Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 75 out of 78
New-York respectability. I don't think you'd find just such Miss Mitford
curls as hers in all Boston."
"Yes, they are like the portraits, aren't they?" said Dan; delighted.
"She's very nice, don't you think?"
"Very. But Miss Anderson is more than that. I was disposed to be
critical of her at Campobello for a while, but she wore extremely well.
All at once you found yourself admiring her uncommon common-sense.
"Yes. That's just it," cried Dan. "She is so sensible!"
"I think she's very pretty," said Mrs. Brinkley."
"Well, her nose," suggested Dan. "It seems a little capricious."
"It's a trifle bizarre, I suppose. But what beautiful eyes! And her
figure! I declare that girl's carriage is something superb."
"Yes, she has a magnificent walk."
"Walks with her carriage," mused Brinkley aloud.
His wife did not regard him. "I don't know what Miss Anderson's
principles are, but her practices are perfect. I never knew her do an
unkind or shabby thing. She seems very good and very wise. And that deep
voice of hers has such a charm. It's so restful. You feel as if you
could repose upon it for a thousand years. Well! You will get down
before we leave?"
"Yes, I will," said Dan. "I'm here after a man who's after a patent, and
as soon as I can finish up my business with him I believe I will run down
to Fortress Monroe."
"This eleven-o'clock train will get you there at six," said Brinkley.
"Better telegraph for your rooms."
"Or, let us know," said Mrs. Brinkley, "and we'll secure them for you."
"Oh, thank you," said Dan.
He went away, feeling that Mrs. Brinkley was the pleasantest woman he ever
met. He knew that she had talked Miss Anderson so fully in order to take
away the implication of her husband's joke, and he admired her tact. He
thought of this as he loitered along the street from Wormley's to the
Arlington, where he was going to find Miss Anderson, by an appointment of
the night before, and take a walk with her; and thinking of tact made him
think of Mrs. Pasmer. Mrs. Pasmer was full of tact; and how kind she had
always been to him! She had really been like a mother to him; he was sure
she had understood him; he believed she had defended him; with a futility
of which he felt the pathos, he made her defend him now to Alice. Alice
was very hard and cold, as when he saw her last; her mother's words fell
upon her as upon a stone; even Mrs. Pasmer's tears, which Dan made her
shed, had no effect upon the haughty girl. Not that he cared now.
The blizzard of the previous days had whirled away; the sunshine lay
still, with a warm glisten and sparkle, on the asphalt which seemed to
bask in it, and which it softened to the foot. He loitered by the gate of
the little park or plantation where the statue of General Jackson is
riding a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, and looked over at the French-
Italian classicism of the White House architecture with a pensive joy at
finding pleasure in it, and then he went on to the Arlington.
Miss Anderson was waiting for him in the parlour, and they went a long
walk up the avenues and across half the alphabet in the streets, and
through the pretty squares and circles, where the statues were sometimes
beautiful and always picturesque; and the sparrows made a vernal chirping
in the naked trees and on the green grass. In two or three they sat down
on the iron benches and rested.
They talked and talked--about the people they knew, and of whom they found
that they thought surprisingly alike, and about themselves, whom they
found surprisingly alike in a great many things, and then surprisingly
unlike. Dan brought forward some points of identity which he, and Alice
had found in themselves; it was just the same with Miss Anderson. She
found herself rather warm with the seal-skin sacque she had put on; she
let him carry it on his arm while they walked, and then lay it over her
shoulders when they sat down. He felt a pang of self-reproach, as if he
had been inconstant to Alice. This was an old habit of feeling, formed
during the months of their engagement, when, at her inspiration, he was
always bringing himself to book about something. He replied to her
bitterly, in the colloquy which began to hold itself in his mind, and told
her that she had no claim upon him now; that if his thoughts wandered from
her it was her fault, not his; that she herself had set them free. But in
fact he was like all young men, with a thousand, potentialities of loving.
There was no aspect of beauty that did not tenderly move him; he could not
help a soft thrill at the sight of any pretty shape, the sound of any
piquant voice; and Alice had merely been the synthesis of all that was
most charming to this fancy. This is a truth which it is the convention
of the poets and the novelists to deny; but it is also true that she might
have remained the sum of all that was loveliest if she would; or if she
It was chiefly because she would not or could not that his glance
recognised the charm of Miss Anderson's back hair, both in its straying
gossamer and in the loose mass in which it was caught up under her hat,
when he laid her sacque on her shoulders. They met that afternoon at a
Senator's, and in the house of a distinguished citizen, to whose wife Dan
had been presented at Mrs. Whittington's, and who had somehow got his
address, and sent him a card for her evening. They encountered here with
a jocose old friendliness, and a profession of being tired of always
meeting Miss Anderson and Mr. Mavering. He brought her salad and ice, and
they made an appointment for another walk in the morning, if it was fine.
He carried her some flowers. A succession of fine days followed, and they
walked every morning. Sometimes Dan was late, and explained that it was
his patent-right man had kept him. She was interested in the patent-right
man, whom Dan began to find not quite so simple as at first, but she was
not exacting with him about his want of punctuality; she was very easy-
going; she was not always ready herself. When he began to beat about the
bush, to talk insincerities, and to lose himself in intentionless
plausibilities, she waited with serene patience for him to have done, and
met him on their habitual ground of frankness and reality as if he had
not left it. He got to telling her all his steps with his patent-right
man, who seemed to be growing mote and more slippery, and who presently
developed a demand for funds. Then she gave him some very shrewd,
practical advice, and told him to go right into the hotel office and
telegraph to his father while she was putting on her bonnet.
"Yes," he said, "that's what I thought of doing." But he admired her for
advising him; he said to himself that Miss Anderson was the kind of girl
his father would admire. She was good, and she was of the world too;
that was what his father meant. He imagined himself arriving home and
saying, "Well father, you know that despatch I sent you, about Lafflin's
wanting money?" and telling him about Miss Anderson. Then he fancied her
acquainted with his sisters and visiting them, and his father more and
more fond of her, and perhaps in declining health, and eager to see his
son settled in life; and he pictured himself telling her that he had done
with love for ever, but if she could accept respect, fidelity, gratitude,
he was ready to devote his life to her. She refused him, but they always
remained good friends and comrades; she married another, perhaps Boardman,
while Dan was writing out his telegram, and he broke into whispered
maledictions on his folly, which attracted the notice of the operator.
One morning when he sent up his name to Miss Anderson, whom he did not
find in the hotel parlour, the servant came back with word that Miss Van
Hook would like to have him come up to their rooms. But it was Miss
Anderson who met him at the door.
"It seemed rather formal to send you word that Miss Van Hook was
indisposed, and Miss Anderson would be unable to walk this morning,
and I thought perhaps you'd rather come up and get my regrets in person.
And I wanted you to see our view."
She led the way to the window for it, but they did not look at it, though
they sat down there apparently for the purpose. Dan put his hat beside
his chair, and observed some inattentive civilities in inquiring after
Miss Van Hook's health, and in hearing that it was merely a bad headache,
one of a sort in which her niece hated to leave her to serve herself with
the wet compresses which Miss Van Hook always bore on her forehead for it.
"One thing: it's decided us to be off for Fortress Monroe at last. We
shall go by the boat to-morrow, if my aunt's better."
"To-morrow?" said Dan. "What's to become of me when you're gone?"
"Oh, we shall not take the whole population with us," suggested Miss
"I wish you would take me. I told Mrs. Brinkley I would come while she
was there, but I'm afraid I can't get off. Lafflin is developing into all
sorts of strange propositions."
"I think you'd better look out for that man," said Miss Anderson.
"Oh, I do nothing without consulting my father. But I shall miss you."
"Thank you," said the girl gravely.
"I don't mean in a business capacity only."
They both laughed, and Dan looked about the room, which he found was a
private hotel parlour, softened to a more domestic effect by the signs of
its prolonged occupation by two refined women. On a table stood a leather
photograph envelope with three cabinet pictures in it. Along the top lay
a spray of withered forceythia. Dan's wandering eyes rested on it. Miss
Anderson went and softly closed the door opening into the next room.
"I was afraid our talking might disturb my aunt," she said, and on her way
back to him she picked up the photograph case and brought it to the light.
"These are my father and mother. We live at Yonkers; but I'm with my aunt
a good deal of the time in town--even when I'm at home." She laughed at
her own contradictory statement, and put the case back without explaining
the third figure--a figure in uniform. Dan conjectured a military
brother, or from her indifference perhaps a militia brother, and
then forgot about him. But the partial Yonkers residence accounted for
traits of unconventionality in Miss Anderson which he had not been able to
reconcile with the notion of an exclusively New York breeding. He felt
the relief, the sympathy, the certainty of intelligence which every person
whose life has been partly spent in the country feels at finding that a
suspected cockney has also had the outlook into nature and simplicity.
On the Yonkers basis they became more intimate, more personal, and Dan
told her about Ponkwasset Falls and his mother and sisters; he told her
about his father, and she said she should like to see his father; she
thought he must be like her father.
All at once, and for no reason that he could think of afterward, except,
perhaps, the desire to see the case with her eyes, he began to tell her of
his affair with Alice, and how and why it was broken off; he told the
whole truth in regard to that, and did not spare himself.
She listened without once speaking, but without apparent surprise at the
confidence, though she may have felt surprised. At times she looked as if
her thoughts were away from what he was saying.
He ended with, "I'm sure I don't know why I've told you all this. But I
wanted you to know about me. The worst."
Miss Anderson said, looking down, "I always thought she was a very
conscientious giyl." Then after a pause, in which she seemed to be
overcoming an embarrassment in being obliged to speak of another in such a
conviction, "I think she was very moybid. She was like ever so many New
England giyls that I've met. They seem to want some excuse for suffering;
and they must suffer even if it's through somebody else. I don't know;
they're romantic, New England giyls are; they have too many ideals."
Dan felt a balm in this; he too had noticed a superfluity of ideals in
Alice, he had borne the burden of realising some of them; they all seemed
to relate in objectionable degree to his perfectionation. So he said
gloomily, "She was very good. And I was to blame."
"Oh yes!" said Miss Anderson, catching her breath in a queer way; "she
seyved you right."
She rose abruptly, as if she heard her aunt speak, and Dan perceived that
he had been making a long call.
He went away dazed and dissatisfied; he knew now that he ought not to have
told Miss Anderson about his affair, unless he meant more by his
confidence than he really did--unless he meant to follow it up.
He took leave of her, and asked her to make his adieux to her aunt; but
the next day he came down to the boat to see them off. It seemed to him
that their interview had ended too hastily; he felt sore and restless over
it; he hoped that something more conclusive might happen. But at the boat
Miss Anderson and her aunt were inseparable. Miss Van Hook said she hoped
they should soon see him at the Hygeia, and he replied that he was not
sure that he should be able to come after all.
Miss Anderson called something after him as he turned from them to go
ashore. He ran back eagerly to know what it was. "Better lookout for
that Mr. Lafflin of yours," she repeated.
"Oh! oh yes," he said, indefinitely disappointed. "I shall keep a sharp
eye on him." He was disappointed, but he could not have said what he had
hoped or expected her to say. He was humbled before himself for having
told Miss Anderson about his affair with Alice, and had wished she would
say something that he might scramble back to his self-esteem upon. He had
told her all that partly from mere weakness, from his longing for the
sympathy which he was always so ready to give, and partly from the
willingness to pose before her as a broken heart, to dazzle her by the
irony and persiflage with which he could treat such a tragical matter; but
he could not feel that he had succeeded. The sum of her comment had been
that Alice had served him right. He did not know whether she really
believed that or merely said it to punish him for some reason; but he
could never let it be the last word. He tingled as he turned to wave his
handkerchief to her on the boat, with the suspicion that she was laughing
at him; and he could not console himself with any hero of a novel who had
got himself into just such a box. There were always circumstances,
incidents, mitigations, that kept the hero still a hero, and ennobled the
box into an unjust prison cell.
On the long sunny piazza of the Hygeia Mrs. Brinkley and Miss Van Hook sat
and talked in a community of interest which they had not discovered during
the summer before at Campobello, and with an equality of hearing which the
sound of the waves washing almost at their feet established between them.
In this pleasant noise Miss Van Hook heard as well as any one, and Mrs.
Brinkley gradually realised that it was the trouble of having to lift her
voice that had kept her from cultivating a very agreeable acquaintance
before. The ladies sat in a secluded corner, wearing light wraps that
they had often found comfortable at Campobello in August, and from time to
time attested to each other their astonishment that they needed no more at
Old Point in early April.
They did this not only as a just tribute to the amiable climate, but as a
relief from the topic which had been absorbing them, and to which they
"No," said Mrs. Brinkley, with a sort of finality, "I think it is the best
thing that could possibly have happened to him. He is bearing it in a
very manly way, but I fancy he has felt it deeply, poor fellow. He's
never been in Boston since, and I don't believe he'd come here if he'd any
idea how many Boston people there were in the hotel--we swarm! It would
be very painful to him."
"Yes," said Miss Van Hook, "young people seem to feel those things."
"Of course he's going to get over it. That's what young people do too.
At his age he can't help being caught with every pretty face and every
pretty figure, even in the midst of his woe, and it's only a question of
time till he seizes some pretty hand and gets drawn out of it altogether."
"I think that would be the case with my niece, too," said Miss Van Hook,
"if she wasn't kept in it by a sense of loyalty. I don't believe she
really dares much for Lieutenant Willing any more; but he sees no society
where he's stationed, of course, and his constancy is a--a rebuke and a--
a--an incentive to her. They were engaged a long time ago just after he
left West Point--and we've always been in hopes that he would be removed
to some post where he could meet other ladies and become interested in
some one else. But he never has, and so the affair remains. It's most
undesirable they should marry, and in the meantime she won't break it off,
and it's spoiling her chances in life."
"It is too bad," sighed Mrs. Brinkley, "but of course you can do nothing.
I see that."
"No, we can do nothing. We have tried everything. I used to think it was
because she was so dull there at Yonkers with her family, and brooded upon
the one idea all the time, that she could not get over it; and at first it
did seem when she came to me that she would get over it. She is very fond
of gaiety--of young men's society, and she's had plenty of little
flirtations that didn't mean anything, and never amounted to anything.
Every now and then a letter would come from the wilds where he was
stationed, and spoil it all. She seemed to feel a sort of chivalrous
obligation because he was so far off and helpless and lonely."
"Yes, I understand," said Mrs. Brinkley. "What a pity she couldn't be
made to feel that that didn't deepen the obligation at all."
"I've tried to make her," said Miss Van Hook, "and I've been everywhere
with her. One winter we were up the Nile, and another in Nice, and last
winter we were in Rome. She met young men everywhere, and had offers upon
offers; but it was of no use. She remained just the same, and till she
met Mr. Mavering in Washington I don't believe--"
Miss Van Hook stopped, and Mrs. Brinkley said, "And yet she always seemed
to me particularly practical and level-headed--as the men say."
"So she is. But she is really very romantic about some things; and when
it comes to a matter of that kind, girls are about all alike, don't you
"Oh yes," said Mrs. Brinkley hopelessly, and both ladies looked out over
the water, where the waves came rolling in one after another to waste
themselves on the shore as futilely as if they had been lives.
In the evening Miss Anderson got two letters from the clerk, at the hour
when the ladies all flocked to his desk with the eagerness for letters
which is so engaging in them. One she pulled open and glanced at with a
sort of impassioned indifference; the other she read in one intense
moment, and then ran it into her pocket, and with her hand still on it
hurried vividly flushing to her room, and read and read it again with
constantly mounting emotion.
"WORMLEY's HOTEL, Washington, April 7, 188-.
"DEAR MISS ANDERSON,--I have been acting on your parting advice to look
out for that Mr. Lafflin of mine, and I have discovered that he is an
unmitigated scamp. Consequently there is nothing more to keep me in
Washington, and I should now like your advice about coming to Fortress
Monroe. Do you find it malarial? On the boat your aunt asked me to come,
but you said nothing about it, and I was left to suppose that you did not
think it would agree with me. Do you still think so? or what do you
think? I know you think it was uncalled for and in extremely bad taste
for me to tell you what I did the other day; and I have thought so too.
There is only one thing that could justify it--that is, I think it might
justify it--if you thought so. But I do not feel sure that you would like
to know it, or, if you knew it, would like it. I've been rather slow
coming to the conclusion myself, and perhaps it's only the beginning of
the end; and not the conclusion--if there is such a difference. But the
question now is whether I may come and tell you what I think it is--
justify myself, or make things worse than they are now. I don't know that
they can be worse, but I think I should like to try. I think your
presence would inspire me.
"Washington is a wilderness since Miss--Van Hook left. It is not a
howling wilderness simply because it has not enough left in it to howl;
but it has all the other merits of a wilderness.
"D. F. MAVERING."
After a second perusal of this note, Miss Anderson recurred to the other
letter which she had neglected for it, and read it with eyes from which
the tears slowly fell upon it. Then she sat a long time at her table with
both letters before her, and did not move, except to take her handkerchief
out of her pocket and dry her eyes, from which the tears began at once to
drip again. At last she started forward, and caught pen and paper toward
her, biting her lip and frowning as if to keep herself firm, and she said
to the central figure in the photograph case which stood at the back of
the table, "I will, I will! You are a man, anyway."
She sat down, and by a series of impulses she wrote a letter, with which
she gave herself no pause till she put it in the clerk's hands, to whom
she ran downstairs with it, kicking her skirt into wild whirls as she ran,
and catching her foot in it and stumbling.
"Will it go--go to-night?" she demanded tragically.
"Just in time," said the clerk, without looking up, and apparently not
thinking that her tone betrayed any unusual amount of emotion in a lady
posting a letter; he was used to intensity on such occasions.
The letter ran--
"DEAR MR. MAVERING,--We shall now be here so short a time that I do not
think it advisable for you to come.
"Your letter was rather enigmatical, and I do not know whether I
understood it exactly. I suppose you told me what you did for good
reasons of your own, and I did not think much about it. I believe the
question of taste did not come up in my mind.
"My aunt joins me in kindest regards.
"Yours very sincerely,
"JULIA V. H. ANDERSON."
"P.S.--I think that I ought to return your letter. I know that you would
not object to my keeping it, but it does not seem right. I wish to ask
your congratulations. I have been engaged for several years to Lieutenant
Willing, of the Army. He has been transferred from his post in Montana to
Fort Hamilton at New York, and we are to be married in June."
The next morning Mrs. Brinkley came up from breakfast in a sort of duplex
excitement, which she tried to impart to her husband; he stood with his
back toward the door, bending forward to the glass for a more accurate
view of his face, from which he had scraped half the lather in shaving.
She had two cards in her hand: "Miss Van Hook and Miss Anderson have gone.
They went this morning. I found their P. P. C.'s by my plate."
Mr. Brinkley made an inarticulate noise for comment, and assumed the
contemptuous sneer which some men find convenient for shaving the lower
"And guess who's come, of all people in the world?"
"I don't know," said Brinkley, seizing his chance to speak.
"The Pasmers!--Alice and her mother! Isn't it awful?"
Mr. Brinkley had entered upon a very difficult spot at the corner of his
left jaw. He finished it before he said, "I don't see anything awful
about it, so long as Pasmer hasn't come too."
"But Dan Mavering! He's in Washington, and he may come down here any day.
Just think how shocking that would be!"
"Isn't that rather a theory?" asked Mr. Brinkley, finding such
opportunities for conversation as he could. "I dare say Mrs. Pasmer would
be very glad to see him."
"I've no doubt she would," said Mrs. Brinkley. But it's the worst thing
that could happen--for him. And I feel like writing him not to come--
"You know how the man made a fortune in Chicago," said her husband, drying
his razor tenderly on a towel before beginning to strop it. "I advise you
to let the whole thing alone. It doesn't concern us in any way whatever."
"Then," said Mrs. Brinkley, "there ought to be a committee to take it in
hand and warn him."
"I dare say you could make one up among the ladies. But don't be the
first to move in the matter."
"I really believe," said his wife, with her mind taken off the point by
the attractiveness of a surmise which had just occurred to her, "that Mrs.
Pasmer would be capable of following him down if she knew he was in
"Yes, if she know. But she probably doesn't."
"Yes," said Mrs. Brinkley disappointedly. "I think the sudden departure
of the Van Hooks must have had something to do with Dan Mavering."
"Seems a very influential young man," said her husband. "He attracts and
repels people right and left. Did you speak to the Pasmers?"
"No; you'd better, when you go down. They've just come into the dining-
room. The girl looks like death."
"Well, I'll talk to her about Mavering. That'll cheer her up."
Mrs. Brinkley looked at him for an instant as if she really thought him
capable of it. Then she joined him in his laugh.
Mrs. Brinkley had theorised Alice Pasmer as simply and primitively
selfish, like the rest of the Pasmers in whom the family traits prevailed.
When Mavering stopped coming to her house after his engagement she justly
suspected that it was because Alice had forbidden him, and she had
rejoiced at the broken engagement as an escape for Dan; she had frankly
said so, and she had received him back into full favour at the first
moment in Washington. She liked Miss Anderson, and she had hoped, with
the interest which women feel in every such affair, that her flirtation
with him might become serious. But now this had apparently not happened.
Julia Anderson was gone with mystifying precipitation, and Alice Pasmer
had come with an unexpectedness which had the aspect of fatality.
Mrs. Brinkley felt bound, of course, since there was no open enmity
between them, to meet the Pasmers on the neutral ground of the Hygeia with
conventional amiability. She was really touched by the absent wanness of
the girls look, and by the later-coming recognition which shaped her mouth
into a pathetic snide. Alice did not look like death quite, as Mrs.
Brinkley had told her husband, with the necessity her sex has for putting
its superlatives before its positives; but she was pale and thin, and she
moved with a languid step when they all met at night after Mrs. Brinkley
had kept out of the Pasmers' way during the day.
"She has been ill all the latter part of the winter," said Mrs. Pasmer to
Mrs. Brinkley that night in the corner of the spreading hotel parlours,
where they found themselves. Mrs. Pasmer did not look well herself; she
spoke with her eyes fixed anxiously on the door Alice had just passed out
of. "She is going to bed, but I know I shall find her awake whenever I
"Perhaps," suggested Mrs. Brinkley, "this soft, heavy sea air will put her
to sleep." She tried to speak drily and indifferently, but she could not;
she was, in fact, very much interested by the situation, and she was
touched, in spite of her distaste for them both, by the evident
unhappiness of mother and daughter. She knew what it came from, and she
said to herself that they deserved it; but this did not altogether fortify
her against their pathos. "I can hardly keep awake myself," she added
"I hope it may help her," said Mrs. Pasmer; "the doctor strongly urged our
Mr. Pasmer isn't with you," said Mrs. Brinkley, feeling that it was decent
to say something about him.
"No; he was detained." Mrs. Pasmer did not explain the cause of his
detention, and the two ladies slowly waved their fans a moment in silence.
"Are there many Boston People in the house?" Mrs. Pasmer asked.
"It's full of them," cried Mrs. Brinkley.
"I had scarcely noticed," sighed Mrs. Pasmer; and Mrs. Brinkley knew that
this was not true. "Alice takes up all my thoughts," she added; and this
might be true enough. She leaned a little forward and asked, in a low,
entreating voice over her fan, "Mrs. Brinkley, have you seen Mr. Mavering
Mrs. Brinkley considered this a little too bold, a little too brazen. Had
they actually come South in pursuit of him? It was shameless, and she let
Mrs: Pasmer know something of her feeling in the shortness with which she
answered, "I saw him in Washington the other day--for a moment." She
shortened the time she had spent in Dan's company so as to cut Mrs. Pasmer
off from as much comfort as possible, and she stared at her in open
Mrs. Pasmer dropped her eyes and fingered the edge of her fan with a
submissiveness that seemed to Mrs. Brinkley the perfection of duplicity;
she wanted to shake her. "I knew," sighed Mrs. Pasmer, "that you had
always been such a friend of his."
It is the last straw which breaks the camel's back; Mrs. Brinkley felt her
moral vertebrae give way; she almost heard them crack; but if there was
really a detonation, the drowned the noise with a harsh laugh. "Oh, he
had other friends in Washington. I met him everywhere with Miss
Anderson." This statement conflicted with the theory of her single
instant with Dan, but she felt that in such a cause, in the cause of
giving pain to a woman like Mrs. Pasmer, the deflection from exact truth
was justifiable. She hurried on: "I rather expected he might run down
here, but now that they're gone, I don't suppose he'll come. You remember
Miss Anderson's aunt, Miss Van Hook?"
"Oh yes," said Mrs. Pasmer.
"She was here with her."
"Miss Van Hook was such a New York type--of a certain kind," said Mrs.
Pasmer. She rose, with a smile at once so conventional, so heroic, and so
pitiful that Mrs. Brinkley felt the remorse of a generous victor.
She went to her room, hardening her heart, and she burst in with a flood
of voluble exasperation that threatened all the neighbouring rooms with
"Well, she cried, "they have shown their hands completely. They have come
here to hound Dan Mavering down, and get him into their toils again. Why,
the woman actually said as much! But I fancy I have given her a fit of
insomnia that will enable her to share her daughter's vigils. Really such
impudence I never heard of!"
"Do you want everybody in the corridor to hear of it?" asked Brinkley,
from behind a newspaper.
"I know one thing," continued Mrs. Brinkley, dropping her voice a couple
of octaves. They will never get him here if I can help it. He won't
come, anyway, now Miss Anderson is gone; but I'll make assurance doubly
sure by writing him not to come; I'll tell him they've gone; and than we
are going too."
"You had better remember the man in Chicago," said her husband.
"Well, this is my business--or I'll make it my business!" cried Mrs.
Brinkley. She went on talking rapidly, rising with great excitement in
her voice at times, and then remembering to speak lower; and her husband
apparently read on through most of her talk, though now and then he made
some comment that seemed of almost inspired aptness.
"The way they both made up to me was disgusting. But I know the girl is
just a tool in her mother's hands. Her mother seemed actually passive in
comparison. For skilful wheedling I could fall down and worship that
woman; I really admire her. As long as the girl was with us she kept
herself in the background and put the girl at me. It was simply a
"How do you know she put her at you?" asked Brinkley.
"How? By the way she seemed not to do it! And because from what I know
of that stupid Pasmer pride it would be perfectly impossible for any one
who was a Pasmer to take her deprecatory manner toward me of herself. You
ought to have seen it! It was simply perfect."
"Perhaps," said Brinkley, with a remote dreaminess, "she was truly sorry."
"Truly stuff! No, indeed; she hates me as much as ever--more!"
"Well, then, may be she's doing it because she hates you--doing it for her
soul's good--sort of penance, sort of atonement to Mavering."
Mrs. Brinkley turned round from her dressing-table to see what her husband
meant, but the newspaper hid him. We all know that our own natures are
mixed and contradictory, but we each attribute to others a logical
consistency which we never find in any one out of the novels. Alice
Pasmer was cold and reticent, and Mrs. Brinkley, who had lived half a
century in a world full of paradoxes, could not imagine her subject to
gusts of passionate frankness; she knew the girl to be proud and distant,
and she could not conceive of an abject humility and longing for sympathy
in her heart. If Alice felt, when she saw Mrs. Brinkley, that she had a
providential opportunity to punish herself for her injustice to Dan, the
fact could not be established upon Mrs. Brinkley's theory of her. If the
ascetic impulse is the most purely selfish impulse in human nature, Mrs.
Brinkley might not have been mistaken in suspecting her of an ignoble
motive, though it might have had for the girl the last sublimity of self-
sacrifice. The woman who disliked her and pitied her knew that she had
no arts, and rather than adopt so simple a theory of her behaviour as her
husband had advanced she held all the more strenuously to her own theory
that Alice was practising her mother's arts. This was inevitable, partly
from the sense of Mrs. Pasmer's artfulness which everybody had, and partly
from the allegiance which we pay--and women especially like to pay--to the
tradition of the playwrights and the novelists, that social results of all
kinds are the work of deep, and more or less darkling, design on the part
of other women--such other women as Mrs. Pasmer.
Mrs. Brinkley continued to talk, but the god spoke no more from behind the
newspaper; and afterward Mrs. Brinkley lay a long time awake; hardening
her heart. But she was haunted to the verge of her dreams by that girl's
sick look, by her languid walk, and by the effect which she had seen her
own words take upon Mrs. Pasmer--an effect so admirably disowned, so
perfectly obvious. Before she could get to sleep she was obliged to make
a compromise with her heart, in pursuance of which, when she found Mrs.
Pasmer at breakfast alone in the morning, she went up to her, and said,
holding her hand a moment, "I hope your daughter slept well last night."
"No," said Mrs. Pasmer, slipping her hand away, "I can't say that she
did." There was probably no resentment expressed in the way she withdrew
her hand, but the other thought there was.
"I wish I could do something for her," she cried.
"Oh, thank you," said Mrs. Pasmer. "It's very good of you." And Mrs.
Brinkley fancied she smiled rather bitterly.
Mrs. Brinkley went out upon the seaward verandah of the hotel with this
bitterness of Mrs. Pasmer's smile in her thoughts; and it disposed her to
feel more keenly the quality of Miss Pasmer's smile. She found the girl
standing there at a remote point of that long stretch of planking, and
looking out over the water; she held with both hands across her breast the
soft chuddah shawl which the wind caught and fluttered away from her
waist. She was alone, said as Mrs. Brinkley's compunctions goaded her
nearer, she fancied that the saw Alice master a primary dislike in her
face, and put on a look of pathetic propitiation. She did not come
forward to meet Mrs. Brinkley, who liked better her waiting to be
approached; but she smiled gratefully when Mrs. Brinkley put out her hand,
and she took it with a very cold one.
"You must find it chilly here," said the elder woman.
"I had better be out in the air all I could, the doctor said," answered
"Well, then, come with me round the corner; there's a sort of recess
there, and you won't be blown to pierces," said Mrs. Brinkley, with
authority. They sat down together in the recess, and she added: "I used
to sit here with Miss Van Hook; she could hear better in the noise the
waves made. I hope it isn't too much for you."
"Oh no," said Alice. "Mamma said you told her they were here." Mrs.
Brinkley reassured herself from this; Miss Van Hook's name had rather
slipped out; but of course Mrs. Pasmer had not repeated what she had said
about Dan in this connection. "I wish I could have seen Julia," Alice
went on. "It would have been quite like Campobello again."
"Oh, quite," said Mrs. Brinkley, with a short breath, and not knowing
whither this tended. Alice did not leave her in doubt.
"I should like to have seen her, and begged her for the way I treated her
the last part of the time there. I feel as if I could make my whole life
a reparation," she added passionately.
Mrs. Brinkley believed that this was the mere frenzy of sentimentality,
the exaltation of a selfish asceticism; but at the break in the girl's
voice and the aversion of her face she could not help a thrill of motherly
tenderness for her. She wanted to tell her she was an unconscious humbug,
bent now as always on her own advantage, and really indifferent to others
she also wanted to comfort her, and tell her that she exaggerated, and was
not to blame. She did neither, but when Alice turned her face back she
seemed encouraged by Mrs. Brinkley's look to go on: "I didn't appreciate
her then; she was very generous and high-minded--too high-minded for me to
understand, even. But we don't seem to know how good others are till we
"Yes, that is very true," said Mrs. Brinkley. She knew that Alice was
obviously referring to the breach between herself and Miss Anderson
following the night of the Trevor theatricals, and the dislike for her
that she had shown with a frankness some of the ladies had thought brutal.
Mrs. Brinkley also believed that her words had a tacit meaning, and she
would have liked to have the hardness to say she had seen an unnamed
victim of Alice doing his best to console the other she had specified.
But she merely said drily, "Yes, perhaps that's the reason why we're
allowed to injure people."
"It must be," said Alice simply. "Did Miss Anderson ever speak of me?"
"No; I can't remember that she ever did." Mrs. Brinkley did not feel
bound to say that she and Miss Van Hook had discussed her at large, and
agreed perfectly about her.
"I should like to see her; I should like to write to her."
Mrs. Brinkley felt that she ought not to suffer this intimate tendency in
"You must find a great many other acquaintances in the hotel, Miss
"Some of the Frankland girds are here, and the two Bellinghams. I have
hardly spoken to them yet. Do you think that where you have even been in
the right, if you have been harsh, if you have been hasty, if you haven't
made allowances, you ought to offer some atonement?"
"Really, I can't say," said Mrs. Brinkley, with a smile of distaste. "I'm
afraid your question isn't quite in my line of thinking; it's more in Miss
Cotton's way. You'd better ask her some time."
"No," said Alice sadly; "she would flatter me."
"Ah! I always supposed she was very conscientious."
"She's conscientious, but she likes me too well."
"Oh!" commented Mrs. Brinkley to herself, "then you know I don't like you,
and you'll use me in one way, if you can't in another. Very well!" But
she found the girl's trust touching somehow, though the sentimentality of
her appeal seemed as tawdry as ever.
"I knew you would be just," added Alice wistfully.
"Oh, I don't know about atonements!" said Mrs. Brinkley, with an effect of
carelessness. "It seems to me that we usually make them for our own
"I have thought of that," said Alice, with a look of expectation.
"And we usually astonish other people when we offer them."
"Either they don't like it, or else they don't feel so much injured as we
"Oh, but there's no question--"
"If Miss Anderson--"
"Miss Anderson? Oh--oh yes!"
"If Miss Anderson for example," pursued Mrs. Brinkley, "felt aggrieved
with you. But really I've no right to enter into your affairs, Miss
"Oh Yes, yes!--do! I asked you to," the girl implored.
"I doubt if it will help matters for her to know that you regret anything;
and if she shouldn't happen to have thought that you were unjust to her,
it would make her uncomfortable for nothing."
"Do you think so?" asked the girl, with a disappointment that betrayed
itself in her voice and eyes.
"I never feel I myself competent to advise," said Mrs. Brinkley. "I can
criticise--anybody can--and I do, pretty freely; but advice is a more
serious matter. Each of us must act from herself--from what she thinks is
"Yes, I see. Thank you so much, Mrs. Brinkley."
"After all, we have a right to do ourselves good, even when we pretend
that it's good to others, if we don't do them any harm."
"Yes, I see." Alice looked away, and then seemed about to speak again;
but one of Mrs. Brinkley's acquaintance came up, and the girl rose with a
frightened air and went away.
"Alice's talk with you this morning did her so much good!" said Mrs.
Pasmer, later. "She has always felt so badly about Miss Anderson!"
Mrs. Brinkley saw that Mrs. Pasmer wished to confine the meaning of their
talk to Miss Anderson, and she assented, with a penetration of which she
saw that Mrs. Pasmer was gratefully aware.
She grew more tolerant of both the Pasmers as the danger of greater
intimacy from them, which seemed to threaten at first seemed to pass away.
She had not responded to their advances, but there was no reason why she
should not be civil to them; there had never been any open quarrel with
them. She often found herself in talk with them, and was amused to note
that she was the only Bostonian whom they did not keep aloof from.
It could not be said that she came to like either of them better. She
still suspected Mrs. Pasmer of design, though she developed none beyond
manoeuvring Alice out of the way of people whom she wished to avoid; and
she still found the girl, as she always thought her, as egotist, whose
best impulses toward others had a final aim in herself. She thought her
very crude in her ideas--cruder than she had seemed at Campobello, where
she had perhaps been softened by her affinition with the gentler and
kindlier nature of Dan Mavering. Mrs. Brinkley was never tired of saying
that he had made the most fortunate escape in the world, and though
Brinkley owned he was tired of hearing it, she continued to say it with a
great variety of speculation. She recognised that in most girls of
Alice's age many traits are in solution, waiting their precipitation into
character by the chemical contact which time and chances must bring, and
that it was not fair to judge her by the present ferment of hereditary
tendencies; but she rejoiced all the same that it was not Dan Mavering's
character which was to give fixity to hers. The more she saw of the girl
the more she was convinced that two such people could only make each other
unhappy; from day to day, almost from hour to hour, she resolved to write
to Mavering and tell him not to come.
She was sure that the Pasmers wished to have the affair on again, and part
of her fascination with a girl whom she neither liked nor approved was her
belief that Alice's health had broken under the strain of her regrets and
her despair. She did not get better from the change of air; she grew more
listless and languid, and more dependent upon Mrs. Brinkley's chary
sympathy. The older woman asked herself again and again what made the
girl cling to her? Was she going to ask her finally to intercede with
Dan? or was it really a despairing atonement to him, the most disagreeable
sacrifice she could offer, as Mr. Brinkley had stupidly suggested? She
believed that Alice's selfishness and morbid sentiment were equal to
Brinkley generally took the girl's part against his wife, and in a heavy
jocose way tried to cheer her up. He did little things for her; fetched
and carried chairs and cushions and rugs, and gave his attentions the air
of pleasantries. One of his offices was to get the ladies' letters for
them in the evening, and one night he came in beaming with a letter for
each of them where they sat together in the parlour. He distributed them
into their laps.
"Hello! I've made a mistake," he said, putting down his head to take back
the letter he had dropped in Miss Pasmer's lap. "I've given you my wife's
The girl glanced at it, gave a moaning kind of cry, and fell beak in her
chair, hiding her face in her hands.
Mrs. Brinkley, possessed herself of the other letter, and, though past the
age when ladies wish to kill their husbands for their stupidity, she gave
Brinkley a look of massacre which mystified even more than it murdered his
innocence. He had to learn later from his wife's more elicit fury what
the women had all known instantly.
He showed his usefulness in gathering Alice up and getting her to her
"Oh, Mrs. Brinkley," implored Mrs. Pasmer, following her to the door, "is
Mr. Mavering coming here?"
"I don't know--I can't say--I haven't read the letter yet."
"Oh, do let me know when you've read it, won't you? I don't know what we
Mrs. Brinkley read the letter in her own room. "You go down," she said to
her husband, with unabated ferocity; "and telegraph Dan Mavering at
Wormley's not to came. Say we're going away at once."
Then she sent Mrs. Pasmer a slip of paper on which she had written, "Not
It has been the experience of every one to have some alien concern come
into his life and torment him with more anxiety than any affair of his
ovn. This is, perhaps, a hint from the infinite sympathy which feels for
us all that none of us can hope to free himself from the troubles of
others, that we are each bound to each by ties which, for the most part,
we cannot perceive, but which, at the moment their stress comes, we cannot
Mrs. Brinkley lay awake and raged impotently against her complicity with
the unhappiness of that distasteful girl and her more than distasteful
mother. In her revolt against it she renounced the interest she had felt
in that silly boy, and his ridiculous love business, so really unimportant
to her whatever turn it took. She asked herself what it mattered to her
whether those children marred their lives one way or another way. There
was a lurid moment before she slept when she wished Brinkley to go down
and recall her telegram; but he refused to be a fool at so much
inconvenience to himself.
Mrs. Brinkley came to breakfast feeling so much more haggard than she
found either of the Pasmers looking, that she was able to throw off her
lingering remorse for having told Mavering not to come. She had the
advantage also of doubt as to her precise motive in having done so; she
had either done so because she had judged it best for him not to see Miss
Pasmer again, or else she had done so to relieve the girl from the pain of
an encounter which her mother evidently dreaded for her. If one motive
seemed at moments outrageously meddling and presumptuous, the other was so
nobly good and kind that it more than counterbalanced it in Mrs.
Brinkley's mind, who knew very well in spite of her doubt that she had,
acted from a mixture of both. With this conviction, it was both a comfort
and a pang to find by the register of the hotel, which she furtively
consulted, that Dan had not arrived by the morning boat, as she
groundlessly feared and hoped he might have done.
In any case, however, and at the end of all the ends, she had that girl on
her hands more than ever; and believing as she did that Dan and Alice had
only to meet in order to be reconciled, she felt that the girl whom she
had balked of her prey was her innocent victim. What right had she to
interfere? Was he not her natural prey? If he liked being a prey, who
was lawfully to forbid him? He was not perfect; he would know how to take
care of himself probably; in marriage things equalised themselves. She
looked at the girl's thin cheeks and lack-lustre eyes, and pitied and
hated her with that strange mixture of feeling which our victims aspire in
She walked out on the verandah with the Pasmers after breakfast, and
chatted a while about indifferent things; and Alice made an effort to
ignore the event of the night before with a pathos which wrung Mrs.
Brinkley's heart, and with a gay resolution which ought to have been a
great pleasure to such a veteran dissembler as her mother. She said she
had never found the air so delicious; she really believed it would begin
to do her good now; but it was a little fresh just there, and with her
eyes she invited her mother to come with her round the corner into that
sheltered recess, and invited Mrs. Brinkley not to come.
It was that effect of resentment which is lighter even than a touch, the
waft of the arrow's feather; but it could wound a guilty heart, and Mrs.
Brinkley sat down where she was, realising with a pang that the time when
she might have been everything to this unhappy girl had just passed for
ever, and henceforth she could be nothing. She remained musing sadly upon
the contradictions she had felt in the girl's character, the confusion of
good and evil, the potentialities of misery and harm, the potentialities
of bliss and good; and she felt less and less satisfied with herself. She
had really presumed to interfere with Fate; perhaps she had interfered
with Providence. She would have given anything to recall her act; and
then with a flash she realised that it was quite possible to recall it.
She could telegraph Mavering to come; and she rose, humbly and gratefully,
as if from an answered prayer, to go and do so.
She was not at all a young woman, and many things had come and gone in her
life that ought to have fortified her against surprise; but she wanted to
scream like a little frightened girl as Dan Mavering stepped out of the
parlour door toward her. The habit of not screaming, however, prevailed,
and she made a tolerably successful effort to treat him with decent
composure. She gave him a rigid hand. "Where in the world did you come
from? Did you get my telegram?"
"No. Did you get my letter?"
"Well, I took a notion to come right on after I wrote, and I started on
the same train with it. But they said it was no use trying to get into
the Hygeia, and I stopped last night at the little hotel in Hampton. I've
just walked over, and Mr. Brinkley told me you were out here somewhere.
That's the whole story, I believe." He gave his nervous laugh, but it
seemed to Mrs. Brinkley that it had not much joy in it.
"Hush!" she said involuntarily, receding to her chair and sinking back
into it again. He looked surprised. "You know the Van Hooks are gone?"
He laughed harshly. "I should think they were dead from your manner, Mrs.
Brinkley. But I didn't come to see the Van Hooks. What made you think I
He gave her a look which she found so dishonest, so really insincere, that
she resolved to abandon him to Providence as soon as she could. "Oh, I
didn't know but there had been some little understanding at Washington."
"Perhaps on their part. They were people who seemed to take a good many
things for granted, but they could hardly expect to control other people's
He looked sharply at Mrs. Brinkley, as if to question how much she knew;
but she had now measured him, and she said, "Oh! then the visit's to me?"
"Entirely," cried Dan. The old sweetness came into his laughing eyes
again, and went to Mrs. Brinkley's heart. She wished him to be happy,
somehow; she would have done anything for him; she wished she knew what to
do. Ought she to tell him the Pasmers were there? Ought she to make up
some excuse and get him away before he met them? She felt herself getting
more and more bewildered and helpless. Those women might come round that
corner any moment and then she know the first sight of Alice's face would
do or undo everything with Dan. Did she wish them reconciled? Did she
wish them for ever parted? She no longer knew what she wished; she only
knew that she had no right to wish anything. She continued to talk on
with Dan, who grew more and more at ease, and did most of the talking,
while Mrs. Brinkley's whole being narrowed itself to the question. Would
the Pasmers come back that way, or would they go round the further corner,
and get into the hotel by another door?
The suspense seemed interminable; they must have already gone that other
way. Suddenly she heard the pushing back of chairs in that recess. She
could not bear it. She jumped to her feet.
"Just wait a moment, Mr. Mavering! I'll join you again. Mr. Brinkley is
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
One morning of the following June Mrs. Brinkley sat well forward in the
beautiful church where Dan and Alice were to be married. The lovely day
became a still lovelier day within, enriched by the dyes of the stained
windows through which it streamed; the still place was dim yet bright with
it; the figures painted on the walls had a soft distinctness; a body of
light seemed to irradiate from the depths of the dome like lamp-light.
There was a subdued murmur of voices among the people in the pews: they
were in a sacred edifice without being exactly at church, and they might
talk; now and then a muffled, nervous laugh escaped. A delicate scent of
flowers from the masses in the chancel mixed with the light and the
prevailing silence. There was a soft, continuous rustle of drapery as the
ladies advanced up the thickly carpeted aisles on the arms of the young
ushers and compressed themselves into place in the pews.
Two or three people whom she did not know were put into the pew with Mrs.
Brinkley, but she kept her seat next the aisle; presently an usher brought
up a lady who sat down beside her, and then for a moment or two seemed to
sink and rise, as if on the springs of an intense excitement.
It was Miss Cotton, who, while this process of quiescing lasted, appeared
not to know Mrs. Brinkley. When she became aware of her, all was lost
again. "Mrs. Brinkley!" she cried, as well as one can cry in whisper.
"Is it possible?"
"I have my doubts," Mrs. Brinkley whispered back. "But we'll suppose the
"Oh, it's all too good to be true! How I envy you being the means of
bringing them together, Mrs. Brinkley!"
"Yes--they owe it all to you; you needn't try to deny it; he's told every
"I was sure she hadn't," said Mrs. Brinkley, remembering how Alice had
marked an increasing ignorance of any part she might have had in the
affair from the first moment of her reconciliation with Dan; she had the
effect of feeling that she had sacrificed enough to Mrs. Brinkley; and
Mrs. Brinkley had been restored to all the original strength of her
conviction that she was a solemn little unconscious egotist, and Dan was
as unselfish and good as he was unequal to her exactions.
"Oh no?" said Miss Cotton. "She couldn't!" implying that Alice would be
too delicate to speak of it.
"Do you see any of his family here?" asked Mrs. Brinkley.
"Yes; over there--up front." Miss Cotton motioned, with her eyes toward a
pew in which Mrs. Brinkley distinguished an elderly gentleman's down-
misted bald head and the back of a young lady's bonnet. "His father and
sister; the other's a bridemaid; mother bed-ridden and couldn't come."
"They might have brought her in an-arm-chair," suggested Mrs. Brinkley
ironically, "on such an occasion. But perhaps they don't take much
interest in such a patched-up affair."
"Oh yes, they do!" exclaimed Miss Cotton. "They idolise Alice."
"And Mrs. Pasmer and Mister, too?"
"I don't suppose that so much matters."
"They know how to acquiesce, I've no doubt."
"Oh yes! You've heard? The young people are going abroad first with her
family for a year, and then they come back to live with his--where the
"Poor fellow!" said Mrs. Brinkley.
"Why, Mrs. Brinkley, do you still feel that way?" asked Miss Cotton, with
a certain distress. It seems to me that if ever two young people had the
promise of happiness, they have. Just see what their love has done for
"And you still think that in these cases love can do everything?"
Miss Cotton was about to reply, when she observed that the people about
her had stopped talking. The bridegroom, with his best man, in whom his
few acquaintances there recognised Boardman with some surprise, came over
the chancel from one side.
Miss Cotton bent close to Mrs. Brinkley and whispered rapidly: "Alice
found out Mr. Mavering wished it, and insisted on his having him. It was
a great concession, but she's perfectly magnanimous. Poor fellow! how he
Alice, on her father's arm, with her bridemaids, of whom the first was
Minnie Mavering, mounted the chancel steps, where Mr. Pasmer remained
standing till he advanced to give away the bride. He behaved with great
dignity, but seemed deeply affected; the ladies in the front pews said
they could see his face twitch; but he never looked handsomer.
The five clergymen carne from the back of the chancel in their white
surplices. The ceremony proceeded to the end.
The young couple drove at once to the station, where they were to take the
train for New York, and wait there a day or two for Mrs. and Mr. Pasmer
before they all sailed.
As they drove along, Alice held Dan's wrist in the cold clutch of her
trembling little ungloved hand, on which her wedding ring shone. "O
dearest! let us be good!" she said. "I will try my best. I will try not
to be exacting and unreasonable, and I know I can. I won't even make any
conditions, if you will always be frank and open with me, and tell me
He leaned over and kissed her behind the drawn curtains. "I will, Alice!
I will indeed! I won't keep anything from you after this."
He resolved to tell her all about Julia Anderson at the right moment, when
Alice was in the mood, and as soon as he thoroughly understood what he had
really meant himself.
If he had been different she would not have asked him to be frank and
open; if she had been different, he might have been frank and open. This
was the beginning of their married life.
THE SLEEPING-CAR -- A FARCE
This etext was prepared by David Price, email email@example.com,
from the 1883 James R. Osgood and Company edition.
SCENE: One side of a sleeping-car on the Boston and Albany Road.
The curtains are drawn before most of the berths; from the hooks and
rods hang hats, bonnets, bags, bandboxes, umbrellas, and other
travelling gear; on the floor are boots of both sexes, set out for
THE PORTER to black. THE PORTER is making up the beds in the upper
and lower berths adjoining the seats on which a young mother, slender
and pretty, with a baby asleep on the seat beside her, and a stout
old lady, sit confronting each other--MRS. AGNES ROBERTS and her aunt
MRS. ROBERTS. Do you always take down your back hair, aunty?
AUNT MARY. No, never, child; at least not since I had such a fright
about it once, coming on from New York. It's all well enough to take
down your back hair if it IS yours; but if it isn't, your head's the
best place for it. Now, as I buy mine of Madame Pierrot -
MRS. ROBERTS. Don't you WISH she wouldn't advertise it as HUMAN
hair? It sounds so pokerish--like human flesh, you know.
AUNT MARY. Why, she couldn't call it INhuman hair, my dear.
MRS. ROBERTS (thoughtfully). No--just HAIR.
AUNT MARY. Then people might think it was for mattresses. But, as I
was saying, I took it off that night, and tucked it safely away, as I
supposed, in my pocket, and I slept sweetly till about midnight, when
I happened to open my eyes, and saw something long and black crawl
off my bed and slip under the berth. SUCH a shriek as I gave, my
dear! "A snake! a snake! oh, a snake!" And everybody began talking
at once, and some of the gentlemen swearing, and the porter came
running with the poker to kill it; and all the while it was that
ridiculous switch of mine, that had worked out of my pocket. And
glad enough I was to grab it up before anybody saw it, and say I must
have been dreaming.
MRS. ROBERTS. Why, aunty, how funny! How COULD you suppose a
serpent could get on board a sleeping-car, of all places in the
AUNT MARY. That was the perfect absurdity of it.
THE PORTER. Berths ready now, ladies.
MRS. ROBERTS (to THE PORTER, who walks away to the end of the car,
and sits down near the door). Oh, thank you. Aunty, do you feel
nervous the least bit?
AUNT MARY. Nervous? No. Why?
MRS. ROBERTS. Well, I don't know. I suppose I've been worked up a
little about meeting Willis, and wondering how he'll look, and all.
We can't KNOW each other, of course. It doesn't stand to reason that
if he's been out there for twelve years, ever since I was a child,
though we've corresponded regularly--at least _I_ have--that he could
recognize me; not at the first glance, you know. He'll have a full
beard; and then I've got married, and here's the baby. Oh, NO! he'll
never guess who it is in the world. Photographs really amount to
nothing in such a case. I wish we were at home, and it was all over.
I wish he had written some particulars, instead of telegraphing from
Ogden, "Be with you on the 7 A.M., Wednesday."
AUNT MARY. Californians always telegraph, my dear; they never think
of writing. It isn't expensive enough, and it doesn't make your
blood run cold enough to get a letter, and so they send you one of
those miserable yellow despatches whenever they can--those printed in
a long string, if possible, so that you'll be SURE to die before you
get to the end of it. I suppose your brother has fallen into all
those ways, and says "reckon" and "ornary" and "which the same," just
like one of Mr. Bret Harte's characters.
MRS. ROBERTS. But it isn't exactly our not knowing each other,
aunty, that's worrying me; that's something that could be got over in
time. What is simply driving me distracted is Willis and Edward
meeting there when I'm away from home. Oh, how COULD I be away! and
why COULDN'T Willis have given us fair warning? I would have hurried
from the ends of the earth to meet him. I don't believe poor Edward
ever saw a Californian; and he's so quiet and preoccupied, I'm sure
he'd never get on with Willis. And if Willis is the least loud, he
wouldn't like Edward. Not that I suppose he IS loud; but I don't
believe he knows anything about literary men. But you can see,
aunty, can't you, how very anxious I must be? Don't you see that I
ought to have been there when Willis and Edward met, so as to--to--
well, to BREAK them to each other, don't you know?
AUNT MARY. Oh, you needn't be troubled about that, Agnes. I dare
say they've got on perfectly well together. Very likely they're
sitting down to the unwholesomest hot supper this instant that the
ingenuity of man could invent.
MRS. ROBERTS. Oh, do you THINK they are, aunty? Oh, if I could ONLY
believe they were sitting down to a hot supper together now, I should
be SO happy! They'd be sure to get on if they were. There's nothing
like eating to make men friendly with each other. Don't you know, at
receptions, how they never have anything to say to each other till
the escalloped oysters and the chicken salad appear; and then how
sweet they are as soon as they've helped the ladies to ice? Oh,
thank you, THANK you, aunty, for thinking of the hot supper. It's
such a relief to my mind! You can understand, can't you, aunty dear,
how anxious I must have been to have my only brother and my only--my
husband--get on nicely together? My life would be a wreck, simply a
wreck, if they didn't. And Willis and I not having seen each other
since I was a child makes it all the worse. I do HOPE they're
sitting down to a hot supper.
AN ANGRY VOICE from the next berth but one. I wish people in
A VOICE from the berth beyond that. You're mistaken in your
premises, sir. This is a waking-car. Ladies, go on, and oblige an
[Sensation, and smothered laughter from the other berths.]
MRS. ROBERTS (after a space of terrified silence, in a loud whisper
to her AUNT.) What horrid things! But now we really must go to bed.
It WAS too bad to keep talking. I'd no idea my voice was getting so
loud. Which berth will you have, aunty? I'd better take the upper
one, because -
AUNT MARY (whispering). No, no; I must take that, so that you can be
with the baby below.
MRS. ROBERTS. Oh, how good you are, Aunt Mary! It's too bad; it is
really. I can't let you.
AUNT MARY. Well, then, you must; that's all. You know how that
child tosses and kicks about in the night. You never can tell where
his head's going to be in the morning, but you'll probably find it at
the foot of the bed. I couldn't sleep an instant, my dear, if I
thought that boy was in the upper berth; for I'd be sure of his
tumbling out over you. Here, let me lay him down. [She lays the
baby in the lower berth.] There! Now get in, Agnes--do, and leave
me to my struggle with the attraction of gravitation.
MRS. ROBERTS. Oh, POOR aunty, how will you ever manage it? I MUST
help you up.
AUNT MARY. No, my dear; don't be foolish. But you may go and call
the porter, if you like. I dare say he's used to it.
[MRS. ROBERTS goes and speak timidly to THE PORTER, who fails at
first to understand, then smiles broadly, accepts a quarter with a
duck of his head, and comes forward to AUNT MARY'S side.]
MRS. ROBERTS. Had he better give you his hand to rest your foot in,
while you spring up as if you were mounting horseback?
AUNT MARY (with disdain). SPRING! My dear, I haven't sprung for a
quarter of a century. I shall require every fibre in the man's body.
His hand, indeed! You get in first, Agnes.
MRS. ROBERTS. I will, aunty dear; but -
AUNT MARY (sternly). Agnes, do as I say. [MRS. ROBERTS crouches
down on the lower berth.] I don't choose that any member of my
family shall witness my contortions. Don't you look.
MRS. ROBERTS. No, no, aunty.
AUNT MARY. Now, porter, are you strong?
PORTER. I used to be porter at a Saratoga hotel, and carried up de
ladies' trunks dere.
AUNT MARY. Then you'll do, I think. Now, then, your knee; now your
back. There! And very handsomely done. Thanks.
MRS. ROBERTS. Are you really in, Aunt Mary?
AUNT MARY (dryly). Yes. Good-night.
MRS. ROBERTS. Good-night, aunty. [After a pause of some minutes.]
AUNT MARY. Well, what?
MRS. ROBERTS. Do you think it's perfectly safe?
[She rises in her berth, and looks up over the edge of the upper.]
AUNT MARY. I suppose so. It's a well-managed road. They've got the
air-brake, I've heard, and the Miller platform, and all those horrid
things. What makes you introduce such unpleasant subjects?
MRS. ROBERTS. Oh, I don't mean accidents. But, you know, when you
turn, it does creak so awfully. I shouldn't mind myself; but the
AUNT MARY. Why, child, do you think I'm going to break through? I
couldn't. I'm one of the LIGHTEST sleepers in the world.
MRS. ROBERTS. Yes, I know you're a light sleeper; but--but it
doesn't seem quite the same thing, somehow.
AUNT MARY. But it is; it's quite the same thing, and you can be
perfectly easy in your mind, my dear. I should be quite as loth to
break through as you would to have me. Good-night.
MRS. ROBERTS. Yes; good-night, Aunty!
AUNT MARY. Well?
MRS. ROBERTS. You ought to just see him, how he's lying. He's a
perfect log. COULDN'T you just bend over, and peep down at him a
AUNT MARY. Bend over! It would be the death of me. Good-night.
MRS. ROBERTS. Good-night. Did you put the glass into my bag or
yours? I feel so very thirsty, and I want to go and get some water.
I'm sure I don't know why I should be thirsty. Are you, Aunt Mary?
Ah! here it is. Don't disturb yourself, aunty; I've found it. It
was in my bag, just where I'd put it myself. But all this trouble
about Willis has made me so fidgety that I don't know where anything
is. And now I don't know how to manage about the baby while I go
after the water. He's sleeping soundly enough now; but if he should
happen to get into one of his rolling moods, he might tumble out on
to the floor. Never mind, aunty, I've thought of something. I'll
just barricade him with these bags and shawls. Now, old fellow, roll
as much as you like. If you should happen to hear him stir, aunty,
won't you--aunty! Oh, dear! she's asleep already; and what shall I
do? [While MRS. ROBERTS continues talking, various notes of protest,
profane and otherwise, make themselves heard from different berths.]
I know. I'll make a bold dash for the water, and be back in an
instant, baby. Now, don't you move, you little rogue. [She runs to
the water-tank at the end of the car, and then back to her berth.]
Now, baby, here's mamma again. Are you all right, mamma's own?
[A shaggy head and bearded face are thrust from the curtains of the
THE STRANGER. Look here, ma'am. I don't want to be disagreeable
about this thing, and I hope you won't take any offence; but the fact
is, I'm half dead for want of sleep, and if you'll only keep quiet
now a little while, I'll promise not to speak above my breath if ever
I find you on a sleeping-car after you've come straight through from
San Francisco, day and night, and not been able to get more than
about a quarter of your usual allowance of rest--I will indeed.
MRS. ROBERTS. I'm very sorry that I've disturbed you, and I'll try
to be more quiet. I didn't suppose I was speaking so loud; but the
cars keep up such a rattling that you never can tell how loud you ARE
speaking. Did I understand you to say that you were from California?
THE CALIFORNIAN. Yes, ma'am.
MRS. ROBERTS. San Francisco?
THE CALIFORNIAN. Yes, ma'am.
MRS. ROBERTS. Thanks. It's a terribly long journey, isn't it? I
know quite how to feel for you. I've a brother myself coming on. In
fact we expected him before this. [She scans his face as sharply as
the lamp-light will allow, and continues, after a brief hesitation.]
It's always such a silly question to ask a person, and I suppose San
Francisco is a large place, with a great many people always coming
and going, so that it would be only one chance in a thousand if you
THE CALIFORNIAN (patiently). Did what, ma'am?
MRS. ROBERTS. Oh, I was just wondering if it was possible--but of
course it isn't, and it's very flat to ask--that you'd ever happened
to meet my brother there. His name is Willis Campbell.
THE CALIFORNIAN (with more interest). Campbell? Campbell? Yes, I
know a man of that name. But I disremember his first name. Little
low fellow--pretty chunky?
MRS. ROBERTS. I don't know. Do you mean short and stout?
THE CALIFORNIAN. Yes, ma'am.
MRS. ROBERTS. I'm sure I can't tell. It's a great many years since
he went out there, and I've never seen him in all that time. I
thought if you DID happen to know him--He's a lawyer.
THE CALIFORNIAN. It's quite likely I know him; and in the morning,
MRS. ROBERTS. Oh, excuse me. I'm very sorry to have kept you so
long awake with my silly questions.
THE MAN IN THE UPPER BERTH. Don't apologize, madam. I'm not a
Californian myself, but I'm an orphan, and away from home, and I
thank you, on behalf of all our fellow-passengers, for the mental
refreshment that your conversation has afforded us. _I_ could lie
here and listen to it all night; but there are invalids in some of
these berths, and perhaps on their account it will be as well to
defer everything till the morning, as our friend suggests. Allow me
to wish you pleasant dreams, madam.
[THE CALIFORNIAN, while MRS. ROBERTS shrinks back under the curtain
of her berth in dismay, and stammers some inaudible excuse, slowly
emerges full length from his berth.]
THE CALIFORNIAN. Don't you mind me, ma'am; I've got everything but
my boots and coat on. Now, then [standing beside the berth, and
looking in upon the man in the upper tier], you, do you know that
this is a lady you're talking to?
THE UPPER BERTH. By your voice and your shaggy personal appearance I
shouldn't have taken you for a lady--no, sir. But the light is very
imperfect; you may be a bearded lady.
THE CALIFORNIAN. You never mind about my looks. The question is, Do
you want your head rapped up against the side of this car?
THE UPPER BERTH. With all the frankness of your own Pacific slope,
MRS. ROBERTS (hastily reappearing). Oh, no, no, don't hurt him.
He's not to blame. I was wrong to keep on talking. Oh, please don't
THE CALIFORNIAN (to THE UPPER BERTH). You hear? Well, now, don't
you speak another word to that lady tonight. Just go on, ma'am, and
free your mind on any little matter you like. I don't want any
sleep. How long has your brother been in California?
MRS. ROBERTS. Oh, don't let's talk about it now; I don't want to
talk about it. I thought--I thought--Good-night. Oh, dear! I
didn't suppose I was making so much trouble. I didn't mean to
disturb anybody. I -
[MRS. ROBERTS gives way to the excess of her confusion and
mortification in a little sob, and then hides her grief behind the
curtains of her berth. THE CALIFORNIAN slowly emerges again from his
couch, and stands beside it, looking in upon the man in the berth
THE CALIFORNIAN. For half a cent I WOULD rap your head up against
that wall. Making the lady cry, and getting me so mad I can't sleep!
Now see here, you just apologize. You beg that lady's pardon, or
I'll have you out of there before you know yourself. [Cries of
"Good!" "That's right!" and "Make him show himself!" hail MRS.
ROBERTS'S champion, and heads, more or less dishevelled, are thrust
from every berth. MRS. ROBERTS remains invisible and silent, and the
loud and somewhat complicated respiration of her AUNT makes itself
heard in the general hush of expectancy. A remark to the effect that
"The old lady seems to enjoy her rest" achieves a facile applause.
THE CALIFORNIAN again addresses the culprit.] Come, now, what do you
say? I'll give you just one-half a minute.
MRS. ROBERTS (from her shelter). Oh, please, PLEASE don't make him
say anything. It was very trying in me to keep him awake, and I know
he didn't mean any offence. Oh, DO let him be!
THE CALIFORNIAN. You hear that? You stay quiet the rest of the
time; and if that lady choses to keep us all awake the whole night,
don't YOU say a word, or I'll settle with you in the morning.
[Loud and continued applause, amidst which THE CALIFORNIAN turns from
the man in the berth before him, and restores order by marching along
the aisle of the car in his stocking feet. The heads vanish behind
the curtains. As the laughter subsides, he returns to his berth, and
after a stare up and down the tranquillized car, he is about to
A VOICE. Oh, don't just bow. Speak!
[A fresh burst of laughter greets this sally. THE CALIFORNIAN erects
himself again with an air of baited wrath, and then suddenly breaks
into a helpless laugh.]
THE CALIFORNIAN. Gentlemen, you're too many for ME.
[He gets into his berth, and after cries of "Good for California!"
"You're all right, William Nye!" and "You're several ahead yet!" the
occupants of the different berths gradually relapse into silence, and
at last, as the car lunges onward through the darkness, nothing is
heard but the rhythmical clank of the machinery, with now and then a
burst of audible slumber from MRS. ROBERTS'S aunt MARY.]
At Worcester, where the train has made the usual stop, THE PORTER,
with his lantern on his arm, enters the car, preceding a gentleman
somewhat anxiously smiling; his nervous speech contrasts painfully
with the business-like impassiveness of THE PORTER, who refuses, with
an air of incredulity, to enter into the confidences which the
gentleman seems reluctant to bestow.
MR. EDWARD ROBERTS. This is the Governor Marcy, isn't it?
THE PORTER. Yes, sah.
MR. ROBERTS. Came on from Albany, and not from New York?
THE PORTER. Yes, sah, it did.
MR. ROBERTS. Ah! it must be all right. I -
THE PORTER. Was your wife expecting you to come on board here?
MR. ROBERTS. Well, no, not exactly. She was expecting me to meet
her at Boston. But I--[struggling to give the situation dignity, but
failing, and throwing himself, with self-convicted silliness, upon
THE PORTER'S mercy.] The fact is, I thought I would surprise her by
joining her here.
THE PORTER (refusing to have any mercy). Oh! How did you expect to
MR. ROBERTS. Well--well--I don't know. I didn't consider. [He
looks down the aisle in despair at the close-drawn curtains of the
berths, and up at the dangling hats and bags and bonnets, and down at
the chaos of boots of both sexes on the floor.] I don't know HOW I
expected to find her.
[MR. ROBERTS'S countenance falls, and he visibly sinks so low in his
own esteem and an imaginary public opinion that THE PORTER begins to
have a little compassion.]
THE PORTER. Dey's so many ladies on board _I_ couldn't find her.
MR. ROBERTS. Oh, no, no, of course not. I didn't expect that.
THE PORTER. Don't like to go routing 'em all up, you know. I
wouldn't be allowed to.
MR. ROBERTS. I don't ask it; that would be preposterous.
THE PORTER. What sort of looking lady was she?
MR. ROBERTS. Well, I don't know, really. Not very tall, rather
slight, blue eyes. I--I don't know what you'd call her nose. And--
stop! Oh yes, she had a child with her, a little boy. Yes!
THE PORTER (thoughtfully looking down the aisle). Dey was three
ladies had children. I didn't notice whether dey was boys or girls,
or WHAT dey was. Didn't have anybody with her?
MR. ROBERTS. No, no. Only the child.
THE PORTER. Well, I don't know what you are going to do, sah. It
won't be a great while now till morning, you know. Here comes the
conductor. Maybe he'll know what to do.
[MR. ROBERTS makes some futile, inarticulate attempts to prevent The
PORTER from laying the case before THE CONDUCTOR, and then stands
guiltily smiling, overwhelmed with the hopeless absurdity of his
THE CONDUCTOR (entering the car, and stopping before THE PORTER, and
looking at MR. ROBERTS). Gentleman want a berth?
THE PORTER (grinning). Well, no, sah. He's lookin' for his wife.
THE CONDUCTOR (with suspicion). Is she aboard this car?
MR. ROBERTS (striving to propitiate THE CONDUCTOR by a dastardly
amiability). Oh, yes, yes. There's no mistake about the car--the
Governor Marcy. She telegraphed the name just before you left
Albany, so that I could find her at Boston in the morning. Ah!
THE CONDUCTOR. At Boston. [Sternly.] Then what are you trying to
find her at Worcester in the middle of the night for?
MR. ROBERTS. Why--I--that is -
THE PORTER (taking compassion on MR. ROBERTS'S inability to
continue). Says he wanted to surprise her.
MR. ROBERTS. Ha--yes, exactly. A little caprice, you know.
THE CONDUCTOR. Well, that may all be so. [MR. ROBERTS continues to
smile in agonized helplessness against THE CONDUCTOR'S injurious
tone, which becomes more and more offensively patronizing.] But _I_
can't do anything for you. Here are all these people asleep in their
berths, and I can't go round waking them up because you want to
surprise your wife.
MR. ROBERTS. No, no; of course not. I never thought -
THE CONDUCTOR. My advice to YOU is to have a berth made up, and go
to bed till we get to Boston, and surprise your wife by telling her
what you tried to do.
MR. ROBERTS (unable to resent the patronage of this suggestion).
Well, I don't know but I will.
THE CONDUCTOR (going out). The porter will make up the berth for
MR. ROBERTS (to THE PORTER, who is about to pull down the upper berth
over a vacant seat). Ah! Er--I--I don't think I'll trouble you to
make it up; it's so near morning now. Just bring me a pillow, and
I'll try to get a nap without lying down.
[He takes the vacant seat.]
THE PORTER. All right, sah.
[He goes to the end of the car and returns with a pillow.]
MR. ROBERTS. Ah--porter!
THE PORTER. Yes, sah.
MR. ROBERTS. Of course you didn't notice; but you don't think you
DID notice who was in that berth yonder?
[He indicates a certain berth.]
THE PORTER. Dat's a gen'leman in dat berth, I think, sah.
MR. ROBERTS (astutely). There's a bonnet hanging from the hook at
the top. I'm not sure, but it looks like my wife's bonnet.
THE PORTER (evidently shaken by this reasoning, but recovering his
firmness). Yes, sah. But you can't depend upon de ladies to hang
deir bonnets on de right hook. Jes' likely as not dat lady's took de
hook at de foot of her berth instead o' de head. Sometimes dey takes
MR. ROBERTS. Ah! [After a pause.] Porter!
THE PORTER. Yes, sah.
MR. ROBERTS. You wouldn't feel justified in looking?
THE PORTER. I couldn't, sah; I couldn't, indeed.
MR. ROBERTS (reaching his left hand toward THE PORTER'S, and pressing
a half dollar into his instantly responsive palm). But there's
nothing to prevent MY looking if I feel perfectly sure of the bonnet?
THE PORTER. N-no, sah.
MR. ROBERTS. All right.
[THE PORTER retires to the end of the car, and resumes the work of
polishing the passengers' boots. After an interval of quiet, MR.
ROBERTS rises, and, looking about him with what he feels to be
melodramatic stealth, approaches the suspected berth. He unloops the
curtain with a trembling hand, and peers ineffectually in; he
advances his head further and further into the darkened recess, and
then suddenly dodges back again, with THE CALIFORNIAN hanging to his
neckcloth with one hand.]
THE CALIFORNIAN (savagely). What do you want?
MR. ROBERTS (struggling and breathless). I--I--I want my wife.
THE CALIFORNIAN. Want your wife! Have _I_ got your wife?
MR. ROBERTS. No--ah--that is--ah, excuse me--I thought you WERE my
THE CALIFORNIAN (getting out of the berth, but at the same time
keeping hold of MR. ROBERTS). Thought I was your WIFE! Do I look
like your wife? You can't play that on me, old man. Porter!
MR. ROBERTS (agonized). Oh, I beseech you, my dear sir, don't--
don't! I can explain it--I can indeed. I know it has an ugly look;
but if you will allow me two words--only two words -
MRS. ROBERTS (suddenly parting the curtain of her berth, and
springing out into the aisle, with her hair wildly dishevelled).
MR. ROBERTS. Oh, Agnes, explain to this gentleman! [Imploringly.]
Don't you know me?
A VOICE. Make him show you the strawberry mark on his left arm.
MRS. ROBERTS. Edward! Edward! [THE CALIFORNIAN mechanically looses
his grip, and they fly into each other's embrace.] Where did you
A VOICE. Centre door, left hand, one back.
THE CONDUCTOR (returning with his lantern). Hallo! What's the
A VOICE. Train robbers! Throw up your hands! Tell the express-
messenger to bring his safe.
[The passengers emerge from their berths in various deshabille and
THE CONDUCTOR (to MR. ROBERTS). Have you been making all this row,
waking up my passengers?
THE CALIFORNIAN. No, sir, he hasn't. I've been making this row.
This gentleman was peaceably looking for his wife, and I
misunderstood him. You want to say anything to me?
THE CONDUCTOR (silently taking THE CALIFORNIAN'S measure with his
eye, as he stands six fret in his stockings). If I did, I'd get the
biggest brakeman I could find to do it for me. I'VE got nothing to
say except that I think you'd better all go back to bed again.
[He goes out, and the passengers disappear one by one, leaving the
ROBERTSES and THE CALIFORNIAN alone.]
THE CALIFORNIAN (to MR. ROBERTS). Stranger, I'm sorry I got you into
MR. ROBERTS. Oh, don't speak of it, my dear sir. I'm sure we owe
you all sorts of apologies, which I shall be most happy to offer you
at my house in Boston, with every needful explanation. [He takes out
his card, and gives it to THE CALIFORNIAN, who looks at it, and then
looks at MR. ROBERTS curiously.] There's my address, and I'm sure we
shall both be glad to have you call.
MRS. ROBERTS. Oh, yes indeed. [THE CALIFORNIAN parts the curtains
of his berth to re-enter it.] Good-night, sir, and I assure you WE
shall do nothing more to disturb you--shall we, Edward?
MR. ROBERTS. No. And now, dear, I think you'd better go back to
MRS. ROBERTS. I couldn't sleep, and I shall not go back. Is this
your place? I will just rest my head on your shoulder; and we must
both be perfectly quiet. You've no idea what a nuisance I have been
making of myself. The whole car was perfectly furious at me one
time, I kept talking so loud. I don't know how I came to do it, but
I suppose it was thinking about you and Willis meeting without
knowing each other made me nervous, and I couldn't be still. I woke
everybody up with my talking, and some of them were quite outrageous
in their remarks; but I didn't blame them the least bit, for I should
have been just as bad. That California gentleman was perfectly
splendid, though. I can tell you HE made them stop. We struck up
quite a friendship. I told him I had a brother coming on from
California, and he's going to try to think whether he knows Willis.
[Groans and inarticulate protests make themselves heard from
different berths.] I declare, I've got to talking again! There,
now, I SHALL stop, and they won't hear another squeak from me the
rest of the night. [She lifts her head from her husband's shoulder.]
I wonder if baby will roll out. He DOES kick so! And I just sprang
up and left him when I heard your voice, without putting anything to
keep him in. I MUST go and have a look at him, or I never can settle
down. No, no, don't you go, Edward; you'll be prying into all the
wrong berths in the car, you poor thing! You stay here, and I'll be
back in half a second. I wonder which is my berth. Ah! that's it; I
know the one now. [She makes a sudden dash at a berth, and pulling
open the curtains is confronted by the bearded visage of THE
CALIFORNIAN.] Ah! Ow! ow! Edward! Ah! I--I beg your pardon, sir;
excuse me; I didn't know it was you. I came for my baby.
THE CALIFORNIAN (solemnly). I haven't got any baby, ma'am.
MRS. ROBERTS. No--no--I thought you were my baby.
THE CALIFORNIAN. Perhaps I am, ma'am; I've lost so much sleep I
could cry, anyway. Do I LOOK like your baby?
MRS. ROBERTS. No, no, you don't. [In distress that overcomes her
mortification.] Oh, where is my baby? I left him all uncovered, and
he'll take his death of cold, even if he doesn't roll out. Oh,
Edward, Edward, help me to find baby!
MR. ROBERTS (bustling aimlessly about). Yes, yes; certainly, my
dear. But don't be alarmed; we shall find him.
THE CALIFORNIAN (getting out in his stocking feet). We shall find
him, ma'am, if we have to search every berth in this car. Don't you
take on. That baby's going to be found if he's aboard the train,
now, you bet! [He looks about and then tears open the curtains of a
berth at random.] That your baby, ma'am?
MRS. ROBERTS (flying upon the infant thus exposed). Oh, BABY, baby,
baby!! I thought I had lost you. Um! um! um!
[She clasps him in her arms, and covers his face and neck with
THE CALIFORNIAN (as he gets back into his berth, sotto voce). I wish
I HAD been her baby.
MRS. ROBERTS (returning with her husband to his seat, and bringing
the baby with her). There! Did you ever see such a sleeper, Edward?
[In her ecstasy she abandons all control of her voice, and joyfully
exclaims.] He has slept all through this excitement, without a wink.
A solemn Voice from one of the berths. I envy him.
[A laugh follows, in which all the passengers join.]
MRS. ROBERTS (in a hoarse whisper, breaking a little with laughter).
Oh, my goodness! there I went again. But how funny! I assure you,
Edward, that if their remarks had not been about me, I could have
really quite enjoyed some of them. I wish there had been somebody
here to take them down. And I hope I shall see some of the speakers
in the morning before--Edward, I've got an idea!
MR. ROBERTS (endeavoring to teach his wife by example to lower her
voice, which has risen again). What--what is it, my dear?
MRS. ROBERTS. Why, don't you see? How perfectly ridiculous it was
of me not to think of it before! though I did think of it once, and
hadn't the courage to insist upon it. But of course it is; and it
accounts for his being so polite and kind to me through all, and it's
the only thing that can. Yes, yes, it must be.
MR. ROBERTS (mystified). What?
MRS. ROBERTS. Willis.
MR. ROBERTS. Who?
MRS. ROBERTS. This Californian.
MR. ROBERTS. Oh!
MRS. ROBERTS. No STRANGER could have been so patient and--and--
attentive; and I know that he recognized me from the first, and he's
just kept it up for a joke, so as to surprise us and have a good
laugh at us when we get to Boston. Of COURSE it's Willis.
MR. ROBERTS (doubtfully). Do you think so, my dear?
MRS. ROBERTS. I KNOW it. Didn't you notice how he looked at your
card? And I want you to go at once and speak to him, and turn the
tables on him.
MR. ROBERTS. I--I'd rather NOT, my dear.
MRS. ROBERTS. Why, Edward, what can you mean?
MR. ROBERTS. He's very violent. Suppose it SHOULDN'T be Willis?
MRS. ROBERTS. Nonsense! It IS Willis. Come, let's both go and just
tax him with it. He can't deny it, after all he's done for me. [She
pulls her reluctant husband toward THE CALIFORNIAN'S berth, and they
each draw a curtain.] Willis!
THE CALIFORNIAN (with plaintive endurance). Well, ma'am?
MRS. ROBERTS (triumphantly). There! I knew it was you all along.
How could you play such a joke on me?
THE CALIFORNIAN. I didn't know there'd been any joke; but I suppose
there must have been, if you say so. Who am I now, ma'am--your
husband, or your baby, or your husband's wife, or -
MRS. ROBERTS. How funny you are! You KNOW you're Willis Campbell,
my only brother. Now DON'T try to keep it up any longer, Willis.
[Voices from various berths. "Give us a rest, Willis!" "Joke's too
thin, Willis!" "You're played out, Willis!" "Own up, old fellow--
THE CALIFORNIAN (issuing from his berth, and walking up and down the
aisle, as before, till quiet is restored). I haven't got any sister,
and my name ain't Willis, and it ain't Campbell. I'm very sorry,
because I'd like to oblige you any way I could.
MRS. ROBERTS (in deep mortification). It's I who ought to apologize,
and I do most humbly. I don't know what to say; but when I got to
thinking about it, and how kind you had been to me, and how sweet you
had been under all my--interruptions, I felt perfectly sure that you
couldn't be a mere stranger, and then the idea struck me that you
must be my brother in disguise; and I was so certain of it that I
couldn't help just letting you know that we'd found you out, and -
MR. ROBERTS (offering a belated and feeble moral support). Yes.
MRS. ROBERTS (promptly turning upon him). And YOU ought to have kept
me from making such a simpleton of myself, Edward.
THE CALIFORNIAN (soothingly). Well, ma'am, that ain't always so
easy. A man may mean well, and yet not be able to carry out his
intentions. But it's all right. And I reckon we'd better try to
quiet down again, and get what rest we can.
MRS. ROBERTS. Why, yes, certainly; and I will try--oh, I will TRY
not to disturb you again. And if there's anything we can do in
reparation after we reach Boston, we shall be so glad to do it!
[They bow themselves away, and return to their seat, while THE
CALIFORNIAN re-enters his berth.]
The train stops at Framingham, and THE PORTER comes in with a
passenger whom he shows to the seat opposite MR. and MRS. ROBERTS.
THE PORTER. You can sit here, sah. We'll be in in about an hour
now. Hang up your bag for you, sah?
THE PASSENGER. No, leave it on the seat here.
[THE PORTER goes out, and the ROBERTSES maintain a dejected silence.
The bottom of the bag, thrown carelessly on the seat, is toward the
ROBERTSES, who regard it listlessly.]
MRS. ROBERTS (suddenly clutching her husband's arm, and hissing in
his ear). See! [She points to the white lettering on the bag, where
the name "Willis Campbell, San Francisco," is distinctly legible.]
But it can't be; it must be some other Campbell. I can't risk it.
MR. ROBERTS. But there's the name. It would be very strange if
there were two people from San Francisco of exactly the same name.
_I_ will speak.
MRS. ROBERTS (as wildly as one can in whisper). No, no, I can't let
you. We've made ourselves the laughing-stock of the whole car
already with our mistakes, and I can't go on. I would rather perish
than ask him. You don't suppose it COULD be? No, it couldn't.
There may be twenty Willis Campbells in San Francisco, and there
probably are. Do you think he looks like me! He has a straight
nose; but you can't tell anything about the lower part of his face,
the beard covers it so; and I can't make out the color of his eyes by
this light. But of course it's all nonsense. Still if it SHOULD be!
It would be very stupid of us to ride all the way from Framingham to
Boston with that name staring one in the eyes. I wish he would turn
it away. If it really turned out to BE Willis, he would think we
were awfully stiff and cold. But I can't help it; I CAN'T go
attacking every stranger I see, and accusing him of being my brother.
No, no, I can't, and I WON'T, and that's all about it. [She leans
forward and addresses the stranger with sudden sweetness.] Excuse
me, sir, but I AM very much interested by the name on your bag. Not
that I think you are even acquainted with him, and there are probably
a great many of them there; but your coming from the same city and
all DOES seem a little queer, and I hope you won't think me intrusive
in speaking to you, because if you SHOULD happen, by the thousandth
of a chance, to be the right one, I should be SO happy!
CAMPBELL. The right what, madam?
MRS. ROBERTS. The right Willis Campbell.
CAMPBELL. I hope I'm not the wrong one; though after a week's pull
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