Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 70 out of 78
of Boston society, thoughtful of its own weight and bulk, transports
itself down the North Shore scarcely further than Manchester at the
furthest; but there are more courageous or more detachable spirits who
venture into more distant regions. These contribute somewhat toward
peopling Bar Harbour in the summer, but they scarcely characterise it in
any degree; while at Campobello they settle in little daring colonies,
whose self-reliance will enlist the admiration of the sympathetic
observer. They do not refuse the knowledge of other colonies of other
stirps and origins, and they even combine in temporary alliance with
them. But, after all, Boston speaks one language, and New York another,
and Washington a third, and though the several dialects have only slight
differences of inflection, their moral accents render each a little
difficult for the others. In fact every society is repellant of
strangers in the degree that it is sufficient to itself, and is incurious
concerning the rest of the world. If it has not the elements of self-
satisfaction in it, if it is uninformed and new and restless, it is more
hospitable than an older society which has a sense of merit founded upon
historical documents, and need no longer go out of itself for comparisons
of any sort, knowing that if it seeks anything better it will probably be
disappointed. The natural man, the savage, is as indifferent to others
as the exclusive, and those who accuse the coldness of the Bostonians,
and their reluctant or repellant behaviour toward unknown people, accuse
not only civilisation, but nature itself.
That love of independence which is notable in us even in our most
acquiescent phases at home is perhaps what brings these cultivated and
agreeable people so far away, where they can achieve a sort of sylvan
urbanity without responsibility, and without that measuring of purses
which attends the summer display elsewhere. At Campobello one might be
poor with almost as little shame as in Cambridge if one were cultivated.
Mrs. Pasmer, who seldom failed of doing just the right thing for herself,
had promptly divined the advantages of Campobello for her family. She
knew, by dint of a little inquiry, and from the volunteer information of
enthusiasts who had been there the summer before, just who was likely to
be there during the summer with which she now found herself confronted.
Campobello being yet a new thing, it was not open to the objection that
you were sure to meet such and such people, more or less common or
disagreeable, there; whatever happened, it could be lightly handled in
the retrospect as the adventure of a partial and fragmentary summer when
really she hardly cared where they went.
They did not get away from Boston before the middle of July, and after
the solitude they left behind them there, the Owen at first seemed very
gay. But when they had once or twice compared it with the Ty'n-y-Coed,
riding to and fro in the barge which formed the connecting link with the
Saturday evening hops of the latter hotel, Mrs. Pasmer decided that, from
Alice's point of view, they had made a mistake, and she repaired it
without delay. The young people were, in fact, all at the Ty'n-y-Coed,
and though she found the Owen perfectly satisfying for herself and Mr.
Pasmer, she was willing to make the sacrifice of going to a new place: it
was not a great sacrifice for one who had dwelt so long in tents.
There were scarcely any young girls at the Owen, and no young men, of
course. Even at the Ty'n-y-Coed, where young girls abounded, it would
not be right to pretend that there were young men enough. Nowhere,
perhaps, except at Bar Harbour, is the long-lost balance of the sexes
trimmed in New England; and even there the observer, abstractly
delighting in the young girls and their dresses at that grand love-
exchange of Rodick's, must question whether the adjustment is perfectly
At Campobello there were not more than half enough young men, and there
was not enough flirtation to affect the prevailing social mood of the
place: an unfevered, expectationless tranquillity, in which to-day is
like yesterday, and to-morrow cannot be different. It is a quiet of
light reading, and slowly, brokenly murmured, contented gossip for the
ladies, of old newspapers and old stories and luxuriously meditated
cigars for the men, with occasional combinations for a steam-launch
cruise among the eddies and islands of the nearer waters, or a voyage
further off in the Bay of Fundy to the Grand Menan, and a return for the
late dinner which marks the high civilisation of Campobello, and then an
evening of more reading and gossip and cigars, while the night wind
whistles outside, and the brawl and crash of the balls among the tenpins
comes softened from the distant alleys. There are pleasant walks, which
people seldom take, in many directions, and there are drives and bridle-
paths all through the dense, sad, Northern woods which still savagely
clothe the greater part of the island to its further shores, where there
are shelves and plateaus of rock incomparable for picnicking.
One need ask nothing better, in fact, than to stroll down the sylvan road
that leads to the Owen, past the little fishing-village with its sheds
for curing herring; and the pale blue smoke and appetising savour
escaping from them; and past the little chapel with which the old Admiral
attested his love of the Established rite. On this road you may
sometimes meet a little English bishop from the Provinces, in his apron.
and knee-breeches; and there is a certain bridge over a narrow estuary,
where in the shallow land-locked pools of the deeply ebbing tide you may
throw stones at sculpin, and witness the admirable indifference of those
fish to human cruelty and folly. In the middle distance you will see a
group of herring weirs, which with their coronals of tufted saplings form
the very most picturesque aspect of any fishing industry. You may, now
and then find an artist at this point, who, crouched over his easel, or
hers, seems to agree with you about the village and the weirs.
But Alice Pasmer cared little more for such things than her mother did,
and Mrs. Pasmer regarded Nature in all her aspects simply as an adjunct
of society, or an occasional feature of the entourage. The girl had no
such worldly feeling about it, but she found slight sympathy in the moods
of earth and sky with her peculiar temperament. This temperament, whose
recondite origin had almost wholly broken up Mrs. Pasmer's faith in
heredity, was like other temperaments, not always in evidence, and Alice
was variously regarded as cold, of shy, or proud, or insipid, by the
various other temperaments brought in contact with her own. She was apt
to be liked because she was as careful of others as she was of herself,
and she never was childishly greedy about such admiration as she won, as
girls often are, perhaps because she did not care for it. Up to this
time it is doubtful if her heart had been touched even by the fancies
that shake the surface of the soul of youth, and perhaps it was for this
reason that her seriousness at first fretted Mrs. Pasmer with a vague
anxiety for her future.
Mrs. Pasmer herself remained inalienably Unitarian, but she was aware of
the prodigious-growth which the Church had been making in society, and
when Alice showed her inclination for it, she felt that it was not at all
as if she had developed a taste for orthodoxy; when finally it did not
seem likely to go too far, it amused Mrs. Pasmer that her daughter should
have taken so intensely to the Anglican rite.
In the hotel it attached to her by a common interest several of the
ladies who had seen her earnestly responsive at the little Owen chapel--
ladies left to that affectional solitude which awaits long widowhood
through the death or marriage of children; and other ladies, younger,
but yet beginning to grow old with touching courage. Alice was
especially a favourite with the three or four who represented their class
and condition at the Ty'n-y Coed, and who read the best books read there,
and had the gentlest manners. There was a tacit agreement among these
ladies, who could not help seeing the difference in the temperaments of
the mother and daughter, that Mrs. Pasmer did not understand Alice; but
probably there were very few people except herself whom Mrs. Pasmer did
not understand quite well. She understood these ladies and their
compassion for Alice, and she did not in the least resent it. She was
willing that people should like Alice for any reason they chose, if they
did not go too far. With her little flutter of futile deceits, her
irreverence for every form of human worth and her trust in a providence
which had seldom failed her, she smiled at the cult of Alice's friends,
as she did at the girl's seriousness, which also she felt herself able to
keep from going too far.
While she did not object to the sympathy of these ladies, whatever
inspired it, she encouraged another intimacy which grew up
contemporaneously with theirs, and which was frankly secular and
practical, though the girl who attached herself to Alice with one of
those instant passions of girlhood was also in every exterior observance
a strict and diligent Churchwoman. The difference was through the
difference of Boston and New York in everything: the difference between
idealising and the realising tendency. The elderly and middle-aged
Boston women who liked Alice had been touched by something high yet sad
in the beauty of her face at church; the New York girl promptly owned
that she had liked her effect the first Sunday she saw her there, and she
knew in a minute she never got those things on this side; her obeisances
and genuflections throughout the service, much more profound and
punctilious than those of any one else there, had apparently not
prevented her from making a thorough study of Alice's costume and a
correct conjecture as to its authorship.
Miss Anderson, who claimed a collateral Dutch ancestry by the Van Hook,
tucked in between her non-committal family name and the Julia given her
in christening, was of the ordinary slender make of American girlhood,
with dull blond hair, and a dull blond complexion, which would have left
her face uninteresting if it had not been for the caprice of her nose in
suddenly changing from the ordinary American regularity, after getting
over its bridge, and turning out distinctly 'retrousse'. This gave her
profile animation and character; you could not expect a girl with that
nose to be either irresolute or commonplace, and for good or for ill Miss
Anderson was decided and original. She carried her figure, which was no
great things of a figure as to height, with vigorous erectness; she
walked with long strides, knocking her skirts into fine eddies and
tangles as she went; and she spoke in a bold, deep voice, with tones like
a man in it, all the more amusing and fascinating because of the
perfectly feminine eyes with which she looked at you, and the nervous,
feminine gestures which she used while she spoke.
She took Mrs. Pasmer into her confidence with regard to Alice at an early
stage of their acquaintance, which from the first had a patronising or
rather protecting quality in it; if she owned herself less fine, she knew
herself shrewder, and more capable of coping with actualities.
"I think she's moybid, Alice is," she said. "She isn't moybid in the
usual sense of the word, but she expects more of herself and of the woyld
generally than anybody's going to get out of it. She thinks she's going
to get as much as she gives, and that's a great mistake, Mrs. Pasmer,"
she said, with that peculiar liquefaction of the canine letter which the
New-Yorkers alone have the trick of, and which it would be tiresome and
futile to try to represent throughout her talk.
"Oh yes, I quite agree with you," said Mrs. Pasmer, deep in her throat,
and reserving deeper still her enjoyment of this early wisdom of Miss
"Now, even at church--she carries the same spirit into the church. She
doesn't make allowance for human nature, and the church does."
"Oh, certainly!" Mrs. Pasmer agreed.
"She isn't like a person that's been brought up in the church. It's more
like the old Puritan spirit.--Excuse me, Mrs. Pasmer!"
"Yes, indeed! Say anything you like about the Puritans!" said Mrs.
Pasmer, delighted that, as a Bostonian, she should be thought to care for
"I always forget that you're a Bostonian," Miss Anderson apologized.
"Oh, thank you!" cried Mrs. Pasmer.
"I'm going to try to make her like other girls," continued Miss Anderson.
"Do," said Alice's mother, with the effect of wishing her joy of the
"If there were a few young men about, a little over seventeen and a
little under fifty, it would be easier," said Miss Anderson thoughtfully.
"But how are you going to make a girl like other girls when there are no
"That's very true," said Mrs. Pasmer, with an interest which she of
course did her best to make impersonal. "Do you think there will be
more, later on?"
"They will have to Huey up if they are comin'," said Miss Anderson.
"It's the middle of August now, and the hotel closes the second week in
"Yes," said Mrs. Pasmer, vaguely looking at Alice. She had just appeared
over the brow of the precipice, along whose face the arrivals and
departures by the ferry-boat at Campobello obliquely ascend and descend.
She came walking swiftly toward the hotel, and, for her, so excitedly
that Mrs. Pasmer involuntarily rose and went to meet her at the top of
the broad hotel steps.
"What is it, Alice?"
"Oh, nothing! I thought I saw Mr. Munt coming off the boat."
"Yes." She would not stay for further question.
Her mother looked after her with the edge of her fan over her mouth till
she disappeared in the depths of the hotel corridor; then she sat down
near the steps, and chatted with some half-grown boys lounging on the
balustrade, and waited for Munt to come up over the brink of the
precipice. Dan Mavering came with him, running forward with a polite
eagerness at sight of Mrs. Pasmer. She distributed a skillful
astonishment equally between the two men she had equally expected to see,
and was extremely cordial with them, not only because she was pleased
with them, but because she was still more pleased with her daughter's
being, after all, like other girls, when it came to essentials.
Alice came down to lunch in a dress which reconciled the seaside and the
drawing-room in an effect entirely satisfactory to her mother, and gave
her hand to both the gentlemen without the affectation of surprise at
"I saw Mr. Munt coning up from the boat," she said in answer to
Mavering's demand for some sort of astonishment from her. "I wasn't
certain that it was you."
Mrs. Pasmer, whose pretences had been all given away by this simple
confession, did not resent it, she was so much pleased with her
daughter's evident excitement at the young man's having come. Without
being conscious of it, perhaps, Alice prettily assumed the part of
hostess from the moment of their meeting, and did the honours of the
hotel with a tacit implication of knowing that he had come to see her
there. They had only met twice, but now, the third time, meeting after a
little separation, their manner toward each other was as if their
acquaintance had been making progress in the interval. She took him
about quite as if he had joined their family party, and introduced him to
Miss Anderson and to all her particular friends, for each of whom, within
five minutes after his presentation, he contrived to do some winning
service. She introduced him to her father, whom he treated with deep
respect and said "Sir" to. She showed him the bowling alley, and began
to play tennis with him.
Her mother, sitting with John Munt on the piazza, followed these polite
attentions to Mavering with humorous satisfaction, which was qualified as
they went on.
"Alice," she said to her, at a chance which offered itself during the
evening, and then she hesitated for the right word.
"Well; mamma?" said the girl impatiently, stopping on her way to walk up
and down the piazza with Mavering; she had run in to get a wrap and a
"What do you mean, mamma?" asked the girl; dropping her arms before her,
and letting the shawl trail on the floor.
"Don't you think he was very kind to us on Class Day?"
Her mother laughed. "But every one mayn't know it's gratitude."
Alice went out, but she came back in a little while, and went up to her
room without speaking to any one.
The fits of elation and depression with which this first day passed for
her succeeded one another during Mavering's stay. He did not need
Alice's chaperonage long. By the next morning he seemed to know and to
like everybody in the hotel, where he enjoyed a general favour which at
that moment had no exceptions. In the afternoon he began to organise
excursions and amusements with the help of Miss Anderson.
The plans all referred to Alice, who accepted and approved with an
authority which every one tacitly admitted, just as every one recognised
that Mavering had come to Campobello because she was there. Such a phase
is perhaps the prettiest in the history of a love affair. All is yet in
solution; nothing has been precipitated in word or fact. The parties to
it even reserve a final construction of what they themselves say or do;
they will not own to their hearts that they mean exactly this or that.
It is this phase which in its perfect freedom is the most American of
all; under other conditions it is an instant, perceptible or
imperceptible; under ours it is a distinct stage, unhurried by any
The nearest approach to a definition of the situation was in a walk
between Mavering and Mrs. Pasmer, and this talk, too, light and brief,
might have had no such intention as her fancy assigned his part of it.
She recurred to something that had been said on Class Day about his
taking up the law immediately, or going abroad first for a year.
"Oh, I've abandoned Europe altogether for the present," he said laughing.
"And I don't know but I may go back on the law too."
"Indeed! Then you are going to be an artist?"
"Oh no; not so bad as that. It isn't settled yet, and I'm off here to
think it over a while before the law school opens in September. My
father wants me to go into his business and turn my powers to account in
"Oh, how very interesting!" At the same time Mrs. Pasmer ran over the
whole field of her acquaintance without finding another wall-paper maker
in it. But she remembered what Mrs. Saintsbury had said: it was
manufacturing. This reminded her to ask if he had seen the Saintsburys
lately, and he said, No; he believed they were still in Cambridge,
"And we shall actually see a young man," she said finally, "in the act of
deciding his own destiny!"
He laughed for pleasure in her persiflage. "Yes; only don't give me
away. Nobody else knows it."
"Oh no, indeed. Too much flattered, Mr. Mavering. Shall you let me know
when you've decided? I shall be dying to know, and I shall be too high-
minded to ask."
It was not then too late to adapt 'Pinafore' to any exigency of life, and
Mavering said, "You will learn from the expression of my eyes."
The witnesses of Mavering's successful efforts to make everybody like him
were interested in his differentiation of the attentions he offered every
age and sex from those he paid Alice. But while they all agreed that
there never was a sweeter fellow, they would have been puzzled to say in
just what this difference consisted, and much as they liked him, the
ladies of her cult were not quite satisfied with him till they decided
that it was marked by an anxiety, a timidity, which was perfectly
fascinating in a man so far from bashfulness as he. That is, he did nice
things for others without asking; but with her there was always an
explicit pause, and an implicit prayer and permission, first. Upon this
condition they consented to the glamour which he had for her, and which
was evident to every one probably but him.
Once agreeing that no one was good enough for Alice Pasmer, whose
qualities they felt that only women could really appreciate, they were
interested to see how near Mavering could come to being good enough; and
as the drama played itself before their eyes, they pleased themselves in
analysing its hero.
"He is not bashful, certainly," said one of a little group who sat midway
of the piazza while Alice and Mavering walked up and down together.
"But don't you think he's modest? There's that difference, you know."
The lady addressed waited so long before answering that the young couple
came abreast of the group, and then she had to wait till they were out of
hearing. "Yes," she said then, with a tender, sighing thoughtfulness,
"I've felt that in him. And really think he is a very loveable nature.
The only question would be whether he wasn't too loveable."
"Yes," said the first lady, with the same kind of suspiration, "I know
what you mean. And I suppose they ought to be something more alike in
"Or sympathies?" suggested the other.
"Yes, or sympathies."
A third lady laughed a little. "Mr. Mavering has so many sympathies that
he ought to be like her in some of them."
"Do you mean that he's too sympathetic--that he isn't sincere?" asked the
first--a single lady of forty-nine, a Miss Cotton, who had a little knot
of conscience between her pretty eyebrows, tied there by the unremitting
effort of half a century to do and say exactly the truth, and to find it
Mrs. Brinkley, whom she addressed, was of that obesity which seems often
to incline people to sarcasm. "No, I don't think he's insincere. I
think he always means what he says and does--Well, do you think a little
more concentration of good-will would hurt him for Miss Pasmer's purpose
--if she has it?"
"Yes, I see," said Miss Cotton. She waited, with her kind eyes fixed
wistfully upon Alice, for the young people to approach and get by.
"I wonder what the men think of him?"
"You might ask Miss Anderson," said Mrs. Brinkley.
"Oh, do you think they tell her?"
"Not that exactly," said Mrs. Brinkley, shaking with good-humoured
pleasure in her joke.
"Her voice--oh yes. She and Alice are great friends, of course."
"I should think," said Mrs. Stamwell, the second speaker, "that Mr.
Mavering would be jealous sometimes--till he looked twice."
"Yes," said Miss Cotton, obliged to admit the force of the remark, but
feeling that Mr. Mavering had been carried out of the field of her vision
by the turn of the talk. "I suppose," she continued, "that he wouldn't
be so well liked by other young men as she is by other girls, do you
"I don't think, as a rule," said Mrs. Brinkley, "that men are half so
appreciative of one another as women are. It's most amusing to see the
open scorn with which two young fellows treat each other if a pretty girl
All the ladies joined in the laugh with which Mrs. Brinkley herself led
off. But Miss Cotton stopped laughing first.
"Do you mean,", she asked, "that if a gentleman were generally popular
with gentlemen it would be--"
"Because he wasn't generally so with women? Something like that--if
you'll leave Mr. Mavering out of the question. Oh, how very good of
them!" she broke off, and all the ladies glanced at Mavering and Alice
where they had stopped at the further end of the piazza, and were looking
off. "Now I can probably finish before they get back here again. What I
do mean, Miss Cotton, is that neither sex willingly accepts the
favourites of the other."
"Yes," said Miss Cotton admissively.
"And all that saves Miss Pasmer is that she has not only the qualities
that women like in women, but some of the qualities that men, like in
them. She's thoroughly human."
A little sensation, almost a murmur, not wholly of assent, went round
that circle which had so nearly voted Alice a saint.
"In the first place, she likes to please men."
"Oh!" came from the group.
"And that makes them like her--if it doesn't go too far, as her mother
The ladies all laughed, recognising a common turn of phrase in Mrs.
"I should think," said Mrs. Stamwell, "that she would believe a little in
heredity if she noticed that in her daughter;" and the ladies laughed
"Then," Mrs. Brinkley resumed concerning Alice, "she has a very pretty
face--an extremely pretty face; she has a tender voice, and she's very,
very graceful--in rather an odd way; perhaps it's only a fascinating
awkwardness. Then she dresses--or her mother dresses her--exquisitely."
The ladies, with another sensation, admitted the perfect accuracy with
which these points had been touched.
"That's what men like, what they fall in love with, what Mr. Mavering's
in love with this instant. It's no use women's flattering themselves
that they don't, for they do. The rest of the virtues and graces and
charms are for women. If that serious girl could only know the silly
things that that amiable simpleton is taken with in her, she'd--"
"Never speak to him again?" suggested Miss Cotton.
"No, I don't say that. But she would think twice before marrying him."
"And then do it," said Mrs. Stamwell pensively, with eyes that seemed
looking far into the past.
"Yes, and quite right to do it," said Mrs. Brinkley. "I don't know that
we should be very proud ourselves if we confessed just what caught our
fancy in our husbands. For my part I shouldn't like to say how much a
light hat that Mr. Brinkley happened to be wearing had to do with the
The ladies broke into another laugh, and then checked themselves, so that
Mrs. Pasmer, coming out of the corridor upon them, naturally thought they
were laughing at her. She reflected that if she had been in their place
she would have shown greater tact by not stopping just at that instant.
But she did not mind. She knew that they talked her over, but having a
very good conscience, she simply talked them over in return. "Have you
seen my daughter within a few minutes?" she asked.
"She was with Mr. Mavering at the end of the piazza a moment ago," said
Mrs. Brinkley. "They must leave just gone round the corner of the
"Oh," said Mrs. Pasmer. She had a novel, with her finger between its
leaves, pressed against her heart, after the manner of ladies coming out
on hotel piazzas. She sat down and rested it on her knee, with her hand
over the top.
Miss Cotton bent forward, and Mrs. Pasmer lifted her fingers to let her
see the name of the book.
"Oh yes," said Miss Cotton. "But he's so terribly pessimistic, don't you
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Brinkley.
"Fumee," said Mrs. Pasmer, laying the book title upward on her lap for
every one to see.
"Oh yes," said Mrs. Brinkley, fanning herself. "Tourguenief. That man
gave me the worst quarter of an hour with his 'Lisa' that I ever had."
"That's the same as the 'Nichee des Gentilshommes', isn't it?" asked Mrs.
Pasmer, with the involuntary superiority of a woman who reads her
Tourguenief in French.
"I don't know. I had it in English. I don't build my ships to cross the
sea in, as Emerson says; I take those I find built."
"Ah! I was already on the other side," said Mrs. Pasmer softly. She
added: "I must get Lisa. I like a good heart-break; don't you? If
that's what gave you the bad moment."
"Heart-break? Heart-crush! Where Lavretsky comes back old to the scene
of his love for Lisa, and strikes that chord on the piano--well, I simply
wonder that I'm alive to recommend the book to you.
"Do you know," said Miss Cotton, very deferentially, "that your daughter
always made me think of Lisa?"
"Indeed!" cried Mrs. Pasmer, not wholly pleased, but gratified that she
was able to hide her displeasure. "You make me very curious."
"Oh, I doubt if you'll see more than a mere likeness of temperament,"
Mrs. Brinkley interfered bluntly. "All the conditions are so different.
There couldn't be an American Lisa. That's the charm of these Russian
tragedies. You feel that they're so perfectly true there, and so
perfectly impossible here. Lavretsky would simply have got himself
divorced from Varvara Pavlovna, and no clergyman could have objected to
marrying him to Lisa."
"That's what I mean by his pessimism," said Miss Cotton. "He leaves you
no hope. And I think that despair should never be used in a novel except
for some good purpose; don't you, Mrs. Brinkley?"
"Well," said Mrs. Brinkley, "I was trying to think what good purpose
despair could be put to, in a book or out of it."
"I don't think," said Mrs. Pasmer, referring to the book in her lap,
"that he leaves you altogether in despair here, unless you'd rather he'd
run off with Irene than married Tatiana."
"Oh, I certainly didn't wish that;" said Miss Cotton, in self-defence, as
if the shot had been aimed at her.
"The book ends with a marriage; there's no denying that," said Mrs.
Brinkley, with a reserve in her tone which caused Mrs. Pasmer to continue
"And marriage means happiness--in a book."
"I'm not sure that it does in this case. The time would come, after
Litvinof had told Tatiana everything, when she would have to ask herself,
and not once only, what sort of man it really was who was willing to
break his engagement and run off with another man's wife, and whether he
could ever repent enough for it. She could make excuses for him, and
would, but at the bottom of her heart--No, it seems to me that there,
almost for the only time, Tourguenief permitted himself an amiable
weakness. All that part of the book has the air of begging the
"But don't you see," said Miss Cotton, leaning forward in the way she had
when very earnest, "that he means to show that her love is strong enough
for all that?"
"But he doesn't, because it isn't. Love isn't strong enough to save
people from unhappiness through each other's faults. Do you suppose that
so many married people are unhappy in each other because they don't love
each other? No; it's because they do love each other that their faults
are such a mutual torment. If they were indifferent, they wouldn't mind
each other's faults. Perhaps that's the reason why there are so many
American divorces; if they didn't care, like Europeans, who don't marry
for love, they could stand it."
"Then the moral is," said Mrs. Pasmer, at her lightest through the
surrounding gravity, "that as all Americans marry for love, only
Americans who have been very good ought to get married."
"I'm not sure that the have-been goodness is enough either," said Mrs.
Brinkley, willing to push it to the absurd. "You marry a man's future as
well as his past."
"Dear me! You are terribly exigeante, Mrs. Brinkley," said Mrs. Pasmer.
"One can afford to be so--in the abstract," answered Mrs. Brinkley.
They all stopped talking and looked at John Munt, who was coming toward
them, and each felt a longing to lay the matter before him.
There was probably not a woman among them but had felt more, read more,
and thought more than John Munt, but he was a man, and the mind of a man
is the court of final appeal for the wisest women. Till some man has
pronounced upon their wisdom, they do not know whether it is wisdom or
Munt drew up his chair, and addressed himself to the whole group through
Mrs. Pasmer: "We are thinking of getting up a little picnic to-morrow."
The day of the picnic struggled till ten o'clock to peer through the fog
that wrapt it with that remote damp and coolness and that nearer drouth
and warmth which some fogs have. The low pine groves hung full of it,
and it gave a silvery definition to the gossamer threads running from one
grass spear to another in spacious networks over the open levels of the
old fields that stretch back from the bluff to the woods. At last it
grew thinner, somewhere over the bay; then you could see the smooth water
through it; then it drifted off in ragged fringes before a light breeze:
when you looked landward again it was all gone there, and seaward it had
gathered itself in a low, dun bank along the horizon. It was the kind of
fog that people interested in Campobello admitted as apt to be common
there, but claimed as a kind of local virtue when it began to break away.
They said that it was a very dry fog, not like Newport, and asked you to
notice that it did not wet you at all.
Four or five carriages, driven by the gentlemen of the party, held the
picnic, which was destined for that beautiful cove on the Bay of Fundy
where the red granite ledges, smooth-washed by ages of storm and sun,
lend themselves to such festivities as if they had been artificially
fashioned into shelves and tables. The whole place is yet so new to men
that this haunt has not acquired that air of repulsive custom which the
egg shells and broken bottles and sardine boxes of many seasons give. Or
perhaps the winter tempests heap the tides of the bay over the ledge, and
wash it clean of these vulgar traces of human resort, and enable it to
offer as fresh a welcome to the picnics of each successive summer as if
there had never been a picnic in that place before.
This was the sense that Mavering professed to have received from it, when
he jumped out of the beach wagon in which he had preceded the other
carriages through the weird forest lying between the fringe of farm
fields and fishing-villages on the western shore of the island and these
lonely coasts of the bay. As far as the signs of settled human
habitation last, tho road is the good hard country road of New England,
climbing steep little hills, and presently leading through long tracts of
woodland. But at a certain point beyond the furthest cottage you leave
it, and plunge deep into the heart of the forest, vaguely traversed by
the wheel-path carried through since the island was opened to summer
sojourn. Road you can hardly call it, remembering its curious pauses and
hesitations when confronted with stretches of marshy ground, and its
staggering progress over the thick stubble of saplings through which it
is cut. The progress of teams over it is slow, but there is such joy of
wildness in the solitudes it penetrates that; if the horses had any gait
slower than a walk, one might still wish to stay them. It is a Northern
forest, with the air of having sprang quickly up in the fierce heat and
haste of the Northern summers. The small firs are set almost as dense as
rye in a field, and in their struggle to the light they have choked one
another so that there is a strange blight of death and defeat on all that
vigour of life. Few of the trees have won any lofty growth; they seem to
have died and fallen when they were about to outstrip the others in size,
and from their decay a new sylvan generation riots rankly upward. The
surface of the ground is thinly clothed with a deciduous undergrowth,
above which are the bare, spare stems of the evergreens, and then their
limbs thrusting into one another in a sombre tangle, with locks of long
yellowish-white moss, like the grey pendants of the Southern pines,
dripping from them and draining their brief life.
In such a place you must surrender yourself to its influences, profoundly
yet vaguely melancholy, or you must resist them with whatever gaiety is
in you, or may be conjured out of others. It was conceded that Mavering
was the life of the party, as the phrase goes. His light-heartedness, as
kindly and sympathetic as it was inexhaustible, served to carry them over
the worst places in the road of itself. He jumped down and ran back,
when he had passed a bad bit, to see if the others were getting through
safely; the least interesting of the party had some proof of his
impartial friendliness; he promised an early and triumphant emergence
from all difficulties; he started singing, and sacrificed himself in
several tunes, for he could not sing well; his laugh seemed to be always
coming back to Alice, where she rode late in the little procession;
several times, with the deference which he delicately qualified for her,
he came himself to see if he could not do something for her.
"Miss Pasmer," croaked her friend Miss Anderson, who always began in that
ceremonious way with her, and got to calling her Alice further along in
the conversation, "if you don't drop something for that poor fellow to
run back two or three miles and get, pretty soon, I'll do it myself.
It's peyfectly disheaytening to see his disappointment when you tell him
theye's nothing to be done."
"He seems to get over it," said Alice evasively. She smiled with
pleasure in Miss Anderson's impeachment, however.
"Oh, he keeps coming, if that's what you mean. But do drop an umbrella,
or a rubber, or something, next time, just to show a proper
But Mavering did not come any more. Just before they got to the cove,
Miss Anderson leaned over again to whisper in Alice's ear, "I told you he
was huyt. Now you must be very good to him the rest of the time."
Upon theory a girl of Alice Pasmer's reserve ought to have resented this
intervention, but it is not probable she did. She flushed a little, but
not with offence, apparently; and she was kinder to Mavering, and let him
do everything for her that he could invent in transferring the things
from the wagons to the rocks.
The party gave a gaiety to the wild place which accented its proper
charm, as they scattered themselves over the ledges on the bright shawls
spread upon the level spaces. On either hand craggy bluffs hemmed the
cove in, but below the ledge it had a pebbly beach strewn with drift-
wood, and the Bay of Fundy gloomed before it with small fishing craft
tipping and tilting on the swell in the foreground, and dim sail melting
into the dun fog bank at the horizon's edge.
The elder ladies of the party stood up, or stretched themselves on the
shawls, as they found this or that posture more restful after their long
drive; one, who was skilled in making coffee, had taken possession of the
pot, and was demanding fire and water for it. The men scattered
themselves over the beach, and brought her drift enough to roast an ox;
two of them fetched water from the spring at the back of the ledge,
whither they then carried the bottles of ale to cool in its thrilling
pool. Each after his or her fashion symbolised a return to nature by
some act or word of self-abandon.
"You ought to have brought heavier shoes," said Mrs. Pasmer, with a
serious glance at her daughter's feet. "Well, never mind," she added.
"It doesn't matter if you do spoil them."
"Really," cried Mrs Brinkley, casting her sandals from her, "I will not
be enslaved to rubbers in such a sylvan scene as this, at any rate."
"Look at Mrs. Stamwell!" said Miss Cotton. "She's actually taken her hat
Mrs. Stamwell had not only gone to this extreme, but had tied a lightly
fluttering handkerchief round her hair. She said she should certainly
not put on that heavy thing again till she got in sight of civilisation.
At these words Miss Cotton boldly drew off her gloves, and put them in
The young girls, slim in their blues flannel skirts and their broad white
canvas belts, went and came over the rocks. There were some children in
the party, who were allowed to scream uninterruptedly in the games which
they began to play as soon as they found their feet after getting out of
Some of the gentlemen drove a stake into the beach, and threw stones at
it, to see which could knock off the pebble balanced on its top. Several
of the ladies joined them in the sport, and shrieked and laughed when
they made wild shots with the missiles the men politely gathered for
Alice had remained with Mavering to help the hostess of the picnic lay
the tables, but her mother had followed those who went down to the beach.
At first Mrs. Pasmer looked on at the practice of the stone-throwers with
disapproval; but suddenly she let herself go in this, as she did in other
matters that her judgment condemned, and began to throw stones herself;
she became excited, and made the wildest shots of any, accepting missiles
right and left, and making herself dangerous to everybody within a wide
circle. A gentleman who had fallen a victim to her skill said, "Just
wait, Mrs. Pasmer, till I get in front of the stake."
The men became seriously interested, and worked themselves red and hot;
the ladies soon gave it up, and sat down on the sand and began to talk.
They all owned themselves hungry, and from time to time they looked up
anxiously at the preparations for lunch on the ledge, where white napkins
were spread, with bottles at the four corners to keep them from blowing
away. This use of the bottles was considered very amusing; the ladies
tried to make jokes about it, and the desire to be funny spread to
certain of the men who had quietly left off throwing at the stake because
they had wrenched their shoulders; they succeeded in being merry. They
said they thought that coffee took a long time to boil.
A lull of expectation fell upon all; even Mavering sat down on the rocks
near the fire, and was at rest a few minutes, by order of Miss Anderson,
who said that the sight of his activity tired her to death.
"I wonder why always boiled ham at a picnic!" said the lady who took a
final plate of it from a basket. "Under the ordinary conditions, few of
us can be persuaded to touch it."
"It seems to be dear to nature, and to nature's children," said Mrs.
Brinkley. "Perhaps because their digestions are strong."
"Don't you wish that something could be substituted for it?" asked Miss.
"There have been efforts to replace it with chicken and tongue in
sandwiches;" said Mrs. Brinkley; "but I think they've only measurably
succeeded--about as temperance drinks have in place of the real strong
"On the boat coming up," said Mavering, "we had a troupe of genuine darky
minstrels. One of them sang a song about ham that rather took me--
"'Ham, good old ham!
Ham is de best ob meat;
It's always good and sweet;
You can bake it, you can boil it,
You can fry it, you can broil it--
Ham, good old ham!'"
"Oh, how good!" sighed Mrs. Brinkley. "How sincere! How native! Go on,
Mr. Mavering, for ever."
"I haven't the materials," said Mavering, with his laugh. "The rest was
da capo. But there was another song, about a coloured lady--"
"'Six foot high and eight foot round,
Holler ob her foot made a hole in de ground.'"
"Ah, that's an old friend," said Mrs. Brinkley. "I remember hearing of
that coloured lady when I was a girl. But it's a fine flight of the
imagination. What else did they sing?"
"I can't remember. But there was something they danced--to show how a
rheumatic old coloured uncle dances."
He jumped nimbly up, and sketched the stiff and limping figure he had
seen. It was over in a flash. He dropped down again, laughing.
"Oh, how wonderfully good!" cried Mrs. Brinkley, with frank joy. "Do it
"Encore! Oh, encore!" came from the people on the beach.
Mavering jumped to his feet, and burlesqued the profuse bows of an actor
who refuses to repeat; he was about to drop down again amidst their wails
"No, don't sit down, Mr. Mavering," said the lady who had introduced the
subject of ham. "Get some of the young ladies, and go and gather some
blueberries for the dessert. There are all the necessaries of life here,
but none of the luxuries."
"I'm at the service of the young ladies as an escort," said Mavering
gallantly, with an infusion of joke. "Will you come and pick blueberries
under my watchful eyes, Miss Pasmer?"
"They've gone to pick blueberries," called the lady through her tubed
hand to the people on the beach, and the younger among them scrambled up
the rocks for cups and bowls to follow them.
Mrs. Pasmer had an impulse to call her daughter back, and to make some
excuse to keep her from going. She was in an access of decorum,
naturally following upon her late outbreak, and it seemed a very
pronounced thing for Alice to be going off into the woods with the young
man; but it would have been a pronounced thing to prevent her, and so
Mrs. Pasmer submitted.
"Isn't it delightful," asked Mrs. Brinkley, following them with her eyes,
"to see the charm that gay young fellow has for that serious girl? She
looked at him while he was dancing as if she couldn't take her eyes off
him, and she followed him as if he drew her by an invisible spell. Not
that spells are ever visible," she added, saving herself. "Though this
one seems to be," she added further, again saving herself.
"Do you really think so?" pleaded Miss Cotton.
"Well, I say so, whatever I think. And I'm not going to be caught up on
the tenter-hooks of conscience as to all my meanings, Miss Cotton. I
don't know them all. But I'm not one of the Aliceolaters, you know."
"No; of course not. But shouldn't you--Don't you think it would be a
great pity--She's so superior, so very uncommon in every way, that it
hardly seems--Ah, I should so like to see some one really fine--not a
coarse fibre in him, don't you know. Not that Mr. Mavering's coarse.
But beside her he does seem so light!"
"Perhaps that's the reason she likes him."
"No, no! I can't believe that. She must see more in him than we can."
"I dare say she thinks she does. At any rate, it's a perfectly evident
case on both sides; and the frank way he's followed her up here, and
devoted himself to her, as if--well, not as if she were the only girl in
the world, but incomparably the best--is certainly not common."
"No," sighed Miss Cotton, glad to admit it; "that's beautiful."
In the edge of the woods and the open spaces among the trees the
blueberries grew larger and sweeter in the late Northern summer than a
more southern sun seems to make them. They hung dense upon the low
bushes, and gave them their tint through the soft grey bloom that veiled
their blue. Sweet-fern in patches broke their mass here and there, and
exhaled its wild perfume to the foot or skirt brushing through it.
"I don't think there's anything much prettier than these clusters; do
you, Miss Pasmer?" asked Mavering, as he lifted a bunch pendent from the
little tree before he stripped it into the bowl he carried. "And see!
it spoils the bloom to gather them." He held out a handful, and then
tossed them away. "It ought to be managed more aesthetically for an
occasion like this. I'll tell you what, Miss Pasmer: are you used to
"No," she said; "I don't know that I ever went blueberrying before.
Why?" she asked.
"Because, if you haven't, you wouldn't be very efficient perhaps, and so
you might resign yourself to sitting on that log and holding the berries
in your lap, while I pick them."
"But what about the bowls, then?"
"Oh, never mind them. I've got an idea. See here!" He clipped off a
bunch with his knife, and held it up before her, tilting it this way and
that. "Could anything be more graceful! My idea is to serve the
blueberry on its native stem at this picnic. What do you think? Sugar
would profane it, and of course they've only got milk enough for the
"Delightful!" Alice arranged herself on the log, and made a lap for the
bunch. He would not allow that the arrangement was perfect till he had
cushioned the seat and carpeted the ground for her feet with sweet-fern.
"Now you're something like a wood-nymph," he laughed. "Only, wouldn't a
real wood-nymph have an apron?" he asked, looking down at her dress.
"Oh, it won't hurt the dress. You must begin now, or they'll be calling
He was standing and gazing at her with a distracted enjoyment of her
pose. "Oh yes, yes," he answered, coming to himself, and he set about
He might have got on faster if he had not come to her with nearly every
bunch he cut at first, and when he began to deny himself this pleasure he
stopped to admire an idea of hers.
"Well, that's charming--making them into bouquets."
"Yes, isn't it?" she cried delightedly, holding a bunch of the berries up
at arm's-length to get the effect.
"Ah, but you must have some of this fern and this tall grass to go with
it. Why, it's sweet-grass--the sweet-grass of the Indian baskets!"
"Is it?" She looked up at him. "And do you think that the mixture would
be better than the modest simplicity of the berries, with a few leaves of
"No; you're right; it wouldn't," he said, throwing away his ferns. "But
you'll want something to tie the stems with; you must use the grass." He
left that with her, and went back to his bushes. He added, from beyond a
little thicket, as if what he said were part of the subject, "I was
afraid you wouldn't like my skipping about there on the rocks, doing the
"I mean--I--you thought it undignified--trivial--"
She said, after a moment: "It was very funny; and people do all sorts of
things at picnics. That's the pleasure of it, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is; but I know you don't always like that kind of thing."
"Do I seem so very severe?" she asked.
"Oh no, not severe. I should be afraid of you if you were. I shouldn't
have dared to come to Campobello."
He looked at her across the blueberry bushes. His gay speech meant
everything or nothing. She could parry it with a jest, and then it would
mean nothing. She let her head droop over her work, and made no answer.
"I wish you could have seen those fellows on the boat," said Mavering.
"Hello, Mavering!" called the voice of John Munt, from another part of
"Alice!--Miss Pasmer!" came that of Miss Anderson.
He was going to answer, when he looked at Alice. "We'll let them see if
they can find us," he said, and smiled.
Alice said nothing at first; she smiled too. "You know more about the
woods than I do. I suppose if they keep looking--"
"Oh yes." He came toward her with a mass of clusters which he had
clipped. "How fast you do them!" he said, standing and looking down at
her. "I wish you'd let me come and make up the withes for you when you
"No, I couldn't allow that on any account," she answered, twisting some
stems of the grass together.
"Well, will you let me hold the bunches while you tie them; or tie them
when you hold them?"
"This once, then?"
"This once, perhaps."
"How little you let me do for you!" he sighed.
"That gives you a chance to do more for other people," she answered; and
then she dropped her eyes, as if she had been surprised into that answer.
She made haste to add: "That's what makes you so popular with--everybody!"
"Ah, but I'd rather be popular with somebody!"
He laughed, and then they both laughed together consciously; and still
nothing or everything had been said. A little silly silence followed,
and he said, for escape from it, "I never saw such berries before, even
in September, on the top of Ponkwasset."
"Why, is it a mountain?" she asked. "I thought it was a--falls."
"It's both," he said.
"I suppose it's very beautiful, isn't it! All America seems so lovely,
"It's pretty in the summer. I don't know that I shall like it there in
the winter if I conclude to--Did your--did Mrs. Pasmer tell you what my
father wants me to do?"
"About going there to--manufacture?"
Mavering nodded. "He's given me three weeks to decide whether I would
like to do that or go in for law. That's what I came up here for."
There was a little pause. She bent her head down over the clusters she
was grouping. "Is the light of Campobello particularly good on such
questions?" she asked.
"I don't mean that exactly, but I wish you could help me to some
"Yes; why not?"
"It's the first time I've ever had a business question referred to me."
Well, then, you can bring a perfectly fresh mind to it."
"Let me see," she said, affecting to consider. "It's really a very
"It is to me."
After a moment she looked up at him. "I should think that you wouldn't
mind living there if your business was there. I suppose it's being idle
in places that makes them dull. I thought it was dull in London. One
ought to be glad--oughtn't he?--to live in any place where there's
something to do."
"Well, that isn't the way people usually feel," said Mavering. "That's
the kind of a place most of them fight shy of."
Alice laughed with an undercurrent of protest, perhaps because she had
seen her parents' whole life, so far as she knew it, passed in this sort
of struggle. "I mean that I hate my own life because there seems nothing
for me to do with it. I like to have people do something."
"Do you really?" asked Mavering soberly, as if struck by the novelty of
"Yes!" she said, with exaltation. "If I were a man--"
He burst into a ringing laugh. "Oh no; don't!"
"Why?" she demanded, with provisional indignation.
"Because then there wouldn't be any Miss Pasmer."
It seemed to Alice that this joking was rather an unwarranted liberty.
Again she could not help joining in his light-heartedness; but she
checked herself so abruptly, and put on a look so austere, that he was
quelled by it.
"I mean," he began--"that is to say--I mean that I don't understand why
ladies are always saying that. I am sure they can do what they like, as
"Do you mean that everything is open to them now?" she asked,
disentangling a cluster of the berries from those in her lap, and
beginning a fresh bunch.
"Yes," said Mavering. "Something like that--yes. They can do anything
they like. Lots of them do."
"Oh yes, I know," said the girl. "But people don't like them to."
"Why, what would you like to be?" he asked.
She did not answer, but sorted over the clusters in her lap. "We've got
enough now, haven't we?" she said.
"Oh, not half," he said. "But if you're tired you must let me make up
some of the bunches."
"No, no! I want to do them all myself," she said, gesturing his offered
hands away, with a little nether appeal in her laughing refusal
"So as to feel that you've been of some use in the world?" he said,
dropping contentedly on the ground near her, and watching her industry.
"Do you think that would be very wrong?" she asked. "What made that
friend of yours--Mr. Boardman--go into journalism?"
"Oh, virtuous poverty. You're not thinking of becoming a newspaper
woman, Miss Pasmer!"
"Why not?" She put the final cluster into the bunch in hand, and began
to wind a withe of sweet-grass around the stems. He dropped forward on
his knees to help her, and together they managed the knot. They were
both flushed a little when it was tied, and were serious.
"Why shouldn't one be a newspaper woman, if Harvard graduates are to be
"Well, you know, only a certain kind are."
"Well, not exactly what you'd call the gentlemanly sort."
"I thought Mr. Boardman was a great friend of yours?"
"He is. He is one of the best fellows in the world. But you must have
seen that he wasn't a swell."
"I should think he'd be glad he was doing something at once. If I were
a--" She stopped, and they laughed together. "I mean that I should hate
to be so long getting ready to do something as men are."
"Then you'd rather begin making wall-paper at once than studying law?"
"Oh, I don't say that. I'm not competent to advise. But I should like
to feel that I was doing something. I suppose it's hereditary."
Mavering stared a little. "One of my father's sisters has gone into a
sisterhood. She's in England."
"Is she a--Catholic?" asked Mavering.
"She isn't a Roman Catholic."
"Oh yes!" He dropped forward on his knees again to help her tie the
bunch she had finished. It was not so easy as the first.
"Oh, thank you!" she said, with unnecessary fervour.
"But you shouldn't like to go into a sisterhood, I suppose?" said
Mavering, ready to laugh.
"Oh, I don't know. Why not?" She looked at him with a flying glance,
and dropped her eyes.
"Oh, no reason, if you have a fancy for that kind of thing."
"That kind of thing?" repeated Alice severely.
"Oh, I don't mean anything disrespectful to it," said Mavering, throwing
his anxiety off in the laugh he had been holding back. "And I beg your
pardon. But I don't suppose you're in earnest."
"Oh no, I'm not in earnest," said the girl, letting her wrists fall upon
her knees, and the clusters drop from her hands. "I'm not in earnest
about anything; that's the truth--that's the shame. Wouldn't you like,"
she broke off, "to be a priest, and go round among these people up here
on their frozen islands in the winter?"
"No," shouted Mavering, "I certainly shouldn't. I don't see how anybody
stands it. Ponkwasset Falls is bad enough in the winter, and compared to
this region Ponkwasset Falls is a metropolis. I believe in getting all
the good you can out of the world you were born in--of course without
hurting anybody else." He stretched his legs out on the bed of sweet-
fern, where he had thrown himself, and rested his head on his hand lifted
on his elbow. "I think this is what this place is fit for--a picnic; and
I wish every one well out of it for nine months of the year."
"I don't," said the girl, with a passionate regret in her voice. "It
would be heavenly here with--But you--no, you're different. You always
want to share your happiness."
"I shouldn't call that happiness. But don't you?" asked Mavering.
"No. I'm selfish."
"You don't expect me to be believe that, I suppose."
"Yes," she went on, "it must be selfishness. You don't believe I'm so,
because you can't imagine it. But it's true. If I were to be happy, I
should be very greedy about it; I couldn't endure to let any one else
have a part in it. So it's best for me to be wretched, don't you see--to
give myself up entirely to doing for others, and not expect any one to do
anything for me; then I can be of some use in the world. That's why I
should like to go into a sisterhood."
Mavering treated it as the best kind of joke, and he was confirmed in
this view of it by her laughing with him, after a first glance of what he
thought mock piteousness.
The clouds sailed across the irregular space of pale blue Northern sky
which the break in the woods opened for them overhead. It was so still
that they heard, and smiled to hear, the broken voices of the others, who
had gone to get berries in another direction--Miss Anderson's hoarse
murmur and Munt's artificial bass. Some words came from the party on the
"Isn't it perfect?" cried the young fellow in utter content.
"Yes, too perfect," answered the girl, rousing herself from the reverie
in which they had both lost themselves, she did not know how long.
"Shall you gather any more?"
"No; I guess there's enough. Let's count them." He stooped over on his
hand's and knees, and made as much of counting the bunches as he could.
"There's about one bunch and a half a piece. How shall we carry them?
We ought to come into camp as impressively as possible."
"Yes," said Alice, looking into his face with dreamy absence. It was
going through her mind, from some romance she had read, What if he were
some sylvan creature, with that gaiety, that natural gladness and
sweetness of his, so far from any happiness that was possible to her?
Ought not she to be afraid of him? She was thinking she was not afraid.
"I'll tell you," he said. "Tie the stems of all the bunches together,
and swing them over a pole, like grapes of Eshcol. Don't you know the
"Hold on! I'll get the pole." He cut a white birch sapling, and swept
off its twigs and leaves, then he tied the bunches together, and slung
them over the middle of the pole.
"Well?" she asked.
"Now we must rest the ends on our shoulders."
"Do you think so?" she asked, with the reluctance that complies.
"Yes, but not right away. I'll carry them out of the woods, and we'll
form the procession just before we come in sight."
Every one on the ledge recognised the tableau when it appeared, and
saluted it with cheers and hand-clapping. Mrs. Pasmer bent a look on her
daughter which she faced impenetrably.
"Where have you been?" "We thought you were lost!" "We were just
organising a search expedition!" different ones shouted at them.
The lady with the coffee-pot was kneeling over it with her hand on it.
"Have some coffee, you poor things! You must be almost starved."
"We looked about for you everywhere," said Munt, "and shouted ourselves
Miss Anderson passed near Alice. "I knew where you were all the time!"
Then the whole party fell to praising the novel conception of the
bouquets of blueberries, and the talk began to flow away from Alice and
Mavering in various channels.
All that had happened a few minutes ago in the blueberry patch seemed a
far-off dream; the reality had died out of the looks and words.
He ran about from one to another, serving every one; in a little while
the whole affair was in his hospitable hands, and his laugh interspersed
and brightened the talk.
She got a little back of the others, and sat looking wistfully out over
the bay, with her hands in her lap.
"Hold on just half a minute, Miss Pasmer! don't move!" exclaimed the
amateur photographer, who is now of all excursions; he jumped to his
feet, and ran for his apparatus. She sat still, to please him; but when
he had developed his picture, in a dark corner of the rocks, roofed with
a waterproof, he accused her of having changed her position. "But it's
going to be splendid," he said, with another look at it.
He took several pictures of the whole party, for which they fell into
various attitudes of consciousness. Then he shouted to a boat-load of
sailors who had beached their craft while they gathered some drift for
their galley fire. They had flung their arm-loads into the boat, and had
bent themselves to shove it into the water.
"Keep still! don't move!" he yelled at them, with the imperiousness of
the amateur photographer, and they obeyed with the helplessness of his
victims. But they looked round.
"Oh, idiots!" groaned the artist.
"I always wonder what that kind of people think of us kind of people,"
said Mrs. Brinkley, with her eye on the photographer's subjects.
"Yes, I wonder what they do?" said Miss Cotton, pleased with the
speculative turn which the talk might take from this. "I suppose they
envy us?" she suggested.
"Well, not all of them; and those that do, not respectfully. They view,
us as the possessors of ill-gotten gains, who would be in a very
different place if we had our deserts."
"Do you really think so?"
"Yes, I think so; but I don't know that I really think so. That's
another matter," said Mrs. Brinkley, with the whimsical resentment which
Miss Cotton's conscientious pursuit seemed always to rouse in her.
"I supposed," continued Miss Cotton, "that it was only among the poor in
the cities, who have begin misled by agitators, that the-well-to-do
classes were regarded with suspicion."
"It seems to have begun a great while ago," said Mrs. Brinkley, "and not
exactly with agitators. It was considered very difficult for us to get
into the kingdom of heaven, you know."
"Yes, I know," assented Miss Cotton.
"And there certainly are some things against us. Even when the chance
was given us to sell all we had and give it to the poor, we couldn't
bring our minds to it, and went away exceeding sorrowful."
"I wonder," said Miss Cotton, "whether those things were ever intended to
be taken literally?"
"Let's hope not," said John Munt, seeing his chance to make a laugh.
Mrs. Stamwell said, "Well, I shall take another cup of coffee, at any
rate," and her hardihood raised another laugh.
"That always seems to me the most pitiful thing in the whole Bible," said
Alice, from her place. "To see the right so clearly, and not to be
strong enough to do it."
"My dear, it happens every day," said Mrs. Brinkley.
"I always felt sorry for that poor fellow, too," said Mavering. "He
seemed to be a good fellow, and it was pretty hard lines for him."
Alice looked round at him with deepening gravity.
"Confound those fellows!" said the photographer, glancing at his hastily
developed plate. "They moved."
The picnic party gathered itself up after the lunch, and while some of
the men, emulous of Mavering's public spirit, helped some of the ladies
to pack the dishes and baskets away under the wagon seats, others threw a
corked bottle into the water, and threw stones at it. A few of the
ladies joined them, but nobody hit the bottle, which was finally left
bobbing about on the tide.
Mrs. Brinkley addressed the defeated group, of whom her husband was one,
as they came up the beach toward the wagons. "Do you think that display
was calculated to inspire the lower middle classes with respectful envy?"
Her husband made himself spokesman for the rest: "No; but you can't tell
how they'd have felt if we'd hit it."
They all now climbed to a higher level, grassy and smooth, on the bluff,
from which there was a particular view; and Mavering came, carrying the
wraps of Mrs. Pasmer and Alice, with which he associated his overcoat. A
book fell out of one of the pockets when he threw it down.
Miss Anderson picked the volume up. "Browning! He reads Browning!
Superior young man!"
"Oh, don't say that!" pleaded Mavering.
"Oh, read something aloud!" cried another of the young ladies.
"Isn't Browning rather serious for a picnic?" he asked, with a glance at
Alice; he still had a doubt of the effect of the rheumatic uncle's dance
upon her, and would have been glad to give her some other aesthetic
impression of him.
"Oh no!" said Mrs. Brinkley, "nothing is more appropriate to a picnic
than conundrums; they always have them. Choose a good tough one."
"I don't know anything tougher than the 'Legend of Pernik'--or lovelier,"
he said, and he began to read, simply, and with a passionate pleasure in
the subtle study, feeling its control over his hearers.
The gentlemen lay smoking about at their ease; at the end a deep sigh
went up from the ladies, cut short by the question which they immediately
They could not agree, but they said, one after another: "But you read
beautifully, Mr. Mavering!" "Beautifully!" "Yes, indeed!"
"Well, I'm glad there is one point clear," he said, putting the book
away, and "I'm afraid you'll think I'm rather sentimental," he added, in
a low voice to Alice, "carrying poetry around with me."
"Oh no!" she replied intensely; "I thank you."
"I thank you," he retorted, and their eyes met in a deep look.
One of the outer circle of smokers came up with his watch in his hand,
and addressed the company, "Do you know what time it's got to be? It's
They all sprang up with a clamour of surprise.
Mrs. Pasmer, under cover of the noise, said, in a low tone, to her
daughter, "Alice, I think you'd better keep a little more with me now."
"Yes," said the girl, in a sympathy with her mother in which she did not
always find herself.
But when Mavering, whom their tacit treaty concerned, turned toward them,
and put himself in charge of Alice, Mrs. Pasmer found herself
dispossessed by the charm of his confidence, and relinquished her to him.
They were going to walk to the Castle Rocks by the path that now loses
and now finds itself among the fastnesses of the forest, stretching to
the loftiest outlook on the bay. The savage woodland is penetrated only
by this forgetful path, that passes now and then aver the bridge of a
ravine, and offers to the eye on either hand the mystery deepening into
wilder and weirder tracts of solitude. The party resolved itself into
twos and threes, and these straggled far apart, out of conversational
reach of one another. Mrs. Pasmer found herself walking and talking with
"Mr. Pasmer hasn't much interest in these excursions," he suggested.
"No; he never goes," she answered, and, by one of the agile intellectual
processes natural to women, she arrived at the question, "You and the
Maverings are old friends, Mr. Munt?"
"I can't say about the son, but I'm his father's friend, and I suppose
that I'm his friend too. Everybody seems to be so," suggested Munt.
"Oh Yes," Mrs. Pasmer assented; "he appears to be a universal favourite."
"We used to expect great things of Elbridge Mavering in college. We were
rather more romantic than the Harvard men are nowadays, and we believed
in one another more than they do. Perhaps we idealised one another.
But, anyway, our class thought Mavering could do anything. You know
about his taste for etchings?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Pasmer, with a sigh of deep appreciation. "What gifted
"I understand that the son inherits all his father's talent."
"He sketches delightfully."
"And Mavering wrote. Why, he was our class poet!" cried Munt,
remembering the fact with surprise and gratification to himself. "He was
a tremendous satirist."
"Really? And he seems so amiable now."
"Oh, it was only on paper."
"Perhaps he still keeps it up--on wall-paper?" suggested Mrs. Pasmer.
Munt laughed at the little joke with a good-will that flattered the
veteran flatterer. "I should like to ask him that some time. Will you
lend it to me?"
"Yes, if such a sayer of good things will deign to borrow--"
"Oh, Mrs. Pasmer!" cried Munt, otherwise speechless.
"And the mother? Do you know Mrs. Mavering?"
"Mrs. Mavering I've never seen."
"Oh!" said Mrs. Pasmer, with a disappointment for which Munt tried to
"I've never even been at their place. He asked me once a great while
ago; but you know how those things are. I've heard that she used to be
very pretty and very gay. They went about a great deal, to Saratoga and
Cape May and such places--rather out of our beat."
"And now she's been an invalid for a great many years. Bedridden, I
believe. Paralysis, I think."
Yes; Mrs. Saintsbury said something of the kind."
"Well," said Munt, anxious to add to the store of knowledge which this
remark let him understand he had not materially increased, "I think Mrs.
Mavering was the origin of the wall-paper--or her money. Mavering was
poor; her father had started it, and Mavering turned in his talent."
"How very interesting! And is that the reason--its being ancestral--that
Mr. Mavering wishes his son to go into it?"
"Is he going into it?" asked Munt.
"He's come up here to think about it."
"I should suppose it would be a very good thing," said Munt.
"What a very remarkable forest!" said Mrs. Pasmer, examining it on either
side, and turning quite round. This gave her, from her place in the van
of the straggling procession, a glimpse of Alice and Dan Mavering far in
"Don't you know," he was saying to the girl at the same moment, "it's
like some of those Dore illustrations to the Inferno, or the Wandering
"Oh yes. I was trying to think what it was made me think I had seen it
before," she answered. "It must be that. But how strange it is!" she
exclaimed, "that sensation of having been there before--in some place
before where you can't possibly have been."
"And do you feel it here?" he asked, as vividly interested as if they two
had been the first to notice the phenomenon which has been a psychical
consolation to so many young observers.
"Yes," she cried.
"I hope I was with you," he said, with a sudden turn of levity, which did
not displease her, for there seemed to be a tender earnestness lurking in
it. "I couldn't bear to think of your being alone in such a howling
"Oh, I was with a large picnic," she retorted gaily. "You might have
been among the rest. I didn't notice."
"Well, the next time, I wish you'd look closer. I don't like being left
out." They were so far behind the rest that he devoted himself entirely
to her, and they had grown more and more confidential.
They came to a narrow foot-bridge over a deep gorge. The hand-rail had
fallen away. He sprang forward and gave her his hand for the passage.
"Who helped you over here?" he demanded. "Don't say I didn't."
"Perhaps it was you," she murmured, letting him keep the fingers to which
he clung a moment after they had crossed the bridge. Then she took them
away, and said: "But I can't be sure. There were so many others."
"Other fellows?" he demanded, placing himself before her on the narrow
path, so that she could not get by. "Try to remember, Miss Pasmer. This
is very important. It would break my heart if it was really some one
else." She stole a glance at his face, but it was smiling, though his
voice was so earnest. "I want to help you over all the bad places, and I
don't want any one else to have a hand in it."
The voice and the face still belied each other, and between them the girl
chose to feel herself trifled with by the artistic temperament. "If
you'll please step out of the way, Mr. Mavering," she said severely, "I
shall not need anybody's help just here."
He instantly moved aside, and they were both silent, till she said, as
she quickened her pace to overtake the others in front, "I don't see how
you can help liking nature in such a place as this."
"I can't--human nature," he said. It was mere folly; and an abstract
folly at that; but the face that she held down and away from him flushed
with sweet consciousness as she laughed.
On the cliff beetling above the bay, where she sat to look out over the
sad northern sea, lit with the fishing sail they had seen before, and the
surge washed into the rocky coves far beneath them, he threw himself at
her feet, and made her alone in the company that came and went and tried
this view and that from the different points where the picnic hostess
insisted they should enjoy it. She left the young couple to themselves,
and Mrs. Pasmer seemed to have forgotten that she had bidden Alice to be
a little more with her.
Alice had forgotten it too. She sat listening to Mavering's talk with a
certain fascination, but not so much apparently because the meaning of
the words pleased her as the sound of his voice, the motion of his lips
in speaking, charmed her. At first he was serious, and even melancholy,
as if he were afraid he had offended her; but apparently he soon believed
that he had been forgiven, and began to burlesque his own mood, but still
with a deference and a watchful observance of her changes of feeling
which was delicately flattering in its way. Now and then when she
answered something it was not always to the purpose; he accused her of
not hearing what he said, but she would have it that she did, and then he
tried to test her by proofs and questions. It did not matter for
anything that was spoken or done; speech and action of whatever sort were
mere masks of their young joy in each other, so that when he said, after
he had quoted some lines befitting the scene they looked out on; "Now was
that from Tennyson or from Tupper?" and she answered, "Neither; it was
from Shakespeare," they joined, in the same happy laugh, and they laughed
now and then without saying anything. Neither this nor that made them
more glad or less; they were in a trance, vulnerable to nothing but the
summons which must come to leave their dream behind, and issue into the
In hope or in experience such a moment has come to all, and it is so
pretty to those who recognise it from the outside that no one has the
heart to hurry it away while it can be helped. The affair between Alice
and Mavering had evidently her mother's sanction, and all the rest were
eager to help it on. When the party had started to return, they called
to them, and let them come behind together. At the carriages they had
what Miss Anderson called a new deal, and Alice and Mavering found
themselves together in the rear seat of the last.
The fog began to come in from the sea, and followed them through the
woods. When they emerged upon the highway it wrapped them densely round,
and formed a little world, cosy, intimate, where they two dwelt alone
with these friends of theirs, each of whom they praised for delightful
qualities. The horses beat along through the mist, in which there seemed
no progress, and they lived in a blissful arrest of time. Miss Anderson
called back from the front seat, "My ear buyns; you're talkin' about me."
"Which ear?" cried Mavering.
"Oh, the left, of couyse."
"Then it's merely habit, Julie. You ought to have heard the nice things
we were saying about you," Alice called.
"I'd like to hear all the nice things you've been saying."
This seemed the last effect of subtle wit. Mavering broke out in his
laugh, and Alice's laugh rang above it.
Mrs. Pasmer looked involuntarily round from the carriage ahead.
"They seem to be having a good time," said Mrs. Brinkley at her side.
"Yes; I hope Alice isn't overdoing."
"I'm afraid you're dreadfully tired," said Mavering to the girl, in a low
voice, as he lifted her from her place when they reached the hotel
through the provisional darkness, and found that after all it was only
"Oh no. I feel as if the picnic were just beginning."
"Then you will come to-night?"
"I will see what mamma says."
"Shall I ask her?"
"Oh, perhaps not," said the girl, repressing his ardour, but not
They were going to have some theatricals at one of the cottages, and the
lady at whose house they were to be given made haste to invite all the
picnic party before it dispersed. Mrs. Pasmer accepted with a mental
reservation, meaning to send an excuse later if she chose; and before she
decided the point she kept her husband from going after dinner into the
reading-room, where he spent nearly all his time over a paper and a
cigar, or in sitting absolutely silent and unoccupied, and made him go to
their own room with her.
"There is something that I must speak to you about," she said, closing
the door, "and you must decide for yourself whether you wish to let it go
"What go any further?" asked Mr. Pasmer, sitting down and putting his
hand to the pocket that held his cigar-case with the same series of
"No, don't smoke," she said, staying his hand impatiently. "I want you
"How can I think if I don't smoke?"
"Very well; smoke, then. Do you want this affair with young Mavering to
go any farther?"
"Oh!" said Pasmer, "I thought you had been looking after that." He had
in fact relegated that to the company of the great questions exterior to
his personal comfort which she always decided.
"I have been looking after it, but now the time has come when you must,
as a father, take some interest in it."
Pasmer's noble mask of a face, from the point of his full white beard to
his fine forehead, crossed by his impressive black eyebrows, expressed
all the dignified concern which a father ought to feel in such an affair;
but what he was really feeling was a grave reluctance to have to
intervene in any way. "What do you want me to say to him?" he asked.
"Why, I don't know that he's going to ask you anything. I don't know
whether he's said anything to Alice yet," said Mrs. Pasmer, with some
Her husband was silent, but his silence insinuated a degree of wonder
that she should approach him prematurely on such a point.
"They have been thrown together all day, and there is no use to conceal
from ourselves that they are very much taken with each other?"
"I thought," Pasmer said, "that you said that from the beginning. Didn't
you want them to be taken with each other?"
"That is what you are to decide."
Pasmer silently refused to assume the responsibility.
"Well?" demanded his wife, after waiting for him to speak.
"What do you decide?"
"What is the use of deciding a thing when it is all over?"
"It isn't over at all. It can be broken off at any moment."
"Well, break it off, then, if you like."
Mrs. Pasmer resumed the responsibility with a sigh. She felt the burden,
the penalty, of power, after having so long enjoyed its sweets, and she
would willingly have abdicated the sovereignty which she had spent her
whole married life in establishing. But there was no one to take it up.
"No, I shall not break it off," she said resentfully; "I shall let it go
on." Then seeing that her husband was not shaken by her threat from his
long-confirmed subjection, she added: "It isn't an ideal affair, but I
think it will be a very good thing for Alice. He is not what I expected,
but he is thoroughly nice, and I should think his family was nice. I've
been talking with Mr. Munt about them to-day, and he confirms all that
Etta Saintsbury said. I don't think there can be any doubt of his
intentions in coming here. He isn't a particularly artless young man,
but he's been sufficiently frank about Alice since he's been here." Her
husband smoked on. "His father seems to have taken up the business from
the artistic side, and Mr. Mavering won't be expected to enter into the
commercial part at once. If it wasn't for Alice, I don't believe he
would think of the business for a moment; he would study law. Of course
it's a little embarrassing to have her engaged at once before she's seen
anything of society here, but perhaps it's all for the best, after all:
the main thing is that she should be satisfied, and I can see that she's
only too much so. Yes, she's very much taken with him; and I don't
wonder. He is charming."
It was not the first time that Mrs. Pasmer had reasoned in this round;
but the utterance of her thoughts seemed to throw a new light on them,
and she took a courage from them that they did not always impart. She
arrived at the final opinion expressed, with a throb of tenderness for
the young fellow whom she believed eager to take her daughter from her,
and now for the first time she experienced a desolation in the prospect,
as if it were an accomplished fact. She was morally a bundle of
finesses, but at the bottom of her heart her daughter was all the world
to her. She had made the girl her idol, and if, like some other heathen,
she had not always used her idol with the greatest deference, if she had
often expected the impossible from it, and made it pay for her
disappointment, still she had never swerved from her worship of it. She
suddenly asked herself, What if this young fellow, so charming and so
good, should so wholly monopolise her child that she should no longer
have any share in her? What if Alice, who had so long formed her first
care and chief object in life, should contentedly lose herself in the
love and care of another, and both should ignore her right to her? She
answered herself with a pang that this might happen with any one Alice
married, and that it would be no worse, at the worst, with Dan Mavering
than with another, while her husband remained impartially silent. Always
keeping within the lines to which his wife's supremacy had driven him, he
felt safe there, and was not to be easily coaxed out of them.
Mrs. Pasmer rose and left him, with his perfect acquiescence, and went
into her daughter's room. She found Alice there, with a pretty evening
dress laid out on her bed. Mrs. Pasmer was very fond of that dress, and
at the thought of Alice in it her spirits rose again.
"Oh, are you going, Alice?"
"Why, yes," answered the girl. "Didn't you accept?"
"Why, yes," Mrs. Pasmer admitted. "But aren't you tired?"
"Oh, not in the least. I feel as fresh as I did this morning. Don't you
want me to go?"
"Oh yes, certainly, I want you to go--if you think you'll enjoy it."
"Enjoy it? Why, why shouldn't I enjoy it, mamma!" What are you thinking
about? It's going to be the greatest kind of fun."
"But do you think you ought to look at everything simply as fun?" asked
the mother, with unwonted didacticism.
"How everything? What are you thinking about, mamma?"
"Oh, nothing! I'm so glad you're going to wear that dress."
"Why, of course! It's my best. But what arc you driving at, mamma?"
Mrs. Pasmer was really seeking in her daughter that comfort of a distinct
volition which she had failed to find in her husband, and she wished to
assure herself of it more and more, that she might share with some one
the responsibility which he had refused any part in.
"Nothing. But I'm glad you wish so much to go." The girl dropped her
hands and stared. "You must have enjoyed yourself to-day," she added, as
if that were an explanation.
"Of course I enjoyed myself! But what has that to do with my wanting to
"Oh, nothing. But I hope, Alice, that there is one thing you have looked
fully in the face."
"What thing?" faltered the girl, and now showed herself unable to
confront it by dropping her eyes.
"Well, whatever you may have heard or seen, nobody else is in doubt about
it. What do you suppose has brought Mr. Mavering here!"
"I don't know." The denial not only confessed that she did know, but it
informed her mother that all was as yet tacit between the young people.
"Very well, then, I know," said Mrs. Pasmer; "and there is one thing that
you must know before long, Alice."
"What?" she asked faintly.
"Your own mind," said her mother. "I don't ask you what it is, and I
shall wait till you tell me. Of course I shouldn't have let him stay
here if I had objected--"
"O mamma!" murmured the girl, dyed with shame to have the facts so boldly
touched, but not, probably, too deeply displeased.
"Yes. And I know that he would never have thought of going into that
business if he had not expected--hoped--"
"And you ought to consider--"
"Oh, don't! don't! don't!" implored the girl.
"That's all," said her mother, turning from Alice, who had hidden her
face in her hands, to inspect the costume on the bed. She lifted one
piece of it after another, turned it over, looked at it, and laid it
down. "You can never get such a dress in this country."
She went out of the room, as the girl dropped her face in the pillow. An
hour later they met equipped for the evening's pleasure. To the keen
glance that her mother gave her, the daughter's eyes had the brightness
of eyes that have been weeping, but they were also bright with that
knowledge of her own mind which Mrs. Pasmer had desired for her. She met
her mother's glance fearlessly, even proudly, and she carried her stylish
costume with a splendour to which only occasions could stimulate her.
They dramatised a perfect unconsciousness to each other, but Mrs. Pasmer
was by no means satisfied with the decision which she had read in her
daughter's looks. Somehow it did not relieve her of the responsibility,
and it did not change the nature of the case. It was gratifying, of
course, to see Alice the object of a passion so sincere and so ardent; so
far the triumph was complete, and there was really nothing objectionable
in the young man and his circumstances, though there was nothing very
distinguished. But the affair was altogether different from anything
that Mrs. Pasmer had imagined. She had supposed and intended that Alice
should meet some one in Boston, and go through a course of society before
reaching any decisive step. There was to be a whole season in which to
look the ground carefully over, and the ground was to be all within
certain well-ascertained and guarded precincts. But this that had
happened was outside of these precincts, of at least on their mere
outskirts. Class Day, of course, was all right; and she could not say
that the summer colony at Campobello was not thoroughly and essentially
Boston; and yet she felt that certain influences, certain sanctions, were
absent. To tell the truth, she would not have cared for the feelings of
Mavering's family in regard to the matter, except as they might afterward
concern Alice, and the time had not come when she could recognise their
existence in regard to the affair; and yet she could have wished that
even as it was his family could have seen and approved it from the start.
It would have been more regular.
With Alice it was a simpler matter, and of course deeper. For her it was
only a question of himself and herself; no one else existed to the
sublime egotism of her love. She did not call it by that name; she did
not permit it to assert itself by any name; it was a mere formless joy in
her soul, a trustful and blissful expectance, which she now no more
believed he could disappoint than that she could die within that hour.
All the rebellion that she had sometimes felt at the anomalous attitude
exacted of her sex in regard to such matters was gone. She no longer
thought it strange that a girl should be expected to ignore the
admiration of a young man till he explicitly declared it, and should then
be fully possessed of all the materials of a decision on the most
momentous question in life; for she knew that this state of ignorance
could never really exist; she had known from the first moment that he had
thought her beautiful. To-night she was radiant for him. Her eyes shone
with the look in which they should meet and give themselves to each other
before they spoke--the look in which they had met already, in which they
had lived that whole day.
The evening's entertainment was something that must fail before an
audience which was not very kind. They were to present a burlesque of
classic fable, and the parts, with their general intention, had been
distributed to the different actors; but nothing had been written down,
and, beyond the situations and a few points of dialogue, all had to be
improvised. The costumes and properties had been invented from such
things as came to hand. Sheets sculpturesquely draped the deities who
took part; a fox-pelt from the hearth did duty as the leopard skin of
Bacchus; a feather duster served Neptune for a trident; the lyre of
Apollo was a dust-pan; a gull's breast furnished Jove with his grey
The fable was adapted to modern life, and the scene had been laid in
Campobello, the peculiarities of which were to be satirised throughout.
The principal situation was to be a passage between Jupiter, represented
by Mavering, and Juno, whom Miss Anderson personated; it was to be a
scene of conjugal reproaches and reprisals, and to end in reconciliation,
in which the father of the gods sacrificed himself on the altar of
domestic peace by promising to bring his family to Campobello every year.
This was to be followed by a sketch of the Judgment of Paris, in which
Juno and Pallas were to be personated by two young men, and Miss Anderson
took the part of Venus.
The pretty drawing-room of the Trevors--young people from Albany, and
cousins of Miss Anderson--was curtained off at one end for a stage, and
beyond the sliding doors which divided it in half were set chairs for the
spectators. People had come in whatever dress they liked; the men were
mostly in morning coats; the ladies had generally made some attempt at
evening toilet, but they joined in admiring Alice Pasmer's costume, and
one of them said that they would let it represent them all, and express
what each might have done if she would. There was not much time for
their tributes; all the lamps were presently taken away and set along the
floor in front of the curtain as foot-lights, leaving the company in a
darkness which Mrs. Brinkley pronounced sepulchral. She made her
reproaches to the master of the house, who had effected this
transposition of the lamps. "I was just thinking some very pretty and
valuable things about your charming cottage, Mr. Trevor: a rug on a bare
floor, a trim of varnished pine, a wall with half a dozen simple etchings
on it, an open fire, and a mantelpiece without bric-a-brac, how entirely
satisfying it all is! And how it upbraids us for heaping up upholstery
as we do in town!"
"Go on," said the host. "Those are beautiful thoughts."
"But I can't go on in the dark," retorted Mrs. Brinkley. "You can't
think in the dark, much less talk! Can you, Mrs. Pasmer?" Mrs. Pasmer,
with Alice next to her, sat just in front of Mrs. Brinkley.
"No," she assented; "but if I could--YOU can thick anywhere, Mrs.
Brinkley--Mrs. Trevor's lovely house would inspire me to it."
"Two birds with one stone--thank you, Mrs. Pasmer, for my part of the
compliment. Pick yourself up, Mr. Trevor."
"Oh, thank you, I'm all right," said Trevor, panting after the ladies'
meanings, as a man must. "I suppose thinking and talking in the dark is
a good deal like smoking in the dark."
"No; thinking and talking are not at all like smoking under any
conditions. Why in the world should they be?"
"Oh, I can't get any fun out of a cigar unless I can see the smoke," the
"Do you follow him, Mrs. Pasmer?"
"Thank you, Mrs. Pasmer," said Trevor.
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