LIPPINCOTT'S MAGAZINE OF POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE.
OLD SERIES, VOL. XXXVI.—NEW SERIES, VOL. X.
PHILADELPHIA: J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY. 1885.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1885, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
LIPPINCOTT'S PRESS, Philadelphia.
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[Note: The sign * denotes the letters or pages which are missing on the original manuscript.]
Art of Reading, The, Grace R. Peirce Aurora, Mary Agnes Tincker Backwoods Romance, A, Susan Hartley Swett Birds of a Texan Winter, Edward G. Bruce Brown, Anthony Calvert, P. Deming Chapter of Mystery, A, Charles Morris Cookham Dean, Margaret Bertha Wright Dieu Dispose, Nathan Clifford Brown Drama in the Nursery, The, Norman Pearson Eye of a Needle, The, Sophie Swett Ferryman's Fee, The, Margaret Vandegrift Fishing in Elk River, Tobe Hodge Forest Beauty, A, Maurice Thompson Friend George Randall, My, Frank Parke Grant, General, at Frankfort, Alfred E. Lee Hoosier Idyl, A, Louise Coffin Jones In a Suppressed Tuscan Monastery, Kate Johnston Matson Lady Lawyer's First Client, The, Thomas Wharton , Letters and Reminiscences of Charles Reade ,Kinahan Cornwallis "Mees", Charles Dunning Mickley, Joseph J., J. Bunting Muster-Day in New England, Frederick G. Mather New York Libraries, Charles Burr Todd Next Vacation, The, Alice Wellington Rollins North-River Ferry, A, F.N. Zabriskie Nos Pensions On this Side, F.C. Baylor Parisian *, The, Theodore Child P* of Archaeology, The, Ernest Ingersoll * * the Short-Story, The, Brander Matthews * * Southwest, The; Edmund Kirke * *t, A, Margaret Vandegrift * *ple, The, M.H. Catherwood * * or Free Classic Architecture, George C. Mason, Jr. * *t, A, C.W. Wilmerding * *ning, W.W. Crane * * Yesterday and To-Day, Alice King Hamilton * Roughing it in Palestine, Charles Wood Salt-Mine, In a, Margery Deane Scenes of Charlotte Bronte's Life in Brussels, Theo. Wolfe, M.D. Scottish Crofters, The, David Bennett King Second Rank, The, Felix L. Oswald Story of an Italian Workwoman's Life, The, Marie L. Thompson Story of a Story, The, Horace E. Scudder Substitute, The, James Payn Temple Pilgrimage, A, Henry Frederick Reddall Texas Sheep-Ranch, On a, E.C. Reynolds Tobacco-Plantation, A, Philip A. Bruce Truth about Dogs, The, F.N. Zabriskie Turtling on the Outer Reef, C.F. Holder Van, Charles King, U.S.A. Ville, Our, Margaret Bertha Wright White-Whalers, The C.F. Holder
LITERATURE OF THE DAY, comprising Reviews of the following Works:
Across the Chasm Agassiz, Louis: His Life and Correspondence. Edited by Elizabeth Gary Agassiz Allen, Willis Boyd—Pine-Cones At the Red Glove Bates, Arlo—A Wheel of Fire Beers, Henry A.—Nathaniel Parker Willis Behler, W.H., Lieutenant, U.S.N.—The Cruise of the Brooklyn Bompas, George O.—Life of Frank Buckland Byron, Lord—Childe Harold's Pilgrimage Carey, Rose Nouchette—Barbara Heathcote's Trial Carey, Eose Nouchette—For Lilias Carryl, Charles E.—Davy the Goblin; or, What Followed Reading "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" Cleveland, Rose Elizabeth—George Eliot's Poetry, and Other Studies Craddock, Charles Egbert—Down the Ravine Dunning, Charlotte—Upon a Cast Eugene Delacroix, par lui-meme Forbes, F.R.G.S., Henry O.—A Naturalist's Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago. A Narrative of Travel and Exploration from to Hamilton, Alice King—One of the Duanes Harrison, Mrs. Burton—Bric-a_Brac Stories Harte, Bret—By Shore and Sedge Hawthorne, Julian—Love—or a Name Holmes, Oliver Wendell—The Last Leaf Hornaday, William T.—Two Years in the Jungle Howard, Blanche Willis—Aulnay Tower Howells, William D.—The Rise of Silas Lapham Jewett, Sarah Orne—A Marsh Island Luska, Sidney—As it was Written: A Jewish Musician's Story Married for Fun Noble, Edmund—The Russian Revolt: its Causes, Condition, and Prospects Pennell, Joseph and Elizabeth Robbins—A Canterbury Pilgrimage Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart—An Old Maid's Paradise Pyle, Howard—Pepper and Salt; or, Seasoning for Young Folks Pyle, Howard—Within the Capes Roosevelt, Blanche—Life and Reminiscences of Gustave Dore Rosseau, Jean—Hans Holbein Searing, E.A.P.—A Social Experiment Sermon on the Mount, The Stanley, Henry M.—The Congo, and the Founding of its Free State: A Story of Work and Exploration Stockton, Frank R.—Rudder Grange Tales from Many Sources The Bar Sinister Thompson, Maurice—At Love's Extremes Torrey, Bradford—Birds in the Bush Warner, Beverley Ellison—Troubled Waters Wendell, Barrett—The Duchess Emilia Whittier, John Greenleaf—Poems of Nature *rs. A.L.—The Lady with the Rubies *cles—J.F. Millet
OUR MONTHLY GOSSIP, comprising the following Articles:
* The, "Additional Hair" Supply, The, Art of Modern Novel-Writing, The, * Daniel Webster's "Moods," Dothegirls Hall, Etymology of "Babe," The, Feuds and Lynch-Law in the Southwest, Future for Women, A, Ice-Saints, The, Man who Laughs, The, Mystifications of Authoresses, Old Songs and Sweet Singers, Reminiscence of Harriet Martineau, A, Svenska Maid, A, Tourgeneff's Idea of Bazaroff, Virginia Lady of the Old School, A, Why we Forget Names,
Carcanet, A, John B. Tabb Elusive, Sarah D. Hobart Epitaph written in the Sand on a Butterfly Drowned in the Sea, Helen Gray Cone Into Thy Hands, Stuart Sterne Mithra, Charles L. Hildreth Morning, Florence Earle Coates On a Noble Character marred by littleness, Charlotte Fiske Bates Probation, Florence Earle Coates Rose Romance, Ada Nichols Shadows All, Paul Hamilton Hayne Song, Robertson Trowbridge "What do I Wish for You?" ,Carlotta Perry Wood-Thrush at Sunset,Mary C. Peckham
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ON THIS SIDE.
It has not been concealed that, with all his fine qualities, Mr. Ketchum was an obstinate man, and so, in spite of his wife's remonstrances, he came down-stairs next morning—Sunday morning—in a dress that she had assured him was "only fit for one's bedroom,"—namely, a very gorgeous Oriental dressing-gown (Mabel's gift the preceding Christmas), with a fez on his head, and on his feet a pair of slippers of amazing workmanship and soundlessness, the joy of his feet, if not of his heart. Thus accoutred, he prowled about on the lower floor, looking after various things, and, going into the pantry for something, he chanced to look through the small window used for the transmission of dishes from the next room, and saw Parsons holding a pile of letters one by one over a steaming kettle. Unconscious of his proximity, the respectable Parsons dexterously and neatly opened several envelopes with a practised hand, and then transferred the letters to her pocket, to be enjoyed at her leisure, after which she laid hold of the kettle and retired into the kitchen beyond.
"Well, upon my word, if that isn't the coolest thing I ever saw!" exclaimed Mr. Ketchum mentally, and, feeling that he had made a great discovery, was at first for sharing it immediately with Parsons's mistress; but on reflection he thought differently. "It is her funeral: I guess I had better not meddle: there would be a great scene," he thought. "At any rate, I'll wait until they are leaving before putting her on her guard." He went back to the dining-room to his newspaper, and sat there until the others came down.
Miss Noel was not long in the room before an idea struck her. "Did you not say that your post-bag containing the night's mail would be sent over this morning?" she asked.
"I did. It came about an hour ago," said Mr. Ketchum.
"How very nice! I hope there may be something for me. It is so very trying to get no news from England," said Miss Noel.
"Why, Mabel had twenty-three letters laid aside for you until you should come. Didn't she give them to you?" asked Mr. Ketchum. "Were none of those from England?"
"Oh, yes. But that was three days since, and I've heard nothing for a fortnight. If Parsons has quite finished with the letters, I suppose I may as well have them. And she must be, by this. Would you kindly ring and send for them?" said Miss Noel.
"What! you know that she reads your letters?" exclaimed Mr. Ketchum, surprised.
"Oh, dear, yes. They all do. It is very tiresome, but they will do it. Parsons is generally good enough to let me have them quite promptly; but she reads them, of course,—all but my cousin Blanche Best's letters. Blanche has always been my most intimate friend, and can't bear the idea: so she blocked the game by a most ingenious device. She writes one sentence in French, the next in Italian, the third in English,—at least she did until a happier plan suggested itself: now she writes English in German text. It answers perfectly; but it is having a great effect on Parsons, quite undermining her constitution, I fear, especially when important things are happening at 'The Court,' where I often go. I sometimes wickedly slip one of Blanche's letters under the pin-cushion, as if with the intention of concealing it, and I have so enjoyed seeing Parsons whip it under her apron when she got the chance, knowing that she could not make out a single word. She really looked quite green afterward for a week: pure chagrin."
"I am sure I have done everything that I could think of to keep my letters from my man," said Sir Robert, "but quite without success. I think he finds my correspondence a little dull sometimes, as compared with that of a former place. He came to me from the greatest scamp in England; and I can fancy that the letters there were very various and diverting. My own must be altogether too ponderous and respectable for a taste formed on sensational models."
"Well, all I have got to say is that if I caught a servant of mine at that little game I'd make my letters uncommonly interesting reading to him; and if the style suited him, I'd see that he got a little leisure in the penitentiary to copy them and impress them on his mind. Do you mean to say that you don't even discharge them for it?" said Mr. Ketchum, "I never heard anything like it!"
"One could discharge the culprit easily enough; the trouble is that his successor or successors would do exactly the same thing," replied Sir Robert. "When the Barons rose, they neglected to provide a remedy for an unforeseen nuisance, and I suppose this literary partnership of Master & Servant, Limited, will always exist. I wrote a note once to Beazely (my man), addressed to myself, and told him that if he disapproved of the Conservative tone of my correspondence, as was likely, seeing that he was a Radical, I would make an effort to get at Dilke or Bright, with a view to an occasional note at least. The envelope had been resealed, I saw when it reached me, but Beazely had no more expression in his face than the Sphinx. My letters, however, were not tampered with for about a week."
Mrs. Ketchum senior became fluent in her amazement: "How perfectly dreadful! Good gracious! What did you do about your husband's letters? The idea of sharing his letters with a servant!"
She was addressing Mrs. Sykes, who said very cheerfully in reply, "Oh, there was never anything in his letters, except warnings to put the servants at board-wages before I went away, and look to expenditures, and not ask him for any more money soon. I didn't mind much. I was rather ashamed of the spelling,—that was all. Poor dear Guy never could spell, and I never read anything so dull as his letters,—the same thing over and over again, till it hardly seemed worth while to open them, only for knowing what he was up to, or when he was coming. How my poor sisters did laugh one Christmas when I got a letter from him in Italy, saying, 'The cole here is intense; but I have got a projick in my head, which is to get back to England as fast as rale and steme can possibly carry me'! It wasn't often that bad; but there was always something wrong. I can't think how it is, for he had no end of tutors and masters, except that he certainly was a very thick-headed fellow." She laughed merrily over the epistolary deficiencies of her late lord as she spoke, and every one joined her except Mrs. Ketchum, who was too shocked to countenance her.
"I saw Parsons in the very act of opening your letters this morning as I was roaming around in my Jesuit creepers, and thought you would be horrified; but it seems to be all right," said Mr. Ketchum, glancing down at his slippers. "Suppose, now, we have some breakfast: it is late. We haven't nearly as much time as the patriarchs, anyway, and so much more use for it."
"I have been thinking it would never be ready," said Mrs. Sykes.
"And I am quite ready for it. Isn't that a nice new-laid egg for me?" asked Miss Noel, taking her place with the others.
"Mabel, eggs for Miss Noel every morning, if she likes them, and don't you forget it," said Mr. Ketchum. "'Trouble'? Not the least that ever was. I have them for myself always. An egg for me must be like Caesar's wife, —above suspicion. I have provided myself with a conscientious High-Church hen that lays one every day of the year; though how she can think it worth her while, when they are selling for ten cents a dozen, I can't imagine.—What's the matter, Heathcote?"
The matter was the "Jesuit creepers" and the hen combined, which had sent all the party into a little fit of laughter, from which Mr. Heathcote could not recover.
"I don't see anything to double you up like a jack-knife," said Mr. Ketchum, in allusion to his guest's way of stooping over and having the laughs, as it were, shaken out of him by a superior force, while he got out at intervals,—
"Jest—creep—High—such a fellow!" in staccato jerks that made every one else laugh from sympathy.
"I call 'em that because Mother Schmidt made them for me so that I could steal a march on my mother-in-law, and she's a Catholic and knew how to do it. Talking of Catholics and what Washington calls the 'Peskypalians,' who is going to church to-day?"
"I am going to walk over to Dale with Bijou Brown and her father," said Ethel.
"That isn't as nice a church as ours. We will take the others into Kalsing, eh, husband?" said Mabel; "that is, if they will come."
"I will go to the scaffold with Mrs. Ketchum," protested Sir Robert gallantly. "What do you youngsters say?"
"Ramsay and I thought we would walk over to that little village on the crest of a hill that one can see from my window," said Mr. Heathcote.
"You had much better go to church, —much better. But of course your soul is your own," said Sir Robert.
"You won't have much body left when you get back: it is a good twenty miles," remarked Mr. Ketchum.
"Oh, that is nothing." replied Mr. Ramsay.
"Forty miles there and back! Are they crazy?" Mrs. Ketchum asked of Mabel sotto voce; to which a smile and shake of the head came in answer.—"The day is very damp, Job. I am almost afraid to go out; but it is my duty, and I will."
"That's right, ma. Do your duty. It is a good earthly as well as heavenly investment," replied Mr. Ketchum.
"But I wish, son, that you would live in Kalsing, next to the church, or in New York, which would be better. I saw a beautiful house advertised in the neighborhood of Trinity Church the other day, and wrote to ask about it," said Mrs. Ketchum, who was always in spirit moving the family away from Fairfield.
"You are too speculative, ma, entirely," said he. "You are like my partner, Richardson, who would write to ask the Czar what he would take for the Winter Palace, if I'd let him, when if steamships were a dollar a dozen he couldn't put up enough to buy a gang-plank. I can't move next to a church, because all you womenites belong to different ones; but I can take a room for you in the steeple and have an elevator put in that will make close connection with the services, if you like."
"Don't be irreverent, my son," said Mrs. Ketchum, who, like some other Protestants, believed in an infallible steeple, if not an infallible Pope. "I don't expect my wishes to be considered in anything."
"Oh, come, now, ma; that isn't fair. Except that I married to suit myself, which is about the only foolish thing that I have done, I have been tolerably obedient, I think," said Mr. Ketchum, aware that he was on dangerous ground.
"Do tell us about it. You wanted him to marry some one else,—some one with a fortune, didn't you?" said Mrs. Sykes. "Quite natural, I am sure."
"She wanted me to marry the ugliest woman east of the Rockies," said Mr. Ketchum. "But I couldn't stand that face behind my cups and saucers three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, and I bolted to England, where my wife picked me up."
"She wasn't so ugly at all, Job, except that her nose was a little aquiline," protested Mrs. Ketchum.
"Aquiline as a camel's back," asserted her son, in an aside.
"And her hair was rather auburn," Mrs. Ketchum went on, in reluctant concession.
"Call it pink, as the English do their hunting-coats," suggested he, smiling.
"But such a dear, good girl, you quite forgot that she wasn't exactly handsome" ("No, not precisely," interjected he) "when you came to know her."
"That I never did. It might as a speculation have done to get a cast of her face for andirons to keep the American child from falling into the fire; but marry her! Good Lord! When I eat anything now that disagrees with me, I dream of Emily's mouth," affirmed Mr. Ketchum, with the most laughing mirth in his eyes, his mobile features expressing volumes.
"Her mouth was large, and her teeth a little prominent. But you shall not abuse Emily any more. You would have been very happy with her, I can tell you," asserted Mrs. Ketchum. "You would have got over her mouth."
"I might in time have got around it, and I could easily have got into it, but I should never have got over it in the world," affirmed Mr. Ketchum, with decision. "I would rather be married to that Puseyite there, unhappy as I am."
This closed the little duel between the mother and son, and another laugh drowned Mabel's remark to Miss Noel, which was, "Husband is in one of his joking moods, and does not mean that he is really unhappy at all. He should not say such things, they are so very misleading."
When quiet was restored, a discussion followed about the parties in the English Church, and, the question being raised as to who was the head of the Low Church party, Mr. Ketchum had just said, "Why, Lucifer, of course," when, amid general merriment, Miss Brown walked in, saying, "I never heard of such an uproarious Sunday party. Are you ready, Ethel? We ought to be off,"—which practically ended the meal, for first Mr. Ramsay and then the others left the table, he to talk to Bijou, they to get ready for church. Job's eyes followed Mr. Ramsay, and he said to Sir Robert, "What a charming girl Mrs. De Witt was in the old Cheltenham days! Heathcote didn't make the landing there, and I'm sorry."
"So am I. She is an immense favorite of mine," said Sir Robert. "As charming as ever! It was a more serious thing than I thought it would be. I doubt whether he ever marries."
"She was a born enchantress, Jenny was," he replied. "Some women are like poison oak,—once get them in your system, and they will break out on you every spring for fifty years, if you live that long, fresh and painful as ever. But as for his marrying, some one of our girls will enter for the Consolation stakes, very likely, and he will be married before he knows what has hurt him."
"A consummation devoutly to be wished," said Sir Robert. "He is my heir, you know."
In a few minutes Ethel joined Bijou, who looked at her rather hard, as she felt. Ethel wore a simple serge dress, heavy boots, a stout frieze jacket, and a hat of a shape unknown in America, that seemed to be all cocks' plumes. Her eyes being weak, she had put on her smoked glasses. The day being damp, and her chest delicate, she had added her respirator. "I am nicely protected, am I not?" she said contentedly. "I had a severe cold last winter, from which I am not quite recovered, and auntie thinks I had best be prudent. Are you ready?"
"Not quite," said Bijou. "I want to see Mrs. Ketchum a moment." She ran off, accordingly, into the library in search of the old lady, whom she found there looking out the lessons, it being her practice to verify every word the clergyman read, and no small satisfaction to catch him tripping. "Do, Mrs. Ketchum, speak to Ethel and get her to take off those machines and put on something stylish," said Bijou. "I am really ashamed to take her into our pew; people will stare so. She is a perfect fright. The idea of a girl making herself look like that!"
Mrs. Ketchum, however, declined to interfere, and when Bijou got back to the drawing-room Ethel was missing. Taking advantage of Bijou's absence, she had gone up-stairs, and, during the library interview, was saying to her aunt, "You never saw anything got up as she is,—silk, and satin, and lace, and bracelets, and feathers, and what not. And for church, too! I wonder she should turn out like that: she should have better taste. I really don't quite like going with her, she looks so conspicuous,—just as if she were going to a garden-party or flower-show, for all the world." When they met again, both girls looked a little conscious, and Ethel said, "How very smart you are!"
"Why, this is an old dress that I put on for fear it might rain," said Bijou. "Don't you hate having to wear goggles and cages and things? It must be perfectly horrid."
"I don't mind. Of course one isn't looking one's best; but that is of no consequence. Health is the first consideration," said Ethel. "Ah! there comes your father."
Of the walk it need only be said that it was very pleasant going, and rained a little coming back; that Ethel produced her "goloshes," put up her umbrella, and walked home as serenely as her concern for Bijou would admit. That young lady had on paper-soled boots that got soaking wet, a fine summer parasol that she seemed to think fulfilled every office that was desirable in shielding her bonnet, a dress ill fitted to resist chill or dampness. She persisted that she was "all right," while her pretty teeth chattered; but she caught a violent cold, and was in bed a week, while Ethel came down to dinner as rosy as Baby Ketchum, and ate as heartily as Mr. Ramsay and Mr. Heathcote, who certainly showed themselves good trenchermen. Mrs. Ketchum persisted in regarding the two young men very much as though they had been returned Arctic travellers, and amused them not a little by suggesting that they should lie down all the evening.
"Why, we haven't turned a hair. We are as fit as a fiddle," they exclaimed, and looked anything but unstrung.
Ethel had made one speech that astonished Bijou considerably. "Do you know, I have been watching you ever since I have known you," she said, "to see if it was true? That is, that the American ladies spat on all occasions, as I have read. Don't think me rude to mention it."
"We don't quarrel any more than any one else," said Bijou, quite misunderstanding.
"I don't mean that, you know: expectorate. And I see it was not true at all. I have not seen it once," explained Ethel.
"I should think not! Well, I do think! How could you believe such ridiculous nonsense?" asked Bijou indignantly.
"Don't be vexed, Bijou dear. I did not mean to make unkind reflections. It was only that I had read a stupid book about America," said Ethel; and peace was restored.
As for the other members of the party, they had gone to a handsome church in Kalsing, which boasted the best stained glass in the country and was thoroughly churchly and attractive. Here they not only heard good music, but one of the most eloquent preachers in "the American branch of the English establishment," as Sir Robert called the Episcopalian communion.
It amused Mr. Ketchum not a little to see the way in which the baronet conducted his devotions,—his preliminary prayer in his silk hat, from which streamed a halo of side-whiskers, the heartiness with which he joined in the service, especially the way in which, avoiding all the compromises the male American practises in prayer-time (such as bending forward a little, or leaning back pensively with the hand shading the face), he plumped squarely down on his knees, turned up a pair of shoes half as long as his very respectable, tightly-rolled umbrella, and made his responses in a clear, audible voice, like an honest gentleman and a miserable sinner.
It did not escape Mr. Ketchum's keen eyes, either, that although Sir Robert contributed a five-dollar bill to the offertory, he first rolled it up into a tiny, unrecognizable wad before dropping it into the alms-basin. The service over, Sir Robert and the eminent divine were made acquainted. The latter said he would call as soon as he could snatch a moment, and Sir Robert, his hands folded behind his back, holding his hat and gloves, made the rounds of the church, inspecting every bit of carving, frescoing, glass, and brass, and making the most intelligent criticisms upon what he saw to Miss Noel in a whisper. Mrs. Sykes sat still in the pew, fuming at being "let in for a charity sermon," for some inexplicable reason, seeing she had given nothing to the charity. Miss Noel was stopped at the door by no less a person than Captain Kendall, who had suddenly discovered that he had a great-aunt living in Kalsing, whom he must see, and now stood there saying, "Where is Miss Ethel? How is it that you are here without her? I hope she is quite well."
"My niece, Miss Heathcote, is quite well, thanks, and has gone to church elsewhere," said Miss Noel, with dignity, intending to mildly repress a young gentleman whom she thought a little too free with his "Miss Ethels."
"Then I will have the pleasure of calling upon you to-morrow," said Captain Kendall, unabashed and joyous, as he walked away.
So active an intelligence as Sir Robert's requires plenty of food, and when Mrs. Ketchum senior issued from her room about ten the next morning, whom should she meet in the hall but the baronet in a state of the most overflowing energy and brilliant good humor, dressed in a suit of striped red-and-white "pajamas," having on his head a paper cap, under his arm a roll of designs, and in his mind the delightful intention of painting the ceiling of Mabel's boudoir!
"Good-morning, madam. Here we are," he said, shaking his box of paints and stencils at her. "I have improvised a scaffolding, and am now going to work on my outlines. I planned the whole thing in bed last night, and, unless I am much mistaken, we are going to have the prettiest boudoir in this part of the country. I shall do a panel or two to get the effect, and any workman can finish it."
"But can you do it?" asked Mrs. Ketchum, amazed, but interested.
"You shall see. I frescoed the chapel on my place at home, and I may say there have been worse pieces of work," replied Sir Robert, descending the stairs as he spoke, eager to get to work.
"Is he raving crazy, Mabel? What on earth has he got on? He isn't respectable. I declare to goodness, he has set my heart beating so I shan't get over it all day," said the startled lady to her daughter-in-law, who joined her just then.
"Oh, for shame, ma, to give yourself away like that! Fashionable men wear those costumes altogether now," said Mr. Ketchum, coming up. "You see, Daisy, that if I shocked him beyond expression yesterday morning, as you said I should, he has horrified me to death to-day: so I guess we are quits. Come along: let's go down to see the trapeze-performance."
Down they went, and, meeting Mr. Ramsay, who was coming up, Job stopped a moment to tell him to take out any of the horses that he fancied. "Take the piebalds," said he, "if you'd like to have a drive, and take some nice girl—Miss Ethel or Bijou Brown—for a two-forty shine."
"Thanks awfully," said Mr. Ramsay. "But I think I had better—that is, I had rather ask Heathcote."
"You are horribly welcome, but I don't think much of your taste," replied Mr. Ketchum, not understanding what a proposition he had made.
In the lower hall they found the eminent divine, irreproachably clerical and dignified, and Captain Kendall, just arrived. Sir Robert, hearing voices, came out, brush in hand, to welcome them, producing quite as great an impression on them as on Mrs. Ketchum. "I belong to the working-classes now. Just you come here and see how the fine arts are prospering in the State of Michigan," said he, and led them into the boudoir, where he nimbly ran up a step-ladder, laid himself out on the scaffolding, and, with a bold, free touch, went on sketching a procession of Cupids which was to go around the base of the small dome, talking all the while with the utmost animation to the guests below. "As soon as I get in this fellow riding a dolphin, I shall be entirely at your service," said he. "No considerations of respect and attachment to the Church or fear of the Army can influence me just now."
The two gentlemen begged that he would go on; the ladies came in, and together they passed an agreeable morning, Sir Robert declaring that on the scaffold he was entitled to benefit of clergy, and begging the eminent divine when he left to let him have his ghostly counsel every day for at least a week. In spite of his eminence, this gentleman had no very great breadth of view. To sit about on boxes and window-seats, picnicking in an empty room, while the stranger upon whom he had come to call lay above him in red pajamas, painting Cupids on the ceiling, was to his mind monstrously indecorous. It was amusing to see the dignified way in which he took the pleasantries of the party; and he made no response to Sir Robert's farewell overture except a bow. "Your guest is a very entertaining man," he said to Mr. Ketchum, who accompanied him to the hat-rack, "but is he quite—quite—you understand?"
"Perfectly so," said Job, with a laugh. "Head and heart both of the best, as you will find out when you know him better. You are coming back to dinner, ain't you, to help us out with the fatted calf?"
The dinner was a very elegant affair of twenty-five covers, given to the guests, the first of a series of entertainments planned in their honor. All the notable people of the neighborhood were represented at it. The scandalized divine returned to partake of it, and, seeing Sir Robert in a dress-suit, dignified, polished, of preternatural respectability, not to say distinction, looking the pillar of Church and State that he was, and talking with due gravity of the tariff, free trade, and the like ponderous subjects, concluded to overlook the mad behavior of the morning, and, joining him, gave him a long account of the Indian Missions of the Church. Unconscious of having done anything that might be regarded as eccentric, Sir Robert was all affability, soon grew interested, asked a number of questions as to the death-rate among the tribes, the prevalence of smallpox and cholera among them, the spread of civilization, confirmed nomadism, traces of Jewish rites, and so on, thanked him for a "very profitable half-hour," and said he should send a little check to be applied in any way he might see fit, obliterating thereby the last trace of the previous prejudice. This, indeed, was replaced by something very like enthusiasm when there came next day a slip of paper representing five hundred dollars, also a note from the donor, saying that he should be glad to know that some portion of the sum enclosed had gone to an industrial school, if any such existed, where the young Indian women could learn to boil a potato properly, and the use of brooms and pails and scrubbing-brushes. "You must first clean them and then convert them: get them into the bath-tub, and you can take them anywhere," said Sir Robert, with great truth and perspicacity.
"One doesn't get such a dinner, except at a few great houses, outside of London or Paris," Mrs. Sykes was pleased to say when it was over. "I have found out that almost everything was ordered from New York; and a pretty penny it must have cost. Not that this man cares. I dare say he is only too glad to have the chance of entertaining me,—that is, us. I was sent in with a waspish little man that turned suddenly crusty on my hands and was an owl for the rest of the time; but I was rather glad to be able to devote myself to my dinner for once."
Mrs. Sykes's escort had "turned crusty" because that lady, following her instinct of ingratiation, had said to him, "All the gentry of this country are in the South, aren't they? They don't live about here, do they?"—not from a prejudice in favor of Southerners at all, as was proved when she went to New Orleans later and promptly asked the first acquaintance she made whether all the education was not at the North.
The week that followed was a very gay one, the Ketchums' friends in the neighborhood and in Kalsing being most intent on hospitable thoughts and providing something agreeable in the shape of an entertainment for every night. Every moment of the day, too, of every day was filled up. It seemed to Mrs. Ketchum that "those English people," as she called them, were never idle, and had discovered the secret of perpetual motion.
Sir Robert had the boudoir, to which he devoted exactly two hours after breakfast. He had a geological chart of America, with what he felt to be melancholy blanks for the chalk and oolite beds of his own country, and appropriate fossils indicated by an index-finger in red ink. He had the Poor-Law and electoral systems to master, as well as the prison systems of the different States. He had to prove that the Mound-Builders and the race that built the buried cities of Central America were one and the same. He had innumerable questions, political, social, agricultural, pressing upon him, from the history of spiritualism, the purity of the ballot, and the McCormack reaper, down to certain expressions that immensely struck and pleased him, which had to be entered in the diary as "unconscious poetry of the Westerners,"—such phrases as "the fall" (of the leaf), "morning-glories," "dancing like a breeze," "Daphnes" (instead of laurels), and many more, which he hoped would be "permanently engrafted on the mother-tongue." There were other entries to be made,—"customs of the Westerners," their "descent," "taxation," "climate" (as affected by the Great Lakes), "population in 1900," and so on. There were books, books, books, to be read, referred to, ordered. There was even a little taxidermy to be done, and the "native birds" to be first sought, then bought, then prepared, and packed to be sent back to England. The others, if not quite so busy, were anything but idle. Miss Noel walked her five miles a day. She was out sketching for hours under her umbrella, no matter what the weather was, and only said, "Thank you for your kind concern, but I am quite equal to it," when Mrs. Ketchum, astonished to see a woman of her own age enduring such fatigue and running such risks, undertook to remonstrate with her. "One must get one's constitutional, you know, and one must not mind a drop or two. There has been no really bad weather yet, —nothing to keep one in-doors, at least." If she stayed in-doors, she and Mrs. Sykes (when the latter was not scouring the country on foot or horse-back) interested themselves in their plants, minerals, seeds, drawings, the herbarium, the Wardian case, the diaries and letters and fancy-work, the beautiful collection of sea-weed sent by Miss Marlow from New England, and a dozen things besides. Mr. Heathcote, meanwhile, was walking, and riding, and visiting, and, above all, photographing. He got a small covered cart, into which he would put his photographic apparatus and go the rounds of the country-side alone, getting his luncheon as he could, and coming back late in the evening, flushed with heat and victory, bringing amusing accounts of his experiences, a bouquet as of an apothecary-shop, and "proofs" of "a lane,—quite an English-looking lane," "a dog on the chain," "rear view of an American public" (house), "Saint Lieuk's Church" (five different aspects), "what the natives call an 'ash-hopper,'—came out beautifully," "children among the hay-cocks,—very indistinct," "squatter's hut on the edge of a common," "Western American farm-house," "negro dust-man," "village beauty," and many others. He was much complimented upon them all by Mr. Ketchum, who enjoyed the whole collection and made comments and suggestions of the most delightful kind. Mr. Heathcote looked infinitely pleased and flattered when told by him that they had "a cold, professional air," and asked for copies of some of them, after which he was eclipsed behind his black cloth and instrument for two days, had his room darkened to a Cimmerian pitch, worked very diligently, and presented the fruits of his labors to his host with the modest depreciation but secret delight of the artist, smiling indulgently at Mr. Ramsay, with his "I say, old chappy, what an out-and-out swell you are at it, to be sure! You must do the horses." Thus encouraged, Mr. Heathcote did the horses, the house, the family grouped inside and outside, Master Jared Ponsonby, Hannibal Hamlin, Master Bobo and Miss Blanche, the poultry, and (aided by mirrors) himself in almost every dress and attitude which it is possible for a man to assume. He must have spent a small fortune in chemicals alone, and all his talk was of light and shadow, background, draperies, foreground, plates, and proofs; every table was strewn with photographs, finished and not finished, mounted or curled up like paper crumpets.
Mr. Ramsay, too, had his little diversions, not precisely scientific, but amusing. He was in and out of the stables all day long, and was loved by every animal on the place. Such long-suffering and good nature Master Ketchum had never seen, except in Fraeulein Schmidt; and then the strength, the resources, the conversation of his new friend enchanted the child, who followed him about, perched on his shoulder, played games with him, and had to be carried away from him struggling by his nurse. Mr. Ramsay had other occupations: he rode, he fished, he cleaned his guns, he got over leagues and leagues of ground, he killed several snakes and captured scores of insects. He caught dozens of tree-frogs, for one thing, and shut them all up together in the drawing-room coal-scuttle, where he peeped at them from time to time, well satisfied. He played little tunes on his chin, asked conundrums, showed Job a great many tricks at cards, and two French puzzles (saying, "Those French beggars are awfully sharp at that kind of thing, you know"); he played "God Save the Queen" with one finger on the piano, held skeins of wool for the ladies, shut doors, got shawls, and really need have done none of these arduous duties, for in looking so handsome and so jolly from Monday morning until Saturday night he contributed his quota toward the carrying on of society, and all beside were works of supererogation. When these palled upon him a little, as was shown by his picking up a book, he looked very unhappy for ten minutes, and then, making a pass at his face with one of has beautiful hands, he cried out, "No fellow can read badgered like this. There's a regular brute of a fly that has been lighting on my nose every half-second since I sat down," closed the book, smiled, and said, "I may as well call upon Mr. Brown while I have time," and took himself off. This happened on the ninth day after his arrival, and with it began a new era in his existence. He not only went to Mr. Brown's that day, but the next, and the day after that. In short, he had found an amusement best expressed in the French equivalent distraction. He rode with Bijou, and reported to Mr. Heathcote that she was "a clinker at her fences, and went at them as straight as an English girl." He taught her a good deal about the management of her reins and animal, and admitted that she was "a plucky one." If she had only consented to get an English saddle (which she declined to do, with one of her customary exaggerations, saying that she "didn't want a thousand pommels"), to rise in that saddle, and to have the tail of her horse cropped properly, he would have been quite happy. As it was, he acknowledged that in her own fashion she was a most graceful and fearless horsewoman, and approved of her accordingly. It soon struck him that she did other things well. Used to the reserved and rather constrained manner of most English girls, he found a great charm in her bright gayety, her frank cordiality, the good-humored comradeship and absence of stiffness, untainted by vulgarity. For, although Bijou was not high-bred, distinguished, or clever, she was a girl of real refinement, and he had the wit to see it. Her merry tongue and generous and affectionate heart, neither chilled nor hardened yet by contact with the world, were very attractive, and it is just possible that he felt the influence of her piquantly-pretty face. At any rate, he had found a great number of imperative reasons for going to Brown's, when one morning, as he was opening the little wicket-gate that admitted him to their croquet-field, he saw something that gave him an unpleasant shock. It was a buggy in front of the door, in which sat Bijou, charmingly arrayed, smiling upon a gentleman who had just helped her in and was only deterred from taking the seat waiting for him by her calling out, "Stop, till I fix my skirts and put up my parasol," the gentleman being his cousin, Mr. Edward Plummer, alias Drummond. The sight of Mr. Plummer enraged him. Bijou's cheerful air did not improve matters, and for the first time he felt irritated at her American speech and accent. "'Fix my skirts,'" he quoted discontentedly, as he watched them drive off, and then, after a moment's indecision, he stalked angrily up to the front door, pulled the bell fiercely, and asked to see Mr. Brown. He was almost immediately ushered into the library, where Mr. Brown was sitting.
"Good-morning, sir. I am glad to see you. I am sorry to say that Bijou is out. She has gone driving with our guest: an English guest, by the way, —Mr. Drummond. He came on with us from New York, and has been here ever since, except the last two weeks, which he has spent in Chicago," said Mr. Brown.
"That's what I've come about," blurted out Mr. Ramsay, the moment there was a pause. "His name isn't Drummond at all: it is Plummer. And he isn't fit to be a guest in any decent house, and I've come to tell you so and have you give him the sack and put him to the door at once. Excuse me meddling, but you have been very kind to me and received me most hospitably, and I am not going to see you taken in by a rascal and a blackguard."
Mr. Brown was shocked, but did not show it. He prided himself on being very logical and dispassionate and judicial, and was privately convinced that he would have greatly adorned the legal profession if Fate had been kinder. Besides, Mr. Drummond was his guest and there by his invitation, which to his mind was strong presumptive proof that Mr. Ramsay's charges were without foundation. "Grave accusations these, Mr. Ramsay,—very grave accusations. I trust you are making them upon some better grounds than mere personal prejudice or idle rumor, if you expect me to believe them. Not that I mean any discourtesy to you, sir, in saying this," he said, in his roundest, most impressive tones.
"What do you mean? The fellow was sent to Coventry by his regiment and forced to resign, his father has cut him off with a shillin', he can't show his face in London, and he has been kicked out of his club for keepin' too many aces up his sleeve. I should think that was grounds enough for an accusation. Do you suppose I go about inventin' lies to take away other people's characters?" said Mr. Ramsay excitedly.
"Do not exaggerate. Be calm; be reasonable," said Mr. Brown. "Observe, I do not accuse you of wilful misrepresentation, but of misapprehension, perhaps of prejudice. There is a difference. Note it, and do not take offence, my young friend, too readily."
"I am not offended, but what I say is true, and I hope you will act upon it, so that Miss Brown shall not go out ridin' round the country with that—" began Mr. Ramsay, only to be interrupted by—
"No violence; no excitement. Let us look at the thing rationally," from Mr. Brown. "Mr. Drummond is my guest,—my guest, remember; introduced to me by one of the first men in New York; received everywhere. You are both strangers to me. This is a matter of purely individual testimony," Mr. Brown went on, feeling that he was growing exquisitely subtile, and clothing himself in imaginary ermine as he spoke. "He may tell me that you are a rascal. In that event, how am I to know who is the honest man and who the villain? Shall I believe you, or shall I believe him, in the absence of documentary evidence and disinterested statement? As my guest, he has, if anything, the prior claim to consideration; though I am far from saying that whatever views you may advance will not have equal weight with me,—as views, mark you."
"You can believe who you please and what you please," said Mr. Ramsay; "but remember that I have given you warnin'. He may be your guest, but he is my cousin, and I should think that I ought to know what I am talkin' about. There is no necessity for me stayin' any longer."
He rose to go, but Mr. Brown stopped him by a gesture. "A cousin!" he exclaimed. "Do not excite yourself; be calm. On the face of it, that would seem conclusive; but appearances are notoriously deceitful. Will you assure me on your honor that there is no motive, no family feud, at the bottom of this? Cousins do not go about the world denouncing each other—as a rule. Family pride, affection, a thousand things, prevent them from making such things public; but still it is not impossible. I do not say that it is impossible; only improbable,—very improbable. Give me your word, though, that there is no motive.—we must always look for a motive in these cases,—and I will promise to give the matter full and impartial investigation."
"I'll do nothing of the sort. I will bid you good-morning," exclaimed Mr. Ramsay, reaching out impetuously for his hat.
"You have meant well, perhaps. I am obliged to you, if such be the case. I will bear what you have said in mind, and let you know my decision," said Mr. Brown, delivering a verdict from the bench.
"Just as you please," replied Mr. Ramsay haughtily; and so they parted.
Left to himself, however, Mr. Brown ceased to be judicial, and became practical. He recalled, as he sat there, a number of circumstances that had not impressed him favorably in connection with his guest. Mr. Drummond had borrowed a considerable sum of him, on the ground of delayed remittances. Mr. Drummond had filled his pockets with his host's Havanas in the most scandalous fashion, yet never had a cigar. Mr. Drummond had done a number of ill-bred things that he had not liked,—such as ordering the carriage to be got ready on his own responsibility, lending valuable books without so much as asking permission, and the like. The longer Mr. Brown thought of the late interview, the more uneasy he felt. The paper had dropped from his hand, and he was still deep in his uncomfortable meditations, when the door opened, and his daughter ran to him and threw herself into his arms, crying hysterically, "Oh, popper, popper! Oh! oh! oh!"
We will extricate the story of what had happened from the sobs and interruptions to which Mr. Brown had to submit, and preface it with some account of the relations between Bijou and Mr. Drummond-Plummer or Plummer-Drummond.
They had met in New York the previous winter, where Mr. Drummond had suddenly appeared, put up at a fashionable hotel, and, with no other credentials than his handsome person, good manners, and bold assertions that he was related to certain great people in England, had been accepted in society with that beautiful faith and charity that believeth all things an Englishman of supposed position may choose to say of himself, in spite of much disastrous experience of foreign adventurers both painful and ludicrous. Attracted by Bijou, he promptly satisfied himself of the stability and reality of her father's fortune, and began to lay siege to her hand: about her heart he gave himself small concern. Now, Bijou was a Western belle, and was in the habit of receiving any amount of attention. At seventeen a famous racer and a steam-boat had already been named for her. The local newspapers chronicled her toilets and triumphs. Her little sitting-room was a sentimental hall of Eblis, full of shapes with hearts that were one burning coal, bright with the sacred flame. She had a large album which she called her "him-book," because it contained nothing but the photographs of her admirers. She had hats, and bats, and caps, and whips, and cravats, and oars, and canes disposed about it tastefully, souvenirs of various persons, times, and places, and talked of the original owners in a way that made Ethel's blue eyes open their widest when she came to be admitted there, that decorous young person not being used, as she frankly said, to hearing "a person of the opposite sex" called "a perfectly lovely fellow," and his nose pronounced "a dream," though not in the sense of its being broken or disjointed.
"Why, you wouldn't have me call you a lovely fellow, would you?" said Bijou laughingly, as she tripped about doing the honors of her den, —showing locks of hair (of which she had almost enough to stuff a sofa-cushion), dried bouquets of vast dimensions, little gifts she had received, verses and valentines that she thought "perfectly splendid" or "too utterly killing for anything," and bundle after bundle of letters, —the adorers' letters, all of them, written from all parts of the country, in every style. She read Ethel choice passages from them with great glee, and gave spirited sketches of her correspondents; how she had met them at Saratoga, Mt. Desert, "and pretty much every place;" how she had danced, flirted, walked, driven, sailed, "crabbed," read, sung, talked with them, apparently without either fear or reproach; and of their appearance, dress, character, position, prospects,—a full, if not perfectly complete, history of her relations with them that almost made Ethel's lower jaw drop as she listened. There was no mention of mother, aunt, governess, or maid throughout. Bijou had gone away from home with friends who had let her amuse herself in her own fashion; and at home she was what De Tocqueville has pronounced "the freest thing in the world,—an American girl in her father's house." Yet it was a liberty that was worlds removed from license. Undisciplined she was, impulsive, indulged beyond all European conceptions, but, in spite of a good deal of innocent coquetry and vanity, effervescing in some foolish ways very pardonable in a motherless girl, and of which a great deal too much has been made in discussing American girls, there was never one of any nation more pure-hearted and womanly. Her worst deviations from rigidly conventional standards were better than the best behavior of some very nice people, as Swift defines them,—"Nice people: people who are always thinking of and looking out for nasty things." Different training would have improved her, just as a hot-house rose is more perfect than the wild one; but she, too, was pink-petalled, had a heart of gold, and was full of lovely, fragrant qualities, like the English variety near her.
"You correspond with twelve men! Good heavens!" exclaimed Ethel, when these open secrets had been revealed to her. "Don't tell auntie of it, I beg. She will—will misunderstand, I fear, and think it dreadful, and perhaps prevent me being here so much. It is not at all in accord with English ideas, you know, dear; and auntie is rather stricter than most, even there."
"Not tell! Why not?" asked Bijou. "What is there to shock her? She must be easily shocked. I have got nothing to be ashamed of; and I shall tell the old dear to-morrow."
"Does your father know it?" said Ethel.
"Why, of course he does," replied Bijou impatiently. "I generally read him the letters, and he laughs fit to kill himself over some of them. Popper don't care one bit. He says I am old enough to paddle my own canoe; and so I am. And he knows I don't care a pin about any of them. It's great fun until you get tired of it. I am tired of it now, rather. I used to write to twenty; but it has dwindled down to twelve, and I'm going to drop two of those, because they are in the army and are both stationed at the same post. You see, it is too much trouble to write different letters to each one, so I get up one bright, smart one that suits all around, and copy it for them all, with some changes."
This speech almost stunned Ethel for a while. "But doesn't it vex them very much to get such letters? What if they should find it out? And if you don't at all care for them, why do it at all?"
"Why, for the fun of the thing, goosie. Angry? No. They do the same thing themselves. Will Piper sent Kate Price and me letters that were exactly the same, word for word: we compared them. That is where I got the idea. Splendid one, isn't it? I am just bent and determined on having stacks of fun before I am married, because after that, you know, I shall be laid on the shelf completely," said Bijou.
"But why should you be 'laid on the shelf'? I can't make it out. Your life will be just beginning," said Ethel.
"Well, because what is so is so," replied Bijou, showing her some patterns for slippers, watch-pockets, tobacco-pouches, and so on, that she meant to work up for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, "philopoenas," and other festive occasions, as presents for the adorers.
It is perhaps clearer now why Bijou laid no stress whatever on Mr. Drummond's attentions, while she seemed to him to be receiving them with marked favor. When, on their leaving New York, Mr. Brown had asked him to go home with them and spend a month, he looked upon the prize as won. Before going to Chicago he had shown this so plainly that Bijou had snubbed him roundly,—a course so foreign to her amiable nature and hospitable creed that on his return she had received him with a kindness that had revived all his hopes,—or rather designs. He utterly misunderstood it, and easily persuaded himself that he was practically irresistible. The drive of that afternoon had been planned by him that he might ask the fateful question. He had asked it, and, presumptuously taking her answer for granted, had slipped an arm about her waist, when, to his great surprise, he had found himself half ordered, half pushed out of the buggy immediately, after which Bijou, transported by fury, had laid the whip once smartly across his shoulders and driven away at a gallop, leaving him standing in the middle of the road, an angry man.
She went home, as we have seen, and told her father, who was distinctly excited on hearing it, ordered Mr. Drummond's effects to be packed and sent to the hotel in Kalsing at once, forbade her ever taking another drive with a stranger "the longest day she lived," and would certainly have caned the offender with unparliamentary fervor, instead of being "reasonable" and letting the affair drop, had he known where to find him.
What Mr. Drummond did was to walk into Kalsing and put up at a boarding-house there, where he spent the evening glowering into vacancy blackly enough, and showed his high breeding and respect for the other boarders by taking off his shoes in the parlor and sitting with his stockinged feet propped up on a chair in front of him while he gave himself up to his reflections,—bitter thoughts of the past in which he had been an English gentleman, desperate plans for his future as a chevalier d'industrie, fierce abuse of Americans in general and the Browns in particular, culminating in a fixed resolve to leave "this beastly hole" next day; which was happily carried out.
Mr. Ramsay, offended, held aloof for a little while; but, getting a note from Mr. Brown couched in few words, and those to the effect that his warning had been acted on and Mr. Drummond dismissed, he called next day at the house, assured Mr. Brown with earnestness that his cousin was "a precious rascal," gave some particulars of his shady career, and took up the threads of his intimacy again, unvexed by any such ideas as that he was at all responsible for or could be affected by his kinsman's disreputable behavior. Mr. Brown concealed from him that he had lost some money by Mr. Drummond. Bijou imagined that he must be "feeling dreadfully about it," and took great pains not to say anything that could wound his imaginary susceptibilities as the relative of a mauvais sujet. But the simple truth was that, once assured that respectable people were not being deluded or cheated by his cousin, Mr. Ramsay had no further sensitiveness on the subject. The Browns kept what he had told them even from the Ketchums, only to hear him announce in all assemblies that a cousin of his was "goin' about over here,—an awful swindler and 'leg,'—and that the best thing people could do would be to give him the widest sort of berth until he got himself into the penitentiary, as he certainly would,—at least it was quite on the cards," smiling in cheerful enjoyment of the possibility. Entertainments were going on all the while in the neighborhood, and he had ample opportunities of advertising the fact, all of which he improved, while a puzzled audience knew not what to make of so novel a situation, and were sorely put to it for suitable replies as they stared at an Adonis in Poole-cut clothes who sat and looked alternately at them and his patent-leather court pumps and gay silk socks while he affably denounced his father's nephew and "hoped the blackguard was goin' to New Orleans and would get the yellow fever there, which was beginnin' to be had over from the Havana."
This last speech was made at a dinner-party which Mr. Ketchum's partner Mr. Richardson had felt called upon to give in honor of the English guests, and was almost the only amusing feature of the evening to Job. The Richardsons' house was one of those in which everything is provided on such occasions except amusement. When their invitation came, Job said to his wife, "I wish we could get out of going; but we can't. I don't know what is the matter with that house. It is one of the handsomest in the city, elegantly furnished; they always have a crowd of people at their entertainments, some of them delightful people to meet anywhere else, but somehow there seems a kind of pall draped above the front door that drops down behind you when you enter and never lifts till you leave. Mrs. Richardson puts on all her war-paint and feathers and goes around all the evening anxiously trying to make the thing go off, and it gets worse and worse every moment, so dull and stupid that you can hardly keep awake, and not quite quiet enough for a good nap. Richardson buys everything that is to be had, and then sits around and looks as though he had a note to meet in bank and no money to do it with. Altogether, it is about as lively as a water-tank on the Pacific Railroad after the train has gone. But it won't do to hurt their feelings: we have got to go."
So they did, and it was stiff and formal beyond even his expectation. The dinner was interminably long, over-elaborate, and slowly served. They were all sent in with the wrong people. The conversation all but died again and again. Sir Robert was afflicted by a deaf man, who shrieked, "Ha-ow?" and "What say?" at him with brief intervals all during the meal. Mabel shrank into herself, and only ventured on a few trite remarks. Mr. Ketchum's liveliness utterly evaporated after the first ten minutes. It was quite ghastly, and the move back to the drawing-room was a most blessed relief. Mrs. Sykes had made no effort to lighten the tedium of the dinner, and no sooner found it at an end than she lolled back indifferently on the sofa, and, picking up a book, coolly read it for more than an hour, though twice interrupted by Mrs. Richardson, who vainly tried to substitute polite conversation the first time, and offered a cup of tea the second.
"English breakfast?" asked Mrs. Sykes loftily, raising her eyes for a moment. "No; I am afraid not. It is green tea, I think."
"But do take some," replied Mrs. Richardson, "It is very nice indeed."
"No, thank you," said Mrs. Sykes very shortly, her eyes on her book.
"Just one cup. Let me make it for you?" suggested Mrs. Richardson.
"Not for a five-pound note would I drink the poisonous stuff. Say no more about it," replied Mrs. Sykes, with delicate consideration, and turned over a page.
"Do take some coffee, then, or chocolate," insisted Mrs. Richardson.
"Nothing of any sort or kind whatever," snapped Mrs. Sykes, turning away decidedly, to get a better light on her book, apparently, but really to get rid of her hostess.
Mr. Ketchum, fearing to show indecent exultation when the carriages were announced, repressed the satisfaction that would have expressed itself in gay speeches of farewell. A decorous exit was made; and as they rolled away he gave a great sigh of relief, and exclaimed, "I haven't had as much fun since I had the measles. Mussiful Powers! what an evening! I feel like the boy whose mother gave him a good beating for his own sake. But all the same I shall have a word to say to Mrs. Sykes tomorrow; and of course I shall have to apologize for her behavior to Richardson."
"Most insolent, unpardonable conduct, I call it," said Sir Robert. "She's an innately vulgar woman."
"Puts on an awful lot of side. I can't stand her. She gives me the jumps. And she can tell a buster, too, when she likes: I have found that out," put in Mr. Ramsay.
"Well, I don't exactly hanker to be cast away on a desert island with her, even supposing I was one of the royal dukes and had taken the precaution of being introduced while we were tying on the life preservers, in case of accidents," said Mr. Ketchum.
What he said to Mrs. Sykes next morning no one ever knew but the discreet Mabel. Not much, probably, but that little was so much to the point that it had a decided effect,—two of them, indeed, one interior, the other external. It increased her respect for him, and it made her perfectly civil to all his friends, as far as constitution and habit would allow.
"I cut her comb for her, and handled her without gloves," was his report of the interview to his wife, who was amazed at his nerve.
When Sir Robert got a note addressed to "Lord Heathcote, Baronet," beginning "Dear Sir," and signed "Very respectfully your obedient servant, " and read it aloud at the breakfast-table as "a most extraordinary production," Mrs. Sykes had absolutely no comments to make. And when Ethel opened her letters and found among them an invitation to take a buggy-drive, commencing "Dear Miss," Mrs. Sykes still held her peace,—a fact that was full of significance.
It was Miss Noel who said, "Really, Ettie dear, I can't have you driving about furiously in a gig without a groom. But pray thank Mr.—what is the name?—Price for being so kind as to propose it, meaning to give you pleasure. He has been so obliging, too, as to procure tickets for us to the play, and has kindly offered to escort us: I have a letter from him as well. A most lovely day, this. There seems no end, really, to the fine weather. Remind me to look at the thermometer after breakfast, before the sun catches it, love. It must have been quite two degrees hotter yesterday than the day before; but I neglected to make the entry in my journal, and so cannot be quite positive. Only fancy! Is it not annoying? I am getting sadly forgetful about everything. And I so dislike guess-work and conjecture in a record of the kind. I should like to see the rose-trees at home this morning: the garden must be gay with flowers by this,—though the last time I went pottering about it in my pattens there was nothing out but the blackthorn."
Other entertainments followed closely upon the dinner, of which Mrs. Sykes complained to Miss Noel, saying, "Why will they ask me out? Why can't they leave me alone? Really, I shall not let any one know that I am here, if anything ever brings me back to America,—which is most unlikely."
"There is nothing to prevent you staying at home if you do not wish to go out," replied Miss Noel. "But do you not like it? I enjoy going to the Browns'. Mr. Brown is a man of cultivated mind and Christian courtesy; I like him very much; and the people one meets there are generally of superior station and refined education. Why should you object to meeting them?"
"American society may be nice some day,—that is, if it ever grows up. There doesn't seem to be anybody in it now over twenty," grumbled Mrs. Sykes.
One result of the parties was that Mr. Ketchum, going over to Mr. Brown's one morning, found all the young people assembled there practising steps, the "two-and-a-half," the "polka-glide," and other cheerful evolutions. After watching Mr. Ramsay's efforts to do as Bijou did, for a moment, he called out to her to know what she was doing to a British subject under his protection, and, being shown by Bijou (skirts held up a little, the prettiest feet imaginable, daintily shod, and the gliding, swaying, pirouetting, galopading, graceful beyond expression), cried out, "Teaching him to dance, are you? I thought he was practising heading off a calf in a lane." This so exactly expressed the awkward desperate plunges to the right and left which Mr. Ramsay was executing at the moment, that Mr. Heathcote had another of his acute attacks of appreciation, and became almost a subject for sal volatile and burnt feathers, Mr. Ramsay saying good-naturedly, "What a fellow you are for chaffin', Ketchum! Just you hook it out of this, will you, and let us get on with this? One and two and a kick, you say, Miss Brown? I am such a duffer I can't get the kick."
"You do the one and two make one, and leave the kick to Miss Bijou," said Mr. Ketchum suggestively. "Why aren't you gambolling like the playful antelope, Heathcote?"
"I don't often gamble. I leave that to Ramsay, who is an all-fired jewhillikens scratch at it, as you say over here," replied Mr. Heathcote.
"You gamble a little differently, that is all. You have dropped a good deal on loo first and last, for all your wisdom," retorted Mr. Ramsay between his steps.
"Get out your 'Hand-Book of American Slang,' my boy,—two dollars a volume, —and you will retrieve all your losses, I'll engage," said Mr. Ketchum laughingly, as he walked away.
The dancing had been interrupted, however, and Bijou and Mr. Ramsay retired to the bow-window to talk. "Odd that I can't get it, isn't it?" said he. "I never was much of a dancin' man; and I ought to be, you know. I am not a readin' man; and a man that is not a readin' man is nearly always a dancin' man. The governor is a readin' man, and took a double-first; but I am like my poor mother, who was dull." Thus launched, he gave her a full account of his relatives and home with all his own frankness, and she, listening with her heart as well as her ears, did not know whether to smile or sigh: the phraseology of the recital and its completeness amused her, but she also divined the loneliness of such a boyhood. To her great embarrassment, the tears rose in her eyes in quick sympathy when she came to hear of the way he was treated in his childish maladies.
"Poor little fellow!" she said softly, and, as she was obliged to drop the white, thickly-fringed lids and fall to pleating her handkerchief industriously, she felt rather than saw that he was looking at her narrowly.
There was a moment's silence, and then Mr. Ramsay began talking again. "You are very happy here, aren't you? You wouldn't like to leave it and go away to India, or Egypt, or—or—England, or anywhere?" said this particularly deep young man, and, without waiting for any answer, except such as was afforded by her rosy silence, went on: "American girls do have lots of fun, I see that. I am afraid they are too fond of flirting, though. English girls don't get much of a chance at that, as girls. They don't amount to much until they are married and get their own way."
"Why, they don't flirt after they are married, do they?" said Bijou, in a horrified tone, her ideal of post-matrimonial conduct being the exact opposite of the ante-matrimonial.
"Oh, don't they, just!" said Mr. Ramsay cheerfully. "You see, as girls they are heavily handicapped. They can't do anything they like, or go anywhere; it's awfully slow for them, poor things. And so they naturally look forward to the time when they will get their liberty as well as a husband. But the competition must be something awful. A fellow that has got a fine property or money is regularly hunted down; and even a poor devil like me has to be monstrous careful. Cowrie, of the Carbineers, who has got sixty thousand a year, says that he can't go to certain houses, for fear they may have a clergyman secreted about the place and will get him spliced to the ugliest daughter before he can escape. Awfully clever chap, Cowrie,—a match for any mamma in England, I can tell you. He is not going to marry any woman but the one he wishes to marry. No more am I. That's why I can't marry. I've got no money. The governor picked out a young woman from Liverpool for me last year,—a brewer's daughter, with pots of it,—and wanted me to make up to her."
"Oh, he did! What did you do about it?" asked Bijou, in a low voice.
"Well, you see, just then I was most awfully hard up, and couldn't afford to break with the governor; and so—"
"I'd be ashamed to say any more about it. Addressing a girl just for her money!" interjected Bijou warmly, disappointed that he had not scorned the proposition utterly.
"It didn't go that far. I thought it might be a good thing, you know. And so I tried it,—spooning, you know," said he placidly.
"Oh, indeed!" commented Bijou sarcastically. "Very honorable of you, I am sure, and delightful for the girl to have such a disinterested admirer. How did it end?"
"How you do pick,a fellow up!" remonstrated Mr. Ramsay amiably. "It sounds awfully conceited to say so, of course, but I think I could have carried off the cup if I had liked. At least every one said she was hard hit. And she wasn't long in the tooth, or very ugly, or vulgar, or anything; but somehow I couldn't stand it. I got to hate her. She breathed so hard when she danced, for one thing. Regular grampus. Upon my word, she almost blew my gibus away from under my arm sometimes. Regular snorts. And then she was always smilin'. And she talked an awful lot about Goethe and Schiller, and those chaps. Altogether, I cried off, and told the governor I would try the Colonies. And he told me that if I was such a consummate ass as to let a good thing like that slip, I could take my little pittance and go to the deuce as soon as ever I liked; and here I am. Some may think I acted foolishly, but one's relatives are not always the best judges of what is good for one, you know, though they may think they are actin' for one's good; and what one wants to do is to do one's best in whatever position one finds one's self in, you know, no matter what one—Hang it all! I know what I want to say, but I can't say it. You understand, I fancy, without me tryin' to explain."
Having tied himself up in this conversational bow-knot, Mr. Ramsay waited to be extricated. His idea had been to convey in the most delicate and roundabout way to Bijou that he was not the man to marry any woman for her money, and that if he had seemed to like a certain person a good deal it was not because she was the daughter of a rich man. To her, however, he seemed to be posing as a conqueror of heiresses, indifferent to the pain he might inflict upon any girl silly enough to be captivated by his good looks and good manners,—a breaker of tacit engagements, and a wicked worldling. So she rose very stiffly, and said that she neither knew nor cared to know what he meant, and was obliged to leave him, and so went away, and left him extremely puzzled and disconcerted by the behavior of his charmer.
After this, the summer of Mr. Ramsay's discontent set in. There was nothing that he could actually complain of in Bijou's treatment of him, but it was plain that she had changed. She was vastly more polite than before, but much less kind. Their intimacy seemed a thing of the past century. It was Mr. Heathcote now who, partly from idleness, partly from a desire to tease his friend, went constantly to the Browns', and showed Bijou various attentions, which she accepted with very pronounced satisfaction. It was with Miss Price now that Mr. Ramsay rode and walked and talked,—Miss Price, whose free-and-easiness, vapid chatter, artificiality, and sentimentalism contrasted unpleasantly with Bijou's frankness and sincerity. By this course each confirmed the other in the impression of untrustworthiness and flirtatiousness both had received, and they ought to have been perfectly satisfied with this result. But, considering how perfectly happy she was in Mr. Heathcote's society, it was odd that Bijou grew paler and thinner every day. And if Miss Price was so perfectly delightful, why did she send Mr. Ramsay home always as gloomy and morose as any young man very well could be? With blundering honesty, Mr. Ramsay once taxed Bijou with a preference for Mr. Heathcote, not knowing that when a jealous lover accuses a girl of being fond of some other man she never fails to encourage the idea, unless it is really true, when she denies it with the utmost vehemence. Bijou, with much feminine circumlocution, insinuated that he was devotedly attached to Miss Price, to which he truthfully replied that he did not care "one rap" about her. Women are born incredulous in such affairs. When sure of themselves, they doubt the lover; when sure of the lover, they invariably doubt themselves. And so the misunderstanding grew, and continued in mutual mistake and suspicion, and no two people were ever more thoroughly and foolishly miserable. Mr. Ketchum, when enlightened by his wife, could see that his guest was in a bad way; and one day it chanced that they were left alone in the library, where Job was most unromantically engaged in looking up plans for a model pig-stye, while he incidentally refreshed himself with his favorite confection, molasses candy.
"Man alive!" said he, after directing a keen glance at Mr. Ramsay's face, "what is the matter? Take some of the Dentist's Friend, won't you?" (pushing a plate toward him.) "I like it better than all the French stuff that was ever made, and Mabel keeps me liberally supplied. You look awfully down in the mouth, Ramsay, as though you'd enjoy howling like the lone wolf on far Alaska's shore, if you were sure nobody was looking. Suppose you tell me what has impaled you. Is it love, money, or indigestion, old fellow?"
The words were light, but the tone hearty and kind; and, thus encouraged, Mr. Ramsay laid bare his woes, Mr. Ketchum listening attentively, and saying, when he had finished, "I know; I know. When I thought I had lost Mabel once, I carried the universe around on a sore back all day, and then my heart would get up on its hind legs and yelp half the night; and there have been other times when I got caught in the machinery, and I know how it hurts, I think of those times often. They grind a man down to the quick, and send the chaff flying: they teach him valuable lessons. I remember I started out in life with two violent prejudices,—one against Jews, and the other against Roman Catholics. Well, in the greatest strait I have ever known, the Christian that came to my relief was a Jew in a town of seven thousand people; and when I had the smallpox a Sister of Charity took me to the hospital and nursed me, when every one had deserted me and left me to die or live without any meddling from them to bias me in my decision. After that I said to myself, 'Job Ketchum, if the Lord can make and stand as great a fool as you have been, he can make plenty of good Jews and Roman Catholics, and if they have got his hall-mark they can do without your valuable endorsement; and when smelting-day comes I reckon you'll find that the Protestant quartz won't pan out all the silver that has been put in the earth's veins. You needn't go around blushing for David and Thomas ?Kempis any longer, my son. Take a holiday.' My advice to you, Ramsay, is to keep a stiff upper lip. Perhaps the buzz-saw has only got your clothes, and you will be all right when you cut loose; but if it has got you, all you can do is to stand and take it, and if you can remember who set it going it will be better for you."
The last phrase Mr. Ketchum got out in a shamefaced way, as if very much ashamed of it, as indeed he was; but Mr. Ramsay was the better for the talk, and, though not "a readin' man," had easily understood the illuminated characters in this page of human experience. He brightened perceptibly from this date, and was able to take a healthy interest in certain match-games of base-ball and la-crosse in neighboring cities, which he attended with Mr. Ketchum and Sir Robert, who, besides these diversions, had to visit the prisons and all the public schools, and to gather a mass of information in regard to these two subjects, with criminal and educational statistics, systems, theories, that had to be examined, sifted, recorded in the diary with the pains, study, and reverence for facts that characterized every entry made in it. Meanwhile, quite an intimacy had sprung up between the ladies of the Ketchum and Brown households, or rather the existing one soon embraced the Englishwomen. Mrs. Sykes and Miss Noel were struck by a number of things in the latter establishment.
"Do you suppose that all American households are organized in this extraordinary, miscellaneous way, so as to include, besides the head of the house, his wife and children, all sorts of relatives, outsiders, and strangers?" said Mrs. Sykes to Miss Noel. "Mrs. De Witt told me, quite as a matter of course, that the sister of her husband's first wife lived with them, though she was away when we were there. And look at the Ketchums and the Browns. It is most remarkable. Why do they do it, I wonder? I must really ask about it, how it ever came about. And on such an extraordinary basis, too! Only fancy, that poor, thread-paper creature, Mr. Brown's daughter, has married badly and come back to her father with a troop of children; and she married in opposition to his wishes, and she hasn't a farthing of her own; and yet she seems to have no proper sense of her position whatever. She does nothing to make herself useful and get her living, but sits up in her bedroom, rocking and sewing, all the day long. She bids her father buy this and that for the children, just as though they were not actually beggars, dependent upon him for shelter and every mouthful. She meddles in household matters to any extent, giving the servants orders, having fires made, and even the dinner-hour changed to suit her convenience; and one would think she was mistress there. I wonder she dares do it. Yet, so far from being sat upon or put in her place, I heard Mr. Brown tell Bijou the other day, when some little disagreement took place between them, that she must let her "poor sister" have everything to suit herself, and do her best to make her happy and contented and help her to forget all the trouble she had known, as far as possible. Just as if spoiling her like that, and giving her false ideas of her importance, could be a good plan. Not that it will last. She is a pauper, and will be made to see that she is one, sooner or later. She has nothing but what he gives her, I know, for I have asked her; but she would not tell me why she separated from her husband. Americans are so absurdly secretive and sensitive! Do you know, she was vexed by the inquiry? A great mistake, as I told her, to get rid of him, unless he was a dangerous brute: men are so useful, and 'grass-widows,' as they say here, are always looked down upon. Did you ever know anything so idle as those Brown women? The men here are very active and 'go-ahead,' as they call it, but the women seem to do one of two things,—either they hold their hands altogether and are a thousand times more idle than any queen or duchess, or they work themselves to death, and are cooks, sempstresses, maids, housemaids, nurses, governesses, ladies, and a dozen other things rolled into one,—poor things! Thank heaven I am not an American lady."
"I see what you mean," said Miss Noel. "That dear, sweet girl Bijou has had no practical training whatever. She was amazed that I should make Ethel dye her white kid slippers (when they were soiled) for morning use; and when she saw me getting up some dainty bits of old point that I do not trust to Parsons, she asked me why I bothered with the old stuff and didn't buy new. She has absolutely no idea of the value of money or of household management. On the other hand, that little Mrs. Grey, their friend, told me that she did all the sewing for her twelve children; and Mrs. Grey has not taken a holiday of even a few weeks for twenty years. I can't think how it is they don't break down altogether."
But it was the children of the Brown household that awakened the liveliest surprise in the minds of these ladies,—an astonishment wholly free from admiration or approval, for they were children of a type with which Americans are sadly familiar, but which had never come under their notice before. The little Graysons were utterly undisciplined, and got their own way in everything. Their grandfather, aunt, mother, and nurses combined were powerless to control them, and would give them anything but what they most needed. They pervaded the whole house, and were the hub of it; they ate at all hours, and of whatever they fancied. They had no regular hour for going to bed, but fell asleep everywhere, and were removed with the utmost precaution. Mrs. Sykes, going there, would find them jumping up and down with muddy feet on the drawing-room sofas or playing on the new grand piano with the poker. Miss Noel one day found Mr. Brown in a great state of perturbation, calling out, "Helen! Jane! Bijou! Come here, quick! The baby is bumping his head on the floor!" (The baby being three years old.) "Don't get angry, darling. If you won't bump your head, grandpa will bring you a wax doll from Kalsing to-morrow." Another day, baby's sister in banging on the window-pane struck through the glass and cut her fist. "Poor little dear! Poor childie! Let me bind it up quickly. Harry, love, bid nurse fetch the arnica at once," exclaimed Miss Noel; but the patient stamped and shrieked, and would not have her hand examined or doctored by anybody, whereupon her admiring mother said, "Jenny has always been that way. She has a great deal of character, Miss Noel."
"A very undisciplined one, I fear," replied that lady emphatically. She could scarcely believe that she heard aright when, on asking this model parent what her plans were for the summer, she said,—
"I am going to try Saratoga again. We were there last year, and I went prepared to stay until the 1st of October. I liked it very much; it was very gay and pleasant; but Harry got tired of it, and wouldn't stay after the second week, so I packed up and went to Long Branch, which he has always liked."
"Your brother, or uncle?" inquired Miss Noel, in perfect good faith.
"No, my little Harry," replied the placid mother.
The very appearance of the children, fragile, delicate-looking, nervous, was in striking contrast to the solid, rosy, somewhat stolid English children to whom she was accustomed. They were pretty, quite abnormally intelligent she thought, and as attractive as such rearing would permit them to become; but their habits and manners positively afflicted her. She pined to put them to bed at seven o'clock, keep them four or five hours of every day in the open air, give them simple, nourishing food,—in short, inaugurate the wholesome nursery system of her own country. To see them sitting down to table without saying their grace or putting on their pinafores, and order of the servant soups full of condiments, veal, any or all of eight vegetables, pickles, tarts, pudding, jelly, custard, fruit-cake, bon-bons, strong coffee, cheese, almonds, raisins, figs, more custard, raisins again, and more fruit-cake, all despatched in great haste, with no attention to the proper use of napkin, knife, fork, or spoon, was acutely disagreeable to her; and it was amusing to see her efforts to insinuate, as it were, better things into their daily life. "Nice, clever children," she would say,—"so delicate-featured, and so refined in appearance, but, heavens! what a monstrous system of education!" She had taken a fancy to Bijou from the first, and she soon noticed in her a great many little evidences of weariness, discontent, unhappiness; also that she was alternately very pale and depressed or flushed and animated. She took the girl therefore under her motherly wing, lectured her a little in her gentle way about some things, praised her in others, and was very kind to her.
"My dear," she would say, "do you not eat entirely too many sweets, bon-bons, and what not, and then go without proper food at the regular meals?" Or it would be, "How do you occupy yourself, as a rule, dear child? Do you district-visit, botanize, sketch, learn a language? What do you do? You would enjoy a course of belles-lettres, and should take that. And that head in crayons that you did at school was pleasantly executed: why not study from life constantly?" Bijou had to confess that she did nothing, and not even that industriously. "But, my dear, you are not an Asiatic. You surely don't wish to be a doll, a plaything, self-indulgent, helpless, leading a life of mere luxurious indulgence and artificiality?"
No, Bijou had no such wish; but what was the use of learning or doing anything now as a girl? If she married, it would be different; but then she would never, never marry. But Miss Noel insisted that an idle woman was a miserable woman, married or single, and was brisk and cheerful and kind, and devised a number of small employments for Bijou, whom she kept with her a great deal, and so befriended her as effectually as Mr. Ketchum had done Mr. Ramsay. Mrs. Sykes found fault with her once or twice, but did not find her all meekness.
"Why do you talk of 'an elegant breeze'?" she said to her one day.
"For the same reason that you spoke of 'a beautiful roast' yesterday," retorted the young lady, who might be broken-hearted, but was certainly not broken-spirited. "I know better, and I suppose you do, but we are both careless."
Matters drifted along in this way until a certain morning spent by Mr. Ramsay at the Browns',—eventful because a little thing happened which convinced him that Bijou cared for him. He came home with a new pang substituted for those he had been enduring for a lover's age. After dinner he tramped off for a long walk alone, in the course of which it may fairly be presumed that he decided what course to take, for early on the following day he called especially, for the second time, upon Mr. Brown.
"I have come to tell you that I can't come here any more," he said, holding his hat with his accustomed grace, and going in his straightforward fashion immediately to the subject in his mind. "And I wish to thank you for bein' so kind to me and receivin' me as you have done, and to tell you why I am actin' in this way."
"Why, what's the matter? Going away? Isn't this rather sudden?" asked Brown p?, all unsuspicious of what was to come.
"Oh, it isn't that! Though of course I shall be goin'. It is that I can't marry. That is what it is. You should have been told of it before, by rights, only I kept puttin' it off. You have a perfect right to blame me for not sayin' so long ago, when you were good enough to admit me here on an intimate footin'. It was a shabby, dishonorable thing of me, and I hope you'll forgive it, rememberin' that it was not my intention to deceive you," said Mr. Ramsay. "It wasn't, now, really."
"But, my dear fellow, of what are you accusing yourself? There must be some mistake. What has that got to do with your visits here?" asked Mr. Brown.
"Why, don't you see?—don't you object to me bein' thrown so much with Miss Brown, under the circumstances?" stammered out Mr. Ramsay.
"Not the least in the world,—not the least in the world, I assure you. Delighted to see you, I am sure, whenever you like to come," said Mr. Brown, with hospitable warmth. "Why should I? There is no necessity for your marrying anybody, that I can see. What put such a foolish idea in your head?"
"But I thought you would think—she would think I thought—that is—as you might say—"
A hearty laugh from Mr. Brown interrupted him: "Why, you seem to have thought a good deal on the subject. The most extraordinary idea! Excuse my saying so. This house is always full of young men dancing attendance on Bijou, who is as popular a girl as there is; but I don't trouble my head about them, I can assure you. No, indeed. Half of them don't want to marry Bijou, and she don't want to marry any of them that I know of. And I guess I shall be told when the affair comes off, so that I can order the wedding-cake. Why, they are just all young people together. It don't mean anything. They just naturally like each other's society. They are amusing themselves,—that's all; and quite right, too."