Their Silver Wedding Journey, v2
William Dean Howells
Part 3 out of 3
the Burg. These were undergoing the repairs which the monuments of the
past are perpetually suffering in the present, and there was some special
painting and varnishing for the reception of the Kaiser, who was coming
to Nuremberg for the military manoeuvres then at hand. But if they had
been in the unmolested discomfort of their unlivable magnificence, their
splendor was such as might well reconcile the witness to the superior
comfort of a private station in our snugger day. The Marches came out
owning that the youth which might once have found the romantic glories of
the place enough was gone from them. But so much of it was left to her
that she wished to make him stop and look at the flirtation which had
blossomed out between that pretty young girl and the Russian, whom they
had scarcely missed from their party in the Burg. He had apparently never
parted from the girl, and now as they sat together on the threshold of
the gloomy tower, he most have been teaching her more Slavic words, for
they were both laughing as if they understood each other perfectly.
In his security from having the affair in any wise on his hands, March
would have willingly lingered, to see how her education got on; but it
began to rain, The rain did not disturb the lovers, but it obliged the
elderly spectators to take refuge in their carriage; and they drove off
to find the famous Little Goose Man. This is what every one does at
Nuremberg; it would be difficult to say why. When they found the Little
Goose Man, he was only a mediaeval fancy in bronze, who stood on his
pedestal in the market-place and contributed from the bill of the goose
under his arm a small stream to the rainfall drenching the wet wares of
the wet market-women round the fountain, and soaking their cauliflowers
and lettuce, their grapes and pears, their carrots and turnips, to the
watery flavor of all fruits and vegetables in Germany.
The air was very raw and chill; but after supper the clouds cleared away,
and a pleasant evening tempted the travellers out. The portier
dissembled any slight which their eagerness for the only amusement he
could think of inspired, and directed them to a popular theatre which was
giving a summer season at low prices to the lower classes, and which they
surprised, after some search, trying to hide itself in a sort of back
square. They got the best places at a price which ought to have been
mortifyingly cheap, and found themselves, with a thousand other harmless
bourgeois folk, in a sort of spacious, agreeable barn, of a decoration by
no means ugly, and of a certain artless comfort. Each seat fronted a
shelf at the back of the seat before it, where the spectator could put
his hat; there was a smaller shelf for his stein of the beer passed
constantly throughout the evening; and there was a buffet where he could
stay himself with cold ham and other robust German refreshments.
It was "The Wedding Journey to Nuremberg" upon which they had oddly
chanced, and they accepted as a national tribute the character of an
American girl in it. She was an American girl of the advanced pattern,
and she came and went at a picnic on the arm of a head waiter. She
seemed to have no office in the drama except to illustrate a German
conception of American girlhood, but even in this simple function she
seemed rather to puzzle the German audience; perhaps because of the
occasional English words which she used.
To the astonishment of her compatriots, when they came out of the theatre
it was not raining; the night was as brilliantly starlit as a night could
be in Germany, and they sauntered home richly content through the narrow
streets and through the beautiful old Damenthor, beyond which their hotel
lay. How pretty, they said, to call that charming port the Ladies' Gate!
They promised each other to find out why, and they never did so, but
satisfied themselves by assigning it to the exclusive use of the slim
maidens and massive matrons of the old Nuremberg patriciate, whom they
imagined trailing their silken splendors under its arch in perpetual
The life of the Nuremberg patriciate, now extinct in the control of the
city which it builded so strenuously and maintained so heroically, is
still insistent in all its art. This expresses their pride at once and
their simplicity with a childish literality. At its best it is never so
good as the good Italian art, whose influence is always present in its
best. The coloring of the great canvases is Venetian, but there is no
such democracy of greatness as in the painting at Venice; in decoration
the art of Nuremberg is at best quaint, and at the worst puerile.
Wherever it had obeyed an academic intention it seemed to March poor and
coarse, as in the bronze fountain beside the Church of St. Lawrence. The
water spins from the pouted breasts of the beautiful figures in streams
that cross and interlace after a fancy trivial and gross; but in the base
of the church there is a time-worn Gethsemane, exquisitely affecting in
its simple-hearted truth. The long ages have made it even more affecting
than the sculptor imagined it; they have blurred the faces and figures in
passing till their features are scarcely distinguishable; and the
sleeping apostles seem to have dreamed themselves back into the mother-
marble. It is of the same tradition and impulse with that supreme glory
of the native sculpture, the ineffable tabernacle of Adam Krafft, which
climbs a column of the church within, a miracle of richly carven story;
and no doubt if there were a Nuremberg sculptor doing great things today,
his work would be of kindred inspiration.
The descendants of the old patrician who ordered the tabernacle at rather
a hard bargain from the artist still worship on the floor below, and the
descendants of his neighbor patricians have their seats in the pews
about, and their names cut in the proprietary plates on the pew-tops.
The vergeress who showed the Marches through the church was devout in the
praise of these aristocratic fellow-citizens of hers. "So simple, and
yet so noble!" she said. She was a very romantic vergeress, and she told
them at unsparing length the legend of the tabernacle, how the artist
fell asleep in despair of winning his patron's daughter, and saw in a
vision the master-work with the lily-like droop at top, which gained him
her hand. They did not realize till too late that it was all out of a
novel of Georg Ebers's, but added to the regular fee for the church a
gift worthy of an inedited legend.
Even then they had a pleasure in her enthusiasm rarely imparted by the
Nuremberg manner. They missed there the constant, sweet civility of
Carlsbad, and found themselves falling flat in their endeavors for a
little cordiality. They indeed inspired with some kindness the old woman
who showed them through that cemetery where Albert Durer and Hans Sachs
and many other illustrious citizens lie buried under monumental brasses
of such beauty:
"That kings to have the like, might wish to die."
But this must have been because they abandoned themselves so willingly to
the fascination of the bronze skull on the tomb of a fourteenth-century
patrician, which had the uncommon advantage of a lower jaw hinged to the
upper. She proudly clapped it up and down for their astonishment, and
waited, with a toothless smile, to let them discover the bead of a nail
artfully figured in the skull; then she gave a shrill cackle of joy, and
gleefully explained that the wife of this patrician had killed him by
driving a nail into his temple, and had been fitly beheaded for the
She cared so much for nothing else in the cemetery, but she consented to
let them wonder at the richness of the sculpture in the level tombs, with
their escutcheons and memorial tablets, overrun by the long grass and the
matted ivy; she even consented to share their indignation at the
destruction of some of the brasses and the theft of others. She suffered
more reluctantly their tenderness for the old, old crucifixion figured in
sculpture at one corner of the cemetery, where the anguish of the Christ
had long since faded into the stone from which it had been evoked, and
the thieves were no longer distinguishable in their penitence or
impenitence; but she parted friends with them when she saw how much they
seemed taken with the votive chapel of the noble Holzschuh family, where
a line of wooden shoes puns upon the name in the frieze, like the line of
dogs which chase one another, with bones in their mouths, around the
Canossa palace at Verona. A sense of the beautiful house by the Adige
was part of the pleasing confusion which possessed them in Nuremberg
whenever they came upon the expression of the gothic spirit common both
to the German and northern Italian art. They knew that it was an effect
which had passed from Germany into Italy, but in the liberal air of the
older land it had come to so much more beauty that now, when they found
it in its home, it seemed something fetched from over the Alps and
coarsened in the attempt to naturalize it to an alien air.
In the Germanic Museum they fled to the Italian painters from the German
pictures they had inspired; in the great hall of the Rathhaus the noble
Processional of Durer was the more precious, because his Triumph of
Maximilian somehow suggested Mantegna's Triumph of Caesar. There was to
be a banquet in the hall, under the mighty fresco, to welcome the German
Emperor, coming the next week, and the Rathhaus was full of work-people
furbishing it up against his arrival, and making it difficult for the
custodian who had it in charge to show it properly to strangers. She was
of the same enthusiastic sisterhood as the vergeress of St. Lawrence and
the guardian of the old cemetery, and by a mighty effort she prevailed
over the workmen so far as to lead her charges out through the corridor
where the literal conscience of the brothers Kuhn has wrought in the roof
to an exact image of a tournament as it was in Nuremberg four hundred
years ago. In this relief, thronged with men and horses, the gala-life
of the past survives in unexampled fulness; and March blamed himself
after enjoying it for having felt in it that toy-figure quality which
seems the final effect of the German gothicism in sculpture.
On Sunday Mrs. March partially conformed to an earlier New England ideal
of the day by ceasing from sight-seeing. She could not have understood
the sermon if she had gone to church, but she appeased the lingering
conscience she had on this point by not going out till afternoon. Then
she found nothing of the gayety which Sunday afternoon wears in Catholic
lands. The people were resting from their week-day labors, but they were
not playing; and the old churches, long since converted to Lutheran uses,
were locked against tourist curiosity.
It was as it should be; it was as it would be at home; and yet in this
ancient city, where the past was so much alive in the perpetual
picturesqueness, the Marches felt an incongruity in it; and they were
fain to escape from the Protestant silence and seriousness of the streets
to the shade of the public garden they had involuntarily visited the
evening of their arrival.
On a bench sat a quiet, rather dejected man, whom March asked some
question of their way. He answered in English, and in the parley that
followed they discovered that they were all Americans. The stranger
proved to be an American of the sort commonest in Germany, and he said he
had returned to his native country to get rid of the ague which he had
taken on Staten Island. He had been seventeen years in New York, and now
a talk of Tammany and its chances in the next election, of pulls and
deals, of bosses and heelers, grew up between the civic step-brothers,
and joined them is a common interest. The German-American said he was
bookkeeper in some glass-works which had been closed by our tariff, and
he confessed that he did not mean to return to us, though he spoke of
German affairs with the impartiality of an outsider. He said that the
Socialist party was increasing faster than any other, and that this
tacitly meant the suppression of rank and the abolition of monarchy. He
warned March against the appearance of industrial prosperity in Germany;
beggary was severely repressed, and if poverty was better clad than with
us, it was as hungry and as hopeless in Nuremberg as in New York. The
working classes were kindly and peaceable; they only knifed each other
quietly on Sunday evenings after having too much beer.
Presently the stranger rose and bowed to the Marches for good-by; and as
he walked down the aisle of trees in which they had been fitting
together, he seemed to be retreating farther and farther from such
Americanism as they had in common. He had reverted to an entirely German
effect of dress and figure; his walk was slow and Teutonic; he must be a
type of thousands who have returned to the fatherland without wishing to
own themselves its children again, and yet out of heart with the only
country left them.
"He was rather pathetic, my dear," said March, in the discomfort he knew
his wife must be feeling as well as himself. "How odd to have the lid
lifted here, and see the same old problems seething and bubbling in the
witch's caldron we call civilization as we left simmering away at home!
And how hard to have our tariff reach out and snatch the bread from the
mouths of those poor glass-workers!"
"I thought that was hard," she sighed. "It must have been his bread,
"Let's hope it was not his cake, anyway. I suppose," he added, dreamily,
"that what we used to like in Italy was the absence of all the modern
activities. The Italians didn't repel us by assuming to be of our epoch
in the presence of their monuments; they knew how to behave as pensive
memories. I wonder if they're still as charming."
"Oh, no," she returned, "nothing is as charming as it used to be. And
now we need the charm more than ever."
He laughed at her despair, in the tacit understanding they had lived into
that only one of them was to be desperate at a time, and that they were
to take turns in cheering each other up. "Well, perhaps we don't deserve
it. And I'm not sure that we need it so much as we did when we were
young. We've got tougher; we can stand the cold facts better now. They
made me shiver once, but now they give me a sort of agreeable thrill.
Besides, if, life kept up its pretty illusions, if it insisted upon being
as charming as it used to be, how could we ever bear to die? We've got
that to consider." He yielded to the temptation of his paradox, but he
did not fail altogether of the purpose with which he began, and they took
the trolley back to their hotel cheerful in the intrepid fancy that they
had confronted fate when they had only had the hardihood to face a
They agreed that now he ought really to find out something about the
contemporary life of Nuremberg, and the next morning he went out before
breakfast, and strolled through some of the simpler streets, in the hope
of intimate impressions. The peasant women, serving portions of milk
from house to house out of the cans in the little wagons which they drew
themselves, were a touch of pleasing domestic comedy; a certain effect of
tragedy imparted itself from the lamentations of the sucking-pigs jolted
over the pavements in handcarts; a certain majesty from the long
procession of yellow mail-wagons, with drivers in the royal Bavarian
blue, trooping by in the cold small rain, impassibly dripping from their
glazed hat-brims upon their uniforms. But he could not feel that these
things were any of them very poignantly significant; and he covered his
retreat from the actualities of Nuremberg by visiting the chief book-
store and buying more photographs of the architecture than he wanted, and
more local histories than be should ever read. He made a last effort for
the contemporaneous life by asking the English-speaking clerk if there
were any literary men of distinction living in Nuremberg, and the clerk
said there was not one.
He went home to breakfast wondering if be should be able to make his
meagre facts serve with his wife; but he found her far from any wish to
listen to them. She was intent upon a pair of young lovers, at a table
near her own, who were so absorbed in each other that they were proof
against an interest that must otherwise have pierced them through. The
bridegroom, as he would have called himself, was a pretty little Bavarian
lieutenant, very dark and regular, and the bride was as pretty and as
little, but delicately blond. Nature had admirably mated them, and if
art had helped to bring them together through the genius of the bride's
mother, who was breakfasting with them, it had wrought almost as fitly.
Mrs. March queried impartially who they were, where they met, and how,
and just when they were going to be married; and March consented, in his
personal immunity from their romance, to let it go on under his eyes
without protest. But later, when they met the lovers in the street,
walking arm in arm, with the bride's mother behind them gloating upon
their bliss, he said the woman ought, at her time of life, to be ashamed
of such folly. She must know that this affair, by nine chances out of
ten, could not fail to eventuate at the best in a marriage as tiresome as
most other marriages, and yet she was abandoning herself with those
ignorant young people to the illusion that it was the finest and sweetest
thing in life.
"Well, isn't it?" his wife asked.
"Yes, that's the worst of it. It shows how poverty-stricken life really
is. We want somehow to believe that each pair of lovers will find the
good we have missed, and be as happy as we expected to be."
"I think we have been happy enough, and that we've had as much good as
was wholesome for us," she returned, hurt.
"You're always so concrete! I meant us in the abstract. But if you will
be personal, I'll say that you've been as happy as you deserve, and got
more good than you had any right to."
She laughed with him, and then they laughed again to perceive that they
were walking arm in arm too, like the lovers, whom they were insensibly
He proposed that while they were in the mood they should go again to the
old cemetery, and see the hinged jaw of the murdered Paumgartner, wagging
in eternal accusation of his murderess. "It's rather hard on her, that
he should be having the last word, that way," he said. "She was a woman,
no matter what mistakes she had committed."
"That's what I call 'banale'," said Mrs. March.
"It is, rather," he confessed. "It makes me feel as if I must go to see
the house of Durer, after all."
"Well, I knew we should have to, sooner or later."
It was the thing that they had said would not do, in Nuremberg, because
everybody did it; but now they hailed a fiacre, and ordered it driven to
Durer's house, which they found in a remote part of the town near a
stretch of the city wall, varied in its picturesqueness by the
interposition of a dripping grove; it was raining again by the time they
reached it. The quarter had lapsed from earlier dignity, and without
being squalid, it looked worn and hard worked; otherwise it could hardly
have been different in Durer's time. His dwelling, in no way impressive
outside, amidst the environing quaintness, stood at the corner of a
narrow side-hill street that sloped cityward; and within it was stripped
bare of all the furniture of life below-stairs, and above was none the
cozier for the stiff appointment of a show-house. It was cavernous and
cold; but if there had been a fire in the kitchen, and a table laid in
the dining-room, and beds equipped for nightmare, after the German
fashion, in the empty chambers, one could have imagined a kindly, simple,
neighborly existence there. It in no wise suggested the calling of an
artist, perhaps because artists had not begun in Durer's time to take
themselves so objectively as they do now, but it implied the life of a
prosperous citizen, and it expressed the period.
The Marches wrote their names in the visitors' book, and paid the
visitor's fee, which also bought them tickets in an annual lottery for a
reproduction of one of Durer's pictures; and then they came away, by no
means dissatisfied with his house. By its association with his sojourns
in Italy it recalled visits to other shrines, and they had to own that it
was really no worse than Ariosto's house at Ferrara, or Petrarch's at
Arqua, or Michelangelo's at Florence. "But what I admire," he said, "is
our futility in going to see it. We expected to surprise some quality of
the man left lying about in the house because he lived and died in it;
and because his wife kept him up so close there, and worked him so hard
to save his widow from coming to want."
"Who said she did that?"
"A friend of his who hated her. But he had to allow that she was a God-
fearing woman, and had a New England conscience."
"Well, I dare say Durer was easy-going."
"Yes; but I don't like her laying her plans to survive him; though women
always do that."
They were going away the next day, and they sat down that evening to a
final supper in such good-humor with themselves that they were willing to
include a young couple who came to take places at their table, though
they would rather have been alone. They lifted their eyes for their
expected salutation, and recognized Mr. and Mrs. Leffers, of the
The ladies fell upon each other as if they had been mother and daughter;
March and the young man shook hands, in the feeling of passengers
mutually endeared by the memories of a pleasant voyage. They arrived at
the fact that Mr. Leffers had received letters in England from his
partners which allowed him to prolong his wedding journey in a tour of
the continent, while their wives were still exclaiming at their encounter
in the same hotel at Nuremberg; and then they all sat down to have, as
the bride said, a real Norumbia time.
She was one of those young wives who talk always with their eyes
submissively on their husbands, no matter whom they are speaking to;
but she was already unconsciously ruling him in her abeyance. No doubt
she was ruling him for his good; she had a livelier, mind than he, and
she knew more, as the American wives of young American business men
always do, and she was planning wisely for their travels. She recognized
her merit in this devotion with an artless candor, which was typical
rather than personal. March was glad to go out with Leffers for a little
stroll, and to leave Mrs. March to listen to Mrs. Leffers, who did not
let them go without making her husband promise to wrap up well, and not
get his feet wet. She made March promise not to take him far, and to
bring him back early, which he found himself very willing to do, after an
exchange of ideas with Mr. Leffers. The young man began to talk about
his wife, in her providential, her almost miraculous adaptation to the
sort of man he was, and when he had once begun to explain what sort of
man he was, there was no end to it, till they rejoined the ladies in the
The young couple came to the station to see the Marches off after dinner
the next day; and the wife left a bank of flowers on the seat beside Mrs.
March, who said, as soon as they were gone, "I believe I would rather
meet people of our own age after this. I used to think that you could
keep young by being with young people; but I don't, now. There world is
very different from ours. Our world doesn't really exist any more, but
as long as we keep away from theirs we needn't realize it. Young
people," she went on, "are more practical-minded than we used to be;
they're quite as sentimental; but I don't think they care so much for the
higher things. They're not so much brought up on poetry as we were," she
pursued. "That little Mrs. Leffers would have read Longfellow in our
time; but now she didn't know of his poem on Nuremberg; she was
intelligent enough about the place, but you could see that its quaintness
was not so precious as it was to us; not so sacred." Her tone entreated
him to find more meaning in her words than she had put into them. "They
couldn't have felt as we did about that old ivied wall and that grassy,
flowery moat under it; and the beautiful Damenthor and that pile-up of
the roofs from the Burg; and those winding streets with their Gothic
facades all, cobwebbed with trolley wires; and that yellow, aguish-
looking river drowsing through the town under the windows of those
overhanging houses; and the market-place, and the squares before the
churches, with their queer shops in the nooks and corners round them!"
"I see what you mean. But do you think it's as sacred to us as it would
have been twenty-five years ago? I had an irreverent feeling now and
then that Nuremberg was overdoing Nuremberg."
"Oh, yes; so had I. We're that modern, if we're not so young as we
"We were very simple, in those days."
"Well, if we were simple, we knew it!"
"Yes; we used to like taking our unconsciousness to pieces and looking at
"We had a good time."
"Too good. Sometimes it seems as if it would have lasted longer if it
had not been so good. We might have our cake now if we hadn't eaten it."
"It would be mouldy, though."
"I wonder," he said, recurring to the Lefferses; "how we really struck
"Well, I don't believe they thought we ought to be travelling about
alone, quite, at our age."
"Oh, not so bad as that! "After a moment he said, "I dare say they don't
go round quarrelling on their wedding journey, as we did."
"Indeed they do! They had an awful quarrel just before they got to
Nuremberg: about his wanting to send some of the baggage to Liverpool by
express that she wanted to keep with them. But she said it had been a
lesson, and they were never going to quarrel again." The elders looked
at each other in the light of experience, and laughed. "Well," she
ended, "that's one thing we're through with. I suppose we've come to
feel more alike than we used to."
"Or not to feel at all. How did they settle it about the baggage?"
"Oh! He insisted on her keeping it with her." March laughed again, but
this time he laughed alone, and after a while she said: "Well, they gave
just the right relief to Nuremberg, with their good, clean American
philistinism. I don't mind their thinking us queer; they must have
thought Nuremberg was queer."
"Yes. We oldsters are always queer to the young. We're either
ridiculously lively and chirpy, or we're ridiculously stiff and grim;
they never expect to be like us, and wouldn't, for the world. The worst
of it is, we elderly people are absurd to one another; we don't, at the
bottom of our hearts, believe we're like that, when we meet. I suppose
that arrogant old ass of a Triscoe looks upon me as a grinning dotard."
"I wonder," said Mrs. March, "if she's told him yet," and March perceived
that she was now suddenly far from the mood of philosophic introspection;
but he had no difficulty in following her.
"She's had time enough. But it was an awkward task Burnamy left to her."
"Yes, when I think of that, I can hardly forgive him for coming back in
that way. I know she is dead in love with him; but she could only have
accepted him conditionally."
"Conditionally to his making it all right with Stoller?"
"Stoller? No! To her father's liking it."
"Ah, that's quite as hard. What makes you think she accepted him at
"What do you think she was crying about?"
"Well, I have supposed that ladies occasionally shed tears of pity. If
she accepted him conditionally she would have to tell her father about
it." Mrs. March gave him a glance of silent contempt, and he hastened to
atone for his stupidity. "Perhaps she's told him on the instalment plan.
She may have begun by confessing that Burnamy had been in Carlsbad. Poor
old fellow, I wish we were going to find him in Ansbach! He could make
things very smooth for us."
"Well, you needn't flatter yourself that you'll find him in Ansbach. I'm
sure I don't know where he is."
"You might write to Miss Triscoe and ask."
"I think I shall wait for Miss Triscoe to write to me," she said, with
"Yes, she certainly owes you that much, after all your suffering for her.
I've asked the banker in Nuremberg to forward our letters to the poste
restante in Ansbach. Isn't it good to see the crows again, after those
ravens around Carlsbad?"
She joined him in looking at the mild autumnal landscape through the open
window. The afternoon was fair and warm, and in the level fields bodies
of soldiers were at work with picks and spades, getting the ground ready
for the military manoeuvres; they disturbed among the stubble foraging
parties of crows, which rose from time to time with cries of indignant
protest. She said, with a smile for the crows, "Yes. And I'm thankful
that I've got nothing on my conscience, whatever happens," she added in
dismissal of the subject of Burnamy.
"I'm thankful too, my dear. I'd much rather have things on my own. I'm
more used to that, and I believe I feel less remorse than when you're to
They might have been carried near this point by those telepathic
influences which have as yet been so imperfectly studied. It was only
that morning, after the lapse of a week since Burnamy's furtive
reappearance in Carlsbad, that Miss Triscoe spoke to her father about it,
and she had at that moment a longing for support and counsel that might
well have made its mystical appeal to Mrs. March.
She spoke at last because she could put it off no longer, rather than
because the right time had come. She began as they sat at breakfast.
"Papa, there is something that I have got to tell yon. It is something
that you ought to know; but I have put off telling you because--"
She hesitated for the reason, and "Well!" said her father, looking up at
her from his second cup of coffee. "What is it?"
Then she answered, "Mr. Burnamy has been here."
"In Carlsbad? When was he here?"
"The night of the Emperor's birthday. He came into the box when you were
behind the scenes with Mr. March; afterwards I met him in the crowd."
"I thought you ought to know. Mrs. March said I ought to tell you."
"Did she say you ought to wait a week?" He gave way to an irascibility
which he tried to check, and to ask with indifference, "Why did he come
"He was going to write about it for that paper in Paris." The girl had
the effect of gathering her courage up for a bold plunge. She looked
steadily at her father, and added: "He said he came back because he
couldn't help it. He--wished to speak with me, He said he knew he had no
right to suppose I cared anything about what had happened with him and
Mr. Stoller. He wanted to come back and tell me--that."
Her father waited for her to go on, but apparently she was going to leave
the word to him, now. He hesitated to take it, but he asked at last with
a mildness that seemed to surprise her, "Have you heard anything from him
"Where is he?"
"I don't know. I told him I could not say what he wished; that I must
tell you about it."
The case was less simple than it would once have been for General
Triscoe. There was still his affection for his daughter, his wish for
her happiness, but this had always been subordinate to his sense of his
own interest and comfort, and a question had recently arisen which put
his paternal love and duty in a new light. He was no more explicit with
himself than other men are, and the most which could ever be said of him
without injustice was that in his dependence upon her he would rather
have kept his daughter to himself if she could not have been very
prosperously married. On the other hand, if he disliked the man for whom
she now hardly hid her liking, he was not just then ready to go to
extremes concerning him.
"He was very anxious," she went on, "that you should know just how it
was. He thinks everything of your judgment and--and--opinion." The
general made a consenting noise in his throat. "He said that he did not
wish me to 'whitewash' him to you. He didn't think he had done right; he
didn't excuse himself, or ask you to excuse him unless you could from the
stand-point of a gentleman."
The general made a less consenting noise in his throat, and asked, "How
do you look at it, yourself, Agatha?"
"I don't believe I quite understand it; but Mrs. March--"
"Oh, Mrs. March!" the general snorted.
"--says that Mr. March does not think so badly of it as Mr. Burnamy
"I doubt it. At any rate, I understood March quite differently."
"She says that he thinks he behaved very nobly afterwards when Mr.
Stoller wanted him to help him put a false complexion on it; that it was
all the more difficult for him to do right then, because of his remorse
for what he had done before." As she spoke on she had become more eager.
"There's something in that," the general admitted, with a candor that he
made the most of both to himself and to her. "But I should like to know
what Stoller had to say of it all. Is there anything," he inquired, "any
reason why I need be more explicit about it, just now?"
"N--no. Only, I thought--He thinks so much of your opinion that--if--"
"Oh, he can very well afford to wait. If he values my opinion so highly
he can give me time to make up my mind."
"And I'm not responsible," the general continued, significantly, "for the
delay altogether. If you had told me this before--Now, I don't know
whether Stoller is still in town."
He was not behaving openly with her; but she had not behaved openly with
him. She owned that to herself, and she got what comfort she could from
his making the affair a question of what Burnamy had done to Stoller
rather than of what Burnamy had said to her, and what she had answered
him. If she was not perfectly clear as to what she wanted to do, or
wished to have happen, there was now time and place in which she could
delay and make sure. The accepted theory of such matters is that people
know their minds from the beginning, and that they do not change them.
But experience seems to contradict this theory, or else people often act
contrary to their convictions and impulses. If the statistics were
accessible, it might be found that many potential engagements hovered in
a doubtful air, and before they touched the earth in actual promise were
dissipated by the play of meteorological chances.
When General Triscoe put down his napkin in rising he said that he would
step round to Pupp's and see if Stoller were still there. But on the way
he stepped up to Mrs. Adding's hotel on the hill, and he came back, after
an interval which he seemed not to have found long, to report rather
casually that Stoller had left Carlsbad the day before. By this time the
fact seemed not to concern Agatha herself very vitally.
He asked if the Marches had left any address with her, and she answered
that they had not. They were going to spend a few days in Nuremberg, and
then push on to Holland for Mr. March's after-cure. There was no
relevance in his question unless it intimated his belief that she was in
confidential correspondence with Mrs. March, and she met this by saying
that she was going to write her in care of their bankers; she asked
whether he wished to send any word.
"No. I understand," he intimated, "that there is nothing at all in the
nature of a--a--an understanding, then, with--"
"Hm!" The general waited a moment. Then he ventured, "Do you care to
say--do you wish me to know--how he took it?"
The tears came into the girl's eyes, but she governed herself to say,
"He--he was disappointed."
"He had no right to be disappointed."
It was a question, and she answered: "He thought he had. He said--that
he wouldn't--trouble me any more."
The general did not ask at once, "And you don't know where he is now--you
haven't heard anything from him since?"
Agatha flashed through her tears, "Papa!"
"Oh! I beg your pardon. I think you told me."
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Americans are hungrier for royalty than anybody else
Effort to get on common ground with an inferior
He buys my poverty and not my will
Intrepid fancy that they had confronted fate
Less intrusive than if he had not been there
Monologue to which the wives of absent-minded men resign
Only one of them was to be desperate at a time
Reconciliation with death which nature brings to life at last
Voting-cattle whom they bought and sold
We don't seem so much our own property
We get too much into the hands of other people
Back to Full Books