The Booming of Acre Hill
John Kendrick Bangs
Part 3 out of 3
we'd be breathing if I allowed a cigar like that to be lit within fifty
feet of the front door."
"But you can get a good cigar for ten cents, can't you?" Mrs. Jarley
asked. "Yes--very good," assented Jarley; "but Billie would probably
smoke thirty-two of those, and carry three or four away with him in his
pockets. I'd lose even more that way. It's a singular thing about
friends. They have some conscience about Invincible cigars, but they'll
take others by the handful."
Jarley was also somewhat blue upon this occasion because none of his
inventions--the little things he thought out in his leisure moments, and
out of some of which he had hoped to gain a deal of profit--had been
successful. The public had refused to place any confidence whatsoever in
his patent reversible spats, which, when turned inside out, could be
made useful as galoches; and the beaux of New York actually rejected
with scorn the celluloid chrysanthemum, which he had hoped would become
a popular boutonniere because of its durability and cheapness. An
impecunious young man with care could make one fifteen-cent
chrysanthemum of the Jarley order last through a whole season, and it
could be colored to suit the wearer's taste with the ordinary
paint-boxes that children so delight in; but in spite of this the
celluloid chrysanthemum was a distinct failure, and Jarley had had his
trouble for his pains, to say nothing of the cost of the model. But
worst of all the failures, because of the prospective losses its failure
entailed, was the Jarley safety lightning razor. Its failure was not due
to any lack of merit, for it certainly possessed much that was ingenious
and commendable. The affair was not different in principle from a
lawn-mower. Six little sharp blades set on a cylinder would revolve
rapidly as the pretty machine was pushed up and down the cheek of the
person shaving, and leave the face of that person as smooth as a piece
of velvet; but in announcing it to the world its inventor had made the
unfortunate statement that a child could use it with impunity, and some
would-be smart person on a comic paper took it up and wrote an
undeniably clever article on the futility of inventing a razor for
children. The consequence was that the safety razor was laughed out of
existence, and the additions to his residence which Jarley was going to
pay for out of the proceeds had to be abandoned.
"I don't like a blue funk," he said, "and generally I can find
something to be thankful for at this season; but I'm blest if this year,
beyond the fact that we're all alive, I can see any cause for
celebrating my thankfulness. I haven't enough of it to last ten minutes,
much less a day, what with the positive failure of my inventions, the
loss of income from what I once considered safe investments that have
gone to the wall, and the reduction of my professional earnings, not to
mention the fact that almost at the beginning of my professional year I
am as tired physically and mentally as I ought to be at the finish."
"Oh, well, say you are thankful, anyhow," suggested Mrs. Jarley. "You
will convince others that you are, and maybe, if you say it often
enough, you will convince yourself of the fact."
"Thanks," said Jarley. "It's possibly a good suggestion, but I don't
believe in pretending to be what I'm not. It might convince me that I am
thankful for something, but I don't want to be convinced when I know I'm
Which shows, I think, how very blue Jarley was.
"There's one thing," he added, with a sigh of relief at the
thought--"I'll have a day of rest to-morrow anyhow. I've bought Jack a
football, and he can take it out on the tennis-court and play with it
all day, with intervals for meals."
"Why did you do that?" asked Mrs. Jarley, with a gesture not so much of
indignation as of disapproval. "I think football is such a brutal game;
and if Jack has a football at his present age, when he's in college
he'll want to play. I don't want to have my boy wearing his hair like a
Comanche Indian, and coming home with broken ribs and dislocated limbs."
"We'll let the broken ribs of 1904 and the wig of the same period
suffice for the evils of that year," retorted Jarley. "It's the present
I'm looking after, not the future ten or twelve years removed. If Jack
hasn't that football to-morrow he'll have me, and I've no desire in the
present condition of my physical well-being to be used by him as a
plaything. Deprived of the leathern ball, he might use me as a football
instead, and I must rest. That's all there is about it. Besides, if he
becomes an aspirant for football honors now it will be a good thing for
him. He'll take care of himself and try to improve his physique if he
once gets the notion in his head that he wants to go on a university
eleven. I want my boy to learn to be a man, and the football ambition is
likely to be a very useful aid in that direction. He knits reins very
well with a spool and a pin now, and I think it's time he graduated in
that art, unless the woman of the future, of whom we hear so much, is to
take man's place to such an extent that the man will have to take up
woman's work. If I thought the masculine tendency of our present-day
girls was likely to go much further, I might consent to the effemination
of Jack simply to secure his comfort as a married man of the future; but
I don't think that, and in consequence Jack is going to be brought up as
a boy, and not as a girl. The football goes."
This remark was another indication of Jarley's depression. He rarely
combated Mrs. Jarley's ideas, and when he did, and with a certain air of
irritation, it was invariably a sign of his low mental state.
"When you say that the football goes, do you mean that it stays?"
queried Mrs. Jarley, who was a little tired herself, and could not,
therefore, resist the temptation to indulge in a bit of innocent
"I do," said Jarley, shortly. "Goes is sometimes a synonym for stays?
When I feel stronger I may invent a new language, which will have fewer
absurdities than English as she is spoke."
And with this Jarley went to bed, and slept the sleep of the just man
who is truly weary.
If he had foreseen the result of his football investment it is doubtful
if his sleep would have been so tranquil--unless, perchance, he were
fashioned after that rare pattern of mankind, Louis XVI. of France, who
called for his six or seven course dinner with a mob of howling,
bloodthirsty Parisians in his antechamber, and who on the eve of his
execution slept well, despite his knowledge that within fifteen hours
his head would in all probability be lopped off by the guillotine to
gratify the lust for blood which was the chief characteristic of the
promoters of the first French Republic.
At six on the morning of Thanksgiving Day Jarley was sleeping
peacefully, but the youthful Jack was not. Thanksgiving Day was not a
holiday in his eyes, but a day set apart for work, thanks to his
father's indulgence in providing him with a football. He had gone to bed
the night before with the ball hugged tightly to his breast; and along
about ten o'clock, when Jarley himself had gone into the nursery to put
that treasured good-night kiss upon the forehead of his sleeping boy,
tired as he was and blue as he was, he had difficulty in repressing the
laughter that manifested itself within him, for Jack lay prone, face
upward, with the football under the small of his back, and seemingly as
comfortable as though he were resting upon eider-down.
"That is certainly a characteristic football attitude," Jarley said,
when Mrs. Jarley had come to see what had caused her husband's chuckle.
"Yes--and so good for the spine!" returned Mrs. Jarley.
The attitude was changed, but the ball was left where Jack would see it
the first thing on awaking in the morning. At six, as I have said,
Jarley was sleeping peacefully, but Jack was not. He had opened his
eyes some minutes before, and on catching sight of his treasured
football he began to grin. The grin grew wider and wider, until
apparently it got too wide for the bed, and the boy leaped out of his
couch upon the floor. The first thing he did was to pat the ball gently
but firmly, very much as a kitten manifests its interest in a ball of
yarn. Then his attentions to his new plaything grew more pronounced and
vigorous, and within fifteen minutes it had been chased out of the
nursery into the parental bedchamber. Still Jarley slept. Mrs. Jarley
was merely half asleep. She tried to tell Jack to be quiet; but she was
not quite wide awake enough to do so as forcibly as was necessary, and
the result was that instead of abating his ardor, Jack plunged into his
sport more vigorously than ever.
And then Jarley was awakened--and what an awakening it was! Not one of
those peaceful comings-to that betoken the tranquil mind after a good
rest, but a return to consciousness with every warlike tendency in his
being aroused to the highest pitch. Jack had passed the ball with
considerable momentum on to the mantel-piece, which sent it backward on
the rebound to no less a feature than the nose of the slumbering Jarley.
"What the deuce was that?" cried Jarley, sitting up straight in bed. He
had forgotten all about the football, and to his suddenly restored
consciousness it seemed as if the ceiling must have fallen. Then he
rubbed his nose, which still ached from the force of the impact between
itself and the ball.
"It was the ball did it, papa," said Jack, meekly. "'Twasn't me."
In an instant Jarley was on the floor; and Jack, scenting trouble,
incontinently fled. The parent was angry from the top of his head to the
soles of his feet, but as the soles of his feet touched the floor his
anger abated. After all, Jack hadn't meant to hurt him, and having
witnessed several games of football, he knew how innately perverse an
oval-shaped affair like the ball itself could be. Furthermore, there was
Mrs. Jarley, who had disapproved of his purchase from the outset. If he
wreaked vengeance upon poor little Jack for his unwitting offence,
Jarley knew that he would in a measure weaken his position in the
argument of the night before. So, instead of chastising Jack, as he
really felt inclined to do, he picked up the ball, and repairing to the
nursery, summoned the boy to him in his sweetest tones.
"Never mind, old chap," he said, as Jack appeared before him. "I know
you didn't mean it; but you must play in here until it is time for you
to go out. Papa is very sleepy, and you disturb him."
"All right," said Jack. "I'll play in here. I forgot."
Then Jarley patted Jack on the head, rubbed his nose again dubiously,
for it still smarted from the effects of the blow it had sustained, and
retired to his bed once more. If he fondly hoped to sleep again, he soon
found that his hope was based upon a most shifting foundation, for the
whoops and cries and noises of all sorts, vocal and otherwise, that
emanated from the next room destroyed all possibility of his doing
anything of the sort. At first the very evident enjoyment of his son and
heir, as Jarley listened to his goings-on in the nursery, amused him
more or less; but his quiet smile soon turned to one of blank dismay
when he heard a thunderous roar from Jack, followed by a crash of glass.
Again springing from his bed, Jarley rushed into the nursery.
"Well, what's happened now?" he asked.
Jack's under lip curved in the manner which betokens tears ready to be
"Nun-nothing," he sobbed. "I was just k-kicking a goal, and that picture
got in the way."
Jarley looked for the picture that had got in the way, and at once
perceived that it would never get in the way again, since it was
irretrievably ruined. However, he was not overcome by wrath over this
incident, because the picture was not of any particular value. It was
only a highly colored print of three cats in a basket, which had come
with a Sunday newspaper, and had been cheaply framed and hung up in the
nursery because Jack had so willed. On principle Jarley had to show a
certain amount of displeasure over the accident, and he did as well as
he could under the circumstances, and retired.
For a while Jack played quietly enough, and Jarley was just about
dozing off into that delicious forty winks prior to getting up when
shrieks from the second Jarley boy came from the nursery. This time Mrs.
Jarley, with one or two expressions of natural impatience, deemed it her
duty to interfere. Jarley, she reasoned, had a perfect right to spoil
Jack if he pleased, but he had no right to permit Jack to do bodily
injury to Tommy; and as Tommy was making the house echo and re-echo with
his wails, she deemed it her duty to take a hand. Jarley meanwhile
pretended to sleep. He was as wide awake as he ever was; but the
atmosphere was not full of warmth, and upon this occasion, as well as
upon many others, his conscience permitted him to overlook the
shortcomings of his elder son, and to assume a somnolence which, while
it was not real, certainly did conduce to the maintenance of his
personal comfort. Mrs. Jarley, therefore, rose up in her wrath. It was
merely a motherly wrath, however, and those of us who have had mothers
will at once realize what that wrath amounted to. She repaired
immediately to the nursery, and without knowing anything of the
technical terms of the noble game of football, instinctively realized
that Jack and Tommy were having a "scrimmage." That is to say, she was
confronted with a structure made up as follows: basement, the ball;
first story, Tommy, with his small and tender stomach placed directly
over the ball; second story and roof, Jack, lying stomach upward and
wiggling, his back accurately registered on Tommy's back, to the
detriment and pain of Tommy.
"Get _up_, Jack!" Mrs. Jarley cried. "What on earth are you trying to do
to Tommy? Do you want to kill him?"
"Nome," Jack replied, innocently. "He wanted to play football, and I'm
letting him. He's Harvard and I'm Yale."
A smothered laugh from the adjoining room showed that Jarley was not so
soundly sleeping that he could not hear what was going on. Tommy
meanwhile continued to wail.
"Well, get up,--right away!" cried Mrs. Jarley. "I sha'n't have you
abusing Tommy this way."
"Ain't abusin' him," retorted Jack, rising. "I was 'commodatin' him. He
wanted to play. When I don't let him play I get scolded, and when I do
let him I'm scolded. 'Pears to me you don't want me to do anything."
Thus Thanksgiving Day began, not altogether well, but equanimity was
soon restored all around, and everything might have run smoothly from
that time on had not a cold drizzling rain set in about breakfast-time.
It was clearly to be an in-door day. And what a day it was!
At ten o'clock the football came into play again.
At eleven the score stood: one clock knocked off the mantel-piece in the
library; three chandelier globes broken to bits; one plaster Barye bear
destroyed by a low kick from the parlor floor; Tommy with his nose very
nearly out of joint, thanks to a flying wedge represented by Jack; Mrs.
Jarley's amiability in peril, and Jarley's irritability well developed.
At twelve the ball was confiscated, but restored at twelve-five for the
sake of peace and quiet.
At one, dinner was served and eaten in moody silence, Jack having
inadvertently punted the ball through the pantry, grazing the chignon
of the waitress, and landing in the mayonnaise. It was not a happy
dinner, and Jarley began to wish either that he had never been born or
that all footballs were in Ballyhack, wherever that might be.
"If it would only clear off!" he moaned. "That boy needs a playground as
big as the State of Texas anyhow, and here we are cooped up in the
house, with a football added."
"We'll have to take it away from him," said Mrs. Jarley, "or else you'll
have to take Jack up into the attic and play with him. I can't have
everything in the house smashed."
"We'll compromise on Jack's going to the attic. I have no desire to play
football," returned Jarley; and this was the plan agreed upon. It would
have been a good plan if Jarley had expended some of his inventive
genius upon some such game as football solitaire, and instructed Jack
therein beforehand; but this he had not done, and the result was that at
three o'clock Jarley found himself in the attic involved in a furious
game, in which he represented variously Harvard, the goal, the
goal-posts, the referee, and acting with too great frequency as
understudy for the ball. What he was not, Jack was, and the worst part
of it was that there was no tiring Jack. The longer he played, the
better he liked it. The oftener Jarley's shins received kicks intended
for the football, the louder he laughed. When Jarley, serving as a
goal-post, stood at one end of the attic, Jarley junior, standing
several yards away, often appeared to mistake him for two goal-posts,
and to make an honest effort to kick the ball through him. Slowly the
hours passed, until finally six o'clock struck, and Master Jack's supper
The day was over at last. Wearily Jarley dragged himself down the stairs
and reckoned up the day's losses. In glass and bric-a-brac destroyed he
was some twenty or thirty dollars out. In mayonnaise dressing lost at
dinner through the untoward act of the football he was out one
pleasurable sensation to his palate, and Jarley was one of those, to
whom, that is a loss of an irreparable nature. In bodily estate he was
practically a bankrupt. Had he bicycled all morning and played golf all
the afternoon he could not have been half so weary. Had he been thrown
from a horse flat upon an asphalt pavement he could not have been half
so bruised; all of which Mrs. Jarley considerately noted, and with an
effort recovered her amiability for her husband's sake, so that after
eight o'clock, at which hour Jack retired to bed, a little rest was
obtainable, and Jarley's equanimity was slowly restored.
"Well," said Mrs. Jarley, as they went up-stairs at eleven, "it hasn't
been a very peaceful day, has it, dear?"
"Oh, that all depends on how you spell peace. If you spell it p-i-e-c-e,
it's been full of pieces," returned Jarley, with a smile; "but I say, my
dear, I want to modify my statement last night that I had nothing to be
thankful for. I have discovered one great blessing."
"What's that--a football?" queried Mrs. Jarley.
"Not by ten thousand long shots!" cried Jarley. "No, indeed. It's this:
I'm more thankful than I can express that Jack is not twins. If he had
been, you'd have been a widow this evening."
HARRY AND MAUDE AND I--ALSO JAMES
We both loved Maude deeply, and Maude loved us. We know that, because
Maude told us so. She told Harry so one Sunday evening on the way home
from church, and she told me so the following Saturday afternoon on the
way to the matinee.
This was the cause of the dispute Harry and I had in the club corner
that Saturday night. Harry and I are confidants, and neither of us has
secrets that the other does not share, and so, of course, Maude's
feeling towards each of us was fully revealed.
We did not quarrel over it, for Harry and I never quarrel. I want to
quarrel, but it is a peculiar thing about me that I always want to
quarrel with men named Harry, but never can quite do it. Harry is a name
which, _per se_, arouses iny ire, but which carries with it also the
soothing qualities which dispel irritation.
This is a point for the philosopher, I think. Why is it that we cannot
quarrel with some men bearing certain names, while with far better men
bearing other names we are always at swords' points? Who ever quarrelled
with a man who had so endeared himself to the world, for instance, that
the world spoke of him as Jack, or Bob, or Willie? And who has not
quarrelled with Georges and Ebenezers and Horaces _ad lib_., and been
glad to have had the chance?
But this is a thing apart. This time we have set out to tell that other
story which is always mentioned but never told.
Maude loved us. That was the point upon which Harry and I agreed. We had
her authority for it; but where we differed was, which of the two did
she love the better?
Harry, of course, took his own side in the matter. He is a man of
prejudice, and argues from sentiment rather than from conviction.
He said that on her way home from church a girl's thoughts are of
necessity solemn, and her utterances are therefore, the solemn truth. He
added that, in a matter of such importance as love, the conclusion
reached after an hour or two of spiritual reflection and instruction,
such as church in the evening inspires, is the true conclusion.
On the other hand, I maintained that human nature has something to do
with women. Very little, of course, but still enough to make my point a
good one. It is human nature for a girl to prefer matinees to Sunday
evening services. This is sad, no doubt, but so are some other great
truths. Maude, as a true type of girlhood, would naturally think more of
the man who was taking her to a matinee than of the fellow who was
escorting her home from church, therefore she loved me better than she
did Harry, and he ought to have the sense to see it and withdraw.
Unfortunately, Harry is near-sighted in respect to arguments evolved by
the mind of another, though in the perception of refinements in his own
reasoning he has the eye of the eagle. "Love on the way to a matinee,"
he said, "is one part affection and nine parts enthusiasm."
"And love on the return from church is in all ten parts temporary
aberration," I returned. "It is what you might call Seventh Day
affection. Quiet, and no doubt sincere, but it is dissipated by the
rising of the Monday sun. It is like our good resolutions on New Year's
Day, which barely last over a fortnight. Some little word spoken by the
rector may have aroused in her breast a spark of love for you, but one
spark does not make a conflagration. Properly fanned it may develop into
one, but in itself it is nothing more than a spark. Who can say that it
was not pity that led Maude to speak so to you? Your necktie may have
been disarranged without your knowing it, and at a time when she could
not tell you of it. That sort of thing inspires pity, and you know as
well as I do that pity and love are cousins, but cousins who never
marry. You are favored, but not to the extent that I am."
"You argue well," returned Harry, "but you ignore the moon. In the
solemn presence of the great orb of night no woman would swear
falsely." "You prick your argument with your point," I answered. "There
were no extraneous arguments brought to bear on Maude when she confessed
to me that she loved me. It was done in the cold light of day. There was
no moon around to egg her on when she confessed her affection for me. I
know the moon pretty well myself, and I know just what effect it has on
truth. I have told falsehoods in the moonlight that I knew were
falsehoods, and yet while Luna was looking on, no creature in the
universe could have convinced me of their untruthfulness. The moon's
rays have kissed the Blarney--stone, Harry. A moonlight truth is a
"Doesn't the genial warmth of the sun ever lead one from the path of
truth?" queried Harry, satirical of manner.
"Yes," I answered. "But not in a horse-car with people treading on your
"What has that to do with it?" Harry asked.
"It was on a Broadway car that Maude confessed," I answered.
Harry looked blue. His eyes said: "Gad! How she must love you!" But his
lips said: "Ho! Nonsense!"
"It is the truth," said I, seeing that Harry was weakening. "As we were
waiting for the car to come along I said to her: 'Maude, I am not the
man I ought to be, but I have one redeeming quality: I love you to
"She was about to reply when the car came. We were requested to step
lively. We did so, and the car started. Then as we stood in the crowded
aisle of the car we spoke in enigmas.
"'Did you hear what I said, Maude?' I asked.
"'Yes,' said she, gazing softly out of the window, and a slight touch of
red coming into her cheeks. 'Yes, I heard.'
"'And what is your reply?' I whispered.
"'So do I,' she answered, with a sigh."
Harry laughed, and so irritatingly that had his name been Thomas I
should have struck him.
"What is the joke?" I asked.
"You won't think it's funny," Harry answered.
"Then it must be a poor joke," I retorted, a little nettled. "Well,
it's on you," he said. "You have simply shown me that Maude never told
you she loved you. That's the joke."
I was speechless with wrath, but my eyes spoke. "How have I shown that?"
they asked in my behalf.
"You say that you told Maude that _you_ loved _her_ to distraction. To
which declaration she replied, 'So do I.' Where there is in that any
avowal that _she_ loves _you_ I fail to see. She simply stated that she
too loved herself to distraction, and I breathe again."
"Hair-splitting!" said I, wrathfully.
"No--side-splitting!" returned Harry, with a roar of laughter. "Now my
declaration was very different from yours. It was made when Maude and I
were walking home from church. It was about nine o'clock, and the
streets were bathed in mellow moonlight I declared myself because I
could not help myself. I had no intention of doing so when I started out
earlier in the evening, but the uplifting effect of the service of song
at church, combined with the most romantic kind of a moon, forced me
into it. I told her I was a struggler; that I was not yet able to
support a wife; and that while I did not wish to ask any pledge from
her, I could not resist telling her that I loved her with all my heart
_I_ began to feel blue. "And what did she say?" I asked, a little
"She said she returned my affection."
I braced up. "Ha, ha, ha!" I laughed. "This time the joke is on you."
"I fail to see it," he said.
"Of course," I retorted. "It is not one of your jokes. But say, Harry,
when you send a poem to a magazine and the editor doesn't want it, what
does he do with it?"
"Returns it. Ah!"
The "ah" was a gasp.
"You are the hair-splitter this time," said he, ruefully.
"I am," said I. "I could effectually destroy a whole wig of hairs like
that. If you are right in your reasoning as to Maude's love for me, I am
right as regards her love for you. We are both splitting hairs in most
"We are," said Harry, with a sigh. "There is only one way to settle the
"Let's call around there now and ask her."
"I am agreeable," said I.
"Often," said Harry, ringing for our coats.
In a few moments we were ready to depart; and as we stepped out into the
night, whom should we run up against but that detestable Jimmie Brown!
"Whither away, boys?" he asked; in his usual bubblesome manner.
"We are going to make a call."
"Ah! Well, wait a minute, won't you? I have some news. I'm in great
luck, and I want you fellows to join me in a health to the future Mrs.
"Engaged at last, eh, Brown?" said Harry.
I did not speak, for I felt a sudden and most depressing sinking of the
"Yes," said Brown; and then he told us to whom.
It is not necessary to mention the lady's name. Suffice it to say that
Harry and I both returned to our corner in the club, discarded our
overcoats, and talked about two subjects.
The first was the weather.
The second, the fickleness of women.
Incidentally we agreed that there was something irritating about certain
names, and on this occasion James excited our ire somewhat more than was
But we did not lick James. We had too much regard for some one else to
split a hair of his head.
AN AFFINITIVE ROMANCE
MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS'S IDEAL
Mr. Augustus Richards was thirty years of age and unmarried. He could
afford to marry, and he had admired many women, but none of them came up
to his ideals. Miss Fotheringay, for instance, represented his notions
as to, what a woman should be physically, but intellectually he found
her wofully below his required standard. She was tall and
stately--Junoesque some people called her--but in her conversation she
was decidedly flippant. She was interested in all the small things of
life, but for the great ones she had no inclination. She preferred a
dance with a callow youth to a chat with a man of learning. She
worshipped artificial in-door life, but had no sympathy with nature.
The country she abominated, and her ideas of rest consisted solely in a
change of locality, which was why she went to Newport every summer,
there to indulge in further routs and dances when she wearied of the
routs and dances of New York.
Miss Patterson, on the other hand, represented, to the fullest, degree
the intellectual standard Mr. Augustus Richards had set up for the
winner of his affections. She was fond of poetry and of music. She was a
student of letters, and a clever talker on almost all the arts and
sciences in which Mr. Augustus Richards delighted. But, alas! physically
she was not what he could admire. She was small and insignificant in
appearance. She was pallid-faced, and, it must be confessed, extremely
scant, of locks; and the idea, of marrying her was to Mr. Augustus
Richards little short of preposterous. Others, there were, too, who
attracted him in some, measure, but who likewise repelled, him, in
equal, if not greater measure.
What he wanted Mrs. Augustus Richards to be was a composite; of the
best in the beautiful Miss Fotheringay, the intellectual Miss
Patterson, the comfortably rich but extremely loud Miss Barrows, with a
dash of the virtues of all the others thrown in.
For years he looked for such a one, but season after season passed away
and the ideal failed to materialize, as unfortunately most ideals have a
way of doing, and hither and yon Mr. Augustus Richards went unmarried,
and, as society said, a hopelessly confirmed old bachelor--more's the
MISS HENDERSON'S STANDARD
Miss Flora Henderson was born and bred in Boston, and, like Mr. Augustus
Richards, had reached the age of thirty without having yielded to the
allurements of matrimony. This was not because she had not had the
opportunity, for opportunity she had had in greatest measure. She made
her first appearance in society at the age of seventeen, and for every
year since that interesting occasion she had averaged four proposals of
marriage; and how many proposals that involved, every person who can
multiply thirteen by four can easily discover. Society said she was
stuck up, but she knew she wasn't. She did not reject men for the mere
love of it. It was not vanity that led her to say no to so many adoring
swains; it was simply the fact that not one in all the great number of
would-be protectors represented her notions as to the style of man with
whom she could be so happy that she would undertake the task of making
Miles Dawson, for instance, was the kind of man that any ordinary girl
would have snapped up the moment he declared himself. He had three
safe-deposit boxes in town, and there was evidence in sight that he did
not rent them for the purpose of keeping cigars in them. He had several
horses and carriages. He was a regular attendant upon all the social
functions of the season, and at many of them he appeared to enjoy
himself hugely. At the musicals and purely literary entertainments,
however, Miles Dawson always looked, as he was, extremely bored. Once
Miss Henderson had seen him yawn at a Shelley reading. He was, in short,
of the earth earthy, or perhaps, to be more accurate, of the horse
horsey. Intellectual pleasures were naught to him but fountains of
ennui, and being a very honest, frank sort of a person, he took no pains
to conceal the fact, and it ruined his chances with Miss Henderson, at
whose feet he had more than once laid the contents of the
deposit-boxes--figuratively, of course--as well as the use of his
stables and himself. The fact that he looked like a Greek god did not
influence her in the least; she knew he was by nature a far cry from
anything Greek or godlike, and she would have none of him.
Had he had the mental qualities of Henry Webster, the famous scholar of
Cambridge, it might have been different, but he hadn't these any more
than Henry Webster had Dawson's Greek godliness of person.
As for Webster, he too had laid bare a heart full of affection before
the cold gaze of Miss Flora Henderson, and with no more pleasing results
to himself than had attended the suit of his handsome rival, as he had
"I think I can make you happy," he had said, modestly. "We have many
traits in common. We are both extremely fond of reading of the better
sort. You would prove of inestimable service to me in the advancement of
my ambition in letters, as well as in the educational world, and I think
you would find me by nature responsive to every wish you could have. I
am a lover of music, and so are you. We both delight in the study of
art, and there is in us both that inherent love of nature which would
make of this earth a very paradise for me were you to become my life's
Then Miss Flora Henderson had looked upon his stern and extremely homely
face, and had unconsciously even to herself glanced rapidly at his
uncouth figure, and could not bring herself to answer yes. Here was the
intellectual man, but his physical shortcomings forbade the utterance of
the word which should make Henry Webster the happiest of men. Had he
written his proposal he would have stood a better chance, though I
doubt that in any event he could have succeeded. Then he could have
stood at least as an abstract mentality, but the intrusion of his
physical self destroyed all. She refused him, and he went back to his
books, oppressed by an overwhelming sense of loneliness, from which he
did not recover for one or two hours.
So it went with all the others. No man of all those who sought Miss
Henderson's favor had the godlike grace of Miles Dawson, combined with
the strong intellectuality of Henry Webster, with the added virtues of
wealth and amiability, steadfastness of purpose, and all that. It seemed
sometimes to Miss Flora Henderson, as it had often seemed to Mr.
Augustus Richards, that the standard set was too high, and that an
all-wise Providence was no longer sending the perfect being of the ideal
into the world, if, indeed, He had ever done so.
Both the man and the woman were yearning, they came finally to believe,
after the unattainable, but each was strong enough of character to do
with nothing less excellent.
AN AFFINITIVE ROMANCE
A GLANCE AT MISS FLORA HENDERSON HERSELF
But what sort of a woman was Miss Flora Henderson, it may be asked, that
she should demand so much in the man with whom she should share the
burdens of life? Surely one should be wellnigh perfect one's self to
require so much of another--and I really think Miss Flora Henderson was
In the first place, she was tall and stately--Junoesque some people
called her. She had an eye fit for all things. It was soft or hard, as
one wished it. It was melting or fixed, according to the mood one would
have her betray. She was never flippant, and while the small things of
life interested her to an extent, much more absorbed was she in the
great things which pertain to existence. Dance she could, and well, but
she danced not to the exclusion of all other things. With dancing people
she was a dancer full of the poetry of motion, and enjoying it openly
and innocently. With a man of learning, however, she was equally at
home as with the callow youth. With nature in her every mood was she in
sympathy. She was fond of poetry and of music; indeed, to sum up her
character in as few words as possible, she was everything that so
critical a dreamer of the ideal as Mr. Augustus Richards could have
wished for, nor was there one weak spot in the armor of her character at
which he could cavil.
In short, Miss Flora Henderson, of Boston, was the ideal of whom Mr.
Augustus Richards, of New York, dreamed.
A BRIEF GLIMPSE OF MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS
And as Miss Flora Henderson represented in every way the ideal of Mr.
Augustus Richards, so did he represent hers. He had the physical beauty
of Miles Dawson, and was quite the equal of the latter in the matter of
wealth. So many, horses he had not, but he owned a sufficient number of
them. He was not horsemad, nor did he yawn over Shelley or despise
aesthetic pleasures. In truth, in the pursuit of aesthetic delights he
was as eager as Henry Webster. He was in all things the sort of man to
whom our heroine of Boston would have been willing to intrust her hand
and her heart.
But they never met.
And they lived happily ever after.
MRS. UPTON'S DEVICE
A TALE OF MATCH-MAKING
"For when two
Join in the same adventure, one perceives
Before the other how they ought to act."
Mrs. Upton had made up her mind that it must be, and that was the
beginning of the end. The charming match-maker had not indulged her
passion for making others happy, willy-nilly, for some time--not, in
fact, since she had arranged the match between Marie Willoughby and Jack
Hearst, which, as the world knows, resulted first in a marriage, and
then, as the good lady had not foreseen, in a South Dakota divorce. This
unfortunate termination to her well-meant efforts in behalf of the
unhappy pair was a severe blow to Mrs. Upton. She had been for many
years the busiest of match-makers, and seldom had she failed to bring
about desirable results. In the homes of a large number of happy pairs
her name was blessed for all that she had done, and until this no
unhappy marriage had ever come from her efforts. One or two engagements
of her designing had failed to eventuate, owing to complications over
which she had no control, and with which she was in no way concerned;
but that was merely one of the risks of the business in which she was
engaged. The most expert artisan sometimes finds that he has made a
failure of some cherished bit of work, but he does not cease to pursue
his vocation because of that. So it was with Mrs. Upton, and when some
of her plans went askew, and two young persons whom she had designed for
each other chose to take two other young people into their hearts
instead, she accepted the situation with a merely negative feeling of
regret. But when she realized that it was she who had brought Marie
Willoughby and Jack Hearst together, and had, beyond all question, made
the match which resulted so unhappily, then was Mrs. Upton's regret and
sorrow of so positive a nature that she practically renounced her chief
occupation in life.
"I'll never, never, never, so long as I live, have anything more to do
with bringing about marriages!" she cried, tearfully, to her husband,
when that worthy gentleman showed her a despatch in the evening paper to
the effect that Mr. and Mrs. Jack had invoked the Western courts to free
them from a contract which had grown irksome to both. "I shall not even
help the most despairing lover over a misunderstanding which may result
in two broken hearts. I'm through. The very idea of Marie Willoughby and
Johnny Hearst not being able to get along together is preposterous. Why,
they were made for each other."
"I haven't a doubt of it," returned Upton, with whom it was a settled
principle of life always to agree with his better half. "But sometimes
there's a flaw in the workmanship, my dear, and while Marie may have
been made for Jack, and Jack for Marie, it is just possible that the
materials were not up to the specifications."
"Well, it's a burning shame, anyhow," said Mrs. Upton, "and I'll never
make another match."
"That's good," said Upton. "I wouldn't--or, if I did, I'd see to it that
it was a safety, instead of a fusee that burns fiercely for a minute and
then goes out altogether. Stick to vestas."
"I don't know what you mean by vestas, but I'm through just the same,"
retorted Mrs. Upton; and she really was--for five years.
"Vestas are nice quiet matches that don't splurge and splutter. They
give satisfaction to everybody. They burn evenly, and are altogether the
swell thing in matches--and their heads don't fly off either," Upton
"Well, I won't make even a vesta, you old goose," said Mrs. Upton,
"You've made one, and it's a beauty," observed Upton, quietly, referring
of course to their own case.
So, as I have said, Mrs. Upton forswore her match-making propensities
for a period of five years, and people noting the fact marvelled
greatly at her strength of character in keeping her hands out of matters
in which they had once done such notable service. And it did indeed
require much force of character in Mrs. Upton to hold herself aloof from
the matrimonial ventures of others; for, although she was now a woman
close upon forty, she had still the feelings of youth; she was fond of
the society of young people, and had been for a long time the
best-beloved chaperon in the community. It was hard for her to watch a
growing romance and not help it along as she had done of yore; and many
a time did her lips withhold the words that trembled upon them--words
which would have furthered the fortunes of a worthy suitor to a waiting
hand--but she had resolved, and there was the end of it.
It is history, however, that the strongest characters will at times
falter and fall, and so it was with Mrs. Upton and her resolution
finally. There came a time when the pressure was too strong to be
"I can't help it, Henry," she said, as she thought it all over, and saw
wherein her duty lay. "We must bring Molly Meeker and Walter together.
He is just the sort of a man for her; and if there is one thing he needs
more than another to round out his character, it is a wife like Molly."
"Remember your oath, my deaf," replied Upton.
"But this will be a vesta, Henry," smiled Mrs. Upton. "Walter and you
are very much alike, and you said the other night that Molly reminded
you of me--sometimes."
"That's true," said Upton. "She does--that's what I like about her--but,
after all, she isn't you. A mill-pond might remind you at times of a
great and beautiful lake, but it wouldn't be the lake, you know. I grant
that Walter and I are alike as two peas, but I deny that Molly can hold
a candle to you."
"Oh you!" snapped Mrs. Upton. "Haven't you got your eyes opened to my
"Yessum," said Upton. "They're great, and I couldn't get along without
'em, but I wouldn't stand them for five minutes if I'd married Molly
Meeker instead of you. You'd better keep out of this. Stick to your
resolution. Let Molly choose her own husband, and Walter his wife. You
never can tell how things are going to turn out. Why, I introduced
Willie Timpkins to George Barker at the club one night last winter,
feeling that there were two fellows who were designed by Providence for
the old Damon and Pythias performance, and it wasn't ten minutes before
they were quarrelling like a couple of cats, and every time they meet
nowadays they have to be introduced all over again."
"I don't wonder at that at all," said Mrs. Upton. "Willie Timpkins is
precisely the same kind of a person that George Barker is, and when they
meet each other and realize that they are exactly alike, and see how
sort of small and mean they really are, it destroys their self-love."
"I never saw it in that light before," said Upton, reflectively, "but I
imagine you are right. There's lots in that. If a man really wrote down
on paper his candid opinion of himself, he'd have a good case for
slander against the publisher who printed it--I guess."
"I should think you'd have known better than to bring those two
together, and under the circumstances I don't wonder they hate each
other," said Mrs. Upton.
"Sympathy ought to count for something," pleaded Upton. "Don't you
"Of course," replied Mrs. Upton; "but a man wants to sympathize with the
other fellow, not with himself. If you were a woman you'd understand
that a little better. But to return to Molly and Walter--don't you think
they really were made for each other?"
"No, I don't," said Upton. "I don't believe that anybody ever was made
for anybody else. On that principle every baby that is born ought
to be labelled: _Fragile. Please forward to Soandso_. This
'made-for-each-other' business makes me tired. It's predestination all
over again, which is good enough for an express package, but doesn't go
where souls are involved. Suppose that through some circumstance over
which he has no control a Michigan man was made for a Russian girl--how
the deuce is she to get him?"
"That's all nonsense, Henry," said Mrs. Upton, impatiently. "I don't
know why," observed Upton. "I can quite understand how a Michigan man
might make a first-rate husband for a Russian girl. Your idea involves
the notion of affinity, and if I know anything about affinities, they
have to go chasing each other through the universe for cycle after
cycle, in the hope of some day meeting--and it's all beastly nonsense.
My affinity might be Delilah, and Samson's your beautiful self; but I'll
tell you, on my own responsibility, that if I had caught Samson hanging
about your father's house during my palmy days I'd have thrashed the
life out of him, whether his hair was short or long, and don't you
forget it, Mrs. Upton."
Mrs. Upton laughed heartily. "I've no doubt you could have done it, my
dear Henry," said she. "I'd have helped you, anyhow. But affinities or
not, we are, placed here for a certain purpose--"
"I presume so," said Upton. "I haven't found out what it is, but I'm
"Yes--and so am I. Now," continued Mrs. Upton, "I think that we all
ought to help each other along. Whether I am your affinity or not, or
whether you are mine--"
"I _am_ yours--for keeps, too," said Upton. "I shall be just as
attentive in heaven, where marriage is not recognized, as I am here, if
I hang for it."
"Well--however that may be, we have this life to live, and we should go
about it in the best way possible. Now I believe that Walter will be
more of a man, will accomplish more in the end, if he marries Molly than
he will as a bachelor, or if he married--Jennie Perkins, for instance,
who is so much of a manly woman that she has no sympathy with either
"Right!" said Upton.
"You like Walter, don't you, and want him to succeed?"
"You realize that, an unmarried physician hasn't more than half a
"Unfortunately yes," said Upton. "Though I don't agree that a man can
cut your leg off more, expertly or carry you through the measles more
successfully just because he has happened to get married. As a matter
of fact, when I have my leg cut off I want it to be done by a man who
hasn't been kept awake all night by the squalling of his lately arrived
"Nevertheless," said Mrs. Upton, "society decrees that a doctor needs a
wife to round him out. There's no disputing that fact--and it is
perfectly proper. Bachelors may know all about the science of medicine,
and make a fair showing in surgery, but it isn't until a man is married
that he becomes the wholly successful practitioner who inspires
"I suppose it's so," said Upton. "No doubt of it. A man who has suffered
always does do better--"
"Henry!" ejaculated Mrs. Upton, severely. "Remember this: I didn't marry
you because I thought you were a cynic. Now Walter as a young physician
needs a wife--"
"I suppose he's got to have somebody to confide professional secrets
to," said Upton.
"That may be the reason for it," observed Mrs. Upton; "but whatever the
reason, it is a fact. He needs a wife, and I propose that he shall have
one; and it is very important that he should get the right one."
"Are you going to propose to the girl in his behalf?" queried Henry.
"No; but I think he's a man of sense, and I know Molly is. Now I propose
to bring them together, and to throw them at each other's heads in such
a way that they won't either of them guess that I am doing it--"
"Now, my dear," interrupted Upton, "don't! Don't try any throwing. You
know as well as I do that no woman can throw straight. If you throw
Molly Meeker at Walter's head--"
"I may strike his heart. Precisely!" said Mrs. Upton, triumphantly. "And
that's all I want. Then we shall have a beautiful wedding," she added,
with enthusiasm. "We'll give a little dinner on the 18th--a nice
informal dinner. We'll invite the Jacksons and the Peltons and Molly and
Walter. They will meet, fall in love like sensible people, and there you
"I guess it's all right," said Upton, "though to fall in love sensibly
isn't possible, my dear. What people who get married ought to do is to
fall unreasonably, madly in love--"
But Mrs. Upton did not listen. She was already at her escritoire,
writing the invitations for the little dinner.
A SUCCESSFUL CASE
"The pleasantest angling is to see the fish
... greedily devour the treacherous bait."
--_Much Ado about Nothing_.
The invitations to Mrs. Upton's little dinner were speedily despatched
by the strategic maker of matches, and, to her great delight, were one
and all accepted with commendable promptness, as dinner invitations are
apt to be. The night came, and with it came also the unsuspecting young
doctor and the equally unsuspicious Miss Meeker. Everything was
charming. The Jacksons were pleased with the Peltons, and the Peltons
were pleased with the Jacksons, and, best of all, Walter was pleased
with Miss Meeker, while she was not wholly oblivious to his existence.
She even quoted something he happened to say at the table, after the
ladies had retired, leaving the men to their cigars, and had added that
"_that_ was the way she liked to hear a man talk"--all of which was very
encouraging to the well-disposed spider who was weaving the web for
these two particular flies. As for Bliss--Walter Bliss, M.D.--he was
very much impressed; so much so, indeed, that as the men left their
cigars to return to the ladies he managed to whisper into Upton's ear,
"Rather bright girl that, Henry."
"Very," said Upton. "Sensible, too. One of those bachelor girls who've
got too much sense to think much about men. Pity, rather, in a way, too.
She'd make a good wife, but, Lord save us! it would require an Alexander
or a Napoleon to make love to her."
"Oh, I don't know," said Bliss, confidently. "If the right man came
"Of course; but there aren't many right men," said Upton. "I've no doubt
there's somebody equal to the occasion somewhere, but with the
population of the world at the present figures there's a billion chances
to one she'll never meet him. What do you think of the financial
situation, Walter? Pretty bad, eh?"
Thus did the astute Mr. Upton play the cards dealt out to him by his
fairer half in this little game of hearts of her devising, and it is a
certain fact that he played them well, for the interjection of a more or
less political phase into their discussion rather whetted than otherwise
the desire of Dr. Bliss to talk about Miss Meeker.
"Oh, hang the financial situation! Where does she live, Henry?" was
Bliss's answer, from which Upton deduced that all was going well.
That his deductions were correct was speedily shown, for it was not many
days before Mrs. Upton, with a radiant face, handed Upton a note from
Walter asking her if she would not act as chaperon for a little sail on
the Sound upon his sloop. He thought a small party of four, consisting
of herself and Henry, Miss Meeker and himself, could have a jolly
afternoon and evening of it, dining on board in true picnic fashion, and
returning to earth in the moonlight.
"How do you like that, my lord?" she inquired, her eyes beaming with
delight. "Dreadful!" said Henry. "Got to the moonlight stage
"Poor Bliss indeed," retorted Mrs. Upton. "Blissful Bliss, you ought to
call him. Shall we go?"
"Shall we go?" echoed Upton. "If I fell off the middle of Brooklyn
Bridge, would I land in the water?"
"I don't know," laughed Mrs. Upton. "You might drop into the smoke-stack
of a ferry-boat."
"Of course we'll go," said Upton. "I'd go yachting with my worst enemy."
"Very well. I'll accept," said Mrs. Upton, and she did. The sail was a
great success, and everything went exactly as the skilful match-maker
had wished. Bliss looked well in his yachting suit. The appointments of
the yacht were perfect. The afternoon was fine, the supper entrancing,
and the moonlight irresistible. Miss Meeker was duly impressed, and as
for the doctor, as Upton put it, he was "going down for the third time."
"If you aren't serious in this match, my dear, throw him a rope," he
pleaded, in his friend's behalf.
"He wouldn't avail himself of it if I did," said Mrs. Upton. "He wants
to drown--and I fancy Molly wants him to, too, because I can't get her
to mention his name any more."
"Is that a sign?" asked Upton.
"Indeed yes; if she talked about him all the time I should be afraid she
wasn't quite as deeply in love as I want her to be. She's only a woman,
you know, Henry. If she were a man, it would be different."
The indications were verified by the results. August came, and Mrs.
Upton invited Miss Meeker to spend the month at the Uptons' summer
cottage at Skirton, and Bliss was asked up for "a day or two" while she
"Isn't it a little dangerous, my dear?" Upton asked, when his wife asked
him to extend the hospitality of the cottage to Bliss. "I should think
twice before asking Walter to come."
"How absurd you are!" retorted the match-maker. "What earthly objection
can there be?"
"No objection at all," returned Upton, "but it may destroy all your good
work. It will be a terrible test for Walter, I am afraid--breakfast, for
instance, is a fearful ordeal for most men. They are so apt to be at
their very worst at breakfast, and it might happen that Walter could not
stand the strain upon him through a series of them. Then Molly may not
look well in the mornings. How is that? Is she like you--always at her
Mrs. Upton replied with a smile. It was evident that she did not
consider the danger very great.
"They might as well get used to seeing each other at breakfast," she
said. "If they find they don't admire each other at that time, it is
just as well they should know it in advance."
Hence it was, as I have said, that Bliss was invited to Skirton for a
day or two. And the day or two, in the most natural way in the world,
lengthened out into a week or two. There were walks and talks; there
were drives and long horseback rides along shaded mountain roads, and
when it rained there were mornings in the music-room together. Bliss was
good-natured at breakfast, and Molly developed a capacity for appearing
to advantage at that trying meal that aroused Upton's highest regard;
and finally--well, finally Miss Molly Meeker whispered something into
Mrs. Upton's ear, at which the latter was so overjoyed that she nearly
hugged her young friend to death.
"Here, my dear, look out," remonstrated Upton, who happened to be
present. "Don't take it all. Perhaps she wants to live long enough to
whisper something to me."
"I do," said Molly, and then she announced her engagement to Walter
Bliss; and she did it so sweetly that Upton had all he could do to keep
from manifesting his approval after the fashion adopted by his wife.
"I wish I was a literary man," said Upton to his wife the next day, when
they were talking over the situation. "If I knew how to write I'd make a
fortune, I believe, just following up the little romances that you
"Oh, nonsense, Henry," replied Mrs. Upton. "I don't plan any romances--I
select certain people for each other and bring them together, that is
"And push 'em along--prod 'em slightly when they don't seem to get
started, eh?" insinuated Upton. "Well, yes--sometimes."
"And what else does a novelist do? He picks out two people, brings them
together, and pushes them along through as many chapters as he needs for
his book," said Henry. "That's all. Now if I could follow your couples
I'd have a tremendous advantage in basing my studies on living models
instead of having to imagine my realism. I repeat I wish I could write.
This little romance of Mollie and Walter that has just ended--"
"Just what?" asked Mrs. Upton.
"Just ended," repeated Upton. "What's the matter with that?"
"You mean just begun," said Mrs. Upton, with a sigh. "The hardest work a
match-maker has is in conducting the campaign after the nominations are
made. When two people love each other madly, they are apt to do a great
deal of quarrelling over absolutely nothing, and I'm not at all sure
that an engagement means marriage until the ceremony has taken place."
"And even then," suggested Henry, "there are the divorce courts, eh?"
"We won't refer to them," said Mrs. Upton, severely; "they are relics
of barbarism. But as for the ending of my romance, my real work now
begins. I must watch those two young people carefully and see that their
little quarrels are smoothed over, their irritations allayed, and that
every possible difference between them is adjusted."
"But you and I didn't quarrel when we were engaged," persisted Upton.
"No, we didn't, Henry," replied Mrs. Upton. "But that was only because
it takes two to make a quarrel, and I loved you so much that I was
really blind to all your possibilities as an irritant."
"Oh!" said Henry, reflectively.
"All is confounded, all!
Reproach and everlasting shame
Sits mocking in our plumes."
Time demonstrated with great effectiveness the unhappy fact that Mrs.
Upton knew whereof she spoke when she likened an engagement to a
political campaign, in that the real battle begins after the nominations
are made. Walter Bliss had decided views as to life, and Miss Meeker was
hardly less settled in her convictions. Long before she had met Bliss,
in default of a real she had builded up in her mind an ideal man, which
at first, second, and even third sight Walter had seemed to her to
represent. But unfortunately there is a fourth sight, and the lover or
the _fiancee_ who can get beyond this is safe--comparatively safe, that
is, for everything in this world has its merits or its demerits,
comparatively speaking, and the comparison is more often than not made
from the point of view of what ought to be rather than of what really
is. Mrs. Upton was a realist--that is, she thought she was; and so was
Miss Meeker. Everybody looks at life from his or her own point of view,
and there must always be, consequently, two points of view, for there
will always be a male way and a female way of looking at things. Walter
was in love with his profession. Molly was in love with him as an
abstract thing. She knew nothing of him as a Washington fighting
measles; she was not aware whether he could combat tonsillitis as
successfully as Napoleon fought the Austrians or not, and it may be
added that she didn't care. He was merely a man in her estimation; a
thing in the abstract, and a most charming thing on the whole. He, on
the other hand, looked upon her not as a woman, but as a soul, and a
purified soul at that: an angel, indeed, without the incumbrance of
wings, was she, and with a rather more comprehensive knowledge of dress
than is attributed to most of angels. But two people cannot go on
forming an ideal of each other continuously without at some time
reaching a point of divergence, and Walter and Molly reached that point
within ten weeks. It happened that while calling upon her one evening
Walter received a professional summons which he admitted was all
nonsense--why should people call in doctors when it is "all nonsense"?
The call came while Walter was turning over the leaves at the piano as
"What is this?" he said, as he opened the note that was addressed to
him. "Humph! Mrs. Hubbard's boy is sick--"
"Must you go?" Molly asked.
"I suppose so," said Walter. "I saw him this afternoon, and there is not
the slightest thing the matter with him, but I must go."
"Why?" asked Molly. "Are you the kind of doctor they call in when
there's nothing the matter?"
She did not mean to be sarcastic, but she seemed to be, and Walter, of
course, like a properly sensitive soul, was hurt.
"I must go," he said, positively, ignoring the thrust.
"But you say there is nothing the matter with the boy," suggested Molly.
"I'm going just the same," said Walter, and he went.
Molly played on at the piano until she heard the front door slam, and
then she rose up and went to the window. Walter had gone and was out of
sight. Then, sad to say, she became philosophical. It doesn't really pay
for girls to become philosophical, but Molly did not know that, and she
began a course of reasoning.
"He knows he isn't needed, but he goes," she said to herself, as she
gazed dejectedly out of the window at the gaslamps on the other side of
the street. "And he will of course charge the Hubbards for his services,
admitting, however, that his services are nothing. That is not
conscientious--it is not professional. He is not practising for the love
of his profession, but for the love of money. I am disappointed in
him--and we were having such a pleasant time, too!"
So she ran on as she sat there in the window-seat looking out upon the
dreary street; and you may be sure that the commingling of her ideals
and her disappointments and her sense of loneliness did not help
Walter's case in the least, and that when they met the next time her
manner towards him was what some persons term "sniffy," which was a
manner Walter could not and would not abide. Hence a marked coolness
arose between the two, which by degrees became so intensified that at
about the time when Mrs. Upton was expected to be called in to assist at
a wedding, she was stunned by the information that "all was over between
them." "Just think of that, Henry," the good match-maker cried,
wrathfully. "All is over between them, and Molly pretends she is glad of
"Made for each other too!" ejaculated Upton, with a mock air of sorrow.
"What was the matter?"
"I can't make out exactly," observed Mrs. Upton. "Molly told me all
about it, and it struck me as a merely silly lovers' quarrel, but she
won't hear of a reconciliation. She says she finds she was mistaken in
him. I wish you'd find out Walter's version of it."
"I respectfully refuse, my dear Mrs. Upton," returned Henry. "I'm not a
partner in your enterprise, and if you get a misfit couple returned on
your hands it is your lookout, not mine. Pity, isn't it, that you can't
manage matters like a tailor? Suit of clothes is made for me, I try it
on, don't like it, send it back and have it changed to fit. If you could
make a few alterations now in Molly--"
"Henry, you are flippant," asserted Mrs. Upton. "There's nothing the
matter with Molly--not the least little thing; and Walter ought to be
ashamed of himself to give her up, and I'm going to see that he
doesn't. I believe a law ought to be made, anyhow, requiring engaged
persons who want to break off to go into court and show cause why they
shouldn't be enjoined from so doing."
"A sort of antenuptial divorce law, eh?" suggested Upton. "That's not a
bad idea; you ought to write to the papers and suggest it--using your
maiden name, of course, not mine."
"If you would only find out from Walter what he's mad at, and tell him
he's an idiot and a heartless thing, maybe we could smooth it out,
because I know that 'way down in her soul Molly loves him."
"Very well, I'll do it," said Upton, good-naturedly; "but mind you it's
only to oblige you, and if Bliss throws me out of the club window for
meddling in his affairs, it will be your fault."
The doctor did not quite throw Upton out of the window that afternoon
when the subject came up, but he did the next thing to it. He turned
upon him, and with much gravity remarked: "Upton, I'll talk politics,
finance, medicine, surgery, literature, or neck-ties with you, but under
no circumstances will I talk about woman with anybody. I prefer a topic
concerning which it is possible occasionally to make an intelligent
surmise at least. Woman is as comprehensible to a finite mind as chaos.
Who's your tailor?"
"You ought to have seen us when he said that," observed Upton to his
wife, as he told her about the interview at dinner that evening. "He was
as solemn as an Alp, and apparently as immovable as the Sphinx; and as
for me, I simply withered on my stalk and crumbled away into dust.
Wherefore, my love, I am through; and hereafter if you are going to make
matches for my friends and need outside help, get a hired man to help
you. I'm did. If I were you I'd let 'em go their own way, and if their
lives are spoiled, why, your conscience is clear either way."
But Mrs. Upton had no sympathy with any such view as that. She had been
so near to victory that she was not going to surrender now without one
more charge. She tried a little sounding of Bliss herself, and finally
asked him point-blank if he would take dinner with herself and Upton and
Molly and make it up, and he declined absolutely; and it was just as
well, for when Molly heard of it she asserted that she had no doubt it
would have been a pleasant dinner, but that nothing could have induced
her to go. She never wished to see Dr. Bliss again--not even
professionally. Mrs. Upton was gradually becoming utterly discouraged.
The only hopeful feature of the situation was that there were no
"alternates" involved. Bliss was done forever with woman; Miss Meeker
had never cared for any man but Walter. Time passed, and the lovers were
adamant in their determination never to see each other again. Repeated
efforts to bring them together failed, until Mrs. Upton was in despair.
It is always darkest, however, just before dawn, and it finally happened
that just as hopelessness was beginning to take hold of Mrs. Upton's
heart her great device came to her.
"Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
And all went merry as a marriage bell."
"Henry," said Mrs. Upton, one cold January morning, a great light of
possibilities dawning upon her troubled soul, "don't you want to take me
to the opera next Saturday? Calve is to sing in 'Cavalleria,' and I am
very anxious to hear her again."
"I am sorry, but I can't," Upton answered. "I have an engagement with
Bliss at the club on Saturday. We're going to take lunch and finish up
our billiard tournament. I've got a lead of forty points."
"Oh! Well, then, get me two seats, and I'll take Molly," said the astute
match-maker. "And never mind about their being aisle seats. I prefer
them in the middle of the row, so that everybody won't be climbing over
us when they go out and in." "All right; I will," said Henry, and the
seats were duly procured.
Saturday came, and Upton went to the club, according to his appointment
with Walter; but Bliss was not there, nor had he sent any message of
explanation. Upton waited until three o'clock, and still the doctor came
not; and finally he left the club and sauntered up the Avenue to his
house, calling down the while imprecations upon the absent Walter.
"Hang these doctors!" he said, viciously. "They seem to think
professional engagements are the only ones worth keeping. Off in his
game, I fancy. That's the milk in the cocoanut."
Five minutes later he entered his library, and was astonished to see
Mrs. Upton there reading.
"Why, hullo! You here?" he said. "I thought you were at the opera."
"No, I didn't go," Mrs. Upton replied, with a smile.
"There seems to be something in the air that prevents people from
keeping their engagements to-day. Bliss didn't turn up," said Henry.
"What did you do with the tickets?"
"I sent Molly hers by messenger, and told her I'd join her at the
opera-house," said Mrs. Upton, her face beaming. "Did you say Walter
didn't go to the club?" she added, anxiously.
"Yes. He's a great fellow, he is! Got no more idea about sticking to an
engagement than a cat," said Upton. "Afraid of my forty points, I
"Possibly; but maybe this will account for it," said Mrs. Upton, with a
sigh of relief, which hardly seemed necessary under the circumstances,
handing her husband a note.
"What's this?" asked Upton, scanning the address upon the envelope.
"A note--from Walter," Mrs. Upton replied. "Read it."
And Upton read as follows:
"SATURDAY MORNING, _January_--, 189-.
"MY DEAR MRS. UPTON,--I am sorry to hear
that Henry is called away, but there are compensations.
If I cannot take luncheon with him,
it will give me the greatest pleasure to listen to
Calve in your company. I may be a trifle late,
but I shall most certainly avail myself of your
kind thought of me.
"What the deuce is this?" asked Upton. "I called away? Who said I was
"I did," said Mrs. Upton, pursing her lips to keep from indulging in a
smile. "As soon as you left this morning I wrote Walter a note, telling
him that you had been hurriedly called to Philadelphia on business, and
that you'd asked me to let him know, not having time to do it yourself.
And I closed by saying that we had two seats for 'Cavalleria,' and that,
as my expected guest had disappointed me, I hoped he might come in if he
felt like it during the afternoon and hear Calve. That's his answer. I
enclosed him the ticket."
"So that--" said Upton, beginning to comprehend.
"So that Molly and Walter are at the opera together. Hemmed in on both
sides, so that they can't escape, with the Intermezzo before them!" said
Mrs. Upton, with an air of triumph which was beautiful to look upon.
"Well, you are a genius!" cried Upton, finding his wife's enthusiasm
contagious. "I'm almost afraid of you!"
"And you don't think I did wrong to fib?" asked Mrs. Upton.
[Illustration: During the Intermezzo.]
"Oh, as for that," said Upton, "all geniuses lie! An abnormal
development in one direction always indicates an abnormal lack of
development in another. Your bump of ingenuity has for the moment
absorbed your bump of veracity; but I say, my dear, I wonder if they'll
"Speak?" echoed Mrs. Upton. "Speak? Why, of course they will! Everybody
talks at the opera," she added, joyously.
An hour later the door-bell rang, and the maid announced Miss Meeker and
Dr. Bliss. They entered radiant, and not in the least embarrassed.
"Why, how do you do?" said Upton, as calmly as though nothing had
happened. "Didn't see you at the club," he added, with a sly wink at his
"Thought you were out of town," said Bliss; and then he turned and
glanced inquiringly at the lovely deceiver. But Mrs. Upton said nothing.
She was otherwise engaged; for Molly, upon entering the room, had walked
directly to her side, and throwing her arms about her neck, kissed her
several times most affectionately.
"You dear old thing!" she whispered. "Mrs.--Upton--I'm very much
obliged to you for a very pleasant afternoon," stammered Bliss,
recovering from his surprise, the true inwardness of the situation
dawning upon him, "as well as for--a good many pleasant afternoons to
come. I--ah--I didn't see--ah--Molly until I got seated."
"No," said Molly; "and if he could have gotten away without disturbing a
lot of people, I think he'd have gone when he realized where he was. And
he wouldn't speak until the Intermezzo was half through."
"Well, I tried hard not to even then," said Walter; "but somehow or
other, when the Intermezzo got going, I couldn't help it, and--well,
it's to be next month."
And so it was. The wedding took place six weeks later; and all through
the service the organist played the Intermezzo in subdued tones, which
some people thought rather peculiar--but then they were not aware of all
Back to Full Books