The Lady of the Aroostook
W. D. Howells
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Eric Eldred, Earle Beach
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE LADY OF THE AROOSTOOK
BY W. D. HOWELLS
THE LADY OF THE AROOSTOOK
In the best room of a farm-house on the skirts of a village in the
hills of Northern Massachusetts, there sat one morning in August
three people who were not strangers to the house, but who had
apparently assembled in the parlor as the place most in accord with
an unaccustomed finery in their dress. One was an elderly woman with a
plain, honest face, as kindly in expression as she could be perfectly
sure she felt, and no more; she rocked herself softly in the haircloth
arm-chair, and addressed as father the old man who sat at one end of
the table between the windows, and drubbed noiselessly upon it with
his stubbed fingers, while his lips, puckered to a whistle, emitted
no sound. His face had that distinctly fresh-shaven effect which once
a week is the advantage of shaving no oftener: here and there, in the
deeper wrinkles, a frosty stubble had escaped the razor. He wore an
old-fashioned, low black satin stock, over the top of which the linen
of his unstarched collar contrived with difficulty to make itself
seen; his high-crowned, lead-colored straw hat lay on the table before
him. At the other end of the table sat a young girl, who leaned upon
it with one arm, propping her averted face on her hand. The window
was open beside her, and she was staring out upon the door-yard, where
the hens were burrowing for coolness in the soft earth under the lilac
bushes; from time to time she put her handkerchief to her eyes.
"I don't like this part of it, father," said the elderly woman,
--"Lyddy's seeming to feel about it the way she does right at the
last moment, as you may say." The old man made a noise in his throat
as if he might speak; but he only unpuckered his mouth, and stayed his
fingers, while the other continued: "I don't want her to go now, no
more than ever I did. I ain't one to think that eatin' up everything
on your plate keeps it from wastin', and I never was; and I say that
even if you couldn't get the money back, it would cost no more to
have her stay than to have her go."
"I don't suppose," said the old man, in a high, husky treble, "but
what I could get some of it back from the captain; may be all. He
didn't seem any ways graspin'. I don't want Lyddy should feel, any
more than you do, Maria, that we're glad to have her go. But what I
look at is this: as long as she has this idea--Well, it's like this
--I d'know as I can express it, either." He relapsed into the comfort
people find in giving up a difficult thing.
"Oh, I know!" returned the woman. "I understand it's an opportunity;
you might call it a leadin', almost, that it would be flyin' in the
face of Providence to refuse. I presume her gifts were given her for
improvement, and it would be the same as buryin' them in the ground
for her to stay up here. But I do say that I want Lyddy should feel
just _so_ about goin', or not go at all. It ain't like goin'
among strangers, though, if it _is_ in a strange land. They're
her father's own kin, and if they're any ways like him they're
warm-_hearted_ enough, if that's all you want. I guess they'll
do what's right by Lyddy when she gets there. And I try to look at it
this way: that long before that maple by the gate is red she'll be
with her father's own sister; and I for one don't mean to let it worry
me." She made search for her handkerchief, and wiped away the tears
that fell down her cheeks.
"Yes," returned the old man; "and before the leaves are on the ground
we shall more'n have got our first letter from her. I declare for't,"
he added, after a tremulous pause, "I was goin' to say how Lyddy would
enjoy readin' it to us! I don't seem to get it rightly into my head
that she's goin' away."
"It ain't as if Lyddy was leavin' any life behind her that's over and
above pleasant," resumed the woman. "She's a good girl, and I never
want to see a more uncomplainin'; but I know it's duller and duller
here all the while for her, with us two old folks, and no young
company; and I d'know as it's been any better the two winters she's
taught in the Mill Village. That's what reconciles me, on Lyddy's
account, as much as anything. I ain't one to set much store on
worldly ambition, and I never was; and I d'know as I care for Lyddy's
advancement, as you may call it. I believe that as far forth as true
happiness goes she'd be as well off here as there. But I don't say but
what she would be more satisfied in the end, and as long as you can't
have happiness, in this world, I say you'd better have satisfaction.
Is that Josiah Whitman's hearse goin' past?" she asked, rising from
her chair, and craning forward to bring her eyes on a level with the
window, while she suspended the agitation of the palm-leaf fan which
she had not ceased to ply during her talk; she remained a moment with
the quiescent fan pressed against her bosom, and then she stepped out
of the door, and down the walk to the gate. "Josiah!" she called,
while the old man looked and listened at the window. "Who you be'n
The man halted his hearse, and answered briefly, "Mirandy Holcomb."
"Why, I thought the funeral wa'n't to be till tomorrow! Well, I
declare," said the woman, as she reentered the room and sat down again
in her rocking-chair, "I didn't ask him whether it was Mr. Goodlow
or Mr. Baldwin preached the sermon. I was so put out hearin' it was
Mirandy, you might say I forgot to ask him anything. Mirandy was
always a well woman till they moved down to the Mill Village and began
takin' the hands to board,--so many of 'em. When I think of Lyddy's
teachin' there another winter,--well, I could almost rejoice that she
was goin' away. She ain't a mite too strong as it is."
Here the woman paused, and the old man struck in with his quaint
treble while she fanned herself in silence: "I do suppose the voyage
is goin' to be everything for her health. She'll be from a month
to six weeks gettin' to Try-East, and that'll be a complete change of
air, Mr. Goodlow says. And she won't have a care on her mind the whole
way out. It'll be a season of rest and quiet. I did wish, just for
the joke of the thing, as you may say, that the ship had be'n goin'
straight to Venus, and Lyddy could 'a' walked right in on 'em at
breakfast, some morning. I should liked it to be'n a surprise. But
there wa'n't any ship at Boston loadin' for Venus, and they didn't
much believe I'd find one at New York. So I just took up with the
captain of the Aroostook's offer. He says she can telegraph to her
folks at Venus as soon as she gets to Try-East, and she's welcome
to stay on the ship till they come for her. I didn't think of their
havin' our mod'n improvements out there; but he says they have
telegraphs and railroads everywheres, the same as we do; and they're
_real_ kind and polite when you get used to 'em. The captain,
he's as nice a man as I ever see. His wife's be'n two or three voyages
with him in the Aroostook, and he'll know just how to have Lyddy's
comfort looked after. He showed me the state-room she's goin' to have.
Well, it ain't over and above large, but it's pretty as a pink: all
clean white paint, with a solid mahogany edge to the berth, and a
mahogany-framed lookin'-glass on one side, and little winders at the
top, and white lace curtains to the bed. He says he had it fixed up
for his wife, and he lets Lyddy have it all for her own. She can set
there and do her mendin' when she don't feel like comin' into the
cabin. The cabin--well, I wish you could see that cabin, Maria! The
first mate is a fine-appearing man, too. Some of the sailors looked
pretty rough; but I guess it was as much their clothes as anything;
and I d'know as Lyddy'd _have_ a great deal to do with them,
any way." The old man's treble ceased, and at the same moment the
shrilling of a locust in one of the door-yard maples died away; both
voices, arid, nasal, and high, lapsed as one into a common silence.
The woman stirred impatiently in her chair, as if both voices had been
repeating something heard many times before. They seemed to renew her
discontent. "Yes, I know; I know all that, father. But it ain't the
mahogany I think of. It's the child's gettin' there safe and well."
"Well," said the old man, "I asked the captain about the seasickness,
and he says she ain't nigh so likely to be sick as she would on the
steamer; the motion's more regular, and she won't have the smell of
the machinery. That's what he said. And he said the seasickness would
do her good, any way. I'm sure I don't want her to be sick any more
than you do, Maria." He added this like one who has been unjustly put
upon his defense.
They now both remained silent, the woman rocking herself and fanning,
and the old man holding his fingers suspended from their drubbing upon
the table, and looking miserably from the woman in the rocking-chair
to the girl at the window, as if a strict inquiry into the present
situation might convict him of it in spite of his innocence. The girl
still sat with her face turned from them, and still from time to time
she put her handkerchief to her eyes and wiped away the tears. The
locust in the maple began again, and shrilled inexorably. Suddenly
the girl leaped to her feet.
"There's the stage!" she cried, with a tumult in her voice and manner,
and a kind of choking sob. She showed, now that she stood upright, the
slim and elegant shape which is the divine right of American girlhood,
clothed with the stylishness that instinctive taste may evoke, even in
a hill town, from study of paper patterns, Harper's Bazar, and the
costume of summer boarders. Her dress was carried with spirit and
"Lydia Blood!" cried the other woman, springing responsively to her
feet, also, and starting toward the girl, "don't you go a step without
you feel just like it! Take off your things this minute and stay, if
you wouldn't jus' as lives go. It's hard enough to _have_ you go,
child, without seemin' to force you!"
"Oh, aunt Maria," answered the girl, piteously, "it almost kills me to
go; but _I'm_ doing it, not you. I know how you'd like to have me
stay. But don't say it again, or I couldn't bear up; and I'm going
now, if I have to be carried."
The old man had risen with the others; he was shorter than either, and
as he looked at them he seemed half awed, half bewildered, by so much
drama. Yet it was comparatively very little. The girl did not offer to
cast herself upon her aunt's neck, and her aunt did not offer her an
embrace, it was only their hearts that clung together as they simply
shook hands and kissed each other. Lydia whirled away for her last
look at herself in the glass over the table, and her aunt tremulously
began to put to rights some slight disorder in the girl's hat.
"Father," she said sharply, "are Lyddy's things all ready there by
the door, so's not to keep Ezra Perkins waitin'? You know he always
grumbles so. And then he _gets_ you to the cars so't you have
to wait half an hour before they start." She continued to pin and pull
at details of Lydia's dress, to which she descended from her hat. "It
sets real nice on you, Lyddy. I guess you'll think of the time we had
gettin' it made up, when you wear it out there." Miss Maria Latham
With a harsh banging and rattling, a yellow Concord coach drew up at
the gate where Miss Maria had stopped the hearse. The driver got down,
and without a word put Lydia's boxes and bags into the boot, and left
two or three light parcels for her to take into the coach with her.
Miss Maria went down to the gate with her father and niece. "Take
the back seat, father!" she said, as the old man offered to take the
middle place. "Let them that come later have what's left. You'll be
home to-night, father; I'll set up for you. Good-by again, Lyddy."
She did not kiss the girl again, or touch her hand. Their decent and
sparing adieux had been made in the house. As Miss Maria returned to
the door, the hens, cowering conscience-stricken under the lilacs,
sprang up at sight of her with a screech of guilty alarm, and flew
out over the fence.
"Well, I vow," soliloquized Miss Maria, "from where she set Lyddy must
have seen them pests under the lilacs the whole time, and never said
a word." She pushed the loosened soil into place with the side of her
ample slipper, and then went into the house, where she kindled a fire
in the kitchen stove, and made herself a cup of Japan tea: a variety
of the herb which our country people prefer, apparently because it
affords the same stimulus with none of the pleasure given by the
Lydia and her grandfather reached Boston at four o'clock, and the
old man made a bargain, as he fancied, with an expressman to carry
her baggage across the city to the wharf at which the Aroostook lay.
The expressman civilly offered to take their small parcels without
charge, and deliver them with the trunk and large bag; but as he could
not check them all her grandfather judged it safest not to part with
them, and he and Lydia crowded into the horse-car with their arms and
hands full. The conductor obliged him to give up the largest of these
burdens, and hung the old-fashioned oil-cloth sack on the handle of
the brake behind, where Mr. Latham with keen anxiety, and Lydia with
shame, watched it as it swayed back and forth with the motion of the
car and threatened to break loose from its hand-straps and dash its
bloated bulk to the ground. The old man called out to the conductor
to be sure and stop in Scollay's Square, and the people, who had
already stared uncomfortably at Lydia's bundles, all smiled. Her
grandfather was going to repeat his direction as the conductor made
no sign of having heard it, when his neighbor said kindly, "The car
always stops in Scollay's Square."
"Then why couldn't he say so?" retorted the old man, in his high
nasal key; and now the people laughed outright. He had the nervous
restlessness of age when out of its wonted place: he could not remain
quiet in the car, for counting and securing his parcels; when they
reached Scollay's Square, and were to change cars, he ran to the
car they were to take, though there was abundant time, and sat down
breathless from his effort. He was eager then that they should not be
carried too far, and was constantly turning to look out of the window
to ascertain their whereabouts. His vigilance ended in their getting
aboard the East Boston ferry-boat in the car, and hardly getting
ashore before the boat started. They now gathered up their burdens
once more, and walked toward the wharf they were seeking, past those
squalid streets which open upon the docks. At the corners they
entangled themselves in knots of truck-teams and hucksters' wagons
and horse-cars; once they brought the traffic of the neighborhood to
a stand-still by the thoroughness of their inability and confusion.
They wandered down the wrong wharf amidst the slime cast up by the
fishing craft moored in the dock below, and made their way over heaps
of chains and cordage, and through the hand-carts pushed hither and
thither with their loads of fish, and so struggled back to the avenue
which ran along the top of all the wharves. The water of the docks
was of a livid turbidity, which teemed with the gelatinous globes of
the sun-fish; and people were rowing about there in pleasure-boats,
and sailors on floats were painting the hulls of the black ships. The
faces of the men they met were red and sunburned mostly,--not with
the sunburn of the fields, but of the sea; these men lurched in their
gait with an uncouth heaviness, yet gave them way kindly enough;
but certain dull-eyed, frowzy-headed women seemed to push purposely
against her grandfather, and one of them swore at Lydia for taking
up all the sidewalk with her bundles. There were such dull eyes and
slattern heads at the open windows of the shabby houses; and there
were gaunt, bold-faced young girls who strolled up and down the
pavements, bonnetless and hatless, and chatted into the windows, and
joked with other such girls whom they met. Suddenly a wild outcry rose
from the swarming children up one of the intersecting streets, where
a woman was beating a small boy over the head with a heavy stick:
the boy fell howling and writhing to the ground, and the cruel blows
still rained upon him, till another woman darted from an open door
and caught the child up with one hand, and with the other wrenched the
stick away and flung it into the street. No words passed, and there
was nothing to show whose child the victim was; the first woman walked
off, and while the boy rubbed his head and arms, and screamed with the
pain, the other children, whose sports had been scarcely interrupted,
were shouting and laughing all about him again.
"Grandfather," said Lydia faintly, "let us go down here, and rest a
moment in the shade. I'm almost worn out." She pointed to the open and
quiet space at the side of the lofty granite warehouse which they had
"Well, I guess I'll set down a minute, too," said her grandfather.
"Lyddy," he added, as they released their aching arms from their
bags and bundles, and sank upon the broad threshold of a door which
seemed to have been shut ever since the decay of the India trade, "I
don't believe but what it would have be'n about as cheap in the end
to come down in a hack. But I acted for what I thought was the best.
I supposed we'd be'n there before now, and the idea of givin' a dollar
for ridin' about ten minutes did seem sinful. I ain't noways afraid
the ship will sail without you. Don't you fret any. I don't seem to
know rightly just where I am, but after we've rested a spell I'll
leave you here, and inquire round. It's a real quiet place, and I
guess your things will be safe."
He took off his straw hat and fanned his face with it, while Lydia
leaned her head against the door frame and closed her eyes. Presently
she heard the trampling of feet going by, but she did not open her
eyes till the feet paused in a hesitating way, and a voice asked
her grandfather, in the firm, neat tone which she had heard summer
boarders from Boston use, "Is the young lady ill?" She now looked
up, and blushed like fire to see two handsome young men regarding
her with frank compassion.
"No," said her grandfather; "a little beat out, that's all. We've
been trying to find Lucas Wharf, and we don't seem somehow just to
hit on it."
"This is Lucas Wharf," said the young man. He made an instinctive
gesture of salutation toward his hat, with the hand in which he held
a cigar; he put the cigar into his mouth as he turned from them, and
the smoke drifted fragrantly back to Lydia as he tramped steadily and
strongly on down the wharf, shoulder to shoulder with his companion.
"Well, I declare for't, so it is," said her grandfather, getting
stiffly to his feet and retiring a few paces to gain a view of the
building at the base of which they had been sitting. "Why, I might
known it by this buildin'! But where's the Aroostook, if this is
Lucas Wharf?" He looked wistfully in the direction the young men
had taken, but they were already too far to call after.
"Grandfather," said the girl, "do I look pale?"
"Well, you don't now," answered the old man, simply. "You've got
a good color now."
"What right had he," she demanded, "to speak to you about me?"
"I d'know but what you did look rather pale, as you set there with
your head leaned back. I d'know as I noticed much."
"He took us for two beggars,--two tramps!" she exclaimed, "sitting
here with our bundles scattered round us!"
The old man did not respond to this conjecture; it probably involved
matters beyond his emotional reach, though he might have understood
them when he was younger. He stood a moment with his mouth puckered
to a whistle, but made no sound, and retired a step or two farther
from the building and looked up at it again. Then he went toward the
dock and looked down into its turbid waters, and returned again with
a face of hopeless perplexity. "This is Lucas Wharf, and no mistake,"
he said. "I know the place first-rate, now. But what I can't make out
is, What's got the Aroostook?"
A man turned the corner of the warehouse from the street above, and
came briskly down towards them, with his hat off, and rubbing his
head and face with a circular application of a red silk handkerchief.
He was dressed in a suit of blue flannel, very neat and shapely, and
across his ample waistcoat stretched a gold watch chain; in his left
hand he carried a white Panama hat. He was short and stout; his round
florid face was full of a sort of prompt kindness; his small blue eyes
twinkled under shaggy brows whose sandy color had not yet taken the
grizzled tone of his close-clipped hair and beard. From his clean
wristbands his hands came out, plump and large; stiff, wiry hairs
stood up on their backs, and under these various designs in tattooing
showed their purple.
Lydia's grandfather stepped out to meet and halt this stranger, as
he drew near, glancing quickly from the girl to the old man, and then
at their bundles. "Can you tell me where a ship named the Aroostook
is, that was layin' at this wharf--Lucas Wharf--a fortnight ago,
"Well, I guess I can, Mr. Latham," answered the stranger, with
a quizzical smile, offering one of his stout hands to Lydia's
grandfather. "You don't seem to remember your friends very well,
The old man gave a kind of crow expressive of an otherwise unutterable
relief and comfort. "Well, if it ain't Captain Jenness! I be'n so
turned about, I declare for't, I don't believe I'd ever known you if
you hadn't spoke up. Lyddy," he cried with a child-like joy, "this
is Captain Jenness!"
Captain Jenness having put on his hat changed Mr. Latham's hand into
his left, while he stretched his great right hand across it and took
Lydia's long, slim fingers in its grasp, and looked keenly into her
face. "Glad to see you, glad to see you, Miss Blood. (You see I've got
your name down on my papers.) Hope you're well. Ever been a sea-voyage
before? Little homesick, eh?" he asked, as she put her handkerchief to
her eyes. He kept pressing Lydia's hand in the friendliest way. "Well,
that's natural. And you're excited; that's natural, too. But we're not
going to have any homesickness on the Aroostook, because we're going
to make her home to you." At this speech all the girl's gathering
forlornness broke in a sob. "That's right!" said Captain Jenness.
"Bless you, I've got a girl just about your age up at Deer Isle,
myself!" He dropped her hand, and put his arm across her shoulders.
"Good land, I know what girls are, I hope! These your things?" He
caught up the greater part of them into his capacious hands, and
started off down the wharf, talking back at Lydia and her grandfather,
as they followed him with the light parcels he had left them. "I
hauled away from the wharf as soon as I'd stowed my cargo, and I'm at
anchor out there in the stream now, waiting till I can finish up a few
matters of business with the agents and get my passengers on board.
When you get used to the strangeness," he said to Lydia, "you won't
be a bit lonesome. Bless your heart! My wife's been with me many
a voyage, and the last time I was out to Messina I had both my
At the end of the wharf, Captain Jenness stopped, and suddenly calling
out, "Here!" began, as she thought, to hurl Lydia's things into the
water. But when she reached the same point, she found they had all
been caught, and deposited in a neat pile in a boat which lay below,
where two sailors stood waiting the captain's further orders. He
keenly measured the distance to the boat with his eye, and then he
bade the men work round outside a schooner which lay near; and jumping
on board this vessel, he helped Lydia and her grandfather down, and
easily transferred them to the small boat. The men bent to their oars,
and pulled swiftly out toward a ship that lay at anchor a little way
off. A light breeze crept along the water, which was here blue and
clear, and the grateful coolness and pleasant motion brought light
into the girl's cheeks and eyes. Without knowing it she smiled.
"That's right!" cried Captain Jenness, who had applauded her sob in
the same terms. "_You'll_ like it, first-rate. Look at that ship!
_That's_ the Aroostook. _Is_ she a beauty, or ain't she?"
The stately vessel stood high from the water, for Captain Jenness's
cargo was light, and he was going out chiefly for a return freight.
Sharp jibs and staysails cut their white outlines keenly against the
afternoon blue of the summer heaven; the topsails and courses dripped,
half-furled, from the yards stretching across the yellow masts that
sprang so far aloft; the hull glistened black with new paint. When
Lydia mounted to the deck she found it as clean scrubbed as her aunt's
kitchen floor. Her glance of admiration was not lost upon Captain
Jenness. "Yes, Miss Blood," said he, "one difference between an
American ship and any other sort is dirt. I wish I could take you
aboard an English vessel, so you could appreciate the Aroostook. But
I guess you don't need it," he added, with a proud satisfaction in
his laugh. "The Aroostook ain't in order yet; wait till we've been
a few days at sea." The captain swept the deck with a loving eye.
It was spacious and handsome, with a stretch of some forty or fifty
feet between the house at the stern and the forecastle, which rose
considerably higher; a low bulwark was surmounted by a heavy rail
supported upon turned posts painted white. Everything, in spite of
the captain's boastful detraction, was in perfect trim, at least to
landfolk's eyes. "Now come into the cabin," said the captain. He gave
Lydia's traps, as he called them, in charge of a boy, while he led the
way below, by a narrow stairway, warning Lydia and her grandfather
to look out for their heads as they followed. "There!" he said, when
they had safely arrived, inviting their inspection of the place with
a general glance of his own.
"What did I tell you, Lyddy?" asked her grandfather, with simple joy
in the splendors about them. "Solid mahogany trimmin's everywhere."
There was also a great deal of milk-white paint, with some modest
touches of gilding here and there. The cabin was pleasantly lit by the
long low windows which its roof rose just high enough to lift above
the deck, and the fresh air entered with the slanting sun. Made fast
to the floor was a heavy table, over which hung from the ceiling a
swinging shelf. Around the little saloon ran lockers cushioned with
red plush. At either end were four or five narrow doors, which gave
into as many tiny state-rooms. The boy came with Lydia's things, and
set them inside one of these doors; and when he came out again the
captain pushed it open, and called them in. "Here!" said he. "Here's
where my girls made themselves at home the last voyage, and I expect
you'll find it pretty comfortable. They say you don't feel the motion
so much,--_I_ don't know anything about the motion,--and in
smooth weather you can have that window open sometimes, and change the
air. It's light and it's large. Well, I had it fitted up for my wife;
but she's got kind of on now, you know, and she don't feel much like
going any more; and so I always give it to my nicest passenger." This
was an unmistakable compliment, and Lydia blushed to the captain's
entire content. "That's a rug she hooked," he continued, touching with
his toe the carpet, rich in its artless domestic dyes as some Persian
fabric, that lay before the berth. "These gimcracks belong to my
girls; they left 'em." He pointed to various slight structures of
card-board worked with crewel, which were tacked to the walls.
"Pretty snug, eh?"
"Yes," said Lydia, "it's nicer than I thought it could be, even after
what grandfather said."
"Well, that's right!" exclaimed the captain. "I like your way of
speaking up. I wish you could know my girls. How old are you now?"
"I'm nineteen," said Lydia.
"Why, you're just between my girls!" cried the captain. "Sally is
twenty-one, and Persis is eighteen. Well, now, Miss Blood," he said,
as they returned to the cabin, "you can't begin to make yourself at
home too soon for me. I used to sail to Cadiz and Malaga a good deal;
and when I went to see any of them Spaniards he'd say, 'This house
is yours.' Well, that's what I say: This ship is yours as long as you
stay in her. And I _mean_ it, and that's more than _they_
did!" Captain Jenness laughed mightily, took some of Lydia's fingers
in his left hand and squeezed them, and clapped her grandfather on the
shoulder with his right. Then he slipped his hand down the old man's
bony arm to the elbow, and held it, while he dropped his head towards
Lydia, and said, "We shall be glad to have him stay to supper, and as
much longer as he likes, heh?"
"Oh, no!" said Lydia; "grandfather must go back on the six o'clock
train. My aunt expects him." Her voice fell, and her face suddenly
"Good!" cried the captain. Then he pulled out his watch, and held it
as far away as the chain would stretch, frowning at it with his head
aslant. "Well!" he burst out. "He hasn't got any too much time on his
hands." The old man gave a nervous start, and the girl trembled. "Hold
on! Yes; there's time. It's only fifteen minutes after five."
"Oh, but we were more than half an hour getting down here," said
Lydia, anxiously. "And grandfather doesn't know the way back. He'll
be sure to get lost. I _wish_ we'd come in a carriage."
"Couldn't 'a' kept the carriage waitin' on expense, Lyddy," retorted
her grandfather, "But I tell you," he added, with something like
resolution, "if I could find a carriage anywheres near that wharf, I'd
take it, just as _sure_! I wouldn't miss that train for more'n
half a dollar. It would cost more than that at a hotel to-night, let
alone how your aunt Maria'd feel."
"Why, look here!" said Captain Jenness, naturally appealing to the
girl. "Let _me_ get your grandfather back. I've got to go up town
again, any way, for some last things, with an express wagon, and we
can ride right to the depot in that. Which depot is it?"
"Fitchburg," said the old man eagerly.
"That's right!" commented the captain. "Get you there in plenty of
time, if we don't lose any now. And I'll tell you what, my little
girl," he added, turning to Lydia: "if it'll be a comfort to you
to ride up with us, and see your grandfather off, why come along!
_My_ girls went with me the last time on an express wagon."
"No," answered Lydia. "I want to. But it wouldn't be any comfort.
I thought that out before I left home, and I'm going to say good-by
to grandfather here."
"First-rate!" said Captain Jenness, bustling towards the gangway so
as to leave them alone. A sharp cry from the old man arrested him.
"Lyddy! Where's your trunks?"
"Why!" said the girl, catching her breath in dismay, "where _can_
they be? I forgot all about them."
"I got the checks fast enough," said the old man, "and I shan't give
'em up without I get the trunks. They'd ought to had 'em down here
long ago; and now if I've got to pester round after 'em I'm sure to
miss the train."
"What shall we do?" asked Lydia.
"Let's see your checks," said the captain, with an evident ease of
mind that reassured her. When her grandfather had brought them with
difficulty from the pocket visited last in the order of his search,
and laid them in the captain's waiting palm, the latter endeavored to
get them in focus. "What does it say on 'em?" he asked, handing them
to Lydia. "My eyes never _did_ amount to anything on shore."
She read aloud the name of the express stamped on them. The captain
gathered them back into his hand, and slipped them into his pocket,
with a nod and wink full of comfort. "I'll see to it," he said. "At
any rate, this ship ain't a-going to sail without them, if she waits
a week. Now, then, Mr. Latham!"
The old man, who waited, when not directly addressed or concerned,
in a sort of blank patience, suddenly started out of his daze, and
following the captain too alertly up the gangway stairs drove his hat
against the hatch--with a force that sent him back into Lydia's arms.
"Oh, grandfather, are you hurt?" she piteously asked, trying to pull
up the hat that was jammed down over his forehead.
"Not a bit! But I guess my hat's about done for,--without I can get it
pressed over; and I d'know as this kind of straw _doos_ press."
"First-rate!" called the captain from above. "Never mind the hat."
But the girl continued fondly trying to reshape it, while the old man
fidgeted anxiously, and protested that he would be sure to be left.
It was like a half-shut accordion when she took it from his head;
when she put it back it was like an accordion pulled out.
"All ready!" shouted Captain Jenness from the gap in the bulwark,
where he stood waiting to descend into the small boat. The old man
ran towards him in his senile haste, and stooped to get over the side
into the boat below.
"Why, grandfather!" cried the girl in a breaking voice, full of keen,
yet tender reproach.
"I declare for't," he said, scrambling back to the deck. "I 'most
forgot. I be'n so put about." He took Lydia's hand loosely into his
own, and bent forward to kiss her. She threw her arms round him, and
while he remained looking over her shoulder, with a face of grotesque
perplexity, and saying, "Don't cry, Lyddy, don't cry!" she pressed her
face tighter into his withered neck, and tried to muffle her homesick
sobs. The sympathies as well as the sensibilities often seem dulled by
age. They have both perhaps been wrought upon too much in the course
of the years, and can no longer respond to the appeal or distress
which they can only dimly realize; even the heart grows old. "Don't
you, don't you, Lyddy!" repeated the old man. "You mustn't. The
captain's waitin'; and the cars--well, every minute I lose makes it
riskier and riskier; and your aunt Maria, she's always so uneasy,
The girl was not hurt by his anxiety about himself; she was more
anxious about him than about anything else. She quickly lifted her
head, and drying her eyes, kissed him, forcing her lips into the
smile that is more heart-breaking to see than weeping. She looked
over the side, as her grandfather was handed carefully down to a seat
by the two sailors in the boat, and the captain noted her resolute
counterfeit of cheerfulness. "That's right!" he shouted up to her.
"Just like my girls when their mother left 'em. But bless you, they
soon got over it, and so'll you. Give way, men," he said, in a lower
voice, and the boat shot from the ship's side toward the wharf. He
turned and waved his handkerchief to Lydia, and, stimulated apparently
by this, her grandfather felt in his pockets for his handkerchief; he
ended after a vain search by taking off his hat and waving that.
When he put it on again, it relapsed into that likeness of a half-shut
accordion from which Lydia had rescued it; but she only saw the face
As the boat reached the wharf an express wagon drove down, and Lydia
saw the sarcastic parley which she could not hear between the captain
and the driver about the belated baggage which the latter put off.
Then she saw the captain help her grandfather to the seat between
himself and the driver, and the wagon rattled swiftly out of sight.
One of the sailors lifted Lydia's baggage over the side of the wharf
to the other in the boat, and they pulled off to the ship with it.
Lydia went back to the cabin, and presently the boy who had taken
charge of her lighter luggage came dragging her trunk and bag down the
gangway stairs. Neither was very large, and even a boy of fourteen who
was small for his age might easily manage them.
"You can stow away what's in 'em in the drawers," said the boy.
"I suppose you didn't notice the drawers," he added, at her look
of inquiry. He went into her room, and pushing aside the valance of
the lower berth showed four deep drawers below the bed; the charming
snugness of the arrangement brought a light of housewifely joy to
the girl's face.
"Why, it's as good as a bureau. They will hold everything."
"Yes," exulted the boy; "they're for two persons' things. The
captain's daughters, they both had this room. Pretty good sized too;
a good deal the captain's build. You won't find a better stateroom
than this on a steamer. I've been on 'em." The boy climbed up on
the edge of the upper drawer, and pulled open the window at the top
of the wall. "Give you a little air, I guess. If you want I should,
the captain said I was to bear a hand helping you to stow away what
was in your trunks."
"No," said Lydia, quickly. "I'd just as soon do it alone."
"All right," said the boy. "If I was you, I'd do it now. I don't know
just when the captain means to sail; but after we get outside, it
might be rough, and it's better to have everything pretty snug by
that time. I'll haul away the trunks when you've got 'em empty. If I
shouldn't happen to be here, you can just call me at the top of the
gangway, and I'll come. My name's Thomas," he said. He regarded Lydia
inquiringly a moment before he added: "If you'd just as lives, I
rather you'd call me Thomas, and not _steward_. They said you'd
call me steward," he explained, in a blushing, deprecating confidence;
"and as long as I've not got my growth, it kind of makes them laugh,
you know,--especially the second officer."
"I will call you Thomas," said Lydia.
"Thank you." The boy glanced up at the round clock screwed to the
cabin wall. "I guess you won't have to call me anything unless you
hurry. I shall be down here, laying the table for supper, before
you're done. The captain said I was to lay it for you and him, and
if he didn't get back in time you was to go to eating, any way. Guess
you won't think Captain Jenness is going to starve anybody."
"Have you been many voyages with Captain Jenness before this?" asked
Lydia, as she set open her trunk, and began to lay her dresses out
on the locker. Homesickness, like all grief, attacks in paroxysms.
One gust of passionate regret had swept over the girl; before another
came, she could occupy herself almost cheerfully with the details of
"Only one before," said the boy. "The last one, when his daughters
went out. I guess it was their coaxing got mother to let me go.
_My_ father was killed in the war."
"Was he?" asked Lydia, sympathetically.
"Yes. I didn't know much about it at the time; so little. Both your
"No," said Lydia. "They're both dead. They died a long while ago.
I've always lived with my aunt and grandfather."
"I thought there must be something the matter,--your coming with your
grandfather," said the boy. "I don't see why you don't let me carry
in some of those dresses for you. I'm used to helping about."
"Well, you may," answered Lydia, "if you want." A native tranquil
kindness showed itself in her voice and manner, but something of the
habitual authority of a school-mistress mingled with it. "You must
be careful not to rumple them if I let you."
"I guess not. I've got older sisters at home. They hated to have me
leave. But I looked at it this way: If I was ever going to sea--and
I _was_--I couldn't get such another captain as Captain Jenness,
nor such another crew; all the men from down our way; and I don't mind
the second mate's jokes much. He doesn't mean anything by them; likes
to plague, that's all. He's a first-rate sailor."
Lydia was kneeling before one of the trunks, and the boy was stooping
over it, with a hand on either knee. She had drawn out her only black
silk dress, and was finding it rather crumpled. "I shouldn't have
thought it would have got so much jammed, coming fifty miles," she
soliloquized. "But they seemed to take a pleasure in seeing how much
they could bang the trunks." She rose to her feet and shook out the
dress, and drew the skirt several times over her left arm.
The boy's eyes glistened. "Goodness!" he said. "Just new, ain't it?
Going to wear it any on board?"
"Sundays, perhaps," answered Lydia thoughtfully, still smoothing and
shaping the dress, which she regarded at arm's-length, from time to
time, with her head aslant.
"I suppose it's the latest style?" pursued the boy.
"Yes, it is," said Lydia. "We sent to Boston for the pattern. I hate
to pack it into one of those drawers," she mused.
"You needn't," replied Thomas. "There's a whole row of hooks."
"I want to know!" cried Lydia. She followed Thomas into her state-
room. "Well, well! They do seem to have thought of everything!"
"I should say so," exulted the boy. "Look here!" He showed her a
little niche near the head of the berth strongly framed with glass,
in which a lamp was made fast. "Light up, you know, when you want
to read, or feel kind of lonesome." Lydia clasped her hands in
pleasure and amaze. "Oh, I tell you Captain Jenness meant to have
things about right. The other state-rooms don't begin to come up to
this." He dashed out in his zeal, and opened their doors, that she
might triumph in the superiority of her accommodations without delay.
These rooms were cramped together on one side; Lydia's was in a
comparatively ample corner by itself.
She went on unpacking her trunk, and the boy again took his place near
her, in the same attitude as before. "I tell you," he said, "I shall
like to see you with that silk on. Have you got any other nice ones?"
"No; only this I'm wearing," answered Lydia, half amused and half
honest in her sympathy with his ardor about her finery. "They said not
to bring many clothes; they would be cheaper over there." She had now
reached the bottom of her trunk. She knew by the clock that her
grandfather could hardly have left the city on his journey home, but
the interval of time since she had parted with him seemed vast. It was
as if she had started to Boston in a former life; the history of the
choosing and cutting and making of these clothes was like a dream of
preexistence. She had never had so many things new at once, and it had
been a great outlay, but her aunt Maria had made the money go as far
as possible, and had spent it with that native taste, that genius for
dress, which sometimes strikes the summer boarder in the sempstresses
of the New England hills. Miss Latham's gift was quaintly unrelated to
herself. In dress, as in person and manner, she was uncompromisingly
plain and stiff. All the more lavishly, therefore, had it been
devoted to the grace and beauty of her sister's child, who, ever
since she came to find a home in her grandfather's house, had been
more stylishly dressed than any other girl in the village. The summer
boarders, whom the keen eye of Miss Latham studied with unerring sense
of the best new effects in costume, wondered at Lydia's elegance, as
she sat beside her aunt in the family pew, a triumph of that grim
artist's skill. Lydia knew that she was well dressed, but she knew
that after all she was only the expression of her aunt's inspirations.
Her own gift was of another sort. Her father was a music-teacher,
whose failing health had obliged him to give up his profession, and
who had taken the traveling agency of a parlor organ manufactory for
the sake of the out-door life. His business had brought him to South
Bradfield, where he sold an organ to Deacon Latham's church, and fell
in love with his younger daughter. He died a few years after his
marriage, of an ancestral consumption, his sole heritage from the good
New England stock of which he came. His skill as a pianist, which was
considerable, had not descended to his daughter, but her mother had
bequeathed her a peculiarly rich and flexible voice, with a joy in
singing which was as yet a passion little affected by culture. It was
this voice which, when Lydia rose to join in the terrible hymning of
the congregation at South Bradfield, took the thoughts of people off
her style and beauty; and it was this which enchanted her father's
sister when, the summer before the date of which we write, that lady
had come to America on a brief visit, and heard Lydia sing at her
parlor organ in the old homestead.
Mrs. Erwin had lived many years abroad, chiefly in Italy, for the
sake of the climate. She was of delicate health, and constantly
threatened by the hereditary disease that had left her the last of her
generation, and she had the fastidiousness of an invalid. She was full
of generous impulses which she mistook for virtues; but the presence
of some object at once charming and worthy was necessary to rouse
these impulses. She had been prosperously married when very young, and
as a pretty American widow she had wedded in second marriage at Naples
one of those Englishmen who have money enough to live at ease in Latin
countries; he was very fond of her, and petted her. Having no children
she might long before have thought definitely of poor Henry's little
girl, as she called Lydia, but she had lived very comfortably
indefinite in regard to her ever since the father's death. Now and
then she had sent the child a handsome present or a sum of money.
She had it on her conscience not to let her be wholly a burden to her
grandfather; but often her conscience drowsed. When she came to South
Bradfield, she won the hearts of the simple family, which had been
rather hardened against her, and she professed an enthusiasm for
Lydia. She called her pretty names in Italian, which she did not
pronounce well; she babbled a great deal about what ought to be done
for her, and went away without doing anything; so that when a letter
finally came, directing Lydia to be sent out to her in Venice, they
were all surprised, in the disappointment to which they had resigned
Mrs. Erwin wrote an epistolary style exasperatingly vacuous and
diffuse, and, like many women of that sort, she used pencil instead of
ink, always apologizing for it as due now to her weak eyes, and now to
her weak wrist, and again to her not being able to find the ink. Her
hand was full of foolish curves and dashes, and there were no spaces
between the words at times. Under these conditions it was no light
labor to get at her meaning; but the sum of her letter was that she
wished Lydia to come out to her at once, and she suggested that, as
they could have few opportunities or none to send her with people
going to Europe, they had better let her come the whole way by sea.
Mrs. Erwin remembered--in the space of a page and a half--that nothing
had ever done _her_ so much good as a long sea voyage, and it
would be excellent for Lydia, who, though she looked so strong,
probably needed all the bracing up she could get. She had made
inquiries,--or, what was the same thing, Mr. Erwin had, for her,--and
she found that vessels from American ports seldom came to Venice; but
they often came to Trieste, which was only a few hours away; and if
Mr. Latham would get Lydia a ship for Trieste at Boston, she could
come very safely and comfortably in a few weeks. She gave the name of
a Boston house engaged in the Mediterranean trade to which Mr. Latham
could apply for passage; if they were not sending any ship themselves,
they could probably recommend one to him.
This was what happened when Deacon Latham called at their office a few
days after Mrs. Erwin's letter came. They directed him to the firm
dispatching the Aroostook, and Captain Jenness was at their place when
the deacon appeared there. The captain took cordial possession of the
old man at once, and carried him down to the wharf to look at the ship
and her accommodations. The matter was quickly settled between them.
At that time Captain Jenness did not know but he might have other
passengers out; at any rate he would look after the little girl (as
Deacon Latham always said in speaking of Lydia) the same as if she
were his own child.
Lydia knelt before her trunk, thinking of the remote events, the
extinct associations of a few minutes and hours and days ago; she held
some cuffs and collars in her hand, and something that her aunt Maria
had said recurred to her. She looked up into the intensely interested
face of the boy, and then laughed, bowing her forehead on the back
of the hand that held these bits of linen.
The boy blushed. "What are you laughing at?" he asked, half piteously,
half indignantly, like a boy used to being badgered.
"Oh, nothing," said Lydia. "My aunt told me if any of these things
should happen to want doing up, I had better get the stewardess to
help me." She looked at the boy in a dreadfully teasing way, softly
biting her lip.
"Oh, if you're going to begin _that_ way!" he cried in affliction.
"I'm not," she answered, promptly. "I like boys. I've taught school
two winters, and I like boys first-rate."
Thomas was impersonally interested again. "Time! _You_ taught
"You look pretty young for a school-teacher!"
"Now you're making fun of me," said Lydia, astutely.
The boy thought he must have been, and was consoled. "Well, you
began it," he said.
"I oughtn't to have done so," she replied with humility; "and I won't
any more. There!" she said, "I'm not going to open my bag now. You
can take away the trunk when you want, Thomas."
"Yes, ma'am," said the boy. The idea of a school-mistress was perhaps
beginning to awe him a little. "Put your bag in your state-room
first." He did this, and when he came back from carrying away her
trunk he began to set the table. It was a pretty table, when set, and
made the little cabin much cosier. When the boy brought the dishes
from the cook's galley, it was a barbarously abundant table. There was
cold boiled ham, ham and eggs, fried fish, baked potatoes, buttered
toast, tea, cake, pickles, and watermelon; nothing was wanting. "I
tell you," said Thomas, noticing Lydia's admiration, "the captain
lives well lay-days."
"Lay-days?" echoed Lydia.
"The days we're in port," the boy explained.
"Well, I should think as much!" She ate with the hunger that
tranquillity bestows upon youth after the swift succession of strange
events, and the conflict of many emotions. The captain had not
returned in time, and she ate alone.
After a while she ventured to the top of the gangway stairs, and
stood there, looking at the novel sights of the harbor, in the red
sunset light, which rose slowly from the hulls and lower spars of
the shipping, and kindled the tips of the high-shooting masts with
a quickly fading splendor. A delicate flush responded in the east,
and rose to meet the denser crimson of the west; a few clouds,
incomparably light and diaphanous, bathed themselves in the glow. It
was a summer sunset, portending for the land a morrow of great heat.
But cool airs crept along the water, and the ferry-boats, thrust
shuttlewise back and forth between either shore, made a refreshing
sound as they crushed a broad course to foam with their paddles.
People were pulling about in small boats; from some the gay cries and
laughter of young girls struck sharply along the tide. The noise of
the quiescent city came off in a sort of dull moan. The lamps began
to twinkle in the windows and the streets on shore; the lanterns of
the ships at anchor in the stream showed redder and redder as the
twilight fell. The homesickness began to mount from Lydia's heart in
a choking lump to her throat; for one must be very happy to endure
the sights and sounds of the summer evening anywhere. She had to
shield her eyes from the brilliancy of the kerosene when she went
below into the cabin.
Lydia did not know when the captain came on board. Once, talking in
the cabin made itself felt through her dreams, but the dense sleep of
weary youth closed over her again, and she did not fairly wake till
morning. Then she thought she heard the crowing of a cock and the
cackle of hens, and fancied herself in her room at home; the illusion
passed with a pang. The ship was moving, with a tug at her side, the
violent respirations of which were mingled with the sound of the swift
rush of the vessels through the water, the noise of feet on the deck,
and of orders hoarsely shouted.
The girl came out into the cabin, where Thomas was already busy with
the breakfast table, and climbed to the deck. It was four o'clock of
the summer's morning; the sun had not yet reddened the east, but the
stars were extinct, or glimmered faint points immeasurably withdrawn
in the vast gray of the sky. At that hour there is a hovering dimness
over all, but the light on things near at hand is wonderfully keen and
clear, and the air has an intense yet delicate freshness that seems
to breathe from the remotest spaces of the universe,--a waft from
distances beyond the sun. On the land the leaves and grass are soaked
with dew; the densely interwoven songs of the birds are like a fabric
that you might see and touch. But here, save for the immediate noises
on the ship, which had already left her anchorage far behind, the
shouting of the tug's escape-pipes, and the huge, swirling gushes
from her powerful wheel, a sort of spectacular silence prevailed, and
the sounds were like a part of this silence. Here and there a small
fishing schooner came lagging slowly in, as if belated, with scarce
wind enough to fill her sails; now and then they met a steamboat,
towering white and high, a many-latticed bulk, with no one to be seen
on board but the pilot at his wheel, and a few sleepy passengers on
the forward promenade. The city, so beautiful and stately from the
bay, was dropping, and sinking away behind. They passed green islands,
some of which were fortified: the black guns looked out over the
neatly shaven glacis; the sentinel paced the rampart.
"Well, well!" shouted Captain Jenness, catching sight of Lydia where
she lingered at the cabin door. "You are an early bird. Glad to see
you up! Hope you rested well! Saw your grandfather off all right, and
kept him from taking the wrong train with my own hand. He's terribly
excitable. Well, I suppose I shall be just so, at his age. Here!" The
captain caught up a stool and set it near the bulwark for her. "There!
You make yourself comfortable wherever you like. You're at home, you
know." He was off again in a moment. Lydia cast her eye over at the
tug. On the deck, near the pilot-house, stood the young man who had
stopped the afternoon before, while she sat at the warehouse door,
and asked her grandfather if she were not ill. At his feet was a
substantial valise, and over his arm hung a shawl. He was smoking,
and seated near him, on another valise, was his companion of the day
before, also smoking. In the instant that Lydia caught sight of them,
she perceived that they both recognized her and exchanged, as it were,
a start of surprise. But they remained as before, except that he who
was seated drew out a fresh cigarette, and without looking up reached
to the other for a light. They were both men of good height, and they
looked fresh and strong, with something very alert in their slight
movements,--sudden turns of the head and brisk nods, which were
not nervously quick. Lydia wondered at their presence there in an
ignorance which could not even conjecture. She knew too little to know
that they could not have any destination on the tug, and that they
would not be making a pleasure-excursion at that hour in the morning.
Their having their valises with them deepened the mystery, which was
not solved till the tug's engines fell silent, and at an unnoticed
order a space in the bulwark not far from Lydia was opened and steps
were let down the side of the ship. Then the young men, who had
remained, to all appearance, perfectly unconcerned, caught up their
valises and climbed to the deck of the Aroostook. They did not give
her more than a glance out of the corners of their eyes, but the
surprise of their coming on board was so great a shock that she did
not observe that the tug, casting loose from the ship, was describing
a curt and foamy semicircle for her return to the city, and that the
Aroostook, with a cloud of snowy canvas filling overhead, was moving
over the level sea with the light ease of a bird that half swims, half
flies, along the water. A sudden dismay, which was somehow not fear
so much as an overpowering sense of isolation, fell upon the girl.
She caught at Thomas, going forward with some dishes in his hand,
with a pathetic appeal.
"Where are you going, Thomas?"
"I'm going to the cook's galley to help dish up the breakfast."
"What's the cook's galley?"
"Don't you know? The kitchen."
"Let me go with you. I should like to see the kitchen." She trembled
with eagerness. Arrived at the door of the narrow passage that ran
across the deck aft of the forecastle, she looked in and saw, amid
a haze of frying and broiling, the short, stocky figure of a negro,
bow-legged, and unnaturally erect from the waist up. At sight of
Lydia, he made a respectful duck forward with his uncouth body.
"Why, are you the cook?" she almost screamed in response to this
"Yes, miss," said the man, humbly, with a turn of the pleading black
eyes of the negro.
Lydia grew more peremptory: "Why--why--I thought the cook was
"Very sorry, miss," began the negro, with a deprecatory smile, in
a slow, mild voice.
Thomas burst into a boy's yelling laugh: "Well, if that ain't the best
joke on Gabriel! He'll never hear the last of it when I tell it to the
"Thomas!" cried Lydia, terribly, "you shall _not_!" She stamped
her foot. "Do you hear me?"
The boy checked his laugh abruptly. "Yes, ma'am," he said
"Well, then!" returned Lydia. She stalked proudly back to the cabin
gangway, and descending shut herself into her state-room.
A few hours later Deacon Latham came into the house with a milk-pan
full of pease. He set this down on one end of the kitchen table, with
his straw hat beside it, and then took a chair at the other end and
fell into the attitude of the day before, when he sat in the parlor
with Lydia and Miss Maria waiting for the stage; his mouth was
puckered to a whistle, and his fingers were held above the board in
act to drub it. Miss Maria turned the pease out on the table, and took
the pan into her lap. She shelled at the pease in silence, till the
sound of their pelting, as they were dropped on the tin, was lost in
their multitude; then she said, with a sharp, querulous, pathetic
impatience, "Well, father, I suppose you're thinkin' about Lyddy."
"Yes, Maria, I be," returned her father, with uncommon plumpness,
as if here now were something he had made up his mind to stand to.
"I been thinkin' that Lyddy's a woman grown, as you may say."
"Yes," admitted Miss Maria, "she's a woman, as far forth as that goes.
What put it into your head?"
"Well, I d'know as I know. But it's just like this: I got to thinkin'
whether she mightn't get to feelin' rather lonely on the voyage,
without any other woman to talk to."
"I guess," said Miss Maria, tranquilly, "she's goin' to feel lonely
enough at times, any way, poor thing! But I told her if she wanted
advice or help about anything just to go to the stewardess. That
Mrs. Bland that spent the summer at the Parkers' last year was always
tellin' how they went to the stewardess for most everything, and she
give her five dollars in gold when they got into Boston. I shouldn't
want Lyddy should give so much as that, but I should want she should
give something, as long's it's the custom."
"They don't have 'em on sailin' vessels, Captain Jenness said; they
only have 'em on steamers," said Deacon Latham.
"Have what?" asked Miss Maria, sharply.
"Stewardesses. They've got a cabin-boy."
Miss Maria desisted a moment from her work; then she answered, with
a gruff shortness peculiar to her, "Well, then, she can go to the
cook, I suppose. It wouldn't matter which she went to, I presume."
Deacon Latham looked up with the air of confessing to sin before the
whole congregation. "The cook's a man,--a black man," he said.
Miss Maria dropped a handful of pods into the pan, and sent a handful
of peas rattling across the table on to the floor. "Well, who in
Time"--the expression was strong, but she used it without hesitation,
and was never known to repent it "_will_ she go to, then?"
"I declare for't," said her father, "I don't know. I d'know as I
ever thought it out fairly before; but just now when I was pickin'
the pease for you, my mind got to dwellin' on Lyddy, and then it come
to me all at once: there she was, the only _one_ among a whole
shipful, and I--I didn't know but what she might think it rather of
a strange position for her."
"_Oh_!" exclaimed Miss Maria, petulantly. "I guess Lyddy'd know
how to conduct herself wherever she was; she's a born lady, if ever
there was one. But what I think is--" Miss Maria paused, and did not
say what she thought; but it was evidently not the social aspect of
the matter which was uppermost in her mind. In fact, she had never
been at all afraid of men, whom she regarded as a more inefficient
and feebler-minded kind of women.
"The only thing't makes me feel easier is what the captain said
about the young men," said Deacon Latham.
"What young men?" asked Miss Maria.
"Why, I told you about 'em!" retorted the old man, with some
"You told me about two young men that stopped on the wharf and
pitied Lyddy's worn-out looks."
"Didn't I tell you the rest? I declare for't, I don't believe I did;
I be'n so put about. Well, as we was drivin' up to the depot, we met
the same two young men, and the captain asked 'em, 'Are you goin' or
not a-goin'?'--just that way; and they said, 'We're goin'.' And he
said, 'When you comin' aboard?' and he told 'em he was goin' to haul
out this mornin' at three o'clock. And they asked what tug, and he
told 'em, and they fixed it up between 'em all then that they was to
come aboard from the tug, when she'd got the ship outside; and that's
what I suppose they did. The captain he said to me he hadn't mentioned
it before, because he wa'n't sure't they'd go till that minute. He
give 'em a first-rate of a character."
Miss Maria said nothing for a long while. The subject seemed one with
which she did not feel herself able to grapple. She looked all about
the kitchen for inspiration, and even cast a searching glance into
the wood-shed. Suddenly she jumped from her chair, and ran to the
open window: "Mr. Goodlow! Mr. Goodlow! I wish you'd come in here
She hurried to meet the minister at the front door, her father lagging
after her with the infantile walk of an old man.
Mr. Goodlow took off his straw hat as he mounted the stone step to the
threshold, and said good-morning; they did not shake hands. He wore a
black alpaca coat, and waistcoat of farmer's satin; his hat was dark
straw, like Deacon Latham's, but it was low-crowned, and a line of
ornamental openwork ran round it near the top.
"Come into the settin'-room," said Miss Maria. "It's cooler, in
there." She lost no time in laying the case before the minister.
She ended by saying, "Father, he don't feel just right about it,
and I d'know as I'm quite clear in my own mind."
The minister considered a while in silence before he said, "I think
Lydia's influence upon those around her will be beneficial, whatever
her situation in life may be."
"There, father!" cried Miss Maria, in reproachful relief.
"You're right, Maria, you're right!" assented the old man, and they
both waited for the minister to continue.
"I rejoiced with you," he said, "when this opportunity for Lydia's
improvement offered, and I am not disposed to feel anxious as to the
ways and means. Lydia is no fool. I have observed in her a dignity,
a sort of authority, very remarkable in one of her years."
"I guess the boys at the school down to the Mill Village found out
she had authority enough," said Miss Maria, promptly materializing
"Precisely," said Mr. Goodlow.
"That's what I told father, in the first place," said Miss Maria.
"I guess Lyddy'd know how to conduct herself wherever she was,--just
the words I used."
"I don't deny it, Maria, I don't deny it," shrilly piped the old man.
"I ain't afraid of any harm comin' to Lyddy any more'n what you be.
But what I said was, Wouldn't she feel kind of strange, sort of lost,
as you may say, among so many, and she the only _one_?"
"She will know how to adapt herself to circumstances," said Mr.
Goodlow. "I was conversing last summer with that Mrs. Bland who
boarded at Mr. Parker's, and she told me that girls in Europe are
brought up with no habits of self-reliance whatever, and that young
ladies are never seen on the streets alone in France and Italy."
"Don't you think," asked Miss Maria, hesitating to accept this
ridiculous statement, "that Mrs. Bland exaggerated some?"
"She _talked_ a great deal," admitted Mr. Goodlow. "I should be
sorry if Lydia ever lost anything of that native confidence of hers
in her own judgment, and her ability to take care of herself under
any circumstances, and I do not think she will. She never seemed
conceited to me, but she _was_ the most self-reliant girl I
"You've hit it there, Mr. Goodlow. Such a spirit as she always had!"
sighed Miss Maria. "It was just so from the first. It used to go to my
heart to see that little thing lookin' after herself, every way, and
not askin' anybody's help, but just as quiet and proud about it! She's
her mother, all over. And yest'day, when she set here waitin' for the
stage, and it did seem as if I should have to give up, hearin' her
sob, sob, sob,--why, Mr. Goodlow, she hadn't any more idea of backin'
out than--than--" Miss Maria relinquished the search for a comparison,
and went into another room for a handkerchief. "I don't believe she
cared over and above about goin', from the start," said Miss Maria,
returning, "but when once she'd made up her mind to it, there she
was. I d'know as she _took_ much of a fancy to her aunt, but you
couldn't told from anything that Lyddy said. Now, if I have anything
on my mind, I have to blat it right out, as you may say; I can't seem
to bear it a minute; but Lyddy's different. Well," concluded Miss
Maria, "I guess there ain't goin' to any harm come to her. But it did
give me a kind of start, first off, when father up and got to feelin'
sort of bad about it. I d'know as I should thought much about it, if
he hadn't seemed to. I d'know as I should ever thought about anything
except her not havin' any one to advise with about her clothes. It's
the only thing she ain't handy with: she won't know what to wear. I'm
afraid she'll spoil her silk. I d'know but what father's _been_
hasty in not lookin' into things carefuller first. He most always does
"Couldn't repent beforehand!" retorted Deacon Latham. "And I tell you,
Maria, I never saw a much finer man than Captain Jenness; and the
cabin's everything I said it was, and more. Lyddy reg'larly went off
over it; 'n' I guess, as Mr. Goodlow says, she'll influence 'em for
good. Don't you fret about her clothes any. You fitted her out in
apple-pie order, and she'll soon be there. 'T ain't but a little
ways to Try-East, any way, to what it is some of them India voyages,
Captain Jenness said. He had his own daughters out the last voyage;
'n' I guess he can tell Lyddy when it's weather to wear her silk.
I d'know as I'd better said anything about what I was thinkin'. I
don't want to be noways rash, and yet I thought I couldn't be too
For a silent moment Miss Maria looked sourly uncertain as to the
usefulness of scruples that came so long after the fact. Then she
said abruptly to Mr. Goodlow, "Was it you or Mr. Baldwin, preached
Mirandy Holcomb's fune'l sermon?"
One of the advantages of the negative part assigned to women in life
is that they are seldom forced to commit themselves. They can, if they
choose, remain perfectly passive while a great many things take place
in regard to them; they need not account for what they do not do.
From time to time a man must show his hand, but save for one supreme
exigency a woman need never show hers. She moves in mystery as long
as she likes; and mere reticence in her, if she is young and fair,
interprets itself as good sense and good taste.
Lydia was, by convention as well as by instinct, mistress of the
situation when she came out to breakfast, and confronted the young men
again with collected nerves, and a reserve which was perhaps a little
too proud. The captain was there to introduce them, and presented
first Mr. Dunham, the gentleman who had spoken to her grandfather on
the wharf, and then Mr. Staniford, his friend and senior by some four
or five years. They were both of the fair New England complexion; but
Dunham's eyes were blue, and Staniford's dark gray. Their mustaches
were blonde, but Dunham's curled jauntily outward at the corners,
and his light hair waved over either temple from the parting in the
middle. Staniford's mustache was cut short; his hair was clipped tight
to his shapely head, and not parted at all; he had a slightly aquiline
nose, with sensitive nostrils, showing the cartilage; his face was
darkly freckled. They were both handsome fellows, and fittingly
dressed in rough blue, which they wore like men with the habit of
good clothes; they made Lydia such bows as she had never seen before.
Then the Captain introduced Mr. Watterson, the first officer, to all,
and sat down, saying to Thomas, with a sort of guilty and embarrassed
growl, "Ain't he out yet? Well, we won't wait," and with but little
change of tone asked a blessing; for Captain Jenness in his way was
a religious man.
There was a sixth plate laid, but the captain made no further mention
of the person who was not out yet till shortly after the coffee was
poured, when the absentee appeared, hastily closing his state-room
door behind him, and then waiting on foot, with a half-impudent,
half-intimidated air, while Captain Jenness, with a sort of elaborate
repressiveness, presented him as Mr. Hicks. He was a short and slight
young man, with a small sandy mustache curling tightly in over his
lip, floating reddish-blue eyes, and a deep dimple in his weak,
slightly retreating chin. He had an air at once amiable and baddish,
with an expression, curiously blended, of monkey-like humor and
spaniel-like apprehensiveness. He did not look well, and till he had
swallowed two cups of coffee his hand shook. The captain watched him
furtively from under his bushy eyebrows, and was evidently troubled
and preoccupied, addressing a word now and then to Mr. Watterson, who,
by virtue of what was apparently the ship's discipline, spoke only
when he was spoken to, and then answered with prompt acquiescence.
Dunham and Staniford exchanged not so much a glance as a consciousness
in regard to him, which seemed to recognize and class him. They talked
to each other, and sometimes to the captain. Once they spoke to Lydia.
Mr. Dunham, for example, said, "Miss--ah--Blood, don't you think we
are uncommonly fortunate in having such lovely weather for a
"I don't know," said Lydia.
Mr. Dunham arrested himself in the use of his fork. "I beg your
pardon?" he smiled.
It seemed to be a question, and after a moment's doubt Lydia answered,
"I didn't know it was strange to have fine weather at the start."
"Oh, but I can assure you it is," said Dunham, with a certain
lady-like sweetness of manner which he had. "According to precedent,
we ought to be all deathly seasick."
"Not at _this_ time of year," said Captain Jenness.
"Not at this time of _year_," repeated Mr. Watterson, as if
the remark were an order to the crew.
Dunham referred the matter with a look to his friend, who refused
to take part in it, and then he let it drop. But presently Staniford
himself attempted the civility of some conversation with Lydia. He
asked her gravely, and somewhat severely, if she had suffered much
from the heat of the day before.
"Yes," said Lydia, "it was very hot."
"I'm told it was the hottest day of the summer, so far," continued
Staniford, with the same severity.
"I want to know!" cried Lydia.
The young man did not say anything more.
As Dunham lit his cigar at Staniford's on deck, the former said
significantly, "What a very American thing!"
"What a bore!" answered the other.
Dunham had never been abroad, as one might imagine from his calling
Lydia's presence a very American thing, but he had always consorted
with people who had lived in Europe; he read the Revue des Deux Mondes
habitually, and the London weekly newspapers, and this gave him the
foreign stand-point from which he was fond of viewing his native
world. "It's incredible," he added. "Who in the world can she be?"
"Oh, _I_ don't know," returned Staniford, with a cold disgust.
"I should object to the society of such a young person for a month or
six weeks under the most favorable circumstances, and with frequent
respites; but to be imprisoned on the same ship with her, and to have
her on one's mind and in one's way the whole time, is more than I
bargained for. Captain Jenness should have told us; though I suppose
he thought that if _she_ could stand it, _we_ might. There's
that point of view. But it takes all ease and comfort out of the
prospect. Here comes that blackguard." Staniford turned his back
towards Mr. Hicks, who was approaching, but Dunham could not quite
do this, though he waited for the other to speak first.
"Will you--would you oblige me with a light?" Mr. Hicks asked,
taking a cigar from his case.
"Certainly," said Dunham, with the comradery of the smoker.
Mr. Hicks seemed to gather courage from his cigar. "You didn't expect
to find a lady passenger on board, did you?" His poor disagreeable
little face was lit up with unpleasant enjoyment of the anomaly.
Dunham hesitated for an answer.
"One never can know what one's fellow passengers are going to be,"
said Staniford, turning about, and looking not at Mr. Hicks's face,
but his feet, with an effect of being, upon the whole, disappointed
not to find them cloven. He added, to put the man down rather than
from an exact belief in his own suggestion, "She's probably some
relation of the captain's."
"Why, that's the joke of it," said Hicks, fluttered with his superior
knowledge. "I've been pumping the cabin-boy, and he says the captain
never saw her till yesterday. She's an up-country school-marm, and she
came down here with her grandfather yesterday. She's going out to meet
friends of hers in Venice." The little man pulled at his cigar, and
coughed and chuckled, and waited confidently for the impression.
"Dunham," said Staniford, "did I hand you that sketch-block of mine
to put in your bag, when we were packing last night?"
"Yes, I've got it."
"I'm glad of that. Did you see Murray yesterday?"
"No; he was at Cambridge."
"I thought he was to have met you at Parker's." The conversation no
longer included Mr. Hicks or the subject he had introduced; after a
moment's hesitation, he walked away to another part of the ship. As
soon as he was beyond ear-shot, Staniford again spoke: "Dunham, this
girl is plainly one of those cases of supernatural innocence, on the
part of herself and her friends, which, as you suggested, wouldn't
occur among any other people in the world but ours."
"You're a good fellow, Staniford!" cried Dunham.
"Not at all. I call myself simply a human being, with the elemental
instincts of a gentleman, as far as concerns this matter. The girl
has been placed in a position which could be made very painful to her.
It seems to me it's our part to prevent it from being so. I doubt if
she finds it at all anomalous, and if we choose she need never do so
till after we've parted with her. I fancy we can preserve her
"Staniford, this is like you," said his friend, with glistening eyes.
"I had some wild notion of the kind myself, but I'm so glad you spoke
of it first."
"Well, never mind," responded Staniford. "We must make her feel that
there is nothing irregular or uncommon in her being here as she is.
I don't know how the matter's to be managed, exactly; it must be a
negative benevolence for the most part; but it can be done. The first
thing is to cow that nuisance yonder. Pumping the cabin-boy! The
little sot! Look here, Dunham; it's such a satisfaction to me to think
of putting that fellow under foot that I'll leave you all the credit
of saving the young lady's feelings. I should like to begin stamping
on him at once."
"I think you have made a beginning already. I confess I wish you
hadn't such heavy nails in your boots!"
"Oh, they'll do him good, confound him!" said Staniford.
"I should have liked it better if her name hadn't been Blood,"
remarked Dunham, presently.
"It doesn't matter what a girl's surname is. Besides, Blood is very
frequent in some parts of the State."
"She's very pretty, isn't she?" Dunham suggested.
"Oh, pretty enough, yes," replied Staniford. "Nothing is so common
as the pretty girl of our nation. Her beauty is part of the general
tiresomeness of the whole situation."
"Don't you think," ventured his friend, further, "that she has rather
a lady-like air?"
"She wanted to know," said Staniford, with a laugh.
Dunham was silent a while before he asked, "What do you suppose
her first name is?"
"Well, then,--Lurella. You have no idea of the grotesqueness of these
people's minds. I used to see a great deal of their intimate life when
I went on my tramps, and chanced it among them, for bed and board,
wherever I happened to be. We cultivated Yankees and the raw material
seem hardly of the same race. Where the Puritanism has gone out of
the people in spots, there's the rankest growth of all sorts of crazy
heresies, and the old scriptural nomenclature has given place to
something compounded of the fancifulness of story-paper romance and
the gibberish of spiritualism. They make up their names, sometimes,
and call a child by what sounds pretty to them. I wonder how the
captain picked up that scoundrel."
The turn of Staniford's thought to Hicks was suggested by the
appearance of Captain Jenness, who now issued from the cabin gangway,
and came toward them with the shadow of unwonted trouble in his face.
The captain, too, was smoking.
"Well, gentlemen," he began, with the obvious indirectness of a man
not used to diplomacy, "how do you like your accommodations?"
Staniford silently acquiesced in Dunham's reply that they found them
excellent. "But you don't mean to say," Dunham added, "that you're
going to give us beefsteak and all the vegetables of the season the
whole way over?"
"No," said the captain; "we shall put you on sea-fare soon enough. But
you'll like it. You don't want the same things at sea that you do on
shore; your appetite chops round into a different quarter altogether,
and you want salt beef; but you'll get it good. Your room's pretty
snug," he suggested.
"Oh, it's big enough," said Staniford, to whom he had turned as
perhaps more in authority than Dunham. "While we're well we only
sleep in it, and if we're seasick it doesn't matter where we are."
The captain knocked the ash from his cigar with the tip of his fat
little finger, and looked down. "I was in hopes I could have let you
had a room apiece, but I had another passenger jumped on me at the
last minute. I suppose you see what's the matter with Mr. Hicks?"
He looked up from one to another, and they replied with a glance of
perfect intelligence. "I don't generally talk my passengers over with
one another, but I thought I'd better speak to you about him. I found
him yesterday evening at my agents', with his father. He's just been
on a spree, a regular two weeks' tear, and the old gentleman didn't
know what to do with him, on shore, any longer. He thought he'd send
him to sea a voyage, and see what would come of it, and he plead hard
with me to take him. I didn't want to take him, but he worked away at
me till I couldn't say no. I argued in my own mind that he couldn't
get anything to drink on my ship, and that he'd behave himself well
enough as long as he was sober." The captain added ruefully, "He looks
worse this morning than he did last night. He looks bad. I told the
old gentleman that if he got into any trouble at Try-East, or any of
the ports where we touched, he shouldn't set foot on my ship again.
But I guess he'll keep pretty straight. He hasn't got any money, for
Staniford laughed. "He stops drinking for obvious reasons, if for no
others, like Artemus Ward's destitute inebriate. Did you think only
of us in deciding whether you should take him?"
The captain looked up quickly at the young men, as if touched in a
sore place. "Well, there again I didn't seem to get my bearings just
right. I suppose you mean the young lady?" Staniford motionlessly and
silently assented. "Well, she's more of a young lady than I thought
she was, when her grandfather first come down here and talked of
sending her over with me. He was always speaking about his little
girl, you know, and I got the idea that she was about thirteen, or
eleven, may be. I thought the child might be some bother on the
voyage, but thinks I, I'm used to children, and I guess I can manage.
Bless your soul! when I first see her on the wharf yesterday, it most
knocked me down! I never believed she was half so tall, nor half so
good-looking." Staniford smiled at this expression of the captain's
despair, but the captain did not smile. "Why, she was as pretty as
a bird. Well, there I was. It was no time then to back out. The old
man wouldn't understood. Besides, there was the young lady herself,
and she seemed so forlorn and helpless that I kind of pitied her.
I thought, What if it was one of my own girls? And I made up my mind
that she shouldn't know from anything I said or did that she wasn't
just as much at home and just as much in place on my ship as she would
be in my house. I suppose what made me feel easier about it, and took
the queerness off some, was my having my own girls along last voyage.
To be sure, it ain't quite the same thing," said the captain,
"Not quite," assented Staniford.
"If there was two of them," said the captain, "I don't suppose I
should feel so bad about it. But thinks I, A lady's a lady the world
over, and a gentleman's a gentleman." The captain looked significantly
at the young men. "As for that other fellow," added Captain Jenness,
"if I can't take care of him, I think I'd better stop going to sea
altogether, and go into the coasting trade."
He resumed his cigar with defiance, and was about turning away when
Staniford spoke. "Captain Jenness, my friend and I had been talking
this little matter over just before you came up. Will you let me say
that I'm rather proud of having reasoned in much the same direction
This was spoken with that air which gave Staniford a peculiar
distinction, and made him the despair and adoration of his friend:
it endowed the subject with seriousness, and conveyed a sentiment of
grave and noble sincerity. The captain held out a hand to each of the
young men, crossing his wrists in what seemed a favorite fashion with
him. "Good!" he cried, heartily. "I _thought_ I knew you."
Staniford and Dunham drew stools to the rail, and sat down with
their cigars after the captain left them. The second mate passed by,
and cast a friendly glance at them; he had whimsical brown eyes that
twinkled under his cap-peak, while a lurking smile played under his
heavy mustache; but he did not speak. Staniford said, there was a
pleasant fellow, and he should like to sketch him. He was only an
amateur artist, and he had been only an amateur in life otherwise,
so far; but he did not pretend to have been anything else.
"Then you're not sorry you came, Staniford?" asked Dunham, putting
his hand on his friend's knee. "He characteristically assumed the
responsibility, although the voyage by sailing-vessel rather than
steamer was their common whim, and it had been Staniford's preference
that decided them for Trieste rather than any nearer port.
"No, I'm not sorry,--if you call it come, already. I think a bit of
Europe will be a very good thing for the present, or as long as I'm
in this irresolute mood. If I understand it, Europe is the place
for American irresolution. When I've made up my mind, I'll come home
again. I still think Colorado is the thing, though I haven't abandoned
California altogether; it's a question of cattle-range and
"You'll decide against both," said Dunham.
"How would you like West Virginia? They cattle-range in West Virginia,
too. They may sheep-ranch, too, for all I know,--no, that's in Old
Virginia. The trouble is that the Virginias, otherwise irreproachable,
are not paying fields for such enterprises. They say that one is a
sure thing in California, and the other is a sure thing in Colorado.
They give you the figures." Staniford lit another cigar.
"But why shouldn't you stay where you are, Staniford? You've money
enough left, after all."
"Yes, money enough for one. But there's something ignoble in living
on a small stated income, unless you have some object in view besides
living, and I haven't, you know. It's a duty I owe to the general
frame of things to make more money."
"If you turned your mind to any one thing, I'm sure you'd succeed
where you are," Dunham urged.
"That's just the trouble," retorted his friend. "I can't turn my
mind to any one thing,--I'm too universally gifted. I paint a little,
I model a little, I play a very little indeed; I can write a book
notice. The ladies praise my art, and the editors keep my literature
a long time before they print it. This doesn't seem the highest aim
of being. I have the noble earth-hunger; I must get upon the land.
That's why I've got upon the water." Staniford laughed again, and
pulled comfortably at his cigar. "Now, you," he added, after a pause,
in which Dunham did not reply, "you have not had losses; you still
have everything comfortable about you. _Du hast Alles was Menschen
begehr_, even to the _schonsten Augen_ of the divine Miss
"Yes, Staniford, that's it. I hate your going out there all alone.
Now, if you were taking some nice girl with you!" Dunham said, with
a lover's fond desire that his friend should be in love, too.
"To those wilds? To a redwood shanty in California, or a turf hovel
in Colorado? What nice girl would go? 'I will take some savage woman,
she shall rear my dusky race.'"
"I don't like to have you take any risks of degenerating,"
"With what you know to be my natural tendencies? Your prophetic eye
prefigures my pantaloons in the tops of my boots. Well, there is time
yet to turn back from the brutality of a patriarchal life. You must
allow that I've taken the longest way round in going West. In Italy
there are many chances; and besides, you know, I like to talk."
It seemed to be an old subject between them, and they discussed it
languidly, like some abstract topic rather than a reality.
"If you only had some tie to bind you to the East, I should feel
pretty safe about you," said Dunham, presently.
"I have you," answered his friend, demurely.
"Oh, I'm nothing," said Dunham, with sincerity.
"Well, I may form some tie in Italy. Art may fall in love with me,
there. How would you like to have me settle in Florence, and set up
a studio instead of a ranch,--choose between sculpture and painting,
instead of cattle and sheep? After all, it does grind me to have lost
that money! If I had only been swindled out of it, I shouldn't have
cared; but when you go and make a bad thing of it yourself, with your
eyes open, there's a reluctance to place the responsibility where it
belongs that doesn't occur in the other case. Dunham, do you think it
altogether ridiculous that I should feel there was something sacred in
the money? When I remember how hard my poor old father worked to get
it together, it seems wicked that I should have stupidly wasted it on
the venture I did. I want to get it back; I want to make money. And so
I'm going out to Italy with you, to waste more. I don't respect myself
as I should if I were on a Pullman palace car, speeding westward.
I'll own I like this better."
"Oh, it's all right, Staniford," said his friend. "The voyage will do
you good, and you'll have time to think everything over, and start
fairer when you get back."
"That girl," observed Staniford, with characteristic abruptness, "is
a type that is commoner than we imagine in New England. We fair people
fancy we are the only genuine Yankees. I guess that's a mistake. There
must have been a good many dark Puritans. In fact, we always think of
Puritans as dark, don't we?"
"I believe we do," assented Dunham. "Perhaps on account of
their black clothes."
"Perhaps," said Staniford. "At any rate, I'm so tired of the blonde
type in fiction that I rather like the other thing in life. Every
novelist runs a blonde heroine; I wonder why. This girl has the clear
Southern pallor; she's of the olive hue; and her eyes are black as
sloes,--not that I know what sloes are. Did she remind you of anything
"Yes; a little of Faed's Evangeline, as she sat in the door-way of
the warehouse yesterday."
"Exactly. I wish the picture were more of a picture; but I don't know
that it matters. _She's_ more of a picture."
"'Pretty as a bird,' the captain said."
"Bird isn't bad. But the bird is in her manner. There's something
tranquilly alert in her manner that's like a bird; like a bird that
lingers on its perch, looking at you over its shoulder, if you come
up behind. That trick of the heavily lifted, half lifted eyelids,--I
wonder if it's a trick. The long lashes can't be; she can't make them
curl up at the edges. Blood,--Lurella Blood. And she wants to know."
Staniford's voice fell thoughtful.
"She's more slender than Faed's Evangeline. Faed painted rather too
fat a sufferer on that tombstone. Lurella Blood has a very pretty
figure. Lurella. Why Lurella?"
"Oh, come, Staniford!" cried Dunham. "It isn't fair to call the girl
by that jingle without some ground for it."
"I'm sure her name's Lurella, for she wanted to know. Besides, there's
as much sense in it as there is in any name. It sounds very well.
Lurella. It is mere prejudice that condemns the novel collocation
"I wonder what she's thinking of now,--what's passing in her mind,"
mused Dunham aloud.
"_You_ want to know, too, do you?" mocked his friend. "I'll tell
you what: processions of young men so long that they are an hour
getting by a given point. That's what's passing in every girl's mind
--when she's thinking. It's perfectly right. Processsions of young
girls are similarly passing in our stately and spacious intellects.
It's the chief business of the youth of one sex to think of the youth
of the other sex."
"Oh, yes, I know," assented Dunham; "and I believe in it, too--"
"Of course you do, you wicked wretch, you abandoned Lovelace, you
bruiser of ladies' hearts! You hope the procession is composed
entirely of yourself. What would the divine Hibbard say to your
"Oh, don't, Staniford! It isn't fair," pleaded Dunham, with the
flattered laugh which the best of men give when falsely attainted
of gallantry. "I was wondering whether she was feeling homesick, or
"I will go below and ask her," said Staniford. "I know she will tell
me the exact truth. They always do. Or if you will take a guess of
mine instead of her word for it, I will hazard the surmise that she
is not at all homesick. What has a pretty young girl to regret in such
a life as she has left? It's the most arid and joyless existence under
the sun. She has never known anything like society. In the country
with us, the social side must always have been somewhat paralyzed,
but there are monumental evidences of pleasures in other days that are
quite extinct now. You see big dusty ball-rooms in the old taverns:
ball-rooms that have had no dancing in them for half a century,
and where they give you a bed sometimes. There used to be academies,
too, in the hill towns, where they furnished a rude but serviceable
article of real learning, and where the local octogenarian remembers
seeing something famous in the way of theatricals on examination-day;
but neither his children nor his grandchildren have seen the like.
There's a decay of the religious sentiment, and the church is no
longer a social centre, with merry meetings among the tombstones
between the morning and the afternoon service. Superficial
humanitarianism of one kind or another has killed the good old
orthodoxy, as the railroads have killed the turnpikes and the country
taverns; and the common schools have killed the academies. Why, I
don't suppose this girl ever saw anything livelier than a township
cattle show, or a Sunday-school picnic, in her life. They don't pay
visits in the country except at rare intervals, and their evening
parties, when they have any, are something to strike you dead with
pity. They used to clear away the corn-husks and pumpkins on the
barn floor, and dance by the light of tin lanterns. At least, that's
the traditional thing. The actual thing is sitting around four sides
of the room, giggling, whispering, looking at photograph albums,
and coaxing somebody to play on the piano. The banquet is passed in
the form of apples and water. I have assisted at _some_ rural
festivals where the apples were omitted. Upon the whole, I wonder our
country people don't all go mad. They do go mad, a great many of them,
and manage to get a little glimpse of society in the insane asylums."
Staniford ended his tirade with a laugh, in which he vented his
humorous sense and his fundamental pity of the conditions he had
"But how," demanded Dunham, breaking rebelliously from the silence
in which he had listened, "do you account for her good manner?"
"She probably was born with a genius for it. Some people are born
with a genius for one thing, and some with a genius for another. I,
for example, am an artistic genius, forced to be an amateur by the
delusive possession of early wealth, and now burning with a creative
instinct in the direction of the sheep or cattle business; you have
the gift of universal optimism; Lurella Blood has the genius of good
society. Give that girl a winter among nice people in Boston, and you
would never know that she was not born on Beacon Hill."
"Oh, I doubt that," said Dunham.
"You doubt it? Pessimist!"
"But you implied just now that she had no sensibility," pursued
"So I did!" cried Staniford, cheerfully. "Social genius and
sensibility are two very different things; the cynic might contend
they were incompatible, but I won't insist so far. I dare say she
may regret the natal spot; most of us have a dumb, brutish attachment
to the _cari luoghi_; but if she knows anything, she hates its
surroundings, and must be glad to get out into the world. I should
like mightily to know how the world strikes her, as far as she's gone.
But I doubt if she's one to betray her own counsel in any way. She
looks deep, Lurella does." Staniford laughed again at the pain which
his insistence upon the name brought into Dunham's face.
After dinner, nature avenged herself in the young men for their vigils
of the night before, when they had stayed up so late, parting with
friends, that they had found themselves early risers without having
been abed. They both slept so long that Dunham, leaving Staniford to
a still unfinished nap, came on deck between five and six o'clock.
Lydia was there, wrapped against the freshening breeze in a red
knit shawl, and seated on a stool in the waist of the ship, in the
Evangeline attitude, and with the wistful, Evangeline look in her
face, as she gazed out over the far-weltering sea-line, from which
all trace of the shore had vanished. She seemed to the young man very
interesting, and he approached her with that kindness for all other
women in his heart which the lover feels in absence from his beloved,
and with a formless sense that some retribution was due her from
him for the roughness with which Staniford had surmised her natural
history. Women had always been dear and sacred to him; he liked,
beyond most young men, to be with them; he was forever calling upon
them, getting introduced to them, waiting upon them, inventing little
services for them, corresponding with them, and wearing himself out
in their interest. It is said that women do not value men of this sort
so much as men of some other sorts. It was long, at any rate, before
Dunham--whom people always called Charley Dunham--found the woman who
thought him more lovely than every other woman pronounced him; and
naturally Miss Hibbard was the most exacting of her sex. She required
all those offices which Dunham delighted to render, and many besides:
being an invalid, she needed devotion. She had refused Dunham before
going out to Europe with her mother, and she had written to take
him back after she got there. He was now on his way to join her in
Dresden, where he hoped that he might marry her, and be perfectly
sacrificed to her ailments. She only lacked poverty in order to be
thoroughly displeasing to most men; but Dunham had no misgiving save
in regard to her money; he wished she had no money.
"A good deal more motion, isn't there?" he said to Lydia, smiling
sunnily as he spoke, and holding his hat with one hand. "Do you
find it unpleasant?"
"No," she answered, "not at all. I like it."
"Oh, there isn't enough swell to make it uncomfortable, yet," asserted
Dunham, looking about to see if there were not something he could do
for her. "And you may turn out a good sailor. Were you ever at sea
"No; this is the first time I was ever on a ship."
"Is it possible!" cried Dunham; he was now fairly at sea for the first
time himself, though by virtue of his European associations he seemed
to have made many voyages. It appeared to him that if there was
nothing else he could do for Lydia, it was his duty to talk to her.
He found another stool, and drew it up within easier conversational
distance. "Then you've never been out of sight of land before?"
"No," said Lydia.
"That's very curious--I beg your pardon; I mean you must find it a
"Yes, it's very strange," said the girl, seriously. "It looks like
the Flood. It seems as if all the rest of the world was drowned."
Dunham glanced round the vast horizon. "It _is_ like the Flood.
And it has that quality, which I've often noticed in sublime things,
of seeming to be for this occasion only."
"Yes?" said Lydia.
"Why, don't you know? It seems as if it must be like a fine sunset,
and would pass in a few minutes. Perhaps we feel that we can't endure
sublimity long, and want it to pass."
"I could look at it forever," replied Lydia.
Dunham turned to see if this were young-ladyish rapture, but perceived
that she was affecting nothing. He liked seriousness, for he was,
with a great deal of affectation for social purposes, a very sincere
person. His heart warmed more and more to the lonely girl; to be
talking to her seemed, after all, to be doing very little for her,
and he longed to be of service. "Have you explored our little wooden
world, yet?" he asked, after a pause.
Lydia paused too. "The ship?" she asked presently. "No; I've only been
in the cabin, and here; and this morning," she added, conscientiously,
"Thomas showed me the cook's galley,--the kitchen."
"You've seen more than I have," said Dunham. "Wouldn't you like to go
forward, to the bow, and see how it looks there?"
"Yes, thank you," answered Lydia, "I would."
She tottered a little in gaining her feet, and the wind drifted her
slightness a step or two aside. "Won't you take my arm, perhaps?"
"Thank you," said Lydia, "I think I can get along." But after a few
paces, a lurch of the ship flung her against Dunham's side; he caught
her hand, and passed it through his arm without protest from her.
"Isn't it grand?" he asked triumphantly, as they stood at the prow,
and rose and sank with the vessel's careering plunges. It was no gale,
but only a fair wind; the water foamed along the ship's sides, and,
as her bows descended, shot forward in hissing jets of spray; away on
every hand flocked the white caps. "You had better keep my arm, here."
Lydia did so, resting her disengaged hand on the bulwarks, as she bent
over a little on that side to watch the rush of the sea. "It really
seems as if there were more of a view here."
"It does, somehow," admitted Lydia."
"Look back at the ship's sails," said Dunham. The swell and press of
the white canvas seemed like the clouds of heaven swooping down upon
them from all the airy heights. The sweet wind beat in their faces,
and they laughed in sympathy, as they fronted it. "Perhaps the motion
is a little too strong for you here?" he asked.
"Oh, not at all!" cried the girl.
He had done something for her by bringing her here, and he hoped to
do something more by taking her away. He was discomfited, for he was
at a loss what other attention to offer. Just at that moment a sound
made itself heard above the whistling of the cordage and the wash of
the sea, which caused Lydia to start and look round.
"Didn't you think," she asked, "that you heard hens?"
"Why, yes," said Dunham. "What could it have been? Let us
He led the way back past the forecastle and the cook's galley, and
there, in dangerous proximity to the pots and frying pans, they found
a coop with some dozen querulous and meditative fowl in it.
"I heard them this morning," said Lydia. "They seemed to wake me
with their crowing, and I thought--I was at home!"
"I'm very sorry," said Dunham, sympathetically. He wished Staniford
were there to take shame to himself for denying sensibility to this
The cook, smoking a pipe at the door of his galley, said, "Dey won't
trouble you much, miss. Dey don't gen'ly last us long, and I'll kill
de roosters first."
"Oh, come, now!" protested Dunham. "I wouldn't say that!" The cook
and Lydia stared at him in equal surprise.
"Well," answered the cook, "I'll kill the hens first, den. It don't
make any difference to me which I kill. I dunno but de hens is
tenderer." He smoked in a bland indifference.
"Oh, hold on!" exclaimed Dunham, in repetition of his helpless
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