Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 65 out of 78
"No, indeed," said Milray. "If I had tried such a thing I should be
afraid you would make it uncomfortable for me. But I haven't, have I?"
"I don't know," said Clementina, reluctantly.
Milray laughed gleefully. "Well, you'll forgive me, because I'm an old
fellow. If I were young, you wouldn't, would you?"
Clementina thought of the clerk; she had certainly never forgiven him.
"Shall I read on?" she asked.
"Yes, yes. Read on," he said, respectfully. Once he interrupted her to
say that she pronounced admirable, but he would like now and then to
differ with her about a word if she did not mind. She answered, Oh no,
indeed; she should like it ever so much, if he would tell her when she
was wrong. After that he corrected her, and he amused himself by
studying forms of respect so delicate that they should not alarm her
pride; Clementina reassured him in terms as fine as his own. She did not
accept his instructions implicitly; she meant to bring them to the bar of
Gregory's knowledge. If he approved of them, then she would submit.
Milray easily possessed himself of the history of her life and of all its
circumstances, and he said he would like to meet her father and make the
acquaintance of a man whose mind, as Clementina interpreted it to him, he
found so original.
He authorized his wife to arrange with Mrs. Atwell for a monopoly of
Clementina's time while he stayed at Middlemount, and neither he nor Mrs.
Milray seemed surprised at the good round sum, as the landlady thought
it, which she asked in the girl's behalf.
The Milrays stayed through August, and Mrs. Milray was the ruling spirit
of the great holiday of the summer, at Middlemount. It was this year
that the landlords of the central mountain region had decided to compete
in a coaching parade, and to rival by their common glory the splendor of
the East Side and the West Side parades. The boarding-houses were to
take part, as well as the hotels; the farms where only three or four
summer folks were received, were to send their mountain-wagons, and all
were to be decorated with bunting. An arch draped with flags and covered
with flowers spanned the entrance to the main street at Middlemount
Centre, and every shop in the village was adorned for the event.
Mrs. Milray made the landlord tell her all about coaching parades, and
the champions of former years on the East Side and the West Side, and
then she said that the Middlemount House must take the prize from them
all this year, or she should never come near his house again. He
answered, with a dignity and spirit he rarely showed with Mrs. Milray's
class of custom, "I'm goin' to drive our hossis myself."
She gave her whole time to imagining and organizing the personal display
on the coach. She consulted with the other ladies as to the kind of
dresses that were to be worn, but she decided everything herself; and
when the time came she had all the young men ravaging the lanes and
pastures for the goldenrod and asters which formed the keynote of her
decoration for the coach.
She made peace and kept it between factions that declared themselves
early in the affair, and of all who could have criticized her for taking
the lead perhaps none would have willingly relieved her of the trouble.
She freely declared that it was killing her, and she sounded her accents
of despair all over the place. When their dresses were finished she made
the persons of her drama rehearse it on the coach top in the secret of
the barn, where no one but the stable men were suffered to see the
effects she aimed at. But on the eve of realizing these in public she
was overwhelmed by disaster. The crowning glory of her composition was
to be a young girl standing on the highest seat of the coach, in the
character of the Spirit of Summer, wreathed and garlanded with flowers,
and invisibly sustained by the twelve months of the year, equally divided
as to sex, but with the more difficult and painful attitudes assigned to
the gentlemen who were to figure as the fall and winter months. It had
been all worked out and the actors drilled in their parts, when the
Spirit of Summer, who had been chosen for the inoffensiveness of her
extreme youth, was taken with mumps, and withdrawn by the doctor's
orders. Mrs. Milray had now not only to improvise another Spirit of
Summer, but had to choose her from a group of young ladies, with the
chance of alienating and embittering those who were not chosen. In her
calamity she asked her husband what she should do, with but the least
hope that he could tell her. But he answered promptly, "Take Clementina;
I'll let you have her for the day," and then waited for the storm of her
renunciations and denunciations to spend itself.
"To be sure," she said, when this had happened, "it isn't as if she were
a servant in the house; and the position can be regarded as a kind of
public function, anyhow. I can't say that I've hired her to take the
part, but I can give her a present afterwards, and it will be the same
The question of clothes for Clementina Mrs. Milray declared was almost as
sweeping in its implication as the question of the child's creation."
She has got to be dressed new from head to foot," she said, "every
stitch, and how am I to manage it in twenty-four hours?"
By a succession of miracles with cheese-cloth, and sashes and ribbons, it
was managed; and ended in a triumph so great that Mrs. Milray took the
girl in her arms and kissed her for looking the Spirit of Summer to a
perfection that the victim of the mumps could not have approached. The
victory was not lastingly marred by the failure of Clementina's shoes to
look the Spirit of Summer as well as the rest of her costume. No shoes
at all world have been the very thing, but shoes so shabby and worn down
at one side of the heel as Clementina's were very far from the thing.
Mrs. Milray decided that another fold of cheese-cloth would add to the
statuesque charm of her figure, and give her more height; and she was
richly satisfied with the effect when the Middlemount coach drove up to
the great veranda the next morning, with all the figures of her picture
in position on its roof, and Clementina supreme among them. She herself
mounted in simple, undramatized authority to her official seat beside the
landlord, who in coachman's dress, with a bouquet of autumnal flowers in
his lapel, sat holding his garlanded reins over the backs of his six
horses; and then the coach as she intended it to appear in the parade set
out as soon as the turnouts of the other houses joined it. They were all
to meet at the Middlemount, which was thickly draped and festooned in
flags, with knots of evergreen and the first red boughs of the young
swamp maples holding them in place over its irregular facade. The coach
itself was amass of foliage and flowers, from which it defined itself as
a wheeled vehicle in vague and partial outline; the other wagons and
coaches, as they drove tremulously up, with an effect of having been
mired in blossoms about their spokes and hubs, had the unwieldiness which
seems inseparable from spectacularity. They represented motives in color
and design sometimes tasteless enough, and sometimes so nearly very good
that Mrs. Milray's heart was a great deal in her mouth, as they arrived,
each with its hotel-cry roared and shrilled from a score of masculine and
feminine throats, and finally spelled for distinctness sake, with an
ultimate yell or growl. But she had not finished giving the lady-
representative of a Sunday newspaper the points of her own tableau,
before she regained the courage and the faith in which she remained
serenely steadfast throughout the parade.
It was when all the equipages of the neighborhood had arrived that she
climbed to her place; the ladder was taken away; the landlord spoke to
his horses, and the Middlemount coach led the parade, amid the renewed
slogans, and the cries and fluttered handkerchiefs of the guests crowding
The line of march was by one road to Middlemount Centre, where the prize
was to be awarded at the judges' stand, and then the coaches were to
escort the triumphant vehicle homeward by another route, so as to pass as
many houses on the way as possible. It was a curious expression of the
carnival spirit in a region immemorially starved of beauty in the lives
of its people; and whatever was the origin of the mountain coaching
parade, or from whatever impulse of sentimentality or advertising it
came, the effect was of undeniable splendor, and of phantasmagoric
Gregory watched its progress from a hill-side pasture as it trailed
slowly along the rising and falling road. The songs of the young girls,
interrupted by the explosion of hotel slogans and college cries from the
young men, floated off to him on the thin breeze of the cloudless August
morning, like the hymns and shouts of a saturnalian rout going in holiday
processional to sacrifice to their gods. Words of fierce Hebrew poetry
burned in his thought; the warnings and the accusals and the
condemnations of the angry prophets; and he stood rapt from his own time
and place in a dream of days when the Most High stooped to commune face
to face with His ministers, while the young voices of those forgetful or
ignorant of Him, called to his own youth, and the garlanded chariots,
with their banners and their streamers passed on the road beneath him and
out of sight in the shadow of the woods beyond.
When the prize was given to the Middlemount coach at the Center the
landlord took the flag, and gallantly transferred it to Mrs. Milray, and
Mrs. Milray passed it up to Clementina, and bade her, "Wave it, wave it!"
The village street was thronged with people that cheered, and swung their
hats and handkerchiefs to the coach as it left the judges' stand and
drove under the triumphal arch, with the other coaches behind it. Then
Atwell turned his horses heads homewards, and at the brisker pace with
which people always return from festivals or from funerals, he left the
village and struck out upon the country road with his long escort before
him. The crowd was quick to catch the courteous intention of the
victors, and followed them with applause as far beyond the village
borders as wind and limb would allow; but the last noisy boy had dropped
off breathless before they reached a half-finished house in the edge of
some woods. A line of little children was drawn up by the road-side
before it, who watched the retinue with grave eagerness, till the
Middlemount coach came in full sight. Then they sprang into the air, and
beating their hands together, screamed, "Clem! Clem! Oh it's Clem!"
and jumped up and down, and a shabby looking work worn woman came round
the corner of the house and stared up at Clementina waving her banner
wildly to the children, and shouting unintelligible words to them. The
young people on the coach joined in response to the children, some
simply, some ironically, and one of the men caught up a great wreath of
flowers which lay at Clementina's feet, and flung it down to them; the
shabby woman quickly vanished round the corner of the house again. Mrs.
Milray leaned over to ask the landlord, "Who in the world are
"Why don't you know?" he retorted in abated voice. "Them's her brothas
"And that woman?"
"The lady at the conna? That's her motha."
When the event was over, and all the things had been said and said again,
and there was nothing more to keep the spring and summer months from
going up to their rooms to lie down, and the fall and winter months from
trying to get something to eat, Mrs. Milray found herself alone with
The child seemed anxious about something, and Mrs. Milray, who wanted to
go and lie down, too, asked a little impatiently, "What is it,
"Oh, nothing. Only I was afraid maybe you didn't like my waving to the
children, when you saw how queea they looked." Clementina's lips
"Did any of the rest say anything?"
"I know what they thought. But I don't care! I should do it right over
Mrs. Milray's happiness in the day's triumph was so great that she could
indulge a generous emotion. She caught the girl in her arms. "I want to
kiss you; I want to hug you, Clementina!"
The notion of a dance for the following night to celebrate the success of
the house in the coaching parade came to Mrs. Milray aver a welsh-rarebit
which she gave at the close of the evening. The party was in the charge
of Gregory, who silently served them at their orgy with an austerity that
might have conspired with the viand itself against their dreams, if they
had not been so used to the gloom of his ministrations. He would not
allow the waitresses to be disturbed in their evening leisure, or kept
from their sleep by such belated pleasures; and when he had provided the
materials for the rarebit, he stood aloof, and left their combination to
Mrs. Milray and her chafing-dish.
She had excluded Clementina on account of her youth, as she said to one
of the fall and winter months, who came in late, and noticed Clementina's
absence with a "Hello! Anything the matter with the Spirit of Summer?"
Clementina had become both a pet and a joke with these months before the
parade was over, and now they clamored together, and said they must have
her at the dance anyway. They were more tepidly seconded by the spring
and summer months, and Mrs. Milray said, "Well, then, you'll have to all
subscribe and get her a pair of dancing slippers." They pressed her for
her meaning, and she had to explain the fact of Clementina's destitution,
which that additional fold of cheese-cloth had hidden so well in the
coaching tableau that it had never been suspected. The young men
entreated her to let them each buy a pair of slippers for the Spirit of
Summer, which she should wear in turn for the dance that she must give
each of them; and this made Mrs. Milray declare that, no, the child
should not come to the dance at all, and that she was not going to have
her spoiled. But, before the party broke up, she promised that she would
see what could be done, and she put it very prettily to the child the
next day, and waited for her to say, as she knew she must, that she could
not go, and why. They agreed that the cheese-cloth draperies of the
Spirit of Summer were surpassingly fit for the dance; but they had to
agree that this still left the question of slippers untouched. It
remained even more hopeless when Clementina tried on all of Mrs. Milray's
festive shoes, and none of her razorpoints and high heels would avail.
She went away disappointed, but not yet disheartened; youth does not so
easily renounce a pleasure pressed to the lips; and Clementina had it in
her head to ask some of the table girls to help her out. She meant to
try first with that big girl who had helped her put on the shoeman's
bronze slippers; and she hurried through the office, pushing purblindly
past Fane without looking his way, when he called to her in the deference
which he now always used with her, "Here's a package here for you,
Clementina--Miss Claxon," and he gave her an oblong parcel, addressed in
a hand strange to her. "Who is it from?" she asked, innocently, and Fane
replied with the same ingenuousness: "I'm sure I don't know." Afterwards
he thought of having retorted, "I haven't opened it," but still without
being certain that he would have had the courage to say it.
Clementina did not think of opening it herself, even when she was alone
in her little room above Mrs. Atwell's, until she had carefully felt it
over, and ascertained that it was a box of pasteboard, three or four
inches deep and wide, and eight or ten inches long. She looked at the
address again, "Miss Clementina Claxon," and at the narrow notched ribbon
which tied it, and noted that the paper it was wrapped in was very white
and clean. Then she sighed, and loosed the knot, and the paper slipped
off the box, and at the same time the lid fell off, and the shoe man's
bronze slippers fell out upon the floor.
Either it must be a dream or it must be a joke; it could not be both real
and earnest; somebody was trying to tease her; such flattery of fortune
could not be honestly meant. But it went to her head, and she was so
giddy with it as she caught the slippers from the floor, and ran down to
Mrs. Atwell, that she knocked against the sides of the narrow staircase.
"What is it? What does it mean? Who did it?" she panted, with the
slippers in her hand. "Whe'e did they come from?" She poured out the
history of her trying on these shoes, and of her present need of them and
of their mysterious coming, to meet her longing after it had almost
ceased to be a hope. Mrs. Atwell closed with her in an exultation hardly
short of a clapping the hands. Her hair was gray, and the girl's hair
still hung in braids down her back, but they were of the same age in
their transport, which they referred to Mrs. Milray, and joined with her
in glad but fruitless wonder who had sent Clementina the shoes. Mrs.
Atwell held that the help who had seen the girl trying them on had
clubbed together and got them for her at the time; and had now given them
to her for the honor she had done the Middlemount House in the parade.
Mrs. Milray argued that the spring and summer months had secretly
dispatched some fall and winter month to ransack the stores at
Middlemount Centre for them. Clementina believed that they came from the
shoe man himself, who had always wanted to send them, in the hope that
she would keep them, and had merely happened to send them just then in
that moment of extremity when she was helpless against them. Each
conjecture involved improbabilities so gross that it left the field free
to any opposite theory.
Rumor of the fact could not fail to go through the house, and long before
his day's work was done it reached the chef, and amused him as a piece of
the Boss's luck. He was smoking his evening pipe at the kitchen door
after supper, when Clementina passed him on one of the many errands that
took her between Mrs. Milray's room and her own, and he called to her:
"Boss, what's this I hear about a pair o' glass slippas droppin' out the
sky int' youa lap?"
Clementina was so happy that she thought she might trust him for once,
and she said, "Oh, yes, Mr. Mahtin! Who do you suppose sent them?" she
entreated him so sweetly that it would have softened any heart but the
heart of a tease.
"I believe I could give a pootty good guess if I had the facts."
Clementina innocently gave them to him, and he listened with a well-
"Say Fane fust told you about 'em?"
"Yes. 'He'e's a package for you,' he said. Just that way; and he
couldn't tell me who left it, or anything."
"Anybody asked him about it since?"
"Oh, yes! Mrs. Milray, and Mrs. Atwell, and Mr. Atwell, and everybody."
"Everybody." The chef smiled with a peculiar droop of one eye. "And he
didn't know when the slippas got into the landlo'd's box?"
"No. The fust thing he knew, the' they we'e!" Clementina stood
expectant, but the chef smoked on as if that were all there was to say,
and seemed to have forgotten her. "Who do you think put them thea, Mr.
The chef looked up as if surprised to find her still there. "Oh! Oh,
yes! Who d' I think? Why, I know, Boss. But I don't believe I'd betta
"Oh, do, Mr. Mahtin! If you knew how I felt about it"--
"No, no! I guess I betta not. 'Twouldn't do you any good. I guess I
won't say anything moa. But if I was in youa place, and I really wanted
to know whe'e them slippas come from"--
"I do--I do indeed"--
The chef paused before he added, "I should go at Fane. I guess what he
don't know ain't wo'th knowin', and I guess nobody else knows anything.
Thea! I don't know but I said mo'n I ought, now."
What the chef said was of a piece with what had been more than once in
Clementina's mind; but she had driven it out, not because it might not be
true, but because she would not have it true. Her head drooped; she
turned limp and springless away. Even the heart of the tease was
touched; he had not known that it would worry her so much, though he knew
that she disliked the clerk.
"Mind," he called after her, too late, "I ain't got no proof 't he done
She did not answer him, or look round. She went to her room, and sat
down in the growing dusk to think, with a hot lump in her throat.
Mrs. Atwell found her there an hour later, when she climbed to the
chamber where she thought she ought to have heard Clementina moving about
over her own room.
"Didn't know but I could help you do youa dressin'," she began, and then
at sight of the dim figure she broke off: "Why, Clem! What's the matte?
Ah' you asleep? Ah' you sick? It's half an hour of the time and"--
"I'm not going," Clementina answered, and she did not move.
"Not goin'! Why the land o'--"
"Oh, I can't go, Mrs. Atwell. Don't ask me! Tell Mrs. Milray, please!"
"I will, when I got something to tell," said Mrs. Atwell. "Now, you just
say what's happened, Clementina Claxon! "Clementina suffered the woful
truth to be drawn from her. "But you don't know whether it's so or not,"
the landlady protested.
"Yes, yes, I do! It was the fast thing I thought of, and the chef
wouldn't have said it if he didn't believe it."
"That's just what he would done," cried Mrs. Atwell. "And I'll give him
such a goin' ova, for his teasin', as he ain't had in one while. He just
said it to tease. What you goin' to say to Mrs. Milray?"
"Oh, tell her I'm not a bit well, Mrs. Atwell! My head does ache,
"Why, listen," said Mrs. Atwell, recklessly. "If you believe he done it
--and he no business to--why don't you just go to the dance, in 'em, and
then give 'em back to him after it's ova? It would suv him right."
Clementina listened for a moment of temptation, and then shook her head.
"It wouldn't do, Mrs. Atwell; you know it wouldn't," she said, and Mrs.
Atwell had too little faith in her suggestion to make it prevail. She
went away to carry Clementina's message to Mrs. Milray, and her task was
greatly eased by the increasing difficulty Mrs. Milray had begun to find,
since the way was perfectly smoothed for her, in imagining the management
of Clementina at the dance: neither child nor woman, neither servant nor
lady, how was she to be carried successfully through it, without sorrow
to herself or offence to others? In proportion to the relief she felt,
Mrs. Milray protested her irreconcilable grief; but when the simpler Mrs.
Atwell proposed her going and reasoning with Clementina, she said, No,
no; better let her alone, if she felt as she did; and perhaps after all
she was right.
Clementina listened to the music of the dance, till the last note was
played; and she heard the gay shouts and laughter of the dancers as they
issued from the ball room and began to disperse about the halls and
verandas, and presently to call good night to one another. Then she
lighted her lamp, and put the slippers back into the box and wrapped it
up in the nice paper it had come in, and tied it with the notched ribbon.
She thought how she had meant to put the slippers away so, after the
dance, when she had danced her fill in them, and how differently she was
doing it all now. She wrote the clerk's .name on the parcel, and then
she took the box, and descended to the office with it. There seemed to
be nobody there, but at the noise of her step Fane came round the case of
letter-boxes, and advanced to meet her at the long desk.
"What's wanted, Miss Claxon?" he asked, with his hopeless respectfulness.
"Anything I can do for you?"
She did not answer, but looked him solemnly in the eyes and laid the
parcel down on the open register, and then went out.
He looked at the address on the parcel, and when he untied it, the box
fell open and the shoes fell out of it, as they had with Clementina. He
ran with them behind the letter-box frame, and held them up before
Gregory, who was seated there on the stool he usually occupied, gloomily
nursing his knee.
"What do you suppose this means, Frank?"
Gregory looked at the shoes frowningly. "They're the slippers she got
to-day. She thinks you sent them to her."
"And she wouldn't have them because she thought I sent them! As sure as
I'm standing here, I never did it," said the clerk, solemnly.
"I know it," said Gregory. "I sent them."
"What's so wonderful?" Gregory retorted. "I saw that she wanted them
that day when the shoe peddler was here. I could see it, and you could."
"I went across into the woods, and the man overtook me with his wagon. I
was tempted, and I bought the slippers of him. I wanted to give them to
her then, but I resisted, and I thought I should never give them. To-
day, when I heard that she was going to that dance, I sent them to her
anonymously. That's all there is about it."
The clerk had a moment of bitterness. "If she'd known it was you, she
wouldn't have given them back."
"That's to be seen. I shall tell her, now. I never meant her to know,
but she must, because she's doing you wrong in her ignorance."
Gregory was silent, and Fane was trying to measure the extent of his own
suffering, and to get the whole bearing of the incident in his mind. In
the end his attempt was a failure. He asked Gregory, "And do you think
you've done just right by me?"
"I've done right by nobody," said Gregory, "not even by myself; and I can
see that it was my own pleasure I had in mind. I must tell her the
truth, and then I must leave this place."
"I suppose you want I should keep it quiet," said Fane.
"I don't ask anything of you."
"And she wouldn't," said Fane, after reflection. "But I know she'd be
glad of it, and I sha'n't say anything. Of course, she never can care
for me; and--there's my hand with my word, if you want it." Gregory
silently took the hand stretched toward him and Fane added: "All I'll ask
is that you'll tell her I wouldn't have presumed to send her the shoes.
She wouldn't be mad at you for it."
Gregory took the box, and after some efforts to speak, he went away. It
was an old trouble, an old error, an old folly; he had yielded to impulse
at every step, and at every step he had sinned against another or against
himself. What pain he had now given the simple soul of Fane; what pain
he had given that poor child who had so mistaken and punished the simple
soul! With Fane it was over now, but with Clementina the worst was
perhaps to come yet. He could not hope to see the girl before morning,
and then, what should he say to her? At sight of a lamp burning in Mrs.
Atwell's room, which was on a level with the veranda where he was
walking, it came to him that first of all he ought to go to her, and
confess the whole affair; if her husband were with her, he ought to
confess before him; they were there in the place of the child's father
and mother, and it was due to them. As he pressed rapidly toward the
light he framed in his thought the things he should say, and he did not
notice, as he turned to enter the private hallway leading to Mrs.
Atwell's apartment, a figure at the door. It shrank back from his
contact, and he recognized Clementina. His purpose instantly changed,
and he said, "Is that you, Miss Claxon? I want to speak with you. Will
you come a moment where I can?"
"I--I don't know as I'd betta," she faltered. But she saw the box under
his arm, and she thought that he wished to speak to her about that, and
she wanted to hear what he would say. She had been waiting at the door
there, because she could not bear to go to her room without having
something more happen.
"You needn't be afraid. I shall not keep you. Come with me a moment.
There is something I must tell you at once. You have made a mistake.
And it is my fault. Come!"
Clementina stepped out into the moonlight with him, and they walked
across the grass that sloped between the hotel and the river. There were
still people about, late smokers singly, and in groups along the piazzas,
and young couples, like themselves, strolling in the dry air, under the
Gregory made several failures in trying to begin, before he said: "I have
to tell you that you are mistaken about Mr. Fane. I was there behind the
letter boxes when you came in, and I know that you left these shoes
because you thought he sent them to you. He didn't send them."
Clementina did not say anything, and Gregory was forced to ask: "Do you
wish to know who sent them? I won't tell you unless you do wish it."
"I think I ought to know," she said, and she asked, "Don't you?"
"Yes; for you must blame some one else now, for what you thought Fane
did. I sent them to you."
Clementina's heart gave a leap in her breast, and she could not say
anything. He went on.
"I saw that you wanted them that day, and when the peddler happened to
overtake me in the woods where I was walking, after I left you, I acted
on a sudden impulse, and I bought them for you. I meant to send them to
you anonymously, then. I had committed one error in acting upon impulse-
my rashness is my besetting sin--and I wished to add a species of deceit
to that. But I was kept from it until-to-day. I hoped you would like to
wear them to the dance to-night, and I put them in the post-office for
you myself. Mr. Fane didn't know anything about it. That is all. I am
to blame, and no one else."
He waited for her to speak, but Clementina could only say, "I don't know
what to say."
"You can't say anything that would be punishment enough for me. I have
acted foolishly, cruelly."
Clementina did not think so. She was not indignant, as she was when she
thought Fane had taken this liberty with her, but if Mr. Gregory thought
it was so very bad, it must be something much more serious than she had
imagined. She said, "I don't see why you wanted to do it," hoping that
he would be able to tell her something that would make his behavior seem
less dreadful than he appeared to think it was.
"There is only one thing that could justify it, and that is something
that I cannot justify." It was very mysterious, but youth loves mystery,
and Clementina was very young. "I did it," said Gregory solemnly, and he
felt that now he was acting from no impulse, but from a wisely considered
decision which he might not fail in without culpability, "because I love
"Oh!" said Clementina, and she started away from him.
"I knew that it would make me detestable!" he cried, bitterly. "I had to
tell you, to explain what I did. I couldn't help doing it. But now if
you can forget it, and never think of me again, I can go away, and try to
atone for it somehow. I shall be guided."
Clementina did not know why she ought to feel affronted or injured by
what he had said to her; but if Mr. Gregory thought it was wrong for him
to have spoken so, it must be wrong. She did not wish him to feel badly,
even if he had done wrong, but she had to take his view of what he had
done. "Why, suttainly, Mr. Gregory," she answered. "You mustn't mind
"But I do mind it. I have been very, very selfish, very thoughtless. We
are both too young. I can't ask you to wait for me till I could marry"--
The word really frightened Clementina. She said, "I don't believe I
"Oh, I know it!" said Gregory. "I am going away from here. I am going
to-morrow as soon as I can arrange--as soon as I can get away. Good-
night--I"--Clementina in her agitation put her hands up to her face.
"Oh, don't cry--I can't bear to have you cry."
She took down her hands. "I'm not crying! But I wish I had neva seen
They had come to the bank of the river, whose current quivered at that
point in a scaly ripple in the moonlight. At her words Gregory suddenly
pulled the box from under his arm, and flung it into the stream as far as
he could. It caught upon a shallow of the ripple, hung there a moment,
then loosed itself, and swam swiftly down the stream.
"Oh!" Clementina moaned.
"Do you want them back?" he demanded. "I will go in for them!"
"No, no! No. But it seemed such a--waste!"
"Yes, that is a sin, too." They climbed silently to the hotel. At Mrs.
Atwell's door, he spoke. "Try to forget what I said, and forgive me, if
"Yes--yes, I will, Mr. Gregory. You mustn't think of it any moa."
Clementina did not sleep till well toward morning, and she was still
sleeping when Mrs. Atwell knocked and called in to her that her brother
Jim wanted to see her. She hurried down, and in the confusion of mind
left over from the night before she cooed sweetly at Jim as if he had
been Mr. Gregory, "What is it, Jim? What do you want me for?"
The boy answered with the disgust a sister's company manners always rouse
in a brother. "Motha wants you. Says she's wo'ked down, and she wants
you to come and help." Then he went his way.
Mrs. Atwell was used to having help snatched from her by their families
at a moment's notice. "I presume you've got to go, Clem," she said.
"Oh, yes, I've got to go," Clementina assented, with a note of relief
which mystified Mrs. Atwell.
"You tied readin' to Mr. Milray?"
"Oh, no'm-no, I mean. But I guess I betta go home. I guess I've been
away long enough."
"Well, you're a good gul, Clem. I presume your motha's got a right to
have you home if she wants you." Clementina said nothing to this, but
turned briskly, and started upstairs toward her room again. The landlady
called after her, "Shall you speak to Mis' Milray, or do you want I
Clementina looked back at her over her shoulder to warble, "Why, if you
would, Mrs. Atwell," and kept on to her room.
Mrs. Milray was not wholly sorry to have her go; she was going herself
very soon, and Clementina's earlier departure simplified the question of
getting rid of her; but she overwhelmed her with reproaches which
Clementina received with such sweet sincerity that another than Mrs.
Milray might have blamed herself for having abused her ingenuousness.
The Atwells could very well have let the girl walk home, but they sent
her in a buckboard, with one of the stablemen to drive her. The landlord
put her neat bundle under the seat of the buckboard with his own hand.
There was something in the child's bearing, her dignity and her
amiability, which made people offer her, half in fun, and half in
earnest, the deference paid to age and state.
She did not know whether Gregory would try to see her before she went.
She thought he must have known she was going, but since he neither came
to take leave of her, nor sent her any message, she decided that she had
not expected him to do so. About the third week of September she heard
that he had left Middlemount and gone back to college.
She kept at her work in the house and helped her mother, and looked after
the little ones; she followed her father in the woods, in his quest of
stuff for walking sticks, and advised with both concerning the taste of
summer folks in dress and in canes. The winter came, and she read many
books in its long leisure, mostly novels, out of the rector's library.
He had a whole set of Miss Edgeworth, and nearly all of Miss Austen and
Miss Gurney, and he gave of them to Clementina, as the best thing for her
mind as well as her morals; he believed nothing could be better for any
one than these old English novels, which he had nearly forgotten in their
details. She colored the faded English life of the stories afresh from
her Yankee circumstance; and it seemed the consensus of their testimony
that she had really been made love to, and not so very much too soon, at
her age of sixteen, for most of their heroines were not much older. The
terms of Gregory's declaration and of its withdrawal were mystifying, but
not more mystifying than many such things, and from what happened in the
novels she read, the affair might be trusted to come out all right of
itself in time. She was rather thoughtfuller for it, and once her mother
asked her what was the matter with her. "Oh, I guess I'm getting old,
motha," she said, and turned the question off. She would not have minded
telling her mother about Gregory, but it would not have been the custom;
and her mother would have worried, and would have blamed him. Clementina
could have more easily trusted her father with the case, but so far as
she knew fathers never were trusted with anything of the kind. She would
have been willing that accident should bring it to the knowledge of Mrs.
Richling; but the moment never came when she could voluntarily confide in
her, though she was a great deal with her that winter. She was Mrs.
Richling's lieutenant in the social affairs of the parish, which the
rector's wife took under her care. She helped her get up entertainments
of the kind that could be given in the church parlor, and they managed
together some dances which had to be exiled to the town hall. They
contrived to make the young people of the village feel that they were
having a gay time, and Clementina did not herself feel that it was a dull
one. She taught them some of the new steps and figures which the help
used to pick up from the summer folks at the Middlemount, and practise
together; she liked doing that; her mother said the child would rather
dance than eat, any time. She was never sad, but so much dignity got
into her sweetness that the rector now and then complained of feeling put
down by her.
She did not know whether she expected Gregory to write to her or not; but
when no letters came she decided that she had not expected them. She
wondered if he would come back to the Middlemount the next summer; but
when the summer came, she heard that they had another student in his
place. She heard that they had a new clerk, and that the boarders were
not so pleasant. Another year passed, and towards the end of the season
Mrs. Atwell wished her to come and help her again, and Clementina went
over to the hotel to soften her refusal. She explained that her mother
had so much sewing now that she could not spare her; and Mrs. Atwell
said: Well, that was right, and that she must be the greatest kind of
dependence for her mother. "You ah' going on seventeen this year, ain't
"I was nineteen the last day of August," said Clementina, and Mrs. Atwell
sighed, and said, How the time did fly.
It was the second week of September, but Mrs. Atwell said they were going
to keep the house open till the middle of October, if they could, for the
autumnal foliage, which there was getting to be quite a class of custom
"I presume you knew Mr. Landa was dead," she added, and at Clementina's
look of astonishment, she said with a natural satisfaction, "Mm! died the
thutteenth day of August. I presumed somehow you'd know it, though you
didn't see a great deal of 'em, come to think of it. I guess he was a
good man; too good for her, I guess," she concluded, in the New England
necessity of blaming some one. "She sent us the papah."
There was an early frost; and people said there was going to be a hard
winter, but it was not this that made Clementina's father set to work
finishing his house. His turning business was well started, now, and he
had got together money enough to pay for the work. He had lately
enlarged the scope of his industry by turning gate-posts and urns for the
tops of them, which had become very popular, for the front yards of the
farm and village houses in a wide stretch of country. They sold more
steadily than the smaller wares, the cups, and tops, and little vases and
platters which had once been the output of his lathe; after the first
season the interest of the summer folks in these fell off; but the gate
posts and the urns appealed to a lasting taste in the natives.
Claxon wished to put the finishing touches on the house himself, and he
was willing to suspend more profitable labors to do so. After some
attempts at plastering he was forced to leave that to the plasterers, but
he managed the clap-boarding, with Clementina to hand him boards and
nails, and to keep him supplied with the hammer he was apt to drop at
critical moments. They talked pretty constantly at their labors, and in
their leisure, which they spent on the brown needles under the pines at
the side of the house. Sometimes the hammering or the talking would be
interrupted by a voice calling, from a passing vehicle in the hidden
roadway, something about urns. Claxon would answer, without troubling
himself to verify the inquirer; or moving from his place, that he would
get round to them, and then would hammer on, or talk on with Clementina.
One day in October a carriage drove up to the door, after the work on the
house had been carried as far as Claxon's mood and money allowed, and he
and Clementina were picking up the litter of his carpentering. He had
replaced the block of wood which once served at the front door by some
steps under an arbor of rustic work; but this was still so novel that the
younger children had not outgrown their pride in it and were playing at
house-keeping there. Clementina ran around to the back door and out
through the front entry in time to save the visitor and the children from
the misunderstanding they began to fall into, and met her with a smile of
hospitable brilliancy, and a recognition full of compassionate welcome.
Mrs. Lander gave way to her tears as she broke out, "Oh, it ain't the
way it was the last time I was he'a! You hea'd that he--that Mr. Landa"--
"Mrs. Atwell told me," said Clementina. "Won't you come in, and sit
"Why, yes." Mrs. Lander pushed in through the narrow door of what was to
be the parlor. Her crapes swept about her and exhaled a strong scent of
their dyes. Her veil softened her heavy face; but she had not grown
thinner in her bereavement.
"I just got to the Middlemount last night," she said, "and I wanted to
see you and your payrents, both, Miss Claxon. It doos bring him back so!
You won't neva know how much he thought of you, and you'll all think I'm
crazy. I wouldn't come as long as he was with me, and now I have to come
without him; I held out ag'inst him as long as I had him to hold out
ag'inst. Not that he was eva one to push, and I don't know as he so much
as spoke of it, afta we left the hotel two yea's ago; but I presume it
wa'n't out of his mind a single minute. Time and time again I'd say to
him, 'Now, Albe't, do you feel about it just the way you done?' and he'd
say, 'I ha'r't had any call to charge my mind about it,' and then I'd
begin tryin' to ahgue him out of it, and keep a hectorin', till he'd say,
'Well, I'm not askin' you to do it,' and that's all I could get out of
him. But I see all the while 't he wanted me to do it, whateva he asked,
and now I've got to do it when it can't give him any pleasure." Mrs.
Lander put up her black-bordered handkerchief and sobbed into it, and
Clementina waited till her grief had spent itself; then she gave her a
fan, and Mrs. Lander gratefully cooled her hot wet face. The children
had found the noises of her affliction and the turbid tones of her
monologue annoying, and had gone off to play in the woods; Claxon kept
incuriously about the work that Clementina had left him to; his wife
maintained the confidence which she always felt in Clementina's ability
to treat with the world when it presented itself, and though she was
curious enough, she did not offer to interrupt the girl's interview with
Mrs. Lander; Clementina would know how to behave.
Mrs. Lander, when she had refreshed herself with the fan, seemed to get a
fresh grip of her theme, and she told Clementina all abort Mr. Lander's
last sickness. It had been so short that it gave her no time to try the
climate of Colorado upon him, which she now felt sure would have brought
him right up; and she had remembered, when too late, to give him a liver-
medicine of her own, though it did not appear that it was his liver which
was affected; that was the strange part of it. But, brief as his
sickness was, he had felt that it was to be his last, and had solemnly
talked over her future with her, which he seemed to think would be
lonely. He had not named Clementina, but Mrs. Lander had known well
enough what he meant; and now she wished to ask her, and her father and
mother, how they would all like Clementina to come and spend the winter
with her at Boston first, and then further South, and wherever she should
happen to go. She apologized for not having come sooner upon this
errand; she had resolved upon it as soon as Mr. Lander was gone, but she
had been sick herself, and had only just now got out of bed.
Clementina was too young to feel the pathos of the case fully, or perhaps
even to follow the tortuous course of Mrs. Lander's motives, but she was
moved by her grief; and she could not help a thrill of pleasure in the
vague splendor of the future outlined by Mrs. Lander's proposal. For a
time she had thought that Mrs. Milray was going to ask her to visit her
in New York; Mrs. Milray had thrown out a hint of something of the kind
at parting, but that was the last of it; and now she at once made up her
mind that she would like to go with Mrs. Lander, while discreetly saying
that she would ask her father and mother to come and talk with her.
Her parents objected to leaving their work; each suggested that the other
had better go; but they both came at Clementina's urgence. Her father
laughed and her mother frowned when she told them what Mrs. Lander
wanted, from the same misgiving of her sanity. They partly abandoned
this theory for a conviction of Mrs. Lander's mere folly when she began
to talk, and this slowly yielded to the perception that she had some
streaks of sense. It was sense in the first place to want to have
Clementina with her, and though it might not be sense to suppose that
they would be anxious to let her go, they did not find so much want of it
as Mrs. Lander talked on. It was one of her necessities to talk away her
emotions before arriving at her ideas, which were often found in a
tangle, but were not without a certain propriety. She was now, after her
interview with Clementina, in the immediate presence of these, and it was
her ideas that she began to produce for the girl's father and mother.
She said, frankly, that she had more money than she knew what to do with,
and they must not think she supposed she was doing a favor, for she was
really asking one.
She was alone in the world, without near connections of her own, or
relatives of her husband's, and it would be a mercy if they could let
their daughter come and visit her; she would not call it more than a
visit; that would be the best thing on both sides; she told of her great
fancy for Clementina the first time she saw her, and of her husband's
wish that she would come and visit with them then for the winter. As for
that money she had tried to make the child take, she presumed that they
knew about it, and she wished to say that she did it because she was
afraid Mr. Lander had said so much about the sewing, that they would be
disappointed. She gave way to her tears at the recollection, and
confessed that she wanted the child to have the money anyway. She ended
by asking Mrs. Claxon if she would please to let her have a drink of
water; and she looked about the room, and said that they had got it
finished up a great deal, now, had not they? She made other remarks upon
it, so apt that Mrs. Claxon gave her a sort of permissive invitation to
look about the whole lower floor, ending with the kitchen.
Mrs. Lander sat down there while Mrs. Claxon drew from the pipes a glass
of water, which she proudly explained was pumped all over the house by
the wind mill that supplied the power for her husband's turning lathes.
"Well, I wish mah husband could have tasted that wata," said Mrs. Lander,
as if reminded of husbands by the word, and by the action of putting down
the glass. "He was always such a great hand for good, cold wata. My!
He'd 'a liked youa kitchen, Mrs. Claxon. He always was such a home-body,
and he did get so ti'ed of hotels. For all he had such an appearance,
when you see him, of bein'--well!--stiff and proud, he was fah moa common
in his tastes--I don't mean common, exactly, eitha--than what I was; and
many a time when we'd be drivin' through the country, and we'd pass some
o' them long-strung-out houses, don't you know, with the kitchen next to
the wood shed, and then an ahchway befoa you get to the stable, Mr. Landa
he'd get out, and make an urrand, just so's to look in at the kitchen
dooa; he said it made him think of his own motha's kitchen. We was both
brought up in the country, that's a fact, and I guess if the truth was
known we both expected to settle down and die thea, some time; but now
he's gone, and I don't know what'll become o' me, and sometimes I don't
much care. I guess if Mr. Landa'd 'a seen youa kitchen, it wouldn't 'a'
been so easy to git him out of it; and I do believe if he's livin'
anywhe' now he takes as much comfo't in my settin' here as what I do.
I presume I shall settle down somewhe's before a great while, and if you
could make up youa mind to let your daughta come to me for a little visit
till spring, you couldn't do a thing that 'd please Mr. Landa moa."
Mrs. Claxon said that she would talk it over with the child's father; and
then Mrs. Lander pressed her to let her take Clementina back to the
Middlemount with her for supper, if they wouldn't let her stay the night.
After Clementina had driven away, Mrs. Claxon accused herself to her
husband of being the greatest fool in the State, but he said that the
carriage was one of the Middlemount rigs, and he guessed it was all
right. He could see that Clem was wild to go, and he didn't see why she
"Well, I do, then," his wife retorted. "We don't know anything about the
woman, or who she is."
"I guess no harm'll come to Clem for one night," said Claxon, and Mrs.
Claxon was forced back upon the larger question for the maintenance of
her anxiety. She asked what he was going to do about letting Clem go the
whole winter with a perfect stranger; and he answered that he had not got
round to that yet, and that there were a good many things to be thought
of first. He got round to see the rector before dark, and in the light
of his larger horizon, was better able to orient Mrs. Lander and her
motives than he had been before.
When she came back with the girl the next morning, she had thought of
something in the nature of credentials. It was the letter from her
church in Boston, which she took whenever she left home, so that if she
wished she might unite with the church in any place where she happened to
be stopping. It did not make a great impression upon the Klaxons, who
were of no religion, though they allowed their children to go to the
Episcopal church and Sunday-school, and always meant to go themselves.
They said they would like to talk the matter over with the rector, if
Mrs. Lander did not object; she offered to send her carriage for him, and
the rector was brought at once.
He was one of those men who have, in the breaking down of the old
Puritanical faith, and the dying out of the later Unitarian rationalism,
advanced and established the Anglican church so notably in the New
England hill-country, by a wise conformity to the necessities and
exactions of the native temperament. On the ecclesiastical side he was
conscientiously uncompromising, but personally he was as simple-mannered
as he was simple-hearted. He was a tall lean man in rusty black, with a
clerical waistcoat that buttoned high, and scholarly glasses, but with a
belated straw hat that had counted more than one summer, and a farmer's
tan on his face and hands. He pronounced the church-letter, though quite
outside of his own church, a document of the highest respectability, and
he listened with patient deference to the autobiography which Mrs. Lander
poured out upon him, and her identifications, through reference to this
or that person in Boston whom he knew either at first or second hand.
He had not to pronounce upon her syntax, or her social quality; it was
enough for him, in behalf of the Claxons, to find her what she professed
"You must think," he said, laughing, "that we are over-particular; but
the fact is that we value Clementina rather highly, and we wish to be
sure that your hospitable offer will be for her real good."
"Of cou'se," said Mrs. Lander. "I should be just so myself abort her."
"I don't know," he continued, "that I've ever said how much we think of
her, Mrs. Richling and I, but this seems a good opportunity, as she is
"She is not perfect, but she comes as near being a thoroughly good girl as
she can without knowing it. She has a great deal of common-sense, and we
all want her to have the best chance."
"Well, that's just the way I feel about her, and that's just what I mean
to give her," said Mrs. Lander.
"I am not sure that I make myself quite clear," said the rector.
"I mean, a chance to prove how useful and helpful she can be. Do you
think you can make life hard for her occasionally? Can you be peevish
and exacting, and unreasonable? Can you do something to make her value
superfluity and luxury at their true worth?"
Mrs. Lander looked a little alarmed and a little offended. "I don't know
as I undastand what you mean, exactly," she said, frowning rather with
perplexity than resentment. "But the child sha'n't have a care, and her
own motha couldn't be betta to her than me. There a'n't anything money
can buy that she sha'n't have, if she wants it, and all I'll ask of her
is 't she'll enjoy herself as much as she knows how. I want her with me
because I should love to have her round; and we did from the very fust
minute she spoke, Mr. Lander and me, both. She shall have her own money,
and spend it for anything she pleases, and she needn't do a stitch o'
work from mohnin' till night. But if you're afraid I shall put upon her"
"No, no," said the rector, and he threw back his head with a laugh.
"When it was all arranged, a few days later, after the verification of
certain of Mrs. Lander's references by letters to Boston, he said to
Clementina's father and mother, "There's only one danger, now, and that
is that she will spoil Clementina; but there's a reasonable hope that she
won't know how." He found the Claxons struggling with a fresh misgiving,
which Claxon expressed. "The way I look at it is like this. I don't
want that woman should eva think Clem was after her money. On the face
of it there a'n't very much to her that would make anybody think but what
we was after it; and I should want it pootty well undastood that we
wa'n't that kind. But I don't seem to see any way of tellin' her."
"No," said the rector, with a sympathetic twinkle, "that would be
"It's plain to be seen," Mrs. Claxon interposed, "that she thinks a good
deal of her money; and I d' know but what she'd think she was doin' Clem
most too much of a favor anyway. If it can't be a puffectly even thing,
all round, I d' know as I should want it to be at all."
"You're quite right, Mrs. Claxon, quite right. But I believe Mrs.
Lander may be safely left to look out for her own interests. After all,
she has merely asked Clementina to pass the winter with her. It will be
a good opportunity for her to see something of the world; and perhaps it
may bring her the chance of placing herself in life. We have got to
consider these things with reference to a young girl."
Mrs. Claxon said, "Of cou'se," but Claxon did not assent so readily.
"I don't feel as if I should want Clem to look at it in that light. If
the chance don't come to her, I don't want she should go huntin' round
"I thoroughly agree with you," said the rector. "But I was thinking that
there was not only no chance worthy of her in Middlemount, but there is
no chance at all."
"I guess that's so," Claxon owned with a laugh. "Well, I guess we can
leave it to Clem to do what's right and proper everyway. As you say,
she's got lots of sense."
From that moment he emptied his mind of care concerning the matter; but
husband and wife are never both quite free of care on the same point of
common interest, and Mrs. Claxon assumed more and more of the anxieties
which he had abandoned. She fretted under the load, and expressed an
exasperated tenderness for Clementina when the girl seemed forgetful of
any of the little steps to be taken before the great one in getting her
clothes ready for leaving home. She said finally that she presumed they
were doing a wild thing, and that it looked crazier and crazier the more
she thought of it; but all was, if Clem didn't like, she could come home.
By this time her husband was in something of that insensate eagerness to
have the affair over that people feel in a house where there is a
At the station, when Clementina started for Boston with Mrs. Lander, her
father and mother, with the rector and his wife, came to see her off.
Other friends mistakenly made themselves of the party, and kept her
talking vacuities when her heart was full, till the train drew up. Her
father went with her into the parlor car, where the porter of the
Middlemount House set down Mrs. Lander's hand baggage and took the final
fee she thrust upon him. When Claxon came out he was not so satisfactory
about the car as he might have been to his wife, who had never been
inside a parlor car, and who had remained proudly in the background,
where she could not see into it from the outside. He said that he had
felt so bad about Clem that he did not notice what the car was like.
But he was able to report that she looked as well as any of the folks in
it, and that, if there were any better dressed, he did not see them. He
owned that she cried some, when he said good-bye to her.
"I guess," said his wife, grimly, "we're a passel o' fools to let her go.
Even if she don't like, the'a, with that crazy-head, she won't be the
same Clem when she comes back."
They were too heavy-hearted to dispute much, and were mostly silent as
they drove home behind Claxon's self-broken colt: a creature that had
taken voluntarily to harness almost from its birth, and was an example to
its kind in sobriety and industry.
The children ran out from the house to meet them, with a story of having
seen Clem at a point in the woods where the train always slowed up before
a crossing, and where they had all gone to wait for her. She had seen
them through the car-window, and had come out on the car platform, and
waved her handkerchief, as she passed, and called something to them,
but they could not hear what it was, they were all cheering so.
At this their mother broke down, and went crying into the house. Not to
have had the last words of the child whom she should never see the same
again if she ever saw her at all, was more, she said, than heart could
The rector's wife arrived home with her husband in a mood of mounting
hopefulness, which soared to tops commanding a view of perhaps more of
this world's kingdoms than a clergyman's wife ought ever to see, even for
another. She decided that Clementina's chances of making a splendid
match, somewhere, were about of the nature of certainties, and she
contended that she would adorn any station, with experience, and with her
native tact, especially if it were a very high station in Europe, where
Mrs. Lander would now be sure to take her. If she did not take her to
Europe, however, she would be sure to leave her all her money, and this
would serve the same end, though more indirectly.
Mr. Richling scoffed at this ideal of Clementina's future with a contempt
which was as little becoming to his cloth. He made his wife reflect
that, with all her inherent grace and charm, Clementina was an ignorant
little country girl, who had neither the hardness of heart nor the
greediness of soul, which gets people on in the world, and repair for
them the disadvantages of birth and education. He represented that even
if favorable chances for success in society showed themselves to the
girl, the intense and inexpugnable vulgarity of Mrs. Lander would spoil
them; and he was glad of this, he said, for he believed that the best
thing which could happen to the child would be to come home as sweet and
good as she had gone away; he added this was what they ought both to pray
His wife admitted this, but she retorted by asking if he thought such a
thing was possible, and he was obliged to own that it was not possible.
He marred the effect of his concession by subjoining that it was no more
possible than her making a brilliant and triumphant social figure in
society, either at home or in Europe.
So far from embarking at once for Europe, Mrs. Lander went to that hotel
in a suburb of Boston, where she had the habit of passing the late autumn
months, in order to fortify herself for the climate of the early winter
months in the city. She was a little puzzled how to provide for
Clementina, with respect to herself, but she decided that the best thing
would be to have her sleep in a room opening out of her own, with a
folding bed in it, so that it could be used as a sort of parlor for both
of them during the day, and be within easy reach, for conversation, at
On her part, Clementina began by looking after Mrs. Lander's comforts,
large and little, like a daughter, to her own conception and to that of
Mrs. Lander, but to other eyes, like a servant. Mrs. Lander shyly shrank
from acquaintance among the other ladies, and in the absence of this, she
could not introduce Clementina, who went down to an early breakfast
alone, and sat apart with her at lunch and dinner, ministering to her in
public as she did in private. She ran back to their rooms to fetch her
shawl, or her handkerchief, or whichever drops or powders she happened to
be taking with her meals, and adjusted with closer care the hassock which
the head waiter had officially placed at her feet. They seldom sat in
the parlor where the ladies met, after dinner; they talked only to each
other; and there, as elsewhere, the girl kept her filial care of the old
woman. The question of her relation to Mrs. Lander became so pressing
among several of the guests that, after Clementina had watched over the
banisters, with throbbing heart and feet, a little dance one night which
the other girls had got up among themselves, and had fled back to her
room at the approach of one of the kindlier and bolder of them, the
landlord felt forced to learn from Mrs. Lander how Miss Claxon was to be
regarded. He managed delicately, by saying he would give the Sunday
paper she had ordered to her nurse, "Or, I beg your pardon," he added, as
if he had made a mistake. "Why, she a'n't my nuhse," Mrs. Lander
explained, simply, neither annoyed nor amused; "she's just a young lady
that's visiting me, as you may say," and this put an end to the misgiving
among the ladies. But it suggested something to Mrs. Lander, and a few
days afterwards, when they came out from Boston where they had been
shopping, and she had been lavishing a bewildering waste of gloves, hats,
shoes, capes and gowns upon Clementina, she said, "I'll tell you what.
We've got to have a maid."
"A maid?" cried the girl.
"It isn't me, or my things I want her for," said Mrs. Lander. "It's you
and these dresses of youas. I presume you could look afta them, come to
give youa mind to it; but I don't want to have you tied up to a lot of
clothes; and I presume we should find her a comfo't in moa ways than one,
both of us. I don't know what we shall want her to do, exactly; but I
guess she will, if she undastands her business, and I want you should go
in with me, to-morror, and find one. I'll speak to some of the ladies,
and find out whe's the best place to go, and we'll get the best there
A lady whom Mrs. Lander spoke to entered into the affair with zeal born
of a lurking sense of the wrong she had helped do Clementina in the
common doubt whether she was not herself Mrs. Lander's maid. She offered
to go into Boston with them to an intelligence office, where you could
get nice girls of all kinds; but she ended by giving Mrs. Lander the
address, and instructions as to what she was to require in a maid. She
was chiefly to get an English maid, if at all possible, for the
qualifications would more or less naturally follow from her nationality.
There proved to be no English maid, but there was a Swedish one who had
received a rigid training in an English family living on the Continent,
and had come immediately from that service to seek her first place in
America. The manager of the office pronounced her character, as set down
in writing, faultless, and Mrs. Lander engaged her. "You want to look
afta this young lady," she said, indicating Clementina. "I can look afta
myself," but Ellida took charge of them both on the train out from Boston
with prompt intelligence.
"We got to get used to it, I guess," Mrs. Lander confided at the first
chance of whispering to Clementina.
Within a month after washing the faces and combing the hair of all her
brothers and sisters who would suffer it at her hands, Clementina's own
head was under the brush of a lady's maid, who was of as great a
discreetness in her own way as Clementina herself. She supplied the
defects of Mrs. Lander's elementary habits by simply asking if she should
get this thing and that thing for the toilet, without criticising its
absence,--and then asking whether she should get the same things for her
young lady. She appeared to let Mrs. Lander decide between having her
brushes in ivory or silver, but there was really no choice for her, and
they came in silver. She knew not only her own place, but the places of
her two ladies, and she presently had them in such training that they
were as proficient in what they might and might not do for themselves and
for each other, as if making these distinctions were the custom of their
Their hearts would both have gone out to Ellida, but Ellida kept them at
a distance with the smooth respectfulness of the iron hand in the glove
of velvet; and Clementina first learned from her to imagine the
impassable gulf between mistress and maid.
At the end of her month she gave them, out of a clear sky, a week's
warning. She professed no grievance, and was not moved by Mrs. Lander's
appeal to say what wages she wanted. She would only say that she was
going to take a place an Commonwealth Avenue, where a friend of hers was
living, and when the week was up, she went, and left her late mistresses
feeling rather blank. "I presume we shall have to get anotha," said
"Oh, not right away!" Clementina pleaded.
"Well, not right away," Mrs. Lander assented; and provisionally they each
took the other into her keeping, and were much freer and happier
Soon after Clementina was startled one morning, as she was going in to
breakfast, by seeing Mr. Fane at the clerk's desk. He did not see her;
he was looking down at the hotel register, to compute the bill of a
departing guest; but when she passed out she found him watching for her,
with some letters.
"I didn't know you were with us," he said, with his pensive smile, "till
I found your letters here, addressed to Mrs. Lander's care; and then I
put two and two together. It only shows how small the world is, don't
you think so? I've just got back from my vacation; I prefer to take it
in the fall of the year, because it's so much pleasanter to travel, then.
I suppose you didn't know I was here?"
"No, I didn't," said Clementina. "I never dreamed of such a thing."
"To be sure; why should you?" Fane reflected. "I've been here ever since
last spring. But I'll say this, Miss Claxon, that if it's the least
unpleasant to you, or the least disagreeable, or awakens any kind of
"Oh, no!" Clementina protested, and Fane was spared the pain of saying
what he would do if it were.
He bowed, and she said sweetly, "It's pleasant to meet any one I've seen
before. I suppose you don't know how much it's changed at Middlemount
since you we' e thea." Fane answered blankly, while he felt in his
breast pocket, Oh, he presumed so; and she added: "Ha'dly any of the same
guests came back this summer, and they had more in July than they had in
August, Mrs. Atwell said. Mr. Mahtin, the chef, is gone, and newly all
the help is different."
Fane kept feeling in one pocket and then slapped himself over the other
pockets. "No," he said, "I haven't got it with me. I must have left it
in my room. I just received a letter from Frank--Mr. Gregory, you know,
I always call him Frank--and I thought I had it with me. He was asking
about Middlemount; and I wanted to read you what he said. But I'll find
it upstairs. He's out of college, now, and he's begun his studies in the
divinity school. He's at Andover. I don't know what to make of Frank,
oftentimes," the clerk continued, confidentially. "I tell him he's a
kind of a survival, in religion; he's so aesthetic." It seemed to Fane
that he had not meant aesthetic, exactly, but he could not ask Clementina
what the word was. He went on to say, "He's a grand good fellow, Frank
is, but he don't make enough allowance for human nature. He's more like
one of those old fashioned orthodox. I go in for having a good time, so
long as you don't do anybody else any hurt."
He left her, and went to receive the commands of a lady who was leaning
over the desk, and saying severely, "My mail, if you please," and
Clementina could not wait for him to come back; she had to go to Mrs.
Lander, and get her ready for breakfast; Ellida had taught Mrs. Lander a
luxury of helplessness in which she persisted after the maid's help was
Clementina went about the whole day with the wonder what Gregory had said
about Middlemount filling her mind. It must have had something to do
with her; he could not have forgotten the words he had asked her to
forget. She remembered them now with a curiosity, which had no rancor in
it, to know why he really took them back. She had never blamed him, and
she had outlived the hurt she had felt at not hearing from him. But she
had never lost the hope of hearing from him, or rather the expectation,
and now she found that she was eager for his message; she decided that it
must be something like a message, although it could not be anything
direct. No one else had come to his place in her fancy, and she was
willing to try what they would think of each other now, to measure her
own obligation to the past by a knowledge of his. There was scarcely
more than this in her heart when she allowed herself to drift near Fane's
place that night, that he might speak to her, and tell her what Gregory
had said. But he had apparently forgotten about his letter, and only
wished to talk about himself. He wished to analyze himself, to tell her
what sort of person he was. He dealt impartially with the subject; he
did not spare some faults of his; and after a week, he proposed a
correspondence with her, in a letter of carefully studied spelling, as a
means of mutual improvement as well as further acquaintance.
It cost Clementina a good deal of trouble to answer him as she wished and
not hurt his feelings. She declined in terms she thought so cold that
they must offend him beyond the point of speaking to her again; but he
sought her out, as soon after as he could, and thanked her for her
kindness, and begged her pardon. He said he knew that she was a very
busy person, with all the lessons she was taking, and that she had no
time for carrying on a correspondence. He regretted that he could not
write French, because then the correspondence would have been good
practice for her. Clementina had begun taking French lessons, of a
teacher who came out from Boston. She lunched three times a week with
her and Mrs. Lander, and spoke the language with Clementina, whose accent
she praised for its purity; purity of accent was characteristic of all
this lady's pupils; but what was really extraordinary in Mademoiselle
Claxon was her sense of grammatical structure; she wrote the language
even more perfectly than she spoke it; but beautifully, but wonderfully;
her exercises were something marvellous.
Mrs. Lander would have liked Clementina to take all the lessons that she
heard any of the other young ladies in the hotel were taking. One of
them went in town every day, and studied drawing at an art-school, and
she wanted Clementina to do that, too. But Clementina would not do that;
she had tried often enough at home, when her brother Jim was drawing, and
her father was designing the patterns of his woodwork; she knew that she
never could do it, and the time would be wasted. She decided against
piano lessons and singing lessons, too; she did not care for either, and
she pleaded that it would be a waste to study them; but she suggested
dancing lessons, and her gift for dancing won greater praise, and perhaps
sincerer, than her accent won from Mademoiselle Blanc, though Mrs. Lander
said that she would not have believed any one could be more
complimentary. She learned the new steps and figures in all the
fashionable dances; she mastered some fancy dances, which society was
then beginning to borrow from the stage; and she gave these before Mrs.
Lander with a success which she felt herself.
"I believe I could teach dancing," she said.
"Well, you won't eve haf to, child," returned Mrs. Lander, with an eye on
the side of the case that seldom escaped her.
In spite of his wish to respect these preoccupations, Fane could not keep
from offering Clementina attentions, which took the form of persecution
when they changed from flowers for Mrs. Lander's table to letters for
herself. He apologized for his letters whenever he met her; but at last
one of them came to her before breakfast with a special delivery stamp
from Boston. He had withdrawn to the city to write it, and he said that
if she could not make him a favorable answer, he should not come back to
She had to show this letter to Mrs. Lander, who asked: "You want he
should come back?"
"No, indeed! I don't want eva to see him again."
"Well, then, I guess you'll know how to tell him so."
The girl went into her own room to write, and when she brought her answer
to show it to Mrs. Lander she found her in frowning thought. "I don't
know but you'll have to go back and write it all over again, Clementina,"
she said, "if you've told him not to come. I've been thinkin', if you
don't want to have anything to do with him, we betta go ouaselves."
"Yes," answered Clementina, "that's what I've said."
"You have? Well, the witch is in it! How came you to"--
"I just wanted to talk with you about it. But I thought maybe you'd like
to go. Or at least I should. I should like to go home, Mrs. Landa."
"Home!" retorted Mrs. Lander. "The'e's plenty of places where you can be
safe from the fella besides home, though I'll take you back the'a this
minute if you say so. But you needn't to feel wo'ked up about it."
"Oh, I'm not," said Clementina, but with a gulp which betrayed her
"I did think," Mrs. Lander went on, "that I should go into the Vonndome,
for December and January, but just as likely as not he'd come pesterin'
the'a, too, and I wouldn't go, now, if you was to give me the whole city
of Boston. Why shouldn't we go to Florid?"
When Mrs. Lander had once imagined the move, the nomadic impulse mounted
irresistably in her. She spoke of hotels in the South, where they could
renew the summer, and she mapped out a campaign which she put into
instant action so far as to advance upon New York.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
All in all to each other
Chained to the restless pursuit of an ideal not his own
Composed her features and her ideas to receive her visitor
Going on of things had long ceased to bring pleasure
He a'n't a do-nothin'; he's a do-everything
Hopeful apathy in his face
I'm moa used to havin' the things brought to me
Inexhaustible flow of statement, conjecture and misgiving
Kept her talking vacuities when her heart was full
Led a life of public seclusion
Luxury of helplessness
New England necessity of blaming some one
No object in life except to deprive it of all object
Perverse reluctance to find out where they were
Provisional reprehension of possible shiftlessness
Scant sleep of an elderly man
Seldom talked, but there came times when he would'nt even listen
Thrown mainly upon the compassion of the chambermaids
Tone was a snuffle expressive of deep-seated affliction
Unaware that she was a selfish or foolish person
Under a fire of conjecture and asseveration
Weak in his double letters
Wishes of a mistress who did not know what she wanted
You've got a light-haired voice
By William Dean Howells
Mrs. Lander went to a hotel in New York where she had been in the habit
of staying with her husband, on their way South or North. The clerk knew
her, and shook hands with her across the register, and said she could
have her old rooms if she wanted them; the bell-boy who took up their
hand-baggage recalled himself to her; the elevator-boy welcomed her with
a smile of remembrance.
Since she was already up, from coming off the sleeping-car, she had no
excuse for not going to breakfast like other people; and she went with
Clementina to the dining-room, where the head-waiter, who found them
places, spoke with an outlandish accent, and the waiter who served them
had a parlance that seemed superficially English, but was inwardly
something else; there was even a touch in the cooking of the familiar
dishes, that needed translation for the girl's inexperienced palate.
She was finding a refuge in the strangeness of everything, when she was
startled by the sound of a familiar voice calling, "Clementina Claxon!
Well, I was sure all along it was you, and I determined I wouldn't stand
it another minute. Why, child, how you have changed! Why, I declare you
are quite a woman! When did you come? How pretty you are Mrs. Milray
took Clementina in her arms and kissed her in proof of her admiration
before the whole breakfast room. She was very nice to Mrs. Lander, too,
who, when Clementina introduced them, made haste to say that Clementina
was there on a visit with her. Mrs. Milray answered that she envied her
such a visitor as Miss Claxon, and protested that she should steal her
away for a visit to herself, if Mr. Milray was not so much in love with
her that it made her jealous. "Mr. Milray has to have his breakfast in
his room," she explained to Clementina. "He's not been so well, since he
lost his mother. Yes," she said, with decorous solemnity, "I'm still in
mourning for her," and Clementina saw that she was in a tempered black.
"She died last year, and now I'm taking Mr. Milray abroad to see if it
won't cheer him up a little. Are you going South for the winter?" she
inquired, politely, of Mrs. Lander. "I wish I was going," she said, when
Mrs. Lander guessed they should go, later on. "Well, you must come in
and see me all you can, Clementina; and I shall have the pleasure of
calling upon you," she added to Mrs. Lander with state that was lost in
the soubrette-like volatility of her flight from them the next moment.
"Goodness, I forgot all about Mr. Milray's breakfast! "She ran back to
the table she had left on the other side of the room.
"Who is that, Clementina?" asked Mrs. Lander, on their way to their
rooms. Clementina explained as well as she could, and Mrs. Lander summed
up her feeling in the verdict, "Well, she's a lady, if ever I saw a lady;
and you don't see many of 'em, nowadays."
The girl remembered how Mrs. Milray had once before seemed very fond of
her, and had afterwards forgotten the pretty promises and professions she
had made her. But she went with Mrs. Lander to see her, and she saw Mr.
Milray, too, for a little while. He seemed glad of their meeting, but
still depressed by the bereavement which Mrs. Milray supported almost
with gayety. When he left them she explained that he was a good deal
away from her, with his family, as she approved of his being, though she
had apparently no wish to join him in all the steps of the reconciliation
which the mother's death had brought about among them. Sometimes his
sisters came to the hotel to see her, but she amused herself perfectly
without them, and she gave much more of her leisure to Clementina and
She soon knew the whole history of the relation between them, and the
first time that Clementina found her alone with Mrs. Lander she could
have divined that Mrs. Lander had been telling her of the Fane affair,
even if Mrs. Milray had not at once called out to her, "I know all about
it; and I'll tell you what, Clementina, I'm going to take you over with
me and marry you to an English Duke. Mrs. Lander and I have been
planning it all out, and I'm going to send down to the steamer office,
and engage your passage. It's all settled!"
When she was gone, Mfrs. Lander asked, "What do you s'pose your folks
would say to your goin' to Europe, anyway, Clementina?" as if the matter
had been already debated between them.
Clementina hesitated. "I should want to be su'a Mrs. Milray really
wanted me to go ova with her."
"Why, didn't you hear her say so?" demanded Mrs. Lander.
"Yes," sighed Clementina. "Mrs. Lander, I think Mrs. Milray means what
she says, at the time, but she is one that seems to forget."
"She thinks the wo'ld of you," Mrs. Lander urged.
"She was very nice to me that summer at Middlemount. I guess maybe she
would like to have us go with her," the girl relented.
"I guess we'll wait and see," said Mrs. Lander. "I shouldn't want she
should change her mind when it was too late, as you say." They were both
silent for a time, and then Mrs. Lander resumed, "But I presume she
ha'n't got the only steams that's crossin'. What should you say about
goin' over on some otha steams? I been South a good many wintas, and I
should feel kind of lonesome goin' round to the places where I been with
Mr. Landa. I felt it since I been here in this hotel, some, and I can't
seem to want to go ova the same ground again, well, not right away."
Clementina said, "Why, of cou'se, Mrs. Landa."
"Should you be willin'," asked Mrs. Lander, after another little pause,
"if your folks was willin', to go ova the'a, to some of them European
countries, to spend the winta?"
"Oh yes, indeed!" said Clementina.
They discussed the matter in one of the full talks they both liked. At
the end Mrs. Lander said, "Well, I guess you betta write home, and ask
your motha whetha you can go, so't if we take the notion we can go any
time. Tell her to telegraph, if she'll let you, and do write all the ifs
and ands, so't she'll know just how to answa, without havin' to have you
That evening Mrs. Milray came to their table from where she had been
dining alone, and asked in banter: "Well, have you made up your minds to
go over with me?"
Mrs. Lander said bluntly, "We can't ha'dly believe yon really want us to,
"I don't want you? Who put such an idea into your head! Oh, I know!"
She threatened Clementina with the door-key, which she was carrying in
her hand. "It was you, was it? What an artful, suspicious thing!
What's got into you, child? Do you hate me?" She did not give
Clementina time to protest. "Well, now, I can just tell you I do want
you, and I'll be quite heart-broken if you don't come."
"Well, she wrote to her friends this mohning," Mrs. Lander said, "but I
guess she won't git an answa in time for youa steamer, even if they do
let her go."
"Oh, yes she will," Mrs. Milray protested. "It's all right, now; you've
got to go, and there's no use trying to get out of it."
She came to them whenever she could find them in the dining-room, and she
knocked daily at their door till she knew that Clementina had heard from
home. The girl's mother wrote, without a punctuation mark in her letter,
but with a great deal of sense, that such a thing as her going to Europe
could not be settled by telegraph. She did not think it worth while to
report all the facts of a consultation with the rector which they had
held upon getting Clementina's request, and which had renewed all the
original question of her relations with Mrs. Lander in an intensified
form. He had disposed of this upon much the same terms as before; and
they had yielded more readily because the experiment had so far
succeeded. Clementina had apparently no complaint to make of Mrs.
Lander; she was eager to go, and the rector and his wife, who had been
invited to be of the council, were both of the opinion that a course of
European travel would be of the greatest advantage to the girl, if she
wished to fit herself for teaching. It was an opportunity that they must
not think of throwing away. If Mrs. Lander went to Florence, as it
seemed from Clementina's letter she thought of doing, the girl would pass
a delightful winter in study of one of the most interesting cities in the
world, and she would learn things which would enable her to do better for
herself when she came home than she could ever hope to do otherwise. She
might never marry, Mr. Richling suggested, and it was only right and fair
that she should be equipped with as much culture as possible for the
struggle of life; Mrs. Richling agreed with this rather vague theory, but
she was sure that Clementina would get married to greater advantage in
Florence than anywhere else. They neither of them really knew anything
at first hand about Florence; the rector's opinion was grounded on the
thought of the joy that a sojourn in Italy would have been to him; his
wife derived her hope of a Florentine marriage for Clementina from
several romances in which love and travel had gone hand in hand, to the
lasting credit of triumphant American girlhood.
The Claxons were not able to enter into their view of the case, but if
Mrs. Lander wanted to go to Florence instead of Florida they did not see
why Clementina should not go with her to one place as well as the other.
They were not without a sense of flattery from the fact that their
daughter was going to Europe; but they put that as far from them as they
could, the mother severely and the father ironically, as something too
silly, and they tried not to let it weigh with them in making up their
mind, but to consider only Clementina's best good, and not even to regard
her pleasure. Her mother put before her the most crucial questions she
could think of, in her letter, and then gave her full leave from her
father as well as herself to go if she wished.
Clementina had rather it had been too late to go with the Milrays, but
she felt bound to own her decision when she reached it; and Mrs. Milray,
whatever her real wish was, made it a point of honor to help get Mrs.
Lander berths on her steamer. It did not require much effort; there are
plenty of berths for the latest-comers on a winter passage, and
Clementina found herself the fellow passenger of Mrs. Milray.
As soon as Mrs. Lander could make her way to her state-room, she got into
her berth, and began to take the different remedies for sea-sickness
which she had brought with her. Mrs. Milray said that was nice, and that
now she and Clementina could have a good tune. But before it came to
that she had taken pity on a number of lonely young men whom she found on
board. She cheered them up by walking round the ship with them; but if
any of them continued dull in spite of this, she dropped him, and took
another; and before she had been two days out she had gone through with
nearly all the lonely young men on the list of cabin passengers. She
introduced some of them to Clementina, but at such times as she had them
in charge; and for the most part she left her to Milray. Once, as the
girl sat beside him in her steamer-chair, Mrs. Milray shed a wrap on his
knees in whirring by on the arm of one of her young men, with some
laughed and shouted charge about it.
"What did she say?" he asked Clementina, slanting the down-pulled brim
of his soft hat purblindly toward her.
She said she had not understood, and then Milray asked, "What sort of
person is that Boston youth of Mrs. Milray's? Is he a donkey or a lamb?"
Clementina said ingenuously, "Oh, she's walking with that English
gentleman now--that lo'd."
"Ah, yes," said Milray. "He's not very much to look at, I hear."
"Well, not very much," Clementina admitted; she did not like to talk
"Lords are sometimes disappointing, Clementina," Milray said, "but then,
so are other great men. I've seen politicians on our side who were
disappointing, and there are clergymen and gamblers who don't look it."
He laughed sadly. "That's the way people talk who are a little
disappointing themselves. I hope you don't expect too much of yourself,
"I don't know what you mean," she said, stiffening with a suspicion that
he might be going to make fun of her.
He laughed more gayly. "Well, I mean we must hold the other fellows up
to their duty, or we can't do our own. We need their example. Charity
may begin at home, but duty certainly begins abroad." He went on, as if
it were a branch of the same inquiry, "Did you ever meet my sisters?
They came to the hotel in New York to see Mrs. Milray."
"Yes, I was in the room once when they came in."
"Did you like them?"
"Yes--I sca'cely spoke to them--I only stayed a moment."
"Would you like to see any more of the family?"
"Why, of cou'se!" Clementina was amused at his asking, but he seemed in
"One of my sisters lives in Florence, and Mrs. Milray says you think of
going there, too."
"Mrs. Landa thought it would be a good place to spend the winter. Is it
a pleasant place?"
"Oh, delightful! Do you know much about Italy?"
"Not very much, I don't believe."
"Well, my sister has lived a good while in Florence. I should like to
give you a letter to her."
"Oh, thank you!" said Clementina.
Milray smiled at her spare acknowledgment, but inquired gravely: "What do
you expect to do in Florence?"
"Why, I presume, whateva Mrs. Landa wants to do."
"Do you think Mrs. Lander will want to go into society?"
This question had not occurred to Clementina. "I don't believe she
will," she said, thoughtfully.
Clementina laughed, "Why, do you think," she ventured, "that society
would want me to?"
"Yes, I think it would, if you're as charming as you've tried to make me
believe. Oh, I don't mean, to your own knowledge; but some people have
ways of being charming without knowing it. If Mrs. Lander isn't going
into society, and there should be a way found for you to go, don't
refuse, will you?"
"I shall wait and see if I'm asked, fust."
"Yes, that will be best," said Milray. "But I shall give you a letter to
my sister. She and I used to be famous cronies, and we went to a great
many parties together when we were young people. We thought the world
was a fine thing, then. But it changes."
He fell into a muse, and they were both sitting quite silent when Mrs.
Milray came round the corner of the music room in the course of her
twentieth or thirtieth compass of the deck, and introduced her lord to
her husband and to Clementina. He promptly ignored Milray, and devoted
himself to the girl, leaning over her with his hand against the bulkhead
behind her and talking down upon her.
Lord Lioncourt must have been about thirty, but he had the heated and
broken complexion of a man who has taken more than is good for him in
twice that number of years. This was one of the wrongs nature had done
him in apparent resentment of the social advantages he was born to, for
he was rather abstemious, as Englishmen go. He looked a very shy person
till he spoke, and then you found that he was not in the least shy. He
looked so English that you would have expected a strong English accent of
him, but his speech was more that of an American, without the nasality.
This was not apparently because he had been much in America; he was
returning from his first visit to the States, which had been spent
chiefly in the Territories; after a brief interval of Newport he had
preferred the West; he liked rather to hunt than to be hunted, though
even in the West his main business had been to kill time, which he found
more plentiful there than other game. The natives, everywhere, were much
the same thing to him; if he distinguished it was in favor of those who
did not suppose themselves cultivated. If again he had a choice it was
for the females; they seemed to him more amusing than the males, who
struck him as having an exaggerated reputation for humor. He did not
care much for Clementina's past, as he knew it from Mrs. Milray, and if
it did not touch his fancy, it certainly did not offend his taste. A
real artistocracy is above social prejudice, when it will; he had known
some of his order choose the mothers of their heirs from the music halls,
and when it came to a question of distinctions among Americans, he could
not feel them. They might be richer or poorer; but they could not be
more patrician or more plebeian.
The passengers, he told Clementina, were getting up, at this point of the
ship's run, an entertainment for the benefit of the seaman's hospital in
Liverpool, that well-known convention of ocean-travel, which is sure at
some time or other, to enlist all the talent on board every English
steamer in some sort of public appeal. He was not very clear how he came
to be on the committee for drumming up talent for the occasion; his
distinction seemed to have been conferred by a popular vote in the
smoking room, as nearly as he could make out; but here he was, and he was
counting upon Miss Claxon to help him out. He said Mrs. Milray had told
him about that charming affair they had got up in the mountains, and he
was sure they could have something of the kind again. "Perhaps not a
coaching party; that mightn't be so easy to manage at sea. But isn't
there something else--some tableaux or something? If we couldn't have
the months of the year we might have the points of the compass, and you
could take your choice."
He tried to get something out of the notion, but nothing came of it that
Mrs. Milray thought possible. She said, across her husband, on whose
further side she had sunk into a chair, that they must have something
very informal; everybody must do what they could, separately. "I know
you can do anything you like, Clementina. Can't you play something, or
sing?" At Clementina's look of utter denial, she added, desperately,
"Or dance something? "A light came into the girl's face at which she
caught. "I know you can dance something! Why, of course! Now, what is
Clementina smiled at her vehemence. "Why, it's nothing. And I don't
know whether I should like to."
"Oh, yes," urged Lord Lioncourt. "Such a good cause, you know."
"What is it?" Mrs. Milray insisted. "Is it something you could do
"It's just a dance that I learned at Woodlake. The teacha said that all
the young ladies we'e leaning it. It's a skut-dance"--
"The very thing!" Mrs. Milray shouted. "It'll be the hit of the
"But I've never done it before any one," Clementina faltered.
"They'll all be doing their turns," the Englishman said. "Speaking, and
singing, and playing."
Clementina felt herself giving way, and she pleaded in final reluctance,
"But I haven't got a pleated skut in my steama trunk."
"No matter! We can manage that." Mrs. Milray jumped to her feet and
took Lord Lioncourt's arm. "Now we must go and drum up somebody else."
He did not seem eager to go, but he started. "Then that's all settled,"
she shouted over her shoulder to Clementina.
"No, no, Mrs. Milray! "Clementina called after her. "The ship tilts
"Nonsense! It's the smoothest run she ever made in December. And I'll
engage to have the sea as steady as a rock for you. Remember, now,
Mrs. Milray whirled her Englishman away, and left Clementina sitting
beside her husband.
"Did you want to dance for them, Clementina?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said, with the vague smile of one to whom a pleasant
hope has occurred.
"I thought perhaps you were letting Mrs. Milray bully you into it. She's
a frightful tyrant."
"Oh, I guess I should like to do it, if you think it would be--nice."
"I dare say it will be the nicest thing at their ridiculous show."
Milray laughed as if her willingness to do the dance had defeated a
sentimental sympathy in him.
"I don't believe it will be that," said Clementina, beaming joyously.
"But I guess I shall try it, if I can find the right kind of a dress."
"Is a pleated skirt absolutely necessary," asked Milray, gravely.
"I don't see how I could get on without it," said Clementina.
She was so serious still when she went down to her state-room that Mrs.
Lander was distracted from her potential ailments to ask: "What is it,
"Oh, nothing. Mrs. Milray has got me to say that I would do something at
a concert they ah' going to have on the ship." She explained, "It's that
skut dance I learnt at Woodlake of Miss Wilson."
"Well, I guess if you're worryin' about that you needn't to."
"Oh, I'm not worrying about the dance. I was just thinking what I should
wear. If I could only get at the trunks!"
"It won't make any matte what you wear," said Mrs. Lander. "It'll be the
greatest thing; and if 't wa'n't for this sea-sickness that I have to
keep fightin' off he'a, night and day, I should come up and see you
myself. You ah' just lovely in that dance, Clementina."
"Do you think so, Mrs. Landa?" asked the girl, gratefully. "Well, Mr.
Milray didn't seem to think that I need to have a pleated skut. Any
rate, I'm going to look over my things, and see if I can't make something
The entertainment was to be the second night after that, and Mrs. Milray
at first took the whole affair into her own hands. She was willing to
let the others consult with her, but she made all the decisions, and she
became so prepotent that she drove Lord Lioncourt to rebellion in the
case of some theatrical people whom he wanted in the programme. He
wished her to let them feel that they were favoring rather than favored,
and she insisted that it should be quite the other way. She professed a
scruple against having theatrical people in the programme at all, which
she might not have felt if her own past had been different, and she spoke
with an abhorrence of the stage which he could by no means tolerate in
the case. She submitted with dignity when she could not help it.
Perhaps she submitted with too much dignity. Her concession verged upon
hauteur; and in her arrogant meekness she went back to another of her
young men, whom she began to post again as the companion of her
He had rather an anxious air in the enjoyment of the honor, but the
Englishman seemed unconscious of its loss, or else he chose to ignore it.
He frankly gave his leisure to Clementina, and she thought he was very
pleasant. There was something different in his way from that of any of
the other men she had met; something very natural and simple, a way of
being easy in what he was, and not caring whether he was like others or
not; he was not ashamed of being ignorant of anything he did not know,
and she was able to instruct him on some points. He took her quite
seriously when she told him about Middlemount, and how her family came to
settle there, and then how she came to be going to Europe with Mrs.
Lander. He said Mrs. Milray had spoken about it; but he had not
understood quite how it was before; and he hoped Mrs. Lander was coming
to the entertainment.
He did not seem aware that Mrs. Milray was leaving the affair more and
more to him. He went forward with it and was as amiable with her as she
would allow. He was so amiable with everybody that he reconciled many
true Americans to his leadership, who felt that as nearly all the
passengers were Americans, the chief patron of the entertainment ought to
have been some distinguished American. The want of an American who was
very distinguished did something to pacify them; but the behavior of an
English lord who put on no airs was the main agency. When the night came
they filled the large music room of the 'Asia Minor', and stood about in
front of the sofas and chairs so many deep that it was hard to see or
hear through them.
They each paid a shilling admittance; they were prepared to give
munificently besides when the hat came round; and after the first burst
of blundering from Lord Lioncourt, they led the magnanimous applause.
He said he never minded making a bad speech in a good cause, and he made
as bad a one as very well could be. He closed it by telling Mark Twain's
whistling story so that those who knew it by heart missed the paint; but
that might have been because he hurried it, to get himself out of the way
of the others following. When he had done, one of the most ardent of the
Americans proposed three cheers for him.
The actress whom he had secured in spite of Mrs. Milray appeared in
woman's dress contrary to her inveterate professional habit, and followed
him with great acceptance in her favorite variety-stage song; and then
her husband gave imitations of Sir Henry Irving, and of Miss Maggie Kline
in "T'row him down, McCloskey," with a cockney accent. A frightened
little girl, whose mother had volunteered her talent, gasped a ballad to
her mother's accompaniment, and two young girls played a duet on the
mandolin and guitar. A gentleman of cosmopolitan military tradition, who
sold the pools in the smoking-room, and was the friend of all the men
present, and the acquaintance of several, gave selections of his
autobiography prefatory to bellowing in a deep bass voice, "They're
hanging Danny Deaver," and then a lady interpolated herself into the
programme with a kindness which Lord Lioncourt acknowledged, in saying
"The more the merrier," and sang Bonnie Dundee, thumping the piano out of
all proportion to her size and apparent strength.
Some advances which Clementina had made for Mrs. Milray's help about the
dress she should wear in her dance met with bewildering indifference, and
she had fallen back upon her own devices. She did not think of taking
back her promise, and she had come to look forward to her part with a
happiness which the good weather and the even sway of the ship
encouraged. But her pulses fluttered, as she glided into the music room,
and sank into a chair next Mrs. Milray. She had on an accordion skirt
which she had been able to get out of her trunk in the hold, and she felt
that the glance of Mrs. Milray did not refuse it approval.
"That will do nicely, Clementina," she said. She added, in careless
acknowledgement of her own failure to direct her choice, "I see you
didn't need my help after all," and the thorny point which Clementina
felt in her praise was rankling, when Lord Lioncourt began to introduce
He made rather a mess of it, but as soon as he came to an end of his
well-meant blunders, she stood up and began her poses and paces. It was
all very innocent, with something courageous as well as appealing. She
had a kind of tender dignity in her dance, and the delicate beauty of her
face translated itself into the grace of her movements. It was not
impersonal; there was her own quality of sylvan, of elegant in it; but it
was unconscious, and so far it was typical, it was classic; Mrs. Milray's
Bostonian achieved a snub from her by saying it was like a Botticelli;
and in fact it was merely the skirt-dance which society had borrowed from
the stage at that period, leaving behind the footlights its more
acrobatic phases, but keeping its pretty turns and bows and bends.
Clementina did it not only with tender dignity, but when she was fairly
launched in it, with a passion to which her sense of Mrs. Milray's
strange unkindness lent defiance. The dance was still so new a thing
then, that it had a surprise to which the girl's gentleness lent a
curious charm, and it had some adventitious fascinations from the
necessity she was in of weaving it in and out among the stationary
armchairs and sofas which still further cramped the narrow space where
she gave it. Her own delight in it shone from her smiling face, which
was appealingly happy. Just before it should have ended, one of those
wandering waves that roam the smoothest sea struck the ship, and
Clementina caught herself skilfully from falling, and reeled to her seat,
while the room rang with the applause and sympathetic laughter for the
mischance she had baffled. There was a storm of encores, but Clementina
called out, "The ship tilts so!" and her naivete won her another burst of
favor, which was at its height when Lord Lioncourt had an inspiration.
He jumped up and said, "Miss Claxon is going to oblige us with a little
bit of dramatics, now, and I'm sure you'll all enjoy that quite as much
as her beautiful dancing. She's going to take the principal part in the
laughable after-piece of Passing round the Hat, and I hope the audience
will--a--a--a--do the rest. She's consented on this occasion to use a
hat--or cap, rather--of her own, the charming Tam O'Shanter in which
we've all seen her, and--a--admired her about the ship for the week
He caught up the flat woolen steamer-cap which Clementina had left in her
seat beside Mrs. Milray when she rose to dance, and held it aloft. Some
one called out, "Chorus! For he's a jolly good fellow," and led off in
his praise. Lord Lioncourt shouted through the uproar the announcement
that while Miss Claxon was taking up the collection, Mr. Ewins, of
Boston, would sing one of the student songs of Cambridge--no! Harvard--
University; the music being his own.
Everyone wanted to make some joke or some compliment to Clementina about
the cap which grew momently heavier under the sovereigns and half
sovereigns, half crowns and half dollars, shillings, quarters, greenbacks
and every fraction of English and American silver; and the actor who had
given the imitations, made bold, as he said, to ask his lordship if the
audience might not hope, before they dispersed, for something more from
Miss Claxon. He was sure she could do something more; he for one would
be glad of anything; and Clementina turned from putting her cap into Mrs.
Milray's lap, to find Lord Lioncourt bowing at her elbow, and offering
her his arm to lead her to the spot where she had stood in dancing.
The joy of her triumph went to her head; she wished to retrieve herself
from any shadow of defeat.
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