Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 71 out of 78
"I'll get you to tell me how you did it some time," said Mrs. Brinkley.
"But your house is a gem, Mr. Trevor."
"Isn't it?" cried Trevor. "I want my wife to live here the year round."
It was the Trevors' first summer in their cottage, and the experienced
reader will easily recognise his mood. "But she's such a worldly spirit,
"Oh, I don't know about the year round. Do you, Mrs. Pasmer?"
"I should," said Alice, with the suddenness of youth, breaking into the
talk which she had not been supposed to take any interest in.
"Is it proper to kiss a young lady's hand?" said Trevor gratefully,
appealing to Mrs. Brinkley.
"It isn't very customary in the nineteenth century," said Mrs. Brinkley.
"But you might kiss her fan. He might kiss her fan, mightn't he, Mrs.
"Certainly. Alice, hold out your fan instantly."
The girl humoured the joke, laughing.
Trevor pressed his lips to the perfumed sticks. "I will tell Mrs.
Trevor," he said, "and that will decide her."
"It will decide her not to come here at all next year if you tell her
"He never tells me all," said Mrs. Trevor, catching so much of the talk
as she came in from some hospitable cares in the dining-room. "They're
incapable of it. What has he been doing now?"
"Nothing. Or I will tell you when we are alone, Mrs. Trevor," said Mrs.
Brinkley, with burlesque sympathy. "We oughtn't to have a scene on both
sides of the foot-lights."
A boyish face, all excitement, was thrust out between the curtains
forming the proscenium of the little theatre. "All ready, Mrs. Trevor?"
"Yes, all ready, Jim."
He dashed the curtains apart, and marred the effect of his own
disappearance from the scene by tripping over the long legs of Jove,
stretched out to the front, where he sat on Mrs. Trevor's richest rug,
propped with sofa cushions on either hand.
"So perish all the impious race of titans, enemies of the gods!" said
Mavering solemnly, as the boy fell sprawling. "Pick the earth-born giant
up, Vulcan, my son."
The boy was very small for his age; every one saw that the accident had
not been premeditated, and when Vulcan appeared, with an exaggerated
limp, and carried the boy off, a burst of laughter went up from the
It did not matter what the play was to have been after that; it all
turned upon the accident. Juno came on, and began to reproach Jupiter
for his carelessness. "I've sent Mercury upstairs for the aynica; but he
says it's no use: that boy won't be able to pass ball for a week. How
often have I told you not to sit with your feet out that way! I knew
you'd hurt somebody."
"I didn't have my feet out," retorted Jupiter. "Besides," he added, with
dignity, and a burlesque of marital special pleading which every wife and
husband recognised, "I always sit with my feet out so, and I always will,
so long as I've the spirit of a god."
"Isn't he delicious?" buzzed Mrs. Pasmer, leaning backward to whisper to
Mrs. Brinkley; it was not that she thought what Dan had just said was so
very fanny, but people are immoderately applausive of amateur dramatics,
and she was feeling very fond of the young fellow.
The improvisation went wildly and adventurously on, and the curtains
dropped together amidst the facile acclaim of the audience:
"It's very well for Jupiter that he happened to think of the curtain,"
said Mrs. Brinkley. "They couldn't have kept it up at that level much
"Oh, do you think so?" softly murmured Mrs. Pasmer. "It seemed as if
they could have kept it up all night if they liked."
"I doubt it. Mr. Trevor," said Mrs. Brinkley to the host, who had come
up for her congratulations, "do you always have such brilliant
"Well, we have so far," he answered modestly; and Mrs. Brinkley laughed
with him. This was the first entertainment at Trevor cottage.
"'Sh!" went up all round them, and Mrs. Trevor called across the room, in
a reproachful whisper loud enough for every one to hear, "My dear!--
enjoying yourself!" while Mavering stood between the parted curtains
waiting for the attention of the company.
"On account of an accident to the call-boy and the mental exhaustion of
some of the deities, the next piece will be omitted, and the performance
will begin with the one after. While the audience is waiting, Mercury
will go round and take up a collection for the victim of the recent
accident, who will probably be indisposed for life. The collector will
be accompanied by a policeman, and may be safely trusted."
He disappeared behind the curtain with a pas and r swirl of his draperies
like the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe, and the audience again abandoned
itself to applause.
"How very witty he is!" said Miss Cotton, who sat near John Munt. "Don't
you think he's really witty?"
"Yes," Munt assented critically. "But you should have known his father."
"Oh, do you know his father?"
"I was in college with him."
"Oh, do tell me about him, and all Mr. Mavering's family. We're so
interested, you know, on account of--Isn't it pretty to have that little
love idyl going on here? I wonder--I've been wondering all the time--
what she thinks of all this. Do you suppose she quite likes it?" His
costume is so very remarkable!" Miss Cotton, in the absence of any lady
of her intimate circle, was appealing confidentially to John Munt.
"Why, do you think there's anything serious between them?" he asked,
dropping his head forward as people do in church when they wish to
whisper to some one in the same pew.
"Why, yes, it seems so," murmured Miss Cotton. "His admiration is quite
undisguised, isn't it?"
"A man never can tell," said Munt. "We have to leave those things to you
"Oh, every one's talking of it, I assure you. And you know his family?"
"I knew his father once rather better than anybody else."
"Yes." Munt sketched rather a flattered portrait of the elder Mavering,
his ability, his goodness, his shyness, which he had always had to make
such a hard fight with. Munt was sensible of an access of popularity in
knowing Dan Mavering's people, and he did not spare his colours.
"Then it isn't from his father that he gets everything. He isn't in the
least shy," said Miss Cotton.
"That must be the mother."
"And the mother?"
"The mother I don't know."
Miss Cotton sighed. "Sometimes I wish that he did show a little more
trepidation. It would seem as if he were more alive to the great
difference that there is between Alice Pasmer and other girls."
Munt laughed a man's laugh. "I guess he's pretty well alive to that, if
he's in love with her."
"Oh, in a certain way, of course, but not in the highest way. Now, for
instance, if he felt all her fineness as--as we do, I don't believe he'd
be willing to appear before her just like that." The father of the gods
wore a damask tablecloth of a pale golden hue and a classic pattern; his
arms were bare, and rather absurdly white; on his feet a pair of lawn-
tennis shoes had a very striking effect of sandals.
"It seems to me," Miss Cotton pursued; "that if he really appreciated her
in the highest way, he would wish never to do an undignified or trivial
thing in her presence."
"Oh, perhaps it's that that pleases her in him. They say we're always
taken with opposites."
"Yes--do you think so?" asked Miss Cotton.
The curtains were flung apart, and the Judgment of Paris followed rather
tamely upon what had gone before, though the two young fellows who did
Juno and Minerva were very amusing, and the dialogue was full of hits.
Some of the audience, an appreciative minority, were of opinion that
Mavering and Miss Anderson surpassed themselves in it; she promised him
the most beautiful and cultured wife in Greece. "That settles it," he
answered. They came out arm in arm, and Paris, having put on a striped
tennis coat over his short-sleeved Greek tunic, moved round among the
company for their congratulations, Venus ostentatiously showing the apple
she had won.
"I can haydly keep from eating it," she explained to Alice; before whom
she dropped Mavering's arm. "I'm awfully hungry. It's hayd woyk."
Alice stood with her head drawn back, looking at the excited girl with a
smile, in which seemed to hover somewhere a latent bitterness.
Mavering, with a flushed face and a flying tongue, was exchanging sallies
with her mother, who smothered him in flatteries.
Mrs. Trevor came toward the group, and announced supper. "Mr. Paris,
will you take Miss Aphrodite out?"
Miss Anderson swept a low bow of renunciation, and tacitly relinquished
Mavering to Alice.
"Oh, no, no!" said Alice, shrinking back from him, with an
intensification of her uncertain smile. "A mere mortal?"
"Oh, how very good!" said Mrs. Trevor.
There began to be, without any one's intending it, that sort of tacit
misunderstanding which is all the worse because it can only follow upon a
tacit understanding like that which had established itself between Alice
and Mavering. They laughed and joked together gaily about all that went
on; they were perfectly good friends; he saw that she and her mother were
promptly served; he brought them salad and ice-cream and coffee himself,
only waiting officially upon Miss Anderson first, and Alice thanked him,
with the politest deprecation of his devotion; but if their eyes met, it
was defensively, and the security between them was gone. Mavering
vaguely felt the loss, without knowing how to retrieve it, and it made
him go on more desperately with Miss Anderson. He laughed and joked
recklessly, and Alice began to mark a more explicit displeasure with her.
She made her mother go rather early.
On her part, Miss Anderson seemed to find reason for resentment in
Alice's bearing toward her. As if she had said to herself that her frank
loyalty had been thrown away upon a cold and unresponsive nature, and
that her harmless follies in the play had been met with unjust
suspicions, she began to make reprisals, she began in dead earnest to
flirt with Mavering. Before the evening passed she had made him seem
taken with her; but how justly she had done this, and with how much fault
of his, no one could have said. There were some who did not notice it at
all, but these were not people who knew Mavering, or knew Alice very
The next morning Alice was walking slowly along the road toward the
fishing village, when she heard rapid, plunging strides down the wooded
hillside on her right. She knew them for Mavering's, and she did not
affect surprise when he made a final leap into the road, and shortened
his pace beside her.
"May I join you, Miss Pasmer?"
"I am only going down to the herring-houses," she began.
"And you'll let me go with you?" said the young fellow. "The fact is--
you're always so frank that you make everything else seem silly--I've
been waiting up there in the woods for you to come by. Mrs. Pasmer told
me you had started this way, and I cut across lots to overtake you, and
then, when you came in sight, I had to let you pass before I could screw
my courage up to the point of running after you. How is that for open-
"It's a very good beginning, I should think."
"Well, don't you think you ought to say now that you're sorry you were so
"Am I so formidable?" she asked, and then recognised that she had been
trapped into a leading question.
"You are to me. Because I would like always to be sure that I had
pleased you, and for the last twelve hours I've only been able to make
sure that I hadn't. That's the consolation I'm going away with. I
thought I'd get you to confirm my impression explicitly. That's why I
wished to join you."
"Are you--were you going away?"
"I'm going by the next boat. What's the use of staying? I should only
make bad worse. Yesterday I hoped But last night spoiled everything.
'Miss Pasmer,'" he broke out, with a rush of feeling, "you must know why I
came up here to Campobello."
His steps took him a little ahead of her, and he could look back into her
face as he spoke. But apparently he saw nothing in it to give him
courage to go on, for he stopped, and then continued, lightly: "And I'm
going away because I feel that I've made a failure of the expedition. I
knew that you were supremely disgusted with me last night; but it will be
a sort of comfort if you'll tell me so."
"Oh," said Alice, "everybody thought it was very brilliant, I'm sure."
"And you thought it was a piece of buffoonery. Well, it was. I wish
you'd say so, Miss Pasmer; though I didn't mean the playing entirely. It
would be something to start from, and I want to make a beginning--turn
over a new leaf. Can't you help me to inscribe a good resolution of the
most iron-clad description on the stainless page? I've lain awake all
night composing one. Wouldn't you like to hear it?"
"I can't see what good that would do," she said, with some relenting
toward a smile, in which he instantly prepared himself to bask.
"But you will when I've done it. Now listen!"
"Please don't go on." She cut him short with a return to her severity,
which he would not recognise.
"Well, perhaps I'd better not," he consented. "It's rather a long
resolution, and I don't know that I've committed it perfectly yet. But I
do assure you that if you were disgusted last night, you were not the
only one. I was immensely disgusted myself; and why I wanted you to tell
me so, was because when I have a strong pressure brought to bear I can
brace up, and do almost anything," he said, dropping into earnest. Then
he rose lightly again, and added, "You have no idea how unpleasant it is
to lie awake all night throwing dust in the eyes of an accusing
"It must have been, if you didn't succeed," said Alice drily.
"Yes, that's it--that's just the point. If I'd succeeded, I should be
all right, don't you see. But it was a difficult case." She turned her
face away, but he saw the smile on her cheek, and he laughed as if this
were what he had been trying to make her do. "I got beaten. I had to
give up, and own it. I had to say that I had thrown my chance away,
and I had better take myself off." He looked at her with a real anxiety
in his gay eyes.
"The boat goes just after lunch, I believe," she said indifferently.
"Oh yes, I shall have time to get lunch before I go," he said, with
bitterness. "But lunch isn't the only thing; it isn't even the main
thing, Miss Pasmer."
"No?" She hardened her heart.
He waited for her to say something more, and then he went on. "The
question is whether there's time to undo last night, abolish it, erase it
from the calendar of recorded time--sponge it out, in short--and get back
to yesterday afternoon." She made no reply to this. "Don't you think it
was a very pleasant picnic, Miss Pasmer?" he asked, with pensive
"Very," she answered drily.
He cast a glance at the woods that bordered the road on either side.
"That weird forest--I shall never forget it."
"No; it was something to remember," she said.
"And the blueberry patch? We mustn't forget the blueberry patch."
"There were a great many blueberries."
She walked on, and he said, "And that bridge--you don't have that feeling
of having been here before?"
"Am I walking too fast for you, Miss Pasmer?"
"No; I like to walk fast."
"But wouldn't you like to sit down? On this wayside log, for example?"
He pointed it out with his stick. "It seems to invite repose, and I know
you must be tired."
"I'm not tired."
"Ah, that shows that you didn't lie awake grieving over your follies all
night. I hope you rested well, Miss Pasmer." She said nothing. "If I
thought--if I could hope that you hadn't, it would be a bond of sympathy,
and I would give almost anything for a bond of sympathy just now, Miss
Pasmer. Alice!" he said, with sudden seriousness. "I know that I'm not
worthy even to think of you, and that you're whole worlds above me in
every way. It's that that takes all heart out of me, and leaves me
without a word to say when I'd like to say so much. I would like to
She interrupted him. "I wish to speak to you, Mr. Mavering, and tell you
that--I'm very tired, and I'm going back to the hotel. I must ask you to
let me go back alone."
"Alice, I love you."
"I'm sorry you said it--sorry, sorry."
"Why?" he asked, with hopeless futility.
"Because there can be no love between us--not friendship even--not
"I shouldn't have asked for your acquaintance, your friendship, if--"
His words conveyed a delicate reproach, and they stung her, because they
put her in the wrong.
"No matter," she began wildly. "I didn't mean to wound you. But we must
part, and we must never see each other again:"
He stood confused, as if he could not make it out or believe it. "But
"It's to-day now."
"Ah, no! It's last night. And I can explain."
"No!" she cried. "You shall not make me out so mean and vindictive. I
don't care for last night, nor for anything that happened." This was not
true, but it seemed so to her at the moment; she thought that she really
no longer resented his association with Miss Anderson and his separation
from herself in all that had taken place.
"Then what is it?"
"I can't tell you. But everything is over between us--that's all."
"But yesterday--and all these days past--you seemed--"
"It's unfair of you to insist--it's ungenerous, ungentlemanly."
That word, which from a woman's tongue always strikes a man like a blow
in the face, silenced Mavering. He set his lips and bowed, and they
parted. She turned upon her way, and he kept the path which she had been
It was not the hour when the piazzas were very full, and she slipped into
the dim hotel corridor undetected, or at least undetained. She flung
into her room, and confronted her mother.
Mrs. Pasmer was there looking into a trunk that had overflowed from her
own chamber. "What is the matter?" she said to her daughter's excited
"And I refused him."
Mrs. Pasmer was one of those ladies who in any finality have a keen
retrovision of all the advantages of a different conclusion. She had
been thinking, since she told Dan Mavering which way Alice had gone to
walk, that if he were to speak to her now, and she were to accept him, it
would involve a great many embarrassing consequences; but she had
consoled herself with the probability that he would not speak so soon
after the effects of last night, but would only try at the furthest to
make his peace with Alice. Since he had spoken, though, and she had
refused him, Mrs. Pasmer instantly saw all the pleasant things that would
have followed in another event. "Refused him?" she repeated
provisionally, while she gathered herself for a full exploration of all
"Yes, mamma; and I can't talk about it. I wish never to hear his name
again, or to see him, or to speak to him."
"Why, of course not," said Mrs. Pasmer, with a fine smile, from the
vantage-ground of her superior years, "if you've refused him." She left
the trunk which she had been standing over, and sat down, while Alice
swept to and fro before her excitedly. "But why did you refuse him, my
"Why? Because he's detestable--perfectly ignoble."
Her mother probably knew how to translate these exalted expressions into
the more accurate language of maturer life. "Do you mean last night?"
"Last night?" cried Alice tragically. "No. Why should I care for last
"Then I don't understand what you mean," retorted Mrs. Pasmer. "What did
he say?" she demanded, with authority.
"Mamma, I can't talk about it--I won't."
"But you must, Alice. It's your duty. Of course I must know about it.
What did he say?"
Alice walked up and down the room with her lips firmly closed--like
Mavering's lips, it occurred to her; and then she opened them, but
"What did he say?" persisted her mother, and her persistence had its
"Say?" exclaimed the girl indignantly. "He tried to make me say."
"I see," said Mrs. Pasmer. "Well?"
"But I forced him to speak, and then--I rejected him. That's all."
"Poor fellow!" said Mrs. Pasmer. "He was afraid of you."
"And that's what made it the more odious. Do you think I wished him to
be afraid of me? Would that be any pleasure? I should hate myself if I
had to quell anybody into being unlike themselves." She sat down for a
moment, and then jumped up again, and went to the window, for no reason,
and came back.
"Yes," said her mother impartially, "he's light, and he's roundabout. He
couldn't come straight at anything."
"And would you have me accept such a--being?"
Mrs. Pasmer smiled a little at the literary word, and continued: "But
he's very sweet, and he's as good as the day's long, and he's very fond
of you, and--I thought you liked him."
The girl threw up her arms across her eyes. "Oh, how can you say such a
She dropped into a chair at the bedside, and let her face fall into her
hands, and cried.
Her mother waited for the gust of tears to pass before she said, "But if
you feel so about it--"
"Mamma!" Alice sprang to her feet.
"It needn't come from you. I could make some excuse to see him--write
him a little note--"
"Never!" exclaimed Alice grandly. "What I've done I've done from my
reason, and my feelings have nothing to do with it."
"Oh, very well," said her mother, going out of the room, not wholly
disappointed with what she viewed as a respite, and amused by her
daughter's tragics. "But if you think that the feelings have nothing to
do with such a matter, you're very much mistaken." If she believed that
her daughter did not know her real motives in rejecting Dan Mavering, or
had not been able to give them, she did not say so.
The little group of Aliceolaters on the piazza, who began to canvass the
causes of Mavering's going before the top of his hat disappeared below
the bank on the path leading to the ferry-boat, were of two minds. One
faction held that he was going because Alice had refused him, and that
his gaiety up to the last moment was only a mask to hide his despair.
The other side contended that, if he and Alice were not actually engaged,
they understood each other, and he was going away because he wanted to
tell his family, or something of that kind. Between the two opinions
Miss Cotton wavered with a sentimental attraction to either. "What do
you really think?" she asked Mrs. Brinkley, arriving from lunch at the
corner of the piazza where the group was seated.
"Oh, what does it matter, at their age?" she demanded.
"But they're just of the age when it does happen to matter," suggested
"Yes," said Mrs. Brinkley, "and that's what makes the whole thing so
perfectly ridiculous. Just think of two children, one of twenty and the
other of twenty-three, proposing to decide their lifelong destiny in such
a vital matter! Should we trust their judgment in regard to the smallest
business affair? Of course not. They're babes in arms, morally and
mentally speaking. People haven't the data for being wisely in love till
they've reached the age when they haven't the least wish to be so. Oh, I
suppose I thought that I was a grown woman too when I was twenty; I can
look back and see that I did; and, what's more preposterous still, I
thought Mr. Brinkley was a man at twenty-four. But we were no more fit
to accept or reject each other at that infantile period--"
"Do you really think so?" asked Miss Cotton, only partially credulous of
Mrs. Brinkley's irony.
"Yes, it does seem out of all reason," admitted Mrs. Stamwell.
"Of course it is," said Mrs. Brinkley. "If she has rejected him, she's
done a very safe thing. Nobody should be allowed to marry before fifty.
Then, if people married, it would be because they knew that they loved
Miss Cotton reflected a moment. "It is strange that such an important
question should have to be decided at an age when the judgment is so far
from mature. I never happened to look at it in that light before."
"Yes," said Mrs. Brinkley--and she made herself comfortable in an arm
chair commanding a stretch of the bay over which the ferry-boat must
pass--"but it's only part and parcel of the whole affair. I'm sure that
no grown person can see the ridiculous young things--inexperienced,
ignorant, featherbrained--that nature intrusts with children, their
immortal little souls and their extremely perishable little bodies,
without rebelling at the whole system. When you see what most young
mothers are, how perfectly unfit and incapable, you wonder that the whole
race doesn't teeth and die. Yes, there's one thing I feel pretty sure
of--that, as matters are arranged now, there oughtn't to be mothers at
all, there ought to be only grandmothers."
The group all laughed, even Miss Cotton, but she was the first to become
grave. At the bottom of her heart there was a doubt whether so light a
way of treating serious things was not a little wicked.
"Perhaps," she said, "we shall have to go back to the idea that
engagements and marriages are not intended to be regulated by the
judgment, but by the affections."
"I don't know what's intended," said Mrs. Brinkley, "but I know what is.
In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the affections have it their own
way, and I must say I don't think the judgment could make a greater mess
of it. In fact," she continued, perhaps provoked to the excess by the
deprecation she saw in Miss Cotton's eye, "I consider every broken
engagement nowadays a blessing in disguise."
Miss Cotton said nothing. The other ladies said, "Why, Mrs. Brinkley!"
"Yes. The thing has gone altogether too far. The pendulum has swung in
that direction out of all measure. We are married too much. And as a
natural consequence we are divorced too much. The whole case is in a
nutshell: if there were no marriages, there would be no divorces, and
that great abuse would be corrected, at any rate."
All the ladies laughed, Miss Cotton more and more sorrowfully. She liked
to have people talk as they do in genteel novels. Mrs. Brinkley's bold
expressions were a series of violent shocks to her nature, and imparted a
terrible vibration to the fabric of her whole little rose-coloured ideal
world; if they had not been the expressions of a person whom a great many
unquestionable persons accepted, who had such an undoubted standing, she
would have thought them very coarse. As it was, they had a great
fascination for her. "But in a case like that of"--she looked round and
lowered her voice--"our young friends, I'm sure you couldn't rejoice if
the engagement were broken off."
"Well, I'm not going to be 'a mush of concession,' as Emerson says, Miss
Cotton. And, in the first place, how do you know they're engaged?"
"Ah, I don't; I didn't mean that they were. But wouldn't it be a little
pathetic if, after all that we've seen going on, his coming here
expressly on her account, and his perfect devotion to her for the past
two weeks, it should end in nothing?"
"Two weeks isn't a very long time to settle the business of a lifetime."
"Perhaps she's proposed delay; a little further acquaintance."
"Oh, of course that would be perfectly right. Do you think she did?"
"Not if she's as wise as the rest of us would have been at her age. But
I think she ought."
"Yes?" said Miss Cotton semi-interrogatively.
"Do you think his behaviour last night would naturally impress her with
his wisdom and constancy?"
"No, I can't say that it would, but--"
"And this Alice of yours is rather a severe young person. She has her
ideas, and I'm afraid they're rather heroic. She'd be just with him, of
course. But there's nothing a man dreads so much as justice--some men."
"Yes," pursued Miss Cotton, "but that very disparity--I know they're very
unlike--don't you think--"
"Oh yes, I know the theory about that. But if they were exactly alike in
temperament, they'd be sufficiently unlike for the purposes of
counterparts. That was arranged once for all when 'male and female
created He them.' I've no doubt their fancy was caught by all the kinds
of difference they find in each other; that's just as natural as it's
silly. But the misunderstanding, the trouble, the quarrelling, the wear
and tear of spirit, that they'd have to go through before they
assimilated--it makes me tired, as the boys say. No: I hope, for the
young man's own sake, he's got his conge."
"But he's so kind, so good--"
"My dear, the world is surfeited with kind, good men. There are half a
dozen of them at the other end of the piazza smoking; and there comes
another to join them," she added, as a large figure, semicircular in
profile, advanced itself from a doorway toward a vacant chair among the
smokers. "The very soul of kindness and goodness." She beckoned toward
her husband, who caught sight of her gesture. "Now I can tell you all
his mental processes. First, surprise at seeing some one beckoning; then
astonishment that it's I, though who else should beckon him?--then wonder
what I can want; then conjecture that I may want him to come here; then
pride in his conjecture; rebellion; compliance."
The ladies were in a scream of laughter as Mr. Brinkley lumbered heavily
to their group.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Do you believe in broken engagements? Now quick--off-hand!"
"Well, you know Punch's advice to those about to marry?"
"I know--chestnuts," said his wife scornfully. They dismissed each other
with tender bluntness, and he went in to get a match.
"Ah, Mrs. Brinkley," said one of the ladies, "it would be of no use for
you to preach broken engagements to any one who saw you and Mr. Brinkley
together." They fell upon her, one after another, and mocked her with
the difference between her doctrine and practice; and they were all the
more against her because they had been perhaps a little put down by her
"Yes," she admitted. "But we've been thirty years coming to the
understanding that you all admire so much; and do you think it was worth
Mavering kept up until he took leave of the party of young people who had
come over on the ferry-boat to Eastport for the frolic of seeing him off.
It was a tremendous tour de force to accept their company as if he were
glad of it, and to respond to all their gay nothings gaily; to maintain
a sunny surface on his turbid misery. They had tried to make Alice come
with them, but her mother pleaded a bad headache for her; and he had to
parry a hundred sallies about her, and from his sick heart humour the
popular insinuation that there was an understanding between them, and
that they had agreed together she should not come. He had to stand about
on the steamboat wharf and listen to amiable innuendoes for nearly an
hour before the steamer came in from St. John. The fond adieux of his
friends, their offers to take any message back, lasted during the
interminable fifteen minutes that she lay at her moorings, and then he
showed himself at the stern of the boat, and waved his handkerchief in
acknowledgment of the last parting salutations on shore.
When it was all over, he went down into his state-room, and shut himself
in, and let his misery rollover him. He felt as if there were a flood of
it, and it washed him to and fro, one gall of shame, of self-accusal, of
bitterness, from head to foot. But in it all he felt no resentment
toward Alice, no wish to wreak any smallest part of his suffering upon
her. Even while he had hoped for her love, it seemed to him that he had
not seen her in all that perfection which she now had in irreparable
loss. His soul bowed itself fondly over the thought of her; and, stung
as he was by that last cruel word of hers, he could not upbraid her.
That humility which is love casting out selfishness, the most egotistic
of the passions triumphing over itself--Mavering experienced it to the
full. He took all the blame. He could not see that she had ever
encouraged him to hope for her love, which now appeared a treasure
heaven--far beyond his scope; he could only call himself fool, and fool,
and fool, and wonder that he could have met her in the remoteness of that
morning with the belief that but for the follies of last night she might
have answered him differently. He believed now that, whatever had gone
before, she must still have rejected him. She had treated his
presumption very leniently; she had really spared him.
It went on, over and over. Sometimes it varied a little, as when he
thought of how, when she should tell her mother, Mrs. Pasmer must laugh.
He pictured them both laughing at him; and then Mr. Pasmer--he had
scarcely passed a dozen words with him-coming in and asking what they
were laughing at, and their saying, and his laughing too.
At other times he figured them as incensed at his temerity, which must
seem to them greater and greater, as now it seemed to him. He had never
thought meanly of himself, and the world so far had seemed to think well
of him; but because Alice Pasmer was impossible to him, he felt that it
was an unpardonable boldness in him to have dreamed of her. What must
they be saying of his having passed from the ground of society
compliments and light flirtation to actually telling Alice that he loved
He wondered what Mrs. Pasmer had thought of his telling her that he had
come to Campobello to consider the question whether he should study law
or go into business, and what motive she had supposed he had in telling
her that. He asked himself what motive he had, and tried to pretend that
he had none. He dramatised conversations with Mrs. Pasmer in which he
laughed it off.
Ho tried to remember all that had passed the day before at the picnic,
and whether Alice had done or said anything to encourage him, and he
could not find that she had. All her trust and freedom was because she
felt perfectly safe with him from any such disgusting absurdity as he had
been guilty of. The ride home through the mist, with its sweet intimacy,
that parting which had seemed so full of tender intelligence, were parts
of the same illusion. There had been nothing of it on her side from the
beginning but a kindliness which he had now flung away for ever.
He went back to the beginning, and tried to remember the point where he
had started in this fatal labyrinth of error. She had never misled him,
but he had misled himself from the first glimpse of her.
Whatever was best in his light nature, whatever was generous and self-
denying, came out in this humiliation. From the vision of her derision
he passed to a picture of her suffering from pity for him, and wrung with
a sense of the pain she had given him. He promised himself to write to
her, and beg her not to care for him, because he was not worthy of that.
He framed a letter in his mind, in which he posed in some noble
attitudes, and brought tears into his eyes by his magnanimous appeal to
her not to suffer for the sake of one so unworthy of her serious thought.
He pictured her greatly moved by some of the phrases, and he composed for
her a reply, which led to another letter from him, and so to a
correspondence and a long and tender friendship. In the end he died
suddenly, and then she discovered that she had always loved him. He
discovered that he was playing the fool again, and he rose from the berth
where he had tumbled himself. The state-room had that smell of parboiled
paint which state-rooms have, and reminded him of the steamer in which he
had gone to Europe when a boy, with the family, just after his mother's
health began to fail.
He went down on the deck near the ladies' saloon, where the second-class
passengers were gathered listening to the same band of plantation negroes
who had amused him so much on the eastward trip. The passengers were
mostly pock marked Provincials, and many of them were women; they lounged
on the barrels of apples neatly piled up, and listened to the music
without smiling. One of the negroes was singing to the banjo, and
another began to do the rheumatic uncle's breakdown. Mavering said to
himself: "I can't stand that. Oh, what a fool I am! Alice, I love you.
O merciful heavens! O infernal jackass! Ow! Gaw!"
At the bow of the boat he found a gang of Italian labourers returning to
the States after some job in the Provinces. They smoked their pipes and
whined their Neapolitan dialect together. It made Mavering think of
Dante, of the Inferno, to which he passed naturally from his self-
denunciation for having been an infernal jackass. The inscription on the
gate of hell ran through his mind. He thought he would make his life--
his desolate, broken life--a perpetual exile, like Dante's. At the same
time he ground his teeth, and muttered: "Oh, what a fool I am! Oh,
idiot! beast! Oh! oh!" The pipes reminded him to smoke, and he took out
his cigarette case. The Italians looked at him; he gave all the
cigarettes among them, without keeping any for himself. He determined to
spend the miserable remnant of his life in going about doing good and
He groaned aloud, so that the Italians noticed it, and doubtless spoke of
it among themselves. He could not understand their dialect, but he
feigned them saying respectfully compassionate things. Then he gnashed
his teeth again, and cursed his folly. When the bell rang for supper he
found himself very hungry, and ate heavily. After that he went out in
front of the cabin, and walked up and down, thinking, and trying not to
think. The turmoil in his mind tired him like a prodigious physical
Toward ten o'clock the night grew rougher. The sea was so phosphorescent
that it broke in sheets and flakes of pale bluish flame from the bows and
wheel-houses, and out in the dark the waves revealed themselves in
flashes and long gleams of fire. One of the officers of the boat came
and hung with Mavering over the guard. The weird light from the water
was reflected on their faces, and showed them to each other.
"Well, I never saw anything like this before. Looks like hell; don't
it?" said the officer.
"Yes," said Mavering. "Is it uncommon?"
"Well, I should say so. I guess we're going to have a picnic."
Mavering thought of blueberries, but he did not say anything.
"I guess it's going to be a regular circus."
Mavering did not care. He asked incuriously, "How do you find your
course in such weather?"
"Well, we guess where we are, and then give her so many turns of the
wheel." The officer laughed, and Mavering laughed too. He was struck by
the hollow note in his laugh; it seemed to him pathetic; he wondered if
he should now always laugh so, and if people would remark it. He tried
another laugh; it sounded mechanical.
He went to bed, and was so worn out that he fell asleep and began to
dream. A face came up out of the sea, and brooded over the waters, as in
that picture of Vedder's which he calls "Memory," but the hair was not
blond; it was the colour of those phosphorescent flames, and the eyes
were like it. "Horrible! horrible!" he tried to shriek, but he cried,
"Alice, I love you." There was a burglar in the room, and he was running
after Miss Pasmer. Mavering caught him, and tried to beat him; his fists
fell like bolls of cotton; the burglar drew his breath in with a long,
washing sound like water.
Mavering woke deathly sick, and heard the sweep of the waves. The boat
was pitching frightfully. He struggled out into the saloon, and saw that
it was five o'clock. In five hours more it would be a day since he told
Alice that he loved her; it now seemed very improbable. There were a
good many half-dressed people in the saloon, and a woman came running out
of her state-room straight to Mavering. She was in her stocking feet,
and her hair hung down her back.
"Oh! are we going down?" she implored him. "Have we struck? Oughtn't we
to pray--somebody? Shall I wake the children?"
"Mavering reassured her, and told her there was no danger.
"Well, then," she said, "I'll go back for my shoes."
"Yes, better get your shoes."
The saloon rose round him and sank. He controlled his sickness by
planting a chair in the centre and sitting in it with his eyes shut. As
he grew more comfortable he reflected how he had calmed that woman, and
he resolved again to spend his life in doing good. "Yes, that's the only
ticket," he said to himself, with involuntary frivolity. He thought of
what the officer had said, and he helplessly added, "Circus ticket--
reserved seat." Then he began again, and loaded himself with execration.
The boat got into Portland at nine o'clock, and Mavering left her, taking
his hand-bag with him, and letting his trunk go on to Boston.
The officer who received his ticket at the gangplank noticed the
destination on it, and said, "Got enough?"
"Yes, for one while." Mavering recognised his acquaintance of the night
"Don't like picnics very much."
"No," said Mavering, with abysmal gloom. "They don't agree with me.
Never did." He was aware of trying to make his laugh bitter. The
officer did not notice.
Mavering was surprised, after the chill of the storm at sea, to find it
rather a warm, close morning in Portland. The restaurant to which the
hackman took him as the best in town was full of flies; they bit him
awake out of the dreary reveries he fell into while waiting for his
breakfast. In a mirror opposite he saw his face. It did not look
haggard; it looked very much as it always did. He fancied playing a part
through life--hiding a broken heart under a smile. "O you incorrigible
ass!" he said to himself, and was afraid he had said it to the young lady
who brought him his breakfast, and looked haughtily at him from under her
bang. She was very thin, and wore a black jersey.
He tried to find out whether he had spoken aloud by addressing her
pleasantly. "It's pretty cold this morning."
"Oh yes. But it's pretty clo-ose," she replied, in her Yankee
cantillation. She went away and left him to the bacon and eggs he had
ordered at random. There was a fly under one of the slices of bacon, and
Mavering confined himself to the coffee.
A man came up in a white cap and jacket from a basement in the front of
the restaurant, where confectionery was sold, and threw down a mass of
malleable candy on a marble slab, and began to work it. Mavering watched
him, thinking fuzzily all the time of Alice, and holding long, fatiguing
dialogues with the people at the Ty'n-y-Coed, whose several voices he
He said to himself that it was worse than yesterday. He wondered if it
would go on getting worse every day.
He saw a man pass the door of the restaurant who looked exactly like
Boardman as he glanced in. The resemblance was explained by the man's
coming back, and proving to be really Boardman.
Mavering sprang at him with a demand for the reason of his being there.
"I thought it was you as I passed," said Boardman, "but I couldn't make
sure--so dark back here."
"And I thought it was you, but I couldn't believe it," said Mavering,
with equal force, cutting short an interior conversation with Mr. Pasmer,
which had begun to hold itself since his first glimpse of Boardman.
"I came down here to do a sort of one-horse yacht race to-day," Boardman
"Going to be a yacht race? Better have some breakfast. Or better not--
here. Flies under your bacon."
"Rough on the flies," said Boardman, snapping the bell which summoned the
spectre in the black jersey, and he sat down. "What are you doing in
Mavering told him, and then Boardman asked him how he had left the
Pasmers. Mavering needed no other hint to speak, and he spoke fully,
while Boardman listened with an agreeable silence, letting the hero of
the tale break into self-scornful groans and doleful laughs, and ease his
heart with grotesque, inarticulate noises, and made little or no
By the time his breakfast came, Boardman was ready to say, "I didn't
suppose it was so much of a mash."
"I didn't either," said Mavering, "when I left Boston. Of course I knew
I was going down there to see her, but when I got there it kept going on,
just like anything else, up to the last moment. I didn't realise till it
came to the worst that I had become a mere pulp."
"Well, you won't stay so," said Boardman, making the first vain attempt
at consolation. He lifted the steak he had ordered, and peered beneath
it. All right this time, any way."
"I don't know what you mean by staying so," replied Mavering, with gloomy
rejection of the comfort offered.
"You'll see that it's all for the best; that you're well out of it. If
she could throw you over, after leading you on--"
"But she didn't lead me on!" exclaimed Mavering. "Don't you understand
that it was all my mistake from the first? If I hadn't been perfectly
besotted I should have seen that she was only tolerating me. Don't you
see? Why, hang it, Boardman, I must have had a kind of consciousness of
it under my thick-skinned conceit, after all, for when I came to the
point--when I did come to the point--I hadn't the sand to stick to it
like a man, and I tried to get her to help me. Yes, I can see that I did
now. I kept fooling about, and fooling about, and it was because I had
that sort of prescience--of whatever you call it--that I was mistaken
about it from the very beginning."
He wished to tell Boardman about the events of the night before; but he
could not. He said to himself that he did not care about their being
hardly to his credit; but he did not choose to let Alice seem to have
resented anything in them; it belittled her, and claimed too much for
him. So Boardman had to proceed upon a partial knowledge of the facts.
"I don't suppose that boomerang way of yours, if that's what you mean,
was of much use," he said.
"Use? It ruined me! But what are you going to do?" How are you going
to presuppose that a girl like Miss Pasmer is interested in an idiot like
you? I mean me, of course." Mavering broke off with a dolorous laugh.
"And if you can't presuppose it, what are you going to do when it comes
to the point? You've got to shillyshally, and then you've got to go it
blind. I tell you it's a leap in the dark."
"Well, then, if you've got yourself to blame--"
"How am I to blame, I should like to know?" retorted Mavering, rejecting
the first offer from another of the censure which he had been heaping
upon himself: the irritation of his nerves spoke. "I did speak out at
last--when it was too late. Well, let it all go," he groaned aimlessly.
"I don't care. But she isn't to blame. I don't think I could admire
anybody very much who admired me. No, sir. She did just right. I was a
fool, and she couldn't have treated me differently."
"Oh, I guess it'll come out all right," said Boardman, abandoning himself
to mere optimism.
"How come all right?" demanded Mavering, flattered by the hope he
refused. "It's come right now. I've got my deserts; that's all."
"Oh no, you haven't. What harm have you done? It's all right for you to
think small beer of yourself, and I don't see how you could think
anything else just at present. But you wait awhile. When did it
Mavering took out his watch. "One day, one hour, twenty minutes, and
fifteen seconds ago."
"Sure about the seconds? I suppose you didn't hang round a great while
"Well, people don't, generally," said Mavering, with scorn.
"Never tried it," said Boardman, looking critically at his fried potatoes
before venturing upon them. "If you had stayed, perhaps she might have
changed her mind," he added, as if encouraged to this hopeful view by the
result of his scrutiny.
"Where did you get your fraudulent reputation for common-sense,
Boardman?" retorted Mavering, who had followed his examination of the
potatoes with involuntary interest. "She won't change her mind; she
isn't one of that kind. But she's the one woman in this world who could
have made a man of me, Boardman."
"Is that so?" asked Boardman lightly. "Well, she is a good-looking
"What a dress that was she had on Class Day!"
"I never think what she has on. She makes everything perfect, and then
makes you forget it."
"She's got style; there's no mistake about that."
"Style!" sighed Mavering; but he attempted no exemplification.
"She's awfully graceful. What a walk she's got!"
"Oh, don't, don't, Boardman! All that's true, and all that's nothing--
nothing to her goodness. She's so good, Boardman! Well, I give it up!
She's religious. You wouldn't think that, may be; you can't imagine a
pretty girl religious. And she's all the more intoxicating when she's
serious; and when she's forgotten your whole worthless existence she's
ten thousand times more fascinating than and other girl when she's going
right for you. There's a kind of look comes into her eyes--kind of
absence, rapture, don't you know--when she's serious, that brings your
heart right into your mouth. She makes you think of some of those
pictures--I want to tell you what she said the other day at a picnic when
we were off getting blueberries, and you'll understand that she isn't
like other girls--that she has a soul fall of--of--you know what,
Boardman. She has high thoughts about everything. I don't believe she's
ever had a mean or ignoble impulse--she couldn't have." In the business
of imparting his ideas confidentially, Mavering had drawn himself across
the table toward Boardman, without heed to what was on it.
"Look out! You'll be into my steak first thing you know."
"Oh, confound your steak?" cried Mavering, pushing the dish away. What
difference does it make? I've lost her, anyway."
"I don't believe you've lost her," said Boardman.
"What's the reason you don't?" retorted Mavering, with contempt.
"Because, if she's the serious kind of a girl you say she is, she
wouldn't let you come up there and dangle round a whole fortnight without
letting you know she didn't like it, unless she did like it. Now you
just go a little into detail."
Mavering was quite willing. He went so much into detail that he left
nothing to Boardman's imagination. He lost the sense of its calamitous
close in recounting the facts of his story at Campobello; he smiled and
blushed and laughed in telling certain things; he described Miss Anderson
and imitated her voice; he drew heads of some of the ladies on the margin
of a newspaper, and the tears came into his eyes when he repeated the
cruel words which Alice had used at their last meeting.
"Oh, well, you must brace up," said Boardman. "I've got to go now. She
didn't mean it, of course."
"That you were ungentlemanly. Women don't know half the time how hard
"I guess she meant that she didn't want me, anyway," said Mavering
"Ah, I don't know about that. You'd better ask her the next time you see
her. Good-bye." He had risen, and he offered his hand to Mavering, who
was still seated.
"Why, I've half a mind to go with you."
"All right, come along. But I thought you might be going right on to
"No; I'll wait and go on with you. How, do you go to the race?"
"In the press boat."
"No; we don't send them on this sort of duty."
"That settles it. I have got all I want of that particular sex for the
time being." Mavering wore a very bitter air as he said this; it seemed
to him that he would always be cynical; he rose, and arranged to leave
his bag with the restaurateur, who put it under the counter, and then he
went out with his friend.
The sun had come out, and the fog was burning away; there was life and
lift in the air, which the rejected lover could not refuse to feel, and
he said, looking round, and up and down the animated street. "I guess
you're going to have a good day for it."
The pavement was pretty well filled with women who had begun shopping.
Carriages were standing beside the pavement; a lady crossed the pavement
from a shop door toward a coupe just in front of them, with her hand full
of light packages; she dropped one of them, and Mavering sprang forward
instinctively and picked it up for her.
"Oh, thank you!" she said, with the deep gratitude which society
cultivates for the smallest services. Then she lifted her drooped
eyelashes, and, with a flash of surprise, exclaimed, "Mr. Mavering!" and
dropped all her packages that she might shake hands with him.
Boardman sauntered slowly on, but saw with a backward glance Mavering
carrying the lady's packages to the coupe for her; saw him lift his hat
there, and shake hands with somebody in the coupe, and then stand talking
beside it. He waited at the corner of the block for Mavering to come up,
affecting an interest in the neck-wear of a furnisher's window.
In about five minutes Mavering joined him.
"Look here, Boardman! Those ladies have snagged onto me."
"Are there two of them?"
"Yes, one inside. And they want me to go with then to see the race.
Their father's got a little steam-yacht. They want you to go too."
Boardman shook his head.
"Well, that's what I told them--told them that you had to go on the press
boat. They said they wished they were going on the press boat too. But
I don't see how I can refuse. They're ladies that I met Class Day, and I
ought to have shown them a little more attention then; but I got so taken
"I see," said Boardman, showing his teeth, fine and even as grains of
pop-corn, in a slight sarcastic smile. "Sort of poetical justice," he
"Well, it is--sort of," said Mavering, with a shamefaced consciousness.
"What train are you going back on?"
"I'll be there."
He hurried back to rejoin the ladies, and Boardman saw him, after some
parley and laughter, get into the coupe, from which he inferred that they
had turned down the little seat in front, and made him take it; and he
inferred that they must be very jolly, sociable girls.
He did not see Mavering again till the train was on its way, when he came
in, looking distraughtly about for his friend. He was again very
melancholy, and said dejectedly that they had made him stay to dinner,
and had then driven him down to the station, bag and all. "The old
gentleman came too. I was in hopes I'd find you hanging round somewhere,
so that I could introduce you. They're awfully nice. None of that
infernal Boston stiffness. The one you saw me talking with is married,
Boardman was writing out his report from a little book with shorthand
notes in it. There were half a dozen other reporters in the car busy
with their work. A man who seemed to be in authority said to one of
them, "Try to throw in a little humour."
Mavering pulled his hat over his eyes, and leaned his head on the back of
his seat, and tried to sleep.
At his father's agency in Boston he found, the next morning, a letter
from him saying that he expected to be down that day, and asking Dan to
meet him at the Parker House for dinner. The letter intimated the elder
Mavering's expectation that his son had reached some conclusion in the
matter they had talked of before he left for Campobello.
It gave Dan a shiver of self-disgust and a sick feeling of hopelessness.
He was quite willing now to do whatever his father wished, but he did not
see haw he could face him and own his defeat.
When they met, his father did not seem to notice his despondency, and he
asked him nothing about the Pasmers, of course. That would not have been
the American way. Nothing had been said between the father and son as to
the special advantages of Campobello for the decision of the question
pending when they saw each other last; but the son knew that the father
guessed why he chose that island for the purpose; and now the elder knew
that if the younger had anything to tell him he would tell it, and if he
had not he would keep it. It was tacitly understood that there was no
objection on the father's part to Miss Pasmer; in fact, there had been a
glimmer of humorous intelligence in his eye when the son said he thought
he should run down to Bar Harbour, and perhaps to Campobello, but he had
said nothing to betray his consciousness.
They met in the reading-room at Parker's, and Dan said, "Hello, father,"
and his father answered, "Well, Dan;" and they shyly touched the hands
dropped at their sides as they pressed together in the crowd. The father
gave his boy a keen glance, and then took the lead into the dining-room,
where he chose a corner table, and they disposed of their hats on the
"All well at home?" asked the young fellow, as he took up the bill of
fare to order the dinner. His father hated that, and always made him do
"Yes, yes; as usual, I believe. Minnie is off for a week at the
mountains; Eunice is at home."
"Oh! How would you like some green goose, with apple-sauce, sweet-
potatoes, and succotash?"
"It seems to me that was pretty good, the last time. All right, if you
"I don't know that I care for anything much. I'm a little off my feed.
No soup," he said, looking up at the waiter bending over him; and then he
gave the order. "I think you may bring me half a dozen Blue Points, if
they're good," he called after him.
"Didn't Bar Harbour agree with you--or Campobello?" asked Mr. Mavering,
taking the opening offered him.
"No, not very well," said Dan; and he said no more about it, leaving his
father to make his own inferences as to the kind or degree of the
"Well, have you made up your mind?" asked the father, resting his elbows
on either side of his plate, and putting his hands together softly, while
he looked across them with a cheery kindness at his boy.
"Yes, I have," said Dan slowly.
"I don't believe I care to go into the law."
"Well, that's all right, then. I wished you to choose freely, and I
suppose you've done so."
"I think you've chosen wisely, and I'm very glad. It's a weight off my
mind. I think you'll be happier in the business than you would in the
law; I think you'll enjoy it. You needn't look forward to a great deal
of Ponkwasset Falls, unless you like."
"I shouldn't mind going there," said Dan listlessly.
"It won't be necessary--at first. In fact, it won't be desirable. I
want you to look up the business at this end a little."
Dan gave a start. "In Boston?"
"Yes. It isn't in the shape I want to have it. I propose to open a
place of our own, and to put you in charge." Something in the young
man's face expressed reluctance, and his father asked kindly, "Would that
be distasteful to you?"
"Oh no. It isn't the thing I object to, but I don't know that I care to
be in Boston." He lifted his face and looked his father full in the
eyes, but with a gaze that refused to convey anything definite. Then the
father knew that the boy's love affair had gone seriously wrong.
The waiter came with the dinner, and made an interruption in which they
could be naturally silent. When he had put the dinner before them, and
cumbered them with superfluous service, after the fashion of his kind, he
withdrew a little way, and left them to resume their talk.
"Well," said the elder lightly, as if Dan's not caring to be in Boston
had no particular significance for him, "I don't know that I care to have
you settle down to it immediately. I rather think I'd like to have you
look about first a little. Go to New York, go to Philadelphia, and see
their processes there. We can't afford to get old-fashioned in our ways.
I've always been more interested by the aesthetic side of the business,
but you ought to have a taste for the mechanism, from your grandfather;
your mother has it."
"Oh yes, sir. I think all that's very interesting," said Dan.
"Well, go to France, and see how those fellows do it. Go to London, and
look up William Morris."
"Yes, that would be very nice," admitted the young fellow, beginning to
catch on. "But I didn't suppose--I didn't expect to begin life with a
picnic." He entered upon his sentence with a jocular buoyancy, but at
the last word, which he fatally drifted upon, his voice fell. He said to
himself that he was greatly changed; that, he should never be gay and
bright again; there would always be this undercurrent of sadness; he had
noticed the undercurrent yesterday when he was laughing and joking with
those girls at Portland.
"Oh, I don't want you to buckle down at once," said his father, smiling.
"If you'd decided upon the law, I should have felt that you'd better not
lose time. But as you're going into the business, I don't mind your
taking a year off. It won't be lost time if you keep your eyes open. I
think you'd better go down into Italy and Spain. Look up the old
tapestries and stamped leathers. You may get some ideas. How would you
"First-rate. I should like it," said Dan, rising on the waft of his
father's suggestion, but gloomily lapsing again. Still, it was pleasing
to picture himself going about through Europe with a broken heart, and he
did not deny himself the consolation of the vision.
"Well, there's nobody to dislike it," said his father cheerily. He was
sure now that Dan had been jilted; otherwise he would have put forth some
objection to a scheme which must interrupt his lovemaking. "There's no
reason why, with our resources, we shouldn't take the lead in this
He went on to speak more fully of his plans, and Dan listened with a
nether reference of it all to Alice, but still with a surface
intelligence on which nothing was lost.
"Are you going home with me to-morrow?" asked his father as they rose
from the table.
"Well, perhaps not to-morrow. I've got some of my things to put together
in Cambridge yet, and perhaps I'd better look after them. But I've a
notion I'd better spend the winter at home, and get an idea of the
manufacture before I go abroad. I might sail in January; they say it's a
"Yes, there's sense in that," said his father.
"And perhaps I won't break up in Cambridge till I've been to New York and
Philadelphia. What do you think? It's easier striking them from here."
"I don't know but you're right," said his father easily.
They had come out of the dining-room, and Dan stopped to get some
cigarettes in the office. He looked mechanically at the theatre bills
over the cigar case. "I see Irving's at the 'Boston.'"
"Oh, you don't say!" said his father. "Let's go and see him."
"If you wish it, sir," said Dan, with pensive acquiescence. All the
Maverings were fond of the theatre, and made any mood the occasion or the
pretext of going to the play. If they were sad, they went; if they were
gay, they went. As long as Dan's mother could get out-of-doors she used
to have herself carried to a box in the theatre whenever she was in town;
now that she no longer left her room, she had a dominant passion for
hearing about actors and acting; it was almost a work of piety in her
husband and children to see them and report to her.
His father left him the next afternoon, and Dan, who had spent the day
with him looking into business for the first time, with a running
accompaniment of Alice in all the details, remained to uninterrupted
misery. He spent the evening in his room, too wretched even for the
theatre. It is true that he tried to find Boardman, but Boardman was
again off on some newspaper duty; and after trying at several houses in
the hope, which he knew was vain, of finding any one in town yet, he shut
himself up with his thoughts. They did not differ from the thoughts of
the night before, and the night before that, but they were calmer, and
they portended more distinctly a life of self-abnegation and solitude
from that time forth. He tested his feelings, and found that it was not
hurt vanity that he was suffering from: it was really wounded affection.
He did not resent Alice's cruelty; he wished that she might be happy; he
could endure to see her happy.
He wrote a letter to the married one of the two ladies he had spent the
day with in Portland, and thanked them for making pass pleasantly a day
which he would not otherwise have known how to get through. He let a
soft, mysterious melancholy pervade his letter; he hinted darkly at
trouble and sorrow of which he could not definitely speak. He had the
good sense to tear his letter up when he had finished it, and to send a
short, sprightly note instead, saying that if Mrs. Frobisher and her
sister came to Boston at the end of the month, as they had spoken of
doing, they must be sure to let him know. Upon the impulse given him by
this letter he went more cheerfully to bed, and fell instantly asleep.
During the next three weeks he bent himself faithfully to the schemes
of work his father had outlined for him. He visited New York and
Philadelphia, and looked into the business and the processes there; and
he returned to Ponkwasset Falls to report and compare his facts
intelligently with those which he now examined in his father's
manufactory for the first time. He began to understand how his father,
who was a man of intellectual and artistic interests, should be fond of
He spent a good deal of time with his mother, and read to her, and got
upon better terms with her than they usually were. They were very much
alike, and she objected to him that he was too light and frivolous. He
sat with his sisters, and took an interest in their pursuits. He drove
them about with his father's sorrels, and resumed something of the old
relations with them which the selfish years of his college life had
broken off. As yet he could not speak of Campobello or of what had
happened there; and his mother and sisters, whatever they thought, made
no more allusion to it than his father had done.
They mercifully took it for granted that matters must have gone wrong
there, or else he would speak about them, for there had been some gay
banter among them concerning the objects of his expedition before he left
home. They had heard of the heroine of his Class Day, and they had their
doubts of her, such as girls have of their brothers' heroines. They were
not inconsolably sorry to have her prove unkind; and their mother found
in the probable event another proof of their father's total want of
discernment where women were concerned, for the elder Mavering had come
home from Class Day about as much smitten with this mysterious Miss
Pasmer as Dan was. She talked it over indignantly with her daughters;
they were glad of Dan's escape, but they were incensed with the girl who
could let him escape, and they inculpated her in a high degree of
heartless flirtation. They knew how sweet Dan was, and they believed him
most sincere and good. He had been brilliantly popular in college, and
he was as bright as he could be. What was it she chose not to like in
him? They vexed themselves with asking how or in what way she thought
herself better. They would not have had her love Dan, but they were hot
against her for not loving him.
They did not question him, but they tried in every way to find out how
much he was hurt, and they watched him in every word and look for signs
of change to better or worse, with a growing belief that he was not very
It could not be said that in three weeks he forgot Alice, or had begun to
forget her; but he had begun to reconcile himself to his fate, as people
do in their bereavements by death. His consciousness habituated itself
to the facts as something irretrievable. He no longer framed in his mind
situations in which the past was restored. He knew that he should never
love again, but he had moments, and more and more of them, in which he
experienced that life had objects besides love. There were times when he
tingled with all the anguish of the first moment of his rejection, when
he stopped in whatever he was doing, or stood stock-still, as a man does
when arrested by a physical pang, breathless, waiting. There were other
times when he went about steeped in gloom so black that all the world
darkened with it, and some mornings when he woke he wished that the night
had lasted for ever, and felt as if the daylight had uncovered his misery
and his shame to every one. He never knew when he should have these
moods, and he thought he should have them as long as he lived. He
thought this would be something rather fine. He had still other moods,
in which he saw an old man with a grey moustache, like Colonel Newcome,
meeting a beautiful white-haired lady; the man had never married, and he
had not seen this lady for fifty years. He bent over, and kissed her
"You idiot!" said Mavering to himself. Throughout he kept a good
appetite. In fact, after that first morning in Portland, he had been
hungry three times a day with perfect regularity. He lost the idea of
being sick; he had not even a furred tongue. He fell asleep pretty
early, and he slept through the night without a break. He had to laugh a
great deal with his mother and sisters, since he could not very well mope
without expecting them to ask why, and he did not wish to say why. But
there were some laughs which he really enjoyed with the Yankee foreman of
the works, who was a droll, after a common American pattern, and said
things that were killingly funny, especially about women, of whom his
opinions were sarcastic.
Dan Mavering suffered, but not solidly. His suffering was short, and
crossed with many gleams of respite and even joy. His disappointment
made him really unhappy, but not wholly so; it was a genuine sorrow, but
a sorrow to which he began to resign himself even in the monotony of
Ponkwasset Falls, and which admitted the thought of Mrs. Frobisher's
sister by the time business called him to Boston.
Before the end of the first week after Dan came back to town, that which
was likely to happen whenever chance brought him and Alice together had
It was one of the soft days that fall in late October, when the impending
winter seems stayed, and the warm breath of the land draws seaward and
over a thousand miles of Indian summer. The bloom came and went in quick
pulses over the girl's temples as she sat with her head thrown back in
the corner of the car, and from moment to moment she stirred slightly as
if some stress of rapture made it hard for her to get her breath; a
little gleam of light fell from under her fallen eyelids into the eyes of
the young man beside her, who leaned forward slightly and slanted his
face upward to meet her glances. They said some words, now and then,
indistinguishable to the others; in speaking they smiled slightly.
Sometimes her hand wavered across her lap; in both their faces there was
something beyond happiness--a transport, a passion, the brief splendour
of a supreme moment.
They left the car at the Arlington Street corner of the Public Garden,
and followed the winding paths diagonally to the further corner on
"How stupid we were to get into that ridiculous horse-car!" she said.
"What in the world possessed us to do it?"
"I can't imagine," he answered. "What a waste of time it was! If we had
walked, we might have been twice as long coming. And now you're going to
send me off so soon!"
"I don't send you," she murmured.
"But you want me to go."
"Oh no! But you'd better."
"I can't do anything against your wish."
"I wish it--for your own good."
"Ah, do let me go home with you, Alice?"
"Don't ask it, or I must say yes."
"Part of the way, then?"
"No; not a step! You must take the first car for Cambridge. What time
is it now?"
"You can see by the clock on the Providence Depot."
"But I wish you to go by your watch, now. Look!"
"Alice!" he cried, in pure rapture.
"It's a quarter of one."
"And we've been three hours together already! Now you must simply fly.
If you came home with me I should be sure to let you come in, and if I
don't see mamma alone first, I shall die. Can't you understand?"
"No; but I can do the next best thing: I can misunderstand. You want to
be rid of me."
"Shall you be rid of me when we've parted?" she asked, with an inner
thrill of earnestness in her gay tone.
"You know I didn't mean it, Dan."
"Say it again."
"Dan, love! Dan, dearest!"
"Will that car of yours never come? I've promised myself not to leave
you till it does, and if I stay here any longer I shall go wild. I can't
believe it's happened. Say it again!"
"That I love you? That we're engaged?"
"I don't believe it. I can't." She looked impatiently up the street.
"Oh, there comes your car! Run! Stop it!"
"I don't run to stop cars." He made a sign, which the conductor obeyed,
and the car halted at the further crossing.
She seemed to have forgotten it, and made no movement to dismiss him.
"Oh, doesn't it seem too good to be standing here talking in this way,
and people think it's about the weather, or society?" She set her head a
little on one side, and twirled the open parasol on her shoulder.
"Yes, it does. Tell me it's true, love!"
"It's true. How splendid you are!" She said it with an effect for the
world outside of saying it was a lovely day.
He retorted, with the same apparent nonchalance, "How beautiful you are!
How good! How divine!"
The conductor, seeing himself apparently forgotten, gave his bell a
vicious snap, and his car jolted away.
She started nervously. "There! you've lost your car, Dan."
"Have I?" asked Mavering, without troubling himself to look after it.
She laughed now, with a faint suggestion of unwillingness in her laugh.
"What are you going to do?"
"Walk home with you."
"No, indeed; you know I can't let you."
"And are you going to leave me here alone on the street corner, to be run
over by the first bicycle that comes along?"
"You can sit down in the Garden, and wait for the next car."
"No; I would rather go back to the Art Museum, and make a fresh start."
"To the Art Museum?" she murmured, tenderly.
"Yes. Wouldn't you like to see it again?"
"Again? I should like to pass my whole life in it!"
"Well, walk back with me a little way. There's no hurry about the car."
"Dan!" she said, in a helpless compliance, and they paced very, very
slowly along the Beacon Street path in the Garden. "This is ridiculous."
"Yes, but it's delightful."
"Yes, that's what I meant. Do you suppose any one ever--ever--"
"Made love there before?"
"How can you say such things? Yes. I always supposed it would be--
It was somewhere else--once."
"Oh, I meant--the second time."
"Then you did think there was going to be a second time?"
"How do I know? I wished it. Do you like me to say that?"
"I wish you would never say anything else."
"Yes; there can't be any harm in it now. I thought that if you had ever-
-liked me, you would still--"
"So did I; but I couldn't believe that you--"
"Oh, I could."
"Don't you like my confessing it! You asked me to."
"How silly we are!"
"Not half so silly as we've been for the last two months. I think we've
just come to our senses. At least I have."
"Two months!" she sighed. "Has it really been so long as that?"
"Two years! Two centuries! It was back in the Dark Ages when you
"Dark Ages! I should think so! But don't say refused. It wasn't
"What was it, then?"
"Oh, I don't know. Don't speak of it now."
"But, Alice, why did you refuse me?"
"Oh, I don't know. You mustn't ask me now. I'll tell you some time."
"Well, come to think of it," said Mavering, laughing it all lightly away,
"there's no hurry. Tell me why you accepted me to-day."
"I--I couldn't help it. When I saw you I wanted to fall at your feet."
"What an idea! I didn't want to fall at yours. I was awfully mad. I
shouldn't have spoken to you if you hadn't stopped me and held out your
"Really? Did you really hate me, Dan?"
"Well, I haven't exactly doted on you since we last met."
She did not seem offended at this. "Yes, I suppose so. And I've gone on
being fonder and fonder of you every minute since that day. I wanted to
call you back when you had got half-way to Eastport."
"I wouldn't have come. It's bad luck to turn back."
She laughed at his drolling. "How funny you are! Now I'm of rather a
gloomy temperament. Did, you know it?"
"You don't look it."
"Oh, but I am. Just now I'm rather excited and--happy."
"Go on! go on! I like you to make fun of me."
The benches on either side were filled with nursemaids in charge of baby-
carriages, and of young children who were digging in the sand with their
little beach shovels, and playing their games back and forth across the
walk unrebuked by the indulgent policemen. A number of them had enclosed
a square in the middle of the path with four of the benches, which they
made believe was a fort. The lovers had to walk round it; and the
children, chasing one another, dashed into them headlong, or, backing off
from pursuit, bumped up against them. They did not seem to know it, but
walked slowly on without noticing: they were not aware of an occasional
benchful of rather shabby young fellows who stared hard at the stylish
girl and well-dressed young man talking together in such intense low
tones, with rapid interchange of radiant glances.
"Oh, as to making fun of you, I was going to say--" Mavering began, and
after a pause he broke off with a laugh. "I forget what I was going to
"Try to remember."
How strange that we should have both happened to go to the Museum this
morning!" she sighed. Then, "Dan," she broke in, "do you suppose that
heaven is any different from this?"
"I hope not--if I'm to go there."
"Hush, dear; you mustn't talk so."
"Why, you provoked me to it."
"Did I? Did I really? Do you think I tempted you to do it? Then I must
be wicked, whether I knew I was doing it or not. Yes."
The break in her voice made him look more keenly at her, and he saw the
tears glimmer in her eyes. "Alice!"
"No; I'm not good enough for you. I always said that."
"Then don't say it any more. That's the only thing I won't let you say."
"Do you forbid it, really? Won't you let me even think it?"
"No, not even think it."
"How lovely you are! Oh! I like to be commanded by you."
"Do you? You'll have lots of fun, then. I'm an awfully commanding
"I didn't suppose you were so humorous--always. I'm afraid you won't
like me. I've no sense of fun."
"And I'm a little too funny sometimes, I'm afraid."
"No, you never are. When?"
"That night at the Trevors'. You didn't like it."
"I thought Miss Anderson was rather ridiculous," said Alice. "I don't
like buffoonery in women."
"Nor I in men," said Mavering, smiling. "I've dropped it."
"Well, now we must part. I must go home at once," said Alice. "It's
"Oh no, not yet; not till we've said something else; not till we've
changed the subject."
Alice laughed and blushed, but she was not vexed. She liked to have him
understand her. "Well, now," she said, as if that were the next thing,
"I'm going to cross here at once and walk up the other pavement, and you
must go back through the Garden; or else I shall never get away from
"May I look over at you?"
"You may glance, but you needn't expect me to return your glance."
"And I want you to take the very first Cambridge car that comes along. I
command you to."
"I thought you wanted me to do the commanding."
"So I do--in essentials. If you command me not to cry when I get home, I
She looked at him with an ecstasy of self-sacrifice in her eyes.
"Ah, I sha'n't do that. I can't tell what would open. But--Alice!"
"Well, what?" She drifted closely to him, and looked fondly up into his
face. In walking they had insensibly drawn nearer together, and she had
been obliged constantly to put space between them. Now, standing at the
corner of Arlington Street, and looking tentatively across Beacon, she
abandoned all precautions.
"What! I forget. Oh yes! I love you!"
"But you said that before, dearest!"
"Yes; but just now it struck me as a very novel idea. What if your
mother shouldn't like the idea?"
"Nonsense! you know she perfectly idolises you. She did from the first.
And doesn't she know how I've begin behaving about you ever since I--lost
"How have you behaved? Do tell me, Alice?"
"Some time; not now," she said; and with something that was like a gasp,
and threatened to be a sob, she suddenly whipped across the road. He
walked back to Charles Street by the Garden path, keeping abreast of her,
and not losing sight of her for a moment, except when the bulk of a
string team watering at the trough beside the pavement intervened. He
hurried by, and when he had passed it he found himself exactly abreast of
her again. Her face was turned toward him; they exchanged a smile, lost
in space. At the corner of Charles Street he deliberately crossed over
"O dearest love! why did you come?" she implored.
"Because you signed to me."
"I hoped you wouldn't see it. If we're both to be so weak as this, what
are we going to do?" But I'm glad you came. Yes: I was frightened.
They must have overheard us there when we were talking."
"Well, I didn't say anything I'm ashamed of. Besides, I shouldn't care
much for the opinion of those nurses and babies."
"Of course not. But people must have seen us. Don't stand here talking,
Dan! Do come on!" She hurried him across the street, and walked him
swiftly up the incline of Beacon Street. There, in her new fall suit,
with him, glossy-hatted, faultlessly gloved, at a fit distance from her
side, she felt more in keeping with the social frame of things than in
the Garden path, which was really only a shade better than the Beacon
Street Mall of the Common. "Do you suppose anybody saw us that knew us?"
"I hope so! Don't you want people to know it?"
"Yes, of course. They will have to know it--in the right way. Can you
believe that it's only half a year since we met? It won't be a year till
"I don't believe it, Alice. I can't recollect anything before I knew
"Well, now, as time is so confused, we must try to live for eternity. We
must try to help each other to be good. Oh, when I think what a happy
girl I am, I feel that I should be the most ungrateful person under the
sun not to be good. Let's try to make our lives perfect--perfect! They
can be. And we mustn't live for each other alone. We must try to do
good as well as be good. We must be kind and forbearing with every one."
He answered, with tender seriousness, "My life's in your hands, Alice.
It shall be whatever you wish."
They were both silent in their deep belief of this. When they spoke
again, she began gaily: "I shall never get over the wonder of it. How
strange that we should meet at the Museum!" They had both said this
already, but that did not matter; they had said nearly everything two or
three times. "How did you happen to be there?" she asked, and the
question was so novel that she added, "I haven't asked you before."
He stopped, with a look of dismay that broke up in a hopeless laugh.
"Why, I went there to meet some people--some ladies. And when I saw you
I forgot all about them."
Alice laughed to; this was a part of their joy, their triumph.
"Who are they?" she asked indifferently, and only to heighten the
absurdity by realising the persons.
"You don't know them," he said. "Mrs. Frobisher and her sister, of
Portland. I promised to meet them there and go out to Cambridge with
"What will they think?" asked Alice. "It's too amusing."
"They'll think I didn't come," said Mavering, with the easy conscience of
youth and love; and again they laughed at the ridiculous position
together. "I remember now I was to be at the door, and they were to take
me up in their carriage. I wonder how long they waited? You put
everything else out of my head."
"Do you think I'll keep it out?" she asked archly.
"Oh yes; there is nothing else but you now."
The eyes that she dropped, after a glance at him, glistened with tears.
A lump came into his throat. "Do you suppose," he asked huskily, "that
we can ever misunderstand each other again?"
"Never. I see everything clearly now. We shall trust each other
implicitly, and at the least thing that isn't clear we can speak.
Promise me that you'll speak."
"I will, Alice. But after this all will be clear. We shall deal with
each other as we do with ourselves."
"Yes; that will be the way."
"And we mustn't wait for question from each other. We shall know--we
shall feel--when there's any misgiving, and then the one that's caused it
"Yes," she sighed emphatically. "How perfectly you say it? But that's
because you feel it, because you are good."
They walked on, treading the air in a transport of fondness for each
other. Suddenly he stopped.
"Miss Pasmer, I feel it my duty to warn you that you're letting me go
home with you."
"Am I? How noble of you to tell me, Dan; for I know you don't want to
tell. Well, I might as well. But I sha'n't let you come in. You won't
try, will you? Promise me you won't try."
"I shall only want to come in the first door."
"What for? Oh, for half a second."
She turned away her face.
He went on. "This engagement has been such a very public affair, so far,
that I think I'd like to see my fiancee alone for a moment."
"I don't know what in the world you can have to say more."
He went into the first door with her, and then he went with her upstairs
to the door of Mrs. Pasmer's apartment. The passages of the Cavendish
were not well lighted; the little lane or alley that led down to this
door from the stairs landing was very dim.
"So dark here!" murmured Alice, in a low voice, somewhat tremulous.
"But not too dark."
She burst into the room where her mother sat looking over some
housekeeping accounts. His kiss and his name were upon her lips; her
soul was full of him.
"Mamma!" she panted.
Her mother did not look round. She could have had no premonition of the
vital news that her daughter was bringing, and she went on comparing the
first autumn month's provision bill with that of the last spring month,
and trying to account for the difference.
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