
back in his chair at it when the woman came in with a pie.
"Thank you, I believe I don't want any dessert," he said. "The fact is,
the dinner was so good that I haven't left any room for pie. Are those
"Yes," said the woman, looking up at the picture with the pie in her
hand. "They're the last two I lost."
"Oh, excuse me--" the guest began.
"It's the way they appear in the spirit life. It's a spirit picture."
"Oh, I thought there was something strange about it."
"Well, it's a good deal like the photograph we had taken about a year
before they died. It's a good likeness. They say they don't change a
great deal at first."
She seemed to refer the point to him for his judgment, but he answered
wide of it:
"I came up here to paint your mountain, if you don't mind, Mrs.
Durgin-Lion's Head, I mean."
"Oh yes. Well, I don't know as we could stop you if you wanted to take
it away." A spare glimmer lighted up her face.
The painter rejoined in kind: "The town might have something to say, I
"Not if you was to leave a good piece of intervale in place of it. We've
got mountains to spare."
"Well, then, that's arranged. What about a week's board?"
"I guess you can stay if you're satisfied."
"I'll be satisfied if I can stay. How much do you want?"
The woman looked down, probably with an inward anxiety between the fear
of asking too much and the folly of asking too little. She said,
tentatively: "Some of the folks that come over from the hotels say they
pay as much as twenty dollars a week."
"But you don't expect hotel prices?"
"I don't know as I do. We've never had anybody before."
The stranger relaxed the frown he had put on at the greed of her
suggestion; it might have come from ignorance or mere innocence. "I'm in
the habit of paying five dollars for farm board, where I stay several
weeks. What do you say to seven for a single week?"
"I guess that 'll do," said the woman, and she went out with the pie,
which she had kept in her hand.
The painter went round to the front of the house and walked up and down
before it for different points of view. He ran down the lane some way,
and then came back and climbed to the sloping field behind the barn,
where he could look at Lion's Head over the roof of the house. He tried
an open space in the orchard, where he backed against the wall enclosing
the little burial-ground. He looked round at it without seeming to see
it, and then went back to the level where the house stood. "This is the
place," he said to himself. But the boy, who had been lurking after him,
with the dog lurking at, his own heels in turn, took the words as a
proffer of conversation.
"I thought you'd come to it," he sneered.
"Did you?" asked the painter, with a smile for the unsatisfied grudge in
the boy's tone. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
The boy looked down, and apparently made up his mind to wait until
something sufficiently severe should come to him for a retort. "Want I
should help you get your things?" he asked, presently.
"Why, yes," said the painter, with a glance of surprise. "I shall be
much obliged for a lift." He started toward the porch where his burden
lay, and the boy ran before him. They jointly separated the knapsack
from the things tied to it, and the painter let the boy carry the easel
and campstool which developed themselves from their folds and hinges, and
brought the colors and canvas himself to the spot he had chosen. The boy
looked at the tag on the easel after it was placed, and read the name on
it--Jere Westover. "That's a funny name."
"I'm glad it amuses you," said the owner of it.
Again the boy cast down his eyes discomfited, and seemed again resolving
silently to bide his time and watch for another chance.
Westover forgot him in the fidget he fell into, trying this and that
effect, with his head slanted one way and then slanted the other, his
hand held up to shut out the mountain below the granite mass of Lion's
Head, and then changed to cut off the sky above; and then both hands
lifted in parallel to confine the picture. He made some tentative
scrawls on his canvas in charcoal, and he wasted so much time that the
light on the mountain-side began to take the rich tone of the afternoon
deepening to evening. A soft flush stole into it; the sun dipped behind
the top south of the mountain, and Lion's Head stood out against the
intense clearness of the west, which began to be flushed with exquisite
suggestions of violet and crimson.
"Good Lord!" said Westover; and he flew at his colors and began to paint.
He had got his canvas into such a state that he alone could have found it
much more intelligible than his palette, when he heard the boy saying,
over his shoulder: "I don't think that looks very much like it." He had
last been aware of the boy sitting at the grassy edge of the lane,
tossing small bits of earth and pebble across to his dog, which sat at
the other edge and snapped at them. Then he lost consciousness of him.
He answered, dreamily, while he found a tint he was trying for with his
brush: "Perhaps you don't know." He was so sure of his effect that the
popular censure speaking in the boy's opinion only made him happier in
"I know what I see," said the boy.
"I doubt it," said Westover, and then he lost consciousness of him again.
He was rapt deep and far into the joy of his work, and had no thought but
for that, and for the dim question whether it would be such another day
to-morrow, with that light again on Lion's Head, when he was at last
sensible of a noise that he felt he must have been hearing some time
without noting it. It was a lamentable, sound of screaming, as of some
one in mortal terror, mixed with wild entreaties. "Oh, don't, Jeff!
Oh, don't, don't, don't! Oh, please! Oh, do let us be! Oh, Jeff,
Westover looked round bewildered, and not able, amid the clamor of the
echoes, to make out where the cries came from. Then, down at the point
where the lane joined the road to the southward and the road lost itself
in the shadow of a woodland, he saw the boy leaping back and forth across
the track, with his dog beside him; he was shouting and his dog barking
furiously; those screams and entreaties came from within the shadow.
Westover plunged down the lane headlong, with a speed that gathered at
each bound, and that almost flung him on his face when he reached the
level where the boy and the dog were dancing back and forth across the
road. Then he saw, crouching in the edge of the wood, a little girl, who
was uttering the appeals he had heard, and clinging to her, with a face
of frantic terror, a child of five or six years; her cries had grown
hoarse, and had a hard, mechanical action as they followed one another.
They were really in no danger, for the boy held his dog tight by his
collar, and was merely delighting himself with their terror.
The painter hurled himself upon him, and, with a quick grip upon his
collar, gave him half a dozen flat-handed blows wherever he could plant
them and then flung him reeling away.
"You infernal little ruffian!" he roared at him; and the sound of his
voice was enough for the dog; he began to scale the hill-side toward the
house without a moment's stay.
The children still crouched together, and Westover could hardly make them
understand that they were in his keeping when he bent over them and bade
them not be frightened. The little girl set about wiping the child's
eyes on her apron in a motherly fashion; her own were dry enough, and
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