The Entire March Family Trilogy
William Dean Howells
Part 16 out of 21
just closing his door, but Burnamy pushed in, and asked to look at the
stork-scissors they had seen in the window. The gas was out, and the
shopman lighted a very dim candle, to show them.
"I knew you wanted to get them for her, after what she said, Mrs. March,"
he laughed, nervously, "and you must let me lend you the money."
"Why, of course!" she answered, joyfully humoring his feint. "Shall I
put my card in for the man to send home to her with them?"
"Well--no. No. Not your card--exactly. Or, yes! Yes, you must, I
They made the hushing street gay with their laughter; the next evening
Miss Triscoe came upon the Marches and Burnamy where they sat after
supper listening to the concert at Pupp's, and thanked Mrs. March for the
scissors. Then she and Burnamy had their laugh again, and Miss Triscoe
joined them, to her father's frowning mystification. He stared round for
a table; they were all taken, and he could not refuse the interest
Burnamy made with the waiters to bring them one and crowd it in. He had
to ask him to sup with them, and Burnamy sat down and heard the concert
through beside Miss Triscoe.
"What is so tremendously amusing in a pair of stork-scissors?" March
demanded, when his wife and he were alone.
"Why, I was wanting to tell you, dearest," she began, in a tone which he
felt to be wheedling, and she told the story of the scissors.
"Look here, my dear! Didn't you promise to let this love-affair alone?"
"That was on the ship. And besides, what would you have done, I should
like to know? Would you have refused to let him buy them for her?"
She added, carelessly, "He wants us to go to the Kurhaus ball with him."
"Oh, does he!"
"Yes. He says he knows that she can get her father to let her go if we
will chaperon them. And I promised that you would."
"That I would?"
"It will do just as well if you go. And it will be very amusing; you can
see something of Carlsbad society."
"But I'm not going!" he declared. "It would interfere with my cure. The
sitting up late would be bad enough, but I should get very hungry, and I
should eat potato salad and sausages, and drink beer, and do all sorts of
"Nonsense! The refreshments will be 'kurgemass', of course."
"You can go yourself," he said.
A ball is not the same thing for a woman after fifty as it is before
twenty, but still it has claims upon the imagination, and the novel
circumstance of a ball in the Kurhaus in Carlsbad enhanced these for Mrs.
March. It was the annual reunion which is given by municipal authority
in the large hall above the bathrooms; it is frequented with safety and
pleasure by curious strangers, and now, upon reflection, it began to have
for Mrs. March the charm of duty; she believed that she could finally
have made March go in her place, but she felt that she ought really to go
in his, and save him from the late hours and the late supper.
"Very well, then," she said at last, "I will go."
It appeared that any civil person might go to the reunion who chose to
pay two florins and a half. There must have been some sort of
restriction, and the ladies of Burnamy's party went with a good deal of
amused curiosity to see what the distinctions were; but they saw none
unless it was the advantages which the military had. The long hall over
the bathrooms shaped itself into a space for the dancing at one end, and
all the rest of it was filled with tables, which at half past eight were
crowded with people, eating, drinking, and smoking. The military enjoyed
the monopoly of a table next the rail dividing the dancing from the
dining space. There the tight-laced Herr Hauptmanns and Herr Lieutenants
sat at their sausage and beer and cigars in the intervals of the waltzes,
and strengthened themselves for a foray among the gracious Fraus and
Frauleins on the benches lining three sides of the dancing-space. From
the gallery above many civilian spectators looked down upon the gayety,
and the dress-coats of a few citizens figured among the uniforms.
As the evening wore on some ladies of greater fashion found their way to
the dancing-floor, and toward ten o'clock it became rather crowded. A
party of American girls showed their Paris dresses in the transatlantic
versions of the waltz. At first they danced with the young men who came
with them; but after a while they yielded to the custom of the place, and
danced with any of the officers who asked them.
"I know it's the custom," said Mrs. March to Miss Triscoe, who was at her
side in one of the waltzes she had decided to sit out, so as not to be
dancing all the time with Burnamy, "but I never can like it without an
"No," said the girl, with the air of putting temptation decidedly away,
"I don't believe papa would, either."
A young officer came up, and drooped in mute supplication before her.
She glanced at Mrs. March, who turned her face away; and she excused
herself with the pretence that she had promised the dance, and by good
fortune, Burnamy, who had been unscrupulously waltzing with a lady he did
not know, came up at the moment. She rose and put her hand on his arm,
and they both bowed to the officer before they whirled away. The officer
looked after them with amiable admiration; then he turned to Mrs. March
with a light of banter in his friendly eyes, and was unmistakably asking
her to dance. She liked his ironical daring, she liked it so much that
she forgot her objection to partners without introductions; she forgot
her fifty-odd years; she forgot that she was a mother of grown children
and even a mother-in-law; she remembered only the step of her out-dated
It seemed to be modern enough for the cheerful young officer, and they
were suddenly revolving with the rest. . . A tide of long-forgotten
girlhood welled up in her heart, and she laughed as she floated off on it
past the astonished eyes of Miss Triscoe and Burnamy. She saw them
falter, as if they had lost their step in their astonishment; then they
seemed both to vanish, and her partner had released her, and was helping
Miss Triscoe up from the floor; Burnamy was brushing the dust from his
knees, and the citizen who had bowled them over was boisterously
apologizing and incessantly bowing.
"Oh, are you hurt?" Mrs. March implored. "I'm sure you must be killed;
and I did it! I don't know, what I was thinking of!"
The girl laughed. "I'm not hurt a bit!"
They had one impulse to escape from the place, and from the sympathy and
congratulation. In the dressing-room she declared again that she was all
right. "How beautifully you waltz, Mrs. March!" she said, and she
laughed again, and would not agree with her that she had been ridiculous.
"But I'm glad those American girls didn't see me. And I can't be too
thankful papa didn't come!"
Mrs. March's heart sank at the thought of what General Triscoe would
think of her. "You must tell him I did it. I can never lift up my
"No, I shall not. No one did it," said the girl, magnanimously. She
looked down sidelong at her draperies. "I was so afraid I had torn my
dress! I certainly heard something rip."
It was one of the skirts of Burnamy's coat, which he had caught into his
hand and held in place till he could escape to the men's dressing-room,
where he had it pinned up so skillfully that the damage was not suspected
by the ladies. He had banged his knee abominably too; but they did not
suspect that either, as he limped home on the air beside them, first to
Miss Triscoe's pension, and then to Mrs. March's hotel.
It was quite eleven o'clock, which at Carlsbad is as late as three in the
morning anywhere else, when she let herself into her room. She decided
not to tell her husband, then; and even at breakfast, which they had at
the Posthof, she had not got to her confession, though she had told him
everything else about the ball, when the young officer with whom she had
danced passed between the tables near her. He caught her eye and bowed
with a smile of so much meaning that March asked, "Who's your pretty
"Oh, that!" she answered carelessly. "That was one of the officers at
the ball," and she laughed.
"You seem to be in the joke, too," he said. "What is it?"
"Oh, something. I'll tell you some time. Or perhaps you'll find out."
"I'm afraid you won't let me wait."
"No, I won't," and now she told him. She had expected teasing, ridicule,
sarcasm, anything but the psychological interest mixed with a sort of
retrospective tenderness which he showed. "I wish I could have seen you;
I always thought you danced well." He added: "It seems that you need a
The next morning, after March and General Triscoe had started off upon
one of the hill climbs, the young people made her go with them for a walk
up the Tepl, as far as the cafe of the Freundschaftsaal. In the grounds
an artist in silhouettes was cutting out the likenesses of people who
supposed themselves to have profiles, and they begged Mrs. March to sit
for hers. It was so good that she insisted on Miss Triscoe's sitting in
turn, and then Burnamy. Then he had the inspiration to propose that they
should all three sit together, and it appeared that such a group was
within the scope of the silhouettist's art; he posed them in his little
bower, and while he was mounting the picture they took turns, at five
kreutzers each, in listening to American tunes played by his Edison
Mrs. March felt that all this was weakening her moral fibre; but she
tried to draw the line at letting Burnamy keep the group. "Why not?" he
"You oughtn't to ask," she returned. "You've no business to have Miss
Triscoe's picture, if you must know."
"But you're there to chaperon us!" he persisted.
He began to laugh, and they all laughed when she said, "You need a
chaperon who doesn't lose her head, in a silhouette." But it seemed
useless to hold out after that, and she heard herself asking, "Shall we
let him keep it, Miss Triscoe?"
Burnamy went off to his work with Stoller, carrying the silhouette with
him, and she kept on with Miss Triscoe to her hotel. In turning from the
gate after she parted with the girl she found herself confronted with
Mrs. Adding and Rose. The ladies exclaimed at each other in an
astonishment from which they had to recover before they could begin to
talk, but from the first moment Mrs. March perceived that Mrs. Adding had
something to say. The more freely to say it she asked Mrs. March into
her hotel, which was in the same street with the pension of the Triscoes,
and she let her boy go off about the exploration of Carlsbad; he promised
to be back in an hour.
"Well, now what scrape are you in?" March asked when his wife came home,
and began to put off her things, with signs of excitement which he could
not fail to note. He was lying down after a long tramp, and he seemed
His question suggested something of anterior import, and she told him
about the silhouettes, and the advantage the young people had taken of
their power over her through their knowledge of her foolish behavior at
He said, lazily: "They seem to be working you for all you're worth. Is
"No; there is something worse. Something's happened which throws all
that quite in the shade. Mrs. Adding is here."
"Mrs. Adding?" he repeated, with a dimness for names which she would not
allow was growing on him.
"Don't be stupid, dear! Mrs. Adding, who sat opposite Mr. Kenby on the
Norumbia. The mother of the nice boy."
"Oh, yes! Well, that's good!"
"No, it isn't! Don't say such a thing--till you know!" she cried, with a
certain shrillness which warned him of an unfathomed seriousness in the
fact. He sat up as if better to confront the mystery. "I have been at
her hotel, and she has been telling me that she's just come from Berlin,
and that Mr. Kenby's been there, and--Now I won't have you making a joke
of it, or breaking out about it, as if it were not a thing to be looked
for; though of course with the others on our hands you're not to blame
for not thinking of it. But you can see yourself that she's young and
good-looking. She did speak beautifully of her son, and if it were not
for him, I don't believe she would hesitate--"
"For heaven's sake, what are you driving at?" March broke in, and she
answered him as vehemently:
"He's asked her to marry him!"
"Kenby? Mrs. Adding?"
"Well, now, Isabel, this won't do! They ought to be ashamed of
themselves. With that morbid, sensitive boy! It's shocking--"
"Will you listen? Or do you want me to stop?" He arrested himself at
her threat, and she resumed, after giving her contempt of his turbulence
time to sink in, "She refused him, of course!"
"Oh, all right, then!"
"You take it in such a way that I've a great mind not to tell you
anything more about it."
"I know you have," he said, stretching himself out again; "but you'll do
it, all the same. You'd have been awfully disappointed if I had been
calm and collected."
"She refused him," she began again, "although she respects him, because
she feels that she ought to devote herself to her son. Of course she's
very young, still; she was married when she was only nineteen to a man
twice her age, and she's not thirty-five yet. I don't think she ever
cared much for her husband; and she wants you to find out something about
"I never heard of him. I--"
Mrs. March made a "tchck!" that would have recalled the most consequent
of men from the most logical and coherent interpretation to the true
intent of her words. He perceived his mistake, and said, resolutely:
"Well, I won't do it. If she's refused him, that's the end of it; she
needn't know anything about him, and she has no right to."
"Now I think differently," said Mrs. March, with an inductive air.
"Of course she has to know about him, now." She stopped, and March
turned his head and looked expectantly at her. "He said he would not
consider her answer final, but would hope to see her again and--She's
afraid he may follow her--What are you looking at me so for?"
"Is he coming here?"
"Am I to blame if he is? He said he was going to write to her."
March burst into a laugh. "Well, they haven't been beating about the
bush! When I think how Miss Triscoe has been pursuing Burnamy from the
first moment she set eyes on him, with the settled belief that she was
running from him, and he imagines that he has been boldly following her,
without the least hope from her, I can't help admiring the simple
directness of these elders."
"And if Kenby wants to talk with you, what will you say?" she cut in
"I'll say I don't like the subject. What am I in Carlsbad for? I came
for the cure, and I'm spending time and money on it. I might as well go
and take my three cups of Felsenquelle on a full stomach as to listen to
"I know it's bad for you, and I wish we had never seen those people,"
said Mrs. March. "I don't believe he'll want to talk with you; but if--"
"Is Mrs. Adding in this hotel? I'm not going to have them round in my
"She isn't. She's at one of the hotels on the hill."
"Very well, let her stay there, then. They can manage their love-affairs
in their own way. The only one I care the least for is the boy."
"Yes, it is forlorn for him. But he likes Mr. Kenby, and--No, it's
horrid, and you can't make it anything else!"
"Well, I'm not trying to." He turned his face away. "I must get my nap,
now." After she thought he must have fallen asleep, he said, "The first
thing you know, those old Eltwins will be coming round and telling us
that they're going to get divorced." Then he really slept.
The mid-day dinner at Pupp's was the time to see the Carlsbad world, and
the Marches had the habit of sitting long at table to watch it.
There was one family in whom they fancied a sort of literary quality, as
if they had come out of some pleasant German story, but they never knew
anything about them. The father by his dress must have been a Protestant
clergyman; the mother had been a beauty and was still very handsome; the
daughter was good-looking, and of a good-breeding which was both girlish
and ladylike. They commended themselves by always taking the table
d'hote dinner, as the Marches did, and eating through from the soup and
the rank fresh-water fish to the sweet, upon the same principle: the
husband ate all the compote and gave the others his dessert, which was
not good for him. A young girl of a different fascination remained as
much a mystery. She was small and of an extreme tenuity, which became
more bewildering as she advanced through her meal, especially at supper,
which she made of a long cucumber pickle, a Frankfort sausage of twice
the pickle's length, and a towering goblet of beer; in her lap she held a
shivering little hound; she was in the decorous keeping of an elderly
maid, and had every effect of being a gracious Fraulein. A curious
contrast to her Teutonic voracity was the temperance of a young Latin
swell, imaginably from Trieste, who sat long over his small coffee and
cigarette, and tranquilly mused upon the pages of an Italian newspaper.
At another table there was a very noisy lady, short and fat, in flowing
draperies of white, who commanded a sallow family of South-Americans, and
loudly harangued them in South-American Spanish; she flared out in a
picture which nowhere lacked strong effects; and in her background lurked
a mysterious black face and figure, ironically subservient to the old
man, the mild boy, and the pretty young girl in the middle distance of
the family group.
Amidst the shows of a hardened worldliness there were touching glimpses
of domesticity and heart: a young bride fed her husband soup from her own
plate with her spoon, unabashed by the publicity; a mother and her two
pretty daughters hung about a handsome officer, who must have been newly
betrothed to one of the girls; and, the whole family showed a helpless
fondness for him, which he did not despise, though he held it in check;
the girls dressed alike, and seemed to have for their whole change of
costume a difference from time to time in the color of their sleeves.
The Marches believed they had seen the growth of the romance which had
eventuated so happily; and they saw other romances which did not in any
wise eventuate. Carlsbad was evidently one of the great marriage marts
of middle Europe, where mothers brought their daughters to be admired,
and everywhere the flower of life was blooming for the hand of love.
It blew by on all the promenades in dresses and hats as pretty as they
could be bought or imagined; but it was chiefly at Pupp's that it
flourished. For the most part it seemed to flourish in vain, and to be
destined to be put by for another season to dream, bulblike, of the
coming summer in the quiet of Moldavian and Transylvanian homes.
Perhaps it was oftener of fortunate effect than the spectators knew; but
for their own pleasure they would not have had their pang for it less;
and March objected to having a more explicit demand upon his sympathy.
"We could have managed," he said, at the close of their dinner, as he
looked compassionately round upon the parterre of young girls, "we could
have managed with Burnamy and Miss Triscoe; but to have Mrs. Adding and
Kenby launched upon us is too much. Of course I like Kenby, and if the
widow alone were concerned I would give him my blessing: a wife more or a
widow less is not going to disturb the equilibrium of the universe;
but--" He stopped, and then he went on: "Men and women are well enough.
They complement each other very agreeably, and they have very good times
together. But why should they get in love?--It is sure to make them
uncomfortable to themselves and annoying to others." He broke off, and
stared about him. "My dear, this is really charming--almost as charming
as the Posthof." The crowd spread from the open vestibule of the hotel
and the shelter of its branching pavilion roofs until it was dimmed in
the obscurity of the low grove across the way in an ultimate depth where
the musicians were giving the afternoon concert. Between its two
stationary divisions moved a current of promenaders, with some such
effect as if the colors of a lovely garden should have liquefied and
flowed in mingled rose and lilac, pink and yellow, and white and orange,
and all the middle tints of modern millinery. Above on one side were the
agreeable bulks of architecture, in the buff and gray of Carlsbad; and
far beyond on the other were the upland slopes, with villas and long
curves of country roads, belted in with miles of wall. "It would be
about as offensive to have a love-interest that one personally knew about
intruded here," he said, "as to have a two-spanner carriage driven
through this crowd. It ought to be forbidden by the municipality."
Mrs. March listened with her ears, but not with her eyes, and she
answered: "See that handsome young Greek priest! Isn't he an
archimandrite? The portier said he was."
"Then let him pass for an archimandrite. Now," he recurred to his
grievance again, dreamily, "I have got to take Papa Triscoe in hand, and
poison his mind against Burnamy, and I shall have to instil a few drops
of venomous suspicion against Kenby into the heart of poor little Rose
Adding. Oh;" he broke out, "they will spoil everything. They'll be with
us morning, noon, and night," and he went on to work the joke of repining
at his lot. The worst thing, he said, would be the lovers' pretence of
being interested in something besides themselves, which they were no more
capable of than so many lunatics. How could they care for pretty girls
playing tennis on an upland level, in the waning afternoon? Or a cartful
of peasant women stopping to cross themselves at a way-side shrine? Or a
whistling boy with holes in his trousers pausing from some wayside
raspberries to touch his hat and say good-morning? Or those preposterous
maidens sprinkling linen on the grass from watering-pots while the skies
were full of rain? Or that blacksmith shop where Peter the Great made a
horseshoe. Or the monument of the young warrior-poet Koerner, with a
gentle-looking girl and her mother reading and knitting on a bench before
it? These simple pleasures sufficed them, but what could lovers really
care for them? A peasant girl flung down on the grassy road-side, fast
asleep, while her yoke-fellow, the gray old dog, lay in his harness near
her with one drowsy eye half open for her and the other for the contents
of their cart; a boy chasing a red squirrel in the old upper town beyond
the Tepl, and enlisting the interest of all the neighbors; the negro
door-keeper at the Golden Shield who ought to have spoken our Southern
English, but who spoke bad German and was from Cairo; the sweet afternoon
stillness in the woods; the good German mothers crocheting at the Posthof
concerts. Burnamy as a young poet might hate felt the precious quality
of these things, if his senses had not been holden by Miss Triscoe; and
she might have felt it if only he had done so. But as it was it would be
lost upon their preoccupation; with Mrs. Adding and Kenby it would be
A day or two after Mrs: March had met Mrs. Adding, she went with her
husband to revere a certain magnificent blackamoor whom be had discovered
at the entrance of one of the aristocratic hotels on the Schlossberg,
where he performed the function of a kind of caryatid, and looked, in the
black of his skin and the white of his flowing costume, like a colossal
figure carved in ebony and ivory. They took a roundabout way through a
street entirely of villa-pensions; every house in Carlsbad but one is a
pension if it is not n hotel; but these were of a sort of sentimental
prettiness; with each a little garden before it, and a bower with an iron
table in it for breakfasting and supping out-doors; and he said that they
would be the very places for bridal couples who wished to spend the
honey-moon in getting well of the wedding surfeit. She denounced him for
saying such a thing as that, and for his inconsistency in complaining of
lovers while he was willing to think of young married people. He
contended that there was a great difference in the sort of demand that
young married people made upon the interest of witnesses, and that they
were at least on their way to sanity; and before they agreed, they had
come to the hotel with the blackamoor at the door. While they lingered,
sharing the splendid creature's hospitable pleasure in the spectacle he
formed, they were aware of a carriage with liveried coachman and footman
at the steps of the hotel; the liveries were very quiet and
distinguished, and they learned that the equipage was waiting for the
Prince of Coburg, or the Princess of Montenegro, or Prince Henry of
Prussia; there were differing opinions among the twenty or thirty
bystanders. Mrs. March said she did not care which it was; and she was
patient of the denouement, which began to postpone itself with delicate
delays. After repeated agitations at the door among portiers,
proprietors, and waiters, whose fluttered spirits imparted their thrill
to the spectators, while the coachman and footman remained
sculpturesquely impassive in their places, the carriage moved aside and
let an energetic American lady and her family drive up to the steps. The
hotel people paid her a tempered devotion, but she marred the effect by
rushing out and sitting on a balcony to wait for the delaying royalties.
There began to be more promises of their early appearance; a footman got
down and placed himself at the carriage door; the coachman stiffened
himself on his box; then he relaxed; the footman drooped, and even
wandered aside. There came a moment when at some signal the carriage
drove quite away from the portal and waited near the gate of the
stableyard; it drove back, and the spectators redoubled their attention.
Nothing happened, and some of them dropped off. At last an indescribable
significance expressed itself in the official group at the door; a man in
a high hat and dresscoat hurried out; a footman hurried to meet him; they
spoke inaudibly together. The footman mounted to his place; the coachman
gathered up his reins and drove rapidly out of the hotel-yard, down the
street, round the corner, out of sight. The man in the tall hat and
dress-coat went in; the official group at the threshold dissolved; the
statue in ivory and ebony resumed its place; evidently the Hoheit of
Coburg, or Montenegro, or Prussia, was not going to take the air.
"My dear, this is humiliating."
"Not at all! I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Think how near we
came to seeing them!"
"I shouldn't feel so shabby if we had seen them. But to hang round here
in this plebeian abeyance, and then to be defeated and defrauded at last!
I wonder how long this sort of thing is going on?"
"This base subjection of the imagination to the Tom Foolery of the Ages."
"I don't know what you mean. I'm sure it's very natural to want to see a
"Only too natural. It's so deeply founded in nature that after denying
royalty by word and deed for a hundred years, we Americans are hungrier
for it than anybody else. Perhaps we may come back to it!"
They looked up at the Austrian flag on the tower of the hotel, languidly
curling and uncurling in the bland evening air, as it had over a thousand
years of stupid and selfish monarchy, while all the generous republics of
the Middle Ages had perished, and the commonwealths of later times had
passed like fever dreams. That dull, inglorious empire had antedated or
outlived Venice and Genoa, Florence and Siena, the England of Cromwell,
the Holland of the Stadtholders, and the France of many revolutions, and
all the fleeting democracies which sprang from these.
March began to ask himself how his curiosity differed from that of the
Europeans about him; then he became aware that these had detached
themselves, and left him exposed to the presence of a fellow countryman.
It was Otterson, with Mrs. Otterson; he turned upon March with hilarious
recognition. "Hello! Most of the Americans in Carlsbad seem to be
hanging round here for a sight of these kings. Well, we don't have a
great many of 'em, and it's natural we shouldn't want to miss any. But
now, you Eastern fellows, you go to Europe every summer, and yet you
don't seem to get enough of 'em. Think it's human nature, or did it get
so ground into us in the old times that we can't get it out, no
difference what we say?"
"That's very much what I've been asking myself," said March. "Perhaps
it's any kind of show. We'd wait nearly as long for the President to
come out, wouldn't we?"
"I reckon we would. But we wouldn't for his nephew, or his second
"Well, they wouldn't be in the way of the succession."
"I guess you're right." The Iowan seemed better satisfied with March's
philosophy than March felt himself, and he could not forbear adding:
"But I don't, deny that we should wait for the President because he's a
kind of king too. I don't know that we shall ever get over wanting to
see kings of some kind. Or at least my wife won't. May I present you to
"Happy to meet you, Mrs. March," said the Iowan. "Introduce you to Mrs.
Otterson. I'm the fool in my family, and I know just how you feel about
a chance like this. I don't mean that you're--"
They all laughed at the hopeless case, and Mrs. March said, with one of
her unexpected likings: "I understand, Mr. Otterson. And I would rather
be our kind of fool than the kind that pretends not to care for the sight
of a king."
"Like you and me, Mrs. Otterson," said March.
"Indeed, indeed," said the lady, "I'd like to see a king too, if it
didn't take all night. Good-evening," she said, turning her husband
about with her, as if she suspected a purpose of patronage in Mrs. March,
and was not going to have it.
Otterson looked over his shoulder to explain, despairingly: "The trouble
with me is that when I do get a chance to talk English, there's such a
flow of language it carries me away, and I don't know just where I'm
There were several kings and their kindred at Carlsbad that summer. One
day the Duchess of Orleans drove over from Marienbad, attended by the
Duke on his bicycle. After luncheon, they reappeared for a moment before
mounting to her carriage with their Secretaries: two young French
gentlemen whose dress and bearing better satisfied Mrs. March's exacting
passion for an aristocratic air in their order. The Duke was fat and
fair, as a Bourbon should be, and the Duchess fatter, though not so fair,
as became a Hapsburg, but they were both more plebeian-looking than their
retainers, who were slender as well as young, and as perfectly appointed
as English tailors could imagine them.
"It wouldn't do for the very highest sort of Highhotes," March declared,
"to look their own consequence personally; they have to leave that, like
everything else, to their inferiors."
By a happy heterophemy of Mrs. March's the German Hoheit had now become
Highhote, which was so much more descriptive that they had permanently
adopted it, and found comfort to their republican pride in the mockery
which it poured upon the feudal structure of society. They applied it
with a certain compunction, however, to the King of Servia, who came a
few days after the Duke and Duchess: he was such a young King, and of
such a little country. They watched for him from the windows of the
reading-room, while the crowd outside stood six deep on the three sides
of the square before the hotel, and the two plain public carriages which
brought the King and his suite drew tamely up at the portal, where the
proprietor and some civic dignitaries received him. His moderated
approach, so little like that of royalty on the stage, to which Americans
are used, allowed Mrs. March to make sure of the pale, slight,
insignificant, amiable-looking youth in spectacles as the sovereign she
was ambuscading. Then no appeal to her principles could keep her from
peeping through the reading-room door into the rotunda, where the King
graciously but speedily dismissed the civic gentlemen and the proprietor,
and vanished into the elevator. She was destined to see him so often
afterwards that she scarcely took the trouble to time her dining and
supping by that of the simple potentate, who had his meals in one of the
public rooms, with three gentlemen of his suite, in sack-coats like
himself, after the informal manner of the place.
Still another potentate, who happened that summer to be sojourning
abroad, in the interval of a successful rebellion, was at the opera one
night with some of his faithful followers. Burnamy had offered Mrs.
March, who supposed that he merely wanted her and her husband with him,
places in a box; but after she eagerly accepted, it seemed that he wished
her to advise him whether it would do to ask Miss Triscoe and her father
to join them.
"Why not?" she returned, with an arching of the eyebrows.
"Why," he said, "perhaps I had better make a clean breast of it."
"Perhaps you had," she said, and they both laughed, though he laughed
with a knot between his eyes.
"The fact is, you know, this isn't my treat, exactly. It's Mr.
Stoller's." At the surprise in her face he hurried on. "He's got back
his first letter in the paper, and he's so much pleased with the way he
reads in print, that he wants to celebrate."
"Yes," said Mrs. March, non-committally.
Burnamy laughed again. "But he's bashful, and he isn't sure that you
would all take it in the right way. He wants you as friends of mine; and
he hasn't quite the courage to ask you himself."
This seemed to Mrs. March so far from bad that she said: "That's very
nice of him. Then he's satisfied with--with your help? I'm glad of
"Thank you. He's met the Triscoes, and he thought it would be pleasant
to you if they went, too."
"He thought," Burnamy went on, with the air of feeling his way, "that we
might all go to the opera, and then--then go for a little supper
afterwards at Schwarzkopf's."
He named the only place in Carlsbad where yon can sup so late as ten
o'clock; as the opera begins at six, and is over at half past eight, none
but the wildest roisterers frequent the place.
"Oh!" said Mrs. March. "I don't know how a late supper would agree with
my husband's cure. I should have to ask him."
"We could make it very hygienic," Burnamy explained.
In repeating his invitation she blamed Burnamy's uncandor so much that
March took his part, as perhaps she intended, and said, "Oh, nonsense,"
and that he should like to go in for the whole thing; and General Triscoe
accepted as promptly for himself and his daughter. That made six people,
Burnamy counted up, and he feigned a decent regret that there was not
room for Mrs. Adding and her son; he would have liked to ask them.
Mrs. March did not enjoy it so much as coming with her husband alone when
they took two florin seats in the orchestra for the comedy. The comedy
always began half an hour earlier than the opera, and they had a five-
o'clock supper at the Theatre-Cafe before they went, and they got to
sleep by nine o'clock; now they would be up till half past ten at least,
and that orgy at Schwarzkopf's might not be at all good for him. But
still she liked being there; and Miss Triscoe made her take the best
seat; Burnamy and Stoller made the older men take the other seats beside
the ladies, while they sat behind, or stood up, when they, wished to see,
as people do in the back of a box. Stoller was not much at ease in
evening dress, but he bore himself with a dignity which was not perhaps
so gloomy as it looked; Mrs. March thought him handsome in his way, and
required Miss Triscoe to admire him. As for Burnamy's beauty it was not
necessary to insist upon that; he had the distinction of slender youth;
and she liked to think that no Highhote there was of a more patrician
presence than this yet unprinted contributor to 'Every Other Week'.
He and Stoller seemed on perfect terms; or else in his joy he was able to
hide the uneasiness which she had fancied in him from the first time she
saw them together, and which had never been quite absent from his manner
in Stoller's presence. Her husband always denied that it existed, or if
it did that it was anything but Burnamy's effort to get on common ground
with an inferior whom fortune had put over him.
The young fellow talked with Stoller, and tried to bring him into the
range of the general conversation. He leaned over the ladies, from time
to time, and pointed out the notables whom he saw in the house; she was
glad, for his sake, that he did not lean less over her than over Miss
Triscoe. He explained certain military figures in the boxes opposite,
and certain ladies of rank who did not look their rank; Miss Triscoe, to
Mrs. March's thinking, looked their united ranks, and more; her dress was
very simple, but of a touch which saved it from being insipidly girlish;
her beauty was dazzling.
"Do you see that old fellow in the corner chair just behind the
orchestra?" asked Burnamy. "He's ninety-six years old, and he comes to
the theatre every night, and falls asleep as soon as the curtain rises,
and sleeps through till the end of the act."
"How dear!" said the girl, leaning forward to fix the nonagenarian with
her glasses, while many other glasses converged upon her. "Oh, wouldn't
you like to know him, Mr. March?"
"I should consider it a liberal education. They have brought these
things to a perfect system in Europe. There is nothing to make life pass
smoothly like inflexible constancy to an entirely simple custom. My
dear," he added to his wife, "I wish we'd seen this sage before. He'd
have helped us through a good many hours of unintelligible comedy. I'm
always coming as Burnamy's guest, after this."
The young fellow swelled with pleasure in his triumph, and casting an eye
about the theatre to cap it, he caught sight of that other potentate.
He whispered joyfully, "Ah! We've got two kings here to-night," and he
indicated in a box of their tier just across from that where the King of
Servia sat, the well-known face of the King of New York.
"He isn't bad-looking," said March, handing his glass to General Triscoe.
"I've not seen many kings in exile; a matter of a few Carlist princes and
ex-sovereign dukes, and the good Henry V. of France, once, when I was
staying a month in Venice; but I don't think they any of them looked the
part better. I suppose he has his dream of recurring power like the
"Dream!" said General Triscoe with the glass at his eyes. "He's dead
sure of it."
"Oh, you don't really mean that!"
"I don't know why I should have changed my mind."
"Then it's as if we were in the presence of Charles II. just before he
was called back to England, or Napoleon in the last moments of Elba.
It's better than that. The thing is almost unique; it's a new situation
in history. Here's a sovereign who has no recognized function, no legal
status, no objective existence. He has no sort of public being, except
in the affection of his subjects. It took an upheaval little short of an
earthquake to unseat him. His rule, as we understand it, was bad for all
classes; the poor suffered more than the rich; the people have now had
three years of self-government; and yet this wonderful man has such a
hold upon the masses that he is going home to win the cause of oppression
at the head of the oppressed. When he's in power again, he will be as
subjective as ever, with the power of civic life and death, and an
idolatrous following perfectly ruthless in the execution of his will."
"We've only begun," said the general. "This kind of king is municipal,
now; but he's going to be national. And then, good-by, Republic!"
"The only thing like it," March resumed, too incredulous of the evil
future to deny himself the aesthetic pleasure of the parallel, "is the
rise of the Medici in Florence, but even the Medici were not mere
manipulators of pulls; they had some sort of public office, with some
sort of legislated tenure of it. The King of New York is sovereign by
force of will alone, and he will reign in the voluntary submission of the
majority. Is our national dictator to be of the same nature and
"It would be the scientific evolution, wouldn't it?"
The ladies listened with the perfunctory attention which women pay to any
sort of inquiry which is not personal. Stoller had scarcely spoken yet;
he now startled them all by demanding, with a sort of vindictive force,
"Why shouldn't he have the power, if they're willing to let him?"
"Yes," said General Triscoe, with a tilt of his head towards March.
"That's what we must ask ourselves more and more."
March leaned back in his chair, and looked up over his shoulder at
Stoller. "Well, I don't know. Do you think it's quite right for a man
to use an unjust power, even if others are willing that he should?"
Stoller stopped with an air of bewilderment as if surprised on the point
of saying that he thought just this. He asked instead, "What's wrong
"Well, that's one of those things that have to be felt, I suppose. But
if a man came to you, and offered to be your slave for a certain
consideration--say a comfortable house, and a steady job, that wasn't too
hard--should you feel it morally right to accept the offer? I don't say
think it right, for there might be a kind of logic for it."
Stoller seemed about to answer; he hesitated; and before he had made any
response, the curtain rose.
There are few prettier things than Carlsbad by night from one of the many
bridges which span the Tepl in its course through the town. If it is a
starry night, the torrent glides swiftly away with an inverted firmament
in its bosom, to which the lamps along its shores and in the houses on
either side contribute a planetary splendor of their own. By nine
o'clock everything is hushed; not a wheel is heard at that dead hour;
the few feet shuffling stealthily through the Alte Wiese whisper a
caution of silence to those issuing with a less guarded tread from the
opera; the little bowers that overhang the stream are as dark and mute as
the restaurants across the way which serve meals in them by day; the
whole place is as forsaken as other cities at midnight. People get
quickly home to bed, or if they have a mind to snatch a belated joy, they
slip into the Theater-Cafe, where the sleepy Frauleins serve them, in an
exemplary drowse, with plates of cold ham and bottles of the gently
gaseous waters of Giesshubl. Few are of the bold badness which delights
in a supper at Schwarzkopf's, and even these are glad of the drawn
curtains which hide their orgy from the chance passer.
The invalids of Burnamy's party kept together, strengthening themselves
in a mutual purpose not to be tempted to eat anything which was not
strictly 'kurgemass'. Mrs. March played upon the interest which each of
them felt in his own case so artfully that she kept them talking of their
cure, and left Burnamy and Miss Triscoe to a moment on the bridge, by
which they profited, while the others strolled on, to lean against the
parapet and watch the lights in the skies and the water, and be alone
together. The stream shone above and below, and found its way out of and
into the darkness under the successive bridges; the town climbed into the
night with lamp-lit windows here and there, till the woods of the hill-
sides darkened down to meet it, and fold it in an embrace from which some
white edifice showed palely in the farthest gloom.
He tried to make her think they could see that great iron crucifix which
watches over it day and night from its piny cliff. He had a fancy for a
poem, very impressionistic, which should convey the notion of the
crucifix's vigil. He submitted it to her; and they remained talking till
the others had got out of sight and hearing; and she was letting him keep
the hand on her arm which he had put there to hold her from falling over
the parapet, when they were both startled by approaching steps, and a
voice calling, "Look here! Who's running this supper party, anyway?"
His wife had detached March from her group for the mission, as soon as
she felt that the young people were abusing her kindness. They answered
him with hysterical laughter, and Burnamy said, "Why, it's Mr. Stoller's
treat, you know."
At the restaurant, where the proprietor obsequiously met the party on the
threshold and bowed them into a pretty inner room, with a table set for
their supper, Stoller had gained courage to play the host openly. He
appointed General Triscoe to the chief seat; he would have put his
daughter next to him, if the girl had not insisted upon Mrs. March's
having the place, and going herself to sit next to March, whom she said
she had not been able to speak a word to the whole evening. But she did
not talk a great deal to him; he smiled to find how soon he dropped out
of the conversation, and Burnamy, from his greater remoteness across the
table, dropped into it. He really preferred the study of Stoller, whose
instinct of a greater worldly quality in the Triscoes interested him;
he could see him listening now to what General Triscoe was saying to Mrs.
March, and now to what Burnamy was saying to Miss Triscoe; his strong,
selfish face, as he turned it on the young people, expressed a mingled
grudge and greed that was very curious.
Stoller's courage, which had come and gone at moments throughout, rose at
the end, and while they lingered at the table well on to the hour of ten,
he said, in the sort of helpless offence he had with Burnamy, "What's the
reason we can't all go out tomorrow to that old castle you was talking
"To Engelhaus? I don't know any reason, as far as I'm concerned,"
answered Burnamy; but he refused the initiative offered him, and Stoller
was obliged to ask March:
"You heard about it?"
"Yes." General Triscoe was listening, and March added for him, "It was
the hold of an old robber baron; Gustavus Adolphus knocked it down, and
it's very picturesque, I believe."
"It sounds promising," said the general. "Where is it?"
"Isn't to-morrow our mineral bath?" Mrs. March interposed between her
husband and temptation.
"No; the day after. Why, it's about ten or twelve miles out on the old
postroad that Napoleon took for Prague."
"Napoleon knew a good road when he saw it," said the general, and he
alone of the company lighted a cigar. He was decidedly in favor of the
excursion, and he arranged for it with Stoller, whom he had the effect of
using for his pleasure as if he were doing him a favor. They were six,
and two carriages would take them: a two-spanner for four, and a one-
spanner for two; they could start directly after dinners and get home in
time for supper.
Stoller asserted himself to say: "That's all right, then. I want you to
be my guests, and I'll see about the carriages." He turned to Burnamy:
"Will you order them?"
"Oh," said the young fellow, with a sort of dryness, "the portier will
"I don't understand why General Triscoe was so willing to accept.
Surely, he can't like that man!" said Mrs. March to her husband in their
"Oh, I fancy that wouldn't be essential. The general seems to me,
capable of letting even an enemy serve his turn. Why didn't you speak,
if you didn't want to go?"
"Why didn't you?"
"I wanted to go."
"And I knew it wouldn't do to let Miss Triscoe go alone; I could see that
she wished to go."
"Do you think Burnamy did?"
"He seemed rather indifferent. And yet he must have realized that he
would be with Miss Triscoe the whole afternoon."
If Burnamy and Miss Triscoe took the lead in the one-spanner, and the
others followed in the two-spanner, it was not from want of politeness on
the part of the young people in offering to give up their places to each
of their elders in turn. It would have been grotesque for either March
or Stoller to drive with the girl; for her father it was apparently no
question, after a glance at the more rigid uprightness of the seat in the
one-spanner; and he accepted the place beside Mrs. March on the back seat
of the two-spanner without demur. He asked her leave to smoke, and then
he scarcely spoke to her. But he talked to the two men in front of him
almost incessantly, haranguing them upon the inferiority of our
conditions and the futility of our hopes as a people, with the effect of
bewildering the cruder arrogance of Stoller, who could have got on with
Triscoe's contempt for the worthlessness of our working-classes, but did
not know what to do with his scorn of the vulgarity and venality of their
employers. He accused some of Stoller's most honored and envied
capitalists of being the source of our worst corruptions, and guiltier
than the voting-cattle whom they bought and sold.
"I think we can get rid of the whole trouble if we go at it the right
way," Stoller said, diverging for the sake of the point he wished to
bring in. "I believe in having the government run on business
principles. They've got it here in Carlsbad, already, just the right
sort of thing, and it works. I been lookin' into it, and I got this
young man, yonder"--he twisted his hand in the direction of the one-
spanner! "to help me put it in shape. I believe it's going to make our
folks think, the best ones among them. Here!" He drew a newspaper out
of his pocket, folded to show two columns in their full length, and
handed it to Triscoe, who took it with no great eagerness, and began to
run his eye over it. "You tell me what you think of that. I've put it
out for a kind of a feeler. I got some money in that paper, and I just
thought I'd let our people see how a city can be managed on business
He kept his eye eagerly upon Triscoe, as if to follow his thought while
he read, and keep him up to the work, and he ignored the Marches so
entirely that they began in self-defence to talk with each other.
Their carriage had climbed from Carlsbad in long irregular curves to the
breezy upland where the great highroad to Prague ran through fields of
harvest. They had come by heights and slopes of forest, where the
serried stems of the tall firs showed brown and whitish-blue and grew
straight as stalks of grain; and now on either side the farms opened
under a sky of unwonted cloudlessness. Narrow strips of wheat and rye,
which the men were cutting with sickles, and the women in red bodices
were binding, alternated with ribands of yellowing oats and grass, and
breadths of beets and turnips, with now and then lengths of ploughed
land. In the meadows the peasants were piling their carts with heavy
rowen, the girls lifting the hay on the forks, and the men giving
themselves the lighter labor of ordering the load. From the upturned
earth, where there ought to have been troops of strutting crows, a few
sombre ravens rose. But they could not rob the scene of its gayety; it
smiled in the sunshine with colors which vividly followed the slope of
the land till they were dimmed in the forests on the far-off mountains.
Nearer and farther, the cottages and villages shone in the valleys, or
glimmered through the veils of the distant haze. Over all breathed the
keen pure air of the hills, with a sentiment of changeless eld, which
charmed March, back to his boyhood, where he lost the sense of his wife's
presence, and answered her vaguely. She talked contentedly on in the
monologue to which the wives of absent-minded men learn to resign
themselves. They were both roused from their vagary by the voice of
General Triscoe. He was handing back the folded newspaper to Stoller,
and saying, with a queer look at him over his glasses, "I should like to
see what your contemporaries have to say to all that."
"Well, sir," Stoller returned, "maybe I'll have the chance to show you.
They got my instructions over there to send everything to me."
Burnamy and Miss Triscoe gave little heed to the landscape as landscape.
They agreed that the human interest was the great thing on a landscape,
after all; but they ignored the peasants in the fields and meadows, who
were no more to them than the driver on the box, or the people in the
two-spanner behind. They were talking of the hero and heroine of a novel
they had both read, and he was saying, "I suppose you think he was justly
"Punished?" she repeated. "Why, they got married, after all!"
"Yes, but you could see that they were not going to be happy."
"Then it seems to me that she was punished; too."
"Well, yes; you might say that. The author couldn't help that."
Miss Triscoe was silent a moment before she said:
"I always thought the author was rather hard on the hero. The girl was
"Why," said Burnamy, "I supposed that women hated anything like deception
in men too much to tolerate it at all. Of course, in this case, he
didn't deceive her; he let her deceive herself; but wasn't that worse?"
"Yes, that was worse. She could have forgiven him for deceiving her."
"He might have had to do that. She wouldn't have minded his fibbing
outright, so much, for then it wouldn't have seemed to come from his
nature. But if he just let her believe what wasn't true, and didn't say
a word to prevent her, of course it was worse. It showed something weak,
something cowardly in him."
Burnamy gave a little cynical laugh. "I suppose it did. But don't you
think it's rather rough, expecting us to have all the kinds of courage?"
"Yes, it is," she assented. "That is why I say she was too exacting.
But a man oughn't to defend him."
Burnamy's laugh had more pleasure in it, now. "Another woman might?"
"No. She might excuse him."
He turned to look back at the two-spanner; it was rather far behind, and
he spoke to their driver bidding him go slowly till it caught up with
them. By the time it did so, they were so close to it that they could
distinguish the lines of its wandering and broken walls. Ever since they
had climbed from the wooded depths of the hills above Carlsbad to the
open plateau, it had shown itself in greater and greater detail. The
detached mound of rock on which it stood rose like an island in the midst
of the plain, and commanded the highways in every direction.
"I believe," Burnamy broke out, with a bitterness apparently relevant to
the ruin alone, "that if you hadn't required any quarterings of nobility
from him, Stoller would have made a good sort of robber baron. He's a
robber baron by nature, now, and he wouldn't have any scruple in levying
tribute on us here in our one-spanner, if his castle was in good repair
and his crossbowmen were not on a strike. But they would be on a strike,
probably, and then he would lock them out, and employ none but non-union
If Miss Triscoe understood that he arraigned the morality as well as the
civility of his employer, she did not take him more seriously than he
meant, apparently, for she smiled as she said, "I don't see how you can
have anything to do with him, if you feel so about him."
"Oh," Burnamy replied in kind, "he buys my poverty and not my will. And
perhaps if I thought better of myself, I should respect him more."
"Have you been doing something very wicked?"
"What should you have to say to me, if I had?" he bantered.
"Oh, I should have nothing at all to say to you," she mocked back.
They turned a corner of the highway, and drove rattling through a village
street up a long slope to the rounded hill which it crowned. A church at
its base looked out upon an irregular square.
A gaunt figure of a man, with a staring mask, which seemed to hide a
darkling mind within, came out of the church, and locked it behind him.
He proved to be the sacristan, and the keeper of all the village's claims
upon the visitors' interest; he mastered, after a moment, their wishes in
respect to the castle, and showed the path that led to it; at the top, he
said, they would find a custodian of the ruins who would admit them.
The, path to the castle slanted upward across the shoulder of the hill,
to a certain point, and there some rude stone steps mounted more
directly. Wilding lilac-bushes, as if from some forgotten garden,
bordered the ascent; the chickory opened its blue flower; the clean
bitter odor of vermouth rose from the trodden turf; but Nature spreads no
such lavish feast in wood or field in the Old World as she spoils us with
in the New; a few kinds, repeated again and again, seem to be all her
store, and man must make the most of them. Miss Triscoe seemed to find
flowers enough in the simple bouquet which Burnamy put together for her.
She took it, and then gave it back to him, that she might have both hands
for her skirt, and so did him two favors.
A superannuated forester of the nobleman who owns the ruin opened a gate
for the party at the top, and levied a tax of thirty kreutzers each upon
them, for its maintenance. The castle, by his story, had descended from
robber sire to robber son, till Gustavus knocked it to pieces in the
sixteenth century; three hundred years later, the present owner restored
it; and now its broken walls and arches, built of rubble mixed with
brick, and neatly pointed up with cement, form a ruin satisfyingly
permanent. The walls were not of great extent, but such as they were
they enclosed several dungeons and a chapel, all underground, and a
cistern which once enabled the barons and their retainers to water their
wine in time of siege.
From that height they could overlook the neighboring highways in every
direction, and could bring a merchant train to, with a shaft from a
crossbow, or a shot from an arquebuse, at pleasure. With General
Triscoe's leave, March praised the strategic strength of the unique
position, which he found expressive of the past, and yet suggestive of
the present. It was more a difference in method than anything else that
distinguished the levy of customs by the authorities then and now. What
was the essential difference, between taking tribute of travellers
passing on horseback, and collecting dues from travellers arriving by
steamer? They did not pay voluntarily in either case; but it might be
proof of progress that they no longer fought the customs officials.
"Then you believe in free trade," said Stoller, severely.
"No. I am just inquiring which is the best way of enforcing the tariff
"I saw in the Paris Chronicle, last night," said Miss Triscoe, "that
people are kept on the docks now for hours, and ladies cry at the way
their things are tumbled over by the inspectors."
"It's shocking," said Mrs. March, magisterially.
"It seems to be a return to the scenes of feudal times," her husband
resumed. "But I'm glad the travellers make no resistance. I'm opposed
to private war as much as I am to free trade."
"It all comes round to the same thing at last," said General Triscoe.
"Your precious humanity--"
"Oh, I don't claim it exclusively," March protested.
"Well, then, our precious humanity is like a man that has lost his road.
He thinks he is finding his way out, but he is merely rounding on his
course, and coming back to where he started."
Stoller said, "I think we ought to make it so rough for them, over here,
that they will come to America and set up, if they can't stand the
"Oh, we ought to make it rough for them anyway," March consented.
If Stoller felt his irony, he did not know what to answer. He followed
with his eyes the manoeuvre by which Burnamy and Miss Triscoe eliminated
themselves from the discussion, and strayed off to another corner of the
ruin, where they sat down on the turf in the shadow of the wall; a thin,
upland breeze drew across them, but the sun was hot. The land fell away
from the height, and then rose again on every side in carpetlike fields
and in long curving bands, whose parallel colors passed unblended into
the distance. "I don't suppose," Burnamy said, "that life ever does much
better than this, do you? I feel like knocking on a piece of wood and
saying 'Unberufen.' I might knock on your bouquet; that's wood."
"It would spoil the flowers," she said, looking down at them in her belt.
She looked up and their eyes met.
"I wonder," he said, presently, "what makes us always have a feeling of
dread when we are happy?"
"Do you have that, too?" she asked.
"Yes. Perhaps it's because we know that change must come, and it must be
for the worse."
"That must be it. I never thought of it before, though."
"If we had got so far in science that we could predict psychological
weather, and could know twenty-four hours ahead when a warm wave of bliss
or a cold wave of misery was coming, and prepare for smiles and tears
beforehand--it may come to that."
"I hope it won't. I'd rather not know when I was to be happy; it would
spoil the pleasure; and wouldn't be any compensation when it was the
A shadow fell across them, and Burnamy glanced round to see Stoller
looking down at them, with a slant of the face that brought his aquiline
profile into relief. "Oh! Have a turf, Mr. Stoller?" he called gayly up
"I guess we've seen about all there is," he answered. "Hadn't we better
be going?" He probably did not mean to be mandatory.
"All right," said Burnamy, and he turned to speak to Miss Triscoe again
without further notice of him.
They all descended to the church at the foot of the hill where the weird
sacristan was waiting to show them the cold, bare interior, and to
account for its newness with the fact that the old church had been burnt,
and this one built only a few years before. Then he locked the doors
after them, and ran forward to open against their coming the chapel of
the village cemetery, which they were to visit after they had fortified
themselves for it at the village cafe.
They were served by a little hunch-back maid; and she told them who lived
in the chief house of the village. It was uncommonly pretty; where all
the houses were picturesque, and she spoke of it with respect as the
dwelling of a rich magistrate who was clearly the great man of the place.
March admired the cat which rubbed against her skirt while she stood and
talked, and she took his praises modestly for the cat; but they wrought
upon the envy, of her brother so that he ran off to the garden, and came
back with two fat, sleepy-eyed puppies which he held up, with an arm
across each of their stomachs, for the acclaim of the spectators.
"Oh, give him something! "Mrs. March entreated. "He's such a dear."
"No, no! I am not going to have my little hunchback and her cat outdone,"
he refused; and then he was about to yield.
"Hold on!" said Stoller, assuming the host. "I got the change."
He gave the boy a few kreutzers, when Mrs. March had meant her husband to
reward his naivete with half a florin at least; but he seemed to feel
that he had now ingratiated himself with the ladies, and he put himself
in charge of them for the walk to the cemetery chapel; he made Miss
Triscoe let him carry her jacket when she found it warm.
The chapel is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and the Jesuit brother who
designed it, two or three centuries ago, indulged a devotional fancy in
the triangular form of the structure and the decorative details.
Everything is three-cornered; the whole chapel, to begin with, and then
the ark of the high altar in the middle of it, and each of the three
side-altars. The clumsy baroque taste of the architecture is a German
version of the impulse that was making Italy fantastic at the time; the
carving is coarse, and the color harsh and unsoftened by years, though it
is broken and obliterated in places.
The sacristan said that the chapel was never used for anything but
funeral services, and he led the way out into the cemetery, where he
wished to display the sepultural devices. The graves here were planted
with flowers, and some were in a mourning of black pansies; but a space
fenced apart from the rest held a few neglected mounds, overgrown with
weeds and brambles: This space, he said, was for suicides; but to March
it was not so ghastly as the dapper grief of certain tombs in consecrated
ground where the stones had photographs of the dead on porcelain let into
them. One was the picture of a beautiful young woman, who had been the
wife of the local magnate; an eternal love was vowed to her in the
inscription, but now, the sacristan said, with nothing of irony, the
magnate was married again, and lived in that prettiest house of the
village. He seemed proud of the monument, as the thing worthiest the
attention of the strangers, and be led them with less apparent
hopefulness to the unfinished chapel representing a Gethsemane, with the
figure of Christ praying and his apostles sleeping. It is a subject much
celebrated in terra-cotta about Carlsbad, and it was not a novelty to his
party; still, from its surroundings, it had a fresh pathos, and March
tried to make him understand that they appreciated it. He knew that his
wife wished the poor man to think he had done them a great favor in
showing it; he had been touched with all the vain shows of grief in the
poor, ugly little place; most of all he had felt the exile of those who
had taken their own lives and were parted in death from the more patient
sufferers who had waited for God to take them. With a curious, unpainful
self-analysis he noted that the older members of the party, who in the
course of nature were so much nearer death, did not shrink from its
shows; but the young girl and the young man had not borne to look on
them, and had quickly escaped from the place, somewhere outside the gate.
Was it the beginning, the promise of that reconciliation with death which
nature brings to life at last, or was it merely the effect, or defect, of
ossified sensibilities, of toughened nerves?
"That is all?" he asked of the spectral sacristan.
"That is all," the man said, and March felt in his pocket for a coin
commensurate to the service he had done them; it ought to be something
"No, no," said Stoller, detecting his gesture. "Your money a'n't good."
He put twenty or thirty kreutzers into the hand of the man, who regarded
them with a disappointment none the less cruel because it was so patient.
In France, he would have been insolent; in Italy, he would have frankly
said it was too little; here, he merely looked at the money and whispered
a sad "Danke."
Burnamy and Miss Triscoe rose from the grassy bank outside where they
were sitting, and waited for the elders to get into their two-spanner.
"Oh, have I lost my glove in there?" said Mrs. March, looking at her
hands and such parts of her dress as a glove might cling to.
"Let me go and find it for you," Burnamy entreated.
"Well," she consented, and she added, "If the sacristan has found it,
give him something for me something really handsome, poor fellow."
As Burnamy passed her, she let him see that she had both her gloves, and
her heart yearned upon him for his instant smile of intelligence: some
men would have blundered out that she had the lost glove in her hand. He
came back directly, saying, "No, he didn't find it."
She laughed, and held both gloves up. "No wonder! I had it all the
time. Thank you ever so much."
"How are we going to ride back?" asked Stoller.
Burnamy almost turned pale; Miss Triscoe smiled impenetrably. No one
else spoke, and Mrs. March said, with placid authority, "Oh, I think the
way we came, is best."
"Did that absurd creature," she apostrophized her husband as soon as she
got him alone after their arrival at Pupp's, "think I was going to let
him drive back with Agatha?"
"I wonder," said March, "if that's what Burnamy calls her now?"
"I shall despise him if it isn't."
Burnamy took up his mail to Stoller after the supper which they had eaten
in a silence natural with two men who have been off on a picnic together.
He did not rise from his writing-desk when Burnamy came in, and the young
man did not sit down after putting his letters before him. He said, with
an effort of forcing himself to speak at once, "I have looked through the
papers, and there is something that I think you ought to see."
"What do you mean?" said Stoller.
Burnamy laid down three or four papers opened to pages where certain
articles were strongly circumscribed in ink. The papers varied, but
their editorials did not, in purport at least. Some were grave and some
were gay; one indignantly denounced; another affected an ironical
bewilderment; the third simply had fun with the Hon. Jacob Stoller.
They all, however, treated his letter on the city government of Carlsbad
as the praise of municipal socialism, and the paper which had fun with
him gleefully congratulated the dangerous classes on the accession of the
Honorable Jacob to their ranks.
Stoller read the articles, one after another, with parted lips and
gathering drops of perspiration on his upper lip, while Burnamy waited on
foot. He flung the papers all down at last. "Why, they're a pack of
fools! They don't know what they're talking about! I want city
government carried on on business principles, by the people, for the
people. I don't care what they say! I know I'm right, and I'm going
ahead on this line if it takes all--" The note of defiance died out of
his voice at the sight of Burnamy's pale face. "What's the matter with
"There's nothing the matter with me."
"Do you mean to tell me it is"--he could not bring himself to use the
word--"what they say?"
"I suppose," said Burnamy, with a dry mouth, "it's what you may call
Stoller jumped from his seat. "And you knew it when you let me do it?"
"I supposed you knew what you were about."
"It's a lie!" Stoller advanced upon him, wildly, and Burnamy took a step
"Look out!" shouted Burnamy. "You never asked me anything about it.
You told me what you wanted done, and I did it. How could I believe you
were such an ignoramus as not to know the a b c of the thing you were
talking about?" He added, in cynical contempt, "But you needn't worry.
You can make it right with the managers by spending a little more money
than you expected to spend."
Stoller started as if the word money reminded him of something. "I can
take care of myself, young man. How much do I owe you?"
"Nothing!" said Burnamy, with an effort for grandeur which failed him.
The next morning as the Marches sat over their coffee at the Posthof, he
came dragging himself toward them with such a haggard air that Mrs. March
called, before he reached their table, "Why, Mr. Burnamy, what's the
He smiled miserably. "Oh, I haven't slept very well. May I have my
coffee with you? I want to tell you something; I want you to make me.
But I can't speak till the coffee comes. Fraulein!" he besought a
waitress going off with a tray near them. "Tell Lili, please, to bring
me some coffee--only coffee."
He tried to make some talk about the weather, which was rainy, and the
Marches helped him, but the poor endeavor lagged wretchedly in the
interval between the ordering and the coming of the coffee. "Ah, thank
you, Lili," he said, with a humility which confirmed Mrs. March in her
instant belief that he had been offering himself to Miss Triscoe and been
rejected. After gulping his coffee, he turned to her: "I want to say
good-by. I'm going away."
"From Carlsbad?" asked Mrs. March with a keen distress.
The water came into his eyes. "Don't, don't be good to me, Mrs. March!
I can't stand it. But you won't, when you know."
He began to speak of Stoller, first to her, but addressing himself more
and more to the intelligence of March, who let him go on without
question, and laid a restraining hand upon his wife when he saw her about
to prompt him. At the end, "That's all," he said, huskily, and then he
seemed to be waiting for March's comment. He made none, and the young
fellow was forced to ask, "Well, what do you think, Mr. March?"
"What do you think yourself?"
"I think, I behaved badly," said Burnamy, and a movement of protest from
Mrs. March nerved him to add: "I could make out that it was not my
business to tell him what he was doing; but I guess it was; I guess I
ought to have stopped him, or given him a chance to stop himself. I
suppose I might have done it, if he had treated me decently when I turned
up a day late, here; or hadn't acted toward me as if I were a hand in his
buggy-works that had come in an hour after the whistle sounded."
He set his teeth, and an indignant sympathy shone in Mrs. March's eyes;
but her husband only looked the more serious.
He asked gently, "Do you offer that fact as an explanation, or as a
Burnamy laughed forlornly. "It certainly wouldn't justify me. You might
say that it made the case all the worse for me." March forbore to say,
and Burnamy went on. "But I didn't suppose they would be onto him so
quick, or perhaps at all. I thought--if I thought anything--that it
would amuse some of the fellows in the office, who know about those
things." He paused, and in March's continued silence he went on. "The
chance was one in a hundred that anybody else would know where he had
"But you let him take that chance," March suggested.
"Yes, I let him take it. Oh, you know how mixed all these things are!"
Of course I didn't think it out at the time. But I don't deny that I had
a satisfaction in the notion of the hornets' nest he was poking his thick
head into. It makes me sick, now, to think I had. I oughtn't to have
let him; he was perfectly innocent in it. After the letter went,
I wanted to tell him, but I couldn't; and then I took the chances too.
I don't believe be could have ever got forward in politics; he's too
honest--or he isn't dishonest in the right way. But that doesn't let me
out. I don't defend myself! I did wrong; I behaved badly. But I've
suffered for it.
I've had a foreboding all the time that it would come to the worst, and
felt like a murderer with his victim when I've been alone with Stoller.
When I could get away from him I could shake it off, and even believe
that it hadn't happened. You can't think what a nightmare it's been!
Well, I've ruined Stoller politically, but I've ruined myself, too. I've
spoiled my own life; I've done what I can never explain to--to the people
I want to have believe in me; I've got to steal away like the thief I am.
Good-by!" He jumped to his feet, and put out his hand to March, and then
to Mrs. March.
"Why, you're not going away now!" she cried, in a daze.
"Yes, I am. I shall leave Carlsbad on the eleven-o'clock train. I don't
think I shall see you again." He clung to her hand. "If you see General
Triscoe--I wish you'd tell them I couldn't--that I had to--that I was
called away suddenly--Good-by!" He pressed her hand and dropped it, and
mixed with the crowd. Then he came suddenly back, with a final appeal to
March: "Should you--do you think I ought to see Stoller, and--and tell
him I don't think I used him fairly?"
"You ought to know--" March began.
But before he could say more, Burnamy said, "You're right," and was off
"Oh, how hard you were with him, my dear!" Mrs. March lamented.
"I wish," he said, "if our boy ever went wrong that some one would be as
true to him as I was to that poor fellow. He condemned himself; and he
was right; he has behaved very badly."
"You always overdo things so, when you act righteously!"
"Oh, yes, I know what you will say. But I should have tempered justice
Her nerves tingled with pity for Burnamy, but in her heart she was glad
that her husband had had strength to side with him against himself, and
she was proud of the forbearance with which he had done it. In their
earlier married life she would have confidently taken the initiative on
all moral questions. She still believed that she was better fitted for
their decision by her Puritan tradition and her New England birth, but
once in a great crisis when it seemed a question of their living, she had
weakened before it, and he, with no such advantages, had somehow met the
issue with courage and conscience. She could not believe he did so by
inspiration, but she had since let him take the brunt of all such issues
and the responsibility. He made no reply, and she said: "I suppose
you'll admit now there was always something peculiar in the poor boy's
manner to Stoller."
He would confess no more than that there ought to have been. "I don't
see how he could stagger through with that load on his conscience.
I'm not sure I like his being able to do so."
She was silent in the misgiving which she shared with him, but she said:
"I wonder how far it has gone with him and Miss Triscoe?"
"Well, from his wanting you to give his message to the general in the
"Don't laugh! It's wicked to laugh! It's heartless!" she cried,
hysterically. "What will he do, poor fellow?"
"I've an idea that he will light on his feet, somehow. But, at any rate,
he's doing the right thing in going to own up to Stoller."
"Oh, Stoller! I care nothing for Stoller! Don't speak to me of
Burnamy fond the Bird of Prey, as he no longer had the heart to call him,
walking up and down in his room like an eagle caught in a trap. He
erected his crest fiercely enough, though, when the young fellow came in
at his loudly shouted, "Herein!"
"What do you want?" he demanded, brutally.
This simplified Burnamy's task, while it made it more loathsome. He
answered not much less brutally, "I want to tell you that I think I used
you badly, that I let you betray yourself, that I feel myself to blame."
He could have added, "Curse you!" without change of tone.
Stoller sneered in a derision that showed his lower teeth like a dog's
when he snarls. "You want to get back!"
"No," said Burnamy, mildly, and with increasing sadness as he spoke.
"I don't want to get back. Nothing would induce me. I'm going away on
the first train."
"Well, you're not!" shouted Stoller. "You've lied me into this--"
"Look out!" Burnamy turned white.
"Didn't you lie me into it, if you let me fool myself, as you say?"
Stoller pursued, and Burnamy felt himself weaken through his wrath.
"Well, then, you got to lie me out of it. I been going over the damn
thing, all night--and you can do it for me. I know you can do it," he
gave way in a plea that was almost a whimper. "Look here! You see if
you can't. I'll make it all right with you. I'll pay you whatever you
think is right--whatever you say."
"Oh!" said Burnamy, in otherwise unutterable disgust.
"You kin," Stoller went on, breaking down more and more into his adopted
Hoosier, in the stress of his anxiety. "I know you kin, Mr. Burnamy."
He pushed the paper containing his letter into Burnamy's hands, and
pointed out a succession of marked passages. "There! And here! And
this place! Don't you see how you could make out that it meant something
else, or was just ironical?" He went on to prove how the text might be
given the complexion he wished, and Burnamy saw that he had really
thought it not impossibly out. "I can't put it in writing as well as
you; but I've done all the work, and all you've got to do is to give it
some of them turns of yours. I'll cable the fellows in our office to say
I've been misrepresented, and that my correction is coming. We'll get it
into shape here together, and then I'll cable that. I don't care for the
money. And I'll get our counting-room to see this scoundrel"--he picked
up the paper that had had fun with him--"and fix him all right, so that
he'll ask for a suspension of public opinion, and--You see, don't you?"
The thing did appeal to Burnamy. If it could be done, it would enable
him to make Stoller the reparation he longed to make him more than
anything else in the world. But he heard himself saying, very gently,
almost tenderly, "It might be done, Mr. Stoller. But I couldn't do it.
It wouldn't be honest--for me."
"Yah!" yelled Stoller, and he crushed the paper into a wad and flung it
into Burnamy's face. "Honest, you damn humbug! You let me in for this,
when you knew I didn't mean it, and now you won't help me out because it
a'n't honest! Get out of my room, and get out quick before I--"
He hurled himself toward Burnamy, who straightened himself, with "If you
dare! "He knew that he was right in refusing; but he knew that Stoller
was right, too, and that he had not meant the logic of what he had said
in his letter, and of what Burnamy had let him imply. He braved
Stoller's onset, and he left his presence untouched, but feeling as
little a moral hero as he well could.
General Triscoe woke in the bad humor of an elderly man after a day's
pleasure, and in the self-reproach of a pessimist who has lost his point
of view for a time, and has to work back to it. He began at the belated
breakfast with his daughter when she said, after kissing him gayly, in
the small two-seated bower where they breakfasted at their hotel when
they did not go to the Posthof, "Didn't you have a nice time, yesterday,
She sank into the chair opposite, and beamed at him across the little
iron table, as she lifted the pot to pour out his coffee.
"What do you call a nice time?" he temporized, not quite able to resist
"Well, the kind of time I had."
"Did you get rheumatism from sitting on the grass? I took cold in that
old church, and the tea at that restaurant must have been brewed in a
brass kettle. I suffered all night from it. And that ass from
"Oh, poor papa! I couldn't go with Mr. Stoller alone, but I might have
gone in the two-spanner with him and let you have Mr. or Mrs. March in
"I don't know. Their interest in each other isn't so interesting to
other people as they seem to think."
"Do you feel that way really, papa? Don't you like their being so much
in love still?"
"At their time of life? Thank you it's bad enough in young people."
The girl did not answer; she appeared altogether occupied in pouring out
her father's coffee.
He tasted it, and then he drank pretty well all of it; but he said, as he
put his cup down, "I don't know what they make this stuff of. I wish I
had a cup of good, honest American coffee."
"Oh, there's nothing like American food!" said his daughter, with so much
conciliation that he looked up sharply.
But whatever he might have been going to say was at least postponed by
the approach of a serving-maid, who brought a note to his daughter. She
blushed a little at sight of it, and then tore it open and read:
"I am going away from Carlsbad, for a fault of my own which forbids me to
look you in the face. If you wish to know the worst of me, ask Mrs.
March. I have no heart to tell you."
Agatha read these mystifying words of Burnamy's several times over in a
silent absorption with them which left her father to look after himself,
and he had poured out a second cup of coffee with his own hand, and was
reaching for the bread beside her before she came slowly back to a sense
of his presence.
"Oh, excuse me, papa," she said, and she gave him the butter. "Here's a
very strange letter from Mr. Burnamy, which I think you'd better see."
She held the note across the table to him, and watched his face as he
After he had read it twice, he turned the sheet over, as people do with
letters that puzzle them, in the vain hope of something explanatory on
the back. Then he looked up and asked: "What do you suppose he's been
"I don't believe he's been doing anything. It's something that Mr.
Stoller's been doing to him."
"I shouldn't infer that from his own words. What makes you think the
trouble is with Stoller?"
"He said--he said yesterday--something about being glad to be through
with him, because he disliked him so much he was always afraid of
wronging him. And that proves that now Mr. Stoller has made him believe
that he's done wrong, and has worked upon him till he does believe it."
"It proves nothing of the kind," said the general, recurring to the note.
After reading it again, he looked keenly at her: "Am I to understand that
you have given him the right to suppose you would want to know the worst
--or the best of him?"
The girl's eyes fell, and she pushed her knife against her plate. She
"Then confound his impudence!" the general broke out. "What business
has he to write to you at all about this?"
"Because he couldn't go away without it!" she returned; and she met her
father's eye courageously. "He had a right to think we were his friends;
and if he has done wrong, or is in disgrace any way, isn't it manly of
him to wish to tell us first himself?"
Her father could not say that it was not. But he could and did say, very
sceptically: "Stuff! Now, see here, Agatha: what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to see Mrs. March, and then--"
"You mustn't do anything of the kind, my dear," said her father, gently.
"You've no right to give yourself away to that romantic old goose." He
put up his hand to interrupt her protest. "This thing has got to be gone
to the bottom of. But you're not to do it. I will see March myself. We
must consider your dignity in this matter--and mine. And you may as well
understand that I'm not going to have any nonsense. It's got to be
managed so that it can't be supposed we're anxious about it, one way or
the other, or that he was authorized to write to you in this way--"
"No, no! He oughtn't to have done so. He was to blame. He couldn't
have written to you, though, papa--"
"Well, I don't know why. But that's no reason why we should let it be
understood that he has written to you. I will see March; and I will
manage to see his wife, too. I shall probably find them in the reading-
room at Pupp's, and--"
The Marches were in fact just coming in from their breakfast at the
Posthof, and he met them at the door of Pupp's, where they all sat down
on one of the iron settees of the piazza, and began to ask one another
questions of their minds about the pleasure of the day before, and to
beat about the bush where Burnamy lurked in their common consciousness.
Mrs. March was not able to keep long from starting him. "You knew," she
said, "that Mr. Burnamy had left us?"
"Left! Why?" asked the general.
She was a woman of resource, but in a case like this she found it best to
trust her husband's poverty of invention. She looked at him, and he
answered for her with a promptness that made her quake at first, but
finally seemed the only thing, if not the best thing: "He's had some
trouble with Stoller." He went on to tell the general just what the
At the end the general grunted as from an uncertain mind. "You think
he's behaved badly."
"I think he's behaved foolishly--youthfully. But I can understand how
strongly he was tempted. He could say that he was not authorized to stop
Stoller in his mad career."
At this Mrs. March put her hand through her husband's arm.
"I'm not so sure about that," said the general.
March added: "Since I saw him this morning, I've heard something that
disposes me to look at his performance in a friendlier light. It's
something that Stoller told me himself; to heighten my sense of Burnamy's
wickedness. He seems to have felt that I ought to know what a serpent I
was cherishing in my bosom," and he gave Triscoe the facts of Burnamy's
injurious refusal to help Stoller put a false complexion on the opinions
he had allowed him ignorantly to express.
The general grunted again. "Of course he had to refuse, and he has
behaved like a gentleman so far. But that doesn't justify him in having
let Stoller get himself into the scrape."
"No," said March. "It's a tough nut for the casuist to try his tooth on.
And I must say I feel sorry for Stoller."
Mrs. March plucked her hand from his arm. "I don't, one bit. He was
thoroughly selfish from first to last. He has got just what he
"Ah, very likely," said her husband. "The question is about Burnamy's
part in giving him his deserts; he had to leave him to them, of course."
The general fixed her with the impenetrable glitter of his eye-glasses,
and left the subject as of no concern to him. "I believe," he said,
rising, "I'll have a look at some of your papers," and he went into the
"Now," said Mrs. March, "he will go home and poison that poor girl's
mind. And, you will have yourself to thank for prejudicing him against
"Then why didn't you do it yourself, my dear?" he teased; but he was
really too sorry for the whole affair, which he nevertheless enjoyed as
an ethical problem.
The general looked so little at the papers that before March went off for
his morning walk he saw him come out of the reading-room and take his way
down the Alte Wiese. He went directly back to his daughter, and reported
Burnamy's behavior with entire exactness. He dwelt upon his making the
best of a bad business in refusing to help Stoller out of it,
dishonorably and mendaciously; but he did not conceal that it was a bad
"Now, you know all about it," he said at the end, "and I leave the whole
thing to you. If you prefer, you can see Mrs. March. I don't know but
I'd rather you'd satisfy yourself--"
"I will not see Mrs. March. Do you think I would go back of you in that
way? I am satisfied now."
Instead of Burnamy, Mrs. Adding and her son now breakfasted with the
Marches at the Posthof, and the boy was with March throughout the day a
good deal. He rectified his impressions of life in Carlsbad by March's
greater wisdom and experience, and did his best to anticipate his
opinions and conform to his conclusions. This was not easy, for
sometimes he could not conceal from himself, that March's opinions were
whimsical, and his conclusions fantastic; and he could not always conceal
from March that he was matching them with Kenby's on some points, and
suffering from their divergence. He came to join the sage in his early
visit to the springs, and they walked up and down talking; and they went
off together on long strolls in which Rose was proud to bear him company.
He was patient of the absences from which he was often answered, and he
learned to distinguish between the earnest and the irony of which March's
replies seemed to be mixed. He examined him upon many features of German
civilization, but chiefly upon the treatment of women in it; and upon
this his philosopher was less satisfactory than he could have wished him
to be. He tried to excuse his trifling as an escape from the painful
stress of questions which he found so afflicting himself; but in the
matter of the woman-and-dog teams, this was not easy. March owned that
the notion of their being yokemates was shocking; but he urged that it
was a stage of evolution, and a distinct advance upon the time when women
dragged the carts without the help of the dogs; and that the time might
not be far distant when the dogs would drag the carts without the help of
Rose surmised a joke, and he tried to enjoy it, but inwardly he was
troubled by his friend's apparent acceptance of unjust things on their
picturesque side. Once as they were sauntering homeward by the brink of
the turbid Eger, they came to a man lying on the grass with a pipe in his
mouth, and lazily watching from under his fallen lids the cows grazing by
the river-side, while in a field of scraggy wheat a file of women were
reaping a belated harvest with sickles, bending wearily over to clutch
the stems together and cut them with their hooked blades. "Ah,
delightful!" March took off his hat as if to salute the pleasant sight.
"But don't you think, Mr. March," the boy ventured, "that the man had
better be cutting the wheat, and letting the women watch the cows?"
"Well, I don't know. There are more of them; and he wouldn't be half so
graceful as they are, with that flow of their garments, and the sway of
their aching backs." The boy smiled sadly, and March put his hand on his
shoulder as they walked on. "You find a lot of things in Europe that
need putting right, don't you, Rose?"
"Yes; I know it's silly."
"Well, I'm not sure. But I'm afraid it's useless. You see, these old
customs go such a way back, and are so grounded in conditions. We think
they might be changed, if those who rule could be got to see how cruel
and ugly they are; but probably they couldn't. I'm afraid that the
Emperor of Austria himself couldn't change them, in his sovereign
plenitude of power. The Emperor is only an old custom too, and he's as
much grounded in the conditions as any." This was the serious way Rose
felt that March ought always to talk; and he was too much grieved to
laugh when he went on. "The women have so much of the hard work to do,
over here, because the emperors need the men for their armies. They
couldn't let their men cut wheat unless it was for their officers'
horses, in the field of some peasant whom it would ruin."
If Mrs. March was by she would not allow him to work these paradoxes for
the boy's confusion. She said the child adored him, and it was a
sacrilege to play with his veneration. She always interfered to save
him, but with so little logic though so much justice that Rose suffered a
humiliation from her championship, and was obliged from a sense of self-
respect to side with the mocker. She understood this, and magnanimously
urged it as another reason why her husband should not trifle with Rose's
ideal of him; to make his mother laugh at him was wicked.
"Oh, I'm not his only ideal," March protested. "He adores Kenby too, and
every now and then he brings me to book with a text from Kenby's gospel."
Mrs. March caught her breath. "Kenby! Do you really think, then, that
"Oh, hold on, now! It isn't a question of Mrs. Adding; and I don't say
Rose had an eye on poor old Kenby as a step-father. I merely want you to
understand that I'm the object of a divided worship, and that when I'm
off duty as an ideal I don't see why I shouldn't have the fun of making
Mrs. Adding laugh. You can't pretend she isn't wrapped up in the boy.
You've said that yourself."
"Yes, she's wrapped up in him; she'd give her life for him; but she is so
light. I didn't suppose she was so light; but it's borne in upon me more
They were constantly seeing Rose and his mother, in the sort of abeyance
the Triscoes had fallen into. One afternoon the Addings came to Mrs.
March's room to look from her windows at a parade of bicyclers' clubs
from the neighboring towns. The spectacle prospered through its first
half-hour, with the charm which German sentiment and ingenuity, are able
to lend even a bicycle parade. The wheelmen and wheelwomen filed by on
machines wreathed with flowers and ribbons, and decked with streaming
banners. Here and there one sat under a moving arch of blossoms, or in a
bower of leaves and petals, and they were all gay with their club
costumes and insignia. In the height of the display a sudden mountain
shower gathered and broke upon them. They braved it till it became a
drenching down-pour; then they leaped from their machines and fled to any
shelter they could find, under trees and in doorways. The men used their
greater agility to get the best places, and kept them; the women made no
appeal for them by word or look, but took the rain in the open as if they
expected nothing else.
Rose watched the scene with a silent intensity which March interpreted.
"There's your chance, Rose. Why don't you go down and rebuke those
Rose blushed and shrank away without answer, and Mrs. March promptly
attacked her husband in his behalf. "Why don't you go and rebuke them
Well, for one thing, there isn't any conversation in my phrase-book
Between an indignant American Herr and a Party of German Wheelmen who
have taken Shelter from the Rain and are keeping the Wheelwomen out in
the Wet." Mrs. Adding shrieked her delight, and he was flattered into
going on. "For another thing, I think it's very well for you ladies to
realize from an object-lesson of this sort what spoiled children of our
civilization you are. It ought to make you grateful for your
"There is something in that," Mrs. Adding joyfully consented.
"Oh, there is no civilization but ours," said Mrs. March, in a burst of
vindictive patriotism. "I am more and more convinced of it the longer I
stay in Europe."
"Perhaps that's why we like to stay so long in Europe; it strengthens us
in the conviction that America is the only civilized country in the
world," said March.
The shower passed as quickly as it had gathered, and the band which it
had silenced for a moment burst forth again in the music which fills the
Carlsbad day from dawn till dusk. Just now, it began to play a pot
pourri of American airs; at the end some unseen Americans under the trees
below clapped and cheered.
"That was opportune of the band," said March. "It must have been a
telepathic impulse from our patriotism in the director. But a pot pourri
of American airs is like that tablet dedicating the American Park up here
on the Schlossberg, which is signed by six Jews and one Irishman. The
only thing in this medley that's the least characteristic or original is
Dixie; and I'm glad the South has brought us back into the Union."
"You don't know one note from another, my dear," said his wife.
"I know the 'Washington Post.'"
"And don't you call that American?"
"Yes, if Sousa is an American name; I should have thought it was
"Now that sounds a little too much like General Triscoe's pessimism,"
said Mrs. March; and she added: "But whether we have any national
melodies or not, we don't poke women out in the rain and keep them
"No, we certainly don't," he assented, with such a well-studied effect of
yielding to superior logic that Mrs. Adding screamed for joy.
The boy had stolen out of the room, and he said, "I hope Rose isn't
acting on my suggestion?"
"I hate to have you tease him, dearest," his wife interposed.
"Oh, no," the mother said, laughing still, but with a note of tenderness
in her laugh, which dropped at last to a sigh. "He's too much afraid of
lese-majesty, for that. But I dare say he couldn't stand the sight.
"He's beautiful!" said Mrs. March.
"He's good," the mother admitted. "As good as the day's long. He's
never given me a moment's trouble--but he troubles me. If you can
"Oh, I do understand!" Mrs. March returned. "By his innocence, you mean.
That is the worst of children. Their innocence breaks our hearts and
makes us feel ourselves such dreadful old things."
"His innocence, yes," pursued Mrs. Adding, "and his ideals." She began
to laugh again. "He may have gone off for a season of meditation and
prayer over the misbehavior of these bicyclers. His mind is turning that
way a good deal lately. It's only fair to tell you, Mr. March, that he
seems to be giving up his notion of being an editor. You mustn't be
"I shall be sorry," said the editor. "But now that you mention it, I
think I have noticed that Rose seems rather more indifferent to
periodical literature. I supposed he might simply have exhausted his
questions--or my answers."
"No; it goes deeper than that. I think it's Europe that's turned his
mind in the direction of reform. At any rate he thinks now he will be a
"Really! What kind of one? Not religious, I hope?"
"No. His reform has a religious basis, but its objects are social.
I don't make it out, exactly; but I shall, as soon as Rose does. He
tells me everything, and sometimes I don't feel equal to it, spiritually
or even intellectually."
"Don't laugh at him, Mrs. Adding!" Mrs. March entreated.
"Oh, he doesn't mind my laughing," said the mother, gayly. Rose came
shyly back into the room, and she said, "Well, did you rebuke those bad
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