The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 Available Books
/
William Dean Howells
The Entire March Family Trilogy
Their Wedding Journey; A Hazard of New Fortunes; Their Silver Wedding Journey
🔊 Listen
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
Search TextOpen All Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
Table of ContentsOptions
List of Images
List of Tables
List of Bookmarks

Their Wedding Journey

Chapter I • The Outset • 7,900 Words
ORDER IT NOW

They first met in Boston, but the match was made in Europe, where they afterwards saw each other; whither, indeed, he followed her; and there the match was also broken off. Why it was broken off, and why it was renewed after a lapse of years, is part of quite a long love-story, which I do not think myself qualified to rehearse, distrusting my fitness for a sustained or involved narration; though I am persuaded that a skillful romancer could turn the courtship of Basil and Isabel March to excellent account. Fortunately for me, however, in attempting to tell the reader of the wedding-journey of a newly married couple, no longer very young, to be sure, but still fresh in the light of their love, I shall have nothing to do but to talk of some ordinary traits of American life as these appeared to them, to speak a little of well-known and easily accessible places, to present now a bit of landscape and now a sketch of character.

They had agreed to make their wedding-journey in the simplest and quietest way, and as it did not take place at once after their marriage, but some weeks later, it had all the desired charm of privacy from the outset.

“How much better,” said Isabel, “to go now, when nobody cares whether you go or stay, than to have started off upon a wretched wedding-breakfast, all tears and trousseau, and had people wanting to see you aboard the cars. Now there will not be a suspicion of honey-moonshine about us; we shall go just like anybody else,—with a difference, dear, with a difference!” and she took Basil’s cheeks between her hands. In order to do this, she had to ran round the table; for they were at dinner, and Isabel’s aunt, with whom they had begun married life, sat substantial between them. It was rather a girlish thing for Isabel, and she added, with a conscious blush, “We are past our first youth, you know; and we shall not strike the public as bridal, shall we? My one horror in life is an evident bride.”

Basil looked at her fondly, as if he did not think her at all too old to be taken for a bride; and for my part I do not object to a woman’s being of Isabel’s age, if she is of a good heart and temper. Life must have been very unkind to her if at that age she have not won more than she has lost. It seemed to Basil that his wife was quite as fair as when they met first, eight years before; but he could not help recurring with an inextinguishable regret to the long interval of their broken engagement, which but for that fatality they might have spent together, he imagined, in just such rapture as this. The regret always haunted him, more or less; it was part of his love; the loss accounted irreparable really enriched the final gain.

“I don’t know,” he said presently, with as much gravity as a man can whose cheeks are clasped between a lady’s hands, “you don’t begin very well for a bride who wishes to keep her secret. If you behave in this way, they will put us into the ‘bridal chambers’ at all the hotels. And the cars—they’re beginning to have them on the palace-cars.”

Just then a shadow fell into the room.

“Wasn’t that thunder, Isabel?” asked her aunt, who had been contentedly surveying the tender spectacle before her. “O dear! you’ll never be able to go by the boat to-night, if it storms. It’s actually raining now!”

In fact, it was the beginning of that terrible storm of June, 1870. All in a moment, out of the hot sunshine of the day it burst upon us before we quite knew that it threatened, even before we had fairly noticed the clouds, and it went on from passion to passion with an inexhaustible violence. In the square upon which our friends looked out of their dining-room windows the trees whitened in the gusts, and darkened in the driving floods of the rainfall, and in some paroxysms of the tempest bent themselves in desperate submission, and then with a great shudder rent away whole branches and flung them far off upon the ground. Hail mingled with the rain, and now the few umbrellas that had braved the storm vanished, and the hurtling ice crackled upon the pavement, where the lightning played like flames burning from the earth, while the thunder roared overhead without ceasing. There was something splendidly theatrical about it all; and when a street-car, laden to the last inch of its capacity, came by, with horses that pranced and leaped under the stinging blows of the hailstones, our friends felt as if it were an effective and very naturalistic bit of pantomime contrived for their admiration. Yet as to themselves they were very sensible of a potent reality in the affair, and at intervals during the storm they debated about going at all that day, and decided to go and not to go, according to the changing complexion of the elements. Basil had said that as this was their first journey together in America, he wished to give it at the beginning as pungent a national character as possible, and that as he could imagine nothing more peculiarly American than a voyage to New York by a Fall River boat, they ought to take that route thither. So much upholstery, so much music, such variety of company, he understood, could not be got in any other way, and it might be that they would even catch a glimpse of the inventor of the combination, who represented the very excess and extremity of a certain kind of Americanism. Isabel had eagerly consented; but these aesthetic motives were paralyzed for her by the thought of passing Point Judith in a storm, and she descended from her high intents first to the Inside Boats, without the magnificence and the orchestra, and then to the idea of going by land in a sleeping-car. Having comfortably accomplished this feat, she treated Basil’s consent as a matter of course, not because she did not regard him, but because as a woman she could not conceive of the steps to her conclusion as unknown to him, and always treated her own decisions as the product of their common reasoning. But her husband held out for the boat, and insisted that if the storm fell before seven o’clock, they could reach it at Newport by the last express; and it was this obstinacy that, in proof of Isabel’s wisdom, obliged them to wait two hours in the station before going by the land route. The storm abated at five o’clock, and though the rain continued, it seemed well by a quarter of seven to set out for the Old Colony Depot, in sight of which a sudden and vivid flash of lightning caused Isabel to seize her husband’s arm, and to implore him, “O don’t go by the boat!” On this, Basil had the incredible weakness to yield; and bade the driver take them to the Worcester Depot. It was the first swerving from the ideal in their wedding journey, but it was by no means the last; though it must be confessed that it was early to begin.

They both felt more tranquil when they were irretrievably committed by the purchase of their tickets, and when they sat down in the waiting-room of the station, with all the time between seven and nine o’clock before them. Basil would have eked out the business of checking the trunks into an affair of some length, but the baggage-master did his duty with pitiless celerity; and so Basil, in the mere excess of his disoccupation, bought an accident-insurance ticket. This employed him half a minute, and then he gave up the unequal contest, and went and took his place beside Isabel, who sat prettily wrapped in her shawl, perfectly content.

“Isn’t it charming,” she said gayly, “having to wait so long? It puts me in mind of some of those other journeys we took together. But I can’t think of those times with any patience, when we might really have had each other, and didn’t! Do you remember how long we had to wait at Chambery? and the numbers of military gentlemen that waited too, with their little waists, and their kisses when they met? and that poor married military gentleman, with the plain wife and the two children, and a tarnished uniform? He seemed to be somehow in misfortune, and his mustache hung down in such a spiritless way, while all the other military mustaches about curled and bristled with so much boldness. I think ‘salles d’attente’ everywhere are delightful, and there is such a community of interest in them all, that when I come here only to go out to Brookline, I feel myself a traveller once more,—a blessed stranger in a strange land. O dear, Basil, those were happy times after all, when we might have had each other and didn’t! And now we’re the more precious for having been so long lost.”

She drew closer and closer to him, and looked at him in a way that threatened betrayal of her bridal character.

“Isabel, you will be having your head on my shoulder, next,” said he.

“Never!” she answered fiercely, recovering her distance with a start. “But, dearest, if you do see me going to—act absurdly, you know, do stop me.”

“I’m very sorry, but I’ve got myself to stop. Besides, I didn’t undertake to preserve the incognito of this bridal party.”

If any accident of the sort dreaded had really happened, it would not have mattered so much, for as yet they were the sole occupants of the waiting room. To be sure, the ticket-seller was there, and the lady who checked packages left in her charge, but these must have seen so many endearments pass between passengers,—that a fleeting caress or so would scarcely have drawn their notice to our pair. Yet Isabel did not so much even as put her hand into her husband’s; and as Basil afterwards said, it was very good practice.

Our temporary state, whatever it is, is often mirrored in all that come near us, and our friends were fated to meet frequent parodies of their happiness from first to last on this journey. The travesty began with the very first people who entered the waiting-room after themselves, and who were a very young couple starting like themselves upon a pleasure tour, which also was evidently one of the first tours of any kind that they had made. It was of modest extent, and comprised going to New York and back; but they talked of it with a fluttered and joyful expectation as if it were a voyage to Europe. Presently there appeared a burlesque of their happiness (but with a touch of tragedy) in that kind of young man who is called by the females of his class a fellow, and two young women of that kind known to him as girls. He took a place between these, and presently began a robust flirtation with one of them. He possessed himself, after a brief struggle, of her parasol, and twirled it about, as he uttered, with a sort of tender rudeness inconceivable vapidities, such as you would expect from none but a man of the highest fashion. The girl thus courted became selfishly unconscious of everything but her own joy, and made no attempt to bring the other girl within its warmth, but left her to languish forgotten on the other side. The latter sometimes leaned forward, and tried to divert a little of the flirtation to herself, but the flirters snubbed her with short answers, and presently she gave up and sat still in the sad patience of uncourted women. In this attitude she became a burden to Isabel, who was glad when the three took themselves away, and were succeeded by a very stylish couple—from New York, she knew as well as if they had given her their address on West 999th Street. The lady was not pretty, and she was not, Isabel thought, dressed in the perfect taste of Boston; but she owned frankly to herself that the New-Yorkeress was stylish, undeniably effective. The gentleman bought a ticket for New York, and remained at the window of the office talking quite easily with the seller.

“You couldn’t do that, my poor Basil,” said Isabel, “you’d be afraid.”

“O dear, yes; I’m only too glad to get off without browbeating; though I must say that this officer looks affable enough. Really,” he added, as an acquaintance of the ticket-seller came in and nodded to him and said “Hot, to-day!” “this is very strange. I always felt as if these men had no private life, no friendships like the rest of us. On duty they seem so like sovereigns, set apart from mankind, and above us all, that it’s quite incredible they should have the common personal relations.”

At intervals of their talk and silence there came vivid flashes of lightning and quite heavy shocks of thunder, very consoling to our friends, who took them as so many compliments to their prudence in not going by the boat, and who had secret doubts of their wisdom whenever these acknowledgments were withheld. Isabel went so far as to say that she hoped nothing would happen to the boat, but I think she would cheerfully have learnt that the vessel had been obliged to put back to Newport, on account of the storm, or even that it had been driven ashore at a perfectly safe place.

People constantly came and went in the waiting-room, which was sometimes quite full, and again empty of all but themselves. In the course of their observations they formed many cordial friendships and bitter enmities upon the ground of personal appearance, or particulars of dress, with people whom they saw for half a minute upon an average; and they took such a keen interest in every one, that it would be hard to say whether they were more concerned in an old gentleman with vigorously upright iron-gray hair, who sat fronting them, and reading all the evening papers, or a young man who hurled himself through the door, bought a ticket with terrific precipitation, burst out again, and then ran down a departing train before it got out of the station: they loved the old gentleman for a certain stubborn benevolence of expression, and if they had been friends of the young man and his family for generations and felt bound if any harm befell him to go and break the news gently to his parents, their nerves could not have been more intimately wrought upon by his hazardous behavior. Still, as they had their tickets for New York, and he was going out on a merely local train,—to Brookline, I believe, they could not, even in their anxiety, repress a feeling of contempt for his unambitious destination.

They were already as completely cut off from local associations and sympathies as if they were a thousand miles and many months away from Boston. They enjoyed the lonely flaring of the gas-jets as a gust of wind drew through the station; they shared the gloom and isolation of a man who took a seat in the darkest corner of the room, and sat there with folded arms, the genius of absence. In the patronizing spirit of travellers in a foreign country they noted and approved the vases of cut-flowers in the booth of the lady who checked packages, and the pots of ivy in her windows. “These poor Bostonians,” they said; “have some love of the beautiful in their rugged natures.”

But after all was said and thought, it was only eight o’clock, and they still had an hour to wait.

Basil grew restless, and Isabel said, with a subtile interpretation of his uneasiness, “I don’t want anything to eat, Basil, but I think I know the weaknesses of men; and you had better go and pass the next half-hour over a plate of something indigestible.”

This was said ‘con stizza’, the least little suggestion of it; but Basil rose with shameful alacrity. “Darling, if it’s your wish—”

“It’s my fate, Basil,” said Isabel.

“I’ll go,” he exclaimed, “because it isn’t bridal, and will help us to pass for old married people.”

“No, no, Basil, be honest; fibbing isn’t your forte: I wonder you went into the insurance business; you ought to have been a lawyer. Go because you like eating, and are hungry, perhaps, or think you may be so before we get to New York.

“I shall amuse myself well enough here!”

I suppose it is always a little shocking and grievous to a wife when she recognizes a rival in butchers’-meat and the vegetables of the season. With her slender relishes for pastry and confectionery and her dainty habits of lunching, she cannot reconcile with the idea (of) her husband’s capacity for breakfasting, dining, supping, and hot meals at all hours of the day and night—as they write it on the sign-boards of barbaric eating-houses. But Isabel would have only herself to blame if she had not perceived this trait of Basil’s before marriage. She recurred now, as his figure disappeared down the station, to memorable instances of his appetite in their European travels during their first engagement. “Yes, he ate terribly at Susa, when I was too full of the notion of getting into Italy to care for bouillon and cold roast chicken. At Rome I thought I must break with him on account of the wild-boar; and at Heidelberg, the sausage and the ham!—how could he, in my presence? But I took him with all his faults,—and was glad to get him,” she added, ending her meditation with a little burst of candor; and she did not even think of Basil’s appetite when he reappeared.

With the thronging of many sorts of people, in parties and singly, into the waiting room, they became once again mere observers of their kind, more or less critical in temper, until the crowd grew so that individual traits were merged in the character of multitude. Even then, they could catch glimpses of faces so sweet or fine that they made themselves felt like moments of repose in the tumult, and here and there was something so grotesque in dress of manner that it showed distinct from the rest. The ticket-seller’s stamp clicked incessantly as he sold tickets to all points South and West: to New York, Philadelphia, Charleston; to New Orleans, Chicago, Omaha; to St. Paul, Duluth, St. Louis; and it would not have been hard to find in that anxious bustle, that unsmiling eagerness, an image of the whole busy affair of life. It was not a particularly sane spectacle, that impatience to be off to some place that lay not only in the distance, but also in the future—to which no line of road carries you with absolute certainty across an interval of time full of every imaginable chance and influence. It is easy enough to buy a ticket to Cincinnati, but it is somewhat harder to arrive there. Say that all goes well, is it exactly you who arrive?

In the midst of the disquiet there entered at last an old woman, so very infirm that she had to be upheld on either hand by her husband and the hackman who had brought them, while a young girl went before with shawls and pillows which she arranged upon the seat. There the invalid lay down, and turned towards the crowd a white, suffering face, which was yet so heavenly meek and peaceful that it comforted whoever looked at it.

In spirit our happy friends bowed themselves before it and owned that there was something better than happiness in it.

“What is it like, Isabel?”

“O, I don’t know, darling,” she said; but she thought, “Perhaps it is like some blessed sorrow that takes us out of this prison of a world, and sets us free of our every-day hates and desires, our aims, our fears, ourselves. Maybe a long and mortal sickness might come to wear such a face in one of us two, and the other could see it, and not regret the poor mask of youth and pretty looks that had fallen away.”

She rose and went over to the sick woman, on whose face beamed a tender smile, as Isabel spoke to her. A chord thrilled in two lives hitherto unknown to each other; but what was said Basil would not ask when the invalid had taken Isabel’s hand between her own, as for adieu, and she came back to his side with swimming eyes. Perhaps his wife could have given no good reason for her emotion, if he had asked it. But it made her very sweet and dear to him; and I suppose that when a tolerably unselfish man is once secure of a woman’s love, he is ordinarily more affected by her compassion and tenderness for other objects than by her feelings towards himself. He likes well enough to think, “She loves me,” but still better, “How kind and good she is!”

They lost sight of the invalid in the hurry of getting places on the cars, and they never saw her again. The man at the wicket-gate leading to the train had thrown it up, and the people were pressing furiously through as if their lives hung upon the chance of instant passage. Basil had secured his ticket for the sleeping-car, and so he and Isabel stood aside and watched the tumult. When the rash was over they passed through, and as they walked up and down the platform beside the train, “I was thinking,” said Isabel, “after I spoke to that poor old lady, of what Clara Williams says: that she wonders the happiest women in the world can look each other in the face without bursting into tears, their happiness is so unreasonable, and so built upon and hedged about with misery. She declares that there’s nothing so sad to her as a bride, unless it’s a young mother, or a little girl growing up in the innocent gayety of her heart. She wonders they can live through it.”

“Clara is very much of a reformer, and would make an end of all of us men, I suppose,—except her father, who supports her in the leisure that enables her to do her deep thinking. She little knows what we poor fellows have to suffer, and how often we break down in business hours, and sob upon one another’s necks. Did that old lady talk to you in the same strain?”

“O no! she spoke very calmly of her sickness, and said she had lived a blessed life. Perhaps it was that made me shed those few small tears. She seemed a very religious person.”

“Yes,” said Basil, “it is almost a pity that religion is going out. But then you are to have the franchise.”

“All aboard!”

This warning cry saved him from whatever heresy he might have been about to utter; and presently the train carried them out into the gas-sprinkled darkness, with an ever-growing speed that soon left the city lamps far behind. It is a phenomenon whose commonness alone prevents it from being most impressive, that departure of the night-express. The two hundred miles it is to travel stretch before it, traced by those slender clews, to lose which is ruin, and about which hang so many dangers. The draw bridges that gape upon the way, the trains that stand smoking and steaming on the track, the rail that has borne the wear so long that it must soon snap under it, the deep cut where the overhanging mass of rock trembles to its fall, the obstruction that a pitiless malice may have placed in your path,—you think of these after the journey is done, but they seldom haunt your fancy while it lasts. The knowledge of your helplessness in any circumstances is so perfect that it begets a sense of irresponsibility, almost of security; and as you drowse upon the pallet of the sleeping car, and feel yourself hurled forward through the obscurity, you are almost thankful that you can do nothing, for it is upon this condition only that you can endure it; and some such condition as this, I suppose, accounts for many heroic facts in the world. To the fantastic mood which possesses you equally, sleeping or waking, the stoppages of the train have a weird character; and Worcester, Springfield, New Haven, and Stamford are rather points in dream-land than well-known towns of New England. As the train stops you drowse if you have been waking, and wake if you have been in a doze; but in any case you are aware of the locomotive hissing and coughing beyond the station, of flaring gas-jets, of clattering feet of passengers getting on and off; then of some one, conductor or station-master, walking the whole length of the train; and then you are aware of an insane satisfaction in renewed flight through the darkness. You think hazily of the folk in their beds in the town left behind, who stir uneasily at the sound of your train’s departing whistle; and so all is a blank vigil or a blank slumber.

By daylight Basil and Isabel found themselves at opposite ends of the car, struggling severally with the problem of the morning’s toilet. When the combat was ended, they were surprised at the decency of their appearance, and Isabel said, “I think I’m presentable to an early Broadway public, and I’ve a fancy for not going to a hotel. Lucy will be expecting us out there before noon; and we can pass the time pleasantly enough for a few hours just wandering about.”

She was a woman who loved any cheap defiance of custom, and she had an agreeable sense of adventure in what she proposed. Besides, she felt that nothing could be more in the unconventional spirit in which they meant to make their whole journey than a stroll about New York at half-past six in the morning.

“Delightful!” answered Basil, who was always charmed with these small originalities. “You look well enough for an evening party; and besides, you won’t meet one of your own critical class on Broadway at this hour. We will breakfast at one of those gilded metropolitan restaurants, and then go round to Leonard’s, who will be able to give us just three unhurried seconds. After that we’ll push on out to his place.”

At that early hour there were not many people astir on the wide avenue down which our friends strolled when they left the station; but in the aspect of those they saw there was something that told of a greater heat than they had yet known in Boston, and they were sensible of having reached a more southern latitude. The air, though freshened by the over-night’s storm, still wanted the briskness and sparkle and pungency of the Boston air, which is as delicious in summer as it is terrible in winter; and the faces that showed themselves were sodden from the yesterday’s heat and perspiration. A corner-grocer, seated in a sort of fierce despondency upon a keg near his shop door, had lightly equipped himself for the struggle of the day in the battered armor of the day before, and in a pair of roomy pantaloons, and a baggy shirt of neutral tint—perhaps he had made a vow not to change it whilst the siege of the hot weather lasted,—now confronted the advancing sunlight, before which the long shadows of the buildings were slowly retiring. A marketing mother of a family paused at a provision-store, and looking weakly in at the white-aproned butcher among his meats and flies, passes without an effort to purchase. Hurried and wearied shop-girls tripped by in the draperies that betrayed their sad necessity to be both fine and shabby; from a boarding-house door issued briskly one of those cool young New Yorkers whom no circumstances can oppress: breezy-coated, white-livened, clean, with a good cigar in the mouth, a light cane caught upon the elbow of one of the arms holding up the paper from which the morning’s news is snatched, whilst the person sways lightly with the walk; in the street-cars that slowly tinkled up and down were rows of people with baskets between their legs and papers before their faces; and all showed by some peculiarity of air or dress the excess of heat which they had already borne, and to which they seemed to look forward, and gave by the scantiness of their number a vivid impression of the uncounted thousands within doors prolonging, before the day’s terror began, the oblivion of sleep.

As they turned into one of the numerical streets to cross to Broadway, and found themselves in a yet deeper seclusion, Basil-began to utter in a musing tone:

“A city against the world’s gray Prime,
Lost in some desert, far from Time,
Where noiseless Ages gliding through,
Have only sifted sands and dew,
Yet still a marble head of man
Lying on all the haunted plan;
The passions of the human heart
Beating the marble breast of Art,
Were not more lone to one who first
Upon its giant silence burst,
Than this strange quiet, where the tide
Of life, upheaved on either aide,
Hangs trembling, ready soon to beat
With human waves the Morning Street.”

“How lovely!” said Isabel, swiftly catching at her skirt, and deftly escaping contact with one of a long row of ash-barrels posted sentinel-like on the edge of the pavement. “Whose is it, Basil?”

“Ah! a poet’s,” answered her husband, “a man of whom we shall one day any of us be glad to say that we liked him before he was famous. What a nebulous sweetness the first lines have, and what a clear, cool light of day-break in the last!”

“You could have been as good a poet as that, Basil,” said the ever-personal and concretely-speaking Isabel, who could not look at a mountain without thinking what Basil might have done in that way, if he had tried.

“O no, I couldn’t, dear. It’s very difficult being any poet at all, though it’s easy to be like one. But I’ve done with it; I broke with the Muse the day you accepted me. She came into my office, looking so shabby,—not unlike one of those poor shop-girls; and as I was very well dressed from having just been to see you, why, you know, I felt the difference. ‘Well, my dear?’ said I, not quite liking the look of reproach she was giving me. ‘You are going to leave me,’ she answered sadly. ‘Well, yes; I suppose I must. You see the insurance business is very absorbing; and besides, it has a bad appearance, your coming about so in office hours, and in those clothes.’ ‘O,’ she moaned out, ‘you used to welcome me at all times, out in the country, and thought me prettily dressed.’ ‘Yes, yes; but this is Boston; and Boston makes a great difference in one’s ideas; and I’m going to be married, too. Come, I don’t want to seem ungrateful; we have had many pleasant times together, I own it; and I’ve no objections to your being present at Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthdays, but really I must draw the line there.’ She gave me a look that made my heart ache, and went straight to my desk and took out of a pigeon hole a lot of papers,—odes upon your cruelty, Isabel; songs to you; sonnets,—the sonnet, a mighty poor one, I’d made the day before,—and threw them all into the grate. Then she turned to me again, signed adieu with mute lips, and passed out. I could hear the bottom wire of the poor thing’s hoop-skirt clicking against each step of the stairway, as she went slowly and heavily down to the street.” “O don’t—don’t, Basil,” said his wife, “it seems like something wrong. I think you ought to have been ashamed.”

“Ashamed! I was heart broken. But it had to come to that. As I got hopeful about you, the Muse became a sad bore; and more than once I found myself smiling at her when her back was turned. The Muse doesn’t like being laughed at any more than another woman would, and she would have left me shortly. No, I couldn’t be a poet like our Morning-Street friend. But see! the human wave is beginning to sprinkle the pavement with cooks and second-girls.”

They were frowzy serving-maids and silent; each swept down her own door steps and the pavement in front of her own house, and then knocked her broom on the curbstone and vanished into the house, on which the hand of change had already fallen. It was no longer a street solely devoted to the domestic gods, but had been invaded at more than one point by the bustling deities of business in such streets the irregular, inspired doctors and doctresses come first with inordinate door-plates, then a milliner filling the parlor window with new bonnets; here even a publisher had hung his sign beside a door, through which the feet of young ladies used to trip, and the feet of little children to patter. Here and there stood groups of dwellings unmolested as yet outwardly; but even these had a certain careworn and guilty air, as if they knew themselves to be cheapish boarding-houses or furnished lodgings for gentlemen, and were trying to hide it. To these belonged the frowzy serving-women; to these the rows of ash-barrels, in which the decrepit children and mothers of the streets were clawing for bits of coal.

By the time Basil and Isabel reached Broadway there were already some omnibuses beginning their long day’s travel up and down the handsome, tiresome length of that avenue; but for the most part it was empty. There was, of course, a hurry of foot-passengers upon the sidewalks, but these were sparse and uncharacteristic, for New York proper was still fast asleep. The waiter at the restaurant into which our friends stepped was so well aware of this, and so perfectly assured they were not of the city, that he could not forbear a little patronage of them, which they did not resent. He brought Basil what he had ordered in barbaric abundance, and charged for it with barbaric splendor. It is all but impossible not to wish to stand well with your waiter: I have myself been often treated with conspicuous rudeness by the tribe, yet I have never been able to withhold the ‘douceur’ that marked me for a gentleman in their eyes, and entitled me to their dishonorable esteem. Basil was not superior to this folly, and left the waiter with the conviction that, if he was not a New Yorker, he was a high-bred man of the world at any rate.

Vexed by a sense of his own pitifulness, this man of the world continued his pilgrimage down Broadway, which even in that desert state was full of a certain interest. Troops of laborers straggled along the pavements, each with his dinner-pail in hand; and in many places the eternal building up and pulling down was already going on; carts were struggling up the slopes of vast cellars, with loads of distracting rubbish; here stood the half-demolished walls of a house, with a sad variety of wall-paper showing in the different rooms; there clinked the trowel upon the brick, yonder the hammer on the stone; overhead swung and threatened the marble block that the derrick was lifting to its place. As yet these forces of demolition and construction had the business of the street almost to themselves.

“Why, how shabby the street is!” said Isabel, at last. “When I landed, after being abroad, I remember that Broadway impressed me with its splendor.”

“Ah! but you were merely coming from Europe then; and now you arrive from Burton, and are contrasting this poor Broadway with Washington Street. Don’t be hard upon it, Isabel; every street can’t be a Boston street, you know,” said Basil. Isabel, herself a Bostonian of great intensity both by birth and conviction, believed her husband the only man able to have thoroughly baffled the malignity of the stars in causing him to be born out of Boston; yet he sometimes trifled with his hardly achieved triumph, and even showed an indifference to it, with an insincerity of which there can be no doubt whatever.

“O stuff!” she retorted, “as if I had any of that silly local pride! Though you know well enough that Boston is the best place in the world. But Basil! I suppose Broadway strikes us as so fine, on coming ashore from Europe, because we hardly expect anything of America then.”

“Well, I don’t know. Perhaps the street has some positive grandeur of its own, though it needs a multitude of people in it to bring out its best effects. I’ll allow its disheartening shabbiness and meanness in many ways; but to stand in front of Grace Church, on a clear day,—a day of late September, say,—and look down the swarming length of Broadway, on the movement and the numbers, while the Niagara roar swelled and swelled from those human rapids, was always like strong new wine to me. I don’t think the world affords such another sight; and for one moment, at such times, I’d have been willing to be an Irish councilman, that I might have some right to the pride I felt in the capital of the Irish Republic. What a fine thing it must be for each victim of six centuries of oppression to reflect that he owns at least a dozen Americans, and that, with his fellows, he rules a hundred helpless millionaires!”

Like all daughters of a free country, Isabel knew nothing about politics, and she felt that she was getting into deep water; she answered buoyantly, but she was glad to make her weariness the occasion of hailing a stage, and changing the conversation. The farther down town they went the busier the street grew; and about the Astor House, where they alighted, there was already a bustle that nothing but a fire could have created at the same hour in Boston. A little farther on the steeple of Trinity rose high into the scorching sunlight, while below, in the shadow that was darker than it was cool, slumbered the old graves among their flowers.

“How still they lie!” mused the happy wife, peering through the iron fence in passing.

“Yes, their wedding-journeys are ended, poor things!” said Basil; and through both their minds flashed the wonder if they should ever come to something like that; but it appeared so impossible that they both smiled at the absurdity.

“It’s too early yet for Leonard,” continued Basil; “what a pity the church-yard is locked up. We could spend the time so delightfully in it. But, never mind; let us go down to the Battery,—it’s not a very pleasant place, but it’s near, and it’s historical, and it’s open,—where these drowsy friends of ours used to take the air when they were in the fashion, and had some occasion for the element in its freshness. You can imagine—it’s cheap—how they used to see Mr. Burr and Mr. Hamilton down there.”

All places that fashion has once loved and abandoned are very melancholy; but of all such places, I think the Battery is the most forlorn. Are there some sickly locust-trees there that cast a tremulous and decrepit shade upon the mangy grass-plots? I believe so, but I do not make sure; I am certain only of the mangy grass-plots, or rather the spaces between the paths, thinly overgrown with some kind of refuse and opprobrious weed, a stunted and pauper vegetation proper solely to the New York Battery. At that hour of the summer morning when our friends, with the aimlessness of strangers who are waiting to do something else, saw the ancient promenade, a few scant and hungry-eyed little boys and girls were wandering over this weedy growth, not playing, but moving listlessly to and fro, fantastic in the wild inaptness of their costumes. One of these little creatures wore, with an odd involuntary jauntiness, the cast-off best drew of some happier child, a gay little garment cut low in the neck and short in the sleeves, which gave her the grotesque effect of having been at a party the night before. Presently came two jaded women, a mother and a grandmother, that appeared, when they had crawled out of their beds, to have put on only so much clothing as the law compelled. They abandoned themselves upon the green stuff, whatever it was, and, with their lean hands clasped outside their knees, sat and stared, silent and hopeless, at the eastern sky, at the heart of the terrible furnace, into which in those days the world seemed cast to be burnt up, while the child which the younger woman had brought with her feebly wailed unheeded at her side. On one side of these women were the shameless houses out of which they might have crept, and which somehow suggested riotous maritime dissipation; on the other side were those houses in which had once dwelt rich and famous folk, but which were now dropping down the boarding-house scale through various un-homelike occupations to final dishonor and despair. Down nearer the water, and not far from the castle that was once a playhouse and is now the depot of emigration, stood certain express-wagons, and about these lounged a few hard-looking men. Beyond laughed and danced the fresh blue water of the bay, dotted with sails and smokestacks.

“Well,” said Basil, “I think if I could choose, I should like to be a friendless German boy, setting foot for the first time on this happy continent. Fancy his rapture on beholding this lovely spot, and these charming American faces! What a smiling aspect life in the New World must wear to his young eyes, and how his heart must leap within him!”

“Yes, Basil; it’s all very pleasing, and thank you for bringing me. But if you don’t think of any other New York delights to show me, do let us go and sit in Leonard’s office till he comes, and then get out into the country as soon as possible.”

Basil defended himself against the imputation that he had been trying to show New York to his wife, or that he had any thought but of whiling away the long morning hours, until it should be time to go to Leonard. He protested that a knowledge of Europe made New York the most uninteresting town in America, and that it was the last place in the world where he should think of amusing himself or any one else; and then they both upbraided the city’s bigness and dullness with an enjoyment that none but Bostonians can know. They particularly derided the notion of New York’s being loved by any one. It was immense, it was grand in some ways, parts of it were exceedingly handsome; but it was too vast, too coarse, too restless. They could imagine its being liked by a successful young man of business, or by a rich young girl, ignorant of life and with not too nice a taste in her pleasures; but that it should be dear to any poet or scholar, or any woman of wisdom and refinement, that they could not imagine. They could not think of any one’s loving New York as Dante loved Florence, or as Madame de Stael loved Paris, or as Johnson loved black, homely, home-like London. And as they twittered their little dispraises, the giant Mother of Commerce was growing more and more conscious of herself, waking from her night’s sleep and becoming aware of her fleets and trains, and the myriad hands and wheels that throughout the whole sea and land move for her, and do her will even while she sleeps. All about the wedding-journeyers swelled the deep tide of life back from its night-long ebb. Broadway had filled her length with people; not yet the most characteristic New York crowd, but the not less interesting multitude of strangers arrived by the early boats and trams, and that easily distinguishable class of lately New-Yorkized people from other places, about whom in the metropolis still hung the provincial traditions of early rising; and over all, from moment to moment, the eager, audacious, well-dressed, proper life of the mighty city was beginning to prevail,—though this was not so notable where Basil and Isabel had paused at a certain window. It was the office of one of the English steamers, and he was saying, “It was by this line I sailed, you know,”—and she was interrupting him with, “When who could have dreamed that you would ever be telling me of it here?” So the old marvel was wondered over anew, till it filled the world in which there was room for nothing but the strangeness that they should have loved each other so long and not made it known, that they should ever have uttered it, and that, being uttered, it should be so much more and better than ever could have been dreamed. The broken engagement was a fable of disaster that only made their present fortune more prosperous. The city ceased about them, and they walked on up the street, the first man and first woman in the garden of the new-made earth. As they were both very conscious people, they recognized in themselves some sense of this, and presently drolled it away, in the opulence of a time when every moment brought some beautiful dream, and the soul could be prodigal of its bliss.

“I think if I had the naming of the animals over again, this morning, I shouldn’t call snakes ‘snakes’; should you, Eve?” laughed Basil in intricate acknowledgment of his happiness.

“O no, Adam; we’d look out all the most graceful euphemisms in the newspapers, and we wouldn’t hurt the feelings of a spider.”

Chapter II • Midsummer-Day’s Dream • 4,500 Words

They had waited to see Leonard, in order that they might learn better how to find his house in the country; and now, when they came in upon him at nine o’clock, he welcomed them with all his friendly heart. He rose from the pile of morning’s letters to which he had but just sat down; he placed them the easiest chairs; he made a feint of its not being a busy hour with him, and would have had them look upon his office, which was still damp and odorous from the porter’s broom, as a kind of down-town parlor; but after they had briefly accounted to his amazement for their appearance then and there, and Isabel had boasted of the original fashion in which they had that morning seen New York, they took pity on him, and bade him adieu till evening.

They crossed from Broadway to the noisome street by the ferry, and in a little while had taken their places in the train on the other side of the water.

“Don’t tell me, Basil,” said Isabel, “that Leonard travels fifty miles every day by rail going to and from his work!”

“I must, dearest, if I would be truthful.”

“Then, darling, there are worse things in this world than living up at the South End, aren’t there?” And in agreement upon Boston as a place of the greatest natural advantages, as well as all acquirable merits, with after talk that need not be recorded, they arrived in the best humor at the little country station near which the Leonards dwelt.

I must inevitably follow Mrs. Isabel thither, though I do it at the cost of the reader, who suspects the excitements which a long description of the movement would delay. The ladies were very old friends, and they had not met since Isabel’s return from Europe and renewal of her engagement. Upon the news of this, Mrs. Leonard had swallowed with surprising ease all that she had said in blame of Basil’s conduct during the rupture, and exacted a promise from her friend that she should pay her the first visit after their marriage. And now that they had come together, their only talk was of husbands, whom they viewed in every light to which husbands could be turned, and still found an inexhaustible novelty in the theme. Mrs. Leonard beheld in her friend’s joy the sweet reflection of her own honeymoon, and Isabel was pleased to look upon the prosperous marriage of the former as the image of her future. Thus, with immense profit and comfort, they reassured one another by every question and answer, and in their weak content lapsed far behind the representative women of our age, when husbands are at best a necessary evil, and the relation of wives to them is known to be one of pitiable subjection. When these two pretty, fogies put their heads of false hair together, they were as silly and benighted as their great-grandmothers could have been in the same circumstances, and, as I say, shamefully encouraged each other, in their absurdity. The absurdity appeared too good and blessed to be true. “Do you really suppose, Basil,” Isabel would say to her oppressor, after having given him some elegant extract from the last conversation upon husbands, “that we shall get on as smoothly as the Leonards when we have been married ten years? Lucy says that things go more hitchily the first year than ever they do afterwards, and that people love each other better and better just because they’ve got used to it. Well, our bliss does seem a little crude and garish compared with their happiness; and yet”—she put up both her palms against his, and gave a vehement little push—“there is something agreeable about it, even at this stage of the proceedings.”

“Isabel,” said her husband, with severity, “this is bridal!”

“No matter! I only want to seem an old married woman to the general public. But the application of it is that you must be careful not to contradict me, or cross me in anything, so that we can be like the Leonards very much sooner than they became so. The great object is not to have any hitchiness; and you know you ARE provoking—at times.”

They both educated themselves for continued and tranquil happiness by the example and precept of their friends; and the time passed swiftly in the pleasant learning, and in the novelty of the life led by the Leonards. This indeed merits a closer study than can be given here, for it is the life led by vast numbers of prosperous New Yorkers who love both the excitement of the city and the repose of the country, and who aspire to unite the enjoyment of both in their daily existence. The suburbs of the metropolis stretch landward fifty miles in every direction; and everywhere are handsome villas like Leonard’s, inhabited by men like himself, whom strict study of the time-table enables to spend all their working hours in the city and all their smoking and sleeping hours in the country.

The home and the neighborhood of the Leonards put on their best looks for our bridal pair, and they were charmed. They all enjoyed the visit, said guests and hosts, they were all sorry to have it come to an end; yet they all resigned themselves to this conclusion. Practically, it had no other result than to detain the travellers into the very heart of the hot weather. In that weather it was easy to do anything that did not require an active effort, and resignation was so natural with the mercury at ninety, that I am not sure but there was something sinful in it.

They had given up their cherished purpose of going to Albany by the day boat, which was represented to them in every impossible phase. It would be dreadfully crowded, and whenever it stopped the heat would be insupportable. Besides it would bring them to Albany at an hour when they must either spend the night there, or push on to Niagara by the night train. “You had better go by the evening boat. It will be light almost till you reach West Point, and you’ll see all the best scenery. Then you can get a good night’s rest, and start fresh in the morning.” So they were counseled, and they assented, as they would have done if they had been advised: “You had better go by the morning boat. It’s deliciously cool, travelling; you see the whole of the river, you reach Albany for supper, and you push through to Niagara that night and are done with it.”

They took leave of Leonard at breakfast and of his wife at noon, and fifteen minutes later they were rushing from the heat of the country into the heat of the city, where some affairs and pleasures were to employ them till the evening boat should start.

Their spirits were low, for the terrible spell of the great heat brooded upon them. All abroad burned the fierce white light of the sun, in which not only the earth seemed to parch and thirst, but the very air withered, and was faint and thin to the troubled respiration. Their train was full of people who had come long journeys from broiling cities of the West, and who were dusty and ashen and reeking in the slumbers at which some of them still vainly caught. On every one lay an awful languor. Here and there stirred a fan, like the broken wing of a dying bird; now and then a sweltering young mother shifted her hot baby from one arm to another; after every station the desperate conductor swung through the long aisle and punched the ticket, which each passenger seemed to yield him with a tacit malediction; a suffering child hung about the empty tank, which could only gasp out a cindery drop or two of ice-water. The wind buffeted faintly at the windows; when the door was opened, the clatter of the rails struck through and through the car like a demoniac yell.

Yet when they arrived at the station by the ferry-side, they seemed to have entered its stifling darkness from fresh and vigorous atmosphere, so close and dead and mined with the carbonic breath of the locomotives was the air of the place. The thin old wooden walls that shut out the glare of the sun transmitted an intensified warmth; the roof seemed to hover lower and lower, and in its coal-smoked, raftery hollow to generate a heat deadlier than that poured upon it from the skies.

In a convenient place in the station hung a thermometer, before which every passenger, on going aboard the ferry-boat, paused as at a shrine, and mutely paid his devotions. At the altar of this fetich our friends also paused, and saw that the mercury was above ninety, and exulting with the pride that savages take in the cruel might of their idols, bowed their souls to the great god Heat.

On the boat they found a place where the breath of the sea struck cool across their faces, and made them forget the thermometer for the brief time of the transit. But presently they drew near that strange, irregular row of wooden buildings and jutting piers which skirts the river on the New York aide, and before the boat’s motion ceased the air grew thick and warm again, and tainted with the foulness of the street on which the buildings front. Upon this the boat’s passengers issued, passing up through a gangway, on one side of which a throng of return-passengers was pent by a gate of iron barn, like a herd of wild animals. They were streaming with perspiration, and, according to their different temperaments, had faces of deep crimson or deadly pallor.

“Now the question is, my dear,” said Basil when, free of the press, they lingered for a moment in the shade outside, “whether we had better walk up to Broadway, at an immediate sacrifice of fibre, and get a stage there, or take one of these cars here, and be landed a little nearer, with half the exertion. By this route we shall have sights end smells which the other can’t offer us, but whichever we take we shall be sorry.”

“Then I say take this,” decided Isabel. “I want to be sorry upon the easiest possible terms, this weather.”

They hailed the first car that passed, and got into it. Well for them both if she could have exercised this philosophy with regard to the whole day’s business, or if she could have given up her plans for it, with the same resignation she had practiced in regard to the day boat! It seems to me a proof of the small advance our race has made in true wisdom, that we find it so hard to give up doing anything we have meant to do. It matters very little whether the affair is one of enjoyment or of business, we feel the same bitter need of pursuing it to the end. The mere fact of intention gives it a flavor of duty, and dutiolatry, as one may call the devotion, has passed so deeply into our life that we have scarcely a sense any more of the sweetness of even a neglected pleasure. We will not taste the fine, guilty rapture of a deliberate dereliction; the gentle sin of omission is all but blotted from the calendar of our crimes. If I had been Columbus, I should have thought twice before setting sail, when I was quite ready to do so; and as for Plymouth Rock, I should have sternly resisted the blandishments of those twin sirens, Starvation and Cold, who beckoned the Puritans shoreward, and as soon as ever I came in sight of their granite perch should have turned back to England. But it is now too late to repair these errors, and so, on one of the hottest days of last year, behold my obdurate bridal pair, in a Tenth or Twentieth Avenue horse-car, setting forth upon the fulfillment of a series of intentions, any of which had wiselier been left unaccomplished. Isabel had said they would call upon certain people in Fiftieth Street, and then shop slowly down, ice-creaming and staging and variously cooling and calming by the way, until they reached the ticket-office on Broadway, whence they could indefinitely betake themselves to the steamboat an hour or two before her departure. She felt that they had yielded sufficiently to circumstances and conditions already on this journey, and she was resolved that the present half-day in New York should be the half-day of her original design.

It was not the most advisable thing, as I have allowed, but it was inevitable, and it afforded them a spectacle which is by no means wanting in sublimity, and which is certainly unique,—the spectacle of that great city on a hot day, defiant of the elements, and prospering on with every form of labor, and at a terrible cost of life. The man carrying the hod to the top of the walls that rankly grow and grow as from his life’s blood, will only lay down his load when he feels the mortal glare of the sun blaze in upon heart and brain; the plethoric millionaire for whom he toils will plot and plan in his office till he swoons at the desk; the trembling beast must stagger forward while the flame-faced tormentor on the box has strength to lash him on; in all those vast palaces of commerce there are ceaseless sale and purchase, packing and unpacking, lifting up and laying down, arriving and departing loads; in thousands of shops is the unspared and unsparing weariness of selling; in the street, filled by the hurry and suffering of tens of thousands, is the weariness of buying.

Their afternoon’s experience was something that Basil and Isabel could, when it was past, look upon only as a kind of vision, magnificent at times, and at other times full of indignity and pain. They seemed to have dreamed of a long horse-car pilgrimage through that squalid street by the river-side, where presently they came to a market, opening upon the view hideous vistas of carnage, and then into a wide avenue, with processions of cars like their own coming and going up and down the centre of a foolish and useless breadth, which made even the tall buildings (rising gauntly up among the older houses of one or two stories) on either hand look low, and let in the sun to bake the dust that the hot breaths of wind caught up and sent swirling into the shabby shops. Here they dreamed of the eternal demolition and construction of the city, and farther on of vacant lots full of granite boulders, clambered over by goats. In their dream they had fellow-passengers, whose sufferings made them odious and whom they were glad to leave behind when they alighted from the car, and running out of the blaze of the avenue, quenched themselves in the shade of the cross-street. A little strip of shadow lay along the row of brown-stone fronts, but there were intervals where the vacant lots cast no shadow. With great bestowal of thought they studied hopelessly how to avoid these spaces as if they had been difficult torrents or vast expanses of desert sand; they crept slowly along till they came to such a place, and dashed swiftly across it, and then, fainter than before, moved on. They seemed now and then to stand at doors, and to be told that people were out and again that they were in; and they had a sense of cool dark parlors, and the airy rustling of light-muslined ladies, of chat and of fans and ice-water, and then they came forth again; and evermore

“The day increased from heat to heat.”

At last they were aware of an end of their visits, and of a purpose to go down town again, and of seeking the nearest car by endless blocks of brown-stone fronts, which with their eternal brownstone flights of steps, and their handsome, intolerable uniformity, oppressed them like a procession of houses trying to pass a given point and never getting by. Upon these streets there was, seldom a soul to be seen, so that when their ringing at a door had evoked answer, it had startled them with a vague, sad surprise. In the distance on either hand they could see cars and carts and wagons toiling up and down the avenues, and on the next intersecting pavement sometimes a laborer with his jacket slung across his shoulder, or a dog that had plainly made up his mind to go mad. Up to the time of their getting into one of those phantasmal cars for the return down-townwards they had kept up a show of talk in their wretched dream; they had spoken of other hot days that they had known elsewhere; and they had wondered that the tragical character of heat had been so little recognized. They said that the daily New York murder might even at that moment be somewhere taking place; and that no murder of the whole homicidal year could have such proper circumstance; they morbidly wondered what that day’s murder would be, and in what swarming tenement-house, or den of the assassin streets by the river-sides,—if indeed it did not befall in some such high, close-shuttered, handsome dwelling as those they passed, in whose twilight it would be so easy to strike down the master and leave him undiscovered and unmourned by the family ignorantly absent at the mountains or the seaside. They conjectured of the horror of midsummer battles, and pictured the anguish of shipwrecked men upon a tropical coast, and the grimy misery of stevedores unloading shiny cargoes of anthracite coal at city docks. But now at last, as they took seats opposite one another in the crowded car, they seemed to have drifted infinite distances and long epochs asunder. They looked hopelessly across the intervening gulf, and mutely questioned when it was and from what far city they or some remote ancestors of theirs had set forth upon a wedding journey. They bade each other a tacit farewell, and with patient, pathetic faces awaited the end of the world.

When they alighted, they took their way up through one of the streets of the great wholesale businesses, to Broadway. On this street was a throng of trucks and wagons lading and unlading; bales and boxes rose and sank by pulleys overhead; the footway was a labyrinth of packages of every shape and size: there was no flagging of the pitiless energy that moved all forward, no sign of how heavy a weight lay on it, save in the reeking faces of its helpless instruments. But when the wedding-journeyers emerged upon Broadway, the other passages and incidents of their dream faded before the superior fantasticality of the spectacle. It was four o’clock, the deadliest hour of the deadly summer day. The spiritless air seemed to have a quality of blackness in it, as if filled with the gloom of low-hovering wings. One half the street lay in shadow, and one half in sun; but the sunshine itself was dim, as if a heat greater than its own had smitten it with languor. Little gusts of sick, warm wind blew across the great avenue at the corners of the intersecting streets. In the upward distance, at which the journeyers looked, the loftier roofs and steeples lifted themselves dim out of the livid atmosphere, and far up and down the length of the street swept a stream of tormented life. All sorts of wheeled things thronged it, conspicuous among which rolled and jarred the gaudily painted Stages, with quivering horses driven each by a man who sat in the shade of a branching white umbrella, and suffered with a moody truculence of aspect, and as if he harbored the bitterness of death in his heart for the crowding passengers within, when one of them pulled the strap about his legs, and summoned him to halt. Most of the foot-passengers kept to the shady side, and to the unaccustomed eyes of the strangers they were not less in number than at any other time, though there were fewer women among them. Indomitably resolute of soul, they held their course with the swift pace of custom, and only here and there they showed the effect of the heat. One man, collarless, with waistcoat unbuttoned, and hat set far back from his forehead, waved a fan before his death-white flabby face, and set down one foot after the other with the heaviness of a somnambulist. Another, as they passed him, was saying huskily to the friend at his side, “I can’t stand this much longer. My hands tingle as if they had gone to sleep; my heart—” But still the multitude hurried on, passing, repassing, encountering, evading, vanishing into shop-doors and emerging from them, dispersing down the side streets, and swarming out of them. It was a scene that possessed the beholder with singular fascination, and in its effect of universal lunacy, it might well have seemed the last phase of a world presently to be destroyed. They who were in it but not of it, as they fancied, though there was no reason for this,—looked on it amazed, and at last their own errands being accomplished, and themselves so far cured of the madness of purpose, they cried with one voice, that it was a hideous sight, and strove to take refuge from it in the nearest place where the soda-fountain sparkled.

It was a vain desire. At the front door of the apothecary’s hung a thermometer, and as they entered they heard the next comer cry out with a maniacal pride in the affliction laid upon mankind, “Ninety-seven degrees!” Behind them at the door there poured in a ceaseless stream of people, each pausing at the shrine of heat; before he tossed off the hissing draught that two pale, close-clipped boys served them from either side of the fountain. Then in the order of their coming they issued through another door upon the side street, each, as he disappeared, turning his face half round, and casting a casual glance upon a little group near another counter. The group was of a very patient, half-frightened, half-puzzled looking gentleman who sat perfectly still on a stool, and of a lady who stood beside him, rubbing all over his head a handkerchief full of pounded ice, and easing one hand with the other when the first became tired. Basil drank his soda and paused to look upon this group, which he felt would commend itself to realistic sculpture as eminently characteristic of the local life, and as “The Sunstroke” would sell enormously in the hot season. “Better take a little more of that,” the apothecary said, looking up from his prescription, and, as the organized sympathy of the seemingly indifferent crowd, smiling very kindly at his patient, who thereupon tasted something in the glass he held. “Do you still feel like fainting?” asked the humane authority. “Slightly, now and then,” answered the other, “but I’m hanging on hard to the bottom curve of that icicled S on your soda-fountain, and I feel that I’m all right as long as I can see that. The people get rather hazy, occasionally, and have no features to speak of. But I don’t know that I look very impressive myself,” he added in the jesting mood which seems the natural condition of Americans in the face of all embarrassments.

“O, you’ll do!” the apothecary answered, with a laugh; but he said, in answer to an anxious question from the lady, “He mustn’t be moved for an hour yet,” and gayly pestled away at a prescription, while she resumed her office of grinding the pounded ice round and round upon her husband’s skull. Isabel offered her the commiseration of friendly words, and of looks kinder yet, and then seeing that they could do nothing, she and Basil fell into the endless procession, and passed out of the side door. “What a shocking thing!” she whispered. “Did you see how all the people looked, one after another, so indifferently at that couple, and evidently forgot them the next instant? It was dreadful. I shouldn’t like to have you sun-struck in New York.”

“That’s very considerate of you; but place for place, if any accident must happen to me among strangers, I think I should prefer to have it in New York. The biggest place is always the kindest as well as the cruelest place. Amongst the thousands of spectators the good Samaritan as well as the Levite would be sure to be. As for a sun-stroke, it requires peculiar gifts. But if you compel me to a choice in the matter, then I say, give me the busiest part of Broadway for a sun-stroke. There is such experience of calamity there that you could hardly fall the first victim to any misfortune. Probably the gentleman at the apothecary’s was merely exhausted by the heat, and ran in there for revival. The apothecary has a case of the kind on his hands every blazing afternoon, and knows just what to do. The crowd may be a little ‘ennuye’ of sun-strokes, and to that degree indifferent, but they most likely know that they can only do harm by an expression of sympathy, and so they delegate their pity as they have delegated their helpfulness to the proper authority, and go about their business. If a man was overcome in the middle of a village street, the blundering country druggist wouldn’t know what to do, and the tender-hearted people would crowd about so that no breath of air could reach the victim.”

“May be so, dear,” said the wife, pensively; “but if anything did happen to you in New York, I should like to have the spectators look as if they saw a human being in trouble. Perhaps I’m a little exacting.”

“I think you are. Nothing is so hard as to understand that there are human beings in this world besides one’s self and one’s set. But let us be selfishly thankful that it isn’t you and I there in the apothecary’s shop, as it might very well be; and let us get to the boat as soon as we can, and end this horrible midsummer-day’s dream. We must have a carriage,” he added with tardy wisdom, hailing an empty hack, “as we ought to have had all day; though I’m not sorry, now the worst’s over, to have seen the worst.”

Chapter III • The Night Boat • 5,500 Words

There is little proportion about either pain or pleasure: a headache darkens the universe while it lasts, a cup of tea really lightens the spirit bereft of all reasonable consolations. Therefore I do not think it trivial or untrue to say that there is for the moment nothing more satisfactory in life than to have bought your ticket on the night boat up the Hudson and secured your state-room key an hour or two before departure, and some time even before the pressure at the clerk’s office has begun. In the transaction with this castellated baron, you have of course been treated with haughtiness, but not with ferocity, and your self-respect swells with a sense of having escaped positive insult; your key clicks cheerfully in your pocket against its gutta-percha number, and you walk up and down the gorgeously carpeted, single-columned, two-story cabin, amid a multitude of plush sofas and chairs, a glitter of glass, and a tinkle of prismatic chandeliers overhead, unawed even by the aristocratic gloom of the yellow waiters. Your own stateroom as you enter it from time to time is an ever-new surprise of splendors, a magnificent effect of amplitude, of mahogany bedstead, of lace curtains, and of marble topped wash-stand. In the mere wantonness of an unalloyed prosperity you say to the saffron nobleman nearest your door, “Bring me a pitcher of ice-water, quick, please!” and you do not find the half-hour that he is gone very long.

If the ordinary wayfarer experiences so much pleasure from these things, then imagine the infinite comfort of our wedding-journeyers, transported from Broadway on that pitiless afternoon to the shelter and the quiet of that absurdly palatial steamboat. It was not yet crowded, and by the river-side there was almost a freshness in the air. They disposed of their troubling bags and packages; they complimented the ridiculous princeliness of their stateroom, and then they betook themselves to the sheltered space aft of the saloon, where they sat down for the tranquiller observance of the wharf and whatever should come to be seen by them. Like all people who have just escaped with their lives from some menacing calamity, they were very philosophical in spirit; and having got aboard of their own motion, and being neither of them apparently the worse for the ordeal they had passed through, were of a light, conversational temper.

“What an amusingly superb affair!” Basil cried as they glanced through an open window down the long vista of the saloon. “Good heavens! Isabel, does it take all this to get us plain republicans to Albany in comfort and safety, or are we really a nation of princes in disguise? Well, I shall never be satisfied with less hereafter,” he added. “I am spoilt for ordinary paint and upholstery from this hour; I am a ruinous spendthrift, and a humble three-story swell-front up at the South End is no longer the place for me. Dearest,

‘Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,’

never to leave this Aladdin’s-palace-like steamboat, but spend our lives in perpetual trips up and down the Hudson.”

To which not very costly banter Isabel responded in kind, and rapidly sketched the life they could lead aboard. Since they could not help it, they mocked the public provision which, leaving no interval between disgraceful squalor and ludicrous splendor, accommodates our democratic ‘menage’ to the taste of the richest and most extravagant plebeian amongst us. He, unhappily, minds danger and oppression as little as he minds money, so long as he has a spectacle and a sensation, and it is this ruthless imbecile who will have lace curtains to the steamboat berth into which he gets with his pantaloons on, and out of which he may be blown by an exploding boiler at any moment; it is he who will have for supper that overgrown and shapeless dinner in the lower saloon, and will not let any one else buy tea or toast for a less sum than he pays for his surfeit; it is he who perpetuates the insolence of the clerk and the reluctance of the waiters; it is he, in fact, who now comes out of the saloon, with his womenkind, and takes chairs under the awning where Basil and Isabel sit. Personally, he is not so bad; he is good-looking, like all of us; he is better dressed than most of us; he behaves himself quietly, if not easily; and no lord so loathes a scene. Next year he is going to Europe, where he will not show to so much advantage as here; but for the present it would be hard to say in what way he is vulgar, and perhaps vulgarity is not so common a thing after all.

It was something besides the river that made the air so much more sufferable than it had been. Over the city, since our friends had come aboard the boat, a black cloud had gathered and now hung low upon it, while the wind from the face of the water took the dust in the neighboring streets, and frolicked it about the house-tops, and in the faces of the arriving passengers, who, as the moment of departure drew near, appeared in constantly increasing numbers and in greater variety, with not only the trepidation of going upon them, but also with the electrical excitement people feel before a tempest.

The breast of the black cloud was now zigzagged from moment to moment by lightning, and claps of deafening thunder broke from it. At last the long endurance of the day was spent, and out of its convulsion burst floods of rain, again and again sweeping the promenade-deck where the people sat, and driving them disconsolate into the saloon. The air was darkened as by night, and with many regrets for the vanishing prospect, mingled with a sense of relief from the heat, our friends felt the boat tremble away from her moorings and set forth upon her trip.

“Ah! if we had only taken the day boat!” moaned Isabel. “Now, we shall see nothing of the river landscape, and we shall never be able to put ourselves down when we long for Europe, by declaring that the scenery of the Hudson is much finer than that of the Rhine.”

Yet they resolved, this indomitably good-natured couple, that they would be just even to the elements, which had by no means been generous to them; and they owned that if so noble a storm had celebrated their departure upon some storied river from some more romantic port than New York, they would have thought it an admirable thing. Even whilst they contented themselves, the storm passed, and left a veiled and humid sky overhead, that gave a charming softness to the scene on which their eyes fell when they came out of the saloon again, and took their places with a largely increased companionship on the deck.

They had already reached that part of the river where the uplands begin, and their course was between stately walls of rocky steepness, or wooded slopes, or grassy hollows, the scene forever losing and taking grand and lovely shape. Wreaths of mist hung about the tops of the loftier headlands, and long shadows draped their sides. As the night grew, lights twinkled from a lonely house here and there in the valleys; a swarm of lamps showed a town where it lay upon the lap or at the foot of the hills. Behind them stretched the great gray river, haunted with many sails; now a group of canal-boats grappled together, and having an air of coziness in their adventure upon this strange current out of their own sluggish waters, drifted out of sight; and now a smaller and slower steamer, making a laborious show of keeping up was passed, and reluctantly fell behind; along the water’s edge rattled and hooted the frequent trains. They could not tell at any time what part of the river they were on, and they could not, if they would, have made its beauty a matter of conscientious observation; but all the more, therefore, they deeply enjoyed it without reference to time or place. They felt some natural pain when they thought that they might unwittingly pass the scenes that Irving has made part of the common dream-land, and they would fair have seen the lighted windows of the house out of which a cheerful ray has penetrated to so many hearts; but being sure of nothing, as they were, they had the comfort of finding the Tappan Zee in every expanse of the river, and of discovering Sunny-Side on every pleasant slope. By virtue of this helplessness, the Hudson, without ceasing to be the Hudson, became from moment to moment all fair and stately streams upon which they had voyaged or read of voyaging, from the Nile to the Mississippi. There is no other travel like river travel; it is the perfection of movement, and one might well desire never to arrive at one’s destination. The abundance of room, the free, pure air, the constant delight of the eyes in the changing landscape, the soft tremor of the boat, so steady upon her keel, the variety of the little world on board,—all form a charm which no good heart in a sound body can resist. So, whilst the twilight held, well content, in contiguous chairs, they purred in flattery of their kindly fate, imagining different pleasures, certainly, but none greater, and tasting to its subtlest flavor the happiness conscious of itself.

Their own satisfaction, indeed, was so interesting to them in this objective light, that they had little desire to turn from its contemplation to the people around them; and when at last they did so, it was still with lingering glances of self-recognition and enjoyment. They divined rightly that one of the main conditions of their present felicity was the fact that they had seen so much of time and of the world, that they had no longer any desire to take beholding eyes, or to make any sort of impressive figure, and they understood that their prosperous love accounted as much as years and travel for this result. If they had had a loftier opinion of themselves, their indifference to others might have made them offensive; but with their modest estimate of their own value in the world, they could have all the comfort of self-sufficiency, without its vulgarity.

“O yes!” said Basil, in answer to some apostrophe to their bliss from Isabel, “it’s the greatest imaginable satisfaction to have lived past certain things. I always knew that I was not a very handsome or otherwise captivating person, but I can remember years—now blessedly remote—when I never could see a young girl without hoping she would mistake me for something of that sort. I couldn’t help desiring that some fascination of mine, which had escaped my own analysis, would have an effect upon her. I dare say all young men are so. I used to live for the possible interest I might inspire in your sex, Isabel. They controlled my movements, my attitudes; they forbade me repose; and yet I believe I was no ass, but a tolerably sensible fellow. Blessed be marriage, I am free at last! All the loveliness that exists outside of you, dearest,—and it’s mighty little,—is mere pageant to me; and I thank Heaven that I can meet the most stylish girl now upon the broad level of our common humanity. Besides, it seems to me that our experience of life has quieted us in many other ways. What a luxury it is to sit here, and reflect that we do not want any of these people to suppose us rich, or distinguished, or beautiful, or well dressed, and do not care to show off in any sort of way before them!”

This content was heightened, no doubt, by a just sense of their contrast to the group of people nearest there,—a young man of the second or third quality—and two young girls. The eldest of these was carrying on a vivacious flirtation with the young man, who was apparently an acquaintance of brief standing; the other was scarcely more than a child, and sat somewhat abashed at the sparkle of the colloquy. They were conjecturally sisters going home from some visit, and not skilled in the world, but of a certain repute in their country neighborhood for beauty and wit. The young man presently gave himself out as one who, in pursuit of trade for the dry-goods house he represented, had travelled many thousands of miles in all parts of the country. The encounter was visibly that kind of adventure which both would treasure up for future celebration to their different friends; and it had a brilliancy and interest which they could not even now consent to keep to themselves. They talked to each other and at all the company within hearing, and exchanged curt speeches which had for them all the sensation of repartee.

Young Man. They say that beauty unadorned is adorned the most.

Young Woman (bridling, and twitching her head from side to side, in the high excitement of the dialogue). Flattery is out of place.

Young Man. Well, never mind. If you don’t believe me, you ask your mother when you get home.

(Titter from the younger sister.)

Young Woman (scornfully). Umph! my mother has no control over me!

Young Man. Nobody else has, either, I should say. (Admiringly.)

Young Woman. Yes, you’ve told the truth for once, for a wonder. I’m able to take care of myself,—perfectly. (Almost hoarse with a sense of sarcastic performance.)

Young Man. “Whole team and big dog under the wagon,” as they say out West.

Young Woman. Better a big dog than a puppy, any day.

Giggles and horror from the younger sister, sensation in the young man, and so much rapture in the young woman that she drops the key of her state-room from her hand. They both stoop, and a jocose scuffle for it ensues, after which the talk takes an autobiographical turn on the part of the young man, and drops into an unintelligible murmur. “Ah! poor Real Life, which I love, can I make others share the delight I find in thy foolish and insipid face?”

Not far from this group sat two Hebrews, one young and the other old, talking of some business out of which the latter had retired. The younger had been asked his opinion upon some point, and he was expanding with a flattered consciousness of the elder’s perception of his importance, and toadying to him with the pleasure which all young men feel in winning the favor of seniors in their vocation. “Well, as I was a-say’n’, Isaac don’t seem to haf no natcheral pent for the glothing business. Man gomes in and wands a goat,”—he seemed to be speaking of a garment and not a domestic animal,—“Isaac’ll zell him the goat he wands him to puy, and he’ll make him believe it ‘a the goat he was a lookin’ for. Well, now, that’s well enough as far as it goes; but you know and I know, Mr. Rosenthal, that that’s no way to do business. A man gan’t zugzeed that goes upon that brincible. Id’s wrong. Id’s easy enough to make a man puy the goat you want him to, if he wands a goat, but the thing is to make him puy the goat that you wand to zell when he don’t wand no goat at all. You’ve asked me what I thought and I’ve dold you. Isaac’ll never zugzeed in the redail glothing-business in the world!”

“Well,” sighed the elder, who filled his armchair quite full, and quivered with a comfortable jelly-like tremor in it, at every pulsation of the engine, “I was afraid of something of the kind. As you say, Benjamin, he don’t seem to have no pent for it. And yet I proughd him up to the business; I drained him to it, myself.”

Besides these talkers, there were scattered singly, or grouped about in twos and threes and fours, the various people one encounters on a Hudson River boat, who are on the whole different from the passengers on other rivers, though they all have features in common. There was that man of the sudden gains, who has already been typified; and there was also the smoother rich man of inherited wealth, from whom you can somehow know the former so readily. They were each attended by their several retinues of womankind, the daughters all much alike, but the mothers somewhat different. They were going to Saratoga, where perhaps the exigencies of fashion would bring them acquainted, and where the blue blood of a quarter of a century would be kind to the yesterday’s fluid of warmer hue. There was something pleasanter in the face of the hereditary aristocrat, but not so strong, nor, altogether, so admirable; particularly if you reflected that he really represented nothing in the world, no great culture, no political influence, no civic aspiration, not even a pecuniary force, nothing but a social set, an alien club-life, a tradition of dining. We live in a true fairy land after all, where the hoarded treasure turns to a heap of dry leaves. The almighty dollar defeats itself, and finally buys nothing that a man cares to have. The very highest pleasure that such an American’s money can purchase is exile, and to this rich man doubtless Europe is a twice-told tale. Let us clap our empty pockets, dearest reader, and be glad.

We can be as glad, apparently, and with the same reason as the poorly dressed young man standing near beside the guard, whose face Basil and Isabel chose to fancy that of a poet, and concerning whom, they romanced that he was going home, wherever his home was, with the manuscript of a rejected book in his pocket. They imagined him no great things of a poet, to be sure, but his pensive face claimed delicate feeling for him, and a graceful, sombre fancy, and they conjectured unconsciously caught flavors of Tennyson and Browning in his verse, with a moderner tint from Morris: for was it not a story out of mythology, with gods and heroes of the nineteenth century, that he was now carrying back from New York with him? Basil sketched from the colors of his own long-accepted disappointments a moving little picture of this poor imagined poet’s adventures; with what kindness and unkindness he had been put to shame by publishers, and how, descending from his high, hopes of a book, he had tried to sell to the magazines some of the shorter pieces out of the “And other Poems” which were to have filled up the volume. “He’s going back rather stunned and bewildered; but it’s something to have tasted the city, and its bitter may turn to sweet on his palate, at last, till he finds himself longing for the tumult that he abhors now. Poor fellow! one compassionate cut-throat of a publisher even asked him to lunch, being struck, as we are, with something fine in his face. I hope he’s got somebody who believes in him, at home. Otherwise he’d be more comfortable, for the present, if he went over the railing there.”

So the play of which they were both actors and spectators went on about them. Like all passages of life, it seemed now a grotesque mystery, with a bluntly enforced moral, now a farce of the broadest, now a latent tragedy folded in the disguises of comedy. All the elements, indeed, of either were at work there, and this was but one brief scene of the immense complex drama which was to proceed so variously in such different times and places, and to have its denouement only in eternity. The contrasts were sharp: each group had its travesty in some other; the talk of one seemed the rude burlesque, the bitter satire of the next; but of all these parodies none was so terribly effective as the two women, who sat in the midst of the company, yet were somehow distinct from the rest. One wore the deepest black of widowhood, the other was dressed in bridal white, and they were both alike awful in their mockery of guiltless sorrow and guiltless joy. They were not old, but the soul of youth was dead in their pretty, lamentable faces, and ruin ancient as sin looked from their eyes; their talk and laughter seemed the echo of an innumerable multitude of the lost haunting the world in every land and time, each solitary forever, yet all bound together in the unity of an imperishable slavery and shame.

What a stale effect! What hackneyed characters! Let us be glad the night drops her curtain upon the cheap spectacle, and shuts these with the other actors from our view.

Within the cabin, through which Basil and Isabel now slowly moved, there were numbers of people lounging about on the sofas, in various attitudes of talk or vacancy; and at the tables there were others reading “Lothair,” a new book in the remote epoch of which I write, and a very fashionable book indeed. There was in the air that odor of paint and carpet which prevails on steamboats; the glass drops of the chandeliers ticked softly against each other, as the vessel shook with her respiration, like a comfortable sleeper, and imparted a delicious feeling of coziness and security to our travellers.

A few hours later they struggled awake at the sharp sound of the pilot’s bell signaling the engineer to slow the boat. There was a moment of perfect silence; then all the drops of the chandeliers in the saloon clashed musically together; then fell another silence; and at last came wild cries for help, strongly qualified with blasphemies and curses. “Send out a boat!” “There was a woman aboard that steamboat!” “Lower your boats!” “Run a craft right down, with your big boat!” “Send out a boat and pick up the crew!” The cries rose and sank, and finally ceased; through the lattice of the state-room window some lights shone faintly on the water at a distance.

“Wait here, Isabel!” said her husband. “We’ve run down a boat. We don’t seem hurt; but I’ll go see. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Isabel had emerged into a world of dishabille, a world wildly unbuttoned and unlaced, where it was the fashion for ladies to wear their hair down their backs, and to walk about in their stockings, and to speak to each other without introduction. The place with which she had felt so familiar a little while before was now utterly estranged. There was no motion of the boat, and in the momentary suspense a quiet prevailed, in which those grotesque shapes of disarray crept noiselessly round whispering panic-stricken conjectures. There was no rushing to and fro, nor tumult of any kind, and there was not a man to be seen, for apparently they had all gone like Basil to learn the extent of the calamity. A mist of sleep involved the whole, and it was such a topsy-turvy world that it would have seemed only another dream-land, but that it was marked for reality by one signal fact. With the rest appeared the woman in bridal white and the woman in widow’s black, and there, amidst the fright that made all others friends, and for aught that most knew, in the presence of death itself, these two moved together shunned and friendless.

Somehow, even before Basil returned, it had become known to Isabel and the rest that their own steamer had suffered no harm, but that she had struck and sunk another convoying a flotilla of canal boats, from which those alarming cries and curses had come. The steamer was now lying by for the small boats she had sent out to pick up the crew of the sunken vessel.

“Why, I only heard a little tinkling of the chandeliers,” said one of the ladies. “Is it such a very alight matter to run down another boat and sink it?”

She appealed indirectly to Basil, who answered lightly, “I don’t think you ladies ought to have been disturbed at all. In running over a common tow-boat on a perfectly clear night like this there should have been no noise and no perceptible jar. They manage better on the Mississippi, and both boats often go down without waking the lightest sleeper on board.”

The ladies, perhaps from a deficient sense of humor, listened with undisguised displeasure to this speech. It dispersed them, in fact; some turned away to bivouac for the rest of the night upon the arm-chairs and sofas, while others returned to their rooms. With the latter went Isabel. “Lock me in, Basil,” she said, with a bold meekness, “and if anything more happens don’t wake me till the last moment.” It was hard to part from him, but she felt that his vigil would somehow be useful to the boat, and she confidingly fell into a sleep that lasted till daylight.

Meantime, her husband, on whom she had tacitly devolved so great a responsibility, went forward to the promenade in front of the saloon, in hopes of learning something more of the catastrophe from the people whom he had already found gathered there.

A large part of the passengers were still there, seated or standing about in earnest colloquy. They were in that mood which follows great excitement, and in which the feeblest-minded are sure to lead the talk. At such times one feels that a sensible frame of mind is unsympathetic, and if expressed, unpopular, or perhaps not quite safe; and Basil, warned by his fate with the ladies, listened gravely to the voice of the common imbecility and incoherence.

The principal speaker was a tall person, wearing a silk travelling-cap. He had a face of stupid benignity and a self-satisfied smirk; and he was formally trying to put at his ease, and hopelessly confusing the loutish youth before him. “You say you saw the whole accident, and you’re probably the only passenger that did see it. You’ll be the most important witness at the trial,” he added, as if there would ever be any trial about it. “Now, how did the tow-boat hit us?”

“Well, she came bows on.”

“Ah! bows on,” repeated the other, with great satisfaction; and a little murmur of “Bows on!” ran round the listening circle.

“That is,” added the witness, “it seemed as if we struck her amidships, and cut her in two, and sunk her.”

“Just so,” continued the examiner, accepting the explanation, “bows on. Now I want to ask if you saw our captain or any of the crew about?”

“Not a soul,” said the witness, with the solemnity of a man already on oath.

“That’ll do,” exclaimed the other. “This gentleman’s experience coincides exactly with my own. I didn’t see the collision, but I did see the cloud of steam from the sinking boat, and I saw her go down. There wasn’t an officer to be found anywhere on board our boat. I looked about for the captain and the mate myself, and couldn’t find either of them high or low.”

“The officers ought all to have been sitting here on the promenade deck,” suggested one ironical spirit in the crowd, but no one noticed him.

The gentleman in the silk travelling-cap now took a chair, and a number of sympathetic listeners drew their chairs about him, and then began an interchange of experience, in which each related to the last particular all that he felt, thought, and said, and, if married, what his wife felt, thought, and said, at the moment of the calamity. They turned the disaster over and over in their talk, and rolled it under their tongues. Then they reverted to former accidents in which they had been concerned; and the silk-capped gentleman told, to the common admiration, of a fearful escape of his, on the Erie Road, from being thrown down a steep embankment fifty feet high by a piece of rock that had fallen on the track. “Now just see, gentlemen, what a little thing, humanly speaking, life depends upon. If that old woman had been able to sleep, and hadn’t sent that boy down to warn the train, we should have run into the rock and been dashed to pieces. The passengers made up a purse for the boy, and I wrote a full account of it to the papers.”

“Well,” said one of the group, a man in a hard hat, “I never lie down on a steamboat or a railroad train. I want to be ready for whatever happens.”

The others looked at this speaker with interest, as one who had invented a safe method of travel.

“I happened to be up to-night, but I almost always undress and go to bed, just as if I were in my own house,” said the gentleman of the silk cap.

“I don’t say your way isn’t the best, but that’s my way.”

The champions of the rival systems debated their merits with suavity and mutual respect, but they met with scornful silence a compromising spirit who held that it was better to throw off your coat and boots, but keep your pantaloons on. Meanwhile, the steamer was hanging idle upon the current, against which it now and then stirred a careless wheel, still waiting for the return of the small boats. Thin gray clouds, through rifts of which a star sparkled keenly here and there, veiled the heavens; shadowy bluffs loomed up on either hand; in a hollow on the left twinkled a drowsy little town; a beautiful stillness lay on all.

After an hour’s interval a shout was heard from far down the river; then later the plash of oars; then a cry hailing the approaching boats, and the answer, “All safe!” Presently the boats had come alongside, and the passengers crowded down to the guard to learn the details of the search. Basil heard a hollow, moaning, gurgling sound, regular as that of the machinery, for some note of which he mistook it. “Clear the gangway there!” shouted a gruff voice; “man scalded here!” And a burden was carried by from which fluttered, with its terrible regularity, that utterance of mortal anguish.

Basil went again to the forward promenade, and sat down to see the morning come.

The boat swiftly ascended the current, and presently the steeper shores were left behind and the banks fell away in long upward sloping fields, with farm-houses and with stacks of harvest dimly visible in the generous expanses. By and by they passed a fisherman drawing his nets, and bending from his boat, there near Albany, N. Y., in the picturesque immortal attitudes of Raphael’s Galilean fisherman; and now a flush mounted the pale face of the east, and through the dewy coolness of the dawn there came, more to the sight than any other sense, a vague menace of heat. But as yet the air was deliciously fresh and sweet, and Basil bathed his weariness in it, thinking with a certain luxurious compassion of the scalded man, and how he was to fare that day. This poor wretch seemed of another order of beings, as the calamitous always seem to the happy, and Basil’s pity was quite an abstraction; which, again, amused and shocked him, and he asked his heart of bliss to consider of sorrow a little more earnestly as the lot of all men, and not merely of an alien creature here and there. He dutifully tried to imagine another issue to the disaster of the night, and to realize himself suddenly bereft of her who so filled his life. He bade his soul remember that, in the security of sleep, Death had passed them both so close that his presence might well have chilled their dreams, as the iceberg that grazes the ship in the night freezes all the air about it. But it was quite idle: where love was, life only was; and sense and spirit alike put aside the burden that he would have laid upon them; his revery reflected with delicious caprice the looks, the tones, the movements that he loved, and bore him far away from the sad images that he had invited to mirror themselves in it.

Chapter IV • A Day’s Railroading • 3,900 Words

Happiness has commonly a good appetite; and the thought of the fortunately ended adventures of the night, the fresh morning air, and the content of their own hearts, gifted our friends, by the time the boat reached Albany, with a wholesome hunger, so that they debated with spirit the question of breakfast and the best place of breakfasting in a city which neither of them knew, save in the most fugitive and sketchy way.

They decided at last, in view of the early departure of the train, and the probability that they would be more hurried at a hotel, to breakfast at the station, and thither they went and took places at one of the many tables within, where they seemed to have been expected only by the flies. The waitress plainly had not looked for them, and for a time found their presence so incredible that she would not acknowledge the rattling that Basil was obliged to make on his glass. Then it appeared that the cook would not believe in them, and he did not send them, till they were quite faint, the peppery and muddy draught which impudently affected to be coffee, the oily slices of fugacious potatoes slipping about in their shallow dish and skillfully evading pursuit, the pieces of beef that simulated steak, the hot, greasy biscuit, steaming evilly up into the face when opened, and then soddening into masses of condensed dyspepsia.

The wedding-journeyers looked at each other with eyes of sad amaze. They bowed themselves for a moment to the viands, and then by an equal impulse refrained. They were sufficiently young, they were happy, they were hungry; nature is great and strong, but art is greater, and before these triumphs of the cook at the Albany depot appetite succumbed. By a terrible tour de force they swallowed the fierce and turbid liquor in their cups, and then speculated fantastically upon the character and history of the materials of that breakfast.

Presently Isabel paused, played a little with her knife, and, after a moment looked up at her husband with an arch regard and said: “I was just thinking of a small station somewhere in the South of France where our train once stopped for breakfast. I remember the freshness and brightness of everything on the little tables,—the plates, the napkins, the gleaming half-bottles of wine. They seemed to have been preparing that breakfast for us from the beginning of time, and we were hardly seated before they served us with great cups of ‘cafe-au-lait’, and the sweetest rolls and butter; then a delicate cutlet, with an unspeakable gravy, and potatoes,—such potatoes! Dear me, how little I ate of it! I wish, for once, I’d had your appetite, Basil; I do indeed.”

She ended with a heartless laugh, in which, despite the tragical contrast her words had suggested, Basil finally joined. So much amazement had probably never been got before out of the misery inflicted in that place; but their lightness did not at all commend them. The waitress had not liked it from the first, and had served them with reluctance; and the proprietor did not like it, and kept his eye upon them as if he believed them about to escape without payment. Here, then, they had enforced a great fact of travelling,—that people who serve the public are kindly and pleasant in proportion as they serve it well. The unjust and the inefficient have always that consciousness of evil which will not let a man forgive his victim, or like him to be cheerful.

Our friends, however, did not heat themselves over the fact. There was already such heat from without, even at eight o’clock in the morning, that they chose to be as cool as possible in mind, and they placidly took their places in the train, which had been made up for departure. They had deliberately rejected the notion of a drawing-room car as affording a less varied prospect of humanity, and as being less in the spirit of ordinary American travel. Now, in reward, they found themselves quite comfortable in the common passenger-car, and disposed to view the scenery, into which they struck an hour after leaving the city, with much complacency. There was sufficient draught through the open window to make the heat tolerable, and the great brooding warmth gave to the landscape the charm which it alone can impart. It is a landscape that I greatly love for its mild beauty and tranquil picturesqueness, and it is in honor of our friends that I say they enjoyed it. There are nowhere any considerable hills, but everywhere generous slopes and pleasant hollows and the wide meadows of a grazing country, with the pretty brown Mohawk River rippling down through all, and at frequent intervals the life of the canal, now near, now far away, with the lazy boats that seem not to stir, and the horses that the train passes with a whirl, and, leaves slowly stepping forward and swiftly slipping backward. There are farms that had once, or still have, the romance to them of being Dutch farms,—if there is any romance in that,—and one conjectures a Dutch thrift in their waving grass and grain. Spaces of woodland here and there dapple the slopes, and the cozy red farm-houses repose by the side of their capacious red barns. Truly, there is no ground on which to defend the idleness, and yet as the train strives furiously onward amid these scenes of fertility and abundance, I like in fancy to loiter behind it, and to saunter at will up and down the landscape. I stop at the farm-yard gates, and sit upon the porches or thresholds, and am served with cups of buttermilk by old Dutch ladies who have done their morning’s work and have leisure to be knitting or sewing; or if there are no old ladies, with decent caps upon their gray hair, then I do not complain if the drink is brought me by some red-cheeked, comely young girl, out of Washington Irving’s pages, with no cap on her golden braids, who mirrors my diffidence, and takes an attitude of pretty awkwardness while she waits till I have done drinking. In the same easily contented spirit as I lounge through the barn-yard, if I find the old hens gone about their family affairs, I do not mind a meadow-lark’s singing in the top of the elm-tree beside the pump. In these excursions the watch-dogs know me for a harmless person, and will not open their eyes as they lie coiled up in the sun before the gate. At all the places, I have the people keep bees, and, in the garden full of worthy pot-herbs, such idlers in the vegetable world as hollyhocks and larkspurs and four-o’clocks, near a great bed in which the asparagus has gone to sleep for the season with a dream of delicate spray hanging over it. I walk unmolested through the farmer’s tall grass, and ride with him upon the perilous seat of his voluble mowing-machine, and learn to my heart’s content that his name begins with Van, and that his family has owned that farm ever since the days of the Patroon; which I dare say is not true. Then I fall asleep in a corner of the hayfield, and wake up on the tow-path of the canal beside that wonderfully lean horse, whose bones you cannot count only, because they are so many. He never wakes up, but, with a faltering under-lip and half-shut eyes, hobbles stiffly on, unconscious of his anatomical interest. The captain hospitably asks me on board, with a twist of the rudder swinging the stern of the boat up to the path, so that I can step on. She is laden with flour from the valley of the Genesee, and may have started on her voyage shortly after the canal was made. She is succinctly manned by the captain, the driver, and the cook, a fiery-haired lady of imperfect temper; and the cabin, which I explore, is plainly furnished with a cook-stove and a flask of whiskey. Nothing but profane language is allowed on board; and so, in a life of wicked jollity and ease, we glide imperceptibly down the canal, unvexed by the far-off future of arrival.

Such, I say, are my own unambitious mental pastimes, but I am aware that less superficial spirits could not be satisfied with them, and I can not pretend that my wedding-journeyers were so.

They cast an absurd poetry over the landscape; they invited themselves to be reminded of passages of European travel by it; and they placed villas and castles and palaces upon all the eligible building-sites. Ashamed of these devices, presently, Basil patriotically tried to reconstruct the Dutch and Indian past of the Mohawk Valley, but here he was foiled by the immense ignorance of his wife, who, as a true American woman, knew nothing of the history of her own country, and less than nothing of the barbarous regions beyond the borders of her native province. She proved a bewildering labyrinth of error concerning the events which Basil mentioned; and she had never even heard of the massacres by the French and Indians at Schenectady, which he in his boyhood had known so vividly that he was scalped every night in his dreams, and woke up in the morning expecting to see marks of the tomahawk on the head-board. So, failing at last to extract any sentiment from the scenes without, they turned their faces from the window, and looked about them for amusement within the car.

It was in all respects an ordinary carful of human beings, and it was perhaps the more worthy to be studied on that account. As in literature the true artist will shun the use even of real events if they are of an improbable character, so the sincere observer of man will not desire to look upon the heroic or occasional phases, but will seek him in his habitual moods of vacancy and tiresomeness. To me, at any rate, he is at such times very precious; and I never perceive him to be so much a man and a brother as when I feel the pressure of his vast, natural, unaffected dullness. Then I am able to enter confidently into his life and inhabit there, to think his shallow and feeble thoughts, to be moved by his dumb, stupid desires, to be dimly illumined by his stinted inspirations, to share his foolish prejudices, to practice his obtuse selfishness. Yes, it is a very amusing world, if you do not refuse to be amused; and our friends were very willing to be entertained. They delighted in the precise, thick-fingered old ladies who bought sweet apples of the boys come aboard with baskets, and who were so long in finding the right change, that our travellers, leaping in thought with the boys from the moving train, felt that they did so at the peril of their lives. Then they were interested in people who went out and found their friends waiting for them, or else did not find them, and wandered disconsolately up and down before the country stations, carpet-bag in hand; in women who came aboard, and were awkwardly shaken hands with or sheepishly kissed by those who hastily got seats for them, and placed their bags or their babies in their laps, and turned for a nod at the door; in young ladies who were seen to places by young men the latter seemed not to care if the train did go off with them, and then threw up their windows and talked with girl-friends, on the platform without, till the train began to move, and at last turned with gleaming eyes and moist red lips, and panted hard in the excitement of thinking about it, and could not calm themselves to the dull level of the travel around them; in the conductor, coldly and inaccessibly vigilant, as he went his rounds, reaching blindly for the tickets with one hand while he bent his head from time, to time, and listened with a faint, sarcastic smile to the questions of passengers who supposed they were going to get some information out of him; in the trainboy, who passed through on his many errands with prize candies, gum-drops, pop-corn, papers and magazines, and distributed books and the police journals with a blind impartiality, or a prodigious ignorance, or a supernatural perception of character in those who received them.

A through train from East to West presents some peculiar features as well as the traits common to all railway travel; and our friends decided that this was not a very well-dressed company, and would contrast with the people on an express-train between Boston and New York to no better advantage than these would show beside the average passengers between London and Paris. And it seems true that on a westering’ line, the blacking fades gradually from the boots, the hat softens and sinks, the coat loses its rigor of cut, and the whole person lounges into increasing informality of costume. I speak of the undressful sex alone: woman, wherever she is, appears in the last attainable effects of fashion, which are now all but telegraphic and universal. But most of the passengers here were men, and they mere plainly of the free-and-easy West rather than the dapper East. They wore faces thoughtful with the problem of buying cheap and selling dear, and they could be known by their silence from the loquacious, acquaintance-making way-travellers. In these, the mere coming aboard seemed to beget an aggressively confidential mood. Perhaps they clutched recklessly at any means of relieving their ennui; or they felt that they might here indulge safely in the pleasures of autobiography, so dear to all of us; or else, in view of the many possible catastrophes, they desired to leave some little memory of themselves behind. At any rate, whenever the train stopped, the wedding-journeyers caught fragments of the personal histories of their fellow-passengers which had been rehearsing to those that sat next the narrators. It was no more than fair that these should somewhat magnify themselves, and put the best complexion on their actions and the worst upon their sufferings; that they should all appear the luckiest or the unluckiest, the healthiest or the sickest, people that ever were, and should all have made or lost the most money. There was a prevailing desire among them to make out that they came from or were going to same very large place; and our friends fancied an actual mortification in the face of a modest gentleman who got out at Penelope (or some other insignificant classical station, in the ancient Greek and Roman part of New York State), after having listened to the life of a somewhat rustic-looking person who had described himself as belonging near New York City.

Basil also found diversion in the tender couples, who publicly comported themselves as if in a sylvan solitude, and, as it had been on the bank of some umbrageous stream, far from the ken of envious or unsympathetic eyes, reclined upon each other’s shoulders and slept; but Isabel declared that this behavior was perfectly indecent. She granted, of course, that they were foolish, innocent people, who meant no offense, and did not feel guilty of an impropriety, but she said that this sort of thing was a national reproach. If it were merely rustic lovers, she should not care so much; but you saw people who ought to know better, well-dressed, stylish people, flaunting their devotion in the face of the world, and going to sleep on each other’s shoulders on every railroad train. It was outrageous, it was scandalous, it was really infamous. Before she would allow herself to do such a thing she would—well, she hardly knew what she would not do; she would have a divorce, at any rate. She wondered that Basil could laugh at it; and he would make her hate him if he kept on.

From the seat behind their own they were now made listeners to the history of a ten weeks’ typhoid fever, from the moment when the narrator noticed that he had not felt very well for a day or two back, and all at once a kind of shiver took him, till he lay fourteen days perfectly insensible, and could eat nothing but a little pounded ice—and his wife—a small woman, too—used to lift him back and forth between the bed and sofa like a feather, and the neighbors did not know half the time whether he was dead or alive. This history, from which not the smallest particular or the least significant symptom of the case was omitted, occupied an hour in recital, and was told, as it seemed, for the entertainment of one who had been five minutes before it began a stranger to the historian.

At last the train came to a stand, and Isabel wailed forth in accents of desperation the words, “O, disgusting!” The monotony of the narrative in the seat behind, fatally combining with the heat of the day, had lulled her into slumbers from which she awoke at the stopping of the train, to find her head resting tenderly upon her husband’s shoulder.

She confronted his merriment with eyes of mournful rebuke; but as she could not find him, or the harshest construction, in the least to blame, she was silent.

“Never mind, dear, never mind,” he coaxed, “you were really not responsible. It was fatigue, destiny, the spite of fortune,—whatever you like. In the case of the others, whom you despise so justly, I dare say it is sheer, disgraceful affection. But see that ravishing placard, swinging from the roof: ‘This train stops twenty minutes for dinner at Utica.’ In a few minutes more we shall be at Utica. If they have anything edible there, it shall never contract my powers. I could dine at the Albany station, even.”

In a little while they found themselves in an airy, comfortable dining-room, eating a dinner, which it seemed to them France in the flush of her prosperity need not have blushed to serve; for if it wanted a little in the last graces of art, it redeemed itself in abundance, variety, and wholesomeness. At the elbow of every famishing passenger stood a beneficent coal-black glossy fairy, in a white linen apron and jacket, serving him with that alacrity and kindliness and grace which make the negro waiter the master, not the slave of his calling, which disenthrall it of servility, and constitute him your eager host, not your menial, for the moment. From table to table passed a calming influence in the person of the proprietor, who, as he took his richly earned money, checked the rising fears of the guests by repeated proclamations that there was plenty of time, and that he would give them due warning before the train started. Those who had flocked out of the cars, to prey with beak and claw, as the vulture-like fashion is, upon everything in reach, remained to eat like Christians; and even a poor, scantily-Englished Frenchman, who wasted half his time in trying to ask how long the cars stopped and in looking at his watch, made a good dinner in spite of himself.

“O Basil, Basil!” cried Isabel, when the train was again in motion, “have we really dined once more? It seems too good to be true. Cleanliness, plenty, wholesomeness, civility! Yes, as you say, they cannot be civil where they are not just; honesty and courtesy go together; and wherever they give you outrageous things to eat, they add indigestible insults. Basil, dear, don’t be jealous; I shall never meet him again; but I’m in love with that black waiter at our table. I never saw such perfect manners, such a winning and affectionate politeness. He made me feel that every mouthful I ate was a personal favor to him. What a complete gentleman. There ought never to be a white waiter. None but negroes are able to render their service a pleasure and distinction to you.”

So they prattled on, doing, in their eagerness to be satisfied, a homage perhaps beyond its desert to the good dinner and the decent service of it. But here they erred in the right direction, and I find nothing more admirable in their behavior throughout a wedding journey which certainly had its trials, than their willingness to make the very heat of whatever would suffer itself to be made anything at all of. They celebrated its pleasures with magnanimous excess, they passed over its griefs with a wise forbearance. That which they found the most difficult of management was the want of incident for the most part of the time; and I who write their history might also sink under it, but that I am supported by the fact that it is so typical, in this respect. I even imagine that ideal reader for whom one writes as yawning over these barren details with the life-like weariness of an actual travelling companion of theirs. Their own silence often sufficed my wedded lovers, or then, when there was absolutely nothing to engage them, they fell back upon the story of their love, which they were never tired of hearing as they severally knew it. Let it not be a reproach to human nature or to me if I say that there was something in the comfort of having well dined which now touched the springs of sentiment with magical effect, and that they had never so rejoiced in these tender reminiscences.

They had planned to stop over at Rochester till the morrow, that they might arrive at Niagara by daylight, and at Utica they had suddenly resolved to make the rest of the day’s journey in a drawing-room car. The change gave them an added reason for content; and they realized how much they had previously sacrificed to the idea of travelling in the most American manner, without achieving it after all, for this seemed a touch of Americanism beyond the old-fashioned car. They reclined in luxury upon the easy-cushioned, revolving chairs; they surveyed with infinite satisfaction the elegance of the flying-parlor in which they sat, or turned their contented regard through the broad plate-glass windows upon the landscape without. They said that none but Americans or enchanted princes in the “Arabian Nights” ever travelled in such state; and when the stewards of the car came round successively with tropical fruits, ice-creams, and claret-punches, they felt a heightened assurance that they were either enchanted princes—or Americans. There were more ladies and more fashion than in the other cars; and prettily dressed children played about on the carpet; but the general appearance of the passengers hardly suggested greater wealth than elsewhere; and they were plainly in that car because they were of the American race, which finds nothing too good for it that its money can buy.

Chapter V • The Enchanted City, And Beyond • 4,800 Words

They knew none of the hotels in Rochester, and they had chosen a certain one in reliance upon their handbook. When they named it, there stepped forth a porter of an incredibly cordial and pleasant countenance, who took their travelling-bags, and led them to the omnibus. As they were his only passengers, the porter got inside with them, and seeing their interest in the streets through which they rode, he descanted in a strain of cheerful pride upon the city’s prosperity and character, and gave the names of the people who lived in the finer houses, just as if it had been an Old-World town, and he some eager historian expecting reward for his comment upon it. He cast quite a glamour over Rochester, so that in passing a body of water, bordered by houses, and overlooked by odd balconies and galleries, and crossed in the distance by a bridge upon which other houses were built, they boldly declared, being at their wit’s end for a comparison, and taken with the unhoped-for picturesqueness, that it put them in mind of Verona. Thus they reached their hotel in almost a spirit of foreign travel, and very willing to verify the pleasant porter’s assurance that they would like it, for everybody liked it; and it was with a sudden sinking of the heart that Basil beheld presiding over the register the conventional American hotel clerk. He was young, he had a neat mustache and well-brushed hair; jeweled studs sparkled in his shirt-front, and rings on his white hands; a gentle disdain of the travelling public breathed from his person in the mystical odors of Ihlang ihlang. He did not lift his haughty head to look at the wayfarer who meekly wrote his name in the register; he did not answer him when he begged for a cool room; he turned to the board on which the keys hung, and, plucking one from it, slid it towards Basil on the marble counter, touched a bell for a call-boy, whistled a bar of Offenbach, and as he wrote the number of the room against Basil’s name, said to a friend lounging near him, as if resuming a conversation, “Well, she’s a mighty pooty gul, any way, Chawley!”

When I reflect that this was a type of the hotel clerk throughout the United States, that behind unnumbered registers at this moment he is snubbing travellers into the dust, and that they are suffering and perpetuating him, I am lost in wonder at the national meekness. Not that I am one to refuse the humble pie his jeweled fingers offer me. Abjectly I take my key, and creep off up stairs after the call-boy, and try to give myself the genteel air of one who has not been stepped upon. But I think homicidal things all the same, and I rejoice that in the safety of print I can cry out against the despot, whom I have not the presence to defy. “You vulgar and cruel little soul,” I say, and I imagine myself breathing the words to his teeth, “why do you treat a weary stranger with this ignominy? I am to pay well for what I get, and I shall not complain of that. But look at me, and own my humanity; confess by some civil action, by some decent phrase, that I have rights and that they shall be respected. Answer my proper questions; respond to my fair demands. Do not slide my key at me; do not deny me the poor politeness of a nod as you give it in my hand. I am not your equal; few men are; but I shall not presume upon your clemency. Come, I also am human!”

Basil found that, for his sin in asking for a cool room, the clerk had given them a chamber into which the sun had been shining the whole afternoon; but when his luggage had been put in it seemed useless to protest, and like a true American, like you, like me, he shrank from asserting himself. When the sun went down it would be cool enough; and they turned their thoughts to supper, not venturing to hope that, as it proved, the handsome clerk was the sole blemish of the house.

Isabel viewed with innocent surprise the evidences of luxury afforded by all the appointments of a hotel so far west of Boston, and they both began to feel that natural ease and superiority which an inn always inspires in its guests, and which our great hotels, far from impairing, enhance in flattering degree; in fact, the clerk once forgotten, I protest, for my own part, I am never more conscious of my merits and riches in any other place. One has there the romance of being a stranger and a mystery to every one else, and lives in the alluring possibility of not being found out a most ordinary person.

They were so late in coming to the supper-room, that they found themselves alone in it. At the door they had a bow from the head-waiter, who ran before them and drew out chairs for them at a table, and signaled waiters to serve them, first laying before them with a gracious flourish the bill of fare.

A force of servants flocked about them, as if to contest the honor of ordering their supper; one set upon the table a heaping vase of strawberries, another flanked it with flagons of cream, a third accompanied it with plates of varied flavor and device; a fourth obsequiously smoothed the table-cloth; a fifth, the youngest of the five, with folded arms stood by and admired the satisfaction the rest were giving. When these had been dispatched for steak, for broiled white-fish of the lakes,—noblest and delicatest of the fish that swim,—for broiled chicken, for fried potatoes, for mums, for whatever the lawless fancy, and ravening appetites of the wayfarers could suggest, this fifth waiter remained to tempt them to further excess, and vainly proposed some kind of eggs,—fried eggs, poached eggs, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, or omelette.

“O, you’re sure, dearest, that this isn’t a vision of fairy-land, which will vanish presently, and leave us empty and forlorn?” plaintively murmured Isabel, as the menial train reappeared, bearing the supper they had ordered and set it smoking down.

Suddenly a look of apprehension dawned upon her face, and she let fall her knife and fork. “You don’t think, Basil,” she faltered, “that they could have found out we’re a bridal party, and that they’re serving us so magnificently because—because—O, I shall be miserable every moment we’re here!” she concluded desperately.

She looked, indeed, extremely wretched for a woman with so much broiled white-fish on her plate, and such a banquet array about her; and her husband made haste to reassure her. “You’re still demoralized, Isabel, by our sufferings at the Albany depot, and you exaggerate the blessings we enjoy, though I should be sorry to undervalue them. I suspect it’s the custom to use people well at this hotel; or if we are singled out for uncommon favor, I think I can explain the cause. It has been discovered by the register that we are from Boston, and we are merely meeting the reverence, affection, and homage which the name everywhere commands!

“It’s our fortune to represent for the time being the intellectual and moral virtue of Boston. This supper is not a tribute to you as a bride, but as a Bostonian.”

It was a cheap kind of raillery, to be sure, but it served. It kindled the local pride of Isabel to self-defense, and in the distraction of the effort she forgot her fears; she returned with renewed appetite to the supper, and in its excellence they both let fall their dispute,—which ended, of course, in Basil’s abject confession that Boston was the best place in the world, and nothing but banishment could make him live elsewhere,—and gave themselves up, as usual, to the delight of being just what and where they were. At last, the natural course brought them to the strawberries, and when the fifth waiter approached from the corner of the table at which he stood, to place the vase near them, he did not retire at once, but presently asked if they were from the West.

Isabel smiled, and Basil answered that they were from the East.

He faltered at this, as if doubtful of the result if he went further, but took heart, then, and asked, “Don’t you think this is a pretty nice hotel”—hastily adding as a concession of the probable existence of much finer things at the East—“for a small hotel?”

They imagined this waiter as new to his station in life, as perhaps just risen to it from some country tavern, and unable to repress his exultation in what seemed their sympathetic presence. They were charmed to have invited his guileless confidence, to have evoked possibly all the simple poetry of his soul; it was what might have happened in Italy, only there so much naivete would have meant money; they looked at each other with rapture and Basil answered warmly while the waiter flushed as at a personal compliment: “Yes, it’s a nice hotel; one of the best I ever saw, East or West, in Europe or America.”

They rose and left the room, and were bowed out by the head-waiter.

“How perfectly idyllic!” cried Isabel. “Is this Rochester, New York, or is it some vale of Arcady? Let’s go out and see.”

They walked out into the moonlit city, up and down streets that seemed very stately and fine, amidst a glitter of shop-window lights; and then, less of their own motion than of mere error, they quitted the business quarter, and found themselves in a quiet avenue of handsome residences,—the Beacon Street of Rochester, whatever it was called. They said it was a night and a place for lovers, for none but lovers, for lovers newly plighted, and they made believe to bemoan themselves that, hold each other dear as they would, the exaltation, the thrill, the glory of their younger love was gone. Some of the houses had gardened spaces about them, from which stole, like breaths of sweetest and saddest regret, the perfume of midsummer flowers,—the despair of the rose for the bud. As they passed a certain house, a song fluttered out of the open window and ceased, the piano warbled at the final rush of fingers over its chords, and they saw her with her fingers resting lightly on the keys, and her graceful head lifted to look into his; they saw him with his arm yet stretched across to the leaves of music he had been turning, and his face lowered to meet her gaze.

“Ah, Basil, I wish it was we, there!”

“And if they knew that we, on our wedding journey, stood outside, would not they wish it was they, here?”

“I suppose so, dearest, and yet, once-upon-a-time was sweet. Pass on; and let us see what charm we shall find next in this enchanted city.”

“Yes, it is an enchanted city to us,” mused Basil, aloud, as they wandered on, “and all strange cities are enchanted. What is Rochester to the Rochesterese? A place of a hundred thousand people, as we read in our guide, an immense flour interest, a great railroad entrepot, an unrivaled nursery trade, a university, two commercial colleges, three collegiate institutes, eight or ten newspapers, and a free library. I dare say any respectable resident would laugh at us sentimentalizing over his city. But Rochester is for us, who don’t know it at all, a city of any time or country, moonlit, filled with lovers hovering over piano-fortes, of a palatial hotel with pastoral waiters and porter,—a city of handsome streets wrapt in beautiful quiet and dreaming of the golden age. The only definite association with it in our minds is the tragically romantic thought that here Sam Patch met his fate.”

“And who in the world was Sam Patch?

“Isabel, your ignorance of all that an American woman should be proud of distresses me. Have you really, then, never heard of the man who invented the saying, ‘Some things can be done as well as others,’ and proved it by jumping over Niagara Falls twice? Spurred on by this belief, he attempted the leap of the Genesee Falls. The leap was easy enough, but the coming up again was another matter. He failed in that. It was the one thing that could not be done as well as others.”

“Dreadful!” said Isabel, with the cheerfullest satisfaction. “But what has all that to do with Rochester?”

“Now, my dear, you don’t mean to say you didn’t know that the Genesee Falls were at Rochester? Upon my word, I’m ashamed. Why, we’re within ten minutes’ walk of them now.”

“Then walk to them at once!” cried Isabel, wholly unabashed, and in fact unable to see what he had to be ashamed of. “Actually, I believe you would have allowed me to leave Rochester without telling me the falls were here, if you hadn’t happened to think of Sam Patch.”

Saying this, she persuaded herself that a chief object of their journey had been to visit the scene of Sam Patch’s fatal exploit, and she drew Basil with a nervous swiftness in the direction of the railroad station, beyond which he said were the falls. Presently, after threading their way among a multitude of locomotives, with and without trains attached, that backed and advanced, or stood still, hissing impatiently on every side, they passed through the station to a broad planking above the river on the other side, and thence, after encounter of more locomotives, they found, by dint of much asking, a street winding up the hill-side to the left, and leading to the German Bierhaus that gives access to the best view of the cataract.

The Americans have characteristically bordered the river with manufactures, making every drop work its passage to the brink; while the Germans have as characteristically made use of the beauty left over, and have built a Bierhaus where they may regale both soul and sense in the presence of the cataract. Our travellers might, in another mood and place, have thought it droll to arrive at that sublime spectacle through a Bierhaus, but in this enchanted city it seemed to have a peculiar fitness.

A narrow corridor gave into a wide festival space occupied by many tables, each of which was surrounded by a group of clamorous Germans of either sex and every age, with tall beakers of beaded lager before them, and slim flasks of Rhenish; overhead flamed the gas in globes of varicolored glass; the walls were painted like those of such haunts in the fatherland; and the wedding-journeyers were fair to linger on their way, to dwell upon that scene of honest enjoyment, to inhale the mingling odors of beer and of pipes, and of the pungent cheeses in which the children of the fatherland delight. Amidst the inspiriting clash of plates and glasses, the rattle of knives and forks, and the hoarse rush of gutturals, they could catch the words Franzosen, Kaiser, Konig, and Schlacht, and they knew that festive company to be exulting in the first German triumphs of the war, which were then the day’s news; they saw fists shaken at noses in fierce exchange of joy, arms tossed abroad in wild congratulation, and health-pouring goblets of beer lifted in air. Then they stepped into the moonlight again, and heard only the solemn organ stops of the cataract. Through garden-ground they were led by the little maid, their guide, to a small pavilion that stood on the edge of the precipitous shore, and commanded a perfect view of the falls. As they entered this pavilion, a youth and maiden, clearly lovers, passed out, and they were left alone with that sublime presence. Something of definiteness was to be desired in the spectacle, but there was ample compensation in the mystery with which the broad effulgence and the dense unluminous shadows of the moonshine invested it. The light touched all the tops of the rapids, that seemed to writhe sway from the brink of the cataract, and then desperately breaking and perishing to fall, the white disembodied ghosts of rapids, down to the bottom of the vast and deep ravine through which the river rushed away. Now the waters seemed to mass themselves a hundred feet high in a wall of snowy compactness, now to disperse into their multitudinous particles and hang like some vaporous cloud from the cliff. Every moment renewed the vision of beauty in some rare and fantastic shape; and its loveliness isolated it, in spite of the great town on the other shore, the station with its bridge and its trains, the mills that supplied their feeble little needs from the cataract’s strength.

At last Basil pointed out the table-rock in the middle of the fall, from which Sam Patch had made his fatal leap; but Isabel refused to admit that tragical figure to the honors of her emotions. “I don’t care for him!” she said fiercely. “Patch! What a name to be linked in our thoughts with this superb cataract.”

“Well, Isabel, I think you are very unjust. It’s as good a name as Leander, to my thinking, and it was immortalized in support of a great idea, the feasibility of all things; while Leander’s has come down to us as that of the weak victim of a passion. We shall never have a poetry of our own till we get over this absurd reluctance from facts, till we make the ideal embrace and include the real, till we consent to face the music in our simple common names, and put Smith into a lyric and Jones into a tragedy. The Germans are braver than we, and in them you find facts and dreams continually blended and confronted. Here is a fortunate illustration. The people we met coming out of this pavilion were lovers, and they had been here sentimentalizing on this superb cataract, as you call it, with which my heroic Patch is not worthy to be named. No doubt they had been quoting Uhland or some other of their romantic poets, perhaps singing some of their tender German love-songs,—the tenderest, unearthliest love-songs in the world. At the same time they did not disdain the matter-of-fact corporeity in which their sentiment was enshrined; they fed it heartily and abundantly with the banquet whose relics we see here.”

On a table before them stood a pair of beer-glasses, in the bottoms of which lurked scarce the foam of the generous liquor lately brimming them; some shreds of sausage, some rinds of Swiss cheese, bits of cold ham, crusts of bread, and the ashes of a pipe.

Isabel shuddered at the spectacle, but made no comment, and Basil went on: “Do you suppose they scorned the idea of Sam Patch as they gazed upon the falls? On the contrary, I’ve no doubt that he recalled to her the ballad which a poet of their language made about him. It used to go the rounds of the German newspapers, and I translated it, a long while ago, when I thought that I too was in ‘Arkadien geboren’.

‘In the Bierhauagarten I linger
By the Falls of the Geneses:
From the Table-Rock in the middle
Leaps a figure bold and free.

Aloof in the air it rises
O’er the rush, the plunge, the death;
On the thronging banks of the river
There is neither pulse nor breath.

Forever it hovers and poises
Aloof in the moonlit air;
As light as mist from the rapids,
As heavy as nightmare.

In anguish I cry to the people,
The long-since vanished hosts;
I see them stretch forth in answer,
The helpless hands of ghosts.’”

“I once met the poet who wrote this. He drank too much beer.”

“I don’t see that he got in the name of Sam Patch, after all,” said Isabel.

“O yes; he did; but I had to yield to our taste, and where he said, I ‘Springt der Sam Patsch kuhn and frei’,’ I made it ‘Leaps a figure bold and free.’”

As they passed through the house on their way out, they saw the youth and maiden they had met at the pavilion door. They were seated at a table; two glasses of beer towered before them; on their plates were odorous crumbs of Limburger cheese. They both wore a pensive air.

The next morning the illusion that had wrapt the whole earth was gone with the moonlight. By nine o’clock, when the wedding-journeyers resumed their way toward Niagara, the heat had already set in with the effect of ordinary midsummer’s heat at high noon. The car into which they got had come the past night from Albany, and had an air of almost conscious shabbiness, griminess, and over-use. The seats were covered with cinders, which also crackled under foot. Dust was on everything, especially the persons of the crumpled and weary passengers of overnight. Those who came aboard at Rochester failed to lighten the spiritual gloom, and presently they sank into the common bodily wretchedness. The train was somewhat belated, and as it drew nearer Buffalo they knew the conductor to have abandoned himself to that blackest of the arts, making time. The long irregular jolt of the ordinary progress was reduced to an incessant shudder and a quick lateral motion. The air within the cars was deadly; if a window was raised, a storm of dust and cinders blew in and quick gusts caught away the breath. So they sat with closed windows, sweltering and stifling, and all the faces on which a lively horror was not painted were dull and damp with apathetic misery.

The incidents were in harmony with the abject physical tone of the company. There was a quarrel between a thin, shrill-voiced, highly dressed, much-bedizened Jewess, on the one side, and a fat, greedy old woman, half asleep, and a boy with large pink transparent ears that stood out from his head like the handles of a jar, on the other side, about a seat which the Hebrew wanted, and which the others had kept filled with packages on the pretense that it was engaged. It was a loud and fierce quarrel enough, but it won no sort of favor; and when the Jewess had given a final opinion that the greedy old woman was no lady, and the boy, who disputed in an ironical temper, replied, “Highly complimentary, I must say,” there was no sign of relief or other acknowledgment in any of the spectators, that there had been a quarrel.

There was a little more interest taken in the misfortune of an old purblind German and his son, who were found by the conductor to be a few hundred miles out of the direct course to their destination, and were with some trouble and the aid of an Americanized fellow-countryman made aware of the fact. The old man then fell back in the prevailing apathy, and the child naturally cared nothing. By and by came the unsparing train-boy on his rounds, bestrewing the passengers successively with papers, magazines, fine-cut tobacco, and packages of candy. He gave the old man a package of candy, and passed on. The German took it as the bounty of the American people, oddly manifested in a situation where he could otherwise have had little proof of their care. He opened it and was sharing it with his son when the train-boy came back, and metallically, like a part of the machinery, demanded, “Ten cents!” The German stared helplessly, and the boy repeated, “Ten cents! ten cents!” with tiresome patience, while the other passengers smiled. When it had passed through the alien’s head that he was to pay for this national gift and he took with his tremulous fingers from the recesses of his pocket-book a ten-cent note and handed it to his tormentor, some of the people laughed. Among the rest, Basil and Isabel laughed, and then looked at each other with eyes of mutual reproach.

“Well, upon my word, my dear,” he said, “I think we’ve fallen pretty low. I’ve never felt such a poor, shabby ruffian before. Good heavens! To think of our immortal souls being moved to mirth by such a thing as this,—so stupid, so barren of all reason of laughter. And then the cruelty of it! What ferocious imbeciles we are! Whom have I married? A woman with neither heart nor brain!”

“O Basil, dear, pay him back the money—do.”

“I can’t. That’s the worst of it. He’s money enough, and might justly take offense. What breaks my heart is that we could have the depravity to smile at the mistake of a friendless stranger, who supposed he had at last met with an act of pure kindness. It’s a thing to weep over. Look at these grinning wretches! What a fiendish effect their smiles have, through their cinders and sweat! O, it’s the terrible weather; the despotism of the dust and heat; the wickedness of the infernal air. What a squalid and loathsome company!”

At Buffalo, where they arrived late, they found themselves with several hours’ time on their hands before the train started for Niagara, and in the first moments of tedium, Isabel forgot herself into saying, “Don’t you think we’d have done better to go directly from Rochester to the Falls, instead of coming this way?”

“Why certainly. I didn’t propose coming this way.”

“I know it, dear. I was only asking,” said Isabel, meekly. “But I should think you’d have generosity enough to take a little of the blame, when I wanted to come out of a romantic feeling for you.”

This romantic feeling referred to the fact that, many years before, when Basil made his first visit to Niagara, he had approached from the west by way of Buffalo; and Isabel, who tenderly begrudged his having existed before she knew him, and longed to ally herself retrospectively with his past, was resolved to draw near the great cataract by no other route.

She fetched a little sigh which might mean the weather or his hard-heartedness. The sigh touched him, and he suggested a carriage-ride through the city; she assented with eagerness, for it was what she had been thinking of. She had never seen a lakeside city before, and she was taken by surprise. “If ever we leave Boston,” she said, “we will not live at Rochester, as I thought last night; we’ll come to Buffalo.” She found that the place had all the picturesqueness of a sea-port, without the ugliness that attends the rising and falling tides. A delicious freshness breathed from the lake, which lying so smooth, faded into the sky at last, with no line between sharper than that which divides drowsing from dreaming. But the color was the most charming thing, that delicate blue of the lake, without the depth of the sea-blue, but infinitely softer and lovelier. The nearer expanses rippled with dainty waves, silver and lucent; the further levels made, with the sun-dimmed summer sky, a vague horizon of turquoise and amethyst, lit by the white sails of ships, and stained by the smoke of steamers.

“Take me away now,” said Isabel, when her eyes had feasted upon all this, “and don’t let me see another thing till I get to Niagara. Nothing less sublime is worthy the eyes that have beheld such beauty.”

However, on the way to Niagara she consented to glimpses of the river which carries the waters of the lake for their mighty plunge, and which shows itself very nobly from time to time as you draw toward the cataract, with wooded or cultivated islands, and rich farms along its low shores, and at last flashes upon the eye the shining white of the rapids,—a hint, no more, of the splendor and awfulness to be revealed.

Chapter VI • Niagara • 12,500 Words

As the train stopped, Isabel’s heart beat with a child-like exultation, as I believe every one’s heart must who is worthy to arrive at Niagara. She had been trying to fancy, from time to time, that she heard the roar of the cataract, and now, when she alighted from the car, she was sure she should have heard it but for the vulgar little noises that attend the arrival of trains at Niagara as well as everywhere else. “Never mind, dearest; you shall be stunned with it before you leave,” promised her husband; and, not wholly disconsolate, she rode through the quaint streets of the village, where it remains a question whether the lowliness of the shops and private houses makes the hotels look so vast, or the bigness of the hotels dwarfs all the other buildings. The immense caravansaries swelling up from among the little bazaars (where they sell feather fans, and miniature bark canoes, and jars and vases and bracelets and brooches carved out of the local rocks), made our friends with their trunks very conscious of their disproportion to the accommodations of the smallest. They were the sole occupants of the omnibus, and they were embarrassed to be received at their hotel with a burst of minstrelsy from a whole band of music. Isabel felt that a single stringed instrument of some timid note would have been enough; and Basil was going to express his own modest preference for a jew’s-harp, when the music ceased with a sudden clash of the cymbals. But the next moment it burst out with fresh sweetness, and in alighting they perceived that another omnibus had turned the corner and was drawing up to the pillared portico of the hotel. A small family dismounted, and the feet of the last had hardly touched the pavement when the music again ended as abruptly as those flourishes of trumpets that usher player-kings upon the stage. Isabel could not help laughing at this melodious parsimony. “I hope they don’t let on the cataract and shut it off in this frugal style; do they, Basil?” she asked, and passed jesting through a pomp of unoccupied porters and tallboys. Apparently there were not many people stopping at this hotel, or else they were all out looking at the Falls or confined to their rooms. However, our travellers took in the almost weird emptiness of the place with their usual gratitude to fortune for all queerness in life, and followed to the pleasant quarters assigned them. There was time before supper for a glance at the cataract, and after a brief toilet they sallied out again upon the holiday street, with its parade of gay little shops, and thence passed into the grove beside the Falls, enjoying at every instant their feeling of arrival at a sublime destination.

In this sense Niagara deserves almost to rank with Rome, the metropolis of history and religion; with Venice, the chief city of sentiment and fantasy. In either you are at once made at home by a perception of its greatness, in which there is no quality of aggression, as there always seems to be in minor places as well as in minor men, and you gratefully accept its sublimity as a fact in no way contrasting with your own insignificance.

Our friends were beset of course by many carriage-drivers, whom they repelled with the kindly firmness of experienced travel. Isabel even felt a compassion for these poor fellows who had seen Niagara so much as to have forgotten that the first time one must see it alone or only with the next of friendship. She was voluble in her pity of Basil that it was not as new to him as to her, till between the trees they saw a white cloud of spray, shot through and through with sunset, rising, rising, and she felt her voice softly and steadily beaten down by the diapason of the cataract.

I am not sure but the first emotion on viewing Niagara is that of familiarity. Ever after, its strangeness increases; but in that earliest moment when you stand by the side of the American fall, and take in so much of the whole as your glance can compass, an impression of having seen it often before is certainly very vivid. This may be an effect of that grandeur which puts you at your ease in its presence; but it also undoubtedly results in part from lifelong acquaintance with every variety of futile picture of the scene. You have its outward form clearly in your memory; the shores, the rapids, the islands, the curve of the Falls, and the stout rainbow with one end resting on their top and the other lost in the mists that rise from the gulf beneath. On the whole I do not account this sort of familiarity a misfortune. The surprise is none the less a surprise because it is kept till the last, and the marvel, making itself finally felt in every nerve, and not at once through a single sense, all the more fully possesses you. It is as if Niagara reserved her magnificence, and preferred to win your heart with her beauty; and so Isabel, who was instinctively prepared for the reverse, suffered a vague disappointment, for a little instant, as she looked along the verge from the water that caressed the shore at her feet before it flung itself down, to the wooded point that divides the American from the Canadian Fall, beyond which showed dimly through its veil of golden and silver mists the emerald wall of the great Horse-Shoe. “How still it is!” she said, amidst the roar that shook the ground under their feet and made the leaves tremble overhead, and “How lonesome!” amidst the people lounging and sauntering about in every direction among the trees. In fact that prodigious presence does make a solitude and silence round every spirit worthy to perceive it, and it gives a kind of dignity to all its belongings, so that the rocks and pebbles in the water’s edge, and the weeds and grasses that nod above it, have a value far beyond that of such common things elsewhere. In all the aspects of Niagara there seems a grave simplicity, which is perhaps a reflection of the spectator’s soul for once utterly dismantled of affectation and convention. In the vulgar reaction from this, you are of course as trivial, if you like, at Niagara, as anywhere.

Slowly Isabel became aware that the sacred grove beside the fall was profaned by some very common presences indeed, that tossed bits of stone and sticks into the consecrated waters, and struggled for handkerchiefs and fans, and here and there put their arms about each other’s waists, and made a show of laughing and joking. They were a picnic party of rude, silly folks of the neighborhood, and she stood pondering them in sad wonder if anything could be worse, when she heard a voice saying to Basil, “Take you next, Sir? Plenty of light yet, and the wind’s down the river, so the spray won’t interfere. Make a capital picture of you; falls in the background.” It was the local photographer urging them to succeed the young couple he had just posed at the brink: the gentleman was sitting down, with his legs crossed and his hands elegantly disposed; the lady was standing at his side, with one arm thrown lightly across his shoulder, while with the other hand she thrust his cane into the ground; you could see it was going to be a splendid photograph.

Basil thanked the artist, and Isabel said, trusting as usual to his sympathy for perception of her train of thought, “Well, I’ll never try to be high-strung again. But shouldn’t you have thought, dearest, that I might expect to be high-strung with success at Niagara if anywhere?” She passively followed him into the long, queer, downward-sloping edifice on the border of the grove, unflinchingly mounted the car that stood ready, and descended the incline. Emerging into the light again, she found herself at the foot of the fall by whose top she had just stood. At first she was glad there were other people down there, as if she and Basil were not enough to bear it alone, and she could almost have spoken to the two hopelessly pretty brides, with parasols and impertinent little boots, whom their attendant husbands were helping over the sharp and slippery rocks, so bare beyond the spray, so green and mossy within the fall of mist. But in another breath she forgot them; as she looked on that dizzied sea, hurling itself from the high summit in huge white knots, and breaks and masses, and plunging into the gulf beside her, while it sent continually up a strong voice of lamentation, and crawled away in vast eddies, with somehow a look of human terror, bewilderment, and pain. It was bathed in snowy vapor to its crest, but now and then heavy currents of air drew this aside, and they saw the outline of the Falls almost as far as the Canada side. They remembered afterwards how they were able to make use of but one sense at a time, and how when they strove to take in the forms of the descending flood, they ceased to hear it; but as soon as they released their eyes from this service, every fibre in them vibrated to the sound, and the spectacle dissolved away in it. They were aware, too, of a strange capriciousness in their senses, and of a tendency of each to palter with the things perceived. The eye could no longer take truthful note of quality, and now beheld the tumbling deluge as a Gothic wall of careen marble, white, motionless, and now as a fall of lightest snow, with movement in all its atoms, and scarce so much cohesion as would hold them together; and again they could not discern if this course were from above or from beneath, whether the water rose from the abyss or dropped from the height. The ear could give the brain no assurance of the sound that felled it, and whether it were great or little; the prevailing softness of the cataract’s tone seemed so much opposed to ideas of prodigious force or of prodigious volume. It was only when the sight, so idle in its own behalf, came to the aid of the other sense, and showed them the mute movement of each other’s lips, that they dimly appreciated the depth of sound that involved them.

“I think you might have been high-strung there, for a second or two,” said Basil, when, ascending the incline; he could make himself heard. “We will try the bridge next.”

Over the river, so still with its oily eddies and delicate wreaths of foam, just below the Falls they have in late years woven a web of wire high in air, and hung a bridge from precipice to precipice. Of all the bridges made with hands it seems the lightest, most ethereal; it is ideally graceful, and droops from its slight towers like a garland. It is worthy to command, as it does, the whole grandeur of Niagara, and to show the traveller the vast spectacle, from the beginning of the American Fall to the farthest limit of the Horse-Shoe, with all the awful pomp of the rapids, the solemn darkness of the wooded islands, the mystery of the vaporous gulf, the indomitable wildness of the shores, as far as the eye can reach up or down the fatal stream.

To this bridge our friends now repaired, by a path that led through another of those groves which keep the village back from the shores of the river on the American side, and greatly help the sight-seer’s pleasure in the place. The exquisite structure, which sways so tremulously from its towers, and seems to lay so slight a hold on earth where its cables sink into the ground, is to other bridges what the blood horse is to the common breed of roadsters; and now they felt its sensitive nerves quiver under them and sympathetically through them as they advanced farther and farther toward the centre. Perhaps their sympathy with the bridge’s trepidation was too great for unalloyed delight, and yet the thrill was a glorious one, to be known only there; and afterwards, at least, they would not have had their airy path seem more secure.

The last hues of sunset lingered in the mists that sprung from the base of the Falls with a mournful, tremulous grace, and a movement weird as the play of the northern lights. They were touched with the most delicate purples and crimsons, that darkened to deep red, and then faded from them at a second look, and they flew upward, swiftly upward, like troops of pale, transparent ghosts; while a perfectly clear radiance, better than any other for local color, dwelt upon the scene. Far under the bridge the river smoothly swam, the undercurrents forever unfolding themselves upon the surface with a vast rose-like evolution, edged all round with faint lines of white, where the air that filled the water freed itself in foam. What had been clear green on the face of the cataract was here more like rich verd-antique, and had a look of firmness almost like that of the stone itself. So it showed beneath the bridge, and down the river till the curving shores hid it. These, springing abruptly from the water’s brink, and shagged with pine and cedar, displayed the tender verdure of grass and bushes intermingled with the dark evergreens that comb from ledge to ledge, till they point their speary tops above the crest of bluffs. In front, where tumbled rocks and expanses of caked clay varied the gloomier and gayer green, sprung those spectral mists; and through them loomed out, in its manifold majesty, Niagara, with the seemingly immovable white Gothic screen of the American Fall, and the green massive curve of the Horseshoe, solid and simple and calm as an Egyptian wall; while behind this, with their white and black expanses broken by dark foliaged little isles, the steep Canadian rapids billowed down between their heavily wooded shores.

The wedding-journeyers hung, they knew not how long, in rapture on the sight; and then, looking back from the shore to the spot where they had stood, they felt relieved that unreality should possess itself of all, and that the bridge should swing there in mid-air like a filmy web, scarce more passable than the rainbow that flings its arch above the mists.

On the portico of the hotel they found half a score of gentlemen smoking, and creating together that collective silence which passes for sociality on our continent. Some carriages stood before the door, and within, around the base of a pillar, sat a circle of idle call-boys. There were a few trunks heaped together in one place, with a porter standing guard over them; a solitary guest was buying a cigar at the newspaper stand in one corner; another friendless creature was writing a letter in the reading-room; the clerk, in a seersucker coat and a lavish shirt-bosom, tried to give the whole an effect of watering-place gayety and bustle, as he provided a newly arrived guest with a room.

Our pair took in these traits of solitude and repose with indifference. If the hotel had been thronged with brilliant company, they would have been no more and no less pleased; and when, after supper, they came into the grand parlor, and found nothing there but a marble-topped centre-table, with a silver-plated ice-pitcher and a small company of goblets, they sat down perfectly content in a secluded window-seat. They were not seen by the three people who entered soon after, and halted in the centre of the room.

“Why, Kitty!” said one of the two ladies who must be in any travelling-party of three, “this is more inappropriate to your gorgeous array than the supper-room, even.”

She who was called Kitty was armed, as for social conquest, in some kind of airy evening-dress, and was looking round with bewilderment upon that forlorn waste of carpeting and upholstery. She owned, with a smile, that she had not seen so much of the world yet as she had been promised; but she liked Niagara very much, and perhaps they should find the world at breakfast.

“No,” said the other lady, who was as unquiet as Kitty was calm, and who seemed resolved to make the most of the worst, “it isn’t probable that the hotel will fill up overnight; and I feel personally responsible for this state of things. Who would ever have supposed that Niagara would be so empty? I thought the place was thronged the whole summer long. How do you account for it, Richard?”

The gentleman looked fatigued, as from a long-continued discussion elsewhere of the matter in hand, and he said that he had not been trying to account for it.

“Then you don’t care for Kitty’s pleasure at all, and you don’t want her to enjoy herself. Why don’t you take some interest in the matter?”

“Why, if I accounted for the emptiness of Niagara in the most satisfactory way, it wouldn’t add a soul to the floating population. Under the circumstances I prefer to leave it unexplained.”

“Do you think it’s because it’s such a hot summer? Do you suppose it’s not exactly the season? Didn’t you expect there’d be more people? Perhaps Niagara isn’t as fashionable as it used to be.”

“It looks something like that.”

“Well, what under the sun do you think is the reason?”

“I don’t know.”

“Perhaps,” interposed Kitty, placidly, “most of the visitors go to the other hotel, now.”

“It’s altogether likely,” said the other lady, eagerly. “There are just such caprices.”

“Well,” said Richard, “I wanted you to go there.”

“But you said that you always heard this was the a most fashionable.”

“I know it. I didn’t want to come here for that reason. But fortune favors the brave.”

“Well, it’s too bad! Here we’ve asked Kitty to come to Niagara with us, just to give her a little peep into the world, and you’ve brought us to a hotel where we’re—”

“Monarchs of all we survey,” suggested Kitty.

“Yes, and start at the sound of our own,” added the other lady, helplessly.

“Come now, Fanny,” said the gentleman, who was but too clearly the husband of the last speaker. “You know you insisted, against all I could say or do, upon coming to this house; I implored you to go to the other, and now you blame me for bringing you here.”

“So I do. If you’d let me have my own way without opposition about coming here, I dare say I should have gone to the other place. But never mind. Kitty knows whom to blame, I hope. She’s your cousin.”

Kitty was sitting with her hands quiescently folded in her lap. She now rose and said that she did not know anything about the other hotel, and perhaps it was just as empty as this.

“It can’t be. There can’t be two hotels so empty,” said Fanny. “It don’t stand to reason.”

“If you wish Kitty to see the world so much,” said the gentleman, “why don’t you take her on to Quebec, with us?”

Kitty had left her seat beside Fanny, and was moving with a listless content about the parlor.

“I wonder you ask, Richard, when you know she’s only come for the night, and has nothing with her but a few cuffs and collars! I certainly never heard of anything so absurd before!”

The absurdity of the idea then seemed to cast its charm upon her, for, after a silence, “I could lend her some things,” she said musingly. “But don’t speak of it to-night, please. It’s too ridiculous. Kitty!” she called out, and, as the young lady drew near, she continued, “How would you like to go to Quebec, with us?”

“O Fanny!” cried Kitty, with rapture; and then, with dismay, “How can I?”

“Why, very well, I think. You’ve got this dress, and your travelling-suit; and I can lend you whatever you want. Come!” she added joyously, “let’s go up to your room, and talk it over!”

The two ladies vanished upon this impulse, and the gentleman followed. To their own relief the guiltless eaves-droppers, who found no moment favorable for revealing themselves after the comedy began, issued from their retiracy.

“What a remarkable little lady!” said Basil, eagerly turning to Isabel for sympathy in his enjoyment of her inconsequence.

“Yes, poor thing!” returned his wife; “it’s no light matter to invite a young lady to take a journey with you, and promise her all sorts of gayety, and perhaps beaux and flirtations, and then find her on your hands in a desolation like this. It’s dreadful, I think.”

Basil stared. “O, certainly,” he said. “But what an amusingly illogical little body!”

“I don’t understand what you mean, Basil. It was the only thing that she could do, to invite the young lady to go on with them. I wonder her husband had the sense to think of it first. Of course she’ll have to lend her things.”

“And you didn’t observe anything peculiar in her way of reaching her conclusions?”

“Peculiar? What do you mean?”

“Why, her blaming her husband for letting her have her own way about the hotel; and her telling him not to mention his proposal to Kitty, and then doing it herself, just—after she’d pronounced it absurd and impossible.” He spoke with heat at being forced to make what he thought a needless explanation.

“O!” said Isabel, after a moment’s reflection. “That! Did you think it so very odd?”

Her husband looked at her with the gravity a man must feel when he begins to perceive that he has married the whole mystifying world of womankind in the woman of his choice, and made no answer. But to his own soul he said: “I supposed I had the pleasure of my wife’s acquaintance. It seems I have been flattering myself.”

The next morning they went out as they had planned, for an exploration of Goat Island, after an early breakfast. As they sauntered through the village’s contrasts of pigmy and colossal in architecture, they praisefully took in the unalloyed holiday character of the place, enjoying equally the lounging tourists at the hotel doors, the drivers and their carriages to let, and the little shops, with nothing but mementos of Niagara, and Indian beadwork, and other trumpery, to sell. Shops so useless, they agreed, could not be found outside the Palms Royale, or the Square of St. Mark, or anywhere else in the world but here. They felt themselves once more a part of the tide of mere sight-seeing pleasure-travel, on which they had drifted in other days, and in an eddy of which their love itself had opened its white blossom, and lily-like dreamed upon the wave.

They were now also part of the great circle of newly wedded bliss, which, involving the whole land during the season of bridal-tours, may be said to show richest and fairest at Niagara, like the costly jewel of a precious ring. The place is, in fact, almost abandoned to bridal couples, and any one out of his honey-moon is in some degree an alien there, and must discern a certain immodesty in him intrusion. Is it for his profane eyes to look upon all that blushing and trembling joy? A man of any sensibility must desire to veil his face, and, bowing his excuses to the collective rapture, take the first train for the wicked outside world to which he belongs. Everywhere, he sees brides and brides. Three or four with the benediction still on them, come down in the same car with him; he hands her travelling-shawl after one as she springs from the omnibus into her husband’s arms; there are two or three walking back and forth with their new lords upon the porch of the hotel; at supper they are on every side of him, and he feels himself suffused, as it were, by a roseate atmosphere of youth and love and hope. At breakfast it is the same, and then, in his wanderings about the place he constantly meets them. They are of all manners of beauty, fair and dark, slender and plump, tall and short; but they are all beautiful with the radiance of loving and being loved. Now, if ever in their lives, they are charmingly dressed, and ravishing toilets take the willing eye from the objects of interest. How high the heels of the pretty boots, how small the tender-tinted gloves, how electrical the flutter of the snowy skirts! What is Niagara to these things?

Isabel was not willing to own her bridal sisterhood to these blessed souls; but she secretly rejoiced in it, even while she joined Basil in noting their number and smiling at their innocent abandon. She dropped his arm at encounter of the first couple, and walked carelessly at his side; she made a solemn vow never to take hold of his watch-chain in speaking to him; she trusted that she might be preserved from putting her face very close to his at dinner in studying the bill of fare; getting out of carriages, she forbade him ever to take her by the waist. All ascetic resolutions are modified by experiment; but if Isabel did not rigorously keep these, she is not the less to be praised for having formed them.

Just before they reached the bridge to Goat Island, they passed a little group of the Indians still lingering about Niagara, who make the barbaric wares in which the shops abound, and, like the woods and the wild faces of the cliffs and precipices, help to keep the cataract remote, and to invest it with the charm of primeval loneliness. This group were women, and they sat motionless on the ground, smiling sphinx-like over their laps full of bead-work, and turning their dark liquid eyes of invitation upon the passers. They wore bright kirtles, and red shawls fell from their heads over their plump brown cheeks and down their comfortable persons. A little girl with them was attired in like gayety of color. “What is her name?” asked Isabel, paying for a bead pincushion. “Daisy Smith,” said her mother, in distressingly good English. “But her Indian name?” “She has none,” answered the woman, who told Basil that her village numbered five hundred people, and that they were Protestants. While they talked they were joined by an Indian, whom the women saluted musically in their native tongue. This was somewhat consoling; but he wore trousers and a waistcoat, and it could have been wished that he had not a silk hat on.

“Still,” said Isabel, as they turned away, “I’m glad he hasn’t Lisle-thread gloves, like that chieftain we saw putting his forest queen on board the train at Oneida. But how shocking that they should be Christians, and Protestants! It would have been bad enough to have them Catholics. And that woman said that they were increasing. They ought to be fading away.”

On the bridge, they paused and looked up and down the rapids rushing down the slope in all their wild variety, with the white crests of breaking surf, the dark massiveness of heavy-climbing waves, the fleet, smooth sweep of currents over broad shelves of sunken rock, the dizzy swirl and suck of whirlpools.

Spell-bound, the journeyers pored upon the deathful course beneath their feet, gave a shudder to the horror of being cast upon it, and then hurried over the bridge to the island, in the shadow of whose wildness they sought refuge from the sight and sound.

There had been rain in the night; the air war full of forest fragrance, and the low, sweet voice of twittering birds. Presently they came to a bench set in a corner of the path, and commanding a pleasant vista of sunlit foliage, with a mere gleam of the foaming river beyond. As they sat down here loverwise, Basil, as in the early days of their courtship, began to recite a poem. It was one which had been haunting him since his first sight of the rapids, one of many that he used to learn by heart in his youth—the rhyme of some poor newspaper poet, whom the third or fourth editor copying his verses consigned to oblivion by carelessly clipping his name from the bottom. It had always lingered in Basil’s memory, rather from the interest of the awful fact it recorded, than from any merit of its own; and now he recalled it with a distinctness that surprised him.

AVERY.

I.
All night long they heard in the houses beside the shore, Heard, or
seemed to hear, through the multitudinous roar, Out of the hell of the
rapids as ‘twere a lost soul’s cries Heard and could not believe; and
the morning mocked their eyes, Showing where wildest and fiercest the
waters leaped up and ran Raving round him and past, the visage of a man
Clinging, or seeming to cling, to the trunk of a tree that, caught Fast
in the rocks below, scarce out of the surges raught. Was it a life,
could it be, to yon slender hope that clung Shrill, above all the tumult
the answering terror rang.

II.
Under the weltering rapids a boat from the bridge is drowned, Over the
rocks the lines of another are tangled and wound, And the long, fateful
hours of the morning have wasted soon, As it had been in some blessed
trance, and now it is noon. Hurry, now with the raft! But O, build it
strong and stanch, And to the lines and the treacherous rocks look well
as you launch Over the foamy tops of the waves, and their foam-sprent
sides, Over the hidden reefs, and through the embattled tides, Onward
rushes the raft, with many a lurch and leap,—Lord! if it strike him
loose from the hold he scarce can keep! No! through all peril unharmed,
it reaches him harmless at least, And to its proven strength he lashes
his weakness fast. Now, for the shore! But steady, steady, my men, and
slow; Taut, now, the quivering lines; now slack; and so, let her go!
Thronging the shores around stands the pitying multitude; Wan as his
own are their looks, and a nightmare seems to brood Heavy upon them,
and heavy the silence hangs on all, Save for the rapids’ plunge, and the
thunder of the fall. But on a sudden thrills from the people still
and pale, Chorussing his unheard despair, a desperate wail Caught on a
lurking point of rock it sways and swings, Sport of the pitiless waters,
the raft to which he clings.

III.
All the long afternoon it idly swings and sways; And on the shore the
crowd lifts up its hands and prays: Lifts to heaven and wrings the hands
so helpless to save, Prays for the mercy of God on him whom the rock and
the ways Battle for, fettered betwixt them, and who amidst their strife
Straggles to help his helpers, and fights so hard for his life, Tugging
at rope and at reef, while men weep and women swoon. Priceless second by
second, so wastes the afternoon. And it is sunset now; and another boat
and the last Down to him from the bridge through the rapids has safely
passed.

IV.
Wild through the crowd comes flying a man that nothing can stay
Maddening against the gate that is locked athwart his way. “No! we keep
the bridge for them that can help him. You, Tell us, who are you?” “His
brother!” “God help you both! Pass through.” Wild, with wide arms of
imploring he calls aloud to him, Unto the face of his brother, scarce
seen in the distance dim; But in the roar of the rapids his fluttering
words are lost As in a wind of autumn the leaves of autumn are tossed.
And from the bridge he sees his brother sever the rope Holding him
to the raft, and rise secure in his hope; Sees all as in a dream the
terrible pageantry, Populous shores, the woods, the sky, the birds
flying free; Sees, then, the form—that, spent with effort and fasting
and fear, Flings itself feebly and fails of the boat that is lying so
near, Caught in the long-baffled clutch of the rapids, and rolled and
hurled Headlong on to the cataract’s brink, and out of the world.

“O Basil!” said Isabel, with a long sigh breaking the hush that best praised the unknown poet’s skill, “it isn’t true, is it?”

“Every word, almost, even to the brother’s coming at the last moment. It’s a very well-known incident,” he added, and I am sure the reader whose memory runs back twenty years cannot have forgotten it.

Niagara, indeed, is an awful homicide; nearly every point of interest about the place has killed its man, and there might well be a deeper stain of crimson than it ever wears in that pretty bow overarching the falls. Its beauty is relieved against an historical background as gloomy as the lightest-hearted tourist could desire. The abominable savages, revering the cataract as a kind of august devil, and leading a life of demoniacal misery and wickedness, whom the first Jesuits found here two hundred years ago; the ferocious Iroquois bloodily driving out these squalid devil-worshippers; the French planting the fort that yet guards the mouth of the river, and therewith the seeds of war that fruited afterwards in murderous strifes throughout the whole Niagara country; the struggle for the military posts on the river, during the wars of France and England; the awful scene in the conspiracy of Pontiac, where a detachment of English troops was driven by the Indians over the precipice near the great Whirlpool; the sorrow and havoc visited upon the American settlements in the Revolution by the savages who prepared their attacks in the shadow of Fort Niagara; the battles of Chippewa and of Lundy’s Lane, that mixed the roar of their cannon with that of the fall; the savage forays with tomahawk and scalping-knife, and the blazing villages on either shore in the War of 1812,—these are the memories of the place, the links in a chain of tragical interest scarcely broken before our time since the white man first beheld the mist-veiled face of Niagara. The facts lost nothing of their due effect as Basil, in the ramble across Goat Island, touched them with the reflected light of Mr. Parkman’s histories,—those precious books that make our meagre past wear something of the rich romance of old European days, and illumine its savage solitudes with the splendor of mediaeval chivalry, and the glory of mediaeval martyrdom,—and then, lacking this light, turned upon them the feeble glimmer of the guide-books. He and Isabel enjoyed the lurid picture with all the zest of sentimentalists dwelling upon the troubles of other times from the shelter of the safe and peaceful present. They were both poets in their quality of bridal couple, and so long as their own nerves were unshaken they could transmute all facts to entertaining fables. They pleasantly exercised their sympathies upon those who every year perish at Niagara in the tradition of its awful power; only they refused their cheap and selfish compassion to the Hermit of Goat Island, who dwelt so many years in its conspicuous seclusion, and was finally carried over the cataract. This public character they suspected of design in his death as in his life, and they would not be moved by his memory; though they gave a sigh to that dream, half pathetic, half ludicrous, yet not ignoble, of Mordecai Noah, who thought to assemble all the Jews of the world, and all the Indians, as remnants of the lost tribes, upon Grand Island, there to rebuild Jerusalem, and who actually laid the corner-stone of the new temple there.

Goat Island is marvelously wild for a place visited by so many thousands every year. The shrubbery and undergrowth remain unravaged, and form a deceitful privacy, in which, even at that early hour of the day, they met many other pairs. It seemed incredible that the village and the hotels should be so full, and that the wilderness should also abound in them; yet on every embowered seat, and going to and from all points of interest and danger, were these new-wedded lovers with their interlacing arms and their fond attitudes, in which each seemed to support and lean upon the other. Such a pair stood prominent before them when Basil and Isabel emerged at last from the cover of the woods at the head of the island, and glanced up the broad swift stream to the point where it ran smooth before breaking into the rapids; and as a soft pastoral feature in the foreground of that magnificent landscape, they found them far from unpleasing. Some such pair is in the foreground of every famous American landscape; and when I think of the amount of public love-making in the season of pleasure-travel, from Mount Desert to the Yosemite, and from the parks of Colorado to the Keys of Florida, I feel that our continent is but a larger Arcady, that the middle of the nineteenth century is the golden age, and that we want very little of being a nation of shepherds and shepherdesses.

Our friends returned by the shore of the Canadian rapids, having traversed the island by a path through the heart of the woods, and now drew slowly near the Falls again. All parts of the prodigious pageant have an eternal novelty, and they beheld the ever-varying effect of that constant sublimity with the sense of discoverers, or rather of people whose great fortune it is to see the marvel in its beginning, and new from the creating hand. The morning hour lent its sunny charm to this illusion, while in the cavernous precipices of the shores, dark with evergreens, a mystery as of primeval night seemed to linger. There was a wild fluttering of their nerves, a rapture with an under-consciousness of pain, the exaltation of peril and escape, when they came to the three little isles that extend from Goat Island, one beyond another far out into the furious channel. Three pretty suspension-bridges connect them now with the larger island, and under each of these flounders a huge rapid, and hurls itself away to mingle with the ruin of the fall. The Three Sisters are mere fragments of wilderness, clumps of vine-tangled woods, planted upon masses of rock; but they are part of the fascination of Niagara which no one resists; nor could Isabel have been persuaded from exploring them. It wants no courage to do this, but merely submission to the local sorcery, and the adventurer has no other reward than the consciousness of having been where but a few years before no human being had perhaps set foot. She crossed from bridge to bridge with a quaking heart, and at last stood upon the outermost isle, whence, through the screen of vines and boughs, she gave fearful glances at the heaving and tossing flood beyond, from every wave of which at every instant she rescued herself with a desperate struggle. The exertion told heavily upon her strength unawares, and she suddenly made Basil another revelation of character. Without the slightest warning she sank down at the root of a tree, and said, with serious composure, that she could never go back on those bridges; they were not safe. He stared at her cowering form in blank amaze, and put his hands in his pockets. Then it occurred to his dull masculine sense that it must be a joke; and he said, “Well, I’ll have you taken off in a boat.”

“O do, Basil, do, have me taken off in a boat!” implored Isabel. “You see yourself the bridges are not safe. Do get a boat.”

“Or a balloon,” he suggested, humoring the pleasantry.

Isabel burst into tears; and now he went on his knees at her side, and took her hands in his. “Isabel! Isabel! Are you crazy?” he cried, as if he meant to go mad himself. She moaned and shuddered in reply; he said, to mend matters, that it was a jest, about the boat; and he was driven to despair when Isabel repeated, “I never can go back by the bridges, never.”

“But what do you propose to do?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know!”

He would try sarcasm. “Do you intend to set up a hermitage here, and have your meals sent out from the hotel? It’s a charming spot, and visited pretty constantly; but it’s small, even for a hermitage.”

Isabel moaned again with her hands still on her eyes, and wondered that he was not ashamed to make fun of her.

He would try kindness. “Perhaps, darling, you’ll let me carry you ashore.”

“No, that will bring double the weight on the bridge at once.”

“Couldn’t you shut your eyes, and let me lead you?”

“Why, it isn’t the sight of the rapids,” she said, looking up fiercely. “The bridges are not safe. I’m not a child, Basil. O, what shall we do?”

“I don’t know,” said Basil, gloomily. “It’s an exigency for which I wasn’t prepared.” Then he silently gave himself to the Evil One, for having probably overwrought Isabel’s nerves by repeating that poem about Avery, and by the ensuing talk about Niagara, which she had seemed to enjoy so much. He asked her if that was it; and she answered, “O no, it’s nothing but the bridges.” He proved to her that the bridges, upon all known principles, were perfectly safe, and that they could not give way. She shook her head, but made no answer, and he lost his patience.

“Isabel,” he cried, “I’m ashamed of you!”

“Don’t say anything you’ll be sorry for afterwards, Basil,” she replied, with the forbearance of those who have reason and justice on their side.

The rapids beat and shouted round their little prison-isle, each billow leaping as if possessed by a separate demon. The absurd horror of the situation overwhelmed him. He dared not attempt to carry her ashore, for she might spring from his grasp into the flood. He could not leave her to call for help; and what if nobody came till she lost her mind from terror? Or, what if somebody should come and find them in that ridiculous affliction?

Somebody was coming!

“Isabel!” he shouted in her ear, “here come those people we saw in the parlor last night.”

Isabel dashed her veil over her face, clutched Basil’s with her icy hand, rose, drew her arm convulsively through his, and walked ashore without a word.

In a sheltered nook they sat down, and she quickly “repaired her drooping head and tricked her beams” again. He could see her tearfully smiling through her veil. “My dear,” he said, “I don’t ask an explanation of your fright, for I don’t suppose you could give it. But should you mind telling me why those people were so sovereign against it?”

“Why, dearest! Don’t you understand? That Mrs. Richard—whoever she is—is so much like me.”

She looked at him as if she had made the most satisfying statement, and he thought he had better not ask further then, but wait in hope that the meaning would come to him. They walked on in silence till they came to the Biddle Stairs, at the head of which is a notice that persons have been killed by pieces of rock from the precipice overhanging the shore below, and warning people that they descend at their peril. Isabel declined to visit the Cave of the Winds, to which these stairs lead, but was willing to risk the ascent of Terrapin Tower. “Thanks; no,” said her husband. “You might find it unsafe to come back the way you went up. We can’t count certainly upon the appearance of the lady who is so much like you; and I’ve no fancy for spending my life on Terrapin Tower.” So he found her a seat, and went alone to the top of the audacious little structure standing on the verge of the cataract, between the smooth curve of the Horse-Shoe and the sculptured front of the Central Fall, with the stormy sea of the Rapids behind, and the river, dim seen through the mists, crawling away between its lofty bluffs before. He knew again the awful delight with which so long ago he had watched the changes in the beauty of the Canadian Fall as it hung a mass of translucent green from the brink, and a pearly white seemed to crawl up from the abyss, and penetrate all its substance to the very crest, and then suddenly vanished from it, and perpetually renewed the same effect. The mystery of the rising vapors veiled the gulf into which the cataract swooped; the sun shone, and a rainbow dreamed upon them.

Near the foot of the tower, some loose rocks extend quite to the verge, and here Basil saw an elderly gentleman skipping from one slippery stone to another, and looking down from time to time into the abyss, who, when he had amused himself long enough in this way, clambered up on the plank bridge. Basil, who had descended by this time, made bold to say that he thought the diversion an odd one and rather dangerous. The gentleman took this in good part, and owned it might seem so, but added that a distinguished phrenologist had examined his head, and told him he had equilibrium so large that he could go anywhere.

“On your bridal tour, I presume,” he continued, as they approached the bench where Basil had left Isabel. She had now the company of a plain, middle-aged woman, whose attire hesitatingly expressed some inward festivity, and had a certain reluctant fashionableness. “Well, this is my third bridal tour to Niagara, and my wife’s been here once before on the same business. We see a good many changes. I used to stand on Table Rock with the others. Now that’s all gone. Well, old lady, shall we move on?” he asked; and this bridal pair passed up the path, attended, haply, by the guardian spirits of those who gave the place so many sad yet pleasing associations.

At dinner, Mr. Richard’s party sat at the table next Basil’s, and they were all now talking cheerfully over the emptiness of the spacious dining-hall.

“Well, Kitty,” the married lady was saying, “you can tell the girls what you please about the gayeties of Niagara, when you get home. They’ll believe anything sooner than the truth.”

“O yes, indeed,” said Kitty, “I’ve got a good deal of it made up already. I’ll describe a grand hop at the hotel, with fashionable people from all parts of the country, and the gentlemen I danced with the most. I’m going to have had quite a flirtation with the gentleman of the long blond mustache, whom we met on the bridge this morning and he’s got to do duty in accounting for my missing glove. It’ll never do to tell the girls I dropped it from the top of Terrapin Tower. Then you know, Fanny, I really can say something about dining with aristocratic Southerners, waited upon by their black servants.”

This referred to the sad-faced patrician whom Basil and Isabel had noted in the cars from Buffalo as a Southerner probably coming North for the first time since the war. He had an air at once fierce and sad, and a half-barbaric, homicidal gentility of manner fascinating enough in its way. He sat with his wife at a table farther down the room, and their child was served in part by a little tan-colored nurse-maid. The fact did not quite answer to the young lady’s description of it, and yet it certainly afforded her a ground-work. Basil fancied a sort of bewilderment in the Southerner, and explained it upon the theory that he used to come every year to Niagara before the war, and was now puzzled to find it so changed.

“Yes,” he said, “I can’t account for him except as the ghost of Southern travel, and I can’t help feeling a little sorry for him. I suppose that almost any evil commends itself by its ruin; the wrecks of slavery are fast growing a fungus crop of sentiment, and they may yet outflourish the remains of the feudal system in the kind of poetry they produce. The impoverished slave-holder is a pathetic figure, in spite of all justice and reason, the beaten rebel does move us to compassion, and it is of no use to think of Andersonville in his presence. This gentleman, and others like him, used to be the lords of our summer resorts. They spent the money they did not earn like princes; they held their heads high; they trampled upon the Abolitionist in his lair; they received the homage of the doughface in his home. They came up here from their rice-swamps and cotton-fields, and bullied the whole busy civilization of the North. Everybody who had merchandise or principles to sell truckled to them, and travel amongst us was a triumphal progress. Now they’re moneyless and subjugated (as they call it), there’s none so poor to do them reverence, and it’s left for me, an Abolitionist from the cradle, to sigh over their fate. After all, they had noble traits, and it was no great wonder they got, to despise us, seeing what most of us were. It seems to me I should like to know our friend. I can’t help feeling towards him as towards a fallen prince, heaven help my craven spirit! I wonder how our colored waiter feels towards him. I dare say he admires him immensely.”

There were not above a dozen other people in the room, and Basil contrasted the scene with that which the same place formerly presented. “In the old time,” he said, “every table was full, and we dined to the music of a brass band. I can’t say I liked the band, but I miss it. I wonder if our Southern friend misses it? They gave us a very small allowance of brass band when we arrived, Isabel. Upon my word, I wonder what’s come over the place,” he said, as the Southern party, rising from the table, walked out of the dining-room, attended by many treacherous echoes in spite of an ostentatious clatter of dishes that the waiters made.

After dinner they drove on the Canada shore up past the Clifton House, towards the Burning Spring, which is not the least wonder of Niagara. As each bubble breaks upon the troubled surface, and yields its flash of infernal flame and its whiff of sulphurous stench, it seems hardly strange that the Neutral Nation should have revered the cataract as a demon; and another subtle spell (not to be broken even by the business-like composure of the man who shows off the hell-broth) is added to those successive sorceries by which Niagara gradually changes from a thing of beauty to a thing of terror. By all odds, too, the most tremendous view of the Falls is afforded by the point on the drive whence you look down upon the Horse-Shoe, and behold its three massive walls of sea rounding and sweeping into the gulf together, the color gone, and the smooth brink showing black and ridgy.

Would they not go to the battle-field of Lundy’s Lane? asked the driver at a certain point on their return; but Isabel did not care for battle-fields, and Basil preferred to keep intact the reminiscence of his former visit. “They have a sort of tower of observation built on the battle-ground,” he said, as they drove on down by the river, “and it was in charge of an old Canadian militia-man, who had helped his countrymen to be beaten in the fight. This hero gave me a simple and unintelligible account of the battle, asking me first if I had ever heard of General Scott, and adding without flinching that here he got his earliest laurels. He seemed to go just so long to every listener, and nothing could stop him short, so I fell into a revery until he came to an end. It was hard to remember, that sweet summer morning, when the sun shone, and the birds sang, and the music of a piano and a girl’s voice rose from a bowery cottage near, that all the pure air had once been tainted with battle-smoke, that the peaceful fields had been planted with cannon, instead of potatoes and corn, and that where the cows came down the farmer’s lane, with tinkling bells, the shock of armed men had befallen. The blue and tranquil Ontario gleamed far away, and far away rolled the beautiful land, with farm-houses, fields, and woods, and at the foot of the tower lay the pretty village. The battle of the past seemed only a vagary of mine; yet how could I doubt the warrior at my elbow?—grieved though I was to find that a habit of strong drink had the better of his utterance that morning. My driver explained afterwards, that persons visiting the field were commonly so much pleased with the captain’s eloquence, that they kept the noble old soldier in a brandy-and-water rapture throughout the season, thereby greatly refreshing his memory, and making the battle bloodier and bloodier as the season advanced and the number of visitors increased. There my dear,” he suddenly broke off, as they came in sight of a slender stream of water that escaped from the brow of a cliff on the American side below the Falls, and spun itself into a gauze of silvery mist, “that’s the Bridal Veil; and I suppose you think the stream, which is making such a fine display, yonder, is some idle brooklet, ending a long course of error and worthlessness by that spectacular plunge. It’s nothing of the kind; it’s an honest hydraulic canal, of the most straightforward character, a poor but respectable mill-race which has devoted itself strictly to business, and has turned mill-wheels instead of fooling round water-lilies. It can afford that ultimate finery. What you behold in the Bridal Veil, my love, is the apotheosis of industry.”

“What I can’t help thinking of,” said Isabel, who had not paid the smallest attention to the Bridal Veil, or anything about it, “is the awfulness of stepping off these places in the night-time.” She referred to the road which, next the precipice, is unguarded by any sort of parapet. In Europe a strong wall would secure it, but we manage things differently on our continent, and carriages go running over the brink from time to time.

“If your thoughts have that direction,” answered her husband, “we had better go back to the hotel, and leave the Whirlpool for to-morrow morning. It’s late for it to-day, at any rate.” He had treated Isabel since the adventure on the Three Sisters with a superiority which he felt himself to be very odious, but which he could not disuse.

“I’m not afraid,” she sighed, “but in the words of the retreating soldier, I—I’m awfully demoralized;” and added, “You know we must reserve some of the vital forces for shopping this evening.”

Part of their business also was to buy the tickets for their return to Boston by way of Montreal and Quebec, and it was part of their pleasure to get these of the heartiest imaginable ticket-agent. He was a colonel or at least a major, and he made a polite feint of calling Basil by some military title. He commended the trip they were about to make as the most magnificent and beautiful on the whole continent, and he commended them for intending to make it. He said that was Mrs. General Bowdur of Philadelphia who just went out; did they know her? Somehow, the titles affected Basil as of older date than the late war, and as belonging to the militia period; and he imagined for the agent the romance of a life spent at a watering-place, in contact with rich money-spending, pleasure-taking people, who formed his whole jovial world. The Colonel, who included them in this world, and thereby brevetted them rich and fashionable, could not secure a state-room for them on the boat,—a perfectly splendid Lake steamer, which would take them down the rapids of the St. Lawrence, and on to Montreal without change,—but he would give them a letter to the captain, who was a very particular friend of his, and would be happy to show them as his friends every attention; and so he wrote a note ascribing peculiar merits to Basil, and in spite of all reason making him feel for the moment that he was privileged by a document which was no doubt part of every such transaction. He spoke in a loud cheerful voice; he laughed jollily at no apparent joke; he bowed very low and said, “GOOD-evening!” at parting, and they went away as if he had blessed them.

The rest of the evening they spent in wandering through the village, charmed with its bizarre mixture of quaintness and commonplaceness; in hanging about the shop-windows with their monotonous variety of feather fans,—each with a violently red or yellow bird painfully sacrificed in its centre,—moccasins, bead-wrought work-bags, tobacco-pouches, bows and arrows, and whatever else the savage art of the neighboring squaws can invent; in sauntering through these gay booths, pricing many things, and in hanging long and undecidedly over cases full of feldspar crosses, quartz bracelets and necklaces, and every manner of vase, inoperative pitcher, and other vessel that can be fashioned out of the geological formations at Niagara, tormented meantime by the heat of the gas-lights and the persistence of the mosquitoes. There were very few people besides themselves in the shops, and Isabel’s purchases were not lavish. Her husband had made up his mind to get her some little keepsake; and when he had taken her to the hotel he ran back to one of the shops, and hastily bought her a feather fan,—a magnificent thing of deep magenta dye shading into blue, with a whole yellow-bird transfixed in the centre. When he triumphantly displayed it in their room, “Who’s that for, Basil?” demanded his wife; “the cook?” But seeing his ghastly look at this, she fell upon his neck, crying, “O you poor old tasteless darling! You’ve got it for me!” and seemed about to die of laughter.

“Didn’t you start and throw up your hands,” he stammered, “when you came to that case of fans?”

“Yes,—in horror! Did you think I liked the cruel things, with their dead birds and their hideous colors? O Basil, dearest! You are incorrigible. Can’t you learn that magenta is the vilest of all the hues that the perverseness of man has invented in defiance of nature? Now, my love, just promise me one thing,” she said pathetically. “We’re going to do a little shopping in Montreal, you know; and perhaps you’ll be wanting to surprise me with something there. Don’t do it. Or if you must, do tell me all about it beforehand, and what the color of it’s to be; and I can say whether to get it or not, and then there’ll be some taste about it, and I shall be truly surprised and pleased.”

She turned to put the fan into her trunk, and he murmured something about exchanging it. “No,” she said, “we’ll keep it as a—a—monument.” And she deposed him, with another peal of laughter, from the proud height to which he had climbed in pity of her nervous fears of the day. So completely were their places changed, that he doubted if it were not he who had made that scene on the Third Sister; and when Isabel said, “O, why won’t men use their reasoning faculties?” he could not for himself have claimed any, and he could not urge the truth: that he had bought the fan more for its barbaric brightness than for its beauty. She would not let him get angry, and he could say nothing against the half-ironical petting with which she soothed his mortification.

But all troubles passed with the night, and the next morning they spent a charming hour about Prospect Point, and in sauntering over Goat Island, somewhat daintily tasting the flavors of the place on whose wonders they had so hungrily and indiscriminately feasted at first. They had already the feeling of veteran visitors, and they loftily marveled at the greed with which newer-comers plunged at the sensations. They could not conceive why people should want to descend the inclined railway to the foot of the American Fall; they smiled at the idea of going up Terrapin Tower; they derided the vulgar daring of those who went out upon the Three Weird Sisters; for some whom they saw about to go down the Biddle Stairs to the Cave of the Winds, they had no words to express their contempt.

Then they made their excursion to the Whirlpool, mistakenly going down on the American side, for it is much better seen from the other, though seen from any point it is the most impressive feature of the whole prodigious spectacle of Niagara.

Here within the compass of a mile, those inland seas of the North, Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and the multitude of smaller lakes, all pour their floods, where they swirl in dreadful vortices, with resistless under-currents boiling beneath the surface of that mighty eddy. Abruptly from this scene of secret power, so different from the thunderous splendors of the cataract itself, rise lofty cliffs on every side, to a height of two hundred feet, clothed from the water’s edge almost to their create with dark cedars. Noiselessly, so far as your senses perceive, the lakes steal out of the whirlpool, then, drunk and wild, with brawling rapids roar away to Ontario through the narrow channel of the river. Awful as the scene is, you stand so far above it that you do not know the half of its terribleness; for those waters that look so smooth are great ridges and rings, forced, by the impulse of the currents, twelve feet higher in the centre than at the margin. Nothing can live there, and with what is caught in its hold, the maelstrom plays for days, and whirls and tosses round and round in its toils, with a sad, maniacal patience. The guides tell ghastly stories, which even their telling does not wholly rob of ghastliness, about the bodies of drowned men carried into the whirlpool and made to enact upon its dizzy surges a travesty of life, apparently floating there at their pleasure, diving and frolicking amid the waves, or frantically struggling to escape from the death that has long since befallen them.

On the American side, not far below the railway suspension bridge, is an elevator more than a hundred and eighty feet high, which is meant to let people down to the shore below, and to give a view of the rapids on their own level. From the cliff opposite, it looks a terribly frail structure of pine sticks, but is doubtless stronger than it looks; and at any rate, as it has never yet fallen to pieces, it may be pronounced perfectly safe.

In the waiting-room at the top, Basil and Isabel found Mr. Richard and his ladies again, who got into the movable chamber with them, and they all silently descended together. It was not a time for talk of any kind, either when they were slowly and not quite smoothly dropping through the lugubrious upper part of the structure, where it was darkened by a rough weatherboarding, or lower down, where the unobstructed light showed the grim tearful face of the cliff, bedrabbled with oozy springs, and the audacious slightness of the elevator.

An abiding distrust of the machinery overhead mingled in Isabel’s heart with a doubt of the value of the scene below, and she could not look forward to escape from her present perils by the conveyance which had brought her into them, with any satisfaction. She wanly smiled, and shrank closer to Basil; while the other matron made nothing of seizing her husband violently by the arm and imploring him to stop it whenever they experienced a rougher jolt than usual.

At the bottom of the cliff they were helped out of their prison by a humid young Englishman, with much clay on him, whose face was red and bathed in perspiration, for it was very hot down there in his little inclosure of baking pine boards, and it was not much cooler out on the rocks upon which the party issued, descending and descending by repeated and desultory flights of steps, till at last they stood upon a huge fragment of stone right abreast of the rapids. Yet it was a magnificent sight, and for a moment none of them were sorry to have come. The surges did not look like the gigantic ripples on a river’s course as they were, but like a procession of ocean billows; they arose far aloft in vast bulks of clear green, and broke heavily into foam at the crest. Great blocks and shapeless fragments of rock strewed the margin of the awful torrent; gloomy walls of dark stone rose naked from these, bearded here and there with cedar, and everywhere frowning with shaggy brows of evergreen. The place is inexpressibly lonely and dreadful, and one feels like an alien presence there, or as if he had intruded upon some mood or haunt of Nature in which she had a right to be forever alone. The slight, impudent structure of the elevator rises through the solitude, like a thing that merits ruin, yet it is better than something more elaborate, for it looks temporary, and since there must be an elevator, it is well to have it of the most transitory aspect. Some such quality of rude impermanence consoles you for the presence of most improvements by which you enjoy Niagara; the suspension bridges for their part being saved from offensiveness by their beauty and unreality.

Ascending, none of the party spoke; Isabel and the other matron blanched in each other’s faces; their husbands maintained a stolid resignation. When they stepped out of their trap into the waiting room at the top, “What I like about these little adventures,” said Mr. Richard to Basil, abruptly, “is getting safely out of them. Good-morning, sir.” He bowed slightly to Isabel, who returned his politeness, and exchanged faint nods, or glances, with the ladies. They got into their separate carriages, and at that safe distance made each other more decided obeisances.

“Well,” observed Basil, “I suppose we’re introduced now. We shall be meeting them from time to time throughout our journey. You know how the same faces and the same trunks used to keep turning up in our travels on the other side. Once meet people in travelling, and you can’t get rid of them.”

“Yes,” said Isabel, as if continuing his train of thought, “I’m glad we’re going to-day.”

“O dearest!”

“Truly. When we first arrived I felt only the loveliness of the place. It seemed more familiar, too, then; but ever since, it’s been growing stranger and dreadfuller. Somehow it’s begun to pervade me and possess me in a very uncomfortable way; I’m tossed upon rapids, and flung from cataract brinks, and dizzied in whirlpools; I’m no longer yours, Basil; I’m most unhappily married to Niagara. Fly with me, save me from my awful lord!”

She lightly burlesqued the woes of a prima donna, with clasped hands and uplifted eyes.

“That’ll do very well,” Basil commented, “and it implies a reality that can’t be quite definitely spoken. We come to Niagara in the patronizing spirit in which we approach everything nowadays, and for a few hours we have it our own way, and pay our little tributes of admiration with as much complacency as we feel in acknowledging the existence of the Supreme Being. But after a while we are aware of some potent influence undermining our self-satisfaction; we begin to conjecture that the great cataract does not exist by virtue of our approval, and to feel that it will not cease when we go away. The second day makes us its abject slaves, and on the third we want to fly from it in terror. I believe some people stay for weeks, however, and hordes of them have written odes to Niagara.”

“I can’t understand it, at all,” said Isabel. “I don’t wonder now that the town should be so empty this season, but that it should ever be full. I wish we’d gone after our first look at the Falls from the suspension bridge. How beautiful that was! I rejoice in everything that I haven’t done. I’m so glad I haven’t been in the Cave of the Winds; I’m so happy that Table Rock fell twenty years ago! Basil, I couldn’t stand another rainbow today. I’m sorry we went out on the Three Weird Sisters. O, I shall dream about it! and the rush, and the whirl, and the dampness in one’s face, and the everlasting chirr-r-r-r of everything!”

She dipped suddenly upon his shoulder for a moment’s oblivion, and then rose radiant with a question: “Why in the world, if Niagara is really what it seems to us now, do so many bridal parties come here?”

“Perhaps they’re the only people who’ve the strength to bear up against it, and are not easily dispersed and subjected by it.”

“But we’re dispersed and subjected.”

“Ah, my dear, we married a little late. Who knows how it would be if you were nineteen instead of twenty-seven, and I twenty-five and not turned of thirty?”

“Basil, you’re very cruel.”

“No, no. But don’t you see how it is? We’ve known too much of life to desire any gloomy background for our happiness. We’re quite contented to have things gay and bright about us. Once we couldn’t have made the circle dark enough. Well, my dear, that’s the effect of age. We’re superannuated.”

“I used to think I was before we were married,” answered Isabel simply; “but now,” she added triumphantly, “I’m rescued from all that. I shall never be old again, dearest; never, as long as you love me!”

They were about to enter the village, and he could not make any open acknowledgment of her tenderness; but her silken mantle (or whatever) slipped from her shoulder, and he embracingly replaced it, flattering himself that he had delicately seized this chance of an unavowed caress and not allowing (O such is the blindness of our sex!) that the opportunity had been yet more subtly afforded him, with the art which women never disuse in this world, and which I hope they will not forget in the next.

They had an early dinner, and looked their last upon the nuptial gayety of the otherwise forlorn hotel. Three brides sat down with them in travelling-dress; two occupied the parlor as they passed out; half a dozen happy pairs arrived (to the music of the band) in the omnibus that was to carry our friends back to the station; they caught sight of several about the shop windows, as that drove through the streets. Thus the place perpetually renews itself in the glow of love as long as the summer lasts. The moon which is elsewhere so often of wormwood, or of the ordinary green cheese at the best, is of lucent honey there from the first of June to the last of October; and this is a great charm in Niagara. I think with tenderness of all the lives that have opened so fairly there; the hopes that have reigned in the glad young hearts; the measureless tide of joy that ebbs and flows with the arriving and departing trains. Elsewhere there are carking cares of business and of fashion, there are age, and sorrow, and heartbreak: but here only youth, faith, rapture. I kiss my hand to Niagara for that reason, and would I were a poet for a quarter of an hour.

Isabel departed in almost a forgiving mood towards the weak sisterhood of evident brides, and both our friends felt a lurking fondness for Niagara at the last moment. I do not know how much of their content was due to the fact that they had suffered no sort of wrong there, from those who are apt to prey upon travellers. In the hotel a placard warned them to have nothing to do with the miscreant hackmen on the streets, but always to order their carriage at the office; on the street the hackmen whispered to them not to trust the exorbitant drivers in league with the landlords; yet their actual experience was great reasonableness and facile contentment with the sum agreed upon.

This may have been because the hackmen so far outnumbered the visitors, that the latter could dictate terms; but they chose to believe it a triumph of civilization; and I will never be the cynic to sneer at their faith. Only at the station was the virtue of the Niagarans put in doubt, by the hotel porter who professed to find Basil’s trunk enfeebled by travel, and advised a strap for it, which a friend of his would sell for a dollar and a half. Yet even he may have been a benevolent nature unjustly suspected.

Chapter VII • Down the St. Lawrence • 5,300 Words

They were to take the Canadian steamer at Charlotte, the port of Rochester, and they rattled uneventfully down from Niagara by rail. At the broad, low-banked river-mouth the steamer lay beside the railroad station; and while Isabel disposed of herself on board, Basil looked to the transfer of the baggage, novelly comforted in the business by the respectfulness of the young Canadian who took charge of the trunks for the boat. He was slow, and his system was not good,—he did not give checks for the pieces, but marked them with the name of their destination; and there was that indefinable something in his manner which hinted his hope that you would remember the porter; but he was so civil that he did not snub the meekest and most vexatious of the passengers, and Basil mutely blessed his servile soul. Few white Americans, he said to himself, would behave so decently in his place; and he could not conceive of the American steamboat clerk who would use the politeness towards a waiting crowd that the Canadian purser showed when they all wedged themselves in about his window to receive their stateroom keys. He was somewhat awkward, like the porter, but he was patient, and he did not lose his temper even when some of the crowd, finding he would not bully them, made bold to bully him. He was three times as long in serving them as an American would have been, but their time was of no value there, and he served them well. Basil made a point of speaking him fair, when his turn came, and the purser did not trample on him for a base truckler, as an American jack-in-office would have done.

Our tourists felt at home directly on this steamer, which was very comfortable, and in every way sufficient for its purpose, with a visible captain, who answered two or three questions very pleasantly, and bore himself towards his passengers in some sort like a host.

In the saloon Isabel had found among the passengers her semi-acquaintances of the hotel parlor and the Rapids-elevator, and had glanced tentatively towards them. Whereupon the matron of the party had made advances that ended in their all sitting down together and wondering when the boat would start, and what time they would get to Montreal next evening, with other matters that strangers going upon the same journey may properly marvel over in company. The introduction having thus accomplished itself, they exchanged addresses, and it appeared that Richard was Colonel Ellison, of Milwaukee, and that Fanny was his wife. Miss Kitty Ellison was of Western New York, not far from Erie. There was a diversion presently towards the different state-rooms; but the new acquaintances sat vis-a-vis at the table, and after supper the ladies drew their chairs together on the promenade deck, and enjoyed the fresh evening breeze. The sun set magnificent upon the low western shore which they had now left an hour away, and a broad stripe of color stretched behind the steamer. A few thin, luminous clouds darkened momently along the horizon, and then mixed with the land. The stars came out in a clear sky, and a light wind softly buffeted the cheeks, and breathed life into nerves that the day’s heat had wasted. It scarcely wrinkled the tranquil expanse of the lake, on which loomed, far or near, a full-sailed schooner, and presently melted into the twilight, and left the steamer solitary upon the waters. The company was small, and not remarkable enough in any way to take the thoughts of any one off his own comfort. A deep sense of the coziness of the situation possessed them all which was if possible intensified by the spectacle of the captain, seated on the upper deck, and smoking a cigar that flashed and fainted like a stationary fire-fly in the gathering dusk. How very distant, in this mood, were the most recent events! Niagara seemed a fable of antiquity; the ride from Rochester a myth of the Middle Ages. In this cool, happy world of quiet lake, of starry skies, of air that the soul itself seemed to breathe, there was such consciousness of repose as if one were steeped in rest and soaked through and through with calm.

The points of likeness between Isabel and Mrs. Ellison shortly made them mutually uninteresting, and, leaving her husband to the others, Isabel frankly sought the companionship of Miss Kitty, in whom she found a charm of manner which puzzled at first, but which she presently fancied must be perfect trust of others mingling with a peculiar self-reliance.

“Can’t you see, Basil, what a very flattering way it is?” she asked of her husband, when, after parting with their friends for the night, she tried to explain the character to him. “Of course no art could equal such a natural gift; for that kind of belief in your good-nature and sympathy makes you feel worthy of it, don’t you know; and so you can’t help being good-natured and sympathetic. This Miss Ellison, why, I can tell you, I shouldn’t be ashamed of her anywhere.” By anywhere Isabel meant Boston, and she went on to praise the young lady’s intelligence and refinement, with those expressions of surprise at the existence of civilization in a westerner which westerners find it so hard to receive graciously. Happily, Miss Ellison had not to hear them. “The reason she happened to come with only two dresses is, she lives so near Niagara that she could come for one day, and go back the next. The colonel’s her cousin, and he and his wife go East every year, and they asked her this time to see Niagara with them. She told me all over again what we eavesdropped so shamefully in the hotel parlor;—and I don’t know whether she was better pleased with the prospect of what’s before her, or with the notion of making the journey in this original way. She didn’t force her confidence upon me, any more than she tried to withhold it. We got to talking in the most natural manner; and she seemed to tell these things about herself because they amused her and she liked me. I had been saying how my trunk got left behind once on the French side of Mont Cenis, and I had to wear aunt’s things at Turin till it could be sent for.”

“Well, I don’t see but Miss Ellison could describe you to her friends very much as you’ve described her to me,” said Basil. “How did these mutual confidences begin? Whose trustfulness first flattered the other’s? What else did you tell about yourself?”

“I said we were on our wedding journey,” guiltily admitted Isabel.

“O, you did!”

“Why, dearest! I wanted to know, for once, you see, whether we seemed honeymoon-struck.”

“And do we?”

“No,” came the answer, somewhat ruefully. “Perhaps, Basil,” she added, “we’ve been a little too successful in disguising our bridal character. Do you know,” she continued, looking him anxiously in the face, “this Miss Ellison took me at first for—your sister!”

Basil broke forth in outrageous laughter. “One more such victory,” he said, “and we are undone;” and he laughed again, immoderately. “How sad is the fruition of human wishes! There’s nothing, after all, like a good thorough failure for making people happy.”

Isabel did not listen to him. Safe in a dim corner of the deserted saloon, she seized him in a vindictive embrace; then, as if it had been he who suggested the idea of such a loathsome relation, hissed out the hated words, “Your sister!” and released him with a disdainful repulse.

A little after daybreak the steamer stopped at the Canadian city of Kingston, a handsome place, substantial to the water’s edge, and giving a sense of English solidity by the stone of which it is largely built. There was an accession of many passengers here, and they and the people on the wharf were as little like Americans as possible. They were English or Irish or Scotch, with the healthful bloom of the Old World still upon their faces, or if Canadians they looked not less hearty; so that one must wonder if the line between the Dominion and the United States did not also sharply separate good digestion and dyspepsia. These provincials had not our regularity of features, nor the best of them our careworn sensibility of expression; but neither had they our complexions of adobe; and even Isabel was forced to allow that the men were, on the whole, better dressed than the same number of average Americans would have been in a city of that size and remoteness. The stevedores who were putting the freight aboard were men of leisure; they joked in a kindly way with the orange-women and the old women picking up chips on the pier; and our land of hurry seemed beyond the ocean rather than beyond the lake.

Kingston has romantic memories of being Fort Frontenac two hundred years ago; of Count Frontenac’s splendid advent among the Indians; of the brave La Salle, who turned its wooden walls to stone; of wars with the savages and then with the New York colonists, whom the French and their allies harried from this point; of the destruction of La Salle’s fort in the Old French War; and of final surrender a few years later to the English. It is as picturesque as it is historical. All about the city, the shores are beautifully wooded, and there are many lovely islands,—the first indeed of those Thousand Islands with which the head of the St. Lawrence is filled, and among which the steamer was presently threading her way. They are still as charming and still almost as wild as when, in 1673, Frontenac’s flotilla of canoes passed through their labyrinth and issued upon the lake. Save for a light-house upon one of them, there is almost nothing to show that the foot of man has ever pressed the thin grass clinging to their rocky surfaces, and keeping its green in the eternal shadow of their pines and cedars. In the warm morning light they gathered or dispersed before the advancing vessel, which some of them almost touched with the plumage of their evergreens; and where none of them were large, some were so small that it would not have been too bold to figure them as a vaster race of water-birds assembling and separating in her course. It is curiously affecting to find them so unclaimed yet from the solitude of the vanished wilderness, and scarcely touched even by tradition. But for the interest left them by the French, these tiny islands have scarcely any associations, and must be enjoyed for their beauty alone. There is indeed about them a faint light of legend concerning the Canadian rebellion of 1837, for several patriots are said to have taken refuge amidst their lovely multitude; but this episode of modern history is difficult for the imagination to manage, and somehow one does not take sentimentally even to that daughter of a lurking patriot, who long baffled her father’s pursuers by rowing him from one island to another, and supplying him with food by night.

Either the reluctance is from the natural desire that so recent a heroine should be founded on fact, or it is mere perverseness. Perhaps I ought to say; in justice to her, that it was one of her own sex who refused to be interested in her, and forbade Basil to care for her. When he had read of her exploit from the guide-book, Isabel asked him if he had noticed that handsome girl in the blue and white striped Garibaldi and Swiss hat, who had come aboard at Kingston. She pointed her out, and courageously made him admire her beauty, which was of the most bewitching Canadian type. The young girl was redeemed by her New World birth from the English heaviness; a more delicate bloom lighted her cheeks; a softer grace dwelt in her movement; yet she was round and full, and she was in the perfect flower of youth. She was not so ethereal in her loveliness as an American girl, but she was not so nervous and had none of the painful fragility of the latter. Her expression was just a little vacant, it must be owned; but so far as she went she was faultless. She looked like the most tractable of daughters, and as if she would be the most obedient of wives. She had a blameless taste in dress, Isabel declared; her costume of blue and white striped Garibaldi and Swiss hat (set upon heavy masses of dark brown hair) being completed by a black silk skirt. “And you can see,” she added, “that it’s an old skirt made over, and that she’s dressed as cheaply as she is prettily.” This surprised Basil, who had imputed the young lady’s personal sumptuousness to her dress, and had thought it enormously rich. When she got off with her chaperone at one of the poorest-looking country landings, she left them in hopeless conjecture about her. Was she visiting there, or was the interior of Canada full of such stylish and exquisite creatures? Where did she get her taste, her fashions, her manners? As she passed from sight towards the shadow of the woods, they felt the poorer for her going; yet they were glad to have seen her, and on second thoughts they felt that they could not justly ask more of her than to have merely existed for a few hours in their presence. They perceived that beauty was not only its own excuse for being, but that it flattered and favored and profited the world by consenting to be.

At Prescott, the boat on which they had come from Charlotte, and on which they had been promised a passage without change to Montreal, stopped, and they were transferred to a smaller steamer with the uncomfortable name of Banshee. She was very old, and very infirm and dirty, and in every way bore out the character of a squalid Irish goblin. Besides, she was already heavily laden with passengers, and, with the addition of the other steamer’s people had now double her complement; and our friends doubted if they were not to pass the Rapids in as much danger as discomfort. Their fellow-passengers were in great variety, however, and thus partly atoned for their numbers. Among them of course there was a full force of brides from Niagara and elsewhere, and some curious forms of the prevailing infatuation appeared. It is well enough, if she likes, and it may even be very noble for a passably good-looking young lady to marry a gentleman of venerable age; but to intensify the idea of self-devotion by furtively caressing his wrinkled front seems too reproachful of the general public; while, on the other hand, if the bride is very young and pretty, it enlists in behalf of the white-haired husband the unwilling sympathies of the spectator to see her the centre of a group of young people, and him only acknowledged from time to time by a Parthian snub. Nothing, however, could have been more satisfactory than the sisterly surrounding of this latter bride. They were of a better class of Irish people; and if it had been any sacrifice for her to marry so old a man, they were doing their best to give the affair at least the liveliness of a wake. There were five or six of those great handsome girls, with their generous curves and wholesome colors, and they were every one attended by a good-looking colonial lover, with whom they joked in slightly brogued voices, and laughed with careless Celtic laughter. One of the young fellows presently lost his hat overboard, and had to wear the handkerchief of his lady about his head; and this appeared to be really one of the best things in the world, and led to endless banter. They were well dressed, and it could be imagined that the ancient bridegroom had come in for the support of the whole good-looking, healthy, light-hearted family. In some degree he looked it, and wore but a rueful countenance for a bridegroom; so that a very young newly married couple, who sat next the jolly sister-and-loverhood could not keep their pitying eyes off his downcast face. “What if he, too, were young at heart!” the kind little wife’s regard seemed to say.

For the sake of the slight air that was stirring, and to have the best view of the Rapids, the Banshee’s whole company was gathered upon the forward promenade, and the throng was almost as dense as in a six-o’clock horse-car out from Boston. The standing and sitting groups were closely packed together, and the expanded parasols and umbrellas formed a nearly unbroken roof. Under this Isabel chatted at intervals with the Ellisons, who sat near; but it was not an atmosphere that provoked social feeling, and she was secretly glad when after a while they shifted their position.

It was deadly hot, and most of the people saddened and silenced in the heat. From time to time the clouds idling about overhead met and sprinkled down a cruel little shower of rain that seemed to make the air less breathable than before. The lonely shores were yellow with drought; the islands grew wilder and barrener; the course of the river was for miles at a stretch through country which gave no signs of human life. The St. Lawrence has none of the bold picturesqueness of the Hudson, and is far more like its far-off cousin the Mississippi. Its banks are low like the Mississippi’s, its current, swift, its way through solitary lands. The same sentiment of early adventure hangs about each: both are haunted by visions of the Jesuit in his priestly robe, and the soldier in his mediaeval steel; the same gay, devout, and dauntless race has touched them both with immortal romance. If the water were of a dusky golden color, instead of translucent green, and the shores and islands were covered with cottonwoods and willows instead of dark cedars, one could with no great effort believe one’s self on the Mississippi between Cairo and St. Louis, so much do the great rivers strike one as kindred in the chief features of their landscape. Only, in tracing this resemblance you do not know just what to do with the purple mountains of Vermont, seen vague against the horizon from the St. Lawrence, or with the quaint little French villages that begin to show themselves as you penetrate farther down into Lower Canada. These look so peaceful, with their dormer-windowed cottages clustering about their church-spires, that it seems impossible they could once have been the homes of the savages and the cruel peasants who, with fire-brand and scalping-knife and tomahawk, harassed the borders of New England for a hundred years. But just after you descend the Long Sault you pass the hamlet of St. Regis, in which was kindled the torch that wrapt Deerfield in flames, waking her people from their sleep to meet instant death or taste the bitterness of a captivity. The bell which was sent out from France for the Indian converts of the Jesuits, and was captured by an English ship and carried into Salem, and thence sold to Deerfield, where it called the Puritans to prayer, till at last it also summoned the priest-led Indians and ‘habitans’ across hundreds of miles of winter and of wilderness to reclaim it from that desecration,—this fateful bell still hangs in the church-tower of St. Regis, and has invited to matins and vespers for nearly two centuries the children of those who fought so pitilessly and dared and endured so much for it. Our friends would fair have heard it as they passed, hoping for some mournful note of history in its sound; but it hung silent over the silent hamlet, which, as it lay in the hot afternoon sun by the river’s side, seemed as lifeless as the Deerfield burnt long ago.

They turned from it to look at a gentleman who had just appeared in a mustard-colored linen duster, and Basil asked, “Shouldn’t you like to know the origin, personal history, and secret feelings of a gentleman who goes about in a duster of that particular tint? Or, that gentleman yonder with his eye tied up in a wet handkerchief, do you suppose he’s travelling for pleasure? Look at those young people from Omaha: they haven’t ceased flirting or cackling since we left Kingston. Do you think everybody has such spirits out at Omaha? But behold a yet more surprising figure than any we have yet seen among this boat-load of nondescripts.”

This was a tall, handsome young man, with a face of somewhat foreign cast, and well dressed, with a certain impressive difference from the rest in the cut of his clothes. But what most drew the eye to him was a large cross, set with brilliants, and surmounted by a heavy double-headed eagle in gold. This ornament dazzled from a conspicuous place on the left lappet of his coat; on his hand shone a magnificent diamond ring, and he bore a stately opera-glass, with which, from time to time, he imperiously, as one may say, surveyed the landscape. As the imposing apparition grew upon Isabel, “O here,” she thought, “is something truly distinguished. Of course, dear,” she added aloud to Basil, “he’s some foreign nobleman travelling here”; and she ran over in her mind the newspaper announcements of patrician visitors from abroad and tried to identify him with some one of them. The cross must be the decoration of a foreign order, and Basil suggested that he was perhaps a member of some legation at Washington, who had ran up there for his summer vacation. The cross puzzled him, but the double-headed eagle, he said, meant either Austria or Russia; probably Austria, for the wearer looked a trifle too civilized for a Russian.

“Yes, indeed! What an air he has. Never tell me. Basil, that there’s nothing in blood!” cried Isabel, who was a bitter aristocrat at heart, like all her sex, though in principle she was democratic enough. As she spoke, the object of her regard looked about him on the different groups, not with pride, not with hauteur, but with a glance of unconscious, unmistakable superiority. “O, that stare!” she added; “nothing but high birth and long descent can give it! Dearest, he’s becoming a great affliction to me. I want to know who he is. Couldn’t you invent some pretext for speaking to him?”

“No, I couldn’t do it decently; and no doubt he’d snub me as I deserved if I intruded upon him. Let’s wait for fortune to reveal him.”

“Well, I suppose I must, but it’s dreadful; it’s really dreadful. You can easily see that’s distinction,” she continued, as her hero moved about the promenade and gently but loftily made a way for himself among the other passengers and favored the scenery through his opera-glass from one point and another. He spoke to no one, and she reasonably supposed that he did not know English.

In the mean time it was drawing near the hour of dinner, but no dinner appeared. Twelve, one, two came and went, and then at last came the dinner, which had been delayed, it seemed, till the cook could recruit his energies sufficiently to meet the wants of double the number he had expected to provide for. It was observable of the officers and crew of the Banshee, that while they did not hold themselves aloof from the passengers in the disdainful American manner, they were of feeble mind, and not only did everything very slowly (in the usual Canadian fashion), but with an inefficiency that among us would have justified them in being insolent. The people sat down at several successive tables to the worst dinner that ever was cooked; the ladies first, and the gentlemen afterwards, as they made conquest of places. At the second table, to Basil’s great satisfaction, he found a seat, and on his right hand the distinguished foreigner.

“Naturally, I was somewhat abashed,” he said in the account he was presently called to give Isabel of the interview, “but I remembered that I was an American citizen, and tried to maintain a decent composure. For several minutes we sat silent behind a dish of flabby cucumbers, expecting the dinner, and I was wondering whether I should address him in French or German,—for I knew you’d never forgive me if I let slip such a chance,—when he turned and spoke himself.”

“O what did he say, dearest?”

He said, “Pretty tejious waitin,’ ain’t it? in she best New York State accent.”

“You don’t mean it!” gasped Isabel.

“But I do. After that I took courage to ask what his cross and double-headed eagle meant. He showed the condescension of a true nobleman. ‘O,’ says he, ‘I’m glad you like it, and it’s not the least offense to ask,’ and he told me. Can you imagine what it is? It’s the emblem of the fifty-fourth degree in the secret society he belongs to!”

“I don’t believe it!”

“Well, ask him yourself, then,” returned Basil; “he’s a very good fellow. ‘O, that stare! nothing but high birth and long descent could give it!’” he repeated, abominably implying that he had himself had no share in their common error.

What retort Isabel might have made cannot now be known, for she was arrested at this moment by a rumor amongst the passengers that they were coming to the Long Sault Rapids. Looking forward she saw the tossing and flashing of surges that, to the eye, are certainly as threatening as the rapids above Niagara. The steamer had already passed the Deplau and the Galopes, and they had thus had a foretaste of whatever pleasure or terror there is in the descent of these nine miles of stormy sea. It is purely a matter of taste, about shooting the rapids of the St. Lawrence. The passengers like it better than the captain and the pilot, to guesses by their looks, and the women and children like it better than the men. It is no doubt very thrilling and picturesque and wildly beautiful: the children crow and laugh, the women shout forth their delight, as the boat enters the seething current; great foaming waves strike her bows, and brawl away to the stern, while she dips, and rolls, and shoots onward, light as a bird blown by the wind; the wild shores and islands whirl out of sight; you feel in every fibre the career of the vessel. But the captain sits in front of the pilothouse smoking with a grave face, the pilots tug hard at the wheel; the hoarse roar of the waters fills the air; beneath the smoother sweeps of the current you can see the brown rocks; as you sink from ledge to ledge in the writhing and twisting steamer, you have a vague sense that all this is perhaps an achievement rather than an enjoyment. When, descending the Long Sault, you look back up hill, and behold those billows leaping down the steep slope after you, “No doubt,” you confide to your soul, “it is magnificent; but it is not pleasure.” You greet with silent satisfaction the level river, stretching between the Long Sault and the Coteau, and you admire the delightful tranquillity of that beautiful Lake St. Francis into which it expands. Then the boat shudders into the Coteau Rapids, and down through the Cedars and Cascades. On the rocks of the last lies the skeleton of a steamer wrecked upon them, and gnawed at still by the white-tusked wolfish rapids. No one, they say, was lost from her. “But how,” Basil thought, “would it fare with all these people packed here upon her bow, if the Banshee should swing round upon a ledge?” As to Isabel, she looked upon the wrecked steamer with indifference, as did all the women; but then they could not swim, and would not have to save themselves. “The La Chine’s to come yet,” they exulted, “and that’s the awfullest of all!”

They passed the Lake St. Louis; the La Chin; rapids flashed into sight. The captain rose up from his seat, took his pipe from his mouth, and waved a silence with it. “Ladies and gentlemen,” said he, “it’s very important in passing these rapids to keep the boat perfectly trim. Please to remain just as you are.”

It was twilight, for the boat was late. From the Indian village on the shore they signaled to know if he wanted the local pilot; the captain refused; and then the steamer plunged into the leaping waves. From rock to rock she swerved and sank; on the last ledge she scraped with a deadly touch that went to the heart.

Then the danger was passed, and the noble city of Montreal was in full sight, lying at the foot of her dark green mountain, and lifting her many spires into the rosy twilight air: massive and grand showed the sister towers of the French cathedral.

Basil had hoped to approach this famous city with just associations. He had meant to conjure up for Isabel’s sake some reflex, however faint, of that beautiful picture Mr. Parkman has painted of Maisonneuve founding and consecrating Montreal. He flushed with the recollection of the historian’s phrase; but in that moment there came forth from the cabin a pretty young person who gave every token of being a pretty young actress, even to the duenna-like, elderly female companion, to be detected in the remote background of every young actress. She had flirted audaciously during the day with some young Englishmen and Canadians of her acquaintance, and after passing the La Chine Rapids she had taken the hearts of all the men by springing suddenly to her feet, apostrophizing the tumult with a charming attitude, and warbling a delicious bit of song. Now as they drew near the city the Victoria Bridge stretched its long tube athwart the river, and looked so low because of its great length that it seemed to bar the steamer’s passage.

“I wonder,” said one of the actress’s adorers, a Canadian, whose face was exactly that of the beaver on the escutcheon of his native province, and whose heavy gallantries she had constantly received with a gay, impertinent nonchalance,—“I wonder if we can be going right under that bridge?”

“No, sir!” answered the pretty young actress with shocking promptness, “we’re going right over it!”

“‘Three groans and a guggle,
And an awful struggle,
And over we go!’”

At this witless, sweet impudence the Canadian looked very sheepish—for a beaver; and all the other people laughed; but the noble historical shades of Basil’s thought vanished in wounded dignity beyond recall, and left him feeling rather ashamed,—for he had laughed too.

Chapter VIII • The Sentiment of Montreal • 7,800 Words

The feeling of foreign travel for which our tourists had striven throughout their journey, and which they had known in some degree at Kingston and all the way down the river, was intensified from the first moment in Montreal; and it was so welcome that they were almost glad to lose money on their greenbacks, which the conductor of the omnibus would take only at a discount of twenty cents. At breakfast next morning they could hardly tell on what country they had fallen. The waiters had but a thin varnish of English speech upon their native French, and they spoke their own tongue with each other; but most of the meats were cooked to the English taste, and the whole was a poor imitation of an American hotel. During their stay the same commingling of usages and races bewildered them; the shops were English and the clerks were commonly French; the carriage-drivers were often Irish, and up and down the streets with their pious old-fashioned names, tinkled American horse-cars. Everywhere were churches and convents that recalled the ecclesiastical and feudal origin of the city; the great tubular bridge, the superb water-front with its long array of docks only surpassed by those of Liverpool, the solid blocks of business houses, and the substantial mansions on the quieter streets, proclaimed the succession of Protestant thrift and energy.

Our friends cared far less for the modern splendor of Montreal than for the remnants of its past, and for the features that identified it with another faith and another people than their own. Isabel would almost have confessed to any one of the black-robed priests upon the street; Basil could easily have gone down upon his knees to the white-hooded, pale-faced nuns gliding among the crowd. It was rapture to take a carriage, and drive, not to the cemetery, not to the public library, not to the rooms of the Young Men’s Christian Association, or the grain elevators, or the new park just tricked out with rockwork and sprigs of evergreen,—not to any of the charming resorts of our own cities, but as in Europe to the churches, the churches of a pitiless superstition, the churches with their atrocious pictures and statues, their lingering smell of the morning’s incense, their confessionals, their fee-taking sacristans, their worshippers dropped here and there upon their knees about the aisles and saying their prayers with shut or wandering eyes according as they were old women or young! I do not defend the feeble sentimentality,—call it wickedness if you like,—but I understand it, and I forgive it from my soul.

They went first, of course, to the French cathedral, pausing on their way to alight and walk through the Bonsecours Market, where the habitans have all come in their carts, with their various stores of poultry, fruit, and vegetables, and where every cart is a study. Here is a simple-faced young peasant-couple with butter and eggs and chickens ravishingly displayed; here is a smooth-checked, blackeyed, black-haired young girl, looking as if an infusion of Indian blood had darkened the red of her cheeks, presiding over a stock of onions, potatoes, beets, and turnips; there an old woman with a face carven like a walnut, behind a flattering array of cherries and pears; yonder a whole family trafficking in loaves of brown-bread and maple-sugar in many shapes of pious and grotesque device. There are gay shows of bright scarfs and kerchiefs and vari-colored yarns, and sad shows of old clothes and second-hand merchandise of other sorts; but above all prevails the abundance of orchard and garden, while within the fine edifice are the stalls of the butchers, and in the basement below a world of household utensils, glass-ware, hard-ware, and wooden-ware. As in other Latin countries, each peasant has given a personal interest to his wares, but the bargains are not clamored over as in Latin lands abroad. Whatever protest and concession and invocation of the saints attend the transacting of business at Bonsecours Market are in a subdued tone. The fat huckster-women drowsing beside their wares, scarce send their voices beyond the borders of their broad-brimmed straw hats, as they softly haggle with purchasers, or tranquilly gossip together.

At the cathedral there are, perhaps, the worst paintings in the world, and the massive pine-board pillars are unscrupulously smoked to look like marble; but our tourists enjoyed it as if it had been St. Peter’s; in fact it has something of the barnlike immensity and impressiveness of St. Peter’s. They did not ask it to be beautiful or grand; they desired it only to recall the beloved ugliness, the fondly cherished hideousness and incongruity of the average Catholic churches of their remembrance, and it did this and more: it added an effect of its own; it offered the spectacle of a swarthy old Indian kneeling before the high altar, telling his beads, and saying with many sighs and tears the prayers which it cost so much martyrdom and heroism to teach his race. “O, it is only a savage man,” said the little French boy who was showing them the place, impatient of their interest in a thing so unworthy as this groaning barbarian. He ran swiftly about from object to object, rapidly lecturing their inattention. “It is now time to go up into the tower,” said he, and they gladly made that toilsome ascent, though it is doubtful if the ascent of towers is not too much like the ascent of mountains ever to be compensatory. From the top of Notre Dame is certainly to be had a prospect upon which, but for his fluttered nerves and trembling muscles and troubled respiration, the traveller might well look with delight, and as it is must behold with wonder. So far as the eye reaches it dwells only upon what is magnificent. All the features of that landscape are grand. Below you spreads the city, which has less that is merely mean in it than any other city of our continent, and which is everywhere ennobled by stately civic edifices, adorned by tasteful churches, and skirted by full foliaged avenues of mansions and villas. Behind it rises the beautiful mountain, green with woods and gardens to its crest, and flanked on the east by an endless fertile plain, and on the west by another expanse, through which the Ottawa rushes, turbid and dark, to its confluence with the St. Lawrence. Then these two mighty streams commingled flow past the city, lighting up the vast Champaign country to the south, while upon the utmost southern verge, as on the northern, rise the cloudy summits of far-off mountains.

As our travellers gazed upon all this grandeur, their hearts were humbled to the tacit admission that the colonial metropolis was not only worthy of its seat, but had traits of a solid prosperity not excelled by any of the abounding and boastful cities of the Republic. Long before they quitted Montreal they had rallied from this weakness, but they delighted still to honor her superb beauty.

The tower is naturally bescribbled to its top with the names of those who have climbed it, and most of these are Americans, who flock in great numbers to Canada in summer. They modify its hotel life, and the objects of interest thrive upon their bounty. Our friends met them at every turn, and knew them at a glance from the native populations, who are also easily distinguishable from each other. The French Canadians are nearly always of a peasant-like commonness, or where they rise above this have a bourgeois commonness of face and manner, and the English Canadians are to be known from the many English sojourners by the effort to look much more English than the latter. The social heart of the colony clings fast to the mother-country, that is plain, whatever the political tendency may be; and the public monuments and inscriptions celebrate this affectionate union.

At the English cathedral the effect is deepened by the epitaphs of those whose lives were passed in the joint service of England and her loyal child; and our travellers, whatever their want of sympathy with the sentiment, had to own to a certain beauty in that attitude of proud reverence. Here, at least, was a people not cut off from its past, but holding, unbroken in life and death, the ties which exist for us only in history. It gave a glamour of olden time to the new land; it touched the prosaic democratic present with the waning poetic light of the aristocratic and monarchical tradition. There was here and there a title on the tablets, and there was everywhere the formal language of loyalty and of veneration for things we have tumbled into the dust. It is a beautiful church, of admirable English Gothic; if you are so happy, you are rather curtly told you may enter by a burly English figure in some kind of sombre ecclesiastical drapery, and within its quiet precincts you may feel yourself in England if you like,—which, for my part, I do not. Neither did our friends enjoy it so much as the Church of the Jesuits, with its more than tolerable painting, its coldly frescoed ceiling, its architectural taste of subdued Renaissance, and its black-eyed peasant-girl telling her beads before a side altar, just as in the enviably deplorable countries we all love; nor so much even as the Irish cathedral which they next visited. That is a very gorgeous cathedral indeed, painted and gilded ‘a merveille’, and everywhere stuck about with big and little saints and crucifixes, and pictures incredibly bad—but for those in the French cathedral. There is, of course, a series representing Christ’s progress to Calvary; and there was a very tattered old man,—an old man whose voice had been long ago drowned in whiskey, and who now spoke in a ghostly whisper,—who, when he saw Basil’s eye fall upon the series, made him go the round of them, and tediously explained them.

“Why did you let that old wretch bore you, and then pay him for it?” Isabel asked.

“O, it reminded me so sweetly of the swindles of other lands and days, that I couldn’t help it,” he answered; and straightway in the eyes of both that poor, whiskeyfied, Irish tatterdemalion stood transfigured to the glorious likeness of an Italian beggar.

They were always doing something of this kind, those absurdly sentimental people, whom yet I cannot find it in my heart to blame for their folly, though I could name ever so many reasons for rebuking it. Why, in fact, should we wish to find America like Europe? Are the ruins and impostures and miseries and superstitions which beset the traveller abroad so precious, that he should desire to imagine them at every step in his own hemisphere? Or have we then of our own no effective shapes of ignorance and want and incredibility, that we must forever seek an alien contrast to our native intelligence and comfort? Some such questions this guilty couple put to each other, and then drove off to visit the convent of the Gray Nuns with a joyful expectation which I suppose the prospect of the finest public-school exhibition in Boston could never have inspired. But, indeed, since there must be Gray Nuns, is it not well that there are sentimentalists to take a mournful pleasure in their sad, pallid existence?

The convent is at a good distance from the Irish cathedral, and in going to it the tourists made their driver carry them through one of the few old French streets which still remain in Montreal. Fires and improvements had made havoc among the quaint houses since Basil’s first visit; but at last they came upon a narrow, ancient Rue Saint Antoine,—or whatever other saint it was called after,—in which there was no English face or house to be seen. The doors of the little one-story dwellings opened from the pavement, and within you saw fat madame the mother moving about her domestic affairs, and spare monsieur the elderly husband smoking beside the open window; French babies crawled about the tidy floors; French martyrs (let us believe Lalement or Brebeuf, who gave up their heroic lives for the conversion of Canada) sifted their eyes in high-colored lithographs on the wall; among the flower-pots in the dormer-window looking from every tin roof sat and sewed a smooth haired young girl, I hope,—the romance of each little mansion. The antique and foreign character of the place was accented by the inscription upon a wall of “Sirop adoucissant de Madame Winslow.”

Ever since 1692 the Gray Nuns have made refuge within the ample borders of their convent for infirm old people and for foundling children, and it is now in the regular course of sight-seeing for the traveller to visit their hospital at noonday, when he beholds the Sisters at their devotions in the chapel. It is a bare, white-walled, cold-looking chapel, with the usual paraphernalia of pictures and crucifixes. Seated upon low benches on either side of the aisle were the curious or the devout; the former in greater number and chiefly Americans, who were now and then whispered silent by an old pauper zealous for the sanctity of the place. At the stroke of twelve the Sisters entered two by two, followed by the lady-superior with a prayerbook in her hand. She clapped the leaves of this together in signal for them to kneel, to rise, to kneel again and rise, while they repeated in rather harsh voices their prayers, and then clattered out of the chapel as they had clattered in, with resounding shoes. The two young girls at the head were very pretty, and all the pale faces had a corpse-like peace. As Basil looked at their pensive sameness, it seemed to him that those prettiest girls might very well be the twain that he had seen here so many years ago, stricken forever young in their joyless beauty. The ungraceful gowns of coarse gray, the blue checked aprons, the black crape caps, were the same; they came and went with the same quick tread, touching their brows with holy water and kneeling and rising now as then with the same constrained and ordered movements. Would it be too cruel if they were really the same persons? or would it be yet more cruel if every year two girls so young and fair were self-doomed to renew the likeness of that youthful death?

The visitors went about the hospital, and saw the old men and the little children to whom these good pure lives were given, and they could only blame the system, not the instruments or their work. Perhaps they did not judge wisely of the amount of self-sacrifice involved, for they judged from hearts to which love was the whole of earth and heaven; but nevertheless they pitied the Gray Nuns amidst the unhomelike comfort of their convent, the unnatural care of those alien little ones. Poor ‘Soeurs Grises’ in their narrow cells; at the bedside of sickness and age and sorrow; kneeling with clasped hands and yearning eyes before the bloody spectacle of the cross!—the power of your Church is shown far more subtly and mightily in such as you, than in her grandest fanes or the sight of her most august ceremonies, with praying priests, swinging censers, tapers and pictures and images, under a gloomy heaven of cathedral arches. There, indeed, the faithful have given their substance; but here the nun has given up the most precious part of her woman’s nature, and all the tenderness that clings about the thought of wife and mother.

“There are some things that always greatly afflict me in the idea of a new country,” said Basil, as they loitered slowly through the grounds of the convent toward the gate. “Of course, it’s absurd to think of men as other than men, as having changed their natures with their skies; but a new land always does seem at first thoughts like a new chance afforded the race for goodness and happiness, for health and life. So I grieve for the earliest dead at Plymouth more than for the multitude that the plague swept away in London; I shudder over the crime of the first guilty man, the sin of the first wicked woman in a new country; the trouble of the first youth or maiden crossed in love there is intolerable. All should be hope and freedom and prosperous life upon that virgin soil. It never was so since Eden; but none the less I feel it ought to be; and I am oppressed by the thought that among the earliest walls which rose upon this broad meadow of Montreal were those built to immure the innocence of such young girls as these and shut them from the life we find so fair. Wouldn’t you like to know who was the first that took the veil in this wild new country? Who was she, poor soul, and what was her deep sorrow or lofty rapture? You can fancy her some Indian maiden lured to the renunciation by the splendor of symbols and promises seen vaguely through the lingering mists of her native superstitions; or some weary soul, sick from the vanities and vices, the bloodshed and the tears of the Old World, and eager for a silence profounder than that of the wilderness into which she had fled. Well, the Church knows and God. She was dust long ago.”

From time to time there had fallen little fitful showers during the morning. Now as the wedding-journeyers passed out of the convent gate the rain dropped soft and thin, and the gray clouds that floated through the sky so swiftly were as far-seen Gray Sisters in flight for heaven.

“We shall have time for the drive round the mountain before dinner,” said Basil, as they got into their carriage again; and he was giving the order to the driver, when Isabel asked how far it was.

“Nine miles.”

“O, then we can’t think of going with one horse. You know,” she added, “that we always intended to have two horses for going round the mountain.”

“No,” said Basil, not yet used to having his decisions reached without his knowledge. “And I don’t see why we should. Everybody goes with one. You don’t suppose we’re too heavy, do you?”

“I had a party from the States, ma’am, yesterday,” interposed the driver; “two ladies, real heavy apes, two gentlemen, weighin’ two hundred apiece, and a stout young man on the box with me. You’d ‘a’ thought the horse was drawin’ an empty carriage, the way she darted along.”

“Then his horse must be perfectly worn out to-day,” said Isabel, refusing to admit the pool fellow directly even to the honors of a defeat. He had proved too much, and was put out of court with no hope of repairing his error.

“Why, it seems a pity,” whispered Basil, dispassionately, “to turn this man adrift, when he had a reasonable hope of being with us all day, and has been so civil and obliging.”

“O yes, Basil, sentimentalize him, do! Why don’t you sentimentalize his helpless, overworked horse?—all in a reek of perspiration.”

“Perspiration! Why, my dear, it’s the rain!”

“Well, rain or shine, darling, I don’t want to go round the mountain with one horse; and it’s very unkind of you to insist now, when you’ve tacitly promised me all along to take two.”

“Now, this is a little too much, Isabel. You know we never mentioned the matter till this moment.”

“It’s the same as a promise, your not saying you wouldn’t. But I don’t ask you to keep your word. I don’t want to go round the mountain. I’d much rather go to the hotel. I’m tired.”

“Very well, then, Isabel, I’ll leave you at the hotel.”

In a moment it had come, the first serious dispute of their wedded life. It had come as all such calamities come, from nothing, and it was on them in full disaster ere they knew. Such a very little while ago, there in the convent garden, their lives had been drawn closer in sympathy than ever before; and now that blessed time seemed ages since, and they were further asunder than those who have never been friends. “I thought,” bitterly mused Isabel, “that he would have done anything for me.” “Who could have dreamed that a woman of her sense would be so unreasonable,” he wondered. Both had tempers, as I know my dearest reader has (if a lady), and neither would yield; and so, presently, they could hardly tell how, for they were aghast at it all, Isabel was alone in her room amidst the ruins of her life, and Basil alone in the one-horse carriage, trying to drive away from the wreck of his happiness. All was over; the dream was past; the charm was broken. The sweetness of their love was turned to gall; whatever had pleased them in their loving moods was loathsome now, and the things they had praised a moment before were hateful. In that baleful light, which seemed to dwell upon all they ever said or did in mutual enjoyment, how poor and stupid and empty looked their wedding-journey! Basil spent five minutes in arraigning his wife and convicting her of every folly and fault. His soul was in a whirl,

“For to be wroth with one we love
Doth work like madness in the brain.”

In the midst of his bitter and furious upbraidings he found himself suddenly become her ardent advocate, and ready to denounce her judge as a heartless monster. “On our wedding journey, too! Good heavens, what an incredible brute I am!” Then he said, “What an ass I am!” And the pathos of the case having yielded to its absurdity, he was helpless. In five minutes more he was at Isabel’s side, the one-horse carriage driver dismissed with a handsome pour-boire, and a pair of lusty bays with a glittering barouche waiting at the door below. He swiftly accounted for his presence, which she seemed to find the most natural thing that could be, and she met his surrender with the openness of a heart that forgives but does not forget, if indeed the most gracious art is the only one unknown to the sex.

She rose with a smile from the ruins of her life, amidst which she had heart-brokenly sat down with all her things on. “I knew you’d come back,” she said.

“So did I,” he answered. “I am much too good and noble to sacrifice my preference to my duty.”

“I didn’t care particularly for the two horses, Basil,” she said, as they descended to the barouche. “It was your refusing them that hurt me.”

“And I didn’t want the one-horse carriage. It was your insisting so that provoked me.”

“Do you think people ever quarreled before on a wedding journey?” asked Isabel as they drove gayly out of the city.

“Never! I can’t conceive of it. I suppose if this were written down, nobody would believe it.”

“No, nobody could,” said Isabel, musingly, and she added after a pause, “I wish you would tell me just what you thought of me, dearest. Did you feel as you did when our little affair was broken off, long ago? Did you hate me?”

“I did, most cordially; but not half so much as I despised myself the next moment. As to its being like a lover’s quarrel, it wasn’t. It was more bitter, so much more love than lovers ever give had to be taken back. Besides, it had no dignity, and a lover’s quarrel always has. A lover’s quarrel always springs from a more serious cause, and has an air of romantic tragedy. This had no grace of the kind. It was a poor shabby little squabble.”

“O, don’t call it so, Basil! I should like you to respect even a quarrel of ours more than that. It was tragical enough with me, for I didn’t see how it could ever be made up. I knew I couldn’t make the advances. I don’t think it is quite feminine to be the first to forgive, is it?”

“I’m sure I can’t say. Perhaps it would be rather unladylike.”

“Well, you see, dearest, what I am trying to get at is this: whether we shall love each other the more or the less for it. I think we shall get on all the better for a while, on account of it. But I should have said it was totally out of character it’s something you might have expected of a very young bridal couple; but after what we’ve been through, it seems too improbable.”

“Very well,” said Basil, who, having made all the concessions, could not enjoy the quarrel as she did, simply because it was theirs; “let’s behave as if it had never been.”

“O no, we can’t. To me, it’s as if we had just won each other.”

In fact it gave a wonderful zest and freshness to that ride round the mountain, and shed a beneficent glow upon the rest of their journey. The sun came out through the thin clouds, and lighted up the vast plain that swept away north and east, with the purple heights against the eastern sky. The royal mountain lifted its graceful mass beside them, and hid the city wholly from sight. Peasant-villages, in the shade of beautiful elms, dotted the plain in every direction, and at intervals crept up to the side of the road along which they drove. But these had been corrupted by a more ambitious architecture since Basil saw them last, and were no longer purely French in appearance. Then, nearly every house was a tannery in a modest way, and poetically published the fact by the display of a sheep’s tail over the front door, like a bush at a wine-shop. Now, if the tanneries still existed, the poetry of the sheeps’ tails had vanished from the portals. But our friends were consoled by meeting numbers of the peasants jolting home from market in the painted carts, which are doubtless of the pattern of the carts first built there two hundred years ago. They were grateful for the immortal old wooden, crooked and brown with the labor of the fields, who abounded in these vehicles; when a huge girl jumped from the tail of her cart, and showed the thick, clumsy ankles of a true peasant-maid, they could only sigh out their unspeakable satisfaction.

Gardens embowered and perfumed the low cottages, through the open doors of which they could see the exquisite neatness of the life within. One of the doors opened into a school-house, where they beheld with rapture the school-mistress, book in hand, and with a quaint cap on her gray head, and encircled by her flock of little boys and girls.

By and by it began to rain again; and now while their driver stopped to put up the top of the barouche, they entered a country church which had taken their fancy, and walked up the aisle with the steps that blend with silence rather than break it, while they heard only the soft whisper of the shower without. There was no one there but themselves. The urn of holy water seemed not to have been troubled that day, and no penitent knelt at the shrine, before which twinkled so faintly one lighted lamp. The white roof swelled into dim arches over their heads; the pale day like a visible hush stole through the painted windows; they heard themselves breathe as they crept from picture to picture.

A narrow door opened at the side of the high altar, and a slender young priest appeared in a long black robe, and with shaven head. He, too as he moved with noiseless feet, seemed a part of the silence; and when he approached with dreamy black eyes fixed upon them, and bowed courteously, it seemed impossible he should speak. But he spoke, the pale young priest, the dark-robed tradition, the tonsured vision of an age and a church that are passing.

“Do you understand French, monsieur?”

“A very little, monsieur.”

“A very little is more than my English,” he said, yet he politely went the round of the pictures with them, and gave them the names of the painters between his crossings at the different altars. At the high altar there was a very fair Crucifixion; before this the priest bent one knee. “Fine picture, fine altar, fine church,” he said in English. At last they stopped next the poor-box. As their coins clinked against those within, he smiled serenely upon the good heretics. Then he bowed, and, as if he had relapsed into the past, he vanished through the narrow door by which he had entered.

Basil and Isabel stood speechless a moment on the church steps. Then she cried,

“O, why didn’t something happen?”

“Ah, my dear! what could have been half so good as the nothing that did happen? Suppose we knew him to have taken orders because of a disappointment in love: how common it would have made him; everybody has been crossed in love once or twice.” He bade the driver take them back to the hotel. “This is the very bouquet of adventure why should we care for the grosser body? I dare say if we knew all about yonder pale young priest, we should not think him half so interesting as we do now.”

At dinner they spent the intervals of the courses in guessing the nationality of the different persons, and in wondering if the Canadians did not make it a matter of conscientious loyalty to out-English the English even in the matter of pale-ale and sherry, and in rotundity of person and freshness of face, just as they emulated them in the cut of their clothes and whiskers. Must they found even their health upon the health of the mother-country?

Our friends began to detect something servile in it all, and but that they were such amiable persons, the loyally perfect digestion of Montreal would have gone far to impair their own.

The loyalty, which had already appeared to them in the cathedral, suggested itself in many ways upon the street, when they went out after dinner to do that little shopping which Isabel had planned to do in Montreal. The booksellers’ windows were full of Canadian editions of our authors, and English copies of English works, instead of our pirated editions; the dry-goods stores were gay with fabrics in the London taste and garments of the London shape; here was the sign of a photographer to the Queen, there of a hatter to H. R. H. the Prince of Wales; a barber was “under the patronage of H. R. H. the Prince of Wales, H. E. the Duke of Cambridge, and the gentry of Montreal.” ‘Ich dien’ was the motto of a restaurateur; a hosier had gallantly labeled his stock in trade with ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’. Again they noted the English solidity of the civic edifices, and already they had observed in the foreign population a difference from that at home. They saw no German faces on the streets, and the Irish faces had not that truculence which they wear sometimes with us. They had not lost their native simpleness and kindliness; the Irishmen who drove the public carriages were as civil as our own Boston hackmen, and behaved as respectfully under the shadow of England here, as they world have done under it in Ireland. The problem which vexes us seems to have been solved pleasantly enough in Canada. Is it because the Celt cannot brook equality; and where he has not an established and recognized caste above him, longs to trample on those about him; and if he cannot be lowest, will at least be highest?

However, our friends did not suffer this or any other advantage of the colonial relation to divert them from the opinion to which their observation was gradually bringing them,—that its overweening loyalty placed a great country like Canada in a very silly attitude, the attitude of an overgrown, unmanly boy, clinging to the maternal skirts, and though spoilt and willful, without any character of his own. The constant reference of local hopes to that remote centre beyond seas, the test of success by the criterions of a necessarily different civilization, the social and intellectual dependence implied by traits that meet the most hurried glance in the Dominion, give an effect of meanness to the whole fabric. Doubtless it is a life of comfort, of peace, of irresponsibility they live there, but it lacks the grandeur which no sum of material prosperity can give; it is ignoble, like all voluntarily subordinate things. Somehow, one feels that it has no basis in the New World, and that till it is shaken loose from England it cannot have.

It would be a pity, however, if it should be parted from the parent country merely to be joined to an unsympathetic half-brother like ourselves and nothing, fortunately, seems to be further from the Canadian mind. There are some experiments no longer possible to us which could still be tried there to the advantage of civilization, and we were better two great nations side by side than a union of discordant traditions and ideas. But none the less does the American traveller, swelling with forgetfulness of the shabby despots who govern New York, and the swindling railroad kings whose word is law to the whole land, feel like saying to the hulling young giant beyond St. Lawrence and the Lakes, “Sever the apron-strings of allegiance, and try to be yourself whatever you are.”

Something of this sort Basil said, though of course not in apostrophic phrase, nor with Isabel’s entire concurrence, when he explained to her that it was to the colonial dependence of Canada she owed the ability to buy things so cheaply there.

The fact is that the ladies’ parlor at the hotel had been after dinner no better than a den of smugglers, in which the fair contrabandists had debated the best means of evading the laws of their country. At heart every man is a smuggler, and how much more every woman! She would have no scruple in ruining the silk and woolen interest throughout the United States. She is a free-trader by intuitive perception of right, and is limited in practice by nothing but fear of the statute. What could be taken into the States without detection, was the subject before that wicked conclave; and next, what it would pay to buy in Canada. It seemed that silk umbrellas were most eligible wares; and in the display of such purchases the parlor was given the appearance of a violent thunder-storm. Gloves it was not advisable to get; they were better at home, as were many kinds of fine woolen goods. But laces, which you could carry about you, were excellent; and so was any kind of silk. Could it be carried if simply cut, and not made up? There was a difference about this: the friend of one lady had taken home half a trunkful of cut silks; the friend of another had “run up the breadths” of one lone little silk skirt, and then lost it by the rapacity of the customs officers. It was pretty much luck, and whether the officers happened to be in good-humor or not. You must not try to take in anything out of season, however. One had heard of a Boston lady going home in July, who “had the furs taken off her back,” in that inclement month. Best get everything seasonable, and put it on at once. “And then, you know, if they ask you, you can say it’s been worn.” To this black wisdom came the combined knowledge of those miscreants. Basil could not repress a shudder at the innate depravity of the female heart. Here were virgins nurtured in the most spotless purity of life, here were virtuous mothers of families, here were venerable matrons, patterns in society and the church,—smugglers to a woman, and eager for any guilty subterfuge! He glanced at Isabel to see what effect the evil conversation had upon her. Her eyes sparkled; her cheeks glowed; all the woman was on fire for smuggling. He sighed heavily and went out with her to do the little shopping.

Shall I follow them upon their excursion? Shopping in Montreal is very much what it is in Boston or New York, I imagine, except that the clerks have a more honeyed sweetness of manners towards the ladies of our nation, and are surprisingly generous constructionists of our revenue laws. Isabel had profited by every word that she had heard in the ladies’ parlor, and she would not venture upon unsafe ground; but her tender eyes looked her unutterable longing to believe in the charming possibilities that the clerks suggested. She bemoaned herself before the corded silks, which there was no time to have made up; the piece-velvets and the linens smote her to the heart. But they also stimulated her invention, and she bought and bought of the made-up wares in real or fancied needs, till Basil represented that neither their purses nor their trunks could stand any more. “O, don’t be troubled about the trunks, dearest,” she cried, with that gayety which nothing but shopping can kindle in a woman’s heart; while he faltered on from counter to counter, wondering at which he should finally swoon from fatigue. At last, after she had declared repeatedly, “There, now, I am done,” she briskly led the way back to the hotel to pack up her purchases.

Basil parted with her at the door. He was a man of high principle himself, and that scene in the smugglers’ den, and his wife’s preparation for transgression, were revelations for which nothing could have consoled him but a paragon umbrella for five dollars, and an excellent business suit of Scotch goods for twenty.

When some hours later he sat with Isabel on the forward promenade of the steamboat for Quebec, and summed up the profits of their shopping, they were both in the kindliest mood towards the poor Canadians, who had built the admirable city before them.

For miles the water front of Montreal is superbly faced with quays and locks of solid stone masonry, and thus she is clean and beautiful to the very feet. Stately piles of architecture, instead of the foul old tumble-down warehouses that dishonor the waterside in most cities, rise from the broad wharves; behind these spring the twin towers of Notre Dame, and the steeples of the other churches above the city roofs.

“It’s noble, yes, it’s noble, after the best that Europe can show,” said Isabel, with enthusiasm; “and what a pleasant day we’ve had here! Doesn’t even our quarrel show ‘couleur de rose’ in this light?”

“One side of it,” answered Basil, dreamily, “but all the rest is black.”

“What do you mean, my dear?”

“Why, the Nelson Monument, with the sunset on it at the head of the street there.”

The affect was so fine that Isabel could not be angry with him for failing to heed what she had said, and she mused a moment with him.

“It seems rather far-fetched,” she said presently, “to erect a monument to Nelson in Montreal, doesn’t it? But then, it’s a very absurd monument when you’re near it,” she added, thoughtfully.

Basil did not answer at once, for gazing on this Nelson column in Jacques Cartier Square, his thoughts wandered away, not to the hero of the Nile, but to the doughty old Breton navigator, the first white man who ever set foot upon that shore, and who more than three hundred years ago explored the St. Lawrence as far as Montreal, and in the splendid autumn weather climbed to the top of her green height and named it. The scene that Jacques Cartier then beheld, like a mirage of the fast projected upon the present, floated before him, and he saw at the mountain’s foot the Indian city of Hochelaga, with its vast and populous lodges of bark, its encircling palisades, and its wide outlying fields of yellow maize. He heard with Jacques Cartier’s sense the blare of his followers’ trumpets down in the open square of the barbarous city, where the soldiers of many an Old-World fight, “with mustached lip and bearded chin, with arquebuse and glittering halberd, helmet, and cuirass,” moved among the plumed and painted savages; then he lifted Jacques Cartier’s eyes, and looked out upon the magnificent landscape. “East, west, and north, the mantling forest was over all, and the broad blue ribbon of the great river glistened amid a realm of verdure. Beyond, to the bounds of Mexico, stretched a leafy desert, and the vast hive of industry, the mighty battle-ground of late; centuries, lay sunk in savage torpor, wrapped in illimitable woods.”

A vaguer picture of Champlain, who, seeking a westward route to China and the East, some three quarters of a century later, had fixed the first trading-post at Montreal, and camped upon the spot where the convent of the Gray Nuns now stands, appeared before him, and vanished with all its fleets of fur-traders’ boats and hunters’ birch canoes, and the watch-fires of both; and then in the sweet light of the spring morning, he saw Maisonneuve leaping ashore upon the green meadows, that spread all gay with early flowers where Hochelaga once stood, and with the black-robed Jesuits, the high-born, delicately nurtured, and devoted nuns, and the steel-clad soldiers of his train, kneeling about the altar raised there in the wilderness, and silent amidst the silence of nature at the lifted Host.

He painted a semblance of all this for Isabel, using the colors of the historian who has made these scenes the beautiful inheritance of all dream era, and sketched the battles, the miracles, the sufferings, and the penances through which the pious colony was preserved and prospered, till they both grew impatient of modern Montreal, and would fain have had the ancient Villemarie back in its place.

“Think of Maisonneuve, dearest, climbing in midwinter to the top of the mountain there, under a heavy cross set with the bones of saints, and planting it on the summit, in fulfillment of a vow to do so if Villemarie were saved from the freshet; and then of Madame de la Peltrie romantically receiving the sacrament there, while all Villemarie fell down adoring! Ah, that was a picturesque people! When did ever a Boston governor climb to the top of Beacon hill in fulfillment of a vow? To be sure, we may yet see a New York governor doing something of the kind—if he can find a hill. But this ridiculous column to Nelson, who never had anything to do with Montreal,” he continued; “it really seems to me the perfect expression of snobbish colonial dependence and sentimentality, seeking always to identify itself with the mother-country, and ignoring the local past and its heroic figures. A column to Nelson in Jacques Cartier Square, on the ground that was trodden by Champlain, and won for its present masters by the death of Wolfe.”

The boat departed on her trip to Quebec. During supper they were served by French waiters, who, without apparent English of their own, miraculously understood that of the passengers, except in the case of the furious gentleman who wanted English breakfast tea; to so much English as that their inspiration did not reach, and they forced him to compromise on coffee. It was a French boat, owned by a French company, and seemed to be officered by Frenchmen throughout; certainly, as our tourists in the joy of their good appetites affirmed, the cook was of that culinarily delightful nation.

The boat was almost as large as those of the Hudson, but it was not so lavishly splendid, though it had everything that could minister to the comfort and self-respect of the passengers. These were of all nations, but chiefly Americans, with some French Canadians. The former gathered on the forward promenade, enjoying what little of the landscape the growing night left visible, and the latter made society after their manner in the saloon. They were plain-looking men and women, mostly, and provincial, it was evident, to their inmost hearts; provincial in origin, provincial by inheritance, by all their circumstances, social and political. Their relation with France was not a proud one, but it was not like submersion by the slip-slop of English colonial loyalty; yet they seem to be troubled by no memories of their hundred years’ dominion of the land that they rescued from, the wilderness, and that was wrested from them by war. It is a strange fate for any people thus to have been cut off from the parent-country, and abandoned to whatever destiny their conquerors chose to reserve for them; and if each of the race wore the sadness and strangeness of that fate in his countenance it would not be wonderful. Perhaps it is wonderful that none of them shows anything of the kind. In their desertion they have multiplied and prospered; they may have a national grief, but they hide it well; and probably they have none.

Later, one of them appeared to Isabel in the person of the pale, slender young ecclesiastic who had shown her and Basil the pictures in the country church. She was confessing to the priest, and she was not at all surprised to find that he was Basil in a suit of medieval armor. He had an immense cross on his shoulder.

“To get this cross to the top of the mountain,” thought Isabel, “we must have two horses. Basil,” she added, aloud, “we must have two horses!”

“Ten, if you like, my dear,” answered his voice, cheerfully, “though I think we’d better ride up in the omnibus.”

She opened her eyes, and saw him smiling.

“We’re in sight of Quebec,” he said. “Come out as soon as you can,—come out into the seventeenth century.”

Chapter IX • Quebec • 11,900 Words

Isabel hurried out upon the forward promenade, where all the other passengers seemed to be assembled, and beheld a vast bulk of gray and purple rock, swelling two hundred feet up from the mists of the river, and taking the early morning light warm upon its face and crown. Black-hulked, red-illumined Liverpool steamers, gay river-craft and ships of every sail and flag, filled the stream athwart which the ferries sped their swift traffic-laden shuttles; a lower town hung to the foot of the rock, and crept, populous and picturesque, up its sides; from the massive citadel on its crest flew the red banner of Saint George, and along its brow swept the gray wall of the famous, heroic, beautiful city, overtopped by many a gleaming spire and antique roof.

Slowly out of our work-day, business-suited, modern world the vessel steamed up to this city of an olden time and another ideal,—to her who was a lady from the first, devout and proud and strong, and who still, after two hundred and fifty years, keeps perfect the image and memory of the feudal past from which she sprung. Upon her height she sits unique; and when you say Quebec, having once beheld her, you invoke a sense of medieval strangeness and of beauty which the name of no other city could intensify.

As they drew near the steamboat wharf they saw, swarming over a broad square, a market beside which the Bonsecours Market would have shown as common as the Quincy, and up the odd wooden-sidewalked street stretched an aisle of carriages and those high swung calashes, which are to Quebec what the gondolas are to Venice. But the hand of destiny was upon our tourists, and they rode up town in an omnibus. They were going to the dear old Hotel Musty in Street, wanting which Quebec is not to be thought of without a pang. It is now closed, and Prescott Gate, through which they drove into the Upper Town, has been demolished since the summer of last year. Swiftly whirled along the steep winding road, by those Quebec horses which expect to gallop up hill whatever they do going down, they turned a corner of the towering weed-grown rock, and shot in under the low arch of the gate, pierced with smaller doorways for the foot-passengers. The gloomy masonry dripped with damp, the doors were thickly studded with heavy iron spikes; old cannon, thrust endwise into the ground at the sides of the gate, protected it against passing wheels. Why did not some semi-forbidding commissary of police, struggling hard to overcome his native politeness, appear and demand their passports? The illusion was otherwise perfect, and it needed but this touch. How often in the adored Old World, which we so love and disapprove, had they driven in through such gates at that morning hour! On what perverse pretext, then, was it not some ancient town of Normandy?

“Put a few enterprising Americans in here, and they’d soon rattle this old wall down and let in a little fresh air!” said a patriotic voice at Isabel’s elbow, and continued to find fault with the narrow irregular streets, the huddling gables, the quaint roofs, through which and under which they drove on to the hotel.

As they dashed into a broad open square, “Here is the French Cathedral; there is the Upper Town Market; yonder are the Jesuit Barracks!” cried Basil; and they had a passing glimpse of gray stone towers at one side of the square, and a low, massive yellow building at the other, and, between the two, long ranks of carts, and fruit and vegetable stands, protected by canvas awnings and broad umbrellas. Then they dashed round the corner of a street, and drew up before the hotel door. The low ceilings, the thick walls, the clumsy wood-work, the wandering corridors, gave the hotel all the desired character of age, and its slovenly state bestowed an additional charm. In another place they might have demanded neatness, but in Quebec they would almost have resented it. By a chance they had the best room in the house, but they held it only till certain people who had engaged it by telegraph should arrive in the hourly expected steamer from Liverpool; and, moreover, the best room at Hotel Musty was consolingly bad. The house was very full, and the Ellisons (who had come on with them from Montreal) were bestowed in less state only on like conditions.

The travellers all met at breakfast, which was admirably cooked, and well served, with the attendance of those swarms of flies which infest Quebec, and especially infested the old Musty House, in summer. It had, of course, the attraction of broiled salmon, upon which the traveller breakfasts every day as long as he remains in Lower Canada; and it represented the abundance of wild berries in the Quebec market; and it was otherwise a breakfast worthy of the appetites that honored it.

There were not many other Americans besides themselves at this hotel, which seemed, indeed, to be kept open to oblige such travellers as had been there before, and could not persuade themselves to try the new Hotel St. Louis, whither the vastly greater number resorted. Most of the faces our tourists saw were English or English-Canadian, and the young people from Omaha; who had got here by some chance, were scarcely in harmony with the place. They appeared to be a bridal party, but which of the two sisters, in buff linen ‘clad from head to foot’ was the bride, never became known. Both were equally free with the husband, and he was impartially fond of both: it was quite a family affair.

For a moment Isabel harbored the desire to see the city in company with Miss Ellison; but it was only a passing weakness. She remembered directly the coolness between friends which she had seen caused by objects of interest in Europe, and she wisely deferred a more intimate acquaintance till it could have a purely social basis. After all, nothing is so tiresome as continual exchange of sympathy or so apt to end in mutual dislike,—except gratitude. So the ladies parted friends till dinner, and drove off in separate carriages.

As in other show cities, there is a routine at Quebec for travellers who come on Saturday and go on Monday, and few depart from it. Our friends necessarily, therefore, drove first to the citadel. It was raining one of those cold rains by which the scarce-banished winter reminds the Canadian fields of his nearness even in midsummer, though between the bitter showers the air was sultry and close; and it was just the light in which to see the grim strength of the fortress next strongest to Gibraltar in the world. They passed a heavy iron gateway, and up through a winding lane of masonry to the gate of the citadel, where they were delivered into the care of Private Joseph Drakes, who was to show them such parts of the place as are open to curiosity. But, a citadel which has never stood a siege, or been threatened by any danger more serious than Fenianism, soon becomes, however strong, but a dull piece of masonry to the civilian; and our tourists more rejoiced in the crumbling fragment of the old French wall which the English destroyed than in all they had built; and they valued the latter work chiefly for the glorious prospects of the St. Lawrence and its mighty valleys which it commanded. Advanced into the centre of an amphitheatre inconceivably vast, that enormous beak of rock overlooks the narrow angle of the river, and then, in every direction, immeasurable stretches of gardened vale, and wooded upland, till all melts into the purple of the encircling mountains. Far and near are lovely white villages nestling under elms, in the heart of fields and meadows; and everywhere the long, narrow, accurately divided farms stretch downward to the river-shores. The best roads on the continent make this beauty and richness accessible; each little village boasts some natural wonder in stream, or lake, or cataract: and this landscape, magnificent beyond any in eastern America, is historical and interesting beyond all others. Hither came Jacques Cartier three hundred and fifty years ago, and wintered on the low point there by the St. Charles; here, nearly a century after, but still fourteen years before the landing at Plymouth, Champlain founded the missionary city of Quebec; round this rocky beak came sailing the half-piratical armament of the Calvinist Kirks in 1629, and seized Quebec in the interest of the English, holding it three years; in the Lower Town, yonder, first landed the coldly welcomed Jesuits, who came with the returning French and made Quebec forever eloquent of their zeal, their guile, their heroism; at the foot of this rock lay the fleet of Sir William Phipps, governor of Massachusetts, and vainly assailed it in 1698; in 1759 came Wolfe and embattled all the region, on river and land, till at last the bravely defended city fell into his dying hand on the Plains of Abraham; here Montgomery laid down his life at the head of the boldest and most hopeless effort of our War of Independence.

Private Joseph Drakes, with the generosity of an enemy expecting drink-money, pointed out the sign, board on the face of the crag commemorating ‘Montgomery’s death’; and then showed them the officers’ quarters and those of the common soldiers, not far from which was a line of hang-dog fellows drawn up to receive sentence for divers small misdemeanors, from an officer whose blond whiskers drooped Dundrearily from his fresh English cheeks. There was that immense difference between him and the men in physical grandeur and beauty, which is so notable in the aristocratically ordered military services of Europe, and which makes the rank seem of another race from the file. Private Drakes saluted his superior, and visibly deteriorated in his presence, though his breast was covered with medals, and he had fought England’s battles in every part of the world. It was a gross injustice, the triumph of a thousand years of wrong; and it was touching to have Private Drakes say that he expected in three months to begin life for himself, after twenty years’ service of the Queen; and did they think he could get anything to do in the States? He scarcely knew what he was fit for, but he thought—to so little in him came the victories he had helped to win in the Crimea, in China, and in India—that he could take care of a gentleman’s horse and work about his place. He looked inquiringly at Basil, as if he might be a gentleman with a horse to be taken care of and a place to be worked about, and made him regret that he was not a man of substance enough to provide for Private Drakes and Mrs. Drakes and the brood of Ducklings, who had been shown to him stowed away in one of those cavernous rooms in the earthworks where the married soldiers have their quarters. His regret enriched the reward of Private Drakes’ service,—which perhaps answered one of Private Drakes’ purposes, if not his chief aim. He promised to come to the States upon the pressing advice of Isabel, who, speaking from her own large experience, declared that everybody got on there,—and he bade our friends an affectionate farewell as they drove away to the Plains of Abraham.

The fashionable suburban cottages and places of Quebec are on the St. Louis Road leading northward to the old battle-ground and beyond it; but, these face chiefly towards the rivers St. Lawrence and St. Charles, and lofty hedges and shrubbery hide them in an English seclusion from the highway; so that the visitor may uninterruptedly meditate whatever emotion he will for the scene of Wolfe’s death as he rides along. His loftiest emotion will want the noble height of that heroic soul, who must always stand forth in history a figure of beautiful and singular distinction, admirable alike for the sensibility and daring, the poetic pensiveness, and the martial ardor that mingled in him and taxed his feeble frame with tasks greater than it could bear. The whole story of the capture of Quebec is full of romantic splendor and pathos. Her fall was a triumph for all the English-speaking race, and to us Americans, long scourged by the cruel Indian wars plotted within her walls or sustained by her strength, such a blessing as was hailed with ringing bells and blazing bonfires throughout the Colonies; yet now we cannot think without pity of the hopes extinguished and the labors brought to naught in her overthrow. That strange colony of priests and soldiers, of martyrs and heroes, of which she was the capital, willing to perish for an allegiance to which the mother-country was indifferent, and fighting against the armies with which England was prepared to outnumber the whole Canadian population, is a magnificent spectacle; and Montcalm laying down his life to lose Quebec is not less affecting than Wolfe dying to win her. The heart opens towards the soldier who recited, on the eve of his costly victory, the “Elegy in a Country Churchyard,” which he would “rather have written than beat the French to-morrow;” but it aches for the defeated general, who, hurt to death, answered, when told how brief his time was, “So much the better; then I shall not live to see the surrender of Quebec.”

In the city for which they perished their fame has never been divided. The English have shown themselves very generous victors; perhaps nothing could be alleged against them, but that they were victors. A shaft common to Wolfe and Montcalm celebrates them both in the Governor’s Garden; and in the Chapel of the Ursuline Convent a tablet is placed, where Montcalm died, by the same conquerors who raised to Wolfe’s memory the column on the battle-field.

A dismal prison covers the ground where the hero fell, and the monument stands on the spot where Wolfe breathed his last, on ground lower than the rest of the field; the friendly hollow that sheltered him from the fire of the French dwarfs his monument; yet it is sufficient, and the simple inscription, “Here died Wolfe victorious,” gives it a dignity which many cubits of added stature could not bestow. Another of those bitter showers, which had interspersed the morning’s sunshine, drove suddenly across the open plain, and our tourists comfortably sentimentalized the scene behind the close-drawn curtains of their carriage. Here a whole empire had been lost and won, Basil reminded Isabel; and she said, “Only think of it!” and looked to a wandering fold of her skirt, upon which the rain beat through a rent of the curtain.

Do I pitch the pipe too low? We poor honest men are at a sad disadvantage; and now and then I am minded to give a loose to fancy, and attribute something really grand and fine to my people, in order to make them worthier the reader’s respected acquaintance. But again, I forbid myself in a higher interest; and I am afraid that even if I were less virtuous, I could not exalt their mood upon a battle-field; for of all things of the past a battle is the least conceivable. I have heard men who fought in many battles say that the recollection was like a dream to them; and what can the merely civilian imagination do on the Plains of Abraham, with the fact that there, more than a century ago, certain thousands of Frenchmen marched out, on a bright September morning, to kill and maim as many Englishmen? This ground, so green and oft with grass beneath the feet, was it once torn with shot and soaked with the blood of men? Did they lie here in ranks and heaps, the miserable slain, for whom tender hearts away yonder over the sea were to ache and break? Did the wretches that fell wounded stretch themselves here, and writhe beneath the feet of friend and foe, or crawl array for shelter into little hollows, and behind gushes and fallen trees! Did he, whose soul was so full of noble and sublime impulses, die here, shot through like some ravening beast? The loathsome carnage, the shrieks, the hellish din of arms, the cries of victory,—I vainly strive to conjure up some image of it all now; and God be thanked, horrible spectre! that, fill the world with sorrow as thou wilt, thou still remainest incredible in its moments of sanity and peace. Least credible art thou on the old battle-fields, where the mother of the race denies thee with breeze and sun and leaf and bird, and every blade of grass! The red stain in Basil’s thought yielded to the rain sweeping across the pasture-land from which it had long since faded, and the words on the monument, “Here died Wolfe victorious,” did not proclaim his bloody triumph over the French, but his self-conquest, his victory over fear and pain and love of life. Alas! when shall the poor, blind, stupid world honor those who renounce self in the joy of their kind, equally with those who devote themselves through the anguish and loss of thousands? So old a world and groping still!

The tourists were better fitted for the next occasion of sentiment, which was at the Hotel Dieu whither they went after returning from the battlefield. It took all the mal-address of which travellers are masters to secure admittance, and it was not till they had rung various wrong bells, and misunderstood many soft nun-voices speaking French through grated doors, and set divers sympathetic spectators doing ineffectual services, that they at last found the proper entrance, and were answered in English that the porter would ask if they might see the chapel. They hoped to find there the skull of Brebeuf, one of those Jesuit martyrs who perished long ago for the conversion of a race that has perished, and whose relics they had come, fresh from their reading of Parkman, with some vague and patronizing intention to revere. An elderly sister with a pale, kind face led them through a ward of the hospital into the chapel, which they found in the expected taste, and exquisitely neat and cool, but lacking the martyr’s skull. They asked if it were not to be seen. “Ah, yes, poor Pere Brebeuf!” sighed the gentle sister, with the tone and manner of having lost him yesterday; “we had it down only last week, showing it to some Jesuit fathers; but it’s in the convent now, and isn’t to be seen.” And there mingled apparently in her regret for Pere Brebeuf a confusing sense of his actual state as a portable piece of furniture. She would not let them praise the chapel. It was very clean, yes, but there was nothing to see in it. She deprecated their compliments with many shrugs, but she was pleased; for when we renounce the pomps and vanities of this world, we are pretty sure to find them in some other,—if we are women. She, good and pure soul, whose whole life was given to self-denying toil, had yet something angelically coquettish in her manner, a spiritual-worldliness which was the clarified likeness of this-worldliness. O, had they seen the Hotel Dieu at Montreal? Then (with a vivacious wave of the hands) they would not care to look at this, which by comparison was nothing. Yet she invited them to go through the wards if they would, and was clearly proud to have them see the wonderful cleanness and comfort of the place. There were not many patients, but here and there a wan or fevered face looked at them from its pillow, or a weak form drooped beside a bed, or a group of convalescents softly talked together. They came presently to the last hall, at the end of which sat another nun, beside a window that gave a view of the busy port, and beyond it the landscape of village-lit plain and forest-darkened height. On a table at her elbow stood a rose-tree, on which hung two only pale tea-roses, so fair, so perfect, that Isabel cried out in wonder and praise. Ere she could prevent it, the nun, to whom there had been some sort of presentation, gathered one of the roses, and with a shy grace offered it to Isabel, who shrank back a little as from too costly a gift. “Take it,” said the first nun, with her pretty French accent; while the other, who spoke no English at all, beamed a placid smile; and Isabel took it. The flower, lying light in her palm, exhaled a delicate odor, and a thrill of exquisite compassion for it trembled through her heart, as if it had been the white, cloistered life of the silent nun: with its pallid loveliness, it was as a flower that had taken the veil. It could never have uttered the burning passion of a lover for his mistress; the nightingale could have found no thorn on it to press his aching poet’s heart against; but sick and weary eyes had dwelt gratefully upon it; at most it might have expressed, like a prayer, the nun’s stainless love of some favorite saint in paradise. Cold, and pale, and sweet,—was it indeed only a flower, this cloistered rose of the Hotel Dieu?

“Breathe it,” said the gentle Gray Sister; “sometimes the air of the hospital offends. Not us, no; we are used; but you come from the outside.” And she gave her rose for this humble use as lovingly as she devoted herself to her lowly taxes.

“It is very little to see,” she said at the end; “but if you are pleased, I am very glad. Goodby, good-by!” She stood with her arms folded, and watched them out of sight with her kind, coquettish little smile, and then the mute, blank life of the nun resumed her.

From Hotel Dieu to Hotel Musty it was but a step; both were in the same street; but our friends fancied themselves to have come an immense distance when they sat down at an early dinner, amidst the clash of crockery and cutlery, and looked round upon all the profane travelling world assembled. Their regard presently fixed upon one company which monopolized a whole table, and were defined from the other diners by peculiarities as marked as those of the Soeurs Grises themselves. There were only two men among some eight or ten women; one of the former had a bad amiable face, with eyes full of a merry deviltry; the other, clean shaven, and dark, was demure and silent as a priest. The ladies were of various types, but of one effect, with large rolling eyes, and faces that somehow regarded the beholder as from a distance, and with an impartial feeling for him as for an element of publicity. One of them, who caressed a lapdog with one hand while she served herself with the other, was, as she seemed to believe, a blonde; she had pale blue eyes, and her hair was cut in front so as to cover her forehead with a straggling sandy-colored fringe. She had an English look, and three or four others, with dark complexion and black, unsteady eyes, and various abandon of back-hair, looked like Cockney houris of Jewish blood; while two of the lovely company were clearly of our own nation, as was the young man with the reckless laughing face. The ladies were dressed and jeweled with a kind of broad effectiveness, which was to the ordinary style of society what scene-painting is to painting, and might have borne close inspection no better. They seemed the best-humored people in the world, and on the kindliest terms with each other. The waiters shared their pleasant mood, and served them affectionately, and were now and then invited to join in the gay talk which babbled on over dislocated aspirates, and filled the air with a sentiment of vagabond enjoyment, of the romantic freedom of violated convention, of something Gil Blas-like, almost picaresque.

If they had needed explanation it would have been given by the announcement in the office of the hotel that a troupe of British blondes was then appearing in Quebec for one week only.

After dinner they took possession of the parlor, and while one strummed fitfully upon the ailing hotel piano, the rest talked, and talked shop, of course, as all of us do when several of a trade are got together.

“W’at,” said the eldest of the dark-faced, black haired British blondes of Jewish race,—“w’at are we going to give at Montrehal?”

“We’re going to give ‘Pygmalion,’ at Montrehal,” answered the British blonde of American birth, good-humoredly burlesquing the erring h of her sister.

“But we cahn’t, you know,” said the lady with the fringed forehead; “Hagnes is gone on to New York, and there’s nobody to do Wenus.”

“Yes, you know,” demanded the first speaker, “oo’s to do Wenus?

“Bella’s to do Wenus,” said a third.

There was an outcry at this, and “‘Ow ever would she get herself up for ‘Venus?” and “W’at a guy she’ll look!” and “Nonsense! Bella’s too ‘eavy for Venus!” came from different lively critics; and the debate threatened to become too intimate for the public ear, when one of their gentlemen came in and said, “Charley don’t seem so well this afternoon.” On this the chorus changed its note, and at the proposal, “Poor Charley, let’s go and cheer ‘im hop a bit,” the whole good-tempered company trooped out of the parlor together.

Our tourists meant to give the rest of the afternoon to that sort of aimless wandering to and fro about the streets which seizes a foreign city unawares, and best develops its charm of strangeness. So they went out and took their fill of Quebec with appetites keen through long fasting from the quaint and old, and only sharpened by Montreal, and impartially rejoiced in the crooked up-and-down hill streets; the thoroughly French domestic architecture of a place that thus denied having been English for a hundred years; the porte-cocheres beside every house; the French names upon the doors, and the oddity of the bellpulls; the rough-paved, rattling streets; the shining roofs of tin, and the universal dormer-windows; the littleness of the private houses, and the greatness of the high-walled and garden-girdled convents; the breadths of weather-stained city wall, and the shaggy cliff beneath; the batteries, with their guns peacefully staring through loop-holes of masonry, and the red-coated sergeants flirting with nursery-maids upon the carriages, while the children tumbled about over the pyramids of shot and shell; the sloping market-place before the cathedral, where yet some remnant of the morning’s traffic lingered under canvas canopies, and where Isabel bought a bouquet of marigolds and asters of an old woman peasant enough to have sold it in any market-place of Europe; the small, dark shops beyond the quarter invaded by English retail trade; the movement of all the strange figures of cleric and lay and military life; the sound of a foreign speech prevailing over the English; the encounter of other tourists, the passage back and forth through the different city gates; the public wooden stairways, dropping flight after flight from the Upper to the Lower Town; the bustle of the port, with its commerce and shipping and seafaring life huddled close in under the hill; the many desolate streets of the Lower Town, as black and ruinous as the last great fire left them; and the marshy meadows beyond, memorable of Recollets and Jesuits, of Cartier and Montcalm.

They went to the chapel of the Seminary at Laval University, and admired the Le Brun, and the other paintings of less merit, but equal interest through their suggestion of a whole dim religious world of paintings; and then they spent half an hour in the cathedral, not so much in looking at the Crucifixion by Vandyck which is there, as in reveling amid the familiar rococo splendors of the temple. Every swaggering statue of a saint, every rope-dancing angel, every cherub of those that on the carven and gilded clouds above the high altar float—

“Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,”—

was precious to them; the sacristan dusting the sacred properties with a feather brush, and giving each shrine a business-like nod as he passed, was as a long-lost brother; they had hearts of aggressive tenderness for the young girls and old women who stepped in for a half-hour’s devotion, and for the men with bourgeois or peasant faces, who stole a moment from affairs and crops, and gave it to the saints. There was nothing in the place that need remind them of America, and its taste was exactly that of a thousand other churches of the eighteenth century. They could easily have believed themselves in the farthest Catholic South, but for the two great porcelain stoves that stood on either side of the nave near the entrance, and that too vividly reminded them of the possibility of cold.

In fact, Quebec is a little painful in this and other confusions of the South and North, and one never quite reconciles himself to them. The Frenchmen, who expected to find there the climate of their native land, and ripen her wines in as kindly a sun, have perpetuated the image of home in so many things, that it goes to the heart with a painful emotion to find the sad, oblique light of the North upon them. As you ponder some characteristic aspect of Quebec,—a bit of street with heavy stone houses opening upon a stretch of the city wall, with a Lombardy poplar rising slim against it,—you say, to your satisfied soul, “Yes, it is the real thing!” and then all at once a sense of that Northern sky strikes in upon you, and makes the reality a mere picture. The sky is blue, the sun is often fiercely hot; you could not perhaps prove that the pathetic radiance is not an efflux of your own consciousness that summer is but hanging over the land, briefly poising on wings which flit at the first dash of rain, and will soon vanish in long retreat before the snow. But somehow, from without or from within, that light of the North is there.

It lay saddest, our travellers thought, upon the little circular garden near Durham Terrace, where every brightness of fall flowers abounded,—marigold, coxcomb, snap-dragon, dahlia, hollyhock, and sunflower. It was a substantial and hardy efflorescence, and they fancied that fainter-hearted plants would have pined away in that garden, where the little fountain, leaping up into the joyless light, fell back again with a musical shiver. The consciousness of this latent cold, of winter only held in abeyance by the bright sun, was not deeper even in the once magnificent, now neglected Governor’s Garden, where there was actually a rawness in the late afternoon air, and whither they were strolling for the view from its height, and to pay their duty to the obelisk raised there to the common fame of Wolfe and Montcalm. The sounding Latin inscription celebrates the royal governor-general who erected it almost as much as the heroes to whom it was raised; but these spectators did not begrudge the space given to his praise, for so fine a thought merited praise. It enforced again the idea of a kind posthumous friendship between Wolfe and Montcalm, which gives their memory its rare distinction, and unites them, who fell in fight against each other, as closely as if they had both died for the same cause.

Some lasting dignity seems to linger about the city that has once been a capital; and this odor of fallen nobility belongs to Quebec, which was a capital in the European sense, with all the advantages of a small vice-regal court, and its social and political intrigues, in the French times. Under the English, for a hundred years it was the centre of Colonial civilization and refinement, with a governor-general’s residence and a brilliant, easy, and delightful society, to which the large garrison of former days gave gayety and romance. The honors of a capital, first shared with Montreal and Toronto, now rest with half-savage Ottawa; and the garrison has dwindled to a regiment of rifles, whose presence would hardly be known, but for the natty sergeants lounging, stick in hand, about the streets and courting the nurse-maids. But in the days of old there were scenes of carnival pleasure in the Governor’s Garden, and there the garrison band still plays once a week, when it is filled by the fashion and beauty of Quebec, and some semblance of the past is recalled. It is otherwise a lonesome, indifferently tended place, and on this afternoon there was no one there but a few loafing young fellows of low degree, French and English, and children that played screaming from seat to seat and path to path and over the too-heavily shaded grass. In spite of a conspicuous warning that any dog entering the garden would be destroyed, the place was thronged with dogs unmolested and apparently in no danger of the threatened doom. The seal of a disagreeable desolation was given in the legend rudely carved upon one of the benches, “Success to the Irish Republic!”

The morning of the next day our tourists gave to hearing mass at the French cathedral, which was not different, to their heretical senses, from any other mass, except that the ceremony was performed with a very full clerical force, and was attended by an uncommonly devout congregation. With Europe constantly in their minds, they were bewildered to find the worshippers not chiefly old and young women, but men also of all ages and of every degree, from the neat peasant in his Sabbath-day best to the modish young Quebecker, who spread his handkerchief on the floor to save his pantaloons during supplication. There was fashion and education in large degree among the men, and there was in all a pious attention to the function in poetical keeping with the origin and history of a city which the zeal of the Church had founded.

A magnificent beadle, clothed in a gold-laced coat aid bearing a silver staff, bowed to them when they entered, and, leading them to a pew, punched up a kneeling peasant, who mutely resumed his prayers in the aisle outside, while they took his place. It appeared to Isabel very unjust that their curiosity should displace his religion; but she consoled herself by making Basil give a shilling to the man who, preceded by the shining beadle, came round to take up a collection. The peasant could have given nothing but copper, and she felt that this restored the lost balance of righteousness in their favor. There was a sermon, very sweetly and gracefully delivered by a young priest of singular beauty, even among clergy whose good looks are so notable as those of Quebec; and then they followed the orderly crowd of worshippers out, and left the cathedral to the sacristan and the odor of incense.

They thought the type of French-Canadian better here than at Montreal, and they particularly noticed the greater number of pretty young girls. All classes were well dressed; for though the best dressed could not be called stylish according to the American standard, as Isabel decided, and had only a provincial gentility, the poorest wore garments that were clean and whole. Everybody, too, was going to have a hot Sunday dinner, if there was any truth in the odors that steamed out of every door and window; and this dinner was to be abundantly garnished with onions, for the dullest nose could not err concerning that savor.

Numbers of tourists, of a nationality that showed itself superior to every distinction of race, were strolling vaguely and not always quite happily about; but they made no impression on the proper local character, and the air throughout the morning was full of the sentiment of Sunday in a Catholic city. There was the apparently meaningless jangling of bells, with profound hushes between, and then more jubilant jangling, and then deeper silence; there was the devout trooping of the crowds to the churches; and there was the beginning of the long afternoon’s lounging and amusement with which the people of that faith reward their morning’s devotion. Little stands for the sale of knotty apples and choke-cherries and cakes and cider sprang magically into existence after service, and people were already eating and drinking at them. The carriage-drivers resumed their chase of the tourists, and the unvoiceful stir of the new week had begun again. Quebec, in fact, is but a pantomimic reproduction of France; it is as if two centuries in a new land, amidst the primeval silences of nature and the long hush of the Northern winters, had stilled the tongues of the lively folk and made them taciturn as we of a graver race. They have kept the ancestral vivacity of manner; the elegance of the shrug is intact; the talking hands take part in dialogue; the agitated person will have its share of expression. But the loud and eager tone is wanting, and their dumb show mystifies the beholder almost as much as the Southern architecture under the slanting Northern sun. It is not America; if it is not France, what is it?

Of the many beautiful things to see in the neighborhood of Quebec, our wedding-journeyers were in doubt on which to bestow their one precious afternoon. Should it be Lorette, with its cataract and its remnant of bleached and fading Hurons, or the Isle of Orleans with its fertile farms and its primitive peasant life, or Montmorenci, with the unrivaled fall and the long drive through the beautiful village of Beauport? Isabel chose the last, because Basil had been there before, and it had to it the poetry of the wasted years in which she did not know him. She had possessed herself of the journal of his early travels, among the other portions and parcels recoverable from the dreadful past, and from time to time on this journey she had read him passages out of it, with mingled sentiment and irony, and, whether she was mocking or admiring, equally to his confusion. Now, as they smoothly bowled away from the city, she made him listen to what he had written of the same excursion long ago.

It was, to be sure, a sad farrago of sentiment about the village and the rural sights, and especially a girl tossing hay in the field. Yet it had touches of nature and reality, and Basil could not utterly despise himself for having written it. “Yes,” he said, “life was then a thing to be put into pretty periods; now it’s something that has risks and averages, and may be insured.”

There was regret, fancied or expressed, in his tone, that made her sigh, “Ah! if I’d only had a little more money, you might have devoted yourself to literature;” for she was a true Bostonian in her honor of our poor craft.

“O, you’re not greatly to blame,” answered her husband, “and I forgive you the little wrong you’ve done me. I was quits with the Muse, at any rate, you know, before we were married; and I’m very well satisfied to be going back to my applications and policies to-morrow.”

To-morrow? The word struck cold upon her. Then their wedding journey would begin to end tomorrow! So it would, she owned with another sigh; and yet it seemed impossible.

“There, ma’am,” said the driver, rising from his seat and facing round, while he pointed with his whip towards Quebec, “that’s what we call the Silver City.”

They looked back with him at the city, whose thousands of tinned roofs, rising one above the other from the water’s edge to the citadel, were all a splendor of argent light in the afternoon sun. It was indeed as if some magic had clothed that huge rock, base and steepy flank and crest, with a silver city. They gazed upon the marvel with cries of joy that satisfied the driver’s utmost pride in it, and Isabel said, “To live there, there in that Silver City, in perpetual sojourn! To be always going to go on a morrow that never came! To be forever within one day of the end of a wedding journey that never ended!”

From far down the river by which they rode came the sound of a cannon, breaking the Sabbath repose of the air. “That’s the gun of the Liverpool steamer, just coming in,” said the driver.

“O,” cried Isabel, “I’m thankful we’re only to stay one night more, for now we shall be turned out of our nice room by those people who telegraphed for it!”

There is a continuous village along the St. Lawrence from Quebec, almost to Montmorenci; and they met crowds of villagers coming from the church as they passed through Beauport. But Basil was dismayed at the change that had befallen them. They had their Sunday’s best on, and the women, instead of wearing the peasant costume in which he had first seen them, were now dressed as if out of “Harper’s Bazar” of the year before. He anxiously asked the driver if the broad straw hats and the bright sacks and kirtles were no more. “O, you’d see them on weekdays, sir,” was the answer, “but they’re not so plenty any time as they used to be.” He opened his store of facts about the habitans, whom he praised for every virtue,—for thrift, for sobriety, for neatness, for amiability; and his words ought to have had the greater weight, because he was of the Irish race, between which and the Canadians there is no kindness lost. But the looks of the passers-by corroborated him, and as for the little houses, open-doored beside the way, with the pleasant faces at window and portal, they were miracles of picturesqueness and cleanliness. From each the owner’s slim domain, narrowing at every successive division among the abundant generations, runs back to hill or river in well-defined lines, and beside the cottage is a garden of pot-herbs, bordered with a flame of bright autumn flowers; somewhere in decent seclusion grunts the fattening pig, which is to enrich all those peas and onions for the winter’s broth; there is a cheerfulness of poultry about the barns; I dare be sworn there is always a small girl driving a flock of decorous ducks down the middle of the street; and of the priest with a book under his arm, passing a way-side shrine, what possible doubt? The houses, which are of one model, are built by the peasants themselves with the stone which their land yields more abundantly than any other crop, and are furnished with galleries and balconies to catch every ray of the fleeting summer, and perhaps to remember the long-lost ancestral summers of Normandy. At every moment, in passing through this ideally neat and pretty village, our tourists must think of the lovely poem of which all French Canada seems but a reminiscence and illustration. It was Grand Pre, not Beauport; and they paid an eager homage to the beautiful genius which has touched those simple village aspects with an undying charm, and which, whatever the land’s political allegiance, is there perpetual Seigneur.

The village, stretching along the broad interval of the St. Lawrence, grows sparser as you draw near the Falls of Montmorenci, and presently you drive past the grove shutting from the road the country-house in which the Duke of Kent spent some merry days of his jovial youth, and come in sight of two lofty towers of stone,—monuments and witnesses of the tragedy of Montmorenci.

Once a suspension-bridge, built sorely against the will of the neighboring habitans, hung from these towers high over the long plunge of the cataract. But one morning of the fatal spring after the first winter’s frost had tried the hold of the cable on the rocks, an old peasant and his wife with their little grandson set out in their cart to pass the bridge. As they drew near the middle the anchoring wires suddenly lost their grip upon the shore, and whirled into the air; the bridge crashed under the hapless passengers and they were launched from its height, upon the verge of the fall and thence plunged, two hundred and fifty feet, into the ruin of the abyss.

The habitans rebuilt their bridge of wood upon low stone piers, so far up the river from the cataract that whoever fell from it would yet have many a chance for life; and it would have been perilous to offer to replace the fallen structure, which, in the belief of faithful Christians, clearly belonged to the numerous bridges built by the Devil, in times when the Devil did not call himself a civil engineer.

The driver, with just unction, recounted the sad tale as he halted his horses on the bridge; and as his passengers looked down the rock-fretted brown torrent towards the fall, Isabel seized the occasion to shudder that ever she had set foot on that suspension-bridge below Niagara, and to prove to Basil’s confusion that her doubt of the bridges between the Three Sisters was not a case of nerves but an instinctive wisdom concerning the unsafety of all bridges of that design.

From the gate opening into the grounds about the fall two or three little French boys, whom they had not the heart to forbid, ran noisily before them with cries in their sole English, “This way, sir” and led toward a weather-beaten summer-house that tottered upon a projecting rock above the verge of the cataract. But our tourists shook their heads, and turned away for a more distant and less dizzy enjoyment of the spectacle, though any commanding point was sufficiently chasmal and precipitous. The lofty bluff was scooped inward from the St. Lawrence in a vast irregular semicircle, with cavernous hollows, one within another, sinking far into its sides, and naked from foot to crest, or meagrely wooded here and there with evergreen. From the central brink of these gloomy purple chasms the foamy cataract launched itself, and like a cloud,

“Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.”

I say a cloud, because I find it already said to my hand, as it were, in a pretty verse, and because I must needs liken Montmorenci to something that is soft and light. Yet a cloud does not represent the glinting of the water in its downward swoop; it is like some broad slope of sun-smitten snow; but snow is coldly white and opaque, and this has a creamy warmth in its luminous mass; and so, there hangs the cataract unsaid as before. It is a mystery that anything so grand should be so lovely, that anything so tenderly fair in whatever aspect should yet be so large that one glance fails to comprehend it all. The rugged wildness of the cliffs and hollows about it is softened by its gracious beauty, which half redeems the vulgarity of the timber-merchant’s uses in setting the river at work in his saw-mills and choking its outlet into the St. Lawrence with rafts of lumber and rubbish of slabs and shingles. Nay, rather, it is alone amidst these things, and the eye takes note of them by a separate effort.

Our tourists sank down upon the turf that crept with its white clover to the edge of the precipice, and gazed dreamily upon the fall, filling their vision with its exquisite color and form. Being wiser than I, they did not try to utter its loveliness; they were content to feel it, and the perfection of the afternoon, whose low sun slanting over the landscape gave, under that pale, greenish-blue sky, a pensive sentiment of autumn to the world. The crickets cried amongst the grass; the hesitating chirp of birds came from the tree overhead; a shaggy colt left off grazing in the field and stalked up to stare at them; their little guides, having found that these people had no pleasure in the sight of small boys scuffling on the verge of a precipice, threw themselves also down upon the grass and crooned a long, long ballad in a mournful minor key about some maiden whose name was La Belle Adeline. It was a moment of unmixed enjoyment for every sense, and through all their being they were glad; which considering, they ceased to be so, with a deep sigh, as one reasoning that he dreams must presently awake. They never could have an emotion without desiring to analyze it; but perhaps their rapture would have ceased as swiftly, even if they had not tried to make it a fact of consciousness.

“If there were not dinner after such experiences as these,” said Isabel, as they sat at table that evening, “I don’t know what would become of one. But dinner unites the idea of pleasure and duty, and brings you gently back to earth. You must eat, don’t you see, and there’s nothing disgraceful about what you’re obliged to do; and so—it’s all right.”

“Isabel, Isabel,” cried her husband, “you have a wonderful mind, and its workings always amaze me. But be careful, my dear; be careful. Don’t work it too hard. The human brain, you know: delicate organ.”

“Well, you understand what I mean; and I think it’s one of the great charms of a husband, that you’re not forced to express yourself to him. A husband,” continued Isabel, sententiously, poising a bit of meringue between her thumb and finger,—for they had reached that point in the repast, “a husband is almost as good as another woman!”

In the parlor they found the Ellisons, and exchanged the history of the day with them.

“Certainly,” said Mrs. Ellison, at the end, “it’s been a pleasant day enough, but what of the night? You’ve been turned out, too, by those people who came on the steamer, and who might as well have stayed on board to-night; have you got another room?”

“Not precisely,” said Isabel; “we have a coop in the fifth story, right under the roof.”

Mrs. Ellison turned energetically upon her husband and cried in tones of reproach, “Richard, Mrs. March has a room!”

“A coop, she said,” retorted that amiable Colonel, “and we’re too good for that. The clerk is keeping us in suspense about a room, because he means to surprise us with something palatial at the end. It’s his joking way.”

“Nonsense!” said Mrs. Ellison. “Have you seen him since dinner?”

“I have made life a burden to him for the last half-hour,” returned the Colonel, with the kindliest smile.

“O Richard,” cried his wife, in despair of his amendment, “you wouldn’t make life a burden to a mouse!” And having nothing else for it, she laughed, half in sorrow, half in fondness.

“Well, Fanny,” the Colonel irrelevantly answered, “put on your hat and things, and let’s all go up to Durham Terrace for a promenade. I know our friends want to go. It’s something worth seeing; and by the time we get back, the clerk will have us a perfectly sumptuous apartment.”

Nothing, I think, more enforces the illusion of Southern Europe in Quebec than the Sunday-night promenading on Durham Terrace. This is the ample space on the brow of the cliff to the left of the citadel, the noblest and most commanding position in the whole city, which was formerly occupied by the old castle of Saint Louis, where dwelt the brave Count Frontenac and his splendid successors of the French regime. The castle went the way of Quebec by fire some forty years ago, and Lord Durham leveled the site and made it a public promenade. A stately arcade of solid masonry supports it on the brink of the rock, and an iron parapet incloses it; there are a few seats to lounge upon, and some idle old guns for the children to clamber over and play with. A soft twilight had followed the day, and there was just enough obscurity to hide from a willing eye the Northern and New World facts of the scene, and to bring into more romantic relief the citadel dark against the mellow evening, and the people gossiping from window to window across the narrow streets of the Lower Town. The Terrace itself was densely thronged, and there was a constant coming and going of the promenaders, who each formally paced back and forth upon the planking for a certain time, and then went quietly home, giving place to the new arrivals. They were nearly all French, and they were not generally, it seemed, of the first fashion, but rather of middling condition in life; the English being represented only by a few young fellows and now and then a redfaced old gentleman with an Indian scarf trailing from his hat. There were some fair American costumes and faces in the crowd, but it was essentially Quebecian. The young girls walking in pairs, or with their lovers, had the true touch of provincial unstylishness, the young men the ineffectual excess of the second-rate Latin dandy, their elders the rich inelegance of a bourgeoisie in their best. A few, better-figured avocats or notaires (their profession was as unmistakable as if they had carried their well-polished brass doorplates upon their breasts) walked and gravely talked with each other. The non-American character of the scene was not less vividly marked in the fact that each person dressed according to his own taste and frankly indulged private preferences in shapes and colors. One of the promenaders was in white, even to his canvas shoes; another, with yet bolder individuality, appeared in perfect purple. It had a strange, almost portentous effect when these two startling figures met as friends and joined each other in the promenade with linked arms; but the evening was already beginning to darken round them, and presently the purple comrade was merely a sombre shadow beside the glimmering white.

The valleys and the heights now vanished; but the river defined itself by the varicolored lights of the ships and steamers that lay, dark, motionless bulks, upon its broad breast; the lights of Point Lewis swarmed upon the other shore; the Lower Town, two hundred feet below them, stretched an alluring mystery of clustering roofs and lamplit windows and dark and shining streets around the mighty rock, mural-crowned. Suddenly a spectacle peculiarly Northern and characteristic of Quebec revealed itself; a long arch brightened over the northern horizon; the tremulous flames of the aurora, pallid violet or faintly tinged with crimson, shot upward from it, and played with a weird apparition and evanescence to the zenith. While the strangers looked, a gun boomed from the citadel, and the wild sweet notes of the bugle sprang out upon the silence.

Then they all said, “How perfectly in keeping everything has been!” and sauntered back to the hotel.

The Colonel went into the office to give the clerk another turn on the rack, and make him confess to a hidden apartment somewhere, while Isabel left her husband to Mrs. Ellison in the parlor, and invited Miss Kitty to look at her coop in the fifth story. As they approached, light and music and laughter stole out of an open door next hers, and Isabel, distinguishing the voices of the theatrical party, divined that this was the sick-chamber, and that they were again cheering up the afflicted member of the troupe. Some one was heard to say, “Well, ‘ow do you feel now, Charley?” and a sound of subdued swearing responded, followed by more laughter, and the twanging of a guitar, and a snatch of song, and a stir of feet and dresses as for departure.

The two listeners shrank together; as women they could not enjoy these proofs of the jolly camaraderie existing among the people of the troupe. They trembled as before the merriment of as many light-hearted, careless, good-natured young men: it was no harm, but it was dismaying; and, “Dear!” cried Isabel, “what shall we do?”

“Go back,” said Miss Ellison, boldly, and back they ran to the parlor, where they found Basil and the Colonel and his wife in earnest conclave. The Colonel, like a shrewd strategist, was making show of a desperation more violent than his wife’s, who was thus naturally forced into the attitude of moderating his fury.

“Well, Fanny, that’s all he can do for us; and I do think it’s the most outrageous thing in the world! It’s real mean!”

Fanny perceived a bold parody of her own denunciatory manner, but just then she was obliged to answer Isabel’s eager inquiry whether they had got a room yet. “Yes, a room,” she said, “with two beds. But what are we to do with one room? That clerk—I don’t know what to call him”—(“Call him a hotel-clerk, my dear; you can’t say anything worse,” interrupted her husband)—“seems to think the matter perfectly settled.”

“You see, Mrs. March,” added the Colonel, “he’s able to bully us in this way because he has the architecture on his side. There isn’t another room in the house.”

“Let me think a moment,” said Isabel not thinking an instant. She had taken a fancy to at least two of these people from the first, and in the last hour they had all become very well acquainted now she said, “I’ll tell you: there are two beds in our room also; we ladies will take one room, and you gentlemen the other!”

“Mrs. March, I bow to the superiority of the Boston mind,” said the Colonel, while his females civilly protested and consented; “and I might almost hail you as our preserver. If ever you come to Milwaukee,—which is the centre of the world, as Boston is,—we—I—shall be happy to have you call at my place of business.—I didn’t commit myself, did I, Fanny?—I am sometimes hospitable to excess, Mrs. March,” he said, to explain his aside. “And now, let us reconnoitre. Lead on, madam, and the gratitude of the houseless stranger will follow you.”

The whole party explored both rooms, and the ladies decided to keep Isabel’s. The Colonel was dispatched to see that the wraps and traps of his party were sent to this number, and Basil went with him. The things came long before the gentlemen returned, but the ladies happily employed the interval in talking over the excitements of the day, and in saying from time to time, “So very kind of you, Mrs. March,” and “I don’t know what we should have done,” and “Don’t speak of it, please,” and “I’m sure it’s a great pleasure to me.”

In the room adjoining theirs, where the invalid actor lay, and where lately there had been minstrelsy and apparently dancing for his solace, there was now comparative silence. Two women’s voices talked together, and now and then a guitar was touched by a wandering hand. Isabel had just put up her handkerchief to conceal her first yawn, when the gentlemen, odorous of cigars, returned to say good-night.

“It’s the second door from this, isn’t it, Isabel?” asked her husband.

“Yes, the second door. Good-night. Good-night.”

The two men walked off together; but in a minute afterwards they had returned and were knocking tremulously at the closed door.

“O, what has happened?” chorused the ladies in woeful tune, seeing a certain wildness in the face that confronted them.

“We don’t know!” answered the others in as fearful a key, and related how they had found the door of their room ajar, and a bright light streaming into the corridor. They did not stop to ponder this fact, but, with the heedlessness of their sex, pushed the door wide open, when they saw seated before the mirror a bewildering figure, with disheveled locks wandering down the back, and in dishabille expressive of being quite at home there, which turned upon them a pair of pale blue eyes, under a forehead remarkable for the straggling fringe of hair that covered it. They professed to have remained transfixed at the sight, and to have noted a like dismay on the visage before the glass, ere they summoned strength to fly. These facts Colonel Ellison gave at the command of his wife, with many protests and insincere delays amidst which the curiosity of his hearers alone prevented them from rending him in pieces.

“And what do you suppose it was?” demanded his wife, with forced calmness, when he had at last made an end of the story and his abominable hypoocisies.

“Well, I think it was a mermaid.”

“A mermaid!” said his wife, scornfully. “How do you know?”

“It had a comb in its hand, for one thing; and besides, my dear, I hope I know a mermaid when I see it.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Ellison, “it was no mermaid, it was a mistake; and I’m going to see about it. Will you go with me, Richard?”

“No money could induce me! If it’s a mistake, it isn’t proper for me to go; if it’s a mermaid, it’s dangerous.”

“O you coward!” said the intrepid little woman to a hero of all the fights on Sherman’s march to the sea; and presently they heard her attack the mysterious enemy with a lady-like courage, claiming the invaded chamber. The foe replied with like civility, saying the clerk had given her that room with the understanding that another lady was to be put there with her, and she had left the door unlocked to admit her. The watchers with the sick man next door appeared and confirmed this speech, a feeble voice from the bedclothes swore to it.

“Of course,” added the invader, “if I’d known ‘ow it really was, I never would lave listened to such a thing, never. And there isn’t another ‘ole in the louse to lay me ‘ead,” she concluded.

“Then it’s the clerk’s fault,” said Mrs. Ellison, glad to retreat unharmed; and she made her husband ring for the guilty wretch, a pale, quiet young Frenchman, whom the united party, sallying into the corridor, began to upbraid in one breath, the lady in dishabille vanishing as often as she remembered it, and reappearing whenever some strong point of argument or denunciation occurred to her.

The clerk, who was the Benjamin of his wicked tribe, threw himself upon their mercy and confessed everything: the house was so crowded, and he had been so crazed by the demands upon him, that he had understood Colonel Ellison’s application to be for a bed for the young lady in his party, and he had done the very best he could. If the lady there—she vanished again—would give up the room to the two gentlemen, he would find her a place with the housekeeper. To this the lady consented without difficulty, and the rest dispersing, she kissed one of the sick man’s watchers with “Isn’t it a shame, Bella?” and flitted down the darkness of the corridor. The rooms upon it seemed all, save the two assigned our travellers, to be occupied by ladies of the troupe; their doors successively opened, and she was heard explaining to each as she passed. The momentary displeasure which she had shown at her banishment was over. She detailed the facts with perfect good-nature, and though the others appeared no more than herself to find any humorous cast in the affair, they received her narration with the same amiability. They uttered their sympathy seriously, and each parted from her with some friendly word. Then all was still.

“Richard,” said Mrs. Ellison, when in Isabel’s room the travellers had briefly celebrated these events, “I should think you’d hate to leave us alone up here.”

“I do; but you can’t think how I hate to go off alone. I wish you’d come part of the way with us, Ladies; I do indeed. Leave your door unlocked, at any rate.”

This prayer, uttered at parting outside the room, was answered from within by a sound of turning keys and sliding bolts, and a low thunder as of bureaus and washstands rolled against the door. “The ladies are fortifying their position,” said the Colonel to Basil, and the two returned to their own chamber. “I don’t wish any intrusions,” he said, instantly shutting himself in; “my nerves are too much shaken now. What an awfully mysterious old place this Quebec is, Mr. March! I’ll tell you what: it’s my opinion that this is an enchanted castle, and if my ribs are not walked over by a muleteer in the course of the night, it’s all I ask.”

In this and other discourse recalling the famous adventure of Don Quixote, the Colonel beguiled the labor of disrobing, and had got as far as his boots, when there came a startling knock at the door. With one boot in his hand and the other on his foot, the Colonel limped forward. “I suppose it’s that clerk has sent to say he’s made some other mistake,” and he flung wide the door, and then stood motionless before it, dumbly staring at a figure on the threshold,—a figure with the fringed forehead and pale blue eyes of her whom they had so lately turned out of that room.

Shrinking behind the side of the doorway, “Excuse me, gentlemen,” she said, with a dignity that recalled their scattered senses, “but will you ‘ave the goodness to look if my beads are on your table—O thanks, thanks, thanks!” she continued, showing her face and one hand, as Basil blushingly advanced with a string of heavy black beads, piously adorned with a large cross. “I’m sure, I’m greatly obliged to you, gentlemen, and I hask a thousand pardons for troublin’ you,” she concluded in a somewhat severe tone, that left them abashed and culpable; and vanished as mysteriously as she had appeared.

“Now, see here,” said the Colonel, with a huge sigh as he closed the door again, and this time locked it, “I should like to know how long this sort of thing is to be kept up? Because, if it’s to be regularly repeated during the night, I’m going to dress again.” Nevertheless, he finished undressing and got into bed, where he remained for some time silent. Basil put out the light. “O, I’m sorry you did that, my dear fellow,” said the Colonel; “but never mind, it was an idle curiosity, no doubt. It’s my belief that in the landlord’s extremity of bedlinen, I’ve been put to sleep between a pair of tablecloths; and I thought I’d like to look. It seems to me that I make out a checkered pattern on top and a flowered or arabesque pattern underneath. I wish they had given me mates. It’s pretty hard having to sleep between odd tablecloths. I shall complain to the landlord of this in the morning. I’ve never had to sleep between odd table-cloths at any hotel before.”

The Colonel’s voice seemed scarcely to have died away upon Basil’s drowsy ear, when suddenly the sounds of music and laughter from the invalid’s room startled him wide awake. The sick man’s watchers were coquetting with some one who stood in the little court-yard five stories below. A certain breadth of repartee was naturally allowable at that distance; the lover avowed his passion in ardent terms, and the ladies mocked him with the same freedom, now and then totally neglecting him while they sang a snatch of song to the twanging of the guitar, or talked professional gossip, and then returning to him with some tormenting expression of tenderness.

All this, abstractly speaking, was nothing to Basil; yet he could recollect few things intended for his pleasure that had given him more satisfaction. He thought, as he glanced out into the moonlight on the high-gabled silvery roofs around and on the gardens of the convents and the towers of the quaint city, that the scene wanted nothing of the proper charm of Spanish humor and romance, and he was as grateful to those poor souls as if they had meant him a favor. To us of the hither side of the foot-lights, there is always something fascinating in the life of the strange beings who dwell beyond them, and who are never so unreal as in their own characters. In their shabby bestowal in those mean upper rooms, their tawdry poverty, their merry submission to the errors and caprices of destiny, their mutual kindliness and careless friendship, these unprofitable devotees of the twinkling-footed burlesque seemed to be playing rather than living the life of strolling players; and their love-making was the last touch of a comedy that Basil could hardly accept as reality, it was so much more like something seen upon the stage. He would not have detracted anything from the commonness and cheapness of the ‘mise en scene’, for that, he reflected drowsily and confusedly, helped to give it an air of fact and make it like an episode of fiction. But above all, he was pleased with the natural eventlessness of the whole adventure, which was in perfect agreement with his taste; and just as his reveries began to lose shape in dreams, he was aware of an absurd pride in the fact that all this could have happened to him in our commonplace time and hemisphere. “Why,” he thought, “if I were a student in Alcala, what better could I have asked?” And as at last his soul swung out from its moorings and lapsed down the broad slowly circling tides out in the sea of sleep, he was conscious of one subtle touch of compassion for those poor strollers,—a pity so delicate and fine and tender that it hardly seemed his own but rather a sense of the compassion that pities the whole world.

Chapter X • Homeward and Home • 2,200 Words

The travellers all met at breakfast and duly discussed the adventures of the night; and for the rest, the forenoon passed rapidly and slowly with Basil and Isabel, as regret to leave Quebec, or the natural impatience of travellers to be off, overcame them. Isabel spent part of it in shopping, for she had found some small sums of money and certain odd corners in her trunks still unappropriated, and the handsome stores on the Rue Fabrique were very tempting. She said she would just go in and look; and the wise reader imagines the result. As she knelt over her boxes, trying so to distribute her purchases as to make them look as if they were old,—old things of hers, which she had brought all the way round from Boston with her,—a fleeting touch of conscience stayed her hand.

“Basil,” she said, “perhaps we’d better declare some of these things. What’s the duty on those?” she asked, pointing to certain articles.

“I don’t know. About a hundred per cent. ad valorem.”

“C’est a dire—?”

“As much as they cost.”

“O then, dearest,” responded Isabel indignantly, “it can’t be wrong to smuggle! I won’t declare a thread!”

“That’s very well for you, whom they won’t ask. But what if they ask me whether there’s anything to declare?”

Isabel looked at her husband and hesitated. Then she replied in terms that I am proud to record in honor of American womanhood: “You mustn’t fib about—it, Basil” (heroically); “I couldn’t respect you if you did,” (tenderly); “but” (with decision) “you must slip out of it some way!”

The ladies of the Ellison party, to whom she put the case in the parlor, agreed with her perfectly. They also had done a little shopping in Quebec, and they meant to do more at Montreal before they returned to the States. Mrs. Ellison was disposed to look upon Isabel’s compunctions as a kind of treason to the sex, to be forgiven only because so quickly repented.

The Ellisons were going up the Saguenay before coming on to Boston, and urged our friends hard to go with them. “No, that must be for another time,” said Isabel. “Mr. March has to be home by a certain day; and we shall just get back in season.” Then she made them promise to spend a day with her in Boston, and the Colonel coming to say that he had a carriage at the door for their excursion to Lorette, the two parties bade good-by with affection and many explicit hopes of meeting soon again.

“What do you think of them, dearest?” demanded Isabel, as she sallied out with Basil for a final look at Quebec.

“The young lady is the nicest; and the other is well enough, too. She is a good deal like you, but with the sense of humor left out. You’ve only enough to save you.”

“Well, her husband is jolly enough for both of them. He’s funnier than you, Basil, and he hasn’t any of your little languid airs and affectations. I don’t know but I’m a bit disappointed in my choice, darling; but I dare say I shall work out of it. In fact, I don’t know but the Colonel is a little too jolly. This drolling everything is rather fatiguing.” And having begun, they did not stop till they had taken their friends to pieces. Dismayed, then, they hastily reconstructed them, and said that they were among the pleasantest people they ever knew, and they were really very sorry to part with them, and they should do everything to make them have a good time in Boston.

They were sauntering towards Durham Terrace where they leaned long upon the iron parapet and blest themselves with the beauty of the prospect. A tender haze hung upon the landscape and subdued it till the scene was as a dream before them. As in a dream the river lay, and dream-like the shipping moved or rested on its deep, broad bosom. Far off stretched the happy fields with their dim white villages; farther still the mellow heights melted into the low hovering heaven. The tinned roofs of the Lower Town twinkled in the morning sun; around them on every hand, on that Monday forenoon when the States were stirring from ocean to ocean in feverish industry, drowsed the gray city within her walls; from the flag-staff of the citadel hung the red banner of Saint George in sleep.

Their hearts were strangely and deeply moved. It seemed to them that they looked upon the last stronghold of the Past, and that afar off to the southward they could hear the marching hosts of the invading Present; and as no young and loving soul can relinquish old things without a pang, they sighed a long mute farewell to Quebec.

Next summer they would come again, yes; but, ah me’ every one knows what next summer is!

Part of the burlesque troupe rode down in the omnibus to the Grand Trunk Ferry with them, and were good-natured to the last, having shaken hands all round with the waiters, chambermaids, and porters of the hotel. The young fellow with the bad amiable face came in a calash, and refused to overpay the driver with a gay decision that made him Basil’s envy till he saw his tribulation in getting the troupe’s luggage checked. There were forty pieces, and it always remained a mystery, considering the small amount of clothing necessary to those people on the stage, what could have filled their trunks. The young man and the two English blondes of American birth found places in the same car with our tourists, and enlivened the journey with their frolics. When the young man pretended to fall asleep, they wrapped his golden curly head in a shawl, and vexed him with many thumps and thrusts, till he bought a brief truce with a handful of almonds; and the ladies having no other way to eat them, one of them saucily snatched off her shoe, and cracked them hammerwise with the heel. It was all so pleasant that it ought to have been all right; and in their merry world of outlawry perhaps things are not so bad as we like to think them.

The country into which the train plunges as soon as Quebec is out of sight is very stupidly savage, and our friends had little else to do but to watch the gambols of the players, till they came to the river St. Francis, whose wandering loveliness the road follows through an infinite series of soft and beautiful landscapes, and finds everywhere glassing in its smooth current the elms and willows of its gentle shores. At one place, where its calm broke into foamy rapids, there was a huge saw mill, covering the stream with logs and refuse, and the banks with whole cities of lumber; which also they accepted as no mean elements of the picturesque. They clung the most tenderly to traces of the peasant life they were leaving. When some French boys came aboard with wild raspberries to sell in little birch-bark canoes, they thrilled with pleasure, and bought them, but sighed then, and said, “What thing characteristic of the local life will they sell us in Maine when we get there? A section of pie poetically wrapt in a broad leaf of the squash-vine, or pop-corn in its native tissue-paper, and advertising the new Dollar Store in Portland?” They saw the quaintness vanish from the farm-houses; first the dormer-windows, then the curve of the steep roof, then the steep roof itself. By and by they came to a store with a Grecian portico and four square pine pillars. They shuddered and looked no more.

The guiltily dreaded examination of baggage at Island Pond took place at nine o’clock, without costing them a cent of duty or a pang of conscience. At that charming station the trunks are piled higgledy-piggledy into a room beside the track, where a few inspectors with stifling lamps of smoky kerosene await the passengers. There are no porters to arrange the baggage, and each lady and gentleman digs out his box, and opens it before the lordly inspector, who stirs up its contents with an unpleasant hand and passes it. He makes you feel that you are once more in the land of official insolence, and that, whatever you are collectively, you are nothing personally. Isabel, who had sent her husband upon this business with quaking meekness of heart, experienced the bold indignation of virtue at his account of the way people were made their own baggage-smashers, and would not be amused when he painted the vile terrors of each husband as he tremblingly unlocked his wife’s store of contraband.

The morning light showed them the broad elmy meadows of western-looking Maine; and the Grand Trunk brought them, of course, an hour behind time into Portland. All breakfastless they hurried aboard the Boston train on the Eastern Road, and all along that line (which is built to show how uninteresting the earth can be when she is ‘ennuyee’ of both sea and land), Basil’s life became a struggle to construct a meal from the fragmentary opportunities of twenty different stations where they stopped five minutes for refreshments. At one place he achieved two cups of shameless chickory, at another three sardines, at a third a dessert of elderly bananas.

“Home again, home again, from a foreign shore!”

they softly sang as the successive courses of this feast were disposed of.

The drouth and heat, which they had briefly escaped during their sojourn in Canada, brooded sovereign upon the tiresome landscape. The red granite rocks were as if red-hot; the banks of the deep cuts were like ash heaps; over the fields danced the sultry atmosphere; they fancied that they almost heard the grasshoppers sing above the rattle of the train. When they reached Boston at last, they were dustier than most of us would like to be a hundred years hence. The whole city was equally dusty; and they found the trees in the square before their own door gray with dust. The bit of Virginia-creeper planted under the window hung shriveled upon its trellis.

But Isabel’s aunt met them with a refreshing shower of tears and kisses in the hall, throwing a solid arm about each of them. “O you dears!” the good soul cried, “you don’t know how anxious I’ve been about you; so many accidents happening all the time. I’ve never read the ‘Evening Transcript’ till the next morning, for fear I should find your names among the killed and wounded.”

“O aunty, you’re too good, always!” whimpered Isabel; and neither of the women took note of Basil, who said, “Yes, it’s probably the only thing that preserved our lives.”

The little tinge of discontent, which had colored their sentiment of return faded now in the kindly light of home. Their holiday was over, to be sure, but their bliss had but began; they had entered upon that long life of holidays which is happy marriage. By the time dinner was ended they were both enthusiastic at having got back, and taking their aunt between them walked up and down the parlor with their arms round her massive waist, and talked out the gladness of their souls.

Then Basil said he really must run down to the office that afternoon, and he issued all aglow upon the street. He was so full of having been long away and of having just returned, that he unconsciously tried to impart his mood to Boston, and the dusty composure of the street and houses, as he strode along, bewildered him. He longed for some familiar face to welcome him, and in the horse-car into which he stepped he was charmed to see an acquaintance. This was a man for whom ordinarily he cared nothing, and whom he would perhaps rather have gone out upon the platform to avoid than have spoken to; but now he plunged at him with effusion, and wrung his hand, smiling from ear to ear.

The other remained coldly unaffected, after a first start of surprise at his cordiality, and then reviled the dust and heat. “But I’m going to take a little run down to Newport, to-morrow, for a week,” he said. “By the way, you look as if you needed a little change. Aren’t you going anywhere this summer?”

“So you see, my dear,” observed Basil, when he had recounted the fact to Isabel at tea, “our travels are incommunicably our own. We had best say nothing about our little jaunt to other people, and they won’t know we’ve been gone. Even if we tried, we couldn’t make our wedding-journey theirs.”

She gave him a great kiss of recompense and consolation. “Who wants it,” she demanded, “to be Their Wedding Journey?”

Chapter XI • Niagara Revisited, Twelve Years After Their Wedding Journey • 8,000 Words

Life had not used them ill in this time, and the fairish treatment they had received was not wholly unmerited. The twelve years past had made them older, as the years must in passing. Basil was now forty-two, and his moustache was well sprinkled with gray. Isabel was thirty-nine, and the parting of her hair had thinned and retreated; but she managed to give it an effect of youthful abundance by combing it low down upon her forehead, and roughing it there with a wet brush. By gaslight she was still very pretty; she believed that she looked more interesting, and she thought Basil’s gray moustache distinguished. He had grown stouter; he filled his double-breasted frock coat compactly, and from time to time he had the buttons set forward; his hands were rounded up on the backs, and he no longer wore his old number of gloves by two sizes; no amount of powder or manipulation from the young lady in the shop would induce them to go on. But this did not matter much now, for he seldom wore gloves at all. He was glad that the fashion suffered him to spare in that direction, for he was obliged to look somewhat carefully after the out-goes. The insurance business was not what it had been, and though Basil had comfortably established himself in it, he had not made money. He sometimes thought that he might have done quite as well if he had gone into literature; but it was now too late. They had not a very large family: they had a boy of eleven, who took after his father, and a girl of nine, who took after the boy; but with the American feeling that their children must have the best of everything, they made it an expensive family, and they spent nearly all Basil earned.

The narrowness of their means, as well as their household cares, had kept them from taking many long journeys. They passed their winters in Boston, and their summers on the South Shore, cheaper than the North Shore, and near enough for Basil to go up and down every day for business; but they promised themselves that some day they would revisit certain points on their wedding journey, and perhaps somewhere find their lost second-youth on the track. It was not that they cared to be young, but they wished the children to see them as they used to be when they thought themselves very old; and one lovely afternoon in June they started for Niagara.

It had been very hot for several days, but that morning the east wind came in, and crisped the air till it seemed to rustle like tinsel, and the sky was as sincerely and solidly blue as if it had been chromoed. They felt that they were really looking up into the roof of the world, when they glanced at it; but when an old gentleman hastily kissed a young woman, and commended her to the conductor as being one who was going all the way to San Francisco alone, and then risked his life by stepping off the moving train, the vastness of the great American fact began to affect Isabel disagreeably. “Isn’t it too big, Basil?” she pleaded, peering timidly out of the little municipal consciousness in which she had been so long housed.—In that seclusion she had suffered certain original tendencies to increase upon her; her nerves were more sensitive and electrical; her apprehensions had multiplied quite beyond the ratio of the dangers that beset her; and Basil had counted upon a tonic effect of the change the journey would make in their daily lives. She looked ruefully out of the window at the familiar suburbs whisking out of sight, and the continental immensity that advanced devouringly upon her. But they had the best section in the very centre of the sleeping-car,—she drew what consolation she could from the fact,—and the children’s premature demand for lunch helped her to forget her anxieties; they began to be hungry as soon as the train started. She found that she had not put up sandwiches enough; and when she told Basil that he would have to get out somewhere and buy some cold chicken, he asked her what in the world had become of that whole ham she had had boiled. It seemed to him, he said, that there was enough of it to subsist them to Niagara and back; and he went on as some men do, while Somerville vanished, and even Tufts College, which assails the Bostonian vision from every point of the compass, was shut out by the curve at the foot of the Belmont hills.

They had chosen the Hoosac Tunnel route to Niagara, because, as Basil said, their experience of travel had never yet included a very long tunnel, and it would be a signal fact by which the children would always remember the journey, if nothing else remarkable happened to impress it upon them. Indeed, they were so much concerned in it that they began to ask when they should come to this tunnel, even before they began to ask for lunch; and the long time before they reached it was not perceptibly shortened by Tom’s quarter-hourly consultations of his father’s watch.

It scarcely seemed to Basil and Isabel that their fellow-passengers were so interesting as their fellow passengers used to be in their former days of travel. They were soberly dressed, and were all of a middle-aged sobriety of deportment, from which nothing salient offered itself for conjecture or speculation; and there was little within the car to take their minds from the brilliant young world that flashed and sang by them outside. The belated spring had ripened, with its frequent rains, into the perfection of early summer; the grass was thicker and the foliage denser than they had ever seen it before; and when they had run out into the hills beyond Fitchburg, they saw the laurel in bloom. It was everywhere in the woods, lurking like drifts among the underbrush, and overflowing the tops, and stealing down the hollows, of the railroad embankments; a snow of blossom flushed with a mist of pink. Its shy, wild beauty ceased whenever the train stopped, but the orioles made up for its absence with their singing in the village trees about the stations; and though Fitchburg and Ayer’s Junction and Athol are not names that invoke historical or romantic associations, the hearts of Basil and Isabel began to stir with the joy of travel before they had passed these points. At the first Basil got out to buy the cold chicken which had been commanded, and he recognized in the keeper of the railroad restaurant their former conductor, who had been warned by the spirits never to travel without a flower of some sort carried between his lips, and who had preserved his own life and the lives of his passengers for many years by this simple device. His presence lent the sponge cake and rhubarb pie and baked beans a supernatural interest, and reconciled Basil to the toughness of the athletic bird which the mystical ex-partner of fate had sold him; he justly reflected that if he had heard the story of the restaurateur’s superstition in a foreign land, or another time, he would have found in it a certain poetry. It was this willingness to find poetry in things around them that kept his life and Isabel’s fresh, and they taught their children the secret of their elixir. To be sure, it was only a genre poetry, but it was such as has always inspired English art and song; and now the whole family enjoyed, as if it had been a passage from Goldsmith or Wordsworth, the flying sentiment of the railroad side. There was a simple interior at one place,—a small shanty, showing through the open door a cook stove surmounted by the evening coffee-pot, with a lazy cat outstretched upon the floor in the middle distance, and an old woman standing just outside the threshold to see the train go by,—which had an unrivaled value till they came to a superannuated car on a siding in the woods, in which the railroad workmen boarded—some were lounging on the platform and at the open windows, while others were “washing up” for supper, and the whole scene was full of holiday ease and sylvan comradery that went to the hearts of the sympathetic spectators. Basil had lately been reading aloud the delightful history of Rudder Grange, and the children, who had made their secret vows never to live in anything but an old canal-boat when they grew up, owned that there were fascinating possibilities in a worn-out railroad car.

The lovely Deerfield Valley began to open on either hand, with smooth stretches of the quiet river, and breadths of grassy intervale and tableland; the elms grouped themselves like the trees of a park; here and there the nearer hills broke away, and revealed long, deep, chasmed hollows, full of golden light and delicious shadow. There were people rowing on the water; and every pretty town had some touch of picturesqueness or pastoral charm to offer: at Greenfield, there were children playing in the new-mown hay along the railroad embankment; at Shelburne Falls, there was a game of cricket going on (among the English operatives of the cutlery works, as Basil boldly asserted). They looked down from their car-window on a young lady swinging in a hammock, in her door-yard, and on an old gentleman hoeing his potatoes; a group of girls waved their handkerchiefs to the passing train, and a boy paused in weeding a garden-bed,—and probably denied that he had paused, later. In the mean time the golden haze along the mountain side changed to a clear, pearly lustre, and the quiet evening possessed the quiet landscape. They confessed to each other that it was all as sweet and beautiful as it used to be; and in fact they had seen palaces, in other days, which did not give them the pleasure they found in a woodcutter’s shanty, losing itself among the shadows in a solitude of the hills. The tunnel, after this, was a gross and material sensation; but they joined the children in trying to hold and keep it, and Basil let the boy time it by his watch. “Now,” said Tom, when five minutes were gone, “we are under the very centre of the mountain.” But the tunnel was like all accomplished facts, all hopes fulfilled, valueless to the soul, and scarcely appreciable to the sense; and the children emerged at North Adams with but a mean opinion of that great feat of engineering. Basil drew a pretty moral from their experience. “If you rode upon a comet you would be disappointed. Take my advice, and never ride upon a comet. I shouldn’t object to your riding on a little meteor,—you wouldn’t expect much of that; but I warn you against comets; they are as bad as tunnels.”

The children thought this moral was a joke at their expense, and as they were a little sleepy they permitted themselves the luxury of feeling trifled with. But they woke, refreshed and encouraged, from slumbers that had evidently been unbroken, though they both protested that they had not slept a wink the whole night, and gave themselves up to wonder at the interminable levels of Western New York over which the train was running. The longing to come to an edge, somewhere, that the New England traveler experiences on this plain, was inarticulate with the children; but it breathed in the sigh with which Isabel welcomed even the architectural inequalities of a city into which they drew in the early morning. This city showed to their weary eyes a noble stretch of river, from the waters of which lofty piles of buildings rose abruptly; and Isabel, being left to guess where they were, could think of no other place so picturesque as Rochester.

“Yes,” said her husband; “it is our own Enchanted City. I wonder if that unstinted hospitality is still dispensed by the good head waiter at the hotel where we stopped, to bridal parties who have passed the ordeal of the haughty hotel clerk. I wonder what has become of that hotel clerk. Has he fallen, through pride, to some lower level, or has he bowed his arrogant spirit to the demands of advancing civilization, and realized that he is the servant, and not the master, of the public? I think I’ve noticed, since his time, a growing kindness in hotel clerks; or perhaps I have become of a more impressive presence; they certainly unbend to me a little more. I should like to go up to our hotel, and try myself on our old enemy, if he is still there. I can fancy how his shirt front has expanded in these twelve years past; he has grown a little bald, after the fashion of middle-aged hotel clerks, but he parts his hair very much on one side, and brushes it squarely across his forehead to hide his loss; the forefinger that he touches that little snapbell with, when he doesn’t look at you, must be very pudgy now. Come, let us get out and breakfast at Rochester; they will give us broiled whitefish; and we can show the children where Sam Patch jumped over Genesee Falls, and—”

“No, no, Basil,” cried his wife. “It would be sacrilege! All that is sacred to those dear young days of ours; and I wouldn’t think of trying to repeat it. Our own ghosts would rise up in that dining-room to reproach us for our intrusion! Oh, perhaps we have done a wicked thing in coming this journey! We ought to have left the past alone; we shall only mar our memories of all these beautiful places. Do you suppose Buffalo can be as poetical as it was then? Buffalo! The name doesn’t invite the Muse very much. Perhaps it never was very poetical! Oh, Basil, dear, I’m afraid we have only come to find out that we were mistaken about everything! Let’s leave Rochester alone, at any rate!”

“I’m not troubled! We won’t disturb our dream of Rochester; but I don’t despair of Buffalo. I’m sure that Buffalo will be all that our fancy ever painted it. I believe in Buffalo.”

“Well, well,” murmured Isabel, “I hope you’re right;” and she put some things together for leaving their car at Buffalo, while they were still two hours away.

When they reached a place where the land mated its level with the level of the lake, they ran into a wilderness of railroad cars, in a world where life seemed to be operated solely by locomotives and their helpless minions. The bellowing and bleating trains were arriving in every direction, not only along the ground floor of the plain, but stately stretches of trestle-work, which curved and extended across the plain, carried them to and fro overhead. The travelers owned that this railroad suburb had its own impressiveness, and they said that the trestle-work was as noble in effect as the lines of aqueduct that stalk across the Roman Campagna. Perhaps this was because they had not seen the Campagna or its aqueducts for a great while; but they were so glad to find themselves in the spirit of their former journey again that they were amiable to everything. When the children first caught sight of the lake’s delicious blue, and cried out that it was lovelier than the sea, they felt quite a local pride in their preference. It was what Isabel had said twelve years before, on first beholding the lake.

But they did not really see the lake till they had taken the train for Niagara Falls, after breakfasting in the depot, where the children, used to the severe native or the patronizing Irish ministrations of Boston restaurants and hotels, reveled for the first time in the affectionate devotion of a black waiter. There was already a ridiculous abundance and variety on the table; but this waiter brought them strawberries and again strawberries, and repeated plates of griddle cakes with maple syrup; and he hung over the back of first one chair and then another with an unselfish joy in the appetites of the breakfasters which gave Basil renewed hopes of his race. “Such rapture in serving argues a largeness of nature which will be recognized hereafter,” he said, feeling about in his waistcoat pocket for a quarter. It seemed a pity to render the waiter’s zeal retroactively interested, but in view of the fact that he possibly expected the quarter, there was nothing else to do; and by a mysterious stroke of gratitude the waiter delivered them into the hands of a friend, who took another quarter from them for carrying their bags and wraps to the train. This second retainer approved their admiration of the aesthetic forms and colors of the depot colonnade; and being asked if that were the depot whose roof had fallen in some years before, proudly replied that it was.

“There were a great many killed, weren’t there?” asked Basil, with sympathetic satisfaction in the disaster. The porter seemed humiliated; he confessed the mortifying truth that the loss of life was small, but he recovered a just self-respect in adding, “If the roof had fallen in five minutes sooner, it would have killed about three hundred people.”

Basil had promised the children a sight of the Rapids before they reached the Falls, and they held him rigidly accountable from the moment they entered the train, and began to run out of the city between the river and the canal. He attempted a diversion with the canal boats, and tried to bring forward the subject of Rudder Grange in that connection. They said that the canal boats were splendid, but they were looking for the Rapids now; and they declined to be interested in a window in one of the boats, which Basil said was just like the window that the Rudder Granger and the boarder had popped Pomona out of when they took her for a burglar.

“You spoil those children, Basil,” said his wife, as they clambered over him, and clamored for the Rapids.

“At present I’m giving them an object-lesson in patience and self-denial; they are experiencing the fact that they can’t have the Rapids till they get to them, and probably they’ll be disappointed in them when they arrive.”

In fact, they valued the Rapids very little more than the Hoosac Tunnel, when they came in sight of them, at last; and Basil had some question in his own mind whether the Rapids had not dwindled since his former visit. He did not breathe this doubt to Isabel, however, and she arrived at the Falls with unabated expectations. They were going to spend only half a day there; and they turned into the station, away from the phalanx of omnibuses, when they dismounted from their train. They seemed, as before, to be the only passengers who had arrived, and they found an abundant choice of carriages waiting in the street, outside the station. The Niagara hackman may once have been a predatory and very rampant animal, but public opinion, long expressed through the public prints, has reduced him to silence and meekness. Apparently, he may not so much as beckon with his whip to the arriving wayfarer; it is certain that he cannot cross the pavement to the station door; and Basil, inviting one of them to negotiation, was himself required by the attendant policeman to step out to the curbstone, and complete his transaction there. It was an impressive illustration of the power of a free press, but upon the whole Basil found the effect melancholy; it had the saddening quality which inheres in every sort of perfection. The hackman, reduced to entire order, appealed to his compassion, and he had not the heart to beat him down from his moderate first demand, as perhaps he ought to have done. They drove directly to the cataract, and found themselves in the pretty grove beside the American Fall, and in the air whose dampness was as familiar as if they had breathed it all their childhood. It was full now of the fragrance of some sort of wild blossom; and again they had that old, entrancing sense of the mingled awfulness and loveliness of the great spectacle. This sylvan perfume, the gayety of the sunshine, the mildness of the breeze that stirred the leaves overhead, and the bird-singing that made itself heard amid the roar of the rapids and the solemn incessant plunge of the cataract, moved their hearts, and made them children with the boy and girl, who stood rapt for a moment and then broke into joyful wonder. They could sympathize with the ardor with which Tom longed to tempt fate at the brink of the river, and over the tops of the parapets which have been built along the edge of the precipice, and they equally entered into the terror with which Bella screamed at his suicidal zeal. They joined her in restraining him; they reduced him to a beggarly account of half a dozen stones, flung into the Rapids at not less than ten paces from the brink; and they would not let him toss the smallest pebble over the parapet, though he laughed to scorn the notion that anybody should be hurt by them below.

It seemed to them that the triviality of man in the surroundings of the Falls had increased with the lapse of time. There were more booths and bazaars, and more colored feather fans with whole birds spitted in the centres; and there was an offensive array of blue and green and yellow glasses on the shore, through which you were expected to look at the Falls gratis. They missed the simple dignity of the blanching Indian maids, who used to squat about on the grass, with their laps full of moccasins and pin-cushions. But, as of old, the photographer came out of his saloon, and invited them to pose for a family group; representing that the light and the spray were singularly propitious, and that everything in nature invited them to be taken. Basil put him off gently, for the sake of the time when he had refused to be photographed in a bridal group, and took refuge from him in the long low building from which you descend to the foot of the cataract.

The grove beside the American Fall has been inclosed, and named Prospect Park, by a company which exacts half a dollar for admittance, and then makes you free of all its wonders and conveniences, for which you once had to pay severally. This is well enough; but formerly you could refuse to go down the inclined tramway, and now you cannot, without feeling that you have failed to get your money’s worth. It was in this illogical spirit of economy that Basil invited his family to the descent; but Isabel shook her head. “No, you go with the children,” she said, “and I will stay, here, till you get back;” her agonized countenance added, “and pray for you;” and Basil took his children on either side of him, and rumbled down the terrible descent with much of the excitement that attends travel in an open horse-car. When he stepped out of the car he felt that increase of courage which comes to every man after safely passing through danger. He resolved to brave the mists and slippery-stones at the foot of the Fall; and he would have plunged at once into this fresh peril, if he had not been prevented by the Prospect Park Company. This ingenious association has built a large tunnel-like shed quite to the water’s edge, so that you cannot view the cataract as you once could, at a reasonable remoteness, but must emerge from the building into a storm of spray. The roof of the tunnel is painted with a lively effect in party-colored stripes, and is lettered “The Shadow of the Rock,” so that you take it at first to be an appeal to your aesthetic sense; but the real object of the company is not apparent till you put your head out into the tempest, when you agree with the nearest guide—and one is always very near—that you had better have an oil-skin dress, as Basil did. He told the guide that he did not wish to go under the Fall, and the guide confidentially admitted that there was no fun in that, any way; and in the mean time he equipped him and his children for their foray into the mist. When they issued forth, under their friend’s leadership, Basil felt that, with his children clinging to each hand, he looked like some sort of animal with its young, and, though not unsocial by nature, he was glad to be among strangers for the time. They climbed hither and thither over the rocks, and lifted their streaming faces for the views which the guide pointed out; and in a rift of the spray they really caught one glorious glimpse of the whole sweep of the Fall. The next instant the spray swirled back, and they were glad to turn for a sight of the rainbow, lying in a circle on the rocks as quietly and naturally as if that had been the habit of rainbows ever since the flood. This was all there was to be done, and they streamed back into the tunnel, where they disrobed in the face of a menacing placard, which announced that the hire of a guide and a dress for going under the Fall was one dollar.

“Will they make you pay a dollar for each of us, papa?” asked Tom, fearfully.

“Oh, pooh, no!” returned Basil; “we haven’t been under the Fall.” But he sought out the proprietor with a trembling heart. The proprietor was a man of severely logical mind; he said that the charge would be three dollars, for they had had the use of the dresses and the guide just the same as if they had gone under the Fall; and he refused to recognize anything misleading in the dressing-room placard. In fine, he left Basil without a leg to stand upon. It was not so much the three dollars as the sense of having been swindled that vexed him; and he instantly resolved not to share his annoyance with Isabel. Why, indeed, should he put that burden upon her? If she were none the wiser, she would be none the poorer; and he ought to be willing to deny himself her sympathy for the sake of sparing her needless pain.

He met her at the top of the inclined tramway with a face of exemplary unconsciousness, and he listened with her to the tale their coachman told, as they sat in a pretty arbor looking out on the Rapids, of a Frenchman and his wife. This Frenchman had returned, one morning, from a stroll on Goat Island, and reported with much apparent concern that his wife had fallen into the water, and been carried over the Fall. It was so natural for a man to grieve for the loss of his wife, under the peculiar circumstances, that every one condoled with the widower; but when a few days later, her body was found, and the distracted husband refused to come back from New York to her funeral, there was a general regret that he had not been arrested. A flash of conviction illumed the whole fact to Basil’s guilty consciousness: this unhappy Frenchman had paid a dollar for the use of an oil-skin suit at the foot of the Fall, and had been ashamed to confess the swindle to his wife, till, in a moment of remorse and madness, he shouted the fact into her ear, and then Basil looked at the mother of his children, and registered a vow that if he got away from Niagara without being forced to a similar excess he would confess his guilt to Isabel at the very first act of spendthrift profusion she committed. The guide pointed out the rock in the Rapids to which Avery had clung for twenty-four hours before he was carried over the Falls, and to the morbid fancy of the deceitful husband Isabel’s bonnet ribbons seemed to flutter from the pointed reef. He could endure the pretty arbor no longer. “Come, children!” he cried, with a wild, unnatural gayety; “let us go to Goat Island, and see the Bridge to the Three Sisters, that your mother was afraid to walk back on after she had crossed it.”

“For shame, Basil!” retorted Isabel. “You know it was you who were afraid of that bridge.”

The children, who knew the story by heart, laughed with their father at the monstrous pretension; and his simulated hilarity only increased upon paying a toll of two dollars at the Goat Island bridge.

“What extortion!” cried Isabel, with an indignation that secretly unnerved him. He trembled upon the verge of confession; but he had finally the moral force to resist. He suffered her to compute the cost of their stay at Niagara without allowing those three dollars to enter into her calculation; he even began to think what justificative extravagance he could tempt her to. He suggested the purchase of local bric-a-brac; he asked her if she would not like to dine at the International, for old times’ sake. But she answered, with disheartening virtue, that they must not think of such a thing, after what they had spent already. Nothing, perhaps, marked the confirmed husband in Basil more than these hidden fears and reluctances.

In the mean time Isabel ignorantly abandoned herself to the charm of the place, which she found unimpaired, in spite of the reported ravages of improvement about Niagara. Goat Island was still the sylvan solitude of twelve years ago, haunted by even fewer nymphs and dryads than of old. The air was full of the perfume that scented it at Prospect Park; the leaves showered them with shade and sun, as they drove along. “If it were not for the children here,” she said, “I should think that our first drive on Goat Island had never ended.”

She sighed a little, and Basil leaned forward and took her hand in his. “It never has ended; it’s the same drive; only we are younger now, and enjoy it more.” It always touched him when Isabel was sentimental about the past, for the years had tended to make her rather more seriously maternal towards him than towards the other children; and he recognized that these fond reminiscences were the expression of the girlhood still lurking deep within her heart.

She shook her head. “No, but I’m willing the children should be young in our place. It’s only fair they should have their turn.”

She remained in the carriage, while Basil visited the various points of view on Luna Island with the boy and girl. A boy is probably of considerable interest to himself, and a man looks back at his own boyhood with some pathos. But in his actuality a boy has very little to commend him to the toleration of other human beings. Tom was very well, as boys go; but now his contribution to the common enjoyment was to venture as near as possible to all perilous edges; to throw stones into the water, and to make as if to throw them over precipices on the people below; to pepper his father with questions, and to collect cumbrous mementos of the vegetable and mineral kingdoms. He kept the carriage waiting a good five minutes, while he could cut his initials on a band-rail. “You can come back and see ‘em on your bridal tower,” said the driver. Isabel gave a little start, as if she had almost thought of something she was trying to think of.

They occasionally met ladies driving, and sometimes they encountered a couple making a tour of the island on foot. But none of these people were young, and Basil reported that the Three Sisters were inhabited only by persons of like maturity; even a group of people who were eating lunch to the music of the shouting Rapids, on the outer edge of the last Sister, were no younger, apparently.

Isabel did not get out of the carriage to verify his report; she preferred to refute his story of her former panic on those islands by remaining serenely seated while he visited them. She thus lost a superb novelty which nature has lately added to the wonders of this Fall, in that place at the edge of the great Horse Shoe where the rock has fallen and left a peculiarly shaped chasm: through this the spray leaps up from below, and flashes a hundred feet into the air, in rocket-like jets and points, and then breaks and dissolves away in the pyrotechnic curves of a perpetual Fourth of July. Basil said something like this in celebrating the display, with the purpose of rendering her loss more poignant; but she replied, with tranquil piety, that she would rather keep her Niagara unchanged; and she declared that, as she understood him, there must be something rather cheap and conscious in the new feature. She approved, however, of the change that had removed that foolish little Terrapin Tower from the brink on which it stood, and she confessed that she could have enjoyed a little variety in the stories the driver told them of the Indian burial-ground on the island: they were exactly the stories she and Basil had heard twelve years before, and the ill-starred goats, from which the island took its name, perished once more in his narrative.

Under the influence of his romances our travelers began to find the whole scene hackneyed; and they were glad to part from him a little sooner than they had bargained to do. They strolled about the anomalous village on foot, and once more marveled at the paucity of travel and the enormity of the local preparation. Surely the hotels are nowhere else in the world so large! Could there ever have been visitors enough at Niagara to fill them? They were built so big for some good reason, no doubt; but it is no more apparent than why all these magnificent equipages are waiting about the empty streets for the people who never come to hire them.

“It seems to me that I don’t see so many strangers here as I used,” Basil had suggested to their driver.

“Oh, they haven’t commenced coming yet,” he replied, with hardy cheerfulness, and pretended that they were plenty enough in July and August.

They went to dine at the modest restaurant of a colored man, who advertised a table d’hote dinner on a board at his door; and they put their misgivings to him, which seemed to grieve him, and he contended that Niagara was as prosperous and as much resorted to as ever. In fact, they observed that their regret for the supposed decline of the Falls as a summer resort was nowhere popular in the village, and they desisted in their offers of sympathy, after their rebuff from the restaurateur.

Basil got his family away to the station after dinner, and left them there, while he walked down the village street, for a closer inspection of the hotels. At the door of the largest a pair of children sported in the solitude, as fearlessly as the birds on Selkirk’s island; looking into the hotel, he saw a few porters and call-boys seated in statuesque repose against the wall, while the clerk pined in dreamless inactivity behind the register; some deserted ladies flitted through the door of the parlor at the side. He recalled the evening of his former visit, when he and Isabel had met the Ellisons in that parlor, and it seemed, in the retrospect, a scene of the wildest gayety. He turned for consolation into the barber’s shop, where he found himself the only customer, and no busy sound of “Next” greeted his ear. But the barber, like all the rest, said that Niagara was not unusually empty; and he came out feeling bewildered and defrauded. Surely the agent of the boats which descend the Rapids of the St. Lawrence must be frank, if Basil went to him and pretended that he was going to buy a ticket. But a glance at the agent’s sign showed Basil that the agent, with his brave jollity of manner and his impressive “Good-morning,” had passed away from the deceits of travel, and that he was now inherited by his widow, who in turn was absent, and temporarily represented by their son. The boy, in supplying Basil with an advertisement of the line, made a specious show of haste, as if there were a long queue of tourists waiting behind him to be served with tickets. Perhaps there was, indeed, a spectral line there, but Basil was the only tourist present in the flesh, and he shivered in his isolation, and fled with the advertisement in his hand. Isabel met him at the door of the station with a frightened face.

“Basil,” she cried, “I have found out what the trouble is! Where are the brides?”

He took her outstretched hands in his, and passing one of them through his arm walked with her apart from the children, who were examining at the news-man’s booth the moccasins and the birchbark bric-a-brac of the Irish aborigines, and the cups and vases of Niagara spar imported from Devonshire.

“My dear,” he said, “there are no brides; everybody was married twelve years ago, and the brides are middle-aged mothers of families now, and don’t come to Niagara if they are wise.”

“Yes,” she desolately asserted, “that is so! Something has been hanging over me ever since we came, and suddenly I realized that it was the absence of the brides. But—but—down at the hotels—Didn’t you see anything bridal there? When the omnibuses arrived, was there no burst of minstrelsy? Was there—”

She could not go on, but sank nervelessly into the nearest seat.

“Perhaps,” said Basil, dreamily regarding the contest of Tom and Bella for a newly-purchased paper of sour cherries, and helplessly forecasting in his remoter mind the probable consequences, “there were both brides and minstrelsy at the hotel, if I had only had the eyes to see and the ears to hear. In this world, my dear, we are always of our own time, and we live amid contemporary things. I daresay there were middle-aged people at Niagara when we were here before, but we did not meet them, nor they us. I daresay that the place is now swarming with bridal couples, and it is because they are invisible and inaudible to us that it seems such a howling wilderness. But the hotel clerks and the restaurateurs and the hackmen know them, and that is the reason why they receive with surprise and even offense our sympathy for their loneliness. Do you suppose, Isabel, that if you were to lay your head on my shoulder, in a bridal manner, it would do anything to bring us en rapport with that lost bridal world again?”

Isabel caught away her hand. “Basil,” she cried, “it would be disgusting! I wouldn’t do it for the world—not even for that world. I saw one middle-aged couple on Goat Island, while you were down at the Cave of the Winds, or somewhere, with the children. They were sitting on some steps, he a step below her, and he seemed to want to put his head on her knee; but I gazed at him sternly, and he didn’t dare. We should look like them, if we yielded to any outburst of affection. Don’t you think we should look like them?”

“I don’t know,” said Basil. “You are certainly a little wrinkled, my dear.”

“And you are very fat, Basil.”

They glanced at each other with a flash of resentment, and then they both laughed. “We couldn’t look young if we quarreled a week,” he said. “We had better content ourselves with feeling young, as I hope we shall do if we live to be ninety. It will be the loss of others if they don’t see our bloom upon us. Shall I get you a paper of cherries, Isabel? The children seem to be enjoying them.”

Isabel sprang upon her offspring with a cry of despair. “Oh, what shall I do? Now we shall not have a wink of sleep with them to-night. Where is that nux?” She hunted for the medicine in her bag, and the children submitted; for they had eaten all the cherries, and they took their medicine without a murmur. “I wonder at your letting them eat the sour things, Basil,” said their mother, when the children had run off to the newsstand again.

“I wonder that you left me to see what they were doing,” promptly retorted their father.

“It was your nonsense about the brides,” said Isabel; “and I think this has been a lesson to us. Don’t let them get anything else to eat, dearest.”

“They are safe; they have no more money. They are frugally confining themselves to the admiration of the Japanese bows and arrows yonder. Why have our Indians taken to making Japanese bows and arrows?”

Isabel despised the small pleasantry. “Then you saw nobody at the hotel?” she asked.

“Not even the Ellisons,” said Basil.

“Ah, yes,” said Isabel; “that was where we met them. How long ago it seems! And poor little Kitty! I wonder what has become of them? But I’m glad they’re not here. That’s what makes you realize your age: meeting the same people in the same place a great while after, and seeing how old—they’ve grown. I don’t think I could bear to see Kitty Ellison again. I’m glad she didn’t come to visit us in Boston, though, after what happened, she could n’t, poor thing! I wonder if she’s ever regretted her breaking with him in the way she did. It’s a very painful thing to think of,—such an inconclusive conclusion; it always seemed as if they ought to meet again, somewhere.”

“I don’t believe she ever wished it.”

“A man can’t tell what a woman wishes.”

“Well, neither can a woman,” returned Basil, lightly.

His wife remained serious. “It was a very fine point,—a very little thing to reject a man for. I felt that when I first read her letter about it.”

Basil yawned. “I don’t believe I ever knew just what the point was.”

“Oh yes, you did; but you forget everything. You know that they met two Boston ladies just after they were engaged, and she believed that he did n’t introduce her because he was ashamed of her countrified appearance before them.”

“It was a pretty fine point,” said Basil, and he laughed provokingly.

“He might not have meant to ignore her,” answered Isabel thoughtfully; “he might have chosen not to introduce her because he felt too proud of her to subject her to any possible misappreciation from them. You might have looked at it in that way.”

“Why didn’t you look at it in that way? You advised her against giving him another chance. Why did you?”

“Why?” repeated Isabel, absently. “Oh, a woman doesn’t judge a man by what he does, but by what he is! I knew that if she dismissed him it was because she never really had trusted or could trust his love; and I thought she had better not make another trial.”

“Well, very possibly you were right. At any rate, you have the consolation of knowing that it’s too late to help it now.”

“Yes, it’s too late,” said Isabel; and her thoughts went back to her meeting with the young girl whom she had liked so much, and whose after history had interested her so painfully. It seemed to her a hard world that could come to nothing better than that for the girl whom she had seen in her first glimpse of it that night. Where was she now? What had become of her? If she had married that man, would she have been any happier? Marriage was not the poetic dream of perfect union that a girl imagines it; she herself had found that out. It was a state of trial, of probation; it was an ordeal, not an ecstasy. If she and Basil had broken each other’s hearts and parted, would not the fragments of their lives have been on a much finer, much higher plane? Had not the commonplace, every-day experiences of marriage vulgarized them both? To be sure, there were the children; but if they had never had the children, she would never have missed them; and if Basil had, for example, died just before they were married—She started from this wicked reverie, and ran towards her husband, whose broad, honest back, with no visible neck or shirt-collar, was turned towards her, as he stood, with his head thrown up, studying a time-table on the wall; she passed her arm convulsively through his, and pulled him away.

“It’s time to be getting our bags out to the train, Basil! Come, Bella! Tom, we’re going!”

The children reluctantly turned from the newsman’s trumpery, and they all went out to the track, and took seats on the benches under the colonnade. While they waited; the train for Buffalo drew in, and they remained watching it till it started. In the last car that passed them, when it was fairly under way, a face looked full at Isabel from one of the windows. In that moment of astonishment she forgot to observe whether it was sad or glad; she only saw, or believed she saw, the light of recognition dawn into its eyes, and then it was gone.

“Basil!” she cried, “stop the train! That was Kitty Ellison!”

“Oh no, it wasn’t,” said Basil, easily. “It looked like her; but it looked at least ten years older.”

“Why, of course it was! We’re all ten years older,” returned his wife in such indignation at his stupidity that she neglected to insist upon his stopping the train, which was rapidly diminishing in the perspective.

He declared it was only a fancied resemblance; she contended that this was in the neighborhood of Eriecreek, and it must be Kitty; and thus one of their most inveterate disagreements began.

Their own train drew into the depot, and they disputed upon the fact in question till they entered on the passage of the Suspension Bridge. Then Basil rose and called the children to his side. On the left hand, far up the river, the great Fall shows, with its mists at its foot and its rainbow on its brow, as silent and still as if it were vastly painted there; and below the bridge on the right, leap the Rapids in the narrow gorge, like seas on a rocky shore. “Look on both sides, now,” he said to the children. “Isabel you must see this!”

Isabel had been preparing for the passage of this bridge ever since she left Boston. “Never!” she exclaimed. She instantly closed her eyes, and hid her face in her handkerchief. Thanks to this precaution of hers, the train crossed the bridge in perfect safety.

A Hazard of New Fortunes

Bibliographical • 1,300 Words

The following story was the first fruit of my New York life when I began to live it after my quarter of a century in Cambridge and Boston, ending in 1889; and I used my own transition to the commercial metropolis in framing the experience which was wholly that of my supposititious literary adventurer. He was a character whom, with his wife, I have employed in some six or eight other stories, and whom I made as much the hero and heroine of ‘Their Wedding Journey’ as the slight fable would bear. In venturing out of my adoptive New England, where I had found myself at home with many imaginary friends, I found it natural to ask the company of these familiar acquaintances, but their company was not to be had at once for the asking. When I began speaking of them as Basil and Isabel, in the fashion of ‘Their Wedding Journey,’ they would not respond with the effect of early middle age which I desired in them. They remained wilfully, not to say woodenly, the young bridal pair of that romance, without the promise of novel functioning. It was not till I tried addressing them as March and Mrs. March that they stirred under my hand with fresh impulse, and set about the work assigned them as people in something more than their second youth.

The scene into which I had invited them to figure filled the largest canvas I had yet allowed myself; and, though ‘A Hazard of New Fortunes’ was not the first story I had written with the printer at my heels, it was the first which took its own time to prescribe its own dimensions. I had the general design well in mind when I began to write it, but as it advanced it compelled into its course incidents, interests, individualities, which I had not known lay near, and it specialized and amplified at points which I had not always meant to touch, though I should not like to intimate anything mystical in the fact. It became, to my thinking, the most vital of my fictions, through my quickened interest in the life about me, at a moment of great psychological import. We had passed through a period of strong emotioning in the direction of the humaner economics, if I may phrase it so; the rich seemed not so much to despise the poor, the poor did not so hopelessly repine. The solution of the riddle of the painful earth through the dreams of Henry George, through the dreams of Edward Bellamy, through the dreams of all the generous visionaries of the past, seemed not impossibly far off. That shedding of blood which is for the remission of sins had been symbolized by the bombs and scaffolds of Chicago, and the hearts of those who felt the wrongs bound up with our rights, the slavery implicated in our liberty, were thrilling with griefs and hopes hitherto strange to the average American breast. Opportunely for me there was a great street-car strike in New York, and the story began to find its way to issues nobler and larger than those of the love-affairs common to fiction. I was in my fifty-second year when I took it up, and in the prime, such as it was, of my powers. The scene which I had chosen appealed prodigiously to me, and the action passed as nearly without my conscious agency as I ever allow myself to think such things happen.

The opening chapters were written in a fine, old fashioned apartment house which had once been a family house, and in an uppermost room of which I could look from my work across the trees of the little park in Stuyvesant Square to the towers of St. George’s Church. Then later in the spring of 1889 the unfinished novel was carried to a country house on the Belmont border of Cambridge. There I must have written very rapidly to have pressed it to conclusion before the summer ended. It came, indeed, so easily from the pen that I had the misgiving which I always have of things which do not cost me great trouble.

There is nothing in the book with which I amused myself more than the house-hunting of the Marches when they were placing themselves in New York; and if the contemporary reader should turn for instruction to the pages in which their experience is detailed I assure him that he may trust their fidelity and accuracy in the article of New York housing as it was early in the last decade of the last century: I mean, the housing of people of such moderate means as the Marches. In my zeal for truth I did not distinguish between reality and actuality in this or other matters—that is, one was as precious to me as the other. But the types here portrayed are as true as ever they were, though the world in which they were finding their habitat is wonderfully, almost incredibly different. Yet it is not wholly different, for a young literary pair now adventuring in New York might easily parallel the experience of the Marches with their own, if not for so little money; many phases of New York housing are better, but all are dearer. Other aspects of the material city have undergone a transformation much more wonderful. I find that in my book its population is once modestly spoken of as two millions, but now in twenty years it is twice as great, and the grandeur as well as grandiosity of its forms is doubly apparent. The transitional public that then moped about in mildly tinkling horse-cars is now hurried back and forth in clanging trolleys, in honking and whirring motors; the Elevated road which was the last word of speed is undermined by the Subway, shooting its swift shuttles through the subterranean woof of the city’s haste. From these feet let the witness infer our whole massive Hercules, a bulk that sprawls and stretches beyond the rivers through the tunnels piercing their beds and that towers into the skies with innumerable tops—a Hercules blent of Briareus and Cerberus, but not so bad a monster as it seemed then to threaten becoming.

Certain hopes of truer and better conditions on which my heart was fixed twenty years ago are not less dear, and they are by no means touched with despair, though they have not yet found the fulfilment which I would then have prophesied for them. Events have not wholly played them false; events have not halted, though they have marched with a slowness that might affect a younger observer as marking time. They who were then mindful of the poor have not forgotten them, and what is better the poor have not often forgotten themselves in violences such as offered me the material of tragedy and pathos in my story. In my quality of artist I could not regret these, and I gratefully realize that they offered me the opportunity of a more strenuous action, a more impressive catastrophe than I could have achieved without them. They tended to give the whole fable dignity and doubtless made for its success as a book. As a serial it had crept a sluggish course before a public apparently so unmindful of it that no rumor of its acceptance or rejection reached the writer during the half year of its publication; but it rose in book form from that failure and stood upon its feet and went its way to greater favor than any book of his had yet enjoyed. I hope that my recognition of the fact will not seem like boasting, but that the reader will regard it as a special confidence from the author and will let it go no farther.

KITTERY POINT, MAINE, July, 1909.

Part First • 33,400 Words
Chapter I • 3,200 Words

“Now, you think this thing over, March, and let me know the last of next week,” said Fulkerson. He got up from the chair which he had been sitting astride, with his face to its back, and tilting toward March on its hind-legs, and came and rapped upon his table with his thin bamboo stick. “What you want to do is to get out of the insurance business, anyway. You acknowledge that yourself. You never liked it, and now it makes you sick; in other words, it’s killing you. You ain’t an insurance man by nature. You’re a natural-born literary man, and you’ve been going against the grain. Now, I offer you a chance to go with the grain. I don’t say you’re going to make your everlasting fortune, but I’ll give you a living salary, and if the thing succeeds you’ll share in its success. We’ll all share in its success. That’s the beauty of it. I tell you, March, this is the greatest idea that has been struck since”—Fulkerson stopped and searched his mind for a fit image—“since the creation of man.”

He put his leg up over the corner of March’s table and gave himself a sharp cut on the thigh, and leaned forward to get the full effect of his words upon his listener.

March had his hands clasped together behind his head, and he took one of them down long enough to put his inkstand and mucilage-bottle out of Fulkerson’s way. After many years’ experiment of a mustache and whiskers, he now wore his grizzled beard full, but cropped close; it gave him a certain grimness, corrected by the gentleness of his eyes.

“Some people don’t think much of the creation of man nowadays. Why stop at that? Why not say since the morning stars sang together?”

“No, sir; no, sir! I don’t want to claim too much, and I draw the line at the creation of man. I’m satisfied with that. But if you want to ring the morning stars into the prospectus all right; I won’t go back on you.”

“But I don’t understand why you’ve set your mind on me,” March said. “I haven’t had, any magazine experience, you know that; and I haven’t seriously attempted to do anything in literature since I was married. I gave up smoking and the Muse together. I suppose I could still manage a cigar, but I don’t believe I could—”

“Muse worth a cent.” Fulkerson took the thought out of his mouth and put it into his own words. “I know. Well, I don’t want you to. I don’t care if you never write a line for the thing, though you needn’t reject anything of yours, if it happens to be good, on that account. And I don’t want much experience in my editor; rather not have it. You told me, didn’t you, that you used to do some newspaper work before you settled down?”

“Yes; I thought my lines were permanently cast in those places once. It was more an accident than anything else that I got into the insurance business. I suppose I secretly hoped that if I made my living by something utterly different, I could come more freshly to literature proper in my leisure.”

“I see; and you found the insurance business too many, for you. Well, anyway, you’ve always had a hankering for the inkpots; and the fact that you first gave me the idea of this thing shows that you’ve done more or less thinking about magazines.”

“Yes—less.”

“Well, all right. Now don’t you be troubled. I know what I want, generally, speaking, and in this particular instance I want you. I might get a man of more experience, but I should probably get a man of more prejudice and self-conceit along with him, and a man with a following of the literary hangers-on that are sure to get round an editor sooner or later. I want to start fair, and I’ve found out in the syndicate business all the men that are worth having. But they know me, and they don’t know you, and that’s where we shall have the pull on them. They won’t be able to work the thing. Don’t you be anxious about the experience. I’ve got experience enough of my own to run a dozen editors. What I want is an editor who has taste, and you’ve got it; and conscience, and you’ve got it; and horse sense, and you’ve got that. And I like you because you’re a Western man, and I’m another. I do cotton to a Western man when I find him off East here, holding his own with the best of ‘em, and showing ‘em that he’s just as much civilized as they are. We both know what it is to have our bright home in the setting sun; heigh?”

“I think we Western men who’ve come East are apt to take ourselves a little too objectively and to feel ourselves rather more representative than we need,” March remarked.

Fulkerson was delighted. “You’ve hit it! We do! We are!”

“And as for holding my own, I’m not very proud of what I’ve done in that way; it’s been very little to hold. But I know what you mean, Fulkerson, and I’ve felt the same thing myself; it warmed me toward you when we first met. I can’t help suffusing a little to any man when I hear that he was born on the other side of the Alleghanies. It’s perfectly stupid. I despise the same thing when I see it in Boston people.”

Fulkerson pulled first one of his blond whiskers and then the other, and twisted the end of each into a point, which he left to untwine itself. He fixed March with his little eyes, which had a curious innocence in their cunning, and tapped the desk immediately in front of him. “What I like about you is that you’re broad in your sympathies. The first time I saw you, that night on the Quebec boat, I said to myself: ‘There’s a man I want to know. There’s a human being.’ I was a little afraid of Mrs. March and the children, but I felt at home with you—thoroughly domesticated—before I passed a word with you; and when you spoke first, and opened up with a joke over that fellow’s tableful of light literature and Indian moccasins and birch-bark toy canoes and stereoscopic views, I knew that we were brothers—spiritual twins. I recognized the Western style of fun, and I thought, when you said you were from Boston, that it was some of the same. But I see now that its being a cold fact, as far as the last fifteen or twenty years count, is just so much gain. You know both sections, and you can make this thing go, from ocean to ocean.”

“We might ring that into the prospectus, too,” March suggested, with a smile. “You might call the thing ‘From Sea to Sea.’ By-the-way, what are you going to call it?”

“I haven’t decided yet; that’s one of the things I wanted to talk with you about. I had thought of ‘The Syndicate’; but it sounds kind of dry, and doesn’t seem to cover the ground exactly. I should like something that would express the co-operative character of the thing, but I don’t know as I can get it.”

“Might call it ‘The Mutual’.”

“They’d think it was an insurance paper. No, that won’t do. But Mutual comes pretty near the idea. If we could get something like that, it would pique curiosity; and then if we could get paragraphs afloat explaining that the contributors were to be paid according to the sales, it would be a first-rate ad.”

He bent a wide, anxious, inquiring smile upon March, who suggested, lazily: “You might call it ‘The Round-Robin’. That would express the central idea of irresponsibility. As I understand, everybody is to share the profits and be exempt from the losses. Or, if I’m wrong, and the reverse is true, you might call it ‘The Army of Martyrs’. Come, that sounds attractive, Fulkerson! Or what do you think of ‘The Fifth Wheel’? That would forestall the criticism that there are too many literary periodicals already. Or, if you want to put forward the idea of complete independence, you could call it ‘The Free Lance’; or—”

“Or ‘The Hog on Ice’—either stand up or fall down, you know,” Fulkerson broke in coarsely. “But we’ll leave the name of the magazine till we get the editor. I see the poison’s beginning to work in you, March; and if I had time I’d leave the result to time. But I haven’t. I’ve got to know inside of the next week. To come down to business with you, March, I sha’n’t start this thing unless I can get you to take hold of it.”

He seemed to expect some acknowledgment, and March said, “Well, that’s very nice of you, Fulkerson.”

“No, sir; no, sir! I’ve always liked you and wanted you ever since we met that first night. I had this thing inchoately in my mind then, when I was telling you about the newspaper syndicate business—beautiful vision of a lot of literary fellows breaking loose from the bondage of publishers and playing it alone—”

“You might call it ‘The Lone Hand’; that would be attractive,” March interrupted. “The whole West would know what you meant.”

Fulkerson was talking seriously, and March was listening seriously; but they both broke off and laughed. Fulkerson got down off the table and made some turns about the room. It was growing late; the October sun had left the top of the tall windows; it was still clear day, but it would soon be twilight; they had been talking a long time. Fulkerson came and stood with his little feet wide apart, and bent his little lean, square face on March. “See here! How much do you get out of this thing here, anyway?”

“The insurance business?” March hesitated a moment and then said, with a certain effort of reserve, “At present about three thousand.” He looked up at Fulkerson with a glance, as if he had a mind to enlarge upon the fact, and then dropped his eyes without saying more.

Whether Fulkerson had not thought it so much or not, he said: “Well, I’ll give you thirty-five hundred. Come! And your chances in the success.”

“We won’t count the chances in the success. And I don’t believe thirty-five hundred would go any further in New York than three thousand in Boston.”

“But you don’t live on three thousand here?”

“No; my wife has a little property.”

“Well, she won’t lose the income if you go to New York. I suppose you pay ten or twelve hundred a year for your house here. You can get plenty of flats in New York for the same money; and I understand you can get all sorts of provisions for less than you pay now—three or four cents on the pound. Come!”

This was by no means the first talk they had had about the matter; every three or four months during the past two years the syndicate man had dropped in upon March to air the scheme and to get his impressions of it. This had happened so often that it had come to be a sort of joke between them. But now Fulkerson clearly meant business, and March had a struggle to maintain himself in a firm poise of refusal.

“I dare say it wouldn’t—or it needn’t—cost so very much more, but I don’t want to go to New York; or my wife doesn’t. It’s the same thing.”

“A good deal samer,” Fulkerson admitted.

March did not quite like his candor, and he went on with dignity. “It’s very natural she shouldn’t. She has always lived in Boston; she’s attached to the place. Now, if you were going to start ‘The Fifth Wheel’ in Boston—”

Fulkerson slowly and sadly shook his head, but decidedly. “Wouldn’t do. You might as well say St. Louis or Cincinnati. There’s only one city that belongs to the whole country, and that’s New York.”

“Yes, I know,” sighed March; “and Boston belongs to the Bostonians, but they like you to make yourself at home while you’re visiting.”

“If you’ll agree to make phrases like that, right along, and get them into ‘The Round-Robin’ somehow, I’ll say four thousand,” said Fulkerson. “You think it over now, March. You talk it over with Mrs. March; I know you will, anyway; and I might as well make a virtue of advising you to do it. Tell her I advised you to do it, and you let me know before next Saturday what you’ve decided.”

March shut down the rolling top of his desk in the corner of the room, and walked Fulkerson out before him. It was so late that the last of the chore-women who washed down the marble halls and stairs of the great building had wrung out her floor-cloth and departed, leaving spotless stone and a clean, damp smell in the darkening corridors behind her.

“Couldn’t offer you such swell quarters in New York, March,” Fulkerson said, as he went tack-tacking down the steps with his small boot-heels. “But I’ve got my eye on a little house round in West Eleventh Street that I’m going to fit up for my bachelor’s hall in the third story, and adapt for ‘The Lone Hand’ in the first and second, if this thing goes through; and I guess we’ll be pretty comfortable. It’s right on the Sand Strip—no malaria of any kind.”

“I don’t know that I’m going to share its salubrity with you yet,” March sighed, in an obvious travail which gave Fulkerson hopes.

“Oh yes, you are,” he coaxed. “Now, you talk it over with your wife. You give her a fair, unprejudiced chance at the thing on its merits, and I’m very much mistaken in Mrs. March if she doesn’t tell you to go in and win. We’re bound to win!”

They stood on the outside steps of the vast edifice beetling like a granite crag above them, with the stone groups of an allegory of life-insurance foreshortened in the bas-relief overhead. March absently lifted his eyes to it. It was suddenly strange after so many years’ familiarity, and so was the well-known street in its Saturday-evening solitude. He asked himself, with prophetic homesickness, if it were an omen of what was to be. But he only said, musingly: “A fortnightly. You know that didn’t work in England. The fortnightly is published once a month now.”

“It works in France,” Fulkerson retorted. “The ‘Revue des Deux Mondes’ is still published twice a month. I guess we can make it work in America—with illustrations.”

“Going to have illustrations?”

“My dear boy! What are you giving me? Do I look like the sort of lunatic who would start a thing in the twilight of the nineteenth century without illustrations? Come off!”

“Ah, that complicates it! I don’t know anything about art.” March’s look of discouragement confessed the hold the scheme had taken upon him.

“I don’t want you to!” Fulkerson retorted. “Don’t you suppose I shall have an art man?”

“And will they—the artists—work at a reduced rate, too, like the writers, with the hopes of a share in the success?”

“Of course they will! And if I want any particular man, for a card, I’ll pay him big money besides. But I can get plenty of first-rate sketches on my own terms. You’ll see! They’ll pour in!”

“Look here, Fulkerson,” said March, “you’d better call this fortnightly of yours ‘The Madness of the Half-Moon’; or ‘Bedlam Broke Loose’ wouldn’t be bad! Why do you throw away all your hard earnings on such a crazy venture? Don’t do it!” The kindness which March had always felt, in spite of his wife’s first misgivings and reservations, for the merry, hopeful, slangy, energetic little creature trembled in his voice. They had both formed a friendship for Fulkerson during the week they were together in Quebec. When he was not working the newspapers there, he went about with them over the familiar ground they were showing their children, and was simply grateful for the chance, as well as very entertaining about it all. The children liked him, too; when they got the clew to his intention, and found that he was not quite serious in many of the things he said, they thought he was great fun. They were always glad when their father brought him home on the occasion of Fulkerson’s visits to Boston; and Mrs. March, though of a charier hospitality, welcomed Fulkerson with a grateful sense of his admiration for her husband. He had a way of treating March with deference, as an older and abler man, and of qualifying the freedom he used toward every one with an implication that March tolerated it voluntarily, which she thought very sweet and even refined.

“Ah, now you’re talking like a man and a brother,” said Fulkerson. “Why, March, old man, do you suppose I’d come on here and try to talk you into this thing if I wasn’t morally, if I wasn’t perfectly, sure of success? There isn’t any if or and about it. I know my ground, every inch; and I don’t stand alone on it,” he added, with a significance which did not escape March. “When you’ve made up your mind I can give you the proof; but I’m not at liberty now to say anything more. I tell you it’s going to be a triumphal march from the word go, with coffee and lemonade for the procession along the whole line. All you’ve got to do is to fall in.” He stretched out his hand to March. “You let me know as soon as you can.”

March deferred taking his hand till he could ask, “Where are you going?”

“Parker House. Take the eleven for New York to-night.”

“I thought I might walk your way.” March looked at his watch. “But I shouldn’t have time. Goodbye!”

He now let Fulkerson have his hand, and they exchanged a cordial pressure. Fulkerson started away at a quick, light pace. Half a block off he stopped, turned round, and, seeing March still standing where he had left him, he called back, joyously, “I’ve got the name!”

“What?”

“Every Other Week.”

“It isn’t bad.”

“Ta-ta!”

Chapter II • 1,500 Words

All the way up to the South End March mentally prolonged his talk with Fulkerson, and at his door in Nankeen Square he closed the parley with a plump refusal to go to New York on any terms. His daughter Bella was lying in wait for him in the hall, and she threw her arms round his neck with the exuberance of her fourteen years and with something of the histrionic intention of her sex. He pressed on, with her clinging about him, to the library, and, in the glow of his decision against Fulkerson, kissed his wife, where she sat by the study lamp reading the Transcript through her first pair of eye-glasses: it was agreed in the family that she looked distinguished in them, or, at any rate, cultivated. She took them off to give him a glance of question, and their son Tom looked up from his book for a moment; he was in his last year at the high school, and was preparing for Harvard.

“I didn’t get away from the office till half-past five,” March explained to his wife’s glance, “and then I walked. I suppose dinner’s waiting. I’m sorry, but I won’t do it any more.”

At table he tried to be gay with Bella, who babbled at him with a voluble pertness which her brother had often advised her parents to check in her, unless they wanted her to be universally despised.

“Papa!” she shouted at last, “you’re not listening!” As soon as possible his wife told the children they might be excused. Then she asked, “What is it, Basil?”

“What is what?” he retorted, with a specious brightness that did not avail.

“What is on your mind?”

“How do you know there’s anything?”

“Your kissing me so when you came in, for one thing.”

“Don’t I always kiss you when I come in?”

“Not now. I suppose it isn’t necessary any more. ‘Cela va sans baiser.’”

“Yes, I guess it’s so; we get along without the symbolism now.” He stopped, but she knew that he had not finished.

“Is it about your business? Have they done anything more?”

“No; I’m still in the dark. I don’t know whether they mean to supplant me, or whether they ever did. But I wasn’t thinking about that. Fulkerson has been to see me again.”

“Fulkerson?” She brightened at the name, and March smiled, too. “Why didn’t you bring him to dinner?”

“I wanted to talk with you. Then you do like him?”

“What has that got to do with it, Basil?”

“Nothing! nothing! That is, he was boring away about that scheme of his again. He’s got it into definite shape at last.”

“What shape?”

March outlined it for her, and his wife seized its main features with the intuitive sense of affairs which makes women such good business-men when they will let it.

“It sounds perfectly crazy,” she said, finally. “But it mayn’t be. The only thing I didn’t like about Mr. Fulkerson was his always wanting to chance things. But what have you got to do with it?”

“What have I got to do with it?” March toyed with the delay the question gave him; then he said, with a sort of deprecatory laugh: “It seems that Fulkerson has had his eye on me ever since we met that night on the Quebec boat. I opened up pretty freely to him, as you do to a man you never expect to see again, and when I found he was in that newspaper syndicate business I told him about my early literary ambitions—”

“You can’t say that I ever discouraged them, Basil,” his wife put in. “I should have been willing, any time, to give up everything for them.”

“Well, he says that I first suggested this brilliant idea to him. Perhaps I did; I don’t remember. When he told me about his supplying literature to newspapers for simultaneous publication, he says I asked: ‘Why not apply the principle of co-operation to a magazine, and run it in the interest of the contributors?’ and that set him to thinking, and he thought out his plan of a periodical which should pay authors and artists a low price outright for their work and give them a chance of the profits in the way of a percentage. After all, it isn’t so very different from the chances an author takes when he publishes a book. And Fulkerson thinks that the novelty of the thing would pique public curiosity, if it didn’t arouse public sympathy. And the long and short of it is, Isabel, that he wants me to help edit it.”

“To edit it?” His wife caught her breath, and she took a little time to realize the fact, while she stared hard at her husband to make sure he was not joking.

“Yes. He says he owes it all to me; that I invented the idea—the germ—the microbe.”

His wife had now realized the fact, at least in a degree that excluded trifling with it. “That is very honorable of Mr. Fulkerson; and if he owes it to you, it was the least he could do.” Having recognized her husband’s claim to the honor done him, she began to kindle with a sense of the honor itself and the value of the opportunity. “It’s a very high compliment to you, Basil—a very high compliment. And you could give up this wretched insurance business that you’ve always hated so, and that’s making you so unhappy now that you think they’re going to take it from you. Give it up and take Mr. Fulkerson’s offer! It’s a perfect interposition, coming just at this time! Why, do it! Mercy!” she suddenly arrested herself, “he wouldn’t expect you to get along on the possible profits?” Her face expressed the awfulness of the notion.

March smiled reassuringly, and waited to give himself the pleasure of the sensation he meant to give her. “If I’ll make striking phrases for it and edit it, too, he’ll give me four thousand dollars.”

He leaned back in his chair, and stuck his hands deep into his pockets, and watched his wife’s face, luminous with the emotions that flashed through her mind—doubt, joy, anxiety.

“Basil! You don’t mean it! Why, take it! Take it instantly! Oh, what a thing to happen! Oh, what luck! But you deserve it, if you first suggested it. What an escape, what a triumph over all those hateful insurance people! Oh, Basil, I’m afraid he’ll change his mind! You ought to have accepted on the spot. You might have known I would approve, and you could so easily have taken it back if I didn’t. Telegraph him now! Run right out with the despatch—Or we can send Tom!”

In these imperatives of Mrs. March’s there was always much of the conditional. She meant that he should do what she said, if it were entirely right; and she never meant to be considered as having urged him.

“And suppose his enterprise went wrong?” her husband suggested.

“It won’t go wrong. Hasn’t he made a success of his syndicate?”

“He says so—yes.”

“Very well, then, it stands to reason that he’ll succeed in this, too. He wouldn’t undertake it if he didn’t know it would succeed; he must have capital.”

“It will take a great deal to get such a thing going; and even if he’s got an Angel behind him—”

She caught at the word—“An Angel?”

“It’s what the theatrical people call a financial backer. He dropped a hint of something of that kind.”

“Of course, he’s got an Angel,” said his wife, promptly adopting the word. “And even if he hadn’t, still, Basil, I should be willing to have you risk it. The risk isn’t so great, is it? We shouldn’t be ruined if it failed altogether. With our stocks we have two thousand a year, anyway, and we could pinch through on that till you got into some other business afterward, especially if we’d saved something out of your salary while it lasted. Basil, I want you to try it! I know it will give you a new lease of life to have a congenial occupation.” March laughed, but his wife persisted. “I’m all for your trying it, Basil; indeed I am. If it’s an experiment, you can give it up.”

“It can give me up, too.”

“Oh, nonsense! I guess there’s not much fear of that. Now, I want you to telegraph Mr. Fulkerson, so that he’ll find the despatch waiting for him when he gets to New York. I’ll take the whole responsibility, Basil, and I’ll risk all the consequences.”

Chapter III • 1,200 Words

March’s face had sobered more and more as she followed one hopeful burst with another, and now it expressed a positive pain. But he forced a smile and said: “There’s a little condition attached. Where did you suppose it was to be published?”

“Why, in Boston, of course. Where else should it be published?”

She looked at him for the intention of his question so searchingly that he quite gave up the attempt to be gay about it. “No,” he said, gravely, “it’s to be published in New York.”

She fell back in her chair. “In New York?” She leaned forward over the table toward him, as if to make sure that she heard aright, and said, with all the keen reproach that he could have expected: “In New York, Basil! Oh, how could you have let me go on?”

He had a sufficiently rueful face in owning: “I oughtn’t to have done it, but I got started wrong. I couldn’t help putting the best foot, forward at first—or as long as the whole thing was in the air. I didn’t know that you would take so much to the general enterprise, or else I should have mentioned the New York condition at once; but, of course, that puts an end to it.”

“Oh, of course,” she assented, sadly. “We COULDN’T go to New York.”

“No, I know that,” he said; and with this a perverse desire to tempt her to the impossibility awoke in him, though he was really quite cold about the affair himself now. “Fulkerson thought we could get a nice flat in New York for about what the interest and taxes came to here, and provisions are cheaper. But I should rather not experiment at my time of life. If I could have been caught younger, I might have been inured to New York, but I don’t believe I could stand it now.”

“How I hate to have you talk that way, Basil! You are young enough to try anything—anywhere; but you know I don’t like New York. I don’t approve of it. It’s so big, and so hideous! Of course I shouldn’t mind that; but I’ve always lived in Boston, and the children were born and have all their friendships and associations here.” She added, with the helplessness that discredited her good sense and did her injustice, “I have just got them both into the Friday afternoon class at Papanti’s, and you know how difficult that is.”

March could not fail to take advantage of an occasion like this. “Well, that alone ought to settle it. Under the circumstances, it would be flying in the face of Providence to leave Boston. The mere fact of a brilliant opening like that offered me on ‘The Microbe,’ and the halcyon future which Fulkerson promises if we’ll come to New York, is as dust in the balance against the advantages of the Friday afternoon class.”

“Basil,” she appealed, solemnly, “have I ever interfered with your career?”

“I never had any for you to interfere with, my dear.”

“Basil! Haven’t I always had faith in you? And don’t you suppose that if I thought it would really be for your advancement I would go to New York or anywhere with you?”

“No, my dear, I don’t,” he teased. “If it would be for my salvation, yes, perhaps; but not short of that; and I should have to prove by a cloud of witnesses that it would. I don’t blame you. I wasn’t born in Boston, but I understand how you feel. And really, my dear,” he added, without irony, “I never seriously thought of asking you to go to New York. I was dazzled by Fulkerson’s offer, I’ll own that; but his choice of me as editor sapped my confidence in him.”

“I don’t like to hear you say that, Basil,” she entreated.

“Well, of course there were mitigating circumstances. I could see that Fulkerson meant to keep the whip-hand himself, and that was reassuring. And, besides, if the Reciprocity Life should happen not to want my services any longer, it wouldn’t be quite like giving up a certainty; though, as a matter of business, I let Fulkerson get that impression; I felt rather sneaking to do it. But if the worst comes to the worst, I can look about for something to do in Boston; and, anyhow, people don’t starve on two thousand a year, though it’s convenient to have five. The fact is, I’m too old to change so radically. If you don’t like my saying that, then you are, Isabel, and so are the children. I’ve no right to take them from the home we’ve made, and to change the whole course of their lives, unless I can assure them of something, and I can’t assure them of anything. Boston is big enough for us, and it’s certainly prettier than New York. I always feel a little proud of hailing from Boston; my pleasure in the place mounts the farther I get away from it. But I do appreciate it, my dear; I’ve no more desire to leave it than you have. You may be sure that if you don’t want to take the children out of the Friday afternoon class, I don’t want to leave my library here, and all the ways I’ve got set in. We’ll keep on. Very likely the company won’t supplant me, and if it does, and Watkins gets the place, he’ll give me a subordinate position of some sort. Cheer up, Isabel! I have put Satan and his angel, Fulkerson, behind me, and it’s all right. Let’s go in to the children.”

He came round the table to Isabel, where she sat in a growing distraction, and lifted her by the waist from her chair.

She sighed deeply. “Shall we tell the children about it?”

“No. What’s the use, now?”

“There wouldn’t be any,” she assented. When they entered the family room, where the boy and girl sat on either side of the lamp working out the lessons for Monday which they had left over from the day before, she asked, “Children, how would you like to live in New York?”

Bella made haste to get in her word first. “And give up the Friday afternoon class?” she wailed.

Tom growled from his book, without lifting his eyes: “I shouldn’t want to go to Columbia. They haven’t got any dormitories, and you have to board round anywhere. Are you going to New York?” He now deigned to look up at his father.

“No, Tom. You and Bella have decided me against it. Your perspective shows the affair in its true proportions. I had an offer to go to New York, but I’ve refused it.”

Chapter IV • 2,500 Words

March’s irony fell harmless from the children’s preoccupation with their own affairs, but he knew that his wife felt it, and this added to the bitterness which prompted it. He blamed her for letting her provincial narrowness prevent his accepting Fulkerson’s offer quite as much as if he had otherwise entirely wished to accept it. His world, like most worlds, had been superficially a disappointment. He was no richer than at the beginning, though in marrying he had given up some tastes, some preferences, some aspirations, in the hope of indulging them later, with larger means and larger leisure. His wife had not urged him to do it; in fact, her pride, as she said, was in his fitness for the life he had renounced; but she had acquiesced, and they had been very happy together. That is to say, they made up their quarrels or ignored them.

They often accused each other of being selfish and indifferent, but she knew that he would always sacrifice himself for her and the children; and he, on his part, with many gibes and mockeries, wholly trusted in her. They had grown practically tolerant of each other’s disagreeable traits; and the danger that really threatened them was that they should grow too well satisfied with themselves, if not with each other. They were not sentimental, they were rather matter-of-fact in their motives; but they had both a sort of humorous fondness for sentimentality. They liked to play with the romantic, from the safe vantage-ground of their real practicality, and to divine the poetry of the commonplace. Their peculiar point of view separated them from most other people, with whom their means of self-comparison were not so good since their marriage as before. Then they had travelled and seen much of the world, and they had formed tastes which they had not always been able to indulge, but of which they felt that the possession reflected distinction on them. It enabled them to look down upon those who were without such tastes; but they were not ill-natured, and so they did not look down so much with contempt as with amusement. In their unfashionable neighborhood they had the fame of being not exclusive precisely, but very much wrapped up in themselves and their children.

Mrs. March was reputed to be very cultivated, and Mr. March even more so, among the simpler folk around them. Their house had some good pictures, which her aunt had brought home from Europe in more affluent days, and it abounded in books on which he spent more than he ought. They had beautified it in every way, and had unconsciously taken credit to them selves for it. They felt, with a glow almost of virtue, how perfectly it fitted their lives and their children’s, and they believed that somehow it expressed their characters—that it was like them. They went out very little; she remained shut up in its refinement, working the good of her own; and he went to his business, and hurried back to forget it, and dream his dream of intellectual achievement in the flattering atmosphere of her sympathy. He could not conceal from himself that his divided life was somewhat like Charles Lamb’s, and there were times when, as he had expressed to Fulkerson, he believed that its division was favorable to the freshness of his interest in literature. It certainly kept it a high privilege, a sacred refuge. Now and then he wrote something, and got it printed after long delays, and when they met on the St. Lawrence Fulkerson had some of March’s verses in his pocket-book, which he had cut out of astray newspaper and carried about for years, because they pleased his fancy so much; they formed an immediate bond of union between the men when their authorship was traced and owned, and this gave a pretty color of romance to their acquaintance. But, for the most part, March was satisfied to read. He was proud of reading critically, and he kept in the current of literary interests and controversies. It all seemed to him, and to his wife at second-hand, very meritorious; he could not help contrasting his life and its inner elegance with that of other men who had no such resources. He thought that he was not arrogant about it, because he did full justice to the good qualities of those other people; he congratulated himself upon the democratic instincts which enabled him to do this; and neither he nor his wife supposed that they were selfish persons. On the contrary, they were very sympathetic; there was no good cause that they did not wish well; they had a generous scorn of all kinds of narrow-heartedness; if it had ever come into their way to sacrifice themselves for others, they thought they would have done so, but they never asked why it had not come in their way. They were very gentle and kind, even when most elusive; and they taught their children to loathe all manner of social cruelty. March was of so watchful a conscience in some respects that he denied himself the pensive pleasure of lapsing into the melancholy of unfulfilled aspirations; but he did not see that, if he had abandoned them, it had been for what he held dearer; generally he felt as if he had turned from them with a high, altruistic aim. The practical expression of his life was that it was enough to provide well for his family; to have cultivated tastes, and to gratify them to the extent of his means; to be rather distinguished, even in the simplification of his desires. He believed, and his wife believed, that if the time ever came when he really wished to make a sacrifice to the fulfilment of the aspirations so long postponed, she would be ready to join with heart and hand.

When he went to her room from his library, where she left him the whole evening with the children, he found her before the glass thoughtfully removing the first dismantling pin from her back hair.

“I can’t help feeling,” she grieved into the mirror, “that it’s I who keep you from accepting that offer. I know it is! I could go West with you, or into a new country—anywhere; but New York terrifies me. I don’t like New York, I never did; it disheartens and distracts me; I can’t find myself in it; I shouldn’t know how to shop. I know I’m foolish and narrow and provincial,” she went on, “but I could never have any inner quiet in New York; I couldn’t live in the spirit there. I suppose people do. It can’t be that all these millions—’

“Oh, not so bad as that!” March interposed, laughing. “There aren’t quite two.”

“I thought there were four or five. Well, no matter. You see what I am, Basil. I’m terribly limited. I couldn’t make my sympathies go round two million people; I should be wretched. I suppose I’m standing in the way of your highest interest, but I can’t help it. We took each other for better or worse, and you must try to bear with me—” She broke off and began to cry.

“Stop it!” shouted March. “I tell you I never cared anything for Fulkerson’s scheme or entertained it seriously, and I shouldn’t if he’d proposed to carry it out in Boston.” This was not quite true, but in the retrospect it seemed sufficiently so for the purposes of argument. “Don’t say another word about it. The thing’s over now, and I don’t want to think of it any more. We couldn’t change its nature if we talked all night. But I want you to understand that it isn’t your limitations that are in the way. It’s mine. I shouldn’t have the courage to take such a place; I don’t think I’m fit for it, and that’s the long and short of it.”

“Oh, you don’t know how it hurts me to have you say that, Basil.”

The next morning, as they sat together at breakfast, without the children, whom they let lie late on Sunday, Mrs. March said to her husband, silent over his fish-balls and baked beans: “We will go to New York. I’ve decided it.”

“Well, it takes two to decide that,” March retorted. “We are not going to New York.”

“Yes, we are. I’ve thought it out. Now, listen.”

“Oh, I’m willing to listen,” he consented, airily.

“You’ve always wanted to get out of the insurance business, and now with that fear of being turned out which you have you mustn’t neglect this offer. I suppose it has its risks, but it’s a risk keeping on as we are; and perhaps you will make a great success of it. I do want you to try, Basil. If I could once feel that you had fairly seen what you could do in literature, I should die happy.”

“Not immediately after, I hope,” he suggested, taking the second cup of coffee she had been pouring out for him. “And Boston?”

“We needn’t make a complete break. We can keep this place for the present, anyway; we could let it for the winter, and come back in the summer next year. It would be change enough from New York.”

“Fulkerson and I hadn’t got as far as to talk of a vacation.”

“No matter. The children and I could come. And if you didn’t like New York, or the enterprise failed, you could get into something in Boston again; and we have enough to live on till you did. Yes, Basil, I’m going.”

“I can see by the way your chin trembles that nothing could stop you. You may go to New York if you wish, Isabel, but I shall stay here.”

“Be serious, Basil. I’m in earnest.”

“Serious? If I were any more serious I should shed tears. Come, my dear, I know what you mean, and if I had my heart set on this thing—Fulkerson always calls it ‘this thing’ I would cheerfully accept any sacrifice you could make to it. But I’d rather not offer you up on a shrine I don’t feel any particular faith in. I’m very comfortable where I am; that is, I know just where the pinch comes, and if it comes harder, why, I’ve got used to bearing that kind of pinch. I’m too old to change pinches.”

“Now, that does decide me.”

“It decides me, too.”

“I will take all the responsibility, Basil,” she pleaded.

“Oh yes; but you’ll hand it back to me as soon as you’ve carried your point with it. There’s nothing mean about you, Isabel, where responsibility is concerned. No; if I do this thing—Fulkerson again? I can’t get away from ‘this thing’; it’s ominous—I must do it because I want to do it, and not because you wish that you wanted me to do it. I understand your position, Isabel, and that you’re really acting from a generous impulse, but there’s nothing so precarious at our time of life as a generous impulse. When we were younger we could stand it; we could give way to it and take the consequences. But now we can’t bear it. We must act from cold reason even in the ardor of self-sacrifice.”

“Oh, as if you did that!” his wife retorted.

“Is that any cause why you shouldn’t?” She could not say that it was, and he went on triumphantly:

“No, I won’t take you away from the only safe place on the planet and plunge you into the most perilous, and then have you say in your revulsion of feeling that you were all against it from the first, and you gave way because you saw I had my heart set on it.” He supposed he was treating the matter humorously, but in this sort of banter between husband and wife there is always much more than the joking. March had seen some pretty feminine inconsistencies and trepidations which once charmed him in his wife hardening into traits of middle-age which were very like those of less interesting older women. The sight moved him with a kind of pathos, but he felt the result hindering and vexatious.

She now retorted that if he did not choose to take her at her word he need not, but that whatever he did she should have nothing to reproach herself with; and, at least, he could not say that she had trapped him into anything.

“What do you mean by trapping?” he demanded.

“I don’t know what you call it,” she answered; “but when you get me to commit myself to a thing by leaving out the most essential point, I call it trapping.”

“I wonder you stop at trapping, if you think I got you to favor Fulkerson’s scheme and then sprung New York on you. I don’t suppose you do, though. But I guess we won’t talk about it any more.”

He went out for a long walk, and she went to her room. They lunched silently together in the presence of their children, who knew that they had been quarrelling, but were easily indifferent to the fact, as children get to be in such cases; nature defends their youth, and the unhappiness which they behold does not infect them. In the evening, after the boy and girl had gone to bed, the father and mother resumed their talk. He would have liked to take it up at the point from which it wandered into hostilities, for he felt it lamentable that a matter which so seriously concerned them should be confused in the fumes of senseless anger; and he was willing to make a tacit acknowledgment of his own error by recurring to the question, but she would not be content with this, and he had to concede explicitly to her weakness that she really meant it when she had asked him to accept Fulkerson’s offer. He said he knew that; and he began soberly to talk over their prospects in the event of their going to New York.

“Oh, I see you are going!” she twitted.

“I’m going to stay,” he answered, “and let them turn me out of my agency here,” and in this bitterness their talk ended.

Chapter V • 1,700 Words

His wife made no attempt to renew their talk before March went to his business in the morning, and they parted in dry offence. Their experience was that these things always came right of themselves at last, and they usually let them. He knew that she had really tried to consent to a thing that was repugnant to her, and in his heart he gave her more credit for the effort than he had allowed her openly. She knew that she had made it with the reservation he accused her of, and that he had a right to feel sore at what she could not help. But he left her to brood over his ingratitude, and she suffered him to go heavy and unfriended to meet the chances of the day. He said to himself that if she had assented cordially to the conditions of Fulkerson’s offer, he would have had the courage to take all the other risks himself, and would have had the satisfaction of resigning his place. As it was, he must wait till he was removed; and he figured with bitter pleasure the pain she would feel when he came home some day and told her he had been supplanted, after it was too late to close with Fulkerson.

He found a letter on his desk from the secretary, “Dictated,” in typewriting, which briefly informed him that Mr. Hubbell, the Inspector of Agencies, would be in Boston on Wednesday, and would call at his office during the forenoon. The letter was not different in tone from many that he had formerly received; but the visit announced was out of the usual order, and March believed he read his fate in it. During the eighteen years of his connection with it—first as a subordinate in the Boston office, and finally as its general agent there—he had seen a good many changes in the Reciprocity; presidents, vice-presidents, actuaries, and general agents had come and gone, but there had always seemed to be a recognition of his efficiency, or at least sufficiency, and there had never been any manner of trouble, no question of accounts, no apparent dissatisfaction with his management, until latterly, when there had begun to come from headquarters some suggestions of enterprise in certain ways, which gave him his first suspicions of his clerk Watkins’s willingness to succeed him; they embodied some of Watkins’s ideas. The things proposed seemed to March undignified, and even vulgar; he had never thought himself wanting in energy, though probably he had left the business to take its own course in the old lines more than he realized. Things had always gone so smoothly that he had sometimes fancied a peculiar regard for him in the management, which he had the weakness to attribute to an appreciation of what he occasionally did in literature, though in saner moments he felt how impossible this was. Beyond a reference from Mr. Hubbell to some piece of March’s which had happened to meet his eye, no one in the management ever gave a sign of consciousness that their service was adorned by an obscure literary man; and Mr. Hubbell himself had the effect of regarding the excursions of March’s pen as a sort of joke, and of winking at them; as he might have winked if once in a way he had found him a little the gayer for dining.

March wore through the day gloomily, but he had it on his conscience not to show any resentment toward Watkins, whom he suspected of wishing to supplant him, and even of working to do so. Through this self-denial he reached a better mind concerning his wife. He determined not to make her suffer needlessly, if the worst came to the worst; she would suffer enough, at the best, and till the worst came he would spare her, and not say anything about the letter he had got.

But when they met, her first glance divined that something had happened, and her first question frustrated his generous intention. He had to tell her about the letter. She would not allow that it had any significance, but she wished him to make an end of his anxieties and forestall whatever it might portend by resigning his place at once. She said she was quite ready to go to New York; she had been thinking it all over, and now she really wanted to go. He answered, soberly, that he had thought it over, too; and he did not wish to leave Boston, where he had lived so long, or try a new way of life if he could help it. He insisted that he was quite selfish in this; in their concessions their quarrel vanished; they agreed that whatever happened would be for the best; and the next day he went to his office fortified for any event.

His destiny, if tragical, presented itself with an aspect which he might have found comic if it had been another’s destiny. Mr. Hubbell brought March’s removal, softened in the guise of a promotion. The management at New York, it appeared, had acted upon a suggestion of Mr. Hubbell’s, and now authorized him to offer March the editorship of the monthly paper published in the interest of the company; his office would include the authorship of circulars and leaflets in behalf of life-insurance, and would give play to the literary talent which Mr. Hubbell had brought to the attention of the management; his salary would be nearly as much as at present, but the work would not take his whole time, and in a place like New York he could get a great deal of outside writing, which they would not object to his doing.

Mr. Hubbell seemed so sure of his acceptance of a place in every way congenial to a man of literary tastes that March was afterward sorry he dismissed the proposition with obvious irony, and had needlessly hurt Hubbell’s feelings; but Mrs. March had no such regrets. She was only afraid that he had not made his rejection contemptuous enough. “And now,” she said, “telegraph Mr. Fulkerson, and we will go at once.”

“I suppose I could still get Watkins’s former place,” March suggested.

“Never!” she retorted. “Telegraph instantly!”

They were only afraid now that Fulkerson might have changed his mind, and they had a wretched day in which they heard nothing from him. It ended with his answering March’s telegram in person. They were so glad of his coming, and so touched by his satisfaction with his bargain, that they laid all the facts of the case before him. He entered fully into March’s sense of the joke latent in Mr. Hubbell’s proposition, and he tried to make Mrs. March believe that he shared her resentment of the indignity offered her husband.

March made a show of willingness to release him in view of the changed situation, saying that he held him to nothing. Fulkerson laughed, and asked him how soon he thought he could come on to New York. He refused to reopen the question of March’s fitness with him; he said they had gone into that thoroughly, but he recurred to it with Mrs. March, and confirmed her belief in his good sense on all points. She had been from the first moment defiantly confident of her husband’s ability, but till she had talked the matter over with Fulkerson she was secretly not sure of it; or, at least, she was not sure that March was not right in distrusting himself. When she clearly understood, now, what Fulkerson intended, she had no longer a doubt. He explained how the enterprise differed from others, and how he needed for its direction a man who combined general business experience and business ideas with a love for the thing and a natural aptness for it. He did not want a young man, and yet he wanted youth—its freshness, its zest—such as March would feel in a thing he could put his whole heart into. He would not run in ruts, like an old fellow who had got hackneyed; he would not have any hobbies; he would not have any friends or any enemies. Besides, he would have to meet people, and March was a man that people took to; she knew that herself; he had a kind of charm. The editorial management was going to be kept in the background, as far as the public was concerned; the public was to suppose that the thing ran itself. Fulkerson did not care for a great literary reputation in his editor—he implied that March had a very pretty little one. At the same time the relations between the contributors and the management were to be much more, intimate than usual. Fulkerson felt his personal disqualification for working the thing socially, and he counted upon Mr. March for that; that was to say, he counted upon Mrs. March.

She protested he must not count upon her; but it by no means disabled Fulkerson’s judgment in her view that March really seemed more than anything else a fancy of his. He had been a fancy of hers; and the sort of affectionate respect with which Fulkerson spoke of him laid forever some doubt she had of the fineness of Fulkerson’s manners and reconciled her to the graphic slanginess of his speech.

The affair was now irretrievable, but she gave her approval to it as superbly as if it were submitted in its inception. Only, Mr. Fulkerson must not suppose she should ever like New York. She would not deceive him on that point. She never should like it. She did not conceal, either, that she did not like taking the children out of the Friday afternoon class; and she did not believe that Tom would ever be reconciled to going to Columbia. She took courage from Fulkerson’s suggestion that it was possible for Tom to come to Harvard even from New York; and she heaped him with questions concerning the domiciliation of the family in that city. He tried to know something about the matter, and he succeeded in seeming interested in points necessarily indifferent to him.

Chapter VI • 1,400 Words

In the uprooting and transplanting of their home that followed, Mrs. March often trembled before distant problems and possible contingencies, but she was never troubled by present difficulties. She kept up with tireless energy; and in the moments of dejection and misgiving which harassed her husband she remained dauntless, and put heart into him when he had lost it altogether.

She arranged to leave the children in the house with the servants, while she went on with March to look up a dwelling of some sort in New York. It made him sick to think of it; and, when it came to the point, he would rather have given up the whole enterprise. She had to nerve him to it, to represent more than once that now they had no choice but to make this experiment. Every detail of parting was anguish to him. He got consolation out of the notion of letting the house furnished for the winter; that implied their return to it, but it cost him pangs of the keenest misery to advertise it; and, when a tenant was actually found, it was all he could do to give him the lease. He tried his wife’s love and patience as a man must to whom the future is easy in the mass but terrible as it translates itself piecemeal into the present. He experienced remorse in the presence of inanimate things he was going to leave as if they had sensibly reproached him, and an anticipative homesickness that seemed to stop his heart. Again and again his wife had to make him reflect that his depression was not prophetic. She convinced him of what he already knew, and persuaded him against his knowledge that he could be keeping an eye out for something to take hold of in Boston if they could not stand New York. She ended by telling him that it was too bad to make her comfort him in a trial that was really so much more a trial to her. She had to support him in a last access of despair on their way to the Albany depot the morning they started to New York; but when the final details had been dealt with, the tickets bought, the trunks checked, and the handbags hung up in their car, and the future had massed itself again at a safe distance and was seven hours and two hundred miles away, his spirits began to rise and hers to sink. He would have been willing to celebrate the taste, the domestic refinement, of the ladies’ waiting-room in the depot, where they had spent a quarter of an hour before the train started. He said he did not believe there was another station in the world where mahogany rocking-chairs were provided; that the dull-red warmth of the walls was as cozy as an evening lamp, and that he always hoped to see a fire kindled on that vast hearth and under that aesthetic mantel, but he supposed now he never should. He said it was all very different from that tunnel, the old Albany depot, where they had waited the morning they went to New York when they were starting on their wedding journey.

“The morning, Basil!” cried his wife. “We went at night; and we were going to take the boat, but it stormed so!” She gave him a glance of such reproach that he could not answer anything, and now she asked him whether he supposed their cook and second girl would be contented with one of those dark holes where they put girls to sleep in New York flats, and what she should do if Margaret, especially, left her. He ventured to suggest that Margaret would probably like the city; but, if she left, there were plenty of other girls to be had in New York. She replied that there were none she could trust, and that she knew Margaret would not stay. He asked her why she took her, then—why she did not give her up at once; and she answered that it would be inhuman to give her up just in the edge of the winter. She had promised to keep her; and Margaret was pleased with the notion of going to New York, where she had a cousin.

“Then perhaps she’ll be pleased with the notion of staying,” he said.

“Oh, much you know about it!” she retorted; and, in view of the hypothetical difficulty and his want of sympathy, she fell into a gloom, from which she roused herself at last by declaring that, if there was nothing else in the flat they took, there should be a light kitchen and a bright, sunny bedroom for Margaret. He expressed the belief that they could easily find such a flat as that, and she denounced his fatal optimism, which buoyed him up in the absence of an undertaking and let him drop into the depths of despair in its presence.

He owned this defect of temperament, but he said that it compensated the opposite in her character. “I suppose that’s one of the chief uses of marriage; people supplement one another, and form a pretty fair sort of human being together. The only drawback to the theory is that unmarried people seem each as complete and whole as a married pair.”

She refused to be amused; she turned her face to the window and put her handkerchief up under her veil.

It was not till the dining-car was attached to their train that they were both able to escape for an hour into the care-free mood of their earlier travels, when they were so easily taken out of themselves. The time had been when they could have found enough in the conjectural fortunes and characters of their fellow-passengers to occupy them. This phase of their youth had lasted long, and the world was still full of novelty and interest for them; but it required all the charm of the dining-car now to lay the anxieties that beset them. It was so potent for the moment, however, that they could take an objective view at their sitting cozily down there together, as if they had only themselves in the world. They wondered what the children were doing, the children who possessed them so intensely when present, and now, by a fantastic operation of absence, seemed almost non-existents. They tried to be homesick for them, but failed; they recognized with comfortable self-abhorrence that this was terrible, but owned a fascination in being alone; at the same time, they could not imagine how people felt who never had any children. They contrasted the luxury of dining that way, with every advantage except a band of music, and the old way of rushing out to snatch a fearful joy at the lunch-counters of the Worcesier and Springfield and New Haven stations. They had not gone often to New York since their wedding journey, but they had gone often enough to have noted the change from the lunch-counter to the lunch-basket brought in the train, from which you could subsist with more ease and dignity, but seemed destined to a superabundance of pickles, whatever you ordered.

They thought well of themselves now that they could be both critical and tolerant of flavors not very sharply distinguished from one another in their dinner, and they lingered over their coffee and watched the autumn landscape through the windows.

“Not quite so loud a pattern of calico this year,” he said, with patronizing forbearance toward the painted woodlands whirling by. “Do you see how the foreground next the train rushes from us and the background keeps ahead of us, while the middle distance seems stationary? I don’t think I ever noticed that effect before. There ought to be something literary in it: retreating past and advancing future and deceitfully permanent present—something like that?”

His wife brushed some crumbs from her lap before rising. “Yes. You mustn’t waste any of these ideas now.”

“Oh no; it would be money out of Fulkerson’s pocket.”

Chapter VII • 4,100 Words

They went to a quiet hotel far down-town, and took a small apartment which they thought they could easily afford for the day or two they need spend in looking up a furnished flat. They were used to staying at this hotel when they came on for a little outing in New York, after some rigid winter in Boston, at the time of the spring exhibitions. They were remembered there from year to year; the colored call-boys, who never seemed to get any older, smiled upon them, and the clerk called March by name even before he registered. He asked if Mrs. March were with him, and said then he supposed they would want their usual quarters; and in a moment they were domesticated in a far interior that seemed to have been waiting for them in a clean, quiet, patient disoccupation ever since they left it two years before. The little parlor, with its gilt paper and ebonized furniture, was the lightest of the rooms, but it was not very light at noonday without the gas, which the bell-boy now flared up for them. The uproar of the city came to it in a soothing murmur, and they took possession of its peace and comfort with open celebration. After all, they agreed, there was no place in the world so delightful as a hotel apartment like that; the boasted charms of home were nothing to it; and then the magic of its being always there, ready for any one, every one, just as if it were for some one alone: it was like the experience of an Arabian Nights hero come true for all the race.

“Oh, why can’t we always stay here, just we two!” Mrs. March sighed to her husband, as he came out of his room rubbing his face red with the towel, while she studied a new arrangement of her bonnet and handbag on the mantel.

“And ignore the past? I’m willing. I’ve no doubt that the children could get on perfectly well without us, and could find some lot in the scheme of Providence that would really be just as well for them.”

“Yes; or could contrive somehow never to have existed. I should insist upon that. If they are, don’t you see that we couldn’t wish them not to be?”

“Oh yes; I see your point; it’s simply incontrovertible.”

She laughed and said: “Well, at any rate, if we can’t find a flat to suit us we can all crowd into these three rooms somehow, for the winter, and then browse about for meals. By the week we could get them much cheaper; and we could save on the eating, as they do in Europe. Or on something else.”

“Something else, probably,” said March. “But we won’t take this apartment till the ideal furnished flat winks out altogether. We shall not have any trouble. We can easily find some one who is going South for the winter and will be glad to give up their flat ‘to the right party’ at a nominal rent. That’s my notion. That’s what the Evanses did one winter when they came on here in February. All but the nominality of the rent.”

“Yes, and we could pay a very good rent and still save something on letting our house. You can settle yourselves in a hundred different ways in New York, that is one merit of the place. But if everything else fails, we can come back to this. I want you to take the refusal of it, Basil. And we’ll commence looking this very evening as soon as we’ve had dinner. I cut a lot of things out of the Herald as we came on. See here!”

She took a long strip of paper out of her hand-bag with minute advertisements pinned transversely upon it, and forming the effect of some glittering nondescript vertebrate.

“Looks something like the sea-serpent,” said March, drying his hands on the towel, while he glanced up and down the list. “But we sha’n’t have any trouble. I’ve no doubt there are half a dozen things there that will do. You haven’t gone up-town? Because we must be near the ‘Every Other Week’ office.”

“No; but I wish Mr. Fulkerson hadn’t called it that! It always makes one think of ‘jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, but never jam to-day,’ in ‘Through the Looking-Glass.’ They’re all in this region.”

They were still at their table, beside a low window, where some sort of never-blooming shrub symmetrically balanced itself in a large pot, with a leaf to the right and a leaf to the left and a spear up the middle, when Fulkerson came stepping square-footedly over the thick dining-room carpet. He wagged in the air a gay hand of salutation at sight of them, and of repression when they offered to rise to meet him; then, with an apparent simultaneity of action he gave a hand to each, pulled up a chair from the next table, put his hat and stick on the floor beside it, and seated himself.

“Well, you’ve burned your ships behind you, sure enough,” he said, beaming his satisfaction upon them from eyes and teeth.

“The ships are burned,” said March, “though I’m not sure we alone did it. But here we are, looking for shelter, and a little anxious about the disposition of the natives.”

“Oh, they’re an awful peaceable lot,” said Fulkerson. “I’ve been round among the caciques a little, and I think I’ve got two or three places that will just suit you, Mrs. March. How did you leave the children?”

“Oh, how kind of you! Very well, and very proud to be left in charge of the smoking wrecks.”

Fulkerson naturally paid no attention to what she said, being but secondarily interested in the children at the best. “Here are some things right in this neighborhood, within gunshot of the office, and if you want you can go and look at them to-night; the agents gave me houses where the people would be in.”

“We will go and look at them instantly,” said Mrs. March. “Or, as soon as you’ve had coffee with us.”

“Never do,” Fulkerson replied. He gathered up his hat and stick. “Just rushed in to say Hello, and got to run right away again. I tell you, March, things are humming. I’m after those fellows with a sharp stick all the while to keep them from loafing on my house, and at the same time I’m just bubbling over with ideas about ‘The Lone Hand’—wish we could call it that!—that I want to talk up with you.”

“Well, come to breakfast,” said Mrs. March, cordially.

“No; the ideas will keep till you’ve secured your lodge in this vast wilderness. Good-bye.”

“You’re as nice as you can be, Mr. Fulkerson,” she said, “to keep us in mind when you have so much to occupy you.”

“I wouldn’t have anything to occupy me if I hadn’t kept you in mind, Mrs. March,” said Fulkerson, going off upon as good a speech as he could apparently hope to make.

“Why, Basil,” said Mrs. March, when he was gone, “he’s charming! But now we mustn’t lose an instant. Let’s see where the places are.” She ran over the half-dozen agents’ permits. “Capital—first-rate—the very thing—every one. Well, I consider ourselves settled! We can go back to the children to-morrow if we like, though I rather think I should like to stay over another day and get a little rested for the final pulling up that’s got to come. But this simplifies everything enormously, and Mr. Fulkerson is as thoughtful and as sweet as he can be. I know you will get on well with him. He has such a good heart. And his attitude toward you, Basil, is beautiful always—so respectful; or not that so much as appreciative. Yes, appreciative—that’s the word; I must always keep that in mind.”

“It’s quite important to do so,” said March.

“Yes,” she assented, seriously, “and we must not forget just what kind of flat we are going to look for. The ‘sine qua nons’ are an elevator and steam heat, not above the third floor, to begin with. Then we must each have a room, and you must have your study and I must have my parlor; and the two girls must each have a room. With the kitchen and dining room, how many does that make?”

“Ten.”

“I thought eight. Well, no matter. You can work in the parlor, and run into your bedroom when anybody comes; and I can sit in mine, and the girls must put up with one, if it’s large and sunny, though I’ve always given them two at home. And the kitchen must be sunny, so they can sit in it. And the rooms must all have outside light. And the rent must not be over eight hundred for the winter. We only get a thousand for our whole house, and we must save something out of that, so as to cover the expenses of moving. Now, do you think you can remember all that?”

“Not the half of it,” said March. “But you can; or if you forget a third of it, I can come in with my partial half and more than make it up.”

She had brought her bonnet and sacque down-stairs with her, and was transferring them from the hatrack to her person while she talked. The friendly door-boy let them into the street, and the clear October evening air brightened her so that as she tucked her hand under her husband’s arm and began to pull him along she said, “If we find something right away—and we’re just as likely to get the right flat soon as late; it’s all a lottery—we’ll go to the theatre somewhere.”

She had a moment’s panic about having left the agents’ permits on the table, and after remembering that she had put them into her little shopping-bag, where she kept her money (each note crushed into a round wad), and had left it on the hat-rack, where it would certainly be stolen, she found it on her wrist. She did not think that very funny; but after a first impulse to inculpate her husband, she let him laugh, while they stopped under a lamp and she held the permits half a yard away to read the numbers on them.

“Where are your glasses, Isabel?”

“On the mantel in our room, of course.”

“Then you ought to have brought a pair of tongs.”

“I wouldn’t get off second-hand jokes, Basil,” she said; and “Why, here!” she cried, whirling round to the door before which they had halted, “this is the very number. Well, I do believe it’s a sign!”

One of those colored men who soften the trade of janitor in many of the smaller apartment-houses in New York by the sweetness of their race let the Marches in, or, rather, welcomed them to the possession of the premises by the bow with which he acknowledged their permit. It was a large, old mansion cut up into five or six dwellings, but it had kept some traits of its former dignity, which pleased people of their sympathetic tastes. The dark-mahogany trim, of sufficiently ugly design, gave a rich gloom to the hallway, which was wide and paved with marble; the carpeted stairs curved aloft through a generous space.

“There is no elevator?” Mrs. March asked of the janitor.

He answered, “No, ma’am; only two flights up,” so winningly that she said,

“Oh!” in courteous apology, and whispered to her husband, as she followed lightly up, “We’ll take it, Basil, if it’s like the rest.”

“If it’s like him, you mean.”

“I don’t wonder they wanted to own them,” she hurriedly philosophized. “If I had such a creature, nothing but death should part us, and I should no more think of giving him his freedom!”

“No; we couldn’t afford it,” returned her husband.

The apartment which the janitor unlocked for them, and lit up from those chandeliers and brackets of gilt brass in the form of vine bunches, leaves, and tendrils in which the early gas-fitter realized most of his conceptions of beauty, had rather more of the ugliness than the dignity of the hall. But the rooms were large, and they grouped themselves in a reminiscence of the time when they were part of a dwelling that had its charm, its pathos, its impressiveness. Where they were cut up into smaller spaces, it had been done with the frankness with which a proud old family of fallen fortunes practises its economies. The rough pine-floors showed a black border of tack-heads where carpets had been lifted and put down for generations; the white paint was yellow with age; the apartment had light at the front and at the back, and two or three rooms had glimpses of the day through small windows let into their corners; another one seemed lifting an appealing eye to heaven through a glass circle in its ceiling; the rest must darkle in perpetual twilight. Yet something pleased in it all, and Mrs. March had gone far to adapt the different rooms to the members of her family, when she suddenly thought (and for her to think was to say), “Why, but there’s no steam heat!”

“No, ma’am,” the janitor admitted; “but dere’s grates in most o’ de rooms, and dere’s furnace heat in de halls.”

“That’s true,” she admitted, and, having placed her family in the apartments, it was hard to get them out again. “Could we manage?” she referred to her husband.

“Why, I shouldn’t care for the steam heat if—What is the rent?” he broke off to ask the janitor.

“Nine hundred, sir.”

March concluded to his wife, “If it were furnished.”

“Why, of course! What could I have been thinking of? We’re looking for a furnished flat,” she explained to the janitor, “and this was so pleasant and homelike that I never thought whether it was furnished or not.”

She smiled upon the janitor, and he entered into the joke and chuckled so amiably at her flattering oversight on the way down-stairs that she said, as she pinched her husband’s arm, “Now, if you don’t give him a quarter I’ll never speak to you again, Basil!”

“I would have given half a dollar willingly to get you beyond his glamour,” said March, when they were safely on the pavement outside. “If it hadn’t been for my strength of character, you’d have taken an unfurnished flat without heat and with no elevator, at nine hundred a year, when you had just sworn me to steam heat, an elevator, furniture, and eight hundred.”

“Yes! How could I have lost my head so completely?” she said, with a lenient amusement in her aberration which she was not always able to feel in her husband’s.

“The next time a colored janitor opens the door to us, I’ll tell him the apartment doesn’t suit at the threshold. It’s the only way to manage you, Isabel.”

“It’s true. I am in love with the whole race. I never saw one of them that didn’t have perfectly angelic manners. I think we shall all be black in heaven—that is, black-souled.”

“That isn’t the usual theory,” said March.

“Well, perhaps not,” she assented. “Where are we going now? Oh yes, to the Xenophon!”

She pulled him gayly along again, and after they had walked a block down and half a block over they stood before the apartment-house of that name, which was cut on the gas-lamps on either side of the heavily spiked, aesthetic-hinged black door. The titter of an electric-bell brought a large, fat Buttons, with a stage effect of being dressed to look small, who said he would call the janitor, and they waited in the dimly splendid, copper-colored interior, admiring the whorls and waves into which the wallpaint was combed, till the janitor came in his gold-banded cap, like a Continental porker. When they said they would like to see Mrs. Grosvenor Green’s apartment, he owned his inability to cope with the affair, and said he must send for the superintendent; he was either in the Herodotus or the Thucydides, and would be there in a minute. The Buttons brought him—a Yankee of browbeating presence in plain clothes—almost before they had time to exchange a frightened whisper in recognition of the fact that there could be no doubt of the steam heat and elevator in this case. Half stifled in the one, they mounted in the other eight stories, while they tried to keep their self-respect under the gaze of the superintendent, which they felt was classing and assessing them with unfriendly accuracy. They could not, and they faltered abashed at the threshold of Mrs. Grosvenor Green’s apartment, while the superintendent lit the gas in the gangway that he called a private hall, and in the drawing-room and the succession of chambers stretching rearward to the kitchen. Everything had been done by the architect to save space, and everything, to waste it by Mrs. Grosvenor Green. She had conformed to a law for the necessity of turning round in each room, and had folding-beds in the chambers, but there her subordination had ended, and wherever you might have turned round she had put a gimcrack so that you would knock it over if you did turn. The place was rather pretty and even imposing at first glance, and it took several joint ballots for March and his wife to make sure that with the kitchen there were only six rooms. At every door hung a portiere from large rings on a brass rod; every shelf and dressing-case and mantel was littered with gimcracks, and the corners of the tiny rooms were curtained off, and behind these portieres swarmed more gimcracks. The front of the upright piano had what March called a short-skirted portiere on it, and the top was covered with vases, with dragon candlesticks and with Jap fans, which also expanded themselves bat wise on the walls between the etchings and the water colors. The floors were covered with filling, and then rugs and then skins; the easy-chairs all had tidies, Armenian and Turkish and Persian; the lounges and sofas had embroidered cushions hidden under tidies.

The radiator was concealed by a Jap screen, and over the top of this some Arab scarfs were flung. There was a superabundance of clocks. China pugs guarded the hearth; a brass sunflower smiled from the top of either andiron, and a brass peacock spread its tail before them inside a high filigree fender; on one side was a coalhod in ‘repousse’ brass, and on the other a wrought iron wood-basket. Some red Japanese bird-kites were stuck about in the necks of spelter vases, a crimson Jap umbrella hung opened beneath the chandelier, and each globe had a shade of yellow silk.

March, when he had recovered his self-command a little in the presence of the agglomeration, comforted himself by calling the bric-a-brac Jamescracks, as if this was their full name.

The disrespect he was able to show the whole apartment by means of this joke strengthened him to say boldly to the superintendent that it was altogether too small; then he asked carelessly what the rent was.

“Two hundred and fifty.”

The Marches gave a start, and looked at each other.

“Don’t you think we could make it do?” she asked him, and he could see that she had mentally saved five hundred dollars as the difference between the rent of their house and that of this flat. “It has some very pretty features, and we could manage to squeeze in, couldn’t we?”

“You won’t find another furnished flat like it for no two-fifty a month in the whole city,” the superintendent put in.

They exchanged glances again, and March said, carelessly, “It’s too small.”

“There’s a vacant flat in the Herodotus for eighteen hundred a year, and one in the Thucydides for fifteen,” the superintendent suggested, clicking his keys together as they sank down in the elevator; “seven rooms and bath.”

“Thank you,” said March; “we’re looking for a furnished flat.”

They felt that the superintendent parted from them with repressed sarcasm.

“Oh, Basil, do you think we really made him think it was the smallness and not the dearness?”

“No, but we saved our self-respect in the attempt; and that’s a great deal.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t have taken it, anyway, with only six rooms, and so high up. But what prices! Now, we must be very circumspect about the next place.”

It was a janitress, large, fat, with her arms wound up in her apron, who received them there. Mrs. March gave her a succinct but perfect statement of their needs. She failed to grasp the nature of them, or feigned to do so. She shook her head, and said that her son would show them the flat. There was a radiator visible in the narrow hall, and Isabel tacitly compromised on steam heat without an elevator, as the flat was only one flight up. When the son appeared from below with a small kerosene hand-lamp, it appeared that the flat was unfurnished, but there was no stopping him till he had shown it in all its impossibility. When they got safely away from it and into the street March said: “Well, have you had enough for to-night, Isabel? Shall we go to the theatre now?”

“Not on any account. I want to see the whole list of flats that Mr. Fulkerson thought would be the very thing for us.” She laughed, but with a certain bitterness.

“You’ll be calling him my Mr. Fulkerson next, Isabel.”

“Oh no!”

The fourth address was a furnished flat without a kitchen, in a house with a general restaurant. The fifth was a furnished house. At the sixth a pathetic widow and her pretty daughter wanted to take a family to board, and would give them a private table at a rate which the Marches would have thought low in Boston.

Mrs. March came away tingling with compassion for their evident anxiety, and this pity naturally soured into a sense of injury. “Well, I must say I have completely lost confidence in Mr. Fulkerson’s judgment. Anything more utterly different from what I told him we wanted I couldn’t imagine. If he doesn’t manage any better about his business than he has done about this, it will be a perfect failure.”

“Well, well, let’s hope he’ll be more circumspect about that,” her husband returned, with ironical propitiation. “But I don’t think it’s Fulkerson’s fault altogether. Perhaps it’s the house-agents’. They’re a very illusory generation. There seems to be something in the human habitation that corrupts the natures of those who deal in it, to buy or sell it, to hire or let it. You go to an agent and tell him what kind of a house you want. He has no such house, and he sends you to look at something altogether different, upon the well-ascertained principle that if you can’t get what you want you will take what you can get. You don’t suppose the ‘party’ that took our house in Boston was looking for any such house? He was looking for a totally different kind of house in another part of the town.”

“I don’t believe that!” his wife broke in.

“Well, no matter. But see what a scandalous rent you asked for it.”

“We didn’t get much more than half; and, besides, the agent told me to ask fourteen hundred.”

“Oh, I’m not blaming you, Isabel. I’m only analyzing the house-agent and exonerating Fulkerson.”

“Well, I don’t believe he told them just what we wanted; and, at any rate, I’m done with agents. Tomorrow I’m going entirely by advertisements.”

Chapter VIII • 3,700 Words

Mrs. March took the vertebrate with her to the Vienna Coffee-House, where they went to breakfast next morning. She made March buy her the Herald and the World, and she added to its spiny convolutions from them. She read the new advertisements aloud with ardor and with faith to believe that the apartments described in them were every one truthfully represented, and that any one of them was richly responsive to their needs. “Elegant, light, large, single and outside flats” were offered with “all improvements—bath, ice-box, etc.”—for twenty-five to thirty dollars a month. The cheapness was amazing. The Wagram, the Esmeralda, the Jacinth, advertised them for forty dollars and sixty dollars, “with steam heat and elevator,” rent free till November. Others, attractive from their air of conscientious scruple, announced “first-class flats; good order; reasonable rents.” The Helena asked the reader if she had seen the “cabinet finish, hard-wood floors, and frescoed ceilings” of its fifty-dollar flats; the Asteroid affirmed that such apartments, with “six light rooms and bath, porcelain wash-tubs, electric bells, and hall-boy,” as it offered for seventy-five dollars were unapproached by competition. There was a sameness in the jargon which tended to confusion. Mrs. March got several flats on her list which promised neither steam heat nor elevators; she forgot herself so far as to include two or three as remote from the down-town region of her choice as Harlem. But after she had rejected these the nondescript vertebrate was still voluminous enough to sustain her buoyant hopes.

The waiter, who remembered them from year to year, had put them at a window giving a pretty good section of Broadway, and before they set out on their search they had a moment of reminiscence. They recalled the Broadway of five, of ten, of twenty years ago, swelling and roaring with a tide of gayly painted omnibuses and of picturesque traffic that the horsecars have now banished from it. The grind of their wheels and the clash of their harsh bells imperfectly fill the silence that the omnibuses have left, and the eye misses the tumultuous perspective of former times.

They went out and stood for a moment before Grace Church, and looked down the stately thoroughfare, and found it no longer impressive, no longer characteristic. It is still Broadway in name, but now it is like any other street. You do not now take your life in your hand when you attempt to cross it; the Broadway policeman who supported the elbow of timorous beauty in the hollow of his cotton-gloved palm and guided its little fearful boots over the crossing, while he arrested the billowy omnibuses on either side with an imperious glance, is gone, and all that certain processional, barbaric gayety of the place is gone.

“Palmyra, Baalbec, Timour of the Desert,” said March, voicing their common feeling of the change.

They turned and went into the beautiful church, and found themselves in time for the matin service. Rapt far from New York, if not from earth, in the dim richness of the painted light, the hallowed music took them with solemn ecstasy; the aerial, aspiring Gothic forms seemed to lift them heavenward. They came out, reluctant, into the dazzle and bustle of the street, with a feeling that they were too good for it, which they confessed to each other with whimsical consciousness.

“But no matter how consecrated we feel now,” he said, “we mustn’t forget that we went into the church for precisely the same reason that we went to the Vienna Cafe for breakfast—to gratify an aesthetic sense, to renew the faded pleasure of travel for a moment, to get back into the Europe of our youth. It was a purely Pagan impulse, Isabel, and we’d better own it.”

“I don’t know,” she returned. “I think we reduce ourselves to the bare bones too much. I wish we didn’t always recognize the facts as we do. Sometimes I should like to blink them. I should like to think I was devouter than I am, and younger and prettier.”

“Better not; you couldn’t keep it up. Honesty is the best policy even in such things.”

“No; I don’t like it, Basil. I should rather wait till the last day for some of my motives to come to the top. I know they’re always mixed, but do let me give them the benefit of a doubt sometimes.”

“Well, well, have it your own way, my dear. But I prefer not to lay up so many disagreeable surprises for myself at that time.”

She would not consent. “I know I am a good deal younger than I was. I feel quite in the mood of that morning when we walked down Broadway on our wedding journey. Don’t you?”

“Oh yes. But I know I’m not younger; I’m only prettier.”

She laughed for pleasure in his joke, and also for unconscious joy in the gay New York weather, in which there was no ‘arriere pensee’ of the east wind. They had crossed Broadway, and were walking over to Washington Square, in the region of which they now hoped to place themselves. The ‘primo tenore’ statue of Garibaldi had already taken possession of the place in the name of Latin progress, and they met Italian faces, French faces, Spanish faces, as they strolled over the asphalt walks, under the thinning shadows of the autumn-stricken sycamores. They met the familiar picturesque raggedness of Southern Europe with the old kindly illusion that somehow it existed for their appreciation, and that it found adequate compensation for poverty in this. March thought he sufficiently expressed his tacit sympathy in sitting down on one of the iron benches with his wife and letting a little Neapolitan put a superfluous shine on his boots, while their desultory comment wandered with equal esteem to the old-fashioned American respectability which keeps the north side of the square in vast mansions of red brick, and the international shabbiness which has invaded the southern border, and broken it up into lodging-houses, shops, beer-gardens, and studios.

They noticed the sign of an apartment to let on the north side, and as soon as the little bootblack could be bought off they went over to look at it. The janitor met them at the door and examined them. Then he said, as if still in doubt, “It has ten rooms, and the rent is twenty-eight hundred dollars.”

“It wouldn’t do, then,” March replied, and left him to divide the responsibility between the paucity of the rooms and the enormity of the rent as he best might. But their self-love had received a wound, and they questioned each other what it was in their appearance made him doubt their ability to pay so much.

“Of course, we don’t look like New-Yorkers,” sighed Mrs. March, “and we’ve walked through the Square. That might be as if we had walked along the Park Street mall in the Common before we came out on Beacon. Do you suppose he could have seen you getting your boots blacked in that way?”

“It’s useless to ask,” said March. “But I never can recover from this blow.”

“Oh, pshaw! You know you hate such things as badly as I do. It was very impertinent of him.”

“Let us go back and ‘ecraser l’infame’ by paying him a year’s rent in advance and taking immediate possession. Nothing else can soothe my wounded feelings. You were not having your boots blacked: why shouldn’t he have supposed you were a New-Yorker, and I a country cousin?”

“They always know. Don’t you remember Mrs. Williams’s going to a Fifth Avenue milliner in a Worth dress, and the woman’s asking her instantly what hotel she should send her hat to?”

“Yes; these things drive one to despair. I don’t wonder the bodies of so many genteel strangers are found in the waters around New York. Shall we try the south side, my dear? or had we better go back to our rooms and rest awhile?”

Mrs. March had out the vertebrate, and was consulting one of its glittering ribs and glancing up from it at a house before which they stood. “Yes, it’s the number; but do they call this being ready October first?” The little area in front of the basement was heaped with a mixture of mortar, bricks, laths, and shavings from the interior; the brownstone steps to the front door were similarly bestrewn; the doorway showed the half-open, rough pine carpenter’s sketch of an unfinished house; the sashless windows of every story showed the activity of workmen within; the clatter of hammers and the hiss of saws came out to them from every opening.

“They may call it October first,” said March, “because it’s too late to contradict them. But they’d better not call it December first in my presence; I’ll let them say January first, at a pinch.”

“We will go in and look at it, anyway,” said his wife; and he admired how, when she was once within, she began provisionally to settle the family in each of the several floors with the female instinct for domiciliation which never failed her. She had the help of the landlord, who was present to urge forward the workmen apparently; he lent a hopeful fancy to the solution of all her questions. To get her from under his influence March had to represent that the place was damp from undried plastering, and that if she stayed she would probably be down with that New York pneumonia which visiting Bostonians are always dying of. Once safely on the pavement outside, she realized that the apartment was not only unfinished, but unfurnished, and had neither steam heat nor elevator. “But I thought we had better look at everything,” she explained.

“Yes, but not take everything. If I hadn’t pulled you away from there by main force you’d have not only died of New York pneumonia on the spot, but you’d have had us all settled there before we knew what we were about.”

“Well, that’s what I can’t help, Basil. It’s the only way I can realize whether it will do for us. I have to dramatize the whole thing.”

She got a deal of pleasure as well as excitement out of this, and he had to own that the process of setting up housekeeping in so many different places was not only entertaining, but tended, through association with their first beginnings in housekeeping, to restore the image of their early married days and to make them young again.

It went on all day, and continued far into the night, until it was too late to go to the theatre, too late to do anything but tumble into bed and simultaneously fall asleep. They groaned over their reiterated disappointments, but they could not deny that the interest was unfailing, and that they got a great deal of fun out of it all. Nothing could abate Mrs. March’s faith in her advertisements. One of them sent her to a flat of ten rooms which promised to be the solution of all their difficulties; it proved to be over a livery-stable, a liquor store, and a milliner’s shop, none of the first fashion. Another led them far into old Greenwich Village to an apartment-house, which she refused to enter behind a small girl with a loaf of bread under one arm and a quart can of milk under the other.

In their search they were obliged, as March complained, to the acquisition of useless information in a degree unequalled in their experience. They came to excel in the sad knowledge of the line at which respectability distinguishes itself from shabbiness. Flattering advertisements took them to numbers of huge apartment-houses chiefly distinguishable from tenement-houses by the absence of fire-escapes on their facades, till Mrs. March refused to stop at any door where there were more than six bell-ratchets and speaking-tubes on either hand. Before the middle of the afternoon she decided against ratchets altogether, and confined herself to knobs, neatly set in the door-trim. Her husband was still sunk in the superstition that you can live anywhere you like in New York, and he would have paused at some places where her quicker eye caught the fatal sign of “Modes” in the ground-floor windows. She found that there was an east and west line beyond which they could not go if they wished to keep their self-respect, and that within the region to which they had restricted themselves there was a choice of streets. At first all the New York streets looked to them ill-paved, dirty, and repulsive; the general infamy imparted itself in their casual impression to streets in no wise guilty. But they began to notice that some streets were quiet and clean, and, though never so quiet and clean as Boston streets, that they wore an air of encouraging reform, and suggested a future of greater and greater domesticity. Whole blocks of these downtown cross-streets seemed to have been redeemed from decay, and even in the midst of squalor a dwelling here and there had been seized, painted a dull red as to its brick-work, and a glossy black as to its wood-work, and with a bright brass bell-pull and door-knob and a large brass plate for its key-hole escutcheon, had been endowed with an effect of purity and pride which removed its shabby neighborhood far from it. Some of these houses were quite small, and imaginably within their means; but, as March said, some body seemed always to be living there himself, and the fact that none of them was to rent kept Mrs. March true to her ideal of a fiat. Nothing prevented its realization so much as its difference from the New York ideal of a flat, which was inflexibly seven rooms and a bath. One or two rooms might be at the front, the rest crooked and cornered backward through increasing and then decreasing darkness till they reached a light bedroom or kitchen at the rear. It might be the one or the other, but it was always the seventh room with the bath; or if, as sometimes happened, it was the eighth, it was so after having counted the bath as one; in this case the janitor said you always counted the bath as one. If the flats were advertised as having “all light rooms,” he explained that any room with a window giving into the open air of a court or shaft was counted a light room.

The Marches tried to make out why it was that these flats were so much more repulsive than the apartments which everyone lived in abroad; but they could only do so upon the supposition that in their European days they were too young, too happy, too full of the future, to notice whether rooms were inside or outside, light or dark, big or little, high or low. “Now we’re imprisoned in the present,” he said, “and we have to make the worst of it.”

In their despair he had an inspiration, which she declared worthy of him: it was to take two small flats, of four or five rooms and a bath, and live in both. They tried this in a great many places, but they never could get two flats of the kind on the same floor where there was steam heat and an elevator. At one place they almost did it. They had resigned themselves to the humility of the neighborhood, to the prevalence of modistes and livery-stablemen (they seem to consort much in New York), to the garbage in the gutters and the litter of paper in the streets, to the faltering slats in the surrounding window-shutters and the crumbled brownstone steps and sills, when it turned out that one of the apartments had been taken between two visits they made. Then the only combination left open to them was of a ground-floor flat to the right and a third-floor flat to the left.

Still they kept this inspiration in reserve for use at the first opportunity. In the mean time there were several flats which they thought they could almost make do: notably one where they could get an extra servant’s room in the basement four flights down, and another where they could get it in the roof five flights up. At the first the janitor was respectful and enthusiastic; at the second he had an effect of ironical pessimism. When they trembled on the verge of taking his apartment, he pointed out a spot in the kalsomining of the parlor ceiling, and gratuitously said, Now such a thing as that he should not agree to put in shape unless they took the apartment for a term of years. The apartment was unfurnished, and they recurred to the fact that they wanted a furnished apartment, and made their escape. This saved them in several other extremities; but short of extremity they could not keep their different requirements in mind, and were always about to decide without regard to some one of them.

They went to several places twice without intending: once to that old-fashioned house with the pleasant colored janitor, and wandered all over the apartment again with a haunting sense of familiarity, and then recognized the janitor and laughed; and to that house with the pathetic widow and the pretty daughter who wished to take them to board. They stayed to excuse their blunder, and easily came by the fact that the mother had taken the house that the girl might have a home while she was in New York studying art, and they hoped to pay their way by taking boarders. Her daughter was at her class now, the mother concluded; and they encouraged her to believe that it could only be a few days till the rest of her scheme was realized.

“I dare say we could be perfectly comfortable there,” March suggested when they had got away. “Now if we were truly humane we would modify our desires to meet their needs and end this sickening search, wouldn’t we?”

“Yes, but we’re not truly humane,” his wife answered, “or at least not in that sense. You know you hate boarding; and if we went there I should have them on my sympathies the whole time.”

“I see. And then you would take it out of me.”

“Then I should take it out of you. And if you are going to be so weak, Basil, and let every little thing work upon you in that way, you’d better not come to New York. You’ll see enough misery here.”

“Well, don’t take that superior tone with me, as if I were a child that had its mind set on an undesirable toy, Isabel.”

“Ah, don’t you suppose it’s because you are such a child in some respects that I like you, dear?” she demanded, without relenting.

“But I don’t find so much misery in New York. I don’t suppose there’s any more suffering here to the population than there is in the country. And they’re so gay about it all. I think the outward aspect of the place and the hilarity of the sky and air must get into the people’s blood. The weather is simply unapproachable; and I don’t care if it is the ugliest place in the world, as you say. I suppose it is. It shrieks and yells with ugliness here and there but it never loses its spirits. That widow is from the country. When she’s been a year in New York she’ll be as gay—as gay as an L road.” He celebrated a satisfaction they both had in the L roads. “They kill the streets and avenues, but at least they partially hide them, and that is some comfort; and they do triumph over their prostrate forms with a savage exultation that is intoxicating. Those bends in the L that you get in the corner of Washington Square, or just below the Cooper Institute—they’re the gayest things in the world. Perfectly atrocious, of course, but incomparably picturesque! And the whole city is so,” said March, “or else the L would never have got built here. New York may be splendidly gay or squalidly gay; but, prince or pauper, it’s gay always.”

“Yes, gay is the word,” she admitted, with a sigh. “But frantic. I can’t get used to it. They forget death, Basil; they forget death in New York.”

“Well, I don’t know that I’ve ever found much advantage in remembering it.”

“Don’t say such a thing, dearest.”

He could see that she had got to the end of her nervous strength for the present, and he proposed that they should take the Elevated road as far as it would carry them into the country, and shake off their nightmare of flat-hunting for an hour or two; but her conscience would not let her. She convicted him of levity equal to that of the New-Yorkers in proposing such a thing; and they dragged through the day. She was too tired to care for dinner, and in the night she had a dream from which she woke herself with a cry that roused him, too. It was something about the children at first, whom they had talked of wistfully before falling asleep, and then it was of a hideous thing with two square eyes and a series of sections growing darker and then lighter, till the tail of the monstrous articulate was quite luminous again. She shuddered at the vague description she was able to give; but he asked, “Did it offer to bite you?”

“No. That was the most frightful thing about it; it had no mouth.”

March laughed. “Why, my dear, it was nothing but a harmless New York flat—seven rooms and a bath.”

“I really believe it was,” she consented, recognizing an architectural resemblance, and she fell asleep again, and woke renewed for the work before them.

Chapter IX • 1,600 Words

Their house-hunting no longer had novelty, but it still had interest; and they varied their day by taking a coupe, by renouncing advertisements, and by reverting to agents. Some of these induced them to consider the idea of furnished houses; and Mrs. March learned tolerance for Fulkerson by accepting permits to visit flats and houses which had none of the qualifications she desired in either, and were as far beyond her means as they were out of the region to which she had geographically restricted herself. They looked at three-thousand and four-thousand dollar apartments, and rejected them for one reason or another which had nothing to do with the rent; the higher the rent was, the more critical they were of the slippery inlaid floors and the arrangement of the richly decorated rooms. They never knew whether they had deceived the janitor or not; as they came in a coupe, they hoped they had.

They drove accidentally through one street that seemed gayer in the perspective than an L road. The fire-escapes, with their light iron balconies and ladders of iron, decorated the lofty house fronts; the roadway and sidewalks and door-steps swarmed with children; women’s heads seemed to show at every window. In the basements, over which flights of high stone steps led to the tenements, were green-grocers’ shops abounding in cabbages, and provision stores running chiefly to bacon and sausages, and cobblers’ and tinners’ shops, and the like, in proportion to the small needs of a poor neighborhood. Ash barrels lined the sidewalks, and garbage heaps filled the gutters; teams of all trades stood idly about; a peddler of cheap fruit urged his cart through the street, and mixed his cry with the joyous screams and shouts of the children and the scolding and gossiping voices of the women; the burly blue bulk of a policeman defined itself at the corner; a drunkard zigzagged down the sidewalk toward him. It was not the abode of the extremest poverty, but of a poverty as hopeless as any in the world, transmitting itself from generation to generation, and establishing conditions of permanency to which human life adjusts itself as it does to those of some incurable disease, like leprosy.

The time had been when the Marches would have taken a purely aesthetic view of the facts as they glimpsed them in this street of tenement-houses; when they would have contented themselves with saying that it was as picturesque as a street in Naples or Florence, and with wondering why nobody came to paint it; they would have thought they were sufficiently serious about it in blaming the artists for their failure to appreciate it, and going abroad for the picturesque when they had it here under their noses. It was to the nose that the street made one of its strongest appeals, and Mrs. March pulled up her window of the coupe. “Why does he take us through such a disgusting street?” she demanded, with an exasperation of which her husband divined the origin.

“This driver may be a philanthropist in disguise,” he answered, with dreamy irony, “and may want us to think about the people who are not merely carried through this street in a coupe, but have to spend their whole lives in it, winter and summer, with no hopes of driving out of it, except in a hearse. I must say they don’t seem to mind it. I haven’t seen a jollier crowd anywhere in New York. They seem to have forgotten death a little more completely than any of their fellow-citizens, Isabel. And I wonder what they think of us, making this gorgeous progress through their midst. I suppose they think we’re rich, and hate us—if they hate rich people; they don’t look as if they hated anybody. Should we be as patient as they are with their discomfort? I don’t believe there’s steam heat or an elevator in the whole block. Seven rooms and a bath would be more than the largest and genteelest family would know what to do with. They wouldn’t know what to do with the bath, anyway.”

His monologue seemed to interest his wife apart from the satirical point it had for themselves. “You ought to get Mr. Fulkerson to let you work some of these New York sights up for ‘Every Other Week’, Basil; you could do them very nicely.”

“Yes; I’ve thought of that. But don’t let’s leave the personal ground. Doesn’t it make you feel rather small and otherwise unworthy when you see the kind of street these fellow-beings of yours live in, and then think how particular you are about locality and the number of bellpulls? I don’t see even ratchets and speaking-tubes at these doors.” He craned his neck out of the window for a better look, and the children of discomfort cheered him, out of sheer good feeling and high spirits. “I didn’t know I was so popular. Perhaps it’s a recognition of my humane sentiments.”

“Oh, it’s very easy to have humane sentiments, and to satirize ourselves for wanting eight rooms and a bath in a good neighborhood, when we see how these wretched creatures live,” said his wife. “But if we shared all we have with them, and then settled down among them, what good would it do?”

“Not the least in the world. It might help us for the moment, but it wouldn’t keep the wolf from their doors for a week; and then they would go on just as before, only they wouldn’t be on such good terms with the wolf. The only way for them is to keep up an unbroken intimacy with the wolf; then they can manage him somehow. I don’t know how, and I’m afraid I don’t want to. Wouldn’t you like to have this fellow drive us round among the halls of pride somewhere for a little while? Fifth Avenue or Madison, up-town?”

“No; we’ve no time to waste. I’ve got a place near Third Avenue, on a nice cross street, and I want him to take us there.” It proved that she had several addresses near together, and it seemed best to dismiss their coupe and do the rest of their afternoon’s work on foot. It came to nothing; she was not humbled in the least by what she had seen in the tenement-house street; she yielded no point in her ideal of a flat, and the flats persistently refused to lend themselves to it. She lost all patience with them.

“Oh, I don’t say the flats are in the right of it,” said her husband, when she denounced their stupid inadequacy to the purposes of a Christian home. “But I’m not so sure that we are, either. I’ve been thinking about that home business ever since my sensibilities were dragged—in a coupe—through that tenement-house street. Of course, no child born and brought up in such a place as that could have any conception of home. But that’s because those poor people can’t give character to their habitations. They have to take what they can get. But people like us—that is, of our means—do give character to the average flat. It’s made to meet their tastes, or their supposed tastes; and so it’s made for social show, not for family life at all. Think of a baby in a flat! It’s a contradiction in terms; the flat is the negation of motherhood. The flat means society life; that is, the pretence of social life. It’s made to give artificial people a society basis on a little money—too much money, of course, for what they get. So the cost of the building is put into marble halls and idiotic decoration of all kinds. I don’t object to the conveniences, but none of these flats has a living-room. They have drawing-rooms to foster social pretence, and they have dining-rooms and bedrooms; but they have no room where the family can all come together and feel the sweetness of being a family. The bedrooms are black-holes mostly, with a sinful waste of space in each. If it were not for the marble halls, and the decorations, and the foolishly expensive finish, the houses could be built round a court, and the flats could be shaped something like a Pompeiian house, with small sleeping-closets—only lit from the outside—and the rest of the floor thrown into two or three large cheerful halls, where all the family life could go on, and society could be transacted unpretentiously. Why, those tenements are better and humaner than those flats! There the whole family lives in the kitchen, and has its consciousness of being; but the flat abolishes the family consciousness. It’s confinement without coziness; it’s cluttered without being snug. You couldn’t keep a self-respecting cat in a flat; you couldn’t go down cellar to get cider. No! the Anglo-Saxon home, as we know it in the Anglo-Saxon house, is simply impossible in the Franco-American flat, not because it’s humble, but because it’s false.”

“Well, then,” said Mrs. March, “let’s look at houses.”

He had been denouncing the flat in the abstract, and he had not expected this concrete result. But he said, “We will look at houses, then.”

Chapter X • 3,200 Words

Nothing mystifies a man more than a woman’s aberrations from some point at which he, supposes her fixed as a star. In these unfurnished houses, without steam or elevator, March followed his wife about with patient wonder. She rather liked the worst of them best: but she made him go down into the cellars and look at the furnaces; she exacted from him a rigid inquest of the plumbing. She followed him into one of the cellars by the fitful glare of successively lighted matches, and they enjoyed a moment in which the anomaly of their presence there on that errand, so remote from all the facts of their long-established life in Boston, realized itself for them.

“Think how easily we might have been murdered and nobody been any the wiser!” she said when they were comfortably outdoors again.

“Yes, or made way with ourselves in an access of emotional insanity, supposed to have been induced by unavailing flat-hunting,” he suggested. She fell in with the notion. “I’m beginning to feel crazy. But I don’t want you to lose your head, Basil. And I don’t want you to sentimentalize any of the things you see in New York. I think you were disposed to do it in that street we drove through. I don’t believe there’s any real suffering—not real suffering—among those people; that is, it would be suffering from our point of view, but they’ve been used to it all their lives, and they don’t feel their discomfort so much.”

“Of course, I understand that, and I don’t propose to sentimentalize them. I think when people get used to a bad state of things they had better stick to it; in fact, they don’t usually like a better state so well, and I shall keep that firmly in mind.”

She laughed with him, and they walked along the L bestridden avenue, exhilarated by their escape from murder and suicide in that cellar, toward the nearest cross town track, which they meant to take home to their hotel. “Now to-night we will go to the theatre,” she said, “and get this whole house business out of our minds, and be perfectly fresh for a new start in the morning.” Suddenly she clutched his arm. “Why, did you see that man?” and she signed with her head toward a decently dressed person who walked beside them, next the gutter, stooping over as if to examine it, and half halting at times.

“No. What?”

“Why, I saw him pick up a dirty bit of cracker from the pavement and cram it into his mouth and eat it down as if he were famished. And look! he’s actually hunting for more in those garbage heaps!”

This was what the decent-looking man with the hard hands and broken nails of a workman was doing-like a hungry dog. They kept up with him, in the fascination of the sight, to the next corner, where he turned down the side street still searching the gutter.

They walked on a few paces. Then March said, “I must go after him,” and left his wife standing.

“Are you in want—hungry?” he asked the man.

The man said he could not speak English, Monsieur.

March asked his question in French.

The man shrugged a pitiful, desperate shrug, “Mais, Monsieur—”

March put a coin in his hand, and then suddenly the man’s face twisted up; he caught the hand of this alms-giver in both of his and clung to it. “Monsieur! Monsieur!” he gasped, and the tears rained down his face.

His benefactor pulled himself away, shocked and ashamed, as one is by such a chance, and got back to his wife, and the man lapsed back into the mystery of misery out of which he had emerged.

March felt it laid upon him to console his wife for what had happened. “Of course, we might live here for years and not see another case like that; and, of course, there are twenty places where he could have gone for help if he had known where to find them.”

“Ah, but it’s the possibility of his needing the help so badly as that,” she answered. “That’s what I can’t bear, and I shall not come to a place where such things are possible, and we may as well stop our house-hunting here at once.”

“Yes? And what part of Christendom will you live in? Such things are possible everywhere in our conditions.”

“Then we must change the conditions—”

“Oh no; we must go to the theatre and forget them. We can stop at Brentano’s for our tickets as we pass through Union Square.”

“I am not going to the theatre, Basil. I am going home to Boston to-night. You can stay and find a flat.”

He convinced her of the absurdity of her position, and even of its selfishness; but she said that her mind was quite made up irrespective of what had happened, that she had been away from the children long enough; that she ought to be at home to finish up the work of leaving it. The word brought a sigh. “Ah, I don’t know why we should see nothing but sad and ugly things now. When we were young—”

“Younger,” he put in. “We’re still young.”

“That’s what we pretend, but we know better. But I was thinking how pretty and pleasant things used to be turning up all the time on our travels in the old days. Why, when we were in New York here on our wedding journey the place didn’t seem half so dirty as it does now, and none of these dismal things happened.”

“It was a good deal dirtier,” he answered; “and I fancy worse in every way—hungrier, raggeder, more wretchedly housed. But that wasn’t the period of life for us to notice it. Don’t you remember, when we started to Niagara the last time, how everybody seemed middle-aged and commonplace; and when we got there there were no evident brides; nothing but elderly married people?”

“At least they weren’t starving,” she rebelled.

“No, you don’t starve in parlor-cars and first-class hotels; but if you step out of them you run your chance of seeing those who do, if you’re getting on pretty well in the forties. If it’s the unhappy who see unhappiness, think what misery must be revealed to people who pass their lives in the really squalid tenement-house streets—I don’t mean picturesque avenues like that we passed through.”

“But we are not unhappy,” she protested, bringing the talk back to the personal base again, as women must to get any good out of talk. “We’re really no unhappier than we were when we were young.”

“We’re more serious.”

“Well, I hate it; and I wish you wouldn’t be so serious, if that’s what it brings us to.”

“I will be trivial from this on,” said March. “Shall we go to the Hole in the Ground to-night?”

“I am going to Boston.”

“It’s much the same thing. How do you like that for triviality? It’s a little blasphemous, I’ll allow.”

“It’s very silly,” she said.

At the hotel they found a letter from the agent who had sent them the permit to see Mrs. Grosvenor Green’s apartment. He wrote that she had heard they were pleased with her apartment, and that she thought she could make the terms to suit. She had taken her passage for Europe, and was very anxious to let the flat before she sailed. She would call that evening at seven.

“Mrs. Grosvenor Green!” said Mrs. March. “Which of the ten thousand flats is it, Basil?”

“The gimcrackery,” he answered. “In the Xenophon, you know.”

“Well, she may save herself the trouble. I shall not see her. Or yes—I must. I couldn’t go away without seeing what sort of creature could have planned that fly-away flat. She must be a perfect—”

“Parachute,” March suggested.

“No! anybody so light as that couldn’t come down.”

“Well, toy balloon.”

“Toy balloon will do for the present,” Mrs. March admitted. “But I feel that naught but herself can be her parallel for volatility.”

When Mrs. Grosvenor-Green’s card came up they both descended to the hotel parlor, which March said looked like the saloon of a Moorish day-boat; not that he knew of any such craft, but the decorations were so Saracenic and the architecture so Hudson Riverish. They found there on the grand central divan a large lady whose vast smoothness, placidity, and plumpness set at defiance all their preconceptions of Mrs. Grosvenor Green, so that Mrs. March distinctly paused with her card in her hand before venturing even tentatively to address her. Then she was astonished at the low, calm voice in which Mrs. Green acknowledged herself, and slowly proceeded to apologize for calling. It was not quite true that she had taken her passage for Europe, but she hoped soon to do so, and she confessed that in the mean time she was anxious to let her flat. She was a little worn out with the care of housekeeping—Mrs. March breathed, “Oh yes!” in the sigh with which ladies recognize one another’s martyrdom—and Mrs. Green had business abroad, and she was going to pursue her art studies in Paris; she drew in Mr. Ilcomb’s class now, but the instruction was so much better in Paris; and as the superintendent seemed to think the price was the only objection, she had ventured to call.

“Then we didn’t deceive him in the least,” thought Mrs. March, while she answered, sweetly: “No; we were only afraid that it would be too small for our family. We require a good many rooms.” She could not forego the opportunity of saying, “My husband is coming to New York to take charge of a literary periodical, and he will have to have a room to write in,” which made Mrs. Green bow to March, and made March look sheepish. “But we did think the apartment very charming”, (It was architecturally charming, she protested to her conscience), “and we should have been so glad if we could have got into it.” She followed this with some account of their house-hunting, amid soft murmurs of sympathy from Mrs. Green, who said that she had been through all that, and that if she could have shown her apartment to them she felt sure that she could have explained it so that they would have seen its capabilities better, Mrs. March assented to this, and Mrs. Green added that if they found nothing exactly suitable she would be glad to have them look at it again; and then Mrs. March said that she was going back to Boston herself, but she was leaving Mr. March to continue the search; and she had no doubt he would be only too glad to see the apartment by daylight. “But if you take it, Basil,” she warned him, when they were alone, “I shall simply renounce you. I wouldn’t live in that junk-shop if you gave it to me. But who would have thought she was that kind of looking person? Though of course I might have known if I had stopped to think once. It’s because the place doesn’t express her at all that it’s so unlike her. It couldn’t be like anybody, or anything that flies in the air, or creeps upon the earth, or swims in the waters under the earth. I wonder where in the world she’s from; she’s no New-Yorker; even we can see that; and she’s not quite a country person, either; she seems like a person from some large town, where she’s been an aesthetic authority. And she can’t find good enough art instruction in New York, and has to go to Paris for it! Well, it’s pathetic, after all, Basil. I can’t help feeling sorry for a person who mistakes herself to that extent.”

“I can’t help feeling sorry for the husband of a person who mistakes herself to that extent. What is Mr. Grosvenor Green going to do in Paris while she’s working her way into the Salon?”

“Well, you keep away from her apartment, Basil; that’s all I’ve got to say to you. And yet I do like some things about her.”

“I like everything about her but her apartment,” said March.

“I like her going to be out of the country,” said his wife. “We shouldn’t be overlooked. And the place was prettily shaped, you can’t deny it. And there was an elevator and steam heat. And the location is very convenient. And there was a hall-boy to bring up cards. The halls and stairs were kept very clean and nice. But it wouldn’t do. I could put you a folding bed in the room where you wrote, and we could even have one in the parlor.”

“Behind a portiere? I couldn’t stand any more portieres!”

“And we could squeeze the two girls into one room, or perhaps only bring Margaret, and put out the whole of the wash. Basil!” she almost shrieked, “it isn’t to be thought of!”

He retorted, “I’m not thinking of it, my dear.”

Fulkerson came in just before they started for Mrs. March’s train, to find out what had become of them, he said, and to see whether they had got anything to live in yet.

“Not a thing,” she said. “And I’m just going back to Boston, and leaving Mr. March here to do anything he pleases about it. He has ‘carte blanche.’”

“But freedom brings responsibility, you know, Fulkerson, and it’s the same as if I’d no choice. I’m staying behind because I’m left, not because I expect to do anything.”

“Is that so?” asked Fulkerson. “Well, we must see what can be done. I supposed you would be all settled by this time, or I should have humped myself to find you something. None of those places I gave you amounts to anything?”

“As much as forty thousand others we’ve looked at,” said Mrs. March. “Yes, one of them does amount to something. It comes so near being what we want that I’ve given Mr. March particular instructions not to go near it.”

She told him about Mrs. Grosvenor Green and her flats, and at the end he said:

“Well, well, we must look out for that. I’ll keep an eye on him, Mrs. March, and see that he doesn’t do anything rash, and I won’t leave him till he’s found just the right thing. It exists, of course; it must in a city of eighteen hundred thousand people, and the only question is where to find it. You leave him to me, Mrs. March; I’ll watch out for him.”

Fulkerson showed some signs of going to the station when he found they were not driving, but she bade him a peremptory good-bye at the hotel door.

“He’s very nice, Basil, and his way with you is perfectly charming. It’s very sweet to see how really fond of you he is. But I didn’t want him stringing along with us up to Forty-second Street and spoiling our last moments together.”

At Third Avenue they took the Elevated for which she confessed an infatuation. She declared it the most ideal way of getting about in the world, and was not ashamed when he reminded her of how she used to say that nothing under the sun could induce her to travel on it. She now said that the night transit was even more interesting than the day, and that the fleeing intimacy you formed with people in second and third floor interiors, while all the usual street life went on underneath, had a domestic intensity mixed with a perfect repose that was the last effect of good society with all its security and exclusiveness. He said it was better than the theatre, of which it reminded him, to see those people through their windows: a family party of work-folk at a late tea, some of the men in their shirt-sleeves; a woman sewing by a lamp; a mother laying her child in its cradle; a man with his head fallen on his hands upon a table; a girl and her lover leaning over the window-sill together. What suggestion! what drama? what infinite interest! At the Forty-second Street station they stopped a minute on the bridge that crosses the track to the branch road for the Central Depot, and looked up and down the long stretch of the Elevated to north and south. The track that found and lost itself a thousand times in the flare and tremor of the innumerable lights; the moony sheen of the electrics mixing with the reddish points and blots of gas far and near; the architectural shapes of houses and churches and towers, rescued by the obscurity from all that was ignoble in them, and the coming and going of the trains marking the stations with vivider or fainter plumes of flame-shot steam-formed an incomparable perspective. They often talked afterward of the superb spectacle, which in a city full of painters nightly works its unrecorded miracles; and they were just to the Arachne roof spun in iron over the cross street on which they ran to the depot; but for the present they were mostly inarticulate before it. They had another moment of rich silence when they paused in the gallery that leads from the Elevated station to the waiting-rooms in the Central Depot and looked down upon the great night trains lying on the tracks dim under the rain of gas-lights that starred without dispersing the vast darkness of the place. What forces, what fates, slept in these bulks which would soon be hurling themselves north and south and west through the night! Now they waited there like fabled monsters of Arab story ready for the magician’s touch, tractable, reckless, will-less—organized lifelessness full of a strange semblance of life.

The Marches admired the impressive sight with a thrill of patriotic pride in the fact that the whole world perhaps could not afford just the like. Then they hurried down to the ticket-offices, and he got her a lower berth in the Boston sleeper, and went with her to the car. They made the most of the fact that her berth was in the very middle of the car; and she promised to write as soon as she reached home. She promised also that, having seen the limitations of New York in respect to flats, she would not be hard on him if he took something not quite ideal. Only he must remember that it was not to be above Twentieth Street nor below Washington Square; it must not be higher than the third floor; it must have an elevator, steam heat, hail-boys, and a pleasant janitor. These were essentials; if he could not get them, then they must do without. But he must get them.

Chapter XI • 5,200 Words

Mrs. March was one of those wives who exact a more rigid adherence to their ideals from their husbands than from themselves. Early in their married life she had taken charge of him in all matters which she considered practical. She did not include the business of bread-winning in these; that was an affair that might safely be left to his absent-minded, dreamy inefficiency, and she did not interfere with him there. But in such things as rehanging the pictures, deciding on a summer boarding-place, taking a seaside cottage, repapering rooms, choosing seats at the theatre, seeing what the children ate when she was not at table, shutting the cat out at night, keeping run of calls and invitations, and seeing if the furnace was dampered, he had failed her so often that she felt she could not leave him the slightest discretion in regard to a flat. Her total distrust of his judgment in the matters cited and others like them consisted with the greatest admiration of his mind and respect for his character. She often said that if he would only bring these to bear in such exigencies he would be simply perfect; but she had long given up his ever doing so. She subjected him, therefore, to an iron code, but after proclaiming it she was apt to abandon him to the native lawlessness of his temperament. She expected him in this event to do as he pleased, and she resigned herself to it with considerable comfort in holding him accountable. He learned to expect this, and after suffering keenly from her disappointment with whatever he did he waited patiently till she forgot her grievance and began to extract what consolation lurks in the irreparable. She would almost admit at moments that what he had done was a very good thing, but she reserved the right to return in full force to her original condemnation of it; and she accumulated each act of independent volition in witness and warning against him. Their mass oppressed but never deterred him. He expected to do the wrong thing when left to his own devices, and he did it without any apparent recollection of his former misdeeds and their consequences. There was a good deal of comedy in it all, and some tragedy.

He now experienced a certain expansion, such as husbands of his kind will imagine, on going back to his hotel alone. It was, perhaps, a revulsion from the pain of parting; and he toyed with the idea of Mrs. Grosvenor Green’s apartment, which, in its preposterous unsuitability, had a strange attraction. He felt that he could take it with less risk than anything else they had seen, but he said he would look at all the other places in town first. He really spent the greater part of the next day in hunting up the owner of an apartment that had neither steam heat nor an elevator, but was otherwise perfect, and trying to get him to take less than the agent asked. By a curious psychical operation he was able, in the transaction, to work himself into quite a passionate desire for the apartment, while he held the Grosvenor Green apartment in the background of his mind as something that he could return to as altogether more suitable. He conducted some simultaneous negotiation for a furnished house, which enhanced still more the desirability of the Grosvenor Green apartment. Toward evening he went off at a tangent far up-town, so as to be able to tell his wife how utterly preposterous the best there would be as compared even with this ridiculous Grosvenor Green gimcrackery. It is hard to report the processes of his sophistication; perhaps this, again, may best be left to the marital imagination.

He rang at the last of these up-town apartments as it was falling dusk, and it was long before the janitor appeared. Then the man was very surly, and said if he looked at the flat now he would say it was too dark, like all the rest. His reluctance irritated March in proportion to his insincerity in proposing to look at it at all. He knew he did not mean to take it under any circumstances; that he was going to use his inspection of it in dishonest justification of his disobedience to his wife; but he put on an air of offended dignity. “If you don’t wish to show the apartment,” he said, “I don’t care to see it.”

The man groaned, for he was heavy, and no doubt dreaded the stairs. He scratched a match on his thigh, and led the way up. March was sorry for him, and he put his fingers on a quarter in his waistcoat-pocket to give him at parting. At the same time, he had to trump up an objection to the flat. This was easy, for it was advertised as containing ten rooms, and he found the number eked out with the bath-room and two large closets. “It’s light enough,” said March, “but I don’t see how you make out ten rooms.”

“There’s ten rooms,” said the man, deigning no proof.

March took his fingers off the quarter, and went down-stairs and out of the door without another word. It would be wrong, it would be impossible, to give the man anything after such insolence. He reflected, with shame, that it was also cheaper to punish than forgive him.

He returned to his hotel prepared for any desperate measure, and convinced now that the Grosvenor Green apartment was not merely the only thing left for him, but was, on its own merits, the best thing in New York.

Fulkerson was waiting for him in the reading-room, and it gave March the curious thrill with which a man closes with temptation when he said: “Look here! Why don’t you take that woman’s flat in the Xenophon? She’s been at the agents again, and they’ve been at me. She likes your look—or Mrs. March’s—and I guess you can have it at a pretty heavy discount from the original price. I’m authorized to say you can have it for one seventy-five a month, and I don’t believe it would be safe for you to offer one fifty.”

March shook his head, and dropped a mask of virtuous rejection over his corrupt acquiescence. “It’s too small for us—we couldn’t squeeze into it.”

“Why, look here!” Fulkerson persisted. “How many rooms do you people want?”

“I’ve got to have a place to work—”

“Of course! And you’ve got to have it at the Fifth Wheel office.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” March began. “I suppose I could do my work at the office, as there’s not much writing—”

“Why, of course you can’t do your work at home. You just come round with me now, and look at that again.”

“No; I can’t do it.”

“Why?”

“I—I’ve got to dine.”

“All right,” said Fulkerson. “Dine with me. I want to take you round to a little Italian place that I know.”

One may trace the successive steps of March’s descent in this simple matter with the same edification that would attend the study of the self-delusions and obfuscations of a man tempted to crime. The process is probably not at all different, and to the philosophical mind the kind of result is unimportant; the process is everything.

Fulkerson led him down one block and half across another to the steps of a small dwelling-house, transformed, like many others, into a restaurant of the Latin ideal, with little or no structural change from the pattern of the lower middle-class New York home. There were the corroded brownstone steps, the mean little front door, and the cramped entry with its narrow stairs by which ladies could go up to a dining-room appointed for them on the second floor; the parlors on the first were set about with tables, where men smoked cigarettes between the courses, and a single waiter ran swiftly to and fro with plates and dishes, and, exchanged unintelligible outcries with a cook beyond a slide in the back parlor. He rushed at the new-comers, brushed the soiled table-cloth before them with a towel on his arm, covered its worst stains with a napkin, and brought them, in their order, the vermicelli soup, the fried fish, the cheese-strewn spaghetti, the veal cutlets, the tepid roast fowl and salad, and the wizened pear and coffee which form the dinner at such places.

“Ah, this is nice!” said Fulkerson, after the laying of the charitable napkin, and he began to recognize acquaintances, some of whom he described to March as young literary men and artists with whom they should probably have to do; others were simply frequenters of the place, and were of all nationalities and religions apparently—at least, several were Hebrews and Cubans. “You get a pretty good slice of New York here,” he said, “all except the frosting on top. That you won’t find much at Maroni’s, though you will occasionally. I don’t mean the ladies ever, of course.” The ladies present seemed harmless and reputable-looking people enough, but certainly they were not of the first fashion, and, except in a few instances, not Americans. “It’s like cutting straight down through a fruitcake,” Fulkerson went on, “or a mince-pie, when you don’t know who made the pie; you get a little of everything.” He ordered a small flask of Chianti with the dinner, and it came in its pretty wicker jacket. March smiled upon it with tender reminiscence, and Fulkerson laughed. “Lights you up a little. I brought old Dryfoos here one day, and he thought it was sweet-oil; that’s the kind of bottle they used to have it in at the country drug-stores.”

“Yes, I remember now; but I’d totally forgotten it,” said March. “How far back that goes! Who’s Dryfoos?”

“Dryfoos?” Fulkerson, still smiling, tore off a piece of the half-yard of French loaf which had been supplied them, with two pale, thin disks of butter, and fed it into himself. “Old Dryfoos? Well, of course! I call him old, but he ain’t so very. About fifty, or along there.”

“No,” said March, “that isn’t very old—or not so old as it used to be.”

“Well, I suppose you’ve got to know about him, anyway,” said Fulkerson, thoughtfully. “And I’ve been wondering just how I should tell you. Can’t always make out exactly how much of a Bostonian you really are! Ever been out in the natural-gas country?”

“No,” said March. “I’ve had a good deal of curiosity about it, but I’ve never been able to get away except in summer, and then we always preferred to go over the old ground, out to Niagara and back through Canada, the route we took on our wedding journey. The children like it as much as we do.”

“Yes, yes,” said Fulkerson. “Well, the natural-gas country is worth seeing. I don’t mean the Pittsburg gas-fields, but out in Northern Ohio and Indiana around Moffitt—that’s the place in the heart of the gas region that they’ve been booming so. Yes, you ought to see that country. If you haven’t been West for a good many years, you haven’t got any idea how old the country looks. You remember how the fields used to be all full of stumps?”

“I should think so.”

“Well, you won’t see any stumps now. All that country out around Moffitt is just as smooth as a checker-board, and looks as old as England. You know how we used to burn the stumps out; and then somebody invented a stump-extractor, and we pulled them out with a yoke of oxen. Now they just touch ‘em off with a little dynamite, and they’ve got a cellar dug and filled up with kindling ready for housekeeping whenever you want it. Only they haven’t got any use for kindling in that country—all gas. I rode along on the cars through those level black fields at corn-planting time, and every once in a while I’d come to a place with a piece of ragged old stove-pipe stickin’ up out of the ground, and blazing away like forty, and a fellow ploughing all round it and not minding it any more than if it was spring violets. Horses didn’t notice it, either. Well, they’ve always known about the gas out there; they say there are places in the woods where it’s been burning ever since the country was settled.

“But when you come in sight of Moffitt—my, oh, my! Well, you come in smell of it about as soon. That gas out there ain’t odorless, like the Pittsburg gas, and so it’s perfectly safe; but the smell isn’t bad—about as bad as the finest kind of benzine. Well, the first thing that strikes you when you come to Moffitt is the notion that there has been a good warm, growing rain, and the town’s come up overnight. That’s in the suburbs, the annexes, and additions. But it ain’t shabby—no shanty-farm business; nice brick and frame houses, some of ‘em Queen Anne style, and all of ‘em looking as if they had come to stay. And when you drive up from the depot you think everybody’s moving. Everything seems to be piled into the street; old houses made over, and new ones going up everywhere. You know the kind of street Main Street always used to be in our section—half plank-road and turnpike, and the rest mud-hole, and a lot of stores and doggeries strung along with false fronts a story higher than the back, and here and there a decent building with the gable end to the public; and a court-house and jail and two taverns and three or four churches. Well, they’re all there in Moffitt yet, but architecture has struck it hard, and they’ve got a lot of new buildings that needn’t be ashamed of themselves anywhere; the new court-house is as big as St. Peter’s, and the Grand Opera-house is in the highest style of the art. You can’t buy a lot on that street for much less than you can buy a lot in New York—or you couldn’t when the boom was on; I saw the place just when the boom was in its prime. I went out there to work the newspapers in the syndicate business, and I got one of their men to write me a real bright, snappy account of the gas; and they just took me in their arms and showed me everything. Well, it was wonderful, and it was beautiful, too! To see a whole community stirred up like that was—just like a big boy, all hope and high spirits, and no discount on the remotest future; nothing but perpetual boom to the end of time—I tell you it warmed your blood. Why, there were some things about it that made you think what a nice kind of world this would be if people ever took hold together, instead of each fellow fighting it out on his own hook, and devil take the hindmost. They made up their minds at Moffitt that if they wanted their town to grow they’d got to keep their gas public property. So they extended their corporation line so as to take in pretty much the whole gas region round there; and then the city took possession of every well that was put down, and held it for the common good. Anybody that’s a mind to come to Moffitt and start any kind of manufacture can have all the gas he wants free; and for fifteen dollars a year you can have all the gas you want to heat and light your private house. The people hold on to it for themselves, and, as I say, it’s a grand sight to see a whole community hanging together and working for the good of all, instead of splitting up into as many different cut-throats as there are able-bodied citizens. See that fellow?” Fulkerson broke off, and indicated with a twirl of his head a short, dark, foreign-looking man going out of the door. “They say that fellow’s a Socialist. I think it’s a shame they’re allowed to come here. If they don’t like the way we manage our affairs let ‘em stay at home,” Fulkerson continued. “They do a lot of mischief, shooting off their mouths round here. I believe in free speech and all that; but I’d like to see these fellows shut up in jail and left to jaw one another to death. We don’t want any of their poison.”

March did not notice the vanishing Socialist. He was watching, with a teasing sense of familiarity, a tall, shabbily dressed, elderly man, who had just come in. He had the aquiline profile uncommon among Germans, and yet March recognized him at once as German. His long, soft beard and mustache had once been fair, and they kept some tone of their yellow in the gray to which they had turned. His eyes were full, and his lips and chin shaped the beard to the noble outline which shows in the beards the Italian masters liked to paint for their Last Suppers. His carriage was erect and soldierly, and March presently saw that he had lost his left hand. He took his place at a table where the overworked waiter found time to cut up his meat and put everything in easy reach of his right hand.

“Well,” Fulkerson resumed, “they took me round everywhere in Moffitt, and showed me their big wells—lit ‘em up for a private view, and let me hear them purr with the soft accents of a mass-meeting of locomotives. Why, when they let one of these wells loose in a meadow that they’d piped it into temporarily, it drove the flame away forty feet from the mouth of the pipe and blew it over half an acre of ground. They say when they let one of their big wells burn away all winter before they had learned how to control it, that well kept up a little summer all around it; the grass stayed green, and the flowers bloomed all through the winter. I don’t know whether it’s so or not. But I can believe anything of natural gas. My! but it was beautiful when they turned on the full force of that well and shot a roman candle into the gas—that’s the way they light it—and a plume of fire about twenty feet wide and seventy-five feet high, all red and yellow and violet, jumped into the sky, and that big roar shook the ground under your feet! You felt like saying:

“‘Don’t trouble yourself; I’m perfectly convinced. I believe in Moffitt.’ We-e-e-ll!” drawled Fulkerson, with a long breath, “that’s where I met old Dryfoos.”

“Oh yes!—Dryfoos,” said March. He observed that the waiter had brought the old one-handed German a towering glass of beer.

“Yes,” Fulkerson laughed. “We’ve got round to Dryfoos again. I thought I could cut a long story short, but I seem to be cutting a short story long. If you’re not in a hurry, though—”

“Not in the least. Go on as long as you like.”

“I met him there in the office of a real-estate man—speculator, of course; everybody was, in Moffitt; but a first-rate fellow, and public-spirited as all get-out; and when Dryfoos left he told me about him. Dryfoos was an old Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, about three or four miles out of Moffitt, and he’d lived there pretty much all his life; father was one of the first settlers. Everybody knew he had the right stuff in him, but he was slower than molasses in January, like those Pennsylvania Dutch. He’d got together the largest and handsomest farm anywhere around there; and he was making money on it, just like he was in some business somewhere; he was a very intelligent man; he took the papers and kept himself posted; but he was awfully old-fashioned in his ideas. He hung on to the doctrines as well as the dollars of the dads; it was a real thing with him. Well, when the boom began to come he hated it awfully, and he fought it. He used to write communications to the weekly newspaper in Moffitt—they’ve got three dailies there now—and throw cold water on the boom. He couldn’t catch on no way. It made him sick to hear the clack that went on about the gas the whole while, and that stirred up the neighborhood and got into his family. Whenever he’d hear of a man that had been offered a big price for his land and was going to sell out and move into town, he’d go and labor with him and try to talk him out of it, and tell him how long his fifteen or twenty thousand would last him to live on, and shake the Standard Oil Company before him, and try to make him believe it wouldn’t be five years before the Standard owned the whole region.

“Of course, he couldn’t do anything with them. When a man’s offered a big price for his farm, he don’t care whether it’s by a secret emissary from the Standard Oil or not; he’s going to sell and get the better of the other fellow if he can. Dryfoos couldn’t keep the boom out of has own family even. His wife was with him. She thought whatever he said and did was just as right as if it had been thundered down from Sinai. But the young folks were sceptical, especially the girls that had been away to school. The boy that had been kept at home because he couldn’t be spared from helping his father manage the farm was more like him, but they contrived to stir the boy up—with the hot end of the boom, too. So when a fellow came along one day and offered old Dryfoos a cool hundred thousand for his farm, it was all up with Dryfoos. He’d ‘a’ liked to ‘a’ kept the offer to himself and not done anything about it, but his vanity wouldn’t let him do that; and when he let it out in his family the girls outvoted him. They just made him sell.

“He wouldn’t sell all. He kept about eighty acres that was off in some piece by itself, but the three hundred that had the old brick house on it, and the big barn—that went, and Dryfoos bought him a place in Moffitt and moved into town to live on the interest of his money. Just what he had scolded and ridiculed everybody else for doing. Well, they say that at first he seemed like he would go crazy. He hadn’t anything to do. He took a fancy to that land-agent, and he used to go and set in his office and ask him what he should do. ‘I hain’t got any horses, I hain’t got any cows, I hain’t got any pigs, I hain’t got any chickens. I hain’t got anything to do from sun-up to sun-down.’ The fellow said the tears used to run down the old fellow’s cheeks, and if he hadn’t been so busy himself he believed he should ‘a’ cried, too. But most o’ people thought old Dryfoos was down in the mouth because he hadn’t asked more for his farm, when he wanted to buy it back and found they held it at a hundred and fifty thousand. People couldn’t believe he was just homesick and heartsick for the old place. Well, perhaps he was sorry he hadn’t asked more; that’s human nature, too.

“After a while something happened. That land-agent used to tell Dryfoos to get out to Europe with his money and see life a little, or go and live in Washington, where he could be somebody; but Dryfoos wouldn’t, and he kept listening to the talk there, and all of a sudden he caught on. He came into that fellow’s one day with a plan for cutting up the eighty acres he’d kept into town lots; and he’d got it all plotted out so-well, and had so many practical ideas about it, that the fellow was astonished. He went right in with him, as far as Dryfoos would let him, and glad of the chance; and they were working the thing for all it was worth when I struck Moffitt. Old Dryfoos wanted me to go out and see the Dryfoos & Hendry Addition—guess he thought maybe I’d write it up; and he drove me out there himself. Well, it was funny to see a town made: streets driven through; two rows of shadetrees, hard and soft, planted; cellars dug and houses put upregular Queen Anne style, too, with stained glass—all at once. Dryfoos apologized for the streets because they were hand-made; said they expected their street-making machine Tuesday, and then they intended to push things.”

Fulkerson enjoyed the effect of his picture on March for a moment, and then went on: “He was mighty intelligent, too, and he questioned me up about my business as sharp as I ever was questioned; seemed to kind of strike his fancy; I guess he wanted to find out if there was any money in it. He was making money, hand over hand, then; and he never stopped speculating and improving till he’d scraped together three or four hundred thousand dollars, they said a million, but they like round numbers at Moffitt, and I guess half a million would lay over it comfortably and leave a few thousands to spare, probably. Then he came on to New York.”

Fulkerson struck a match against the ribbed side of the porcelain cup that held the matches in the centre of the table, and lit a cigarette, which he began to smoke, throwing his head back with a leisurely effect, as if he had got to the end of at least as much of his story as he meant to tell without prompting.

March asked him the desired question. “What in the world for?”

Fulkerson took out his cigarette and said, with a smile: “To spend his money, and get his daughters into the old Knickerbocker society. Maybe he thought they were all the same kind of Dutch.”

“And has he succeeded?”

“Well, they’re not social leaders yet. But it’s only a question of time—generation or two—especially if time’s money, and if ‘Every Other Week’ is the success it’s bound to be.”

“You don’t mean to say, Fulkerson,” said March, with a half-doubting, half-daunted laugh, “that he’s your Angel?”

“That’s what I mean to say,” returned Fulkerson. “I ran onto him in Broadway one day last summer. If you ever saw anybody in your life; you’re sure to meet him in Broadway again, sooner or later. That’s the philosophy of the bunco business; country people from the same neighborhood are sure to run up against each other the first time they come to New York. I put out my hand, and I said, ‘Isn’t this Mr. Dryfoos from Moffitt?’ He didn’t seem to have any use for my hand; he let me keep it, and he squared those old lips of his till his imperial stuck straight out. Ever see Bernhardt in ‘L’Etrangere’? Well, the American husband is old Dryfoos all over; no mustache; and hay-colored chin-whiskers cut slanting froze the corners of his mouth. He cocked his little gray eyes at me, and says he: ‘Yes, young man; my name is Dryfoos, and I’m from Moffitt. But I don’t want no present of Longfellow’s Works, illustrated; and I don’t want to taste no fine teas; but I know a policeman that does; and if you’re the son of my old friend Squire Strohfeldt, you’d better get out.’ ‘Well, then,’ said I, ‘how would you like to go into the newspaper syndicate business?’ He gave another look at me, and then he burst out laughing, and he grabbed my hand, and he just froze to it. I never saw anybody so glad.

“Well, the long and the short of it was that I asked him round here to Maroni’s to dinner; and before we broke up for the night we had settled the financial side of the plan that’s brought you to New York.”

“I can see,” said Fulkerson, who had kept his eyes fast on March’s face, “that you don’t more than half like the idea of Dryfoos. It ought to give you more confidence in the thing than you ever had. You needn’t be afraid,” he added, with some feeling, “that I talked Dryfoos into the thing for my own advantage.”

“Oh, my dear Fulkerson!” March protested, all the more fervently because he was really a little guilty.

“Well, of course not! I didn’t mean you were. But I just happened to tell him what I wanted to go into when I could see my way to it, and he caught on of his own accord. The fact is,” said Fulkerson, “I guess I’d better make a clean breast of it, now I’m at it, Dryfoos wanted to get something for that boy of his to do. He’s in railroads himself, and he’s in mines and other things, and he keeps busy, and he can’t bear to have his boy hanging round the house doing nothing, like as if he was a girl. I told him that the great object of a rich man was to get his son into just that fix, but he couldn’t seem to see it, and the boy hated it himself. He’s got a good head, and he wanted to study for the ministry when they were all living together out on the farm; but his father had the old-fashioned ideas about that. You know they used to think that any sort of stuff was good enough to make a preacher out of; but they wanted the good timber for business; and so the old man wouldn’t let him. You’ll see the fellow; you’ll like him; he’s no fool, I can tell you; and he’s going to be our publisher, nominally at first and actually when I’ve taught him the ropes a little.”

Chapter XII • 4,100 Words

Fulkerson stopped and looked at March, whom he saw lapsing into a serious silence. Doubtless he divined his uneasiness with the facts that had been given him to digest. He pulled out his watch and glanced at it. “See here, how would you like to go up to Forty-sixth street with me, and drop in on old Dryfoos? Now’s your chance. He’s going West tomorrow, and won’t be back for a month or so. They’ll all be glad to see you, and you’ll understand things better when you’ve seen him and his family. I can’t explain.”

March reflected a moment. Then he said, with a wisdom that surprised him, for he would have liked to yield to the impulse of his curiosity: “Perhaps we’d better wait till Mrs. March comes down, and let things take the usual course. The Dryfoos ladies will want to call on her as the last-comer, and if I treated myself ‘en garcon’ now, and paid the first visit, it might complicate matters.”

“Well, perhaps you’re right,” said Fulkerson. “I don’t know much about these things, and I don’t believe Ma Dryfoos does, either.” He was on his legs lighting another cigarette. “I suppose the girls are getting themselves up in etiquette, though. Well, then, let’s have a look at the ‘Every Other Week’ building, and then, if you like your quarters there, you can go round and close for Mrs. Green’s flat.”

March’s dormant allegiance to his wife’s wishes had been roused by his decision in favor of good social usage. “I don’t think I shall take the flat,” he said.

“Well, don’t reject it without giving it another look, anyway. Come on!”

He helped March on with his light overcoat, and the little stir they made for their departure caught the notice of the old German; he looked up from his beer at them. March was more than ever impressed with something familiar in his face. In compensation for his prudence in regard to the Dryfooses he now indulged an impulse. He stepped across to where the old man sat, with his bald head shining like ivory under the gas-jet, and his fine patriarchal length of bearded mask taking picturesque lights and shadows, and put out his hand to him.

“Lindau! Isn’t this Mr. Lindau?”

The old man lifted himself slowly to his feet with mechanical politeness, and cautiously took March’s hand. “Yes, my name is Lindau,” he said, slowly, while he scanned March’s face. Then he broke into a long cry. “Ah-h-h-h-h, my dear poy! my gong friendt! my-my—Idt is Passil Marge, not zo? Ah, ha, ha, ha! How gladt I am to zee you! Why, I am gladt! And you rememberdt me? You remember Schiller, and Goethe, and Uhland? And Indianapolis? You still lif in Indianapolis? It sheers my hardt to zee you. But you are lidtle oldt, too? Tventy-five years makes a difference. Ah, I am gladt! Dell me, idt is Passil Marge, not zo?”

He looked anxiously into March’s face, with a gentle smile of mixed hope and doubt, and March said: “As sure as it’s Berthold Lindau, and I guess it’s you. And you remember the old times? You were as much of a boy as I was, Lindau. Are you living in New York? Do you recollect how you tried to teach me to fence? I don’t know how to this day, Lindau. How good you were, and how patient! Do you remember how we used to sit up in the little parlor back of your printing-office, and read Die Rauber and Die Theilung der Erde and Die Glocke? And Mrs. Lindau? Is she with—”

“Deadt—deadt long ago. Right after I got home from the war—tventy years ago. But tell me, you are married? Children? Yes! Goodt! And how oldt are you now?”

“It makes me seventeen to see you, Lindau, but I’ve got a son nearly as old.”

“Ah, ha, ha! Goodt! And where do you lif?”

“Well, I’m just coming to live in New York,” March said, looking over at Fulkerson, who had been watching his interview with the perfunctory smile of sympathy that people put on at the meeting of old friends. “I want to introduce you to my friend Mr. Fulkerson. He and I are going into a literary enterprise here.”

“Ah! zo?” said the old man, with polite interest. He took Fulkerson’s proffered hand, and they all stood talking a few moments together.

Then Fulkerson said, with another look at his watch, “Well, March, we’re keeping Mr. Lindau from his dinner.”

“Dinner!” cried the old man. “Idt’s better than breadt and meadt to see Mr. Marge!”

“I must be going, anyway,” said March. “But I must see you again soon, Lindau. Where do you live? I want a long talk.”

“And I. You will find me here at dinner-time.” said the old man. “It is the best place”; and March fancied him reluctant to give another address.

To cover his consciousness he answered, gayly: “Then, it’s ‘auf wiedersehen’ with us. Well!”

“Also!” The old man took his hand, and made a mechanical movement with his mutilated arm, as if he would have taken it in a double clasp. He laughed at himself. “I wanted to gif you the other handt, too, but I gafe it to your gountry a goodt while ago.”

“To my country?” asked March, with a sense of pain, and yet lightly, as if it were a joke of the old man’s. “Your country, too, Lindau?”

The old man turned very grave, and said, almost coldly, “What gountry hass a poor man got, Mr. Marge?”

“Well, you ought to have a share in the one you helped to save for us rich men, Lindau,” March returned, still humoring the joke.

The old man smiled sadly, but made no answer as he sat down again.

“Seems to be a little soured,” said Fulkerson, as they went down the steps. He was one of those Americans whose habitual conception of life is unalloyed prosperity. When any experience or observation of his went counter to it he suffered—something like physical pain. He eagerly shrugged away the impression left upon his buoyancy by Lindau, and added to March’s continued silence, “What did I tell you about meeting every man in New York that you ever knew before?”

“I never expected to meat Lindau in the world again,” said March, more to himself than to Fulkerson. “I had an impression that he had been killed in the war. I almost wish he had been.”

“Oh, hello, now!” cried Fulkerson.

March laughed, but went on soberly: “He was a man predestined to adversity, though. When I first knew him out in Indianapolis he was starving along with a sick wife and a sick newspaper. It was before the Germans had come over to the Republicans generally, but Lindau was fighting the anti-slavery battle just as naturally at Indianapolis in 1858 as he fought behind the barricades at Berlin in 1848. And yet he was always such a gentle soul! And so generous! He taught me German for the love of it; he wouldn’t spoil his pleasure by taking a cent from me; he seemed to get enough out of my being young and enthusiastic, and out of prophesying great things for me. I wonder what the poor old fellow is doing here, with that one hand of his?”

“Not amassing a very ‘handsome pittance,’ I guess, as Artemus Ward would say,” said Fulkerson, getting back some of his lightness. “There are lots of two-handed fellows in New York that are not doing much better, I guess. Maybe he gets some writing on the German papers.”

“I hope so. He’s one of the most accomplished men! He used to be a splendid musician—pianist—and knows eight or ten languages.”

“Well, it’s astonishing,” said Fulkerson, “how much lumber those Germans can carry around in their heads all their lives, and never work it up into anything. It’s a pity they couldn’t do the acquiring, and let out the use of their learning to a few bright Americans. We could make things hum, if we could arrange ‘em that way.”

He talked on, unheeded by March, who went along half-consciously tormented by his lightness in the pensive memories the meeting with Lindau had called up. Was this all that sweet, unselfish nature could come to? What a homeless old age at that meagre Italian table d’hote, with that tall glass of beer for a half-hour’s oblivion! That shabby dress, that pathetic mutilation! He must have a pension, twelve dollars a month, or eighteen, from a grateful country. But what else did he eke out with?

“Well, here we are,” said Fulkerson, cheerily. He ran up the steps before March, and opened the carpenter’s temporary valve in the door frame, and led the way into a darkness smelling sweetly of unpainted wood-work and newly dried plaster; their feat slipped on shavings and grated on sand. He scratched a match, and found a candle, and then walked about up and down stairs, and lectured on the advantages of the place. He had fitted up bachelor apartments for himself in the house, and said that he was going to have a flat to let on the top floor. “I didn’t offer it to you because I supposed you’d be too proud to live over your shop; and it’s too small, anyway; only five rooms.”

“Yes, that’s too small,” said March, shirking the other point.

“Well, then, here’s the room I intend for your office,” said Fulkerson, showing him into a large back parlor one flight up. “You’ll have it quiet from the street noises here, and you can be at home or not, as you please. There’ll be a boy on the stairs to find out. Now, you see, this makes the Grosvenor Green flat practicable, if you want it.”

March felt the forces of fate closing about him and pushing him to a decision. He feebly fought them off till he could have another look at the flat. Then, baked and subdued still more by the unexpected presence of Mrs. Grosvenor Green herself, who was occupying it so as to be able to show it effectively, he took it. He was aware more than ever of its absurdities; he knew that his wife would never cease to hate it; but he had suffered one of those eclipses of the imagination to which men of his temperament are subject, and into which he could see no future for his desires. He felt a comfort in irretrievably committing himself, and exchanging the burden of indecision for the burden of responsibility.

“I don’t know,” said Fulkerson, as they walked back to his hotel together, “but you might fix it up with that lone widow and her pretty daughter to take part of their house here.” He seemed to be reminded of it by the fact of passing the house, and March looked up at its dark front. He could not have told exactly why he felt a pang of remorse at the sight, and doubtless it was more regret for having taken the Grosvenor Green flat than for not having taken the widow’s rooms. Still, he could not forget her wistfulness when his wife and he were looking at them, and her disappointment when they decided against them. He had toyed, in his after-talk to Mrs. March, with a sort of hypothetical obligation they had to modify their plans so as to meet the widow’s want of just such a family as theirs; they had both said what a blessing it would be to her, and what a pity they could not do it; but they had decided very distinctly that they could not. Now it seemed to him that they might; and he asked himself whether he had not actually departed as much from their ideal as if he had taken board with the widow. Suddenly it seemed to him that his wife asked him this, too.

“I reckon,” said Fulkerson, “that she could have arranged to give you your meals in your rooms, and it would have come to about the same thing as housekeeping.”

“No sort of boarding can be the same as house-keeping,” said March. “I want my little girl to have the run of a kitchen, and I want the whole family to have the moral effect of housekeeping. It’s demoralizing to board, in every way; it isn’t a home, if anybody else takes the care of it off your hands.”

“Well, I suppose so,” Fulkerson assented; but March’s words had a hollow ring to himself, and in his own mind he began to retaliate his dissatisfaction upon Fulkerson.

He parted from him on the usual terms outwardly, but he felt obscurely abused by Fulkerson in regard to the Dryfooses, father and son. He did not know but Fulkerson had taken an advantage of him in allowing him to commit himself to their enterprise without fully and frankly telling him who and what his backer was; he perceived that with young Dryfoos as the publisher and Fulkerson as the general director of the paper there might be very little play for his own ideas of its conduct. Perhaps it was the hurt to his vanity involved by the recognition of this fact that made him forget how little choice he really had in the matter, and how, since he had not accepted the offer to edit the insurance paper, nothing remained for him but to close with Fulkerson. In this moment of suspicion and resentment he accused Fulkerson of hastening his decision in regard to the Grosvenor Green apartment; he now refused to consider it a decision, and said to himself that if he felt disposed to do so he would send Mrs. Green a note reversing it in the morning. But he put it all off till morning with his clothes, when he went to bed, he put off even thinking what his wife would say; he cast Fulkerson and his constructive treachery out of his mind, too, and invited into it some pensive reveries of the past, when he still stood at the parting of the ways, and could take this path or that. In his middle life this was not possible; he must follow the path chosen long ago, wherever, it led. He was not master of himself, as he once seemed, but the servant of those he loved; if he could do what he liked, perhaps he might renounce this whole New York enterprise, and go off somewhere out of the reach of care; but he could not do what he liked, that was very clear. In the pathos of this conviction he dwelt compassionately upon the thought of poor old Lindau; he resolved to make him accept a handsome sum of money—more than he could spare, something that he would feel the loss of—in payment of the lessons in German and fencing given so long ago. At the usual rate for such lessons, his debt, with interest for twenty-odd years, would run very far into the hundreds. Too far, he perceived, for his wife’s joyous approval; he determined not to add the interest; or he believed that Lindau would refuse the interest; he put a fine speech in his mouth, making him do so; and after that he got Lindau employment on ‘Every Other Week,’ and took care of him till he died.

Through all his melancholy and munificence he was aware of sordid anxieties for having taken the Grosvenor Green apartment. These began to assume visible, tangible shapes as he drowsed, and to became personal entities, from which he woke, with little starts, to a realization of their true nature, and then suddenly fell fast asleep.

In the accomplishment of the events which his reverie played with, there was much that retroactively stamped it with prophecy, but much also that was better than he forboded. He found that with regard to the Grosvenor Green apartment he had not allowed for his wife’s willingness to get any sort of roof over her head again after the removal from their old home, or for the alleviations that grow up through mere custom. The practical workings of the apartment were not so bad; it had its good points, and after the first sensation of oppression in it they began to feel the convenience of its arrangement. They were at that time of life when people first turn to their children’s opinion with deference, and, in the loss of keenness in their own likes and dislikes, consult the young preferences which are still so sensitive. It went far to reconcile Mrs. March to the apartment that her children were pleased with its novelty; when this wore off for them, she had herself begun to find it much more easily manageable than a house. After she had put away several barrels of gimcracks, and folded up screens and rugs and skins, and carried them all off to the little dark store-room which the flat developed, she perceived at once a roominess and coziness in it unsuspected before. Then, when people began to call, she had a pleasure, a superiority, in saying that it was a furnished apartment, and in disclaiming all responsibility for the upholstery and decoration. If March was by, she always explained that it was Mr. March’s fancy, and amiably laughed it off with her callers as a mannish eccentricity. Nobody really seemed to think it otherwise than pretty; and this again was a triumph for Mrs. March, because it showed how inferior the New York taste was to the Boston taste in such matters.

March submitted silently to his punishment, and laughed with her before company at his own eccentricity. She had been so preoccupied with the adjustment of the family to its new quarters and circumstances that the time passed for laying his misgivings, if they were misgivings, about Fulkerson before her, and when an occasion came for expressing them they had themselves passed in the anxieties of getting forward the first number of ‘Every Other Week.’ He kept these from her, too, and the business that brought them to New York had apparently dropped into abeyance before the questions of domestic economy that presented and absented themselves. March knew his wife to be a woman of good mind and in perfect sympathy with him, but he understood the limitations of her perspective; and if he was not too wise, he was too experienced to intrude upon it any affairs of his till her own were reduced to the right order and proportion. It would have been folly to talk to her of Fulkerson’s conjecturable uncandor while she was in doubt whether her cook would like the kitchen, or her two servants would consent to room together; and till it was decided what school Tom should go to, and whether Bella should have lessons at home or not, the relation which March was to bear to the Dryfooses, as owner and publisher, was not to be discussed with his wife. He might drag it in, but he was aware that with her mind distracted by more immediate interests he could not get from her that judgment, that reasoned divination, which he relied upon so much. She would try, she would do her best, but the result would be a view clouded and discolored by the effort she must make.

He put the whole matter by, and gave himself to the details of the work before him. In this he found not only escape, but reassurance, for it became more and more apparent that whatever was nominally the structure of the business, a man of his qualifications and his instincts could not have an insignificant place in it. He had also the consolation of liking his work, and of getting an instant grasp of it that grew constantly firmer and closer. The joy of knowing that he had not made a mistake was great. In giving rein to ambitions long forborne he seemed to get back to the youth when he had indulged them first; and after half a lifetime passed in pursuits alien to his nature, he was feeling the serene happiness of being mated through his work to his early love. From the outside the spectacle might have had its pathos, and it is not easy to justify such an experiment as he had made at his time of life, except upon the ground where he rested from its consideration—the ground of necessity.

His work was more in his thoughts than himself, however; and as the time for the publication of the first number of his periodical came nearer, his cares all centred upon it. Without fixing any date, Fulkerson had announced it, and pushed his announcements with the shameless vigor of a born advertiser. He worked his interest with the press to the utmost, and paragraphs of a variety that did credit to his ingenuity were afloat everywhere. Some of them were speciously unfavorable in tone; they criticised and even ridiculed the principles on which the new departure in literary journalism was based. Others defended it; others yet denied that this rumored principle was really the principle. All contributed to make talk. All proceeded from the same fertile invention.

March observed with a degree of mortification that the talk was very little of it in the New York press; there the references to the novel enterprise were slight and cold. But Fulkerson said: “Don’t mind that, old man. It’s the whole country that makes or breaks a thing like this; New York has very little to do with it. Now if it were a play, it would be different. New York does make or break a play; but it doesn’t make or break a book; it doesn’t make or break a magazine. The great mass of the readers are outside of New York, and the rural districts are what we have got to go for. They don’t read much in New York; they write, and talk about what they’ve written. Don’t you worry.”

The rumor of Fulkerson’s connection with the enterprise accompanied many of the paragraphs, and he was able to stay March’s thirst for employment by turning over to him from day to day heaps of the manuscripts which began to pour in from his old syndicate writers, as well as from adventurous volunteers all over the country. With these in hand March began practically to plan the first number, and to concrete a general scheme from the material and the experience they furnished. They had intended to issue the first number with the new year, and if it had been an affair of literature alone, it would have been very easy; but it was the art leg they limped on, as Fulkerson phrased it. They had not merely to deal with the question of specific illustrations for this article or that, but to decide the whole character of their illustrations, and first of all to get a design for a cover which should both ensnare the heedless and captivate the fastidious. These things did not come properly within March’s province—that had been clearly understood—and for a while Fulkerson tried to run the art leg himself. The phrase was again his, but it was simpler to make the phrase than to run the leg. The difficult generation, at once stiff-backed and slippery, with which he had to do in this endeavor, reduced even so buoyant an optimist to despair, and after wasting some valuable weeks in trying to work the artists himself, he determined to get an artist to work them. But what artist? It could not be a man with fixed reputation and a following: he would be too costly, and would have too many enemies among his brethren, even if he would consent to undertake the job. Fulkerson had a man in mind, an artist, too, who would have been the very thing if he had been the thing at all. He had talent enough, and his sort of talent would reach round the whole situation, but, as Fulkerson said, he was as many kinds of an ass as he was kinds of an artist.

Part Second • 36,100 Words
Chapter I • 3,300 Words

The evening when March closed with Mrs. Green’s reduced offer, and decided to take her apartment, the widow whose lodgings he had rejected sat with her daughter in an upper room at the back of her house. In the shaded glow of the drop-light she was sewing, and the girl was drawing at the same table. From time to time, as they talked, the girl lifted her head and tilted it a little on one side so as to get some desired effect of her work.

“It’s a mercy the cold weather holds off,” said the mother. “We should have to light the furnace, unless we wanted to scare everybody away with a cold house; and I don’t know who would take care of it, or what would become of us, every way.”

“They seem to have been scared away from a house that wasn’t cold,” said the girl. “Perhaps they might like a cold one. But it’s too early for cold yet. It’s only just in the beginning of November.”

“The Messenger says they’ve had a sprinkling of snow.”

“Oh yes, at St. Barnaby! I don’t know when they don’t have sprinklings of snow there. I’m awfully glad we haven’t got that winter before us.”

The widow sighed as mothers do who feel the contrast their experience opposes to the hopeful recklessness of such talk as this. “We may have a worse winter here,” she said, darkly.

“Then I couldn’t stand it,” said the girl, “and I should go in for lighting out to Florida double-quick.”

“And how would you get to Florida?” demanded her mother, severely.

“Oh, by the usual conveyance Pullman vestibuled train, I suppose. What makes you so blue, mamma?” The girl was all the time sketching away, rubbing out, lifting her head for the effect, and then bending it over her work again without looking at her mother.

“I am not blue, Alma. But I cannot endure this—this hopefulness of yours.”

“Why? What harm does it do?”

“Harm?” echoed the mother.

Pending the effort she must make in saying, the girl cut in: “Yes, harm. You’ve kept your despair dusted off and ready for use at an instant’s notice ever since we came, and what good has it done? I’m going to keep on hoping to the bitter end. That’s what papa did.”

It was what the Rev. Archibald Leighton had done with all the consumptive’s buoyancy. The morning he died he told them that now he had turned the point and was really going to get well. The cheerfulness was not only in his disease, but in his temperament. Its excess was always a little against him in his church work, and Mrs. Leighton was right enough in feeling that if it had not been for the ballast of her instinctive despondency he would have made shipwreck of such small chances of prosperity as befell him in life. It was not from him that his daughter got her talent, though he had left her his temperament intact of his widow’s legal thirds. He was one of those men of whom the country people say when he is gone that the woman gets along better without him. Mrs. Leighton had long eked out their income by taking a summer boarder or two, as a great favor, into her family; and when the greater need came, she frankly gave up her house to the summer-folks (as they call them in the country), and managed it for their comfort from the small quarter of it in which she shut herself up with her daughter.

The notion of shutting up is an exigency of the rounded period. The fact is, of course, that Alma Leighton was not shut up in any sense whatever. She was the pervading light, if not force, of the house. She was a good cook, and she managed the kitchen with the help of an Irish girl, while her mother looked after the rest of the housekeeping. But she was not systematic; she had inspiration but not discipline, and her mother mourned more over the days when Alma left the whole dinner to the Irish girl than she rejoiced in those when one of Alma’s great thoughts took form in a chicken-pie of incomparable savor or in a matchless pudding. The off-days came when her artistic nature was expressing itself in charcoal, for she drew to the admiration of all among the lady boarders who could not draw. The others had their reserves; they readily conceded that Alma had genius, but they were sure she needed instruction. On the other hand, they were not so radical as to agree with the old painter who came every summer to paint the elms of the St. Barnaby meadows. He contended that she needed to be a man in order to amount to anything; but in this theory he was opposed by an authority, of his own sex, whom the lady sketchers believed to speak with more impartiality in a matter concerning them as much as Alma Leighton. He said that instruction would do, and he was not only younger and handsomer, but he was fresher from the schools than old Harrington, who, even the lady sketchers could see, painted in an obsolescent manner. His name was Beaton—Angus Beaton; but he was not Scotch, or not more Scotch than Mary Queen of Scots was. His father was a Scotchman, but Beaton was born in Syracuse, New York, and it had taken only three years in Paris to obliterate many traces of native and ancestral manner in him. He wore his black beard cut shorter than his mustache, and a little pointed; he stood with his shoulders well thrown back and with a lateral curve of his person when he talked about art, which would alone have carried conviction even if he had not had a thick, dark bang coming almost to the brows of his mobile gray eyes, and had not spoken English with quick, staccato impulses, so as to give it the effect of epigrammatic and sententious French. One of the ladies said that you always thought of him as having spoken French after it was over, and accused herself of wrong in not being able to feel afraid of him. None of the ladies was afraid of him, though they could not believe that he was really so deferential to their work as he seemed; and they knew, when he would not criticise Mr. Harrington’s work, that he was just acting from principle.

They may or may not have known the deference with which he treated Alma’s work; but the girl herself felt that his abrupt, impersonal comment recognized her as a real sister in art. He told her she ought to come to New York, and draw in the League, or get into some painter’s private class; and it was the sense of duty thus appealed to which finally resulted in the hazardous experiment she and her mother were now making. There were no logical breaks in the chain of their reasoning from past success with boarders in St. Barnaby to future success with boarders in New York. Of course the outlay was much greater. The rent of the furnished house they had taken was such that if they failed their experiment would be little less than ruinous.

But they were not going to fail; that was what Alma contended, with a hardy courage that her mother sometimes felt almost invited failure, if it did not deserve it. She was one of those people who believe that if you dread harm enough it is less likely to happen. She acted on this superstition as if it were a religion.

“If it had not been for my despair, as you call it, Alma,” she answered, “I don’t know where we should have been now.”

“I suppose we should have been in St. Barnaby,” said the girl. “And if it’s worse to be in New York, you see what your despair’s done, mamma. But what’s the use? You meant well, and I don’t blame you. You can’t expect even despair to come out always just the way you want it. Perhaps you’ve used too much of it.” The girl laughed, and Mrs. Leighton laughed, too. Like every one else, she was not merely a prevailing mood, as people are apt to be in books, but was an irregularly spheroidal character, with surfaces that caught the different lights of circumstance and reflected them. Alma got up and took a pose before the mirror, which she then transferred to her sketch. The room was pinned about with other sketches, which showed with fantastic indistinctness in the shaded gaslight. Alma held up the drawing. “How do you like it?”

Mrs. Leighton bent forward over her sewing to look at it. “You’ve got the man’s face rather weak.”

“Yes, that’s so. Either I see all the hidden weakness that’s in men’s natures, and bring it to the surface in their figures, or else I put my own weakness into them. Either way, it’s a drawback to their presenting a truly manly appearance. As long as I have one of the miserable objects before me, I can draw him; but as soon as his back’s turned I get to putting ladies into men’s clothes. I should think you’d be scandalized, mamma, if you were a really feminine person. It must be your despair that helps you to bear up. But what’s the matter with the young lady in young lady’s clothes? Any dust on her?”

“What expressions!” said Mrs. Leighton. “Really, Alma, for a refined girl you are the most unrefined!”

“Go on—about the girl in the picture!” said Alma, slightly knocking her mother on the shoulder, as she stood over her.

“I don’t see anything to her. What’s she doing?”

“Oh, just being made love to, I suppose.”

“She’s perfectly insipid!”

“You’re awfully articulate, mamma! Now, if Mr. Wetmore were to criticise that picture he’d draw a circle round it in the air, and look at it through that, and tilt his head first on one side and then on the other, and then look at you, as if you were a figure in it, and then collapse awhile, and moan a little and gasp, ‘Isn’t your young lady a little too-too—’ and then he’d try to get the word out of you, and groan and suffer some more; and you’d say, ‘She is, rather,’ and that would give him courage, and he’d say, ‘I don’t mean that she’s so very—’ ‘Of course not.’ ‘You understand?’ ‘Perfectly. I see it myself, now.’ ‘Well, then’—-and he’d take your pencil and begin to draw—‘I should give her a little more—Ah?’ ‘Yes, I see the difference.’—‘You see the difference?’ And he’d go off to some one else, and you’d know that you’d been doing the wishy-washiest thing in the world, though he hadn’t spoken a word of criticism, and couldn’t. But he wouldn’t have noticed the expression at all; he’d have shown you where your drawing was bad. He doesn’t care for what he calls the literature of a thing; he says that will take care of itself if the drawing’s good. He doesn’t like my doing these chic things; but I’m going to keep it up, for I think it’s the nearest way to illustrating.”

She took her sketch and pinned it up on the door.

“And has Mr. Beaton been about, yet?” asked her mother.

“No,” said the girl, with her back still turned; and she added, “I believe he’s in New York; Mr. Wetmore’s seen him.”

“It’s a little strange he doesn’t call.”

“It would be if he were not an artist. But artists never do anything like other people. He was on his good behavior while he was with us, and he’s a great deal more conventional than most of them; but even he can’t keep it up. That’s what makes me really think that women can never amount to anything in art. They keep all their appointments, and fulfil all their duties just as if they didn’t know anything about art. Well, most of them don’t. We’ve got that new model to-day.”

“What new model?”

“The one Mr. Wetmore was telling us about the old German; he’s splendid. He’s got the most beautiful head; just like the old masters’ things. He used to be Humphrey Williams’s model for his Biblical-pieces; but since he’s dead, the old man hardly gets anything to do. Mr. Wetmore says there isn’t anybody in the Bible that Williams didn’t paint him as. He’s the Law and the Prophets in all his Old Testament pictures, and he’s Joseph, Peter, Judas Iscariot, and the Scribes and Pharisees in the New.”

“It’s a good thing people don’t know how artists work, or some of the most sacred pictures would have no influence,” said Mrs. Leighton.

“Why, of course not!” cried the girl. “And the influence is the last thing a painter thinks of—or supposes he thinks of. What he knows he’s anxious about is the drawing and the color. But people will never understand how simple artists are. When I reflect what a complex and sophisticated being I am, I’m afraid I can never come to anything in art. Or I should be if I hadn’t genius.”

“Do you think Mr. Beaton is very simple?” asked Mrs. Leighton.

“Mr. Wetmore doesn’t think he’s very much of an artist. He thinks he talks too well. They believe that if a man can express himself clearly he can’t paint.”

“And what do you believe?”

“Oh, I can express myself, too.”

The mother seemed to be satisfied with this evasion. After a while she said, “I presume he will call when he gets settled.”

The girl made no answer to this. “One of the girls says that old model is an educated man. He was in the war, and lost a hand. Doesn’t it seem a pity for such a man to have to sit to a class of affected geese like us as a model? I declare it makes me sick. And we shall keep him a week, and pay him six or seven dollars for the use of his grand old head, and then what will he do? The last time he was regularly employed was when Mr. Mace was working at his Damascus Massacre. Then he wanted so many Arab sheiks and Christian elders that he kept old Mr. Lindau steadily employed for six months. Now he has to pick up odd jobs where he can.”

“I suppose he has his pension,” said Mrs. Leighton.

“No; one of the girls”—that was the way Alma always described her fellow-students—“says he has no pension. He didn’t apply for it for a long time, and then there was a hitch about it, and it was somethinged—vetoed, I believe she said.”

“Who vetoed it?” asked Mrs. Leighton, with some curiosity about the process, which she held in reserve.

“I don’t know—whoever vetoes things. I wonder what Mr. Wetmore does think of us—his class. We must seem perfectly crazy. There isn’t one of us really knows what she’s doing it for, or what she expects to happen when she’s done it. I suppose every one thinks she has genius. I know the Nebraska widow does, for she says that unless you have genius it isn’t the least use. Everybody’s puzzled to know what she does with her baby when she’s at work—whether she gives it soothing syrup. I wonder how Mr. Wetmore can keep from laughing in our faces. I know he does behind our backs.”

Mrs. Leighton’s mind wandered back to another point. “Then if he says Mr. Beaton can’t paint, I presume he doesn’t respect him very much.”

“Oh, he never said he couldn’t paint. But I know he thinks so. He says he’s an excellent critic.”

“Alma,” her mother said, with the effect of breaking off, “what do you suppose is the reason he hasn’t been near us?”

“Why, I don’t know, mamma, except that it would have been natural for another person to come, and he’s an artist at least, artist enough for that.”

“That doesn’t account for it altogether. He was very nice at St. Barnaby, and seemed so interested in you—your work.”

“Plenty of people were nice at St. Barnaby. That rich Mrs. Horn couldn’t contain her joy when she heard we were coming to New York, but she hasn’t poured in upon us a great deal since we got here.”

“But that’s different. She’s very fashionable, and she’s taken up with her own set. But Mr. Beaton’s one of our kind.”

“Thank you. Papa wasn’t quite a tombstone-cutter, mamma.”

“That makes it all the harder to bear. He can’t be ashamed of us. Perhaps he doesn’t know where we are.”

“Do you wish to send him your card, mamma?” The girl flushed and towered in scorn of the idea.

“Why, no, Alma,” returned her mother.

“Well, then,” said Alma.

But Mrs. Leighton was not so easily quelled. She had got her mind on Mr. Beaton, and she could not detach it at once. Besides, she was one of those women (they are commoner than the same sort of men) whom it does not pain to take out their most intimate thoughts and examine them in the light of other people’s opinions. “But I don’t see how he can behave so. He must know that—”

“That what, mamma?” demanded the girl.

“That he influenced us a great deal in coming—”

“He didn’t. If he dared to presume to think such a thing—”

“Now, Alma,” said her mother, with the clinging persistence of such natures, “you know he did. And it’s no use for you to pretend that we didn’t count upon him in—in every way. You may not have noticed his attentions, and I don’t say you did, but others certainly did; and I must say that I didn’t expect he would drop us so.”

“Drop us!” cried Alma, in a fury. “Oh!”

“Yes, drop us, Alma. He must know where we are. Of course, Mr. Wetmore’s spoken to him about you, and it’s a shame that he hasn’t been near us. I should have thought common gratitude, common decency, would have brought him after—after all we did for him.”

“We did nothing for him—nothing! He paid his board, and that ended it.”

“No, it didn’t, Alma. You know what he used to say—about its being like home, and all that; and I must say that after his attentions to you, and all the things you told me he said, I expected something very dif—”

A sharp peal of the door-bell thrilled through the house, and as if the pull of the bell-wire had twitched her to her feet, Mrs. Leighton sprang up and grappled with her daughter in their common terror.

They both glared at the clock and made sure that it was five minutes after nine. Then they abandoned themselves some moments to the unrestricted play of their apprehensions.

Chapter II • 2,000 Words

“Why, Alma,” whispered the mother, “who in the world can it be at this time of night? You don’t suppose he—”

“Well, I’m not going to the door, anyhow, mother, I don’t care who it is; and, of course, he wouldn’t be such a goose as to come at this hour.” She put on a look of miserable trepidation, and shrank back from the door, while the hum of the bell died away, in the hall.

“What shall we do?” asked Mrs. Leighton, helplessly.

“Let him go away—whoever they are,” said Alma.

Another and more peremptory ring forbade them refuge in this simple expedient.

“Oh, dear! what shall we do? Perhaps it’s a despatch.”

The conjecture moved Alma to no more than a rigid stare. “I shall not go,” she said. A third ring more insistent than the others followed, and she said: “You go ahead, mamma, and I’ll come behind to scream if it’s anybody. We can look through the side-lights at the door first.”

Mrs. Leighton fearfully led the way from the back chamber where they bad been sitting, and slowly descended the stairs. Alma came behind and turned up the hall gas-jet with a sudden flash that made them both jump a little. The gas inside rendered it more difficult to tell who was on the threshold, but Mrs. Leighton decided from a timorous peep through the scrims that it was a lady and gentleman. Something in this distribution of sex emboldened her; she took her life in her hand, and opened the door.

The lady spoke. “Does Mrs. Leighton live heah?” she said, in a rich, throaty voice; and she feigned a reference to the agent’s permit she held in her hand.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Leighton; she mechanically occupied the doorway, while Alma already quivered behind her with impatience of her impoliteness.

“Oh,” said the lady, who began to appear more and more a young lady, “Ah didn’t know but Ah had mistaken the hoase. Ah suppose it’s rather late to see the apawtments, and Ah most ask you to pawdon us.” She put this tentatively, with a delicately growing recognition of Mrs. Leighton as the lady of the house, and a humorous intelligence of the situation in the glance she threw Alma over her mother’s shoulder. “Ah’m afraid we most have frightened you.”

“Oh, not at all,” said Alma; and at the same time her mother said, “Will you walk in, please?”

The gentleman promptly removed his hat and made the Leightons an inclusive bow. “You awe very kind, madam, and I am sorry for the trouble we awe giving you.” He was tall and severe-looking, with a gray, trooperish mustache and iron-gray hair, and, as Alma decided, iron-gray eyes. His daughter was short, plump, and fresh-colored, with an effect of liveliness that did not all express itself in her broad-vowelled, rather formal speech, with its odd valuations of some of the auxiliary verbs, and its total elision of the canine letter.

“We awe from the Soath,” she said, “and we arrived this mawning, but we got this cyahd from the brokah just befo’ dinnah, and so we awe rathah late.”

“Not at all; it’s only nine o’clock,” said Mrs. Leighton. She looked up from the card the young lady had given her, and explained, “We haven’t got in our servants yet, and we had to answer the bell ourselves, and—”

“You were frightened, of coase,” said the young lady, caressingly.

The gentleman said they ought not to have come so late, and he offered some formal apologies.

“We should have been just as much scared any time after five o’clock,” Alma said to the sympathetic intelligence in the girl’s face.

She laughed out. “Of coase! Ah would have my hawt in my moath all day long, too, if Ah was living in a big hoase alone.”

A moment of stiffness followed; Mrs. Leighton would have liked to withdraw from the intimacy of the situation, but she did not know how. It was very well for these people to assume to be what they pretended; but, she reflected too late, she had no proof of it except the agent’s permit. They were all standing in the hall together, and she prolonged the awkward pause while she examined the permit. “You are Mr. Woodburn?” she asked, in a way that Alma felt implied he might not be.

“Yes, madam; from Charlottesboag, Virginia,” he answered, with the slight umbrage a man shows when the strange cashier turns his check over and questions him before cashing it.

Alma writhed internally, but outwardly remained subordinate; she examined the other girl’s dress, and decided in a superficial consciousness that she had made her own bonnet.

“I shall be glad to show you my rooms,” said Mrs. Leighton, with an irrelevant sigh. “You must excuse their being not just as I should wish them. We’re hardly settled yet.”

“Don’t speak of it, madam,” said the gentleman, “if you can overlook the trouble we awe giving you at such an unseasonable houah.”

“Ah’m a hoasekeepah mahself,” Miss Woodburn joined in, “and Ah know ho’ to accyoant fo’ everything.”

Mrs. Leighton led the way up-stairs, and the young lady decided upon the large front room and small side room on the third story. She said she could take the small one, and the other was so large that her father could both sleep and work in it. She seemed not ashamed to ask if Mrs. Leighton’s price was inflexible, but gave way laughing when her father refused to have any bargaining, with a haughty self-respect which he softened to deference for Mrs. Leighton. His impulsiveness opened the way for some confidence from her, and before the affair was arranged she was enjoying in her quality of clerical widow the balm of the Virginians’ reverent sympathy. They said they were church people themselves.

“Ah don’t know what yo’ mothah means by yo’ hoase not being in oddah,” the young lady said to Alma as they went down-stairs together. “Ah’m a great hoasekeepah mahself, and Ah mean what Ah say.”

They had all turned mechanically into the room where the Leightons were sitting when the Woodburns rang: Mr. Woodburn consented to sit down, and he remained listening to Mrs. Leighton while his daughter bustled up to the sketches pinned round the room and questioned Alma about them.

“Ah suppose you awe going to be a great awtust?” she said, in friendly banter, when Alma owned to having done the things. “Ah’ve a great notion to take a few lessons mahself. Who’s yo’ teachah?”

Alma said she was drawing in Mr. Wetmore’s class, and Miss Woodburn said: “Well, it’s just beautiful, Miss Leighton; it’s grand. Ah suppose it’s raght expensive, now? Mah goodness! we have to cyoant the coast so much nowadays; it seems to me we do nothing but cyoant it. Ah’d like to hah something once without askin’ the price.”

“Well, if you didn’t ask it,” said Alma, “I don’t believe Mr. Wetmore would ever know what the price of his lessons was. He has to think, when you ask him.”

“Why, he most be chomming,” said Miss Woodburn. “Perhaps Ah maght get the lessons for nothing from him. Well, Ah believe in my soul Ah’ll trah. Now ho’ did you begin? and ho’ do you expect to get anything oat of it?” She turned on Alma eyes brimming with a shrewd mixture of fun and earnest, and Alma made note of the fact that she had an early nineteenth-century face, round, arch, a little coquettish, but extremely sensible and unspoiled-looking, such as used to be painted a good deal in miniature at that period; a tendency of her brown hair to twine and twist at the temples helped the effect; a high comb would have completed it, Alma felt, if she had her bonnet off. It was almost a Yankee country-girl type; but perhaps it appeared so to Alma because it was, like that, pure Anglo-Saxon. Alma herself, with her dull, dark skin, slender in figure, slow in speech, with aristocratic forms in her long hands, and the oval of her fine face pointed to a long chin, felt herself much more Southern in style than this blooming, bubbling, bustling Virginian.

“I don’t know,” she answered, slowly.

“Going to take po’traits,” suggested Miss Woodburn, “or just paint the ahdeal?” A demure burlesque lurked in her tone.

“I suppose I don’t expect to paint at all,” said Alma. “I’m going to illustrate books—if anybody will let me.”

“Ah should think they’d just joamp at you,” said Miss Woodburn. “Ah’ll tell you what let’s do, Miss Leighton: you make some pictures, and Ah’ll wrahte a book fo’ them. Ah’ve got to do something. Ali maght as well wrahte a book. You know we Southerners have all had to go to woak. But Ah don’t mand it. I tell papa I shouldn’t ca’ fo’ the disgrace of bein’ poo’ if it wasn’t fo’ the inconvenience.”

“Yes, it’s inconvenient,” said Alma; “but you forget it when you’re at work, don’t you think?”

“Mah, yes! Perhaps that’s one reason why poo’ people have to woak so hawd—to keep their wands off their poverty.”

The girls both tittered, and turned from talking in a low tone with their backs toward their elders, and faced them.

“Well, Madison,” said Mr. Woodburn, “it is time we should go. I bid you good-night, madam,” he bowed to Mrs. Leighton. “Good-night,” he bowed again to Alma.

His daughter took leave of them in formal phrase, but with a jolly cordiality of manner that deformalized it. “We shall be roand raght soon in the mawning, then,” she threatened at the door.

“We shall be all ready for you,” Alma called after her down the steps.

“Well, Alma?” her mother asked, when the door closed upon them.

“She doesn’t know any more about art,” said Alma, “than—nothing at all. But she’s jolly and good-hearted. She praised everything that was bad in my sketches, and said she was going to take lessons herself. When a person talks about taking lessons, as if they could learn it, you know where they belong artistically.”

Mrs. Leighton shook her head with a sigh. “I wish I knew where they belonged financially. We shall have to get in two girls at once. I shall have to go out the first thing in the morning, and then our troubles will begin.”

“Well, didn’t you want them to begin? I will stay home and help you get ready. Our prosperity couldn’t begin without the troubles, if you mean boarders, and boarders mean servants. I shall be very glad to be afflicted with a cook for a while myself.”

“Yes; but we don’t know anything about these people, or whether they will be able to pay us. Did she talk as if they were well off?”

“She talked as if they were poor; poo’ she called it.”

“Yes, how queerly she pronounced,” said Mrs. Leighton. “Well, I ought to have told them that I required the first week in advance.”

“Mamma! If that’s the way you’re going to act!”

“Oh, of course, I couldn’t, after he wouldn’t let her bargain for the rooms. I didn’t like that.”

“I did. And you can see that they were perfect ladies; or at least one of them.” Alma laughed at herself, but her mother did not notice.

“Their being ladies won’t help if they’ve got no money. It’ll make it all the worse.”

“Very well, then; we have no money, either. We’re a match for them any day there. We can show them that two can play at that game.”

Chapter III • 2,600 Words

Arnus Beaton’s studio looked at first glance like many other painters’ studios. A gray wall quadrangularly vaulted to a large north light; casts of feet, hands, faces hung to nails about; prints, sketches in oil and water-color stuck here and there lower down; a rickety table, with paint and palettes and bottles of varnish and siccative tossed comfortlessly on it; an easel, with a strip of some faded mediaeval silk trailing from it; a lay figure simpering in incomplete nakedness, with its head on one side, and a stocking on one leg, and a Japanese dress dropped before it; dusty rugs and skins kicking over the varnished floor; canvases faced to the mop-board; an open trunk overflowing with costumes: these features one might notice anywhere. But, besides, there was a bookcase with an unusual number of books in it, and there was an open colonial writing-desk, claw-footed, brass-handled, and scutcheoned, with foreign periodicals—French and English—littering its leaf, and some pages of manuscript scattered among them. Above all, there was a sculptor’s revolving stand, supporting a bust which Beaton was modelling, with an eye fixed as simultaneously as possible on the clay and on the head of the old man who sat on the platform beside it.

Few men have been able to get through the world with several gifts to advantage in all; and most men seem handicapped for the race if they have more than one. But they are apparently immensely interested as well as distracted by them. When Beaton was writing, he would have agreed, up to a certain point, with any one who said literature was his proper expression; but, then, when he was painting, up to a certain point, he would have maintained against the world that he was a colorist, and supremely a colorist. At the certain point in either art he was apt to break away in a frenzy of disgust and wreak himself upon some other. In these moods he sometimes designed elevations of buildings, very striking, very original, very chic, very everything but habitable. It was in this way that he had tried his hand on sculpture, which he had at first approached rather slightingly as a mere decorative accessory of architecture. But it had grown in his respect till he maintained that the accessory business ought to be all the other way: that temples should be raised to enshrine statues, not statues made to ornament temples; that was putting the cart before the horse with a vengeance. This was when he had carried a plastic study so far that the sculptors who saw it said that Beaton might have been an architect, but would certainly never be a sculptor. At the same time he did some hurried, nervous things that had a popular charm, and that sold in plaster reproductions, to the profit of another. Beaton justly despised the popular charm in these, as well as in the paintings he sold from time to time; he said it was flat burglary to have taken money for them, and he would have been living almost wholly upon the bounty of the old tombstone-cutter in Syracuse if it had not been for the syndicate letters which he supplied to Fulkerson for ten dollars a week.

They were very well done, but he hated doing them after the first two or three, and had to be punched up for them by Fulkerson, who did not cease to prize them, and who never failed to punch him up. Beaton being what he was, Fulkerson was his creditor as well as patron; and Fulkerson being what he was, had an enthusiastic patience with the elusive, facile, adaptable, unpractical nature of Beaton. He was very proud of his art-letters, as he called them; but then Fulkerson was proud of everything he secured for his syndicate. The fact that he had secured it gave it value; he felt as if he had written it himself.

One art trod upon another’s heels with Beaton. The day before he had rushed upon canvas the conception of a picture which he said to himself was glorious, and to others (at the table d’hote of Maroni) was not bad. He had worked at it in a fury till the light failed him, and he execrated the dying day. But he lit his lamp and transferred the process of his thinking from the canvas to the opening of the syndicate letter which he knew Fulkerson would be coming for in the morning. He remained talking so long after dinner in the same strain as he had painted and written in that he could not finish his letter that night. The next morning, while he was making his tea for breakfast, the postman brought him a letter from his father enclosing a little check, and begging him with tender, almost deferential, urgence to come as lightly upon him as possible, for just now his expenses were very heavy. It brought tears of shame into Beaton’s eyes—the fine, smouldering, floating eyes that many ladies admired, under the thick bang—and he said to himself that if he were half a man he would go home and go to work cutting gravestones in his father’s shop. But he would wait, at least, to finish his picture; and as a sop to his conscience, to stay its immediate ravening, he resolved to finish that syndicate letter first, and borrow enough money from Fulkerson to be able to send his father’s check back; or, if not that, then to return the sum of it partly in Fulkerson’s check. While he still teemed with both of these good intentions the old man from whom he was modelling his head of Judas came, and Beaton saw that he must get through with him before he finished either the picture or the letter; he would have to pay him for the time, anyway. He utilized the remorse with which he was tingling to give his Judas an expression which he found novel in the treatment of that character—a look of such touching, appealing self-abhorrence that Beaton’s artistic joy in it amounted to rapture; between the breathless moments when he worked in dead silence for an effect that was trying to escape him, he sang and whistled fragments of comic opera.

In one of the hushes there came a blow on the outside of the door that made Beaton jump, and swear with a modified profanity that merged itself in apostrophic prayer. He knew it must be Fulkerson, and after roaring “Come in!” he said to the model, “That’ll do this morning, Lindau.”

Fulkerson squared his feet in front of the bust and compared it by fleeting glances with the old man as he got stiffly up and suffered Beaton to help him on with his thin, shabby overcoat.

“Can you come to-morrow, Lindau?”

“No, not to-morrow, Mr. Peaton. I haf to zit for the young ladties.”

“Oh!” said Beaton. “Wetmore’s class? Is Miss Leighton doing you?”

“I don’t know their namess,” Lindau began, when Fulkerson said:

“Hope you haven’t forgotten mine, Mr. Lindau? I met you with Mr. March at Maroni’s one night.” Fulkerson offered him a universally shakable hand.

“Oh yes! I am gladt to zee you again, Mr. Vulkerson. And Mr. Marge—he don’t zeem to gome any more?”

“Up to his eyes in work. Been moving on from Boston and getting settled, and starting in on our enterprise. Beaton here hasn’t got a very flattering likeness of you, hey? Well, good-morning,” he said, for Lindau appeared not to have heard him and was escaping with a bow through the door.

Beaton lit a cigarette which he pinched nervously between his lips before he spoke. “You’ve come for that letter, I suppose, Fulkerson? It isn’t done.”

Fulkerson turned from staring at the bust to which he had mounted. “What you fretting about that letter for? I don’t want your letter.”

Beaton stopped biting his cigarette and looked at him. “Don’t want my letter? Oh, very good!” he bristled up. He took his cigarette from his lips, and blew the smoke through his nostrils, and then looked at Fulkerson.

“No; I don’t want your letter; I want you.”

Beacon disdained to ask an explanation, but he internally lowered his crest, while he continued to look at Fulkerson without changing his defiant countenance. This suited Fulkerson well enough, and he went on with relish, “I’m going out of the syndicate business, old man, and I’m on a new thing.” He put his leg over the back of a chair and rested his foot on its seat, and, with one hand in his pocket, he laid the scheme of ‘Every Other Week’ before Beaton with the help of the other. The artist went about the room, meanwhile, with an effect of indifference which by no means offended Fulkerson. He took some water into his mouth from a tumbler, which he blew in a fine mist over the head of Judas before swathing it in a dirty cotton cloth; he washed his brushes and set his palette; he put up on his easel the picture he had blocked on the day before, and stared at it with a gloomy face; then he gathered the sheets of his unfinished letter together and slid them into a drawer of his writing-desk. By the time he had finished and turned again to Fulkerson, Fulkerson was saying: “I did think we could have the first number out by New-Year’s; but it will take longer than that—a month longer; but I’m not sorry, for the holidays kill everything; and by February, or the middle of February, people will get their breath again and begin to look round and ask what’s new. Then we’ll reply in the language of Shakespeare and Milton, ‘Every Other Week; and don’t you forget it.’” He took down his leg and asked, “Got a pipe of ‘baccy anywhere?”

Beaton nodded at a clay stem sticking out of a Japanese vase of bronze on his mantel. “There’s yours,” he said; and Fulkerson said, “Thanks,” and filled the pipe and sat down and began to smoke tranquilly.

Beaton saw that he would have to speak now. “And what do you want with me?”

“You? Oh yes,” Fulkerson humorously dramatized a return to himself from a pensive absence. “Want you for the art department.”

Beaton shook his head. “I’m not your man, Fulkerson,” he said, compassionately. “You want a more practical hand, one that’s in touch with what’s going. I’m getting further and further away from this century and its claptrap. I don’t believe in your enterprise; I don’t respect it, and I won’t have anything to do with it. It would—choke me, that kind of thing.”

“That’s all right,” said Fulkerson. He esteemed a man who was not going to let himself go cheap. “Or if it isn’t, we can make it. You and March will pull together first-rate. I don’t care how much ideal you put into the thing; the more the better. I can look after the other end of the schooner myself.”

“You don’t understand me,” said Beaton. “I’m not trying to get a rise out of you. I’m in earnest. What you want is some man who can have patience with mediocrity putting on the style of genius, and with genius turning mediocrity on his hands. I haven’t any luck with men; I don’t get on with them; I’m not popular.” Beaton recognized the fact with the satisfaction which it somehow always brings to human pride.

“So much the better!” Fulkerson was ready for him at this point. “I don’t want you to work the old-established racket the reputations. When I want them I’ll go to them with a pocketful of rocks—knock-down argument. But my idea is to deal with the volunteer material. Look at the way the periodicals are carried on now! Names! names! names! In a country that’s just boiling over with literary and artistic ability of every kind the new fellows have no chance. The editors all engage their material. I don’t believe there are fifty volunteer contributions printed in a year in all the New York magazines. It’s all wrong; it’s suicidal. ‘Every Other Week’ is going back to the good old anonymous system, the only fair system. It’s worked well in literature, and it will work well in art.”

“It won’t work well in art,” said Beaton. “There you have a totally different set of conditions. What you’ll get by inviting volunteer illustrations will be a lot of amateur trash. And how are you going to submit your literature for illustration? It can’t be done. At any rate, I won’t undertake to do it.”

“We’ll get up a School of Illustration,” said Fulkerson, with cynical security. “You can read the things and explain ‘em, and your pupils can make their sketches under your eye. They wouldn’t be much further out than most illustrations are if they never knew what they were illustrating. You might select from what comes in and make up a sort of pictorial variations to the literature without any particular reference to it. Well, I understand you to accept?”

“No, you don’t.”

“That is, to consent to help us with your advice and criticism. That’s all I want. It won’t commit you to anything; and you can be as anonymous as anybody.” At the door Fulkerson added: “By-the-way, the new man—the fellow that’s taken my old syndicate business—will want you to keep on; but I guess he’s going to try to beat you down on the price of the letters. He’s going in for retrenchment. I brought along a check for this one; I’m to pay for that.” He offered Beaton an envelope.

“I can’t take it, Fulkerson. The letter’s paid for already.” Fulkerson stepped forward and laid the envelope on the table among the tubes of paint.

“It isn’t the letter merely. I thought you wouldn’t object to a little advance on your ‘Every Other Week’ work till you kind of got started.”

Beaton remained inflexible. “It can’t be done, Fulkerson. Don’t I tell you I can’t sell myself out to a thing I don’t believe in? Can’t you understand that?”

“Oh yes; I can understand that first-rate. I don’t want to buy you; I want to borrow you. It’s all right. See? Come round when you can; I’d like to introduce you to old March. That’s going to be our address.” He put a card on the table beside the envelope, and Beaton allowed him to go without making him take the check back. He had remembered his father’s plea; that unnerved him, and he promised himself again to return his father’s poor little check and to work on that picture and give it to Fulkerson for the check he had left and for his back debts. He resolved to go to work on the picture at once; he had set his palette for it; but first he looked at Fulkerson’s check. It was for only fifty dollars, and the canny Scotch blood in Beaton rebelled; he could not let this picture go for any such money; he felt a little like a man whose generosity has been trifled with. The conflict of emotions broke him up, and he could not work.

Chapter IV • 1,700 Words

The day wasted away in Beaton’s hands; at half-past four o’clock he went out to tea at the house of a lady who was At Home that afternoon from four till seven. By this time Beaton was in possession of one of those other selves of which we each have several about us, and was again the laconic, staccato, rather worldlified young artist whose moments of a controlled utterance and a certain distinction of manner had commended him to Mrs. Horn’s fancy in the summer at St. Barnaby.

Mrs. Horn’s rooms were large, and they never seemed very full, though this perhaps was because people were always so quiet. The ladies, who outnumbered the men ten to one, as they always do at a New York tea, were dressed in sympathy with the low tone every one spoke in, and with the subdued light which gave a crepuscular uncertainty to the few objects, the dim pictures, the unexcited upholstery, of the rooms. One breathed free of bric-a-brac there, and the new-comer breathed softly as one does on going into church after service has begun. This might be a suggestion from the voiceless behavior of the man-servant who let you in, but it was also because Mrs. Horn’s At Home was a ceremony, a decorum, and not festival. At far greater houses there was more gayety, at richer houses there was more freedom; the suppression at Mrs. Horn’s was a personal, not a social, effect; it was an efflux of her character, demure, silentious, vague, but very correct.

Beaton easily found his way to her around the grouped skirts and among the detached figures, and received a pressure of welcome from the hand which she momentarily relaxed from the tea-pot. She sat behind a table put crosswise of a remote corner, and offered tea to people whom a niece of hers received provisionally or sped finally in the outer room. They did not usually take tea, and when they did they did not usually drink it; but Beaton was feverishly glad of his cup; he took rum and lemon in it, and stood talking at Mrs. Horn’s side till the next arrival should displace him: he talked in his French manner.

“I have been hoping to see you,” she said. “I wanted to ask you about the Leightons. Did they really come?”

“I believe so. They are in town—yes. I haven’t seen them.”

“Then you don’t know how they’re getting on—that pretty creature, with her cleverness, and poor Mrs. Leighton? I was afraid they were venturing on a rash experiment. Do you know where they are?”

“In West Eleventh Street somewhere. Miss Leighton is in Mr. Wetmore’s class.”

“I must look them up. Do you know their number?”

“Not at the moment. I can find out.”

“Do,” said Mrs. Horn. “What courage they must have, to plunge into New York as they’ve done! I really didn’t think they would. I wonder if they’ve succeeded in getting anybody into their house yet?”

“I don’t know,” said Beaton.

“I discouraged their coming all I could,” she sighed, “and I suppose you did, too. But it’s quite useless trying to make people in a place like St. Barnaby understand how it is in town.”

“Yes,” said Beaton. He stirred his tea, while inwardly he tried to believe that he had really discouraged the Leightons from coming to New York. Perhaps the vexation of his failure made him call Mrs. Horn in his heart a fraud.

“Yes,” she went on, “it is very, very hard. And when they won’t understand, and rush on their doom, you feel that they are going to hold you respons—”

Mrs. Horn’s eyes wandered from Beaton; her voice faltered in the faded interest of her remark, and then rose with renewed vigor in greeting a lady who came up and stretched her glove across the tea-cups.

Beaton got himself away and out of the house with a much briefer adieu to the niece than he had meant to make. The patronizing compassion of Mrs. Horn for the Leightons filled him with indignation toward her, toward himself. There was no reason why he should not have ignored them as he had done; but there was a feeling. It was his nature to be careless, and he had been spoiled into recklessness; he neglected everybody, and only remembered them when it suited his whim or his convenience; but he fiercely resented the inattentions of others toward himself. He had no scruple about breaking an engagement or failing to keep an appointment; he made promises without thinking of their fulfilment, and not because he was a faithless person, but because he was imaginative, and expected at the time to do what he said, but was fickle, and so did not. As most of his shortcomings were of a society sort, no great harm was done to anybody else. He had contracted somewhat the circle of his acquaintance by what some people called his rudeness, but most people treated it as his oddity, and were patient with it. One lady said she valued his coming when he said he would come because it had the charm of the unexpected. “Only it shows that it isn’t always the unexpected that happens,” she explained.

It did not occur to him that his behavior was immoral; he did not realize that it was creating a reputation if not a character for him. While we are still young we do not realize that our actions have this effect. It seems to us that people will judge us from what we think and feel. Later we find out that this is impossible; perhaps we find it out too late; some of us never find it out at all.

In spite of his shame about the Leightons, Beaton had no present intention of looking them up or sending Mrs. Horn their address. As a matter of fact, he never did send it; but he happened to meet Mr. Wetmore and his wife at the restaurant where he dined, and he got it of the painter for himself. He did not ask him how Miss Leighton was getting on; but Wetmore launched out, with Alma for a tacit text, on the futility of women generally going in for art. “Even when they have talent they’ve got too much against them. Where a girl doesn’t seem very strong, like Miss Leighton, no amount of chic is going to help.”

His wife disputed him on behalf of her sex, as women always do.

“No, Dolly,” he persisted; “she’d better be home milking the cows and leading the horse to water.”

“Do you think she’d better be up till two in the morning at balls and going all day to receptions and luncheons?”

“Oh, guess it isn’t a question of that, even if she weren’t drawing. You knew them at home,” he said to Beaton.

“Yes.”

“I remember. Her mother said you suggested me. Well, the girl has some notion of it; there’s no doubt about that. But—she’s a woman. The trouble with these talented girls is that they’re all woman. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be much chance for the men, Beaton. But we’ve got Providence on our own side from the start. I’m able to watch all their inspirations with perfect composure. I know just how soon it’s going to end in nervous breakdown. Somebody ought to marry them all and put them out of their misery.”

“And what will you do with your students who are married already?” his wife said. She felt that she had let him go on long enough.

“Oh, they ought to get divorced.”

“You ought to be ashamed to take their money if that’s what you think of them.”

“My dear, I have a wife to support.”

Beaton intervened with a question. “Do you mean that Miss Leighton isn’t standing it very well?”

“How do I know? She isn’t the kind that bends; she’s the kind that breaks.”

After a little silence Mrs. Wetmore asked, “Won’t you come home with us, Mr. Beaton?”

“Thank you; no. I have an engagement.”

“I don’t see why that should prevent you,” said Wetmore. “But you always were a punctilious cuss. Well!”

Beaton lingered over his cigar; but no one else whom he knew came in, and he yielded to the threefold impulse of conscience, of curiosity, of inclination, in going to call at the Leightons’. He asked for the ladies, and the maid showed him into the parlor, where he found Mrs. Leighton and Miss Woodburn.

The widow met him with a welcome neatly marked by resentment; she meant him to feel that his not coming sooner had been noticed. Miss Woodburn bubbled and gurgled on, and did what she could to mitigate his punishment, but she did not feel authorized to stay it, till Mrs. Leighton, by studied avoidance of her daughter’s name, obliged Beaton to ask for her. Then Miss Woodburn caught up her work, and said, “Ah’ll go and tell her, Mrs. Leighton.” At the top of the stairs she found Alma, and Alma tried to make it seem as if she had not been standing there. “Mah goodness, chald! there’s the handsomest young man asking for you down there you evah saw. Alh told you’ mothah Ah would come up fo’ you.”

“What—who is it?”

“Don’t you know? But bo’ could you? He’s got the most beautiful eyes, and he wea’s his hai’ in a bang, and he talks English like it was something else, and his name’s Mr. Beaton.”

“Did he—ask for me?” said Alma, with a dreamy tone. She put her hand on the stairs rail, and a little shiver ran over her.

“Didn’t I tell you? Of coase he did! And you ought to go raght down if you want to save the poo’ fellah’s lahfe; you’ mothah’s just freezin’ him to death.”

Chapter V • 1,300 Words

“She is?” cried Alma. “Tchk!” She flew downstairs, and flitted swiftly into the room, and fluttered up to Beaton, and gave him a crushing hand-shake.

“How very kind of you to come and see us, Mr. Beaton! When did you come to New York? Don’t you find it warm here? We’ve only just lighted the furnace, but with this mild weather it seems too early. Mamma does keep it so hot!” She rushed about opening doors and shutting registers, and then came back and sat facing him from the sofa with a mask of radiant cordiality. “How have you been since we saw you?”

“Very well,” said Beaton. “I hope you’re well, Miss Leighton?”

“Oh, perfectly! I think New York agrees with us both wonderfully. I never knew such air. And to think of our not having snow yet! I should think everybody would want to come here! Why don’t you come, Mr. Beaton?”

Beaton lifted his eyes and looked at her. “I—I live in New York,” he faltered.

“In New York City!” she exclaimed.

“Surely, Alma,” said her mother, “you remember Mr. Beaton’s telling us he lived in New York.”

“But I thought you came from Rochester; or was it Syracuse? I always get those places mixed up.”

“Probably I told you my father lived at Syracuse. I’ve been in New York ever since I came home from Paris,” said Beaton, with the confusion of a man who feels himself played upon by a woman.

“From Paris!” Alma echoed, leaning forward, with her smiling mask tight on. “Wasn’t it Munich where you studied?”

“I was at Munich, too. I met Wetmore there.”

“Oh, do you know Mr. Wetmore?”

“Why, Alma,” her mother interposed again, “it was Mr. Beaton who told you of Mr. Wetmore.”

“Was it? Why, yes, to be sure. It was Mrs. Horn who suggested Mr. Ilcomb. I remember now. I can’t thank you enough for having sent me to Mr. Wetmore, Mr. Beaton. Isn’t he delightful? Oh yes, I’m a perfect Wetmorian, I can assure you. The whole class is the same way.”

“I just met him and Mrs. Wetmore at dinner,” said Beaton, attempting the recovery of something that he had lost through the girl’s shining ease and steely sprightliness. She seemed to him so smooth and hard, with a repellent elasticity from which he was flung off. “I hope you’re not working too hard, Miss Leighton?”

“Oh no! I enjoy every minute of it, and grow stronger on it. Do I look very much wasted away?” She looked him full in the face, brilliantly smiling, and intentionally beautiful.

“No,” he said, with a slow sadness; “I never saw you looking better.”

“Poor Mr. Beaton!” she said, in recognition of his doleful tune. “It seems to be quite a blow.”

“Oh no—”

“I remember all the good advice you used to give me about not working too hard, and probably it’s that that’s saved my life—that and the house-hunting. Has mamma told you of our adventures in getting settled?

“Some time we must. It was such fun! And didn’t you think we were fortunate to get such a pretty house? You must see both our parlors.” She jumped up, and her mother followed her with a bewildered look as she ran into the back parlor and flashed up the gas.

“Come in here, Mr. Beaton. I want to show you the great feature of the house.” She opened the low windows that gave upon a glazed veranda stretching across the end of the room. “Just think of this in New York! You can’t see it very well at night, but when the southern sun pours in here all the afternoon—”

“Yes, I can imagine it,” he said. He glanced up at the bird-cage hanging from the roof. “I suppose Gypsy enjoys it.”

“You remember Gypsy?” she said; and she made a cooing, kissing little noise up at the bird, who responded drowsily. “Poor old Gypsum! Well, he sha’n’t be disturbed. Yes, it’s Gyp’s delight, and Colonel Woodburn likes to write here in the morning. Think of us having a real live author in the house! And Miss Woodburn: I’m so glad you’ve seen her! They’re Southern people.”

“Yes, that was obvious in her case.”

“From her accent? Isn’t it fascinating? I didn’t believe I could ever endure Southerners, but we’re like one family with the Woodburns. I should think you’d want to paint Miss Woodburn. Don’t you think her coloring is delicious? And such a quaint kind of eighteenth-century type of beauty! But she’s perfectly lovely every way, and everything she says is so funny. The Southerners seem to be such great talkers; better than we are, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know,” said Beaton, in pensive discouragement. He was sensible of being manipulated, operated, but he was helpless to escape from the performer or to fathom her motives. His pensiveness passed into gloom, and was degenerating into sulky resentment when he went away, after several failures to get back to the old ground he had held in relation to Alma. He retrieved something of it with Mrs. Leighton; but Alma glittered upon him to the last with a keen impenetrable candor, a child-like singleness of glance, covering unfathomable reserve.

“Well, Alma,” said her mother, when the door had closed upon him.

“Well, mother.” Then, after a moment, she said, with a rush: “Did you think I was going to let him suppose we were piqued at his not coming? Did you suppose I was going to let him patronize us, or think that we were in the least dependent on his favor or friendship?”

Her mother did not attempt to answer her. She merely said, “I shouldn’t think he would come any more.”

“Well, we have got on so far without him; perhaps we can live through the rest of the winter.”

“I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. He was quite stupefied. I could see that he didn’t know what to make of you.”

“He’s not required to make anything of me,” said Alma.

“Do you think he really believed you had forgotten all those things?”

“Impossible to say, mamma.”

“Well, I don’t think it was quite right, Alma.”

“I’ll leave him to you the next time. Miss Woodburn said you were freezing him to death when I came down.”

“That was quite different. But, there won’t be any next time, I’m afraid,” sighed Mrs. Leighton.

Beaton went home feeling sure there would not. He tried to read when he got to his room; but Alma’s looks, tones, gestures, whirred through and through the woof of the story like shuttles; he could not keep them out, and he fell asleep at last, not because he forgot them, but because he forgave them. He was able to say to himself that he had been justly cut off from kindness which he knew how to value in losing it. He did not expect ever to right himself in Alma’s esteem, but he hoped some day to let her know that he had understood. It seemed to him that it would be a good thing if she should find it out after his death. He imagined her being touched by it under those circumstances.

Chapter VI • 2,800 Words

In the morning it seemed to Beaton that he had done himself injustice. When he uncovered his Judas and looked at it, he could not believe that the man who was capable of such work deserved the punishment Miss Leighton had inflicted upon him. He still forgave her, but in the presence of a thing like that he could not help respecting himself; he believed that if she could see it she would be sorry that she had cut herself off from his acquaintance. He carried this strain of conviction all through his syndicate letter, which he now took out of his desk and finished, with an increasing security of his opinions and a mounting severity in his judgments. He retaliated upon the general condition of art among us the pangs of wounded vanity, which Alma had made him feel, and he folded up his manuscript and put it in his pocket, almost healed of his humiliation. He had been able to escape from its sting so entirely while he was writing that the notion of making his life more and more literary commended itself to him. As it was now evident that the future was to be one of renunciation, of self-forgetting, an oblivion tinged with bitterness, he formlessly reasoned in favor of reconsidering his resolution against Fulkerson’s offer. One must call it reasoning, but it was rather that swift internal dramatization which constantly goes on in persons of excitable sensibilities, and which now seemed to sweep Beaton physically along toward the ‘Every Other Week’ office, and carried his mind with lightning celerity on to a time when he should have given that journal such quality and authority in matters of art as had never been enjoyed by any in America before. With the prosperity which he made attend his work he changed the character of the enterprise, and with Fulkerson’s enthusiastic support he gave the public an art journal of as high grade as ‘Les Lettres et les Arts’, and very much that sort of thing. All this involved now the unavailing regret of Alma Leighton, and now his reconciliation with her: they were married in Grace Church, because Beaton had once seen a marriage there, and had intended to paint a picture of it some time.

Nothing in these fervid fantasies prevented his responding with due dryness to Fulkerson’s cheery “Hello, old man!” when he found himself in the building fitted up for the ‘Every Other Week’ office. Fulkerson’s room was back of the smaller one occupied by the bookkeeper; they had been respectively the reception-room and dining-room of the little place in its dwelling-house days, and they had been simply and tastefully treated in their transformation into business purposes. The narrow old trim of the doors and windows had been kept, and the quaintly ugly marble mantels. The architect had said, Better let them stay they expressed epoch, if not character.

“Well, have you come round to go to work? Just hang up your coat on the floor anywhere,” Fulkerson went on.

“I’ve come to bring you that letter,” said Beaton, all the more haughtily because he found that Fulkerson was not alone when he welcomed him in these free and easy terms. There was a quiet-looking man, rather stout, and a little above the middle height, with a full, close-cropped iron-gray beard, seated beyond the table where Fulkerson tilted himself back, with his knees set against it; and leaning against the mantel there was a young man with a singularly gentle face, in which the look of goodness qualified and transfigured a certain simplicity. His large blue eyes were somewhat prominent; and his rather narrow face was drawn forward in a nose a little too long perhaps, if it had not been for the full chin deeply cut below the lip, and jutting firmly forward.

“Introduce you to Mr. March, our editor, Mr. Beaton,” Fulkerson said, rolling his head in the direction of the elder man; and then nodding it toward the younger, he said, “Mr. Dryfoos, Mr. Beaton.” Beaton shook hands with March, and then with Mr. Dryfoos, and Fulkerson went on, gayly: “We were just talking of you, Beaton—well, you know the old saying. Mr. March, as I told you, is our editor, and Mr. Dryfoos has charge of the publishing department—he’s the counting-room incarnate, the source of power, the fountain of corruption, the element that prevents journalism being the high and holy thing that it would be if there were no money in it.” Mr. Dryfoos turned his large, mild eyes upon Beaton, and laughed with the uneasy concession which people make to a character when they do not quite approve of the character’s language. “What Mr. March and I are trying to do is to carry on this thing so that there won’t be any money in it—or very little; and we’re planning to give the public a better article for the price than it’s ever had before. Now here’s a dummy we’ve had made up for ‘Every Other Week’, and as we’ve decided to adopt it, we would naturally like your opinion of it, so’s to know what opinion to have of you.” He reached forward and pushed toward Beaton a volume a little above the size of the ordinary duodecimo book; its ivory-white pebbled paper cover was prettily illustrated with a water-colored design irregularly washed over the greater part of its surface: quite across the page at top, and narrowing from right to left as it descended. In the triangular space left blank the title of the periodical and the publisher’s imprint were tastefully lettered so as to be partly covered by the background of color.

“It’s like some of those Tartarin books of Daudet’s,” said Beacon, looking at it with more interest than he suffered to be seen. “But it’s a book, not a magazine.” He opened its pages of thick, mellow white paper, with uncut leaves, the first few pages experimentally printed in the type intended to be used, and illustrated with some sketches drawn into and over the text, for the sake of the effect.

“A Daniel—a Daniel come to judgment! Sit down, Dan’el, and take it easy.” Fulkerson pushed a chair toward Beaton, who dropped into it. “You’re right, Dan’el; it’s a book, to all practical intents and purposes. And what we propose to do with the American public is to give it twenty-four books like this a year—a complete library—for the absurd sum of six dollars. We don’t intend to sell ‘em—it’s no name for the transaction—but to give ‘em. And what we want to get out of you—beg, borrow, buy, or steal from you is an opinion whether we shall make the American public this princely present in paper covers like this, or in some sort of flexible boards, so they can set them on the shelf and say no more about it. Now, Dan’el, come to judgment, as our respected friend Shylock remarked.”

Beacon had got done looking at the dummy, and he dropped it on the table before Fulkerson, who pushed it away, apparently to free himself from partiality. “I don’t know anything about the business side, and I can’t tell about the effect of either style on the sales; but you’ll spoil the whole character of the cover if you use anything thicker than that thickish paper.”

“All right; very good; first-rate. The ayes have it. Paper it is. I don’t mind telling you that we had decided for that paper before you came in. Mr. March wanted it, because he felt in his bones just the way you do about it, and Mr. Dryfoos wanted it, because he’s the counting-room incarnate, and it’s cheaper; and I wanted it, because I always like to go with the majority. Now what do you think of that little design itself?”

“The sketch?” Beaton pulled the book toward him again and looked at it again. “Rather decorative. Drawing’s not remarkable. Graceful; rather nice.” He pushed the book away again, and Fulkerson pulled it to his aide of the table.

“Well, that’s a piece of that amateur trash you despise so much. I went to a painter I know-by-the-way, he was guilty of suggesting you for this thing, but I told him I was ahead of him—and I got him to submit my idea to one of his class, and that’s the result. Well, now, there ain’t anything in this world that sells a book like a pretty cover, and we’re going to have a pretty cover for ‘Every Other Week’ every time. We’ve cut loose from the old traditional quarto literary newspaper size, and we’ve cut loose from the old two-column big page magazine size; we’re going to have a duodecimo page, clear black print, and paper that’ll make your mouth water; and we’re going to have a fresh illustration for the cover of each number, and we ain’t agoing to give the public any rest at all. Sometimes we’re going to have a delicate little landscape like this, and sometimes we’re going to have an indelicate little figure, or as much so as the law will allow.”

The young man leaning against the mantelpiece blushed a sort of protest.

March smiled and said, dryly, “Those are the numbers that Mr. Fulkerson is going to edit himself.”

“Exactly. And Mr. Beaton, here, is going to supply the floating females, gracefully airing themselves against a sunset or something of that kind.” Beaton frowned in embarrassment, while Fulkerson went on philosophically; “It’s astonishing how you fellows can keep it up at this stage of the proceedings; you can paint things that your harshest critic would be ashamed to describe accurately; you’re as free as the theatre. But that’s neither here nor there. What I’m after is the fact that we’re going to have variety in our title-pages, and we are going to have novelty in the illustrations of the body of the book. March, here, if he had his own way, wouldn’t have any illustrations at all.”

“Not because I don’t like them, Mr. Beacon,” March interposed, “but because I like them too much. I find that I look at the pictures in an illustrated article, but I don’t read the article very much, and I fancy that’s the case with most other people. You’ve got to doing them so prettily that you take our eyes off the literature, if you don’t take our minds off.”

“Like the society beauties on the stage: people go in for the beauty so much that they don’t know what the play is. But the box-office gets there all the same, and that’s what Mr. Dryfoos wants.” Fulkerson looked up gayly at Mr. Dryfoos, who smiled deprecatingly.

“It was different,” March went on, “when the illustrations used to be bad. Then the text had some chance.”

“Old legitimate drama days, when ugliness and genius combined to storm the galleries,” said Fulkerson.

“We can still make them bad enough,” said Beaton, ignoring Fulkerson in his remark to March.

Fulkerson took the reply upon himself. “Well, you needn’t make ‘em so bad as the old-style cuts; but you can make them unobtrusive, modestly retiring. We’ve got hold of a process something like that those French fellows gave Daudet thirty-five thousand dollars to write a novel to use with; kind of thing that begins at one side; or one corner, and spreads in a sort of dim religious style over the print till you can’t tell which is which. Then we’ve got a notion that where the pictures don’t behave quite so sociably, they can be dropped into the text, like a little casual remark, don’t you know, or a comment that has some connection, or maybe none at all, with what’s going on in the story. Something like this.” Fulkerson took away one knee from the table long enough to open the drawer, and pull from it a book that he shoved toward Beacon. “That’s a Spanish book I happened to see at Brentano’s, and I froze to it on account of the pictures. I guess they’re pretty good.”

“Do you expect to get such drawings in this country?” asked Beaton, after a glance at the book. “Such character—such drama? You won’t.”

“Well, I’m not so sure,” said Fulkerson, “come to get our amateurs warmed up to the work. But what I want is to get the physical effect, so to speak—get that sized picture into our page, and set the fashion of it. I shouldn’t care if the illustration was sometimes confined to an initial letter and a tail-piece.”

“Couldn’t be done here. We haven’t the touch. We’re good in some things, but this isn’t in our way,” said Beaton, stubbornly. “I can’t think of a man who could do it; that is, among those that would.”

“Well, think of some woman, then,” said Fulkerson, easily. “I’ve got a notion that the women could help us out on this thing, come to get ‘em interested. There ain’t anything so popular as female fiction; why not try female art?”

“The females themselves have been supposed to have been trying it for a good while,” March suggested; and Mr. Dryfoos laughed nervously; Beaton remained solemnly silent.

“Yes, I know,” Fulkerson assented. “But I don’t mean that kind exactly. What we want to do is to work the ‘ewig Weibliche’ in this concern. We want to make a magazine that will go for the women’s fancy every time. I don’t mean with recipes for cooking and fashions and personal gossip about authors and society, but real high-tone literature that will show women triumphing in all the stories, or else suffering tremendously. We’ve got to recognize that women form three-fourths of the reading public in this country, and go for their tastes and their sensibilities and their sex-piety along the whole line. They do like to think that women can do things better than men; and if we can let it leak out and get around in the papers that the managers of ‘Every Other Week’ couldn’t stir a peg in the line of the illustrations they wanted till they got a lot of God-gifted girls to help them, it ‘ll make the fortune of the thing. See?”

He looked sunnily round at the other men, and March said: “You ought to be in charge of a Siamese white elephant, Fulkerson. It’s a disgrace to be connected with you.”

“It seems to me,” said Beaton, “that you’d better get a God-gifted girl for your art editor.”

Fulkerson leaned alertly forward, and touched him on the shoulder, with a compassionate smile. “My dear boy, they haven’t got the genius of organization. It takes a very masculine man for that—a man who combines the most subtle and refined sympathies with the most forceful purposes and the most ferruginous will-power. Which his name is Angus Beaton, and here he sets!”

The others laughed with Fulkerson at his gross burlesque of flattery, and Beaton frowned sheepishly. “I suppose you understand this man’s style,” he growled toward March.

“He does, my son,” said Fulkerson. “He knows that I cannot tell a lie.” He pulled out his watch, and then got suddenly upon his feet.

“It’s quarter of twelve, and I’ve got an appointment.” Beaton rose too, and Fulkerson put the two books in his lax hands. “Take these along, Michelangelo Da Vinci, my friend, and put your multitudinous mind on them for about an hour, and let us hear from you to-morrow. We hang upon your decision.”

“There’s no deciding to be done,” said Beaton. “You can’t combine the two styles. They’d kill each other.”

“A Dan’el, a Dan’el come to judgment! I knew you could help us out! Take ‘em along, and tell us which will go the furthest with the ‘ewig Weibliche.’ Dryfoos, I want a word with you.” He led the way into the front room, flirting an airy farewell to Beaton with his hand as he went.

Chapter VII • 1,800 Words

March and Beaton remained alone together for a moment, and March said: “I hope you will think it worth while to take hold with us, Mr. Beaton. Mr. Fulkerson puts it in his own way, of course; but we really want to make a nice thing of the magazine.” He had that timidity of the elder in the presence of the younger man which the younger, preoccupied with his own timidity in the presence of the elder, cannot imagine. Besides, March was aware of the gulf that divided him as a literary man from Beaton as an artist, and he only ventured to feel his way toward sympathy with him. “We want to make it good; we want to make it high. Fulkerson is right about aiming to please the women, but of course he caricatures the way of going about it.”

For answer, Beaton flung out, “I can’t go in for a thing I don’t understand the plan of.”

March took it for granted that he had wounded some exposed sensibility of Beaton’s. He continued still more deferentially: “Mr. Fulkerson’s notion—I must say the notion is his, evolved from his syndicate experience—is that we shall do best in fiction to confine ourselves to short stories, and make each number complete in itself. He found that the most successful things he could furnish his newspapers were short stories; we Americans are supposed to excel in writing them; and most people begin with them in fiction; and it’s Mr. Fulkerson’s idea to work unknown talent, as he says, and so he thinks he can not only get them easily, but can gradually form a school of short-story writers. I can’t say I follow him altogether, but I respect his experience. We shall not despise translations of short stories, but otherwise the matter will all be original, and, of course, it won’t all be short stories. We shall use sketches of travel, and essays, and little dramatic studies, and bits of biography and history; but all very light, and always short enough to be completed in a single number. Mr. Fulkerson believes in pictures, and most of the things would be capable of illustration.”

“I see,” said Beaton.

“I don’t know but this is the whole affair,” said March, beginning to stiffen a little at the young man’s reticence.

“I understand. Thank you for taking the trouble to explain. Good-morning.” Beaton bowed himself off, without offering to shake hands.

Fulkerson came in after a while from the outer office, and Mr. Dryfoos followed him. “Well, what do you think of our art editor?”

“Is he our art editor?” asked March. “I wasn’t quite certain when he left.”

“Did he take the books?”

“Yes, he took the books.”

“I guess he’s all right, then.” Fulkerson added, in concession to the umbrage he detected in March.

“Beaton has his times of being the greatest ass in the solar system, but he usually takes it out in personal conduct. When it comes to work, he’s a regular horse.”

“He appears to have compromised for the present by being a perfect mule,” said March.

“Well, he’s in a transition state,” Fulkerson allowed. “He’s the man for us. He really understands what we want. You’ll see; he’ll catch on. That lurid glare of his will wear off in the course of time. He’s really a good fellow when you take him off his guard; and he’s full of ideas. He’s spread out over a good deal of ground at present, and so he’s pretty thin; but come to gather him up into a lump, there’s a good deal of substance to him. Yes, there is. He’s a first-rate critic, and he’s a nice fellow with the other artists. They laugh at his universality, but they all like him. He’s the best kind of a teacher when he condescends to it; and he’s just the man to deal with our volunteer work. Yes, sir, he’s a prize. Well, I must go now.”

Fulkerson went out of the street door, and then came quickly back. “By-the-bye, March, I saw that old dynamiter of yours round at Beaton’s room yesterday.”

“What old dynamiter of mine?”

“That old one-handed Dutchman—friend of your youth—the one we saw at Maroni’s—”

“Oh-Lindau!” said March, with a vague pang of self reproach for having thought of Lindau so little after the first flood of his tender feeling toward him was past.

“Yes, our versatile friend was modelling him as Judas Iscariot. Lindau makes a first-rate Judas, and Beaton has got a big thing in that head if he works the religious people right. But what I was thinking of was this—it struck me just as I was going out of the door: Didn’t you tell me Lindau knew forty or fifty, different languages?”

“Four or five, yes.”

“Well, we won’t quarrel about the number. The question is, Why not work him in the field of foreign literature? You can’t go over all their reviews and magazines, and he could do the smelling for you, if you could trust his nose. Would he know a good thing?”

“I think he would,” said March, on whom the scope of Fulkerson’s suggestion gradually opened. “He used to have good taste, and he must know the ground. Why, it’s a capital idea, Fulkerson! Lindau wrote very fair English, and he could translate, with a little revision.”

“And he would probably work cheap. Well, hadn’t you better see him about it? I guess it ‘ll be quite a windfall for him.”

“Yes, it will. I’ll look him up. Thank you for the suggestion, Fulkerson.”

“Oh, don’t mention it! I don’t mind doing ‘Every Other Week’ a good turn now and then when it comes in my way.” Fulkerson went out again, and this time March was finally left with Mr. Dryfoos.

“Mrs. March was very sorry not to be at home when your sisters called the other day. She wished me to ask if they had any afternoon in particular. There was none on your mother’s card.”

“No, sir,” said the young man, with a flush of embarrassment that seemed habitual with him. “She has no day. She’s at home almost every day. She hardly ever goes out.”

“Might we come some evening?” March asked. “We should be very glad to do that, if she would excuse the informality. Then I could come with Mrs. March.”

“Mother isn’t very formal,” said the young man. “She would be very glad to see you.”

“Then we’ll come some night this week, if you will let us. When do you expect your father back?”

“Not much before Christmas. He’s trying to settle up some things at Moffitt.”

“And what do you think of our art editor?” asked March, with a smile, for the change of subject.

“Oh, I don’t know much about such things,” said the young man, with another of his embarrassed flushes. “Mr. Fulkerson seems to feel sure that he is the one for us.”

“Mr. Fulkerson seemed to think that I was the one for you, too,” said March; and he laughed. “That’s what makes me doubt his infallibility. But he couldn’t do worse with Mr. Beaton.”

Mr. Dryfoos reddened and looked down, as if unable or unwilling to cope with the difficulty of making a polite protest against March’s self-depreciation. He said, after a moment: “It’s new business to all of us except Mr. Fulkerson. But I think it will succeed. I think we can do some good in it.”

March asked rather absently, “Some good?” Then he added: “Oh yes; I think we can. What do you mean by good? Improve the public taste? Elevate the standard of literature? Give young authors and artists a chance?”

This was the only good that had ever been in March’s mind, except the good that was to come in a material way from his success, to himself and to his family.

“I don’t know,” said the young man; and he looked down in a shamefaced fashion. He lifted his head and looked into March’s face. “I suppose I was thinking that some time we might help along. If we were to have those sketches of yours about life in every part of New York—”

March’s authorial vanity was tickled. “Fulkerson has been talking to you about them? He seemed to think they would be a card. He believes that there’s no subject so fascinating to the general average of people throughout the country as life in New York City; and he liked my notion of doing these things.” March hoped that Dryfoos would answer that Fulkerson was perfectly enthusiastic about his notion; but he did not need this stimulus, and, at any rate, he went on without it. “The fact is, it’s something that struck my fancy the moment I came here; I found myself intensely interested in the place, and I began to make notes, consciously and unconsciously, at once. Yes, I believe I can get something quite attractive out of it. I don’t in the least know what it will be yet, except that it will be very desultory; and I couldn’t at all say when I can get at it. If we postpone the first number till February I might get a little paper into that. Yes, I think it might be a good thing for us,” March said, with modest self-appreciation.

“If you can make the comfortable people understand how the uncomfortable people live, it will be a very good thing, Mr. March. Sometimes it seems to me that the only trouble is that we don’t know one another well enough; and that the first thing is to do this.” The young fellow spoke with the seriousness in which the beauty of his face resided. Whenever he laughed his face looked weak, even silly. It seemed to be a sense of this that made him hang his head or turn it away at such times.

“That’s true,” said March, from the surface only. “And then, those phases of low life are immensely picturesque. Of course, we must try to get the contrasts of luxury for the sake of the full effect. That won’t be so easy. You can’t penetrate to the dinner-party of a millionaire under the wing of a detective as you could to a carouse in Mulberry Street, or to his children’s nursery with a philanthropist as you can to a street-boy’s lodging-house.” March laughed, and again the young man turned his head away. “Still, something can be done in that way by tact and patience.”

Chapter VII • 4,400 Words

That evening March went with his wife to return the call of the Dryfoos ladies. On their way up-town in the Elevated he told her of his talk with young Dryfoos. “I confess I was a little ashamed before him afterward for having looked at the matter so entirely from the aesthetic point of view. But of course, you know, if I went to work at those things with an ethical intention explicitly in mind, I should spoil them.”

“Of course,” said his wife. She had always heard him say something of this kind about such things.

He went on: “But I suppose that’s just the point that such a nature as young Dryfoos’s can’t get hold of, or keep hold of. We’re a queer lot, down there, Isabel—perfect menagerie. If it hadn’t been that Fulkerson got us together, and really seems to know what he did it for, I should say he was the oddest stick among us. But when I think of myself and my own crankiness for the literary department; and young Dryfoos, who ought really to be in the pulpit, or a monastery, or something, for publisher; and that young Beaton, who probably hasn’t a moral fibre in his composition, for the art man, I don’t know but we could give Fulkerson odds and still beat him in oddity.”

His wife heaved a deep sigh of apprehension, of renunciation, of monition. “Well, I’m glad you can feel so light about it, Basil.”

“Light? I feel gay! With Fulkerson at the helm, I tell you the rocks and the lee shore had better keep out of the way.” He laughed with pleasure in his metaphor. “Just when you think Fulkerson has taken leave of his senses he says or does something that shows he is on the most intimate and inalienable terms with them all the time. You know how I’ve been worrying over those foreign periodicals, and trying to get some translations from them for the first number? Well, Fulkerson has brought his centipedal mind to bear on the subject, and he’s suggested that old German friend of mine I was telling you of—the one I met in the restaurant—the friend of my youth.”

“Do you think he could do it?” asked Mrs. March, sceptically.

“He’s a perfect Babel of strange tongues; and he’s the very man for the work, and I was ashamed I hadn’t thought of him myself, for I suspect he needs the work.”

“Well, be careful how you get mixed up with him, then, Basil,” said his wife, who had the natural misgiving concerning the friends of her husband’s youth that all wives have. “You know the Germans are so unscrupulously dependent. You don’t know anything about him now.”

“I’m not afraid of Lindau,” said March. “He was the best and kindest man I ever saw, the most high-minded, the most generous. He lost a hand in the war that helped to save us and keep us possible, and that stump of his is character enough for me.”

“Oh, you don’t think I could have meant anything against him!” said Mrs. March, with the tender fervor that every woman who lived in the time of the war must feel for those who suffered in it. “All that I meant was that I hoped you would not get mixed up with him too much. You’re so apt to be carried away by your impulses.”

“They didn’t carry me very far away in the direction of poor old Lindau, I’m ashamed to think,” said March. “I meant all sorts of fine things by him after I met him; and then I forgot him, and I had to be reminded of him by Fulkerson.”

She did not answer him, and he fell into a remorseful reverie, in which he rehabilitated Lindau anew, and provided handsomely for his old age. He got him buried with military honors, and had a shaft raised over him, with a medallion likeness by Beaton and an epitaph by himself, by the time they reached Forty-second Street; there was no time to write Lindau’s life, however briefly, before the train stopped.

They had to walk up four blocks and then half a block across before they came to the indistinctive brownstone house where the Dryfooses lived. It was larger than some in the same block, but the next neighborhood of a huge apartment-house dwarfed it again. March thought he recognized the very flat in which he had disciplined the surly janitor, but he did not tell his wife; he made her notice the transition character of the street, which had been mostly built up in apartment-houses, with here and there a single dwelling dropped far down beneath and beside them, to that jag-toothed effect on the sky-line so often observable in such New York streets. “I don’t know exactly what the old gentleman bought here for,” he said, as they waited on the steps after ringing, “unless he expects to turn it into flats by-and-by. Otherwise, I don’t believe he’ll get his money back.”

An Irish serving-man, with a certain surprise that delayed him, said the ladies were at home, and let the Marches in, and then carried their cards up-stairs. The drawing-room, where he said they could sit down while he went on this errand, was delicately decorated in white and gold, and furnished with a sort of extravagant good taste; there was nothing to object to in the satin furniture, the pale, soft, rich carpet, the pictures, and the bronze and china bric-a-brac, except that their costliness was too evident; everything in the room meant money too plainly, and too much of it. The Marches recognized this in the hoarse whispers which people cannot get their voices above when they try to talk away the interval of waiting in such circumstances; they conjectured from what they had heard of the Dryfooses that this tasteful luxury in no wise expressed their civilization. “Though when you come to that,” said March, “I don’t know that Mrs. Green’s gimcrackery expresses ours.”

“Well, Basil, I didn’t take the gimcrackery. That was your—”

The rustle of skirts on the stairs without arrested Mrs. March in the well-merited punishment which she never failed to inflict upon her husband when the question of the gimcrackery—they always called it that—came up. She rose at the entrance of a bright-looking, pretty-looking, mature, youngish lady, in black silk of a neutral implication, who put out her hand to her, and said, with a very cheery, very ladylike accent, “Mrs. March?” and then added to both of them, while she shook hands with March, and before they could get the name out of their months: “No, not Miss Dryfoos! Neither of them; nor Mrs. Dryfoos. Mrs. Mandel. The ladies will be down in a moment. Won’t you throw off your sacque, Mrs. March? I’m afraid it’s rather warm here, coming from the outside.”

“I will throw it back, if you’ll allow me,” said Mrs. March, with a sort of provisionality, as if, pending some uncertainty as to Mrs. Mandel’s quality and authority, she did not feel herself justified in going further.

But if she did not know about Mrs. Mandel, Mrs. Mandel seemed to know about her. “Oh, well, do!” she said, with a sort of recognition of the propriety of her caution. “I hope you are feeling a little at home in New York. We heard so much of your trouble in getting a flat, from Mr. Fulkerson.”

“Well, a true Bostonian doesn’t give up quite so soon,” said Mrs. March.

“But I will say New York doesn’t seem so far away, now we’re here.”

“I’m sure you’ll like it. Every one does.” Mrs. Mandel added to March, “It’s very sharp out, isn’t it?”

“Rather sharp. But after our Boston winters I don’t know but I ought to repudiate the word.”

“Ah, wait till you have been here through March!” said Mrs. Mandel. She began with him, but skillfully transferred the close of her remark, and the little smile of menace that went with it, to his wife.

“Yes,” said Mrs. March, “or April, either: Talk about our east winds!”

“Oh, I’m sure they can’t be worse than our winds,” Mrs. Mandel returned, caressingly.

“If we escape New York pneumonia,” March laughed, “it will only be to fall a prey to New York malaria as soon as the frost is out of the ground.”

“Oh, but you know,” said Mrs. Mandel, “I think our malaria has really been slandered a little. It’s more a matter of drainage—of plumbing. I don’t believe it would be possible for malaria to get into this house, we’ve had it gone over so thoroughly.”

Mrs. March said, while she tried to divine Mrs. Mandel’s position from this statement, “It’s certainly the first duty.”

“If Mrs. March could have had her way, we should have had the drainage of our whole ward put in order,” said her husband, “before we ventured to take a furnished apartment for the winter.”

Mrs. Mandel looked discreetly at Mrs. March for permission to laugh at this, but at the same moment both ladies became preoccupied with a second rustling on the stairs.

Two tall, well-dressed young girls came in, and Mrs. Mandel introduced, “Miss Dryfoos, Mrs. March; and Miss Mela Dryfoos, Mr. March,” she added, and the girls shook hands in their several ways with the Marches.

Miss Dryfoos had keen black eyes, and her hair was intensely black. Her face, but for the slight inward curve of the nose, was regular, and the smallness of her nose and of her mouth did not weaken her face, but gave it a curious effect of fierceness, of challenge. She had a large black fan in her hand, which she waved in talking, with a slow, watchful nervousness. Her sister was blonde, and had a profile like her brother’s; but her chin was not so salient, and the weak look of the mouth was not corrected by the spirituality or the fervor of his eyes, though hers were of the same mottled blue. She dropped into the low seat beside Mrs. Mandel, and intertwined her fingers with those of the hand which Mrs. Mandel let her have. She smiled upon the Marches, while Miss Dryfoos watched them intensely, with her eyes first on one and then on the other, as if she did not mean to let any expression of theirs escape her.

“My mother will be down in a minute,” she said to Mrs. March.

“I hope we’re not disturbing her. It is so good of you to let us come in the evening,” Mrs. March replied.

“Oh, not at all,” said the girl. “We receive in the evening.”

“When we do receive,” Miss Mela put in. “We don’t always get the chance to.” She began a laugh, which she checked at a smile from Mrs. Mandel, which no one could have seen to be reproving.

Miss Dryfoos looked down at her fan, and looked up defiantly at Mrs. March. “I suppose you have hardly got settled. We were afraid we would disturb you when we called.”

“Oh no! We were very sorry to miss your visit. We are quite settled in our new quarters. Of course, it’s all very different from Boston.”

“I hope it’s more of a sociable place there,” Miss Mela broke in again. “I never saw such an unsociable place as New York. We’ve been in this house three months, and I don’t believe that if we stayed three years any of the neighbors would call.”

“I fancy proximity doesn’t count for much in New York,” March suggested.

Mrs. Mandel said: “That’s what I tell Miss Mela. But she is a very social nature, and can’t reconcile herself to the fact.”

“No, I can’t,” the girl pouted. “I think it was twice as much fun in Moffitt. I wish I was there now.”

“Yes,” said March, “I think there’s a great deal more enjoyment in those smaller places. There’s not so much going on in the way of public amusements, and so people make more of one another. There are not so many concerts, theatres, operas—”

“Oh, they’ve got a splendid opera-house in Moffitt. It’s just grand,” said Miss Mela.

“Have you been to the opera here, this winter?” Mrs. March asked of the elder girl.

She was glaring with a frown at her sister, and detached her eyes from her with an effort. “What did you say?” she demanded, with an absent bluntness. “Oh yes. Yes! We went once. Father took a box at the Metropolitan.”

“Then you got a good dose of Wagner, I suppose?” said March.

“What?” asked the girl.

“I don’t think Miss Dryfoos is very fond of Wagner’s music,” Mrs. Mandel said. “I believe you are all great Wagnerites in Boston?”

“I’m a very bad Bostonian, Mrs. Mandel. I suspect myself of preferring Verdi,” March answered.

Miss Dryfoos looked down at her fan again, and said, “I like ‘Trovatore’ the best.”

“It’s an opera I never get tired of,” said March, and Mrs. March and Mrs. Mandel exchanged a smile of compassion for his simplicity. He detected it, and added: “But I dare say I shall come down with the Wagner fever in time. I’ve been exposed to some malignant cases of it.”

“That night we were there,” said Miss Mela, “they had to turn the gas down all through one part of it, and the papers said the ladies were awful mad because they couldn’t show their diamonds. I don’t wonder, if they all had to pay as much for their boxes as we did. We had to pay sixty dollars.” She looked at the Marches for their sensation at this expense.

March said: “Well, I think I shall take my box by the month, then. It must come cheaper, wholesale.”

“Oh no, it don’t,” said the girl, glad to inform him. “The people that own their boxes, and that had to give fifteen or twenty thousand dollars apiece for them, have to pay sixty dollars a night whenever there’s a performance, whether they go or not.”

“Then I should go every night,” March said.

“Most of the ladies were low neck—”

March interposed, “Well, I shouldn’t go low-neck.”

The girl broke into a fondly approving laugh at his drolling. “Oh, I guess you love to train! Us girls wanted to go low neck, too; but father said we shouldn’t, and mother said if we did she wouldn’t come to the front of the box once. Well, she didn’t, anyway. We might just as well ‘a’ gone low neck. She stayed back the whole time, and when they had that dance—the ballet, you know—she just shut her eyes. Well, Conrad didn’t like that part much, either; but us girls and Mrs. Mandel, we brazened it out right in the front of the box. We were about the only ones there that went high neck. Conrad had to wear a swallow-tail; but father hadn’t any, and he had to patch out with a white cravat. You couldn’t see what he had on in the back o’ the box, anyway.”

Mrs. March looked at Miss Dryfoos, who was waving her fan more and more slowly up and down, and who, when she felt herself looked at, returned Mrs. March’s smile, which she meant to be ingratiating and perhaps sympathetic, with a flash that made her start, and then ran her fierce eyes over March’s face. “Here comes mother,” she said, with a sort of breathlessness, as if speaking her thought aloud, and through the open door the Marches could see the old lady on the stairs.

She paused half-way down, and turning, called up: “Coonrod! Coonrod! You bring my shawl down with you.”

Her daughter Mela called out to her, “Now, mother, Christine ‘ll give it to you for not sending Mike.”

“Well, I don’t know where he is, Mely, child,” the mother answered back. “He ain’t never around when he’s wanted, and when he ain’t, it seems like a body couldn’t git shet of him, nohow.”

“Well, you ought to ring for him!” cried Miss Mela, enjoying the joke.

Her mother came in with a slow step; her head shook slightly as she looked about the room, perhaps from nervousness, perhaps from a touch of palsy. In either case the fact had a pathos which Mrs. March confessed in the affection with which she took her hard, dry, large, old hand when she was introduced to her, and in the sincerity which she put into the hope that she was well.

“I’m just middlin’,” Mrs. Dryfoos replied. “I ain’t never so well, nowadays. I tell fawther I don’t believe it agrees with me very well here, but he says I’ll git used to it. He’s away now, out at Moffitt,” she said to March, and wavered on foot a moment before she sank into a chair. She was a tall woman, who had been a beautiful girl, and her gray hair had a memory of blondeness in it like Lindau’s, March noticed. She wore a simple silk gown, of a Quakerly gray, and she held a handkerchief folded square, as it had come from the laundress. Something like the Sabbath quiet of a little wooden meeting-house in thick Western woods expressed itself to him from her presence.

“Laws, mother!” said Miss Mela; “what you got that old thing on for? If I’d ‘a’ known you’d ‘a’ come down in that!”

“Coonrod said it was all right, Mely,” said her mother.

Miss Mela explained to the Marches: “Mother was raised among the Dunkards, and she thinks it’s wicked to wear anything but a gray silk even for dress-up.”

“You hain’t never heared o’ the Dunkards, I reckon,” the old woman said to Mrs. March. “Some folks calls ‘em the Beardy Men, because they don’t never shave; and they wash feet like they do in the Testament. My uncle was one. He raised me.”

“I guess pretty much everybody’s a Beardy Man nowadays, if he ain’t a Dunkard!”

Miss Mela looked round for applause of her sally, but March was saying to his wife: “It’s a Pennsylvania German sect, I believe—something like the Quakers. I used to see them when I was a boy.”

“Aren’t they something like the Mennists?” asked Mrs. Mandel.

“They’re good people,” said the old woman, “and the world ‘d be a heap better off if there was more like ‘em.”

Her son came in and laid a soft shawl over her shoulders before he shook hands with the visitors. “I am glad you found your way here,” he said to them.

Christine, who had been bending forward over her fan, now lifted herself up with a sigh and leaned back in her chair.

“I’m sorry my father isn’t here,” said the young man to Mrs. March. “He’s never met you yet?”

“No; and I should like to see him. We hear a great deal about your father, you know, from Mr. Fulkerson.”

“Oh, I hope you don’t believe everything Mr. Fulkerson says about people,” Mela cried. “He’s the greatest person for carrying on when he gets going I ever saw. It makes Christine just as mad when him and mother gets to talking about religion; she says she knows he don’t care anything more about it than the man in the moon. I reckon he don’t try it on much with father.”

“Your fawther ain’t ever been a perfessor,” her mother interposed; “but he’s always been a good church-goin’ man.”

“Not since we come to New York,” retorted the girl.

“He’s been all broke up since he come to New York,” said the old woman, with an aggrieved look.

Mrs. Mandel attempted a diversion. “Have you heard any of our great New York preachers yet, Mrs. March?”

“No, I haven’t,” Mrs. March admitted; and she tried to imply by her candid tone that she intended to begin hearing them the very next Sunday.

“There are a great many things here,” said Conrad, “to take your thoughts off the preaching that you hear in most of the churches. I think the city itself is preaching the best sermon all the time.”

“I don’t know that I understand you,” said March.

Mela answered for him. “Oh, Conrad has got a lot of notions that nobody can understand. You ought to see the church he goes to when he does go. I’d about as lief go to a Catholic church myself; I don’t see a bit o’ difference. He’s the greatest crony with one of their preachers; he dresses just like a priest, and he says he is a priest.” She laughed for enjoyment of the fact, and her brother cast down his eyes.

Mrs. March, in her turn, tried to take from it the personal tone which the talk was always assuming. “Have you been to the fall exhibition?” she asked Christine; and the girl drew herself up out of the abstraction she seemed sunk in.

“The exhibition?” She looked at Mrs. Mandel.

“The pictures of the Academy, you know,” Mrs. Mandel explained. “Where I wanted you to go the day you had your dress tried on.”

“No; we haven’t been yet. Is it good?” She had turned to Mrs. March again.

“I believe the fall exhibitions are never so good as the spring ones. But there are some good pictures.”

“I don’t believe I care much about pictures,” said Christine. “I don’t understand them.”

“Ah, that’s no excuse for not caring about them,” said March, lightly. “The painters themselves don’t, half the time.”

The girl looked at him with that glance at once defiant and appealing, insolent and anxious, which he had noticed before, especially when she stole it toward himself and his wife during her sister’s babble. In the light of Fulkerson’s history of the family, its origin and its ambition, he interpreted it to mean a sense of her sister’s folly and an ignorant will to override his opinion of anything incongruous in themselves and their surroundings. He said to himself that she was deathly proud—too proud to try to palliate anything, but capable of anything that would put others under her feet. Her eyes seemed hopelessly to question his wife’s social quality, and he fancied, with not unkindly interest, the inexperienced girl’s doubt whether to treat them with much or little respect. He lost himself in fancies about her and her ideals, necessarily sordid, of her possibilities of suffering, of the triumphs and disappointments before her. Her sister would accept both with a lightness that would keep no trace of either; but in her they would sink lastingly deep. He came out of his reverie to find Mrs. Dryfoos saying to him, in her hoarse voice:

“I think it’s a shame, some of the pictur’s a body sees in the winders. They say there’s a law ag’inst them things; and if there is, I don’t understand why the police don’t take up them that paints ‘em. I hear tell, since I been here, that there’s women that goes to have pictur’s took from them that way by men painters.” The point seemed aimed at March, as if he were personally responsible for the scandal, and it fell with a silencing effect for the moment. Nobody seemed willing to take it up, and Mrs. Dryfoos went on, with an old woman’s severity: “I say they ought to be all tarred and feathered and rode on a rail. They’d be drummed out of town in Moffitt.”

Miss Mela said, with a crowing laugh: “I should think they would! And they wouldn’t anybody go low neck to the opera-house there, either—not low neck the way they do here, anyway.”

“And that pack of worthless hussies,” her mother resumed, “that come out on the stage, and begun to kick.”

“Laws, mother!” the girl shouted, “I thought you said you had your eyes shut!”

All but these two simpler creatures were abashed at the indecorum of suggesting in words the commonplaces of the theatre and of art.

“Well, I did, Mely, as soon as I could believe my eyes. I don’t know what they’re doin’ in all their churches, to let such things go on,” said the old woman. “It’s a sin and a shame, I think. Don’t you, Coonrod?”

A ring at the door cut short whatever answer he was about to deliver.

“If it’s going to be company, Coonrod,” said his mother, making an effort to rise, “I reckon I better go up-stairs.”

“It’s Mr. Fulkerson, I guess,” said Conrad. “He thought he might come”; and at the mention of this light spirit Mrs. Dryfoos sank contentedly back in her chair, and a relaxation of their painful tension seemed to pass through the whole company. Conrad went to the door himself (the serving-man tentatively, appeared some minutes later) and let in Fulkerson’s cheerful voice before his cheerful person.

“Ah, how dye do, Conrad? Brought our friend, Mr. Beaton, with me,” those within heard him say; and then, after a sound of putting off overcoats, they saw him fill the doorway, with his feet set square and his arms akimbo.

Chapter IX • 1,800 Words

“Ah! hello! hello!” Fulkerson said, in recognition of the Marches. “Regular gathering of the clans. How are you, Mrs. Dryfoos? How do you do, Mrs. Mandel, Miss Christine, Mela, Aunt Hitty, and all the folks? How you wuz?” He shook hands gayly all round, and took a chair next the old lady, whose hand he kept in his own, and left Conrad to introduce Beaton. But he would not let the shadow of Beaton’s solemnity fall upon the company. He began to joke with Mrs. Dryfoos, and to match rheumatisms with her, and he included all the ladies in the range of appropriate pleasantries. “I’ve brought Mr. Beaton along to-night, and I want you to make him feel at home, like you do me, Mrs. Dryfoos. He hasn’t got any rheumatism to speak of; but his parents live in Syracuse, and he’s a kind of an orphan, and we’ve just adopted him down at the office. When you going to bring the young ladies down there, Mrs. Mandel, for a champagne lunch? I will have some hydro-Mela, and Christine it, heigh? How’s that for a little starter? We dropped in at your place a moment, Mrs. March, and gave the young folks a few pointers about their studies. My goodness! it does me good to see a boy like that of yours; business, from the word go; and your girl just scoops my youthful affections. She’s a beauty, and I guess she’s good, too. Well, well, what a world it is! Miss Christine, won’t you show Mr. Beaton that seal ring of yours? He knows about such things, and I brought him here to see it as much as anything. It’s an intaglio I brought from the other side,” he explained to Mrs. March, “and I guess you’ll like to look at it. Tried to give it to the Dryfoos family, and when I couldn’t, I sold it to ‘em. Bound to see it on Miss Christine’s hand somehow! Hold on! Let him see it where it belongs, first!”

He arrested the girl in the motion she made to take off the ring, and let her have the pleasure of showing her hand to the company with the ring on it. Then he left her to hear the painter’s words about it, which he continued to deliver dissyllabically as he stood with her under a gas-jet, twisting his elastic figure and bending his head over the ring.

“Well, Mely, child,” Fulkerson went on, with an open travesty of her mother’s habitual address, “and how are you getting along? Mrs. Mandel hold you up to the proprieties pretty strictly? Well, that’s right. You know you’d be roaming all over the pasture if she didn’t.”

The girl gurgled out her pleasure in his funning, and everybody took him on his own ground of privileged character. He brought them all together in their friendliness for himself, and before the evening was over he had inspired Mrs. Mandel to have them served with coffee, and had made both the girls feel that they had figured brilliantly in society, and that two young men had been devoted to them.

“Oh, I think he’s just as lovely as he can live!” said Mela, as she stood a moment with her sister on the scene of her triumph, where the others had left them after the departure of their guests.

“Who?” asked Christine, deeply. As she glanced down at her ring, her eyes burned with a softened fire.

She had allowed Beaton to change it himself from the finger where she had worn it to the finger on which he said she ought to wear it. She did not know whether it was right to let him, but she was glad she had done it.

“Who? Mr. Fulkerson, goosie-poosie! Not that old stuckup Mr. Beaton of yours!”

“He is proud,” assented Christine, with a throb of exultation.

Beaton and Fulkerson went to the Elevated station with the Marches; but the painter said he was going to walk home, and Fulkerson let him go alone.

“One way is enough for me,” he explained. “When I walk up, I don’t walk down. Bye-bye, my son!” He began talking about Beaton to the Marches as they climbed the station stairs together. “That fellow puzzles me. I don’t know anybody that I have such a desire to kick, and at the same time that I want to flatter up so much. Affect you that way?” he asked of March.

“Well, as far as the kicking goes, yes.”

“And how is it with you, Mrs. March?”

“Oh, I want to flatter him up.”

“No; really? Why? Hold on! I’ve got the change.”

Fulkerson pushed March away from the ticket-office window; and made them his guests, with the inexorable American hospitality, for the ride down-town. “Three!” he said to the ticket-seller; and, when he had walked them before him out on the platform and dropped his tickets into the urn, he persisted in his inquiry, “Why?”

“Why, because you always want to flatter conceited people, don’t you?” Mrs. March answered, with a laugh.

“Do you? Yes, I guess you do. You think Beaton is conceited?”

“Well, slightly, Mr. Fulkerson.”

“I guess you’re partly right,” said Fulkerson, with a sigh, so unaccountable in its connection that they all laughed.

“An ideal ‘busted’?” March suggested.

“No, not that, exactly,” said Fulkerson. “But I had a notion maybe Beaton wasn’t conceited all the time.”

“Oh!” Mrs. March exulted, “nobody could be so conceited all the time as Mr. Beaton is most of the time. He must have moments of the direst modesty, when he’d be quite flattery-proof.”

“Yes, that’s what I mean. I guess that’s what makes me want to kick him. He’s left compliments on my hands that no decent man would.”

“Oh! that’s tragical,” said March.

“Mr. Fulkerson,” Mrs. March began, with change of subject in her voice, “who is Mrs. Mandel?”

“Who? What do you think of her?” he rejoined. “I’ll tell you about her when we get in the cars. Look at that thing! Ain’t it beautiful?”

They leaned over the track and looked up at the next station, where the train, just starting, throbbed out the flame-shot steam into the white moonlight.

“The most beautiful thing in New York—the one always and certainly beautiful thing here,” said March; and his wife sighed, “Yes, yes.” She clung to him, and remained rapt by the sight till the train drew near, and then pulled him back in a panic.

“Well, there ain’t really much to tell about her,” Fulkerson resumed when they were seated in the car. “She’s an invention of mine.”

“Of yours?” cried Mrs. March.

“Of course!” exclaimed her husband.

“Yes—at least in her present capacity. She sent me a story for the syndicate, back in July some time, along about the time I first met old Dryfoos here. It was a little too long for my purpose, and I thought I could explain better how I wanted it cut in a call than I could in a letter. She gave a Brooklyn address, and I went to see her. I found her,” said Fulkerson, with a vague defiance, “a perfect lady. She was living with an aunt over there; and she had seen better days, when she was a girl, and worse ones afterward. I don’t mean to say her husband was a bad fellow; I guess he was pretty good; he was her music-teacher; she met him in Germany, and they got married there, and got through her property before they came over here. Well, she didn’t strike me like a person that could make much headway in literature. Her story was well enough, but it hadn’t much sand in it; kind of-well, academic, you know. I told her so, and she understood, and cried a little; but she did the best she could with the thing, and I took it and syndicated it. She kind of stuck in my mind, and the first time I went to see the Dryfooses they were stopping at a sort of family hotel then till they could find a house—” Fulkerson broke off altogether, and said, “I don’t know as I know just how the Dryfooses struck you, Mrs. March?”

“Can’t you imagine?” she answered, with a kindly, smile.

“Yes; but I don’t believe I could guess how they would have struck you last summer when I first saw them. My! oh my! there was the native earth for you. Mely is a pretty wild colt now, but you ought to have seen her before she was broken to harness.

“And Christine? Ever see that black leopard they got up there in the Central Park? That was Christine. Well, I saw what they wanted. They all saw it—nobody is a fool in all directions, and the Dryfooses are in their right senses a good deal of the time. Well, to cut a long story short, I got Mrs. Mandel to take ‘em in hand—the old lady as well as the girls. She was a born lady, and always lived like one till she saw Mandel; and that something academic that killed her for a writer was just the very thing for them. She knows the world well enough to know just how much polish they can take on, and she don’t try to put on a bit more. See?”

“Yes, I can see,” said Mrs. March.

“Well, she took hold at once, as ready as a hospital-trained nurse; and there ain’t anything readier on this planet. She runs the whole concern, socially and economically, takes all the care of housekeeping off the old lady’s hands, and goes round with the girls. By-the-bye, I’m going to take my meals at your widow’s, March, and Conrad’s going to have his lunch there. I’m sick of browsing about.”

“Mr. March’s widow?” said his wife, looking at him with provisional severity.

“I have no widow, Isabel,” he said, “and never expect to have, till I leave you in the enjoyment of my life-insurance. I suppose Fulkerson means the lady with the daughter who wanted to take us to board.”

“Oh yes. How are they getting on, I do wonder?” Mrs. March asked of Fulkerson.

“Well, they’ve got one family to board; but it’s a small one. I guess they’ll pull through. They didn’t want to take any day boarders at first, the widow said; I guess they have had to come to it.”

“Poor things!” sighed Mrs. March. “I hope they’ll go back to the country.”

“Well, I don’t know. When you’ve once tasted New York—You wouldn’t go back to Boston, would you?”

“Instantly.”

Fulkerson laughed out a tolerant incredulity.

Chapter X • 2,800 Words

Beaton lit his pipe when he found himself in his room, and sat down before the dull fire in his grate to think. It struck him there was a dull fire in his heart a great deal like it; and he worked out a fanciful analogy with the coals, still alive, and the ashes creeping over them, and the dead clay and cinders. He felt sick of himself, sick of his life and of all his works. He was angry with Fulkerson for having got him into that art department of his, for having bought him up; and he was bitter at fate because he had been obliged to use the money to pay some pressing debts, and had not been able to return the check his father had sent him. He pitied his poor old father; he ached with compassion for him; and he set his teeth and snarled with contempt through them for his own baseness. This was the kind of world it was; but he washed his hands of it. The fault was in human nature, and he reflected with pride that he had at least not invented human nature; he had not sunk so low as that yet. The notion amused him; he thought he might get a Satanic epigram out of it some way. But in the mean time that girl, that wild animal, she kept visibly, tangibly before him; if he put out his hand he might touch hers, he might pass his arm round her waist. In Paris, in a set he knew there, what an effect she would be with that look of hers, and that beauty, all out of drawing! They would recognize the flame quality in her. He imagined a joke about her being a fiery spirit, or nymph, naiad, whatever, from one of her native gas-wells. He began to sketch on a bit of paper from the table at his elbow vague lines that veiled and revealed a level, dismal landscape, and a vast flame against an empty sky, and a shape out of the flame that took on a likeness and floated detached from it. The sketch ran up the left side of the sheet and stretched across it. Beaton laughed out. Pretty good to let Fulkerson have that for the cover of his first number! In black and red it would be effective; it would catch the eye from the news-stands. He made a motion to throw it on the fire, but held it back and slid it into the table-drawer, and smoked on. He saw the dummy with the other sketch in the open drawer which he had brought away from Fulkerson’s in the morning and slipped in there, and he took it out and looked at it. He made some criticisms in line with his pencil on it, correcting the drawing here and there, and then he respected it a little more, though he still smiled at the feminine quality—a young lady quality.

In spite of his experience the night he called upon the Leightons, Beaton could not believe that Alma no longer cared for him. She played at having forgotten him admirably, but he knew that a few months before she had been very mindful of him. He knew he had neglected them since they came to New York, where he had led them to expect interest, if not attention; but he was used to neglecting people, and he was somewhat less used to being punished for it—punished and forgiven. He felt that Alma had punished him so thoroughly that she ought to have been satisfied with her work and to have forgiven him in her heart afterward. He bore no resentment after the first tingling moments were past; he rather admired her for it; and he would have been ready to go back half an hour later and accept pardon and be on the footing of last summer again. Even now he debated with himself whether it was too late to call; but, decidedly, a quarter to ten seemed late. The next day he determined never to call upon the Leightons again; but he had no reason for this; it merely came into a transitory scheme of conduct, of retirement from the society of women altogether; and after dinner he went round to see them.

He asked for the ladies, and they all three received him, Alma not without a surprise that intimated itself to him, and her mother with no appreciable relenting; Miss Woodburn, with the needlework which she found easier to be voluble over than a book, expressed in her welcome a neutrality both cordial to Beaton and loyal to Alma.

“Is it snowing outdo’s?” she asked, briskly, after the greetings were transacted. “Mah goodness!” she said, in answer to his apparent surprise at the question. “Ah mahght as well have stayed in the Soath, for all the winter Ah have seen in New York yet.”

“We don’t often have snow much before New-Year’s,” said Beaton.

“Miss Woodburn is wild for a real Northern winter,” Mrs. Leighton explained.

“The othah naght Ah woke up and looked oat of the window and saw all the roofs covered with snow, and it turned oat to be nothing but moonlaght. Ah was never so disappointed in mah lahfe,” said Miss Woodburn.

“If you’ll come to St. Barnaby next summer, you shall have all the winter you want,” said Alma.

“I can’t let you slander St. Barnaby in that way,” said Beaton, with the air of wishing to be understood as meaning more than he said.

“Yes?” returned Alma, coolly. “I didn’t know you were so fond of the climate.”

“I never think of it as a climate. It’s a landscape. It doesn’t matter whether it’s hot or cold.”

“With the thermometer twenty below, you’d find that it mattered,” Alma persisted.

“Is that the way you feel about St. Barnaby, too, Mrs. Leighton?” Beaton asked, with affected desolation.

“I shall be glad enough to go back in the summer,” Mrs. Leighton conceded.

“And I should be glad to go now,” said Beaton, looking at Alma. He had the dummy of ‘Every Other Week’ in his hand, and he saw Alma’s eyes wandering toward it whenever he glanced at her. “I should be glad to go anywhere to get out of a job I’ve undertaken,” he continued, to Mrs. Leighton. “They’re going to start some sort of a new illustrated magazine, and they’ve got me in for their art department. I’m not fit for it; I’d like to run away. Don’t you want to advise me a little, Mrs. Leighton? You know how much I value your taste, and I’d like to have you look at the design for the cover of the first number: they’re going to have a different one for every number. I don’t know whether you’ll agree with me, but I think this is rather nice.”

He faced the dummy round, and then laid it on the table before Mrs. Leighton, pushing some of her work aside to make room for it and standing over her while she bent forward to look at it.

Alma kept her place, away from the table.

“Mah goodness! Ho’ exciting!” said Miss Woodburn. “May anybody look?”

“Everybody,” said Beaton.

“Well, isn’t it perfectly choming!” Miss Woodburn exclaimed. “Come and look at this, Miss Leighton,” she called to Alma, who reluctantly approached.

“What lines are these?” Mrs. Leighton asked, pointing to Beaton’s pencil scratches.

“They’re suggestions of modifications,” he replied.

“I don’t think they improve it much. What do you think, Alma?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the girl, constraining her voice to an effect of indifference and glancing carelessly down at the sketch. “The design might be improved; but I don’t think those suggestions would do it.”

“They’re mine,” said Beaton, fixing his eyes upon her with a beautiful sad dreaminess that he knew he could put into them; he spoke with a dreamy remoteness of tone—his wind-harp stop, Wetmore called it.

“I supposed so,” said Alma, calmly.

“Oh, mah goodness!” cried Miss Woodburn. “Is that the way you awtusts talk to each othah? Well, Ah’m glad Ah’m not an awtust—unless I could do all the talking.”

“Artists cannot tell a fib,” Alma said, “or even act one,” and she laughed in Beaton’s upturned face.

He did not unbend his dreamy gaze. “You’re quite right. The suggestions are stupid.”

Alma turned to Miss Woodburn: “You hear? Even when we speak of our own work.”

“Ah nevah hoad anything lahke it!”

“And the design itself?” Beaton persisted.

“Oh, I’m not an art editor,” Alma answered, with a laugh of exultant evasion.

A tall, dark, grave-looking man of fifty, with a swarthy face and iron-gray mustache and imperial and goatee, entered the room. Beaton knew the type; he had been through Virginia sketching for one of the illustrated papers, and he had seen such men in Richmond. Miss Woodburn hardly needed to say, “May Ah introduce you to mah fathaw, Co’nel Woodburn, Mr. Beaton?”

The men shook hands, and Colonel Woodburn said, in that soft, gentle, slow Southern voice without our Northern contractions: “I am very glad to meet you, sir; happy to make yo’ acquaintance. Do not move, madam,” he said to Mrs. Leighton, who made a deprecatory motion to let him pass to the chair beyond her; “I can find my way.” He bowed a bulk that did not lend itself readily to the devotion, and picked up the ball of yarn she had let drop out of her lap in half rising. “Yo’ worsteds, madam.”

“Yarn, yarn, Colonel Woodburn!” Alma shouted. “You’re quite incorrigible. A spade is a spade!”

“But sometimes it is a trump, my dear young lady,” said the Colonel, with unabated gallantry; “and when yo’ mothah uses yarn, it is worsteds. But I respect worsteds even under the name of yarn: our ladies—my own mothah and sistahs—had to knit the socks we wore—all we could get in the woe.”

“Yes, and aftah the woe,” his daughter put in. “The knitting has not stopped yet in some places. Have you been much in the Soath, Mr. Beaton?”

Beaton explained just how much.

“Well, sir,” said the Colonel, “then you have seen a country making gigantic struggles to retrieve its losses, sir. The South is advancing with enormous strides, sir.”

“Too fast for some of us to keep up,” said Miss Woodburn, in an audible aside. “The pace in Charlottesboag is pofectly killing, and we had to drop oat into a slow place like New York.”

“The progress in the South is material now,” said the Colonel; “and those of us whose interests are in another direction find ourselves—isolated—isolated, sir. The intellectual centres are still in the No’th, sir; the great cities draw the mental activity of the country to them, sir. Necessarily New York is the metropolis.”

“Oh, everything comes here,” said Beaton, impatient of the elder’s ponderosity. Another sort of man would have sympathized with the Southerner’s willingness to talk of himself, and led him on to speak of his plans and ideals. But the sort of man that Beaton was could not do this; he put up the dummy into the wrapper he had let drop on the floor beside him, and tied it round with string while Colonel Woodburn was talking. He got to his feet with the words he spoke and offered Mrs. Leighton his hand.

“Must you go?” she asked, in surprise.

“I am on my way to a reception,” he said. She had noticed that he was in evening dress; and now she felt the vague hurt that people invited nowhere feel in the presence of those who are going somewhere. She did not feel it for herself, but for her daughter; and she knew Alma would not have let her feel it if she could have prevented it. But Alma had left the room for a moment, and she tacitly indulged this sense of injury in her behalf.

“Please say good-night to Miss Leighton for me,” Beaton continued. He bowed to Miss Woodburn, “Goodnight, Miss Woodburn,” and to her father, bluntly, “Goodnight.”

“Good-night, sir,” said the Colonel, with a sort of severe suavity.

“Oh, isn’t he choming!” Miss Woodburn whispered to Mrs. Leighton when Beaton left the room.

Alma spoke to him in the hall without. “You knew that was my design, Mr. Beaton. Why did you bring it?”

“Why?” He looked at her in gloomy hesitation.

Then he said: “You know why. I wished to talk it over with you, to serve you, please you, get back your good opinion. But I’ve done neither the one nor the other; I’ve made a mess of the whole thing.”

Alma interrupted him. “Has it been accepted?”

“It will be accepted, if you will let it.”

“Let it?” she laughed. “I shall be delighted.” She saw him swayed a little toward her. “It’s a matter of business, isn’t it?”

“Purely. Good-night.”

When Alma returned to the room, Colonel Woodburn was saying to Mrs. Leighton: “I do not contend that it is impossible, madam, but it is very difficult in a thoroughly commercialized society, like yours, to have the feelings of a gentleman. How can a business man, whose prosperity, whose earthly salvation, necessarily lies in the adversity of some one else, be delicate and chivalrous, or even honest? If we could have had time to perfect our system at the South, to eliminate what was evil and develop what was good in it, we should have had a perfect system. But the virus of commercialism was in us, too; it forbade us to make the best of a divine institution, and tempted us to make the worst. Now the curse is on the whole country; the dollar is the measure of every value, the stamp of every success. What does not sell is a failure; and what sells succeeds.”

“The hobby is oat, mah deah,” said Miss Woodburn, in an audible aside to Alma.

“Were you speaking of me, Colonel Woodburn?” Alma asked.

“Surely not, my dear young lady.”

“But he’s been saying that awtusts are just as greedy aboat money as anybody,” said his daughter.

“The law of commercialism is on everything in a commercial society,” the Colonel explained, softening the tone in which his convictions were presented. “The final reward of art is money, and not the pleasure of creating.”

“Perhaps they would be willing to take it all oat in that if othah people would let them pay their bills in the pleasure of creating,” his daughter teased.

“They are helpless, like all the rest,” said her father, with the same deference to her as to other women. “I do not blame them.”

“Oh, mah goodness! Didn’t you say, sir, that Mr. Beaton had bad manners?”

Alma relieved a confusion which he seemed to feel in reference to her. “Bad manners? He has no manners! That is, when he’s himself. He has pretty good ones when he’s somebody else.”

Miss Woodburn began, “Oh, mah—” and then stopped herself. Alma’s mother looked at her with distressed question, but the girl seemed perfectly cool and contented; and she gave her mind provisionally to a point suggested by Colonel Woodburn’s talk.

“Still, I can’t believe it was right to hold people in slavery, to whip them and sell them. It never did seem right to me,” she added, in apology for her extreme sentiments to the gentleness of her adversary.

“I quite agree with you, madam,” said the Colonel. “Those were the abuses of the institution. But if we had not been vitiated on the one hand and threatened on the other by the spirit of commercialism from the North—and from Europe, too—those abuses could have been eliminated, and the institution developed in the direction of the mild patriarchalism of the divine intention.” The Colonel hitched his chair, which figured a hobby careering upon its hind legs, a little toward Mrs. Leighton and the girls approached their heads and began to whisper; they fell deferentially silent when the Colonel paused in his argument, and went on again when he went on.

At last they heard Mrs. Leighton saying, “And have you heard from the publishers about your book yet?”

Then Miss Woodburn cut in, before her father could answer: “The coase of commercialism is on that, too. They are trahing to fahnd oat whethah it will pay.”

“And they are right—quite right,” said the Colonel. “There is no longer any other criterion; and even a work that attacks the system must be submitted to the tests of the system.”

“The system won’t accept destruction on any othah tomes,” said Miss Woodburn, demurely.

Chapter XI • 4,100 Words

At the reception, where two men in livery stood aside to let him pass up the outside steps of the house, and two more helped him off with his overcoat indoors, and a fifth miscalled his name into the drawing-room, the Syracuse stone-cutter’s son met the niece of Mrs. Horn, and began at once to tell her about his evening at the Dryfooses’. He was in very good spirits, for so far as he could have been elated or depressed by his parting with Alma Leighton he had been elated; she had not treated his impudence with the contempt that he felt it deserved; she must still be fond of him; and the warm sense of this, by operation of an obscure but well-recognized law of the masculine being, disposed him to be rather fond of Miss Vance. She was a slender girl, whose semi-aesthetic dress flowed about her with an accentuation of her long forms, and redeemed them from censure by the very frankness with which it confessed them; nobody could have said that Margaret Vance was too tall. Her pretty little head, which she had an effect of choosing to have little in the same spirit of judicious defiance, had a good deal of reading in it; she was proud to know literary and artistic fashions as well as society fashions. She liked being singled out by an exterior distinction so obvious as Beaton’s, and she listened with sympathetic interest to his account of those people. He gave their natural history reality by drawing upon his own; he reconstructed their plebeian past from the experiences of his childhood and his youth of the pre-Parisian period; and he had a pang of suicidal joy in insulting their ignorance of the world.

“What different kinds of people you meet!” said the girl at last, with an envious sigh. Her reading had enlarged the bounds of her imagination, if not her knowledge; the novels nowadays dealt so much with very common people, and made them seem so very much more worth while than the people one met.

She said something like this to Beaton. He answered: “You can meet the people I’m talking of very easily, if you want to take the trouble. It’s what they came to New York for. I fancy it’s the great ambition of their lives to be met.”

“Oh yes,” said Miss Vance, fashionably, and looked down; then she looked up and said, intellectually: “Don’t you think it’s a great pity? How much better for them to have stayed where they were and what they were!”

“Then you could never have had any chance of meeting them,” said Beaton. “I don’t suppose you intend to go out to the gas country?”

“No,” said Miss Vance, amused. “Not that I shouldn’t like to go.”

“What a daring spirit! You ought to be on the staff of ‘Every Other Week,’” said Beaton.

“The staff—‘Every Other Week’? What is it?”

“The missing link; the long-felt want of a tie between the Arts and the Dollars.” Beaton gave her a very picturesque, a very dramatic sketch of the theory, the purpose, and the personnel of the new enterprise.

Miss Vance understood too little about business of any kind to know how it differed from other enterprises of its sort. She thought it was delightful; she thought Beaton must be glad to be part of it, though he had represented himself so bored, so injured, by Fulkerson’s insisting upon having him. “And is it a secret? Is it a thing not to be spoken of?”

“‘Tutt’ altro’! Fulkerson will be enraptured to have it spoken of in society. He would pay any reasonable bill for the advertisement.”

“What a delightful creature! Tell him it shall all be spent in charity.”

“He would like that. He would get two paragraphs out of the fact, and your name would go into the ‘Literary Notes’ of all the newspapers.”

“Oh, but I shouldn’t want my name used!” cried the girl, half horrified into fancying the situation real.

“Then you’d better not say anything about ‘Every Other Week’. Fulkerson is preternaturally unscrupulous.”

March began to think so too, at times. He was perpetually suggesting changes in the make-up of the first number, with a view to its greater vividness of effect. One day he came and said: “This thing isn’t going to have any sort of get up and howl about it, unless you have a paper in the first number going for Bevans’s novels. Better get Maxwell to do it.”

“Why, I thought you liked Bevans’s novels?”

“So I did; but where the good of ‘Every Other Week’ is concerned I am a Roman father. The popular gag is to abuse Bevans, and Maxwell is the man to do it. There hasn’t been a new magazine started for the last three years that hasn’t had an article from Maxwell in its first number cutting Bevans all to pieces. If people don’t see it, they’ll think ‘Every Other Week’ is some old thing.”

March did not know whether Fulkerson was joking or not. He suggested, “Perhaps they’ll think it’s an old thing if they do see it.”

“Well, get somebody else, then; or else get Maxwell to write under an assumed name. Or—I forgot! He’ll be anonymous under our system, anyway. Now there ain’t a more popular racket for us to work in that first number than a good, swinging attack on Bevans. People read his books and quarrel over ‘em, and the critics are all against him, and a regular flaying, with salt and vinegar rubbed in afterward, will tell more with people who like good old-fashioned fiction than anything else. I like Bevans’s things, but, dad burn it! when it comes to that first number, I’d offer up anybody.”

“What an immoral little wretch you are, Fulkerson!” said March, with a laugh.

Fulkerson appeared not to be very strenuous about the attack on the novelist. “Say!” he called out, gayly, “what should you think of a paper defending the late lamented system of slavery’?”

“What do you mean, Fulkerson?” asked March, with a puzzled smile.

Fulkerson braced his knees against his desk, and pushed himself back, but kept his balance to the eye by canting his hat sharply forward. “There’s an old cock over there at the widow’s that’s written a book to prove that slavery was and is the only solution of the labor problem. He’s a Southerner.”

“I should imagine,” March assented.

“He’s got it on the brain that if the South could have been let alone by the commercial spirit and the pseudophilanthropy of the North, it would have worked out slavery into a perfectly ideal condition for the laborer, in which he would have been insured against want, and protected in all his personal rights by the state. He read the introduction to me last night. I didn’t catch on to all the points—his daughter’s an awfully pretty girl, and I was carrying that fact in my mind all the time, too, you know—but that’s about the gist of it.”

“Seems to regard it as a lost opportunity?” said March.

“Exactly! What a mighty catchy title, Neigh? Look well on the title-page.”

“Well written?”

“I reckon so; I don’t know. The Colonel read it mighty eloquently.”

“It mightn’t be such bad business,” said March, in a muse. “Could you get me a sight of it without committing yourself?”

“If the Colonel hasn’t sent it off to another publisher this morning. He just got it back with thanks yesterday. He likes to keep it travelling.”

“Well, try it. I’ve a notion it might be a curious thing.”

“Look here, March,” said Fulkerson, with the effect of taking a fresh hold; “I wish you could let me have one of those New York things of yours for the first number. After all, that’s going to be the great card.”

“I couldn’t, Fulkerson; I couldn’t, really. I want to philosophize the material, and I’m too new to it all yet. I don’t want to do merely superficial sketches.”

“Of course! Of course! I understand that. Well, I don’t want to hurry you. Seen that old fellow of yours yet? I think we ought to have that translation in the first number; don’t you? We want to give ‘em a notion of what we’re going to do in that line.”

“Yes,” said March; “and I was going out to look up Lindau this morning. I’ve inquired at Maroni’s, and he hasn’t been there for several days. I’ve some idea perhaps he’s sick. But they gave me his address, and I’m going to see.”

“Well, that’s right. We want the first number to be the keynote in every way.”

March shook his head. “You can’t make it so. The first number is bound to be a failure always, as far as the representative character goes. It’s invariably the case. Look at the first numbers of all the things you’ve seen started. They’re experimental, almost amateurish, and necessarily so, not only because the men that are making them up are comparatively inexperienced like ourselves, but because the material sent them to deal with is more or less consciously tentative. People send their adventurous things to a new periodical because the whole thing is an adventure. I’ve noticed that quality in all the volunteer contributions; it’s in the articles that have been done to order even. No; I’ve about made up my mind that if we can get one good striking paper into the first number that will take people’s minds off the others, we shall be doing all we can possibly hope for. I should like,” March added, less seriously, “to make up three numbers ahead, and publish the third one first.”

Fulkerson dropped forward and struck his fist on the desk. “It’s a first-rate idea. Why not do it?”

March laughed. “Fulkerson, I don’t believe there’s any quackish thing you wouldn’t do in this cause. From time to time I’m thoroughly ashamed of being connected with such a charlatan.”

Fulkerson struck his hat sharply backward. “Ah, dad burn it! To give that thing the right kind of start I’d walk up and down Broadway between two boards, with the title-page of ‘Every Other Week’ facsimiled on one and my name and address on the—”

He jumped to his feet and shouted, “March, I’ll do it!”

“What?”

“I’ll hire a lot of fellows to make mud-turtles of themselves, and I’ll have a lot of big facsimiles of the title-page, and I’ll paint the town red!”

March looked aghast at him. “Oh, come, now, Fulkerson!”

“I mean it. I was in London when a new man had taken hold of the old Cornhill, and they were trying to boom it, and they had a procession of these mudturtles that reached from Charing Cross to Temple Bar. ‘Cornhill Magazine’. Sixpence. Not a dull page in it.’ I said to myself then that it was the livest thing I ever saw. I respected the man that did that thing from the bottom of my heart. I wonder I ever forgot it. But it shows what a shaky thing the human mind is at its best.”

“You infamous mountebank!”, said March, with great amusement at Fulkerson’s access; “you call that congeries of advertising instinct of yours the human mind at its best? Come, don’t be so diffident, Fulkerson. Well, I’m off to find Lindau, and when I come back I hope Mr. Dryfoos will have you under control. I don’t suppose you’ll be quite sane again till after the first number is out. Perhaps public opinion will sober you then.”

“Confound it, March! How do you think they will take it? I swear I’m getting so nervous I don’t know half the time which end of me is up. I believe if we don’t get that thing out by the first of February it ‘ll be the death of me.”

“Couldn’t wait till Washington’s Birthday? I was thinking it would give the day a kind of distinction, and strike the public imagination, if—”

“No, I’ll be dogged if I could!” Fulkerson lapsed more and more into the parlance of his early life in this season of strong excitement. “I believe if Beaton lags any on the art leg I’ll kill him.”

“Well, I shouldn’t mind your killing Beaton,” said March, tranquilly, as he went out.

He went over to Third Avenue and took the Elevated down to Chatham Square. He found the variety of people in the car as unfailingly entertaining as ever. He rather preferred the East Side to the West Side lines, because they offered more nationalities, conditions, and characters to his inspection. They draw not only from the up-town American region, but from all the vast hive of populations swarming between them and the East River. He had found that, according to the hour, American husbands going to and from business, and American wives going to and from shopping, prevailed on the Sixth Avenue road, and that the most picturesque admixture to these familiar aspects of human nature were the brilliant eyes and complexions of the American Hebrews, who otherwise contributed to the effect of well-clad comfort and citizen-self-satisfaction of the crowd. Now and then he had found himself in a car mostly filled with Neapolitans from the constructions far up the line, where he had read how they are worked and fed and housed like beasts; and listening to the jargon of their unintelligible dialect, he had occasion for pensive question within himself as to what notion these poor animals formed of a free republic from their experience of life under its conditions; and whether they found them practically very different from those of the immemorial brigandage and enforced complicity with rapine under which they had been born. But, after all, this was an infrequent effect, however massive, of travel on the West Side, whereas the East offered him continual entertainment in like sort. The sort was never quite so squalid. For short distances the lowest poverty, the hardest pressed labor, must walk; but March never entered a car without encountering some interesting shape of shabby adversity, which was almost always adversity of foreign birth. New York is still popularly supposed to be in the control of the Irish, but March noticed in these East Side travels of his what must strike every observer returning to the city after a prolonged absence: the numerical subordination of the dominant race. If they do not outvote them, the people of Germanic, of Slavonic, of Pelasgic, of Mongolian stock outnumber the prepotent Celts; and March seldom found his speculation centred upon one of these. The small eyes, the high cheeks, the broad noses, the puff lips, the bare, cue-filleted skulls, of Russians, Poles, Czechs, Chinese; the furtive glitter of Italians; the blonde dulness of Germans; the cold quiet of Scandinavians—fire under ice—were aspects that he identified, and that gave him abundant suggestion for the personal histories he constructed, and for the more public-spirited reveries in which he dealt with the future economy of our heterogeneous commonwealth. It must be owned that he did not take much trouble about this; what these poor people were thinking, hoping, fearing, enjoying, suffering; just where and how they lived; who and what they individually were—these were the matters of his waking dreams as he stared hard at them, while the train raced farther into the gay ugliness—the shapeless, graceful, reckless picturesqueness of the Bowery.

There were certain signs, certain facades, certain audacities of the prevailing hideousness that always amused him in that uproar to the eye which the strident forms and colors made. He was interested in the insolence with which the railway had drawn its erasing line across the Corinthian front of an old theatre, almost grazing its fluted pillars, and flouting its dishonored pediment. The colossal effigies of the fat women and the tuft-headed Circassian girls of cheap museums; the vistas of shabby cross streets; the survival of an old hip-roofed house here and there at their angles; the Swiss chalet, histrionic decorativeness of the stations in prospect or retrospect; the vagaries of the lines that narrowed together or stretched apart according to the width of the avenue, but always in wanton disregard of the life that dwelt, and bought and sold, and rejoiced or sorrowed, and clattered or crawled, around, below, above—were features of the frantic panorama that perpetually touched his sense of humor and moved his sympathy. Accident and then exigency seemed the forces at work to this extraordinary effect; the play of energies as free and planless as those that force the forest from the soil to the sky; and then the fierce struggle for survival, with the stronger life persisting over the deformity, the mutilation, the destruction, the decay of the weaker. The whole at moments seemed to him lawless, godless; the absence of intelligent, comprehensive purpose in the huge disorder, and the violent struggle to subordinate the result to the greater good, penetrated with its dumb appeal the consciousness of a man who had always been too self-enwrapped to perceive the chaos to which the individual selfishness must always lead.

But there was still nothing definite, nothing better than a vague discomfort, however poignant, in his half recognition of such facts; and he descended the station stairs at Chatham Square with a sense of the neglected opportunities of painters in that locality. He said to himself that if one of those fellows were to see in Naples that turmoil of cars, trucks, and teams of every sort, intershot with foot-passengers going and coming to and from the crowded pavements, under the web of the railroad tracks overhead, and amid the spectacular approach of the streets that open into the square, he would have it down in his sketch-book at once. He decided simultaneously that his own local studies must be illustrated, and that he must come with the artist and show him just which bits to do, not knowing that the two arts can never approach the same material from the same point. He thought he would particularly like his illustrator to render the Dickensy, cockneyish quality of the shabby-genteel ballad-seller of whom he stopped to ask his way to the street where Lindau lived, and whom he instantly perceived to be, with his stock in trade, the sufficient object of an entire study by himself. He had his ballads strung singly upon a cord against the house wall, and held down in piles on the pavement with stones and blocks of wood. Their control in this way intimated a volatility which was not perceptible in their sentiment. They were mostly tragical or doleful: some of them dealt with the wrongs of the working-man; others appealed to a gay experience of the high seas; but vastly the greater part to memories and associations of an Irish origin; some still uttered the poetry of plantation life in the artless accents of the end—man. Where they trusted themselves, with syntax that yielded promptly to any exigency of rhythmic art, to the ordinary American speech, it was to strike directly for the affections, to celebrate the domestic ties, and, above all, to embalm the memories of angel and martyr mothers whose dissipated sons deplored their sufferings too late. March thought this not at all a bad thing in them; he smiled in patronage of their simple pathos; he paid the tribute of a laugh when the poet turned, as he sometimes did, from his conception of angel and martyr motherhood, and portrayed the mother in her more familiar phases of virtue and duty, with the retributive shingle or slipper in her hand. He bought a pocketful of this literature, popular in a sense which the most successful book can never be, and enlisted the ballad vendor so deeply in the effort to direct him to Lindau’s dwelling by the best way that he neglected another customer, till a sarcasm on his absent-mindedness stung hint to retort, “I’m a-trying to answer a gentleman a civil question; that’s where the absent-minded comes in.”

It seemed for some reason to be a day of leisure with the Chinese dwellers in Mott Street, which March had been advised to take first. They stood about the tops of basement stairs, and walked two and two along the dirty pavement, with their little hands tucked into their sleeves across their breasts, aloof in immaculate cleanliness from the filth around them, and scrutinizing the scene with that cynical sneer of faint surprise to which all aspects of our civilization seem to move their superiority. Their numbers gave character to the street, and rendered not them, but what was foreign to them, strange there; so that March had a sense of missionary quality in the old Catholic church, built long before their incursion was dreamed of. It seemed to have come to them there, and he fancied in the statued saint that looked down from its facade something not so much tolerant as tolerated, something propitiatory, almost deprecatory. It was a fancy, of course; the street was sufficiently peopled with Christian children, at any rate, swarming and shrieking at their games; and presently a Christian mother appeared, pushed along by two policemen on a handcart, with a gelatinous tremor over the paving and a gelatinous jouncing at the curbstones. She lay with her face to the sky, sending up an inarticulate lamentation; but the indifference of the officers forbade the notion of tragedy in her case. She was perhaps a local celebrity; the children left off their games, and ran gayly trooping after her; even the young fellow and young girl exchanging playful blows in a robust flirtation at the corner of a liquor store suspended their scuffle with a pleased interest as she passed. March understood the unwillingness of the poor to leave the worst conditions in the city for comfort and plenty in the country when he reflected upon this dramatic incident, one of many no doubt which daily occur to entertain them in such streets. A small town could rarely offer anything comparable to it, and the country never. He said that if life appeared so hopeless to him as it must to the dwellers in that neighborhood he should not himself be willing to quit its distractions, its alleviations, for the vague promise of unknown good in the distance somewhere.

But what charm could such a man as Lindau find in such a place? It could not be that he lived there because he was too poor to live elsewhere: with a shutting of the heart, March refused to believe this as he looked round on the abounding evidences of misery, and guiltily remembered his neglect of his old friend. Lindau could probably find as cheap a lodging in some decenter part of the town; and, in fact, there was some amelioration of the prevailing squalor in the quieter street which he turned into from Mott.

A woman with a tied-up face of toothache opened the door for him when he pulled, with a shiver of foreboding, the bell-knob, from which a yard of rusty crape dangled. But it was not Lindau who was dead, for the woman said he was at home, and sent March stumbling up the four or five dark flights of stairs that led to his tenement. It was quite at the top of the house, and when March obeyed the German-English “Komm!” that followed his knock, he found himself in a kitchen where a meagre breakfast was scattered in stale fragments on the table before the stove. The place was bare and cold; a half-empty beer bottle scarcely gave it a convivial air. On the left from this kitchen was a room with a bed in it, which seemed also to be a cobbler’s shop: on the right, through a door that stood ajar, came the German-English voice again, saying this time, “Hier!”

Chapter XII • 1,900 Words

March pushed the door open into a room like that on the left, but with a writing-desk instead of a cobbler’s bench, and a bed, where Lindau sat propped up; with a coat over his shoulders and a skull-cap on his head, reading a book, from which he lifted his eyes to stare blankly over his spectacles at March. His hairy old breast showed through the night-shirt, which gaped apart; the stump of his left arm lay upon the book to keep it open.

“Ah, my tear yo’ng friendt! Passil! Marge! Iss it you?” he called out, joyously, the next moment.

“Why, are you sick, Lindau?” March anxiously scanned his face in taking his hand.

Lindau laughed. “No; I’m all righdt. Only a lidtle lazy, and a lidtle eggonomigal. Idt’s jeaper to stay in pedt sometimes as to geep a fire a-goin’ all the time. Don’t wandt to gome too hardt on the ‘brafer Mann’, you know:

“Braver Mann, er schafft mir zu essen.”

You remember? Heine? You readt Heine still? Who is your favorite boet now, Passil? You write some boetry yourself yet? No? Well, I am gladt to zee you. Brush those baperss off of that jair. Well, idt is goodt for zore eyess. How didt you findt where I lif?

“They told me at Maroni’s,” said March. He tried to keep his eyes on Lindau’s face, and not see the discomfort of the room, but he was aware of the shabby and frowsy bedding, the odor of stale smoke, and the pipes and tobacco shreds mixed with the books and manuscripts strewn over the leaf of the writing-desk. He laid down on the mass the pile of foreign magazines he had brought under his arm. “They gave me another address first.”

“Yes. I have chust gome here,” said Lindau. “Idt is not very coy, Neigh?”

“It might be gayer,” March admitted, with a smile. “Still,” he added, soberly, “a good many people seem to live in this part of the town. Apparently they die here, too, Lindau. There is crape on your outside door. I didn’t know but it was for you.”

“Nodt this time,” said Lindau, in the same humor. “Berhaps some other time. We geep the ondertakers bratty puzy down here.”

“Well,” said March, “undertakers must live, even if the rest of us have to die to let them.” Lindau laughed, and March went on: “But I’m glad it isn’t your funeral, Lindau. And you say you’re not sick, and so I don’t see why we shouldn’t come to business.”

“Pusiness?” Lindau lifted his eyebrows. “You gome on pusiness?”

“And pleasure combined,” said March, and he went on to explain the service he desired at Lindau’s hands.

The old man listened with serious attention, and with assenting nods that culminated in a spoken expression of his willingness to undertake the translations. March waited with a sort of mechanical expectation of his gratitude for the work put in his way, but nothing of the kind came from Lindau, and March was left to say, “Well, everything is understood, then; and I don’t know that I need add that if you ever want any little advance on the work—”

“I will ask you,” said Lindau, quietly, “and I thank you for that. But I can wait; I ton’t needt any money just at bresent.” As if he saw some appeal for greater frankness in March’s eye, he went on: “I tidn’t gome here begause I was too boor to lif anywhere else, and I ton’t stay in pedt begause I couldn’t haf a fire to geep warm if I wanted it. I’m nodt zo padt off as Marmontel when he went to Paris. I’m a lidtle loaxurious, that is all. If I stay in pedt it’s zo I can fling money away on somethings else. Heigh?”

“But what are you living here for, Lindau?” March smiled at the irony lurking in Lindau’s words.

“Well, you zee, I foundt I was begoming a lidtle too moch of an aristograt. I hadt a room oap in Creenvidge Willage, among dose pig pugs over on the West Side, and I foundt”—Liudau’s voice lost its jesting quality, and his face darkened—“that I was beginning to forget the boor!”

“I should have thought,” said March, with impartial interest, “that you might have seen poverty enough, now and then, in Greenwich Village to remind you of its existence.”

“Nodt like here,” said Lindau. “Andt you must zee it all the dtime—zee it, hear it, smell it, dtaste it—or you forget it. That is what I gome here for. I was begoming a ploated aristograt. I thought I was nodt like these beople down here, when I gome down once to look aroundt; I thought I must be somethings else, and zo I zaid I better take myself in time, and I gome here among my brothers—the becears and the thiefs!” A noise made itself heard in the next room, as if the door were furtively opened, and a faint sound of tiptoeing and of hands clawing on a table.

“Thiefs!” Lindau repeated, with a shout. “Lidtle thiefs, that gabture your breakfast. Ah! ha! ha!” A wild scurrying of feet, joyous cries and tittering, and a slamming door followed upon his explosion, and he resumed in the silence: “Idt is the children cot pack from school. They gome and steal what I leaf there on my daple. Idt’s one of our lidtle chokes; we onderstand one another; that’s all righdt. Once the gobbler in the other room there he used to chase ‘em; he couldn’t onderstand their lidtle tricks. Now dot goppler’s teadt, and he ton’t chase ‘em any more. He was a Bohemian. Gindt of grazy, I cuess.”

“Well, it’s a sociable existence,” March suggested. “But perhaps if you let them have the things without stealing—”

“Oh no, no! Most nodt mage them too gonceitedt. They mostn’t go and feel themselfs petter than those boor millionairss that hadt to steal their money.”

March smiled indulgently at his old friend’s violence. “Oh, there are fagots and fagots, you know, Lindau; perhaps not all the millionaires are so guilty.”

“Let us speak German!” cried Lindau, in his own tongue, pushing his book aside, and thrusting his skullcap back from his forehead. “How much money can a man honestly earn without wronging or oppressing some other man?”

“Well, if you’ll let me answer in English,” said March, “I should say about five thousand dollars a year. I name that figure because it’s my experience that I never could earn more; but the experience of other men may be different, and if they tell me they can earn ten, or twenty, or fifty thousand a year, I’m not prepared to say they can’t do it.”

Lindau hardly waited for his answer. “Not the most gifted man that ever lived, in the practice of any art or science, and paid at the highest rate that exceptional genius could justly demand from those who have worked for their money, could ever earn a million dollars. It is the landlords and the merchant princes, the railroad kings and the coal barons (the oppressors to whom you instinctively give the titles of tyrants)—it is these that make the millions, but no man earns them. What artist, what physician, what scientist, what poet was ever a millionaire?”

“I can only think of the poet Rogers,” said March, amused by Lindau’s tirade. “But he was as exceptional as the other Rogers, the martyr, who died with warm feet.” Lindau had apparently not understood his joke, and he went on, with the American ease of mind about everything: “But you must allow, Lindau, that some of those fellows don’t do so badly with their guilty gains. Some of them give work to armies of poor people—”

Lindau furiously interrupted: “Yes, when they have gathered their millions together from the hunger and cold and nakedness and ruin and despair of hundreds of thousands of other men, they ‘give work’ to the poor! They give work! They allow their helpless brothers to earn enough to keep life in them! They give work! Who is it gives toil, and where will your rich men be when once the poor shall refuse to give toil? Why, you have come to give me work!”

March laughed outright. “Well, I’m not a millionaire, anyway, Lindau, and I hope you won’t make an example of me by refusing to give toil. I dare say the millionaires deserve it, but I’d rather they wouldn’t suffer in my person.”

“No,” returned the old man, mildly relaxing the fierce glare he had bent upon March. “No man deserves to suffer at the hands of another. I lose myself when I think of the injustice in the world. But I must not forget that I am like the worst of them.”

“You might go up Fifth Avenue and live among the rich awhile, when you’re in danger of that,” suggested March. “At any rate,” he added, by an impulse which he knew he could not justify to his wife, “I wish you’d come some day and lunch with their emissary. I’ve been telling Mrs. March about you, and I want her and the children to see you. Come over with these things and report.” He put his hand on the magazines as he rose.

“I will come,” said Lindau, gently.

“Shall I give you your book?” asked March.

“No; I gidt oap bretty soon.”

“And—and—can you dress yourself?”

“I vhistle, and one of those lidtle fellowss comess. We haf to dake gare of one another in a blace like this. Idt iss nodt like the worldt,” said Lindau, gloomily.

March thought he ought to cheer him up. “Oh, it isn’t such a bad world, Lindau! After all, the average of millionaires is small in it.” He added, “And I don’t believe there’s an American living that could look at that arm of yours and not wish to lend you a hand for the one you gave us all.” March felt this to be a fine turn, and his voice trembled slightly in saying it.

Lindau smiled grimly. “You think zo? I wouldn’t moch like to drost ‘em. I’ve driedt idt too often.” He began to speak German again fiercely: “Besides, they owe me nothing. Do you think I knowingly gave my hand to save this oligarchy of traders and tricksters, this aristocracy of railroad wreckers and stock gamblers and mine-slave drivers and mill-serf owners? No; I gave it to the slave; the slave—ha! ha! ha!—whom I helped to unshackle to the common liberty of hunger and cold. And you think I would be the beneficiary of such a state of things?”

“I’m sorry to hear you talk so, Lindau,” said March; “very sorry.” He stopped with a look of pain, and rose to go. Lindau suddenly broke into a laugh and into English.

“Oh, well, it is only dalk, Passil, and it toes me goodt. My parg is worse than my pidte, I cuess. I pring these things roundt bretty soon. Good-bye, Passil, my tear poy. Auf wiedersehen!”

Chapter XIII • 1,900 Words

March went away thinking of what Lindau had said, but not for the impersonal significance of his words so much as for the light they cast upon Lindau himself. He thought the words violent enough, but in connection with what he remembered of the cheery, poetic, hopeful idealist, they were even more curious than lamentable. In his own life of comfortable reverie he had never heard any one talk so before, but he had read something of the kind now and then in blatant labor newspapers which he had accidentally fallen in with, and once at a strikers’ meeting he had heard rich people denounced with the same frenzy. He had made his own reflections upon the tastelessness of the rhetoric, and the obvious buncombe of the motive, and he had not taken the matter seriously.

He could not doubt Lindau’s sincerity, and he wondered how he came to that way of thinking. From his experience of himself he accounted for a prevailing literary quality in it; he decided it to be from Lindau’s reading and feeling rather than his reflection. That was the notion he formed of some things he had met with in Ruskin to much the same effect; he regarded them with amusement as the chimeras of a rhetorician run away with by his phrases.

But as to Lindau, the chief thing in his mind was a conception of the droll irony of a situation in which so fervid a hater of millionaires should be working, indirectly at least, for the prosperity of a man like Dryfoos, who, as March understood, had got his money together out of every gambler’s chance in speculation, and all a schemer’s thrift from the error and need of others. The situation was not more incongruous, however, than all the rest of the ‘Every Other Week’ affair. It seemed to him that there were no crazy fortuities that had not tended to its existence, and as time went on, and the day drew near for the issue of the first number, the sense of this intensified till the whole lost at moments the quality of a waking fact, and came to be rather a fantastic fiction of sleep.

Yet the heterogeneous forces did co-operate to a reality which March could not deny, at least in their presence, and the first number was representative of all their nebulous intentions in a tangible form. As a result, it was so respectable that March began to respect these intentions, began to respect himself for combining and embodying them in the volume which appealed to him with a novel fascination, when the first advance copy was laid upon his desk. Every detail of it was tiresomely familiar already, but the whole had a fresh interest now. He now saw how extremely fit and effective Miss Leighton’s decorative design for the cover was, printed in black and brick-red on the delicate gray tone of the paper. It was at once attractive and refined, and he credited Beaton with quite all he merited in working it over to the actual shape. The touch and the taste of the art editor were present throughout the number. As Fulkerson said, Beaton had caught on with the delicacy of a humming-bird and the tenacity of a bulldog to the virtues of their illustrative process, and had worked it for all it was worth. There were seven papers in the number, and a poem on the last page of the cover, and he had found some graphic comment for each. It was a larger proportion than would afterward be allowed, but for once in a way it was allowed. Fulkerson said they could not expect to get their money back on that first number, anyway. Seven of the illustrations were Beaton’s; two or three he got from practised hands; the rest were the work of unknown people which he had suggested, and then related and adapted with unfailing ingenuity to the different papers. He handled the illustrations with such sympathy as not to destroy their individual quality, and that indefinable charm which comes from good amateur work in whatever art. He rescued them from their weaknesses and errors, while he left in them the evidence of the pleasure with which a clever young man, or a sensitive girl, or a refined woman had done them. Inevitably from his manipulation, however, the art of the number acquired homogeneity, and there was nothing casual in its appearance. The result, March eagerly owned, was better than the literary result, and he foresaw that the number would be sold and praised chiefly for its pictures. Yet he was not ashamed of the literature, and he indulged his admiration of it the more freely because he had not only not written it, but in a way had not edited it. To be sure, he had chosen all the material, but he had not voluntarily put it all together for that number; it had largely put itself together, as every number of every magazine does, and as it seems more and more to do, in the experience of every editor. There had to be, of course, a story, and then a sketch of travel. There was a literary essay and a social essay; there was a dramatic trifle, very gay, very light; there was a dashing criticism on the new pictures, the new plays, the new books, the new fashions; and then there was the translation of a bit of vivid Russian realism, which the editor owed to Lindau’s exploration of the foreign periodicals left with him; Lindau was himself a romanticist of the Victor Hugo sort, but he said this fragment of Dostoyevski was good of its kind. The poem was a bit of society verse, with a backward look into simpler and wholesomer experiences.

Fulkerson was extremely proud of the number; but he said it was too good—too good from every point of view. The cover was too good, and the paper was too good, and that device of rough edges, which got over the objection to uncut leaves while it secured their aesthetic effect, was a thing that he trembled for, though he rejoiced in it as a stroke of the highest genius. It had come from Beaton at the last moment, as a compromise, when the problem of the vulgar croppiness of cut leaves and the unpopularity of uncut leaves seemed to have no solution but suicide. Fulkerson was still morally crawling round on his hands and knees, as he said, in abject gratitude at Beaton’s feet, though he had his qualms, his questions; and he declared that Beaton was the most inspired ass since Balaam’s. “We’re all asses, of course,” he admitted, in semi-apology to March; “but we’re no such asses as Beaton.” He said that if the tasteful decorativeness of the thing did not kill it with the public outright, its literary excellence would give it the finishing stroke. Perhaps that might be overlooked in the impression of novelty which a first number would give, but it must never happen again. He implored March to promise that it should never happen again; he said their only hope was in the immediate cheapening of the whole affair. It was bad enough to give the public too much quantity for their money, but to throw in such quality as that was simply ruinous; it must be stopped. These were the expressions of his intimate moods; every front that he presented to the public wore a glow of lofty, of devout exultation. His pride in the number gushed out in fresh bursts of rhetoric to every one whom he could get to talk with him about it. He worked the personal kindliness of the press to the utmost. He did not mind making himself ridiculous or becoming a joke in the good cause, as he called it. He joined in the applause when a humorist at the club feigned to drop dead from his chair at Fulkerson’s introduction of the topic, and he went on talking that first number into the surviving spectators. He stood treat upon all occasions, and he lunched attaches of the press at all hours. He especially befriended the correspondents of the newspapers of other cities, for, as he explained to March, those fellows could give him any amount of advertising simply as literary gossip. Many of the fellows were ladies who could not be so summarily asked out to lunch, but Fulkerson’s ingenuity was equal to every exigency, and he contrived somehow to make each of these feel that she had been possessed of exclusive information. There was a moment when March conjectured a willingness in Fulkerson to work Mrs. March into the advertising department, by means of a tea to these ladies and their friends which she should administer in his apartment, but he did not encourage Fulkerson to be explicit, and the moment passed. Afterward, when he told his wife about it, he was astonished to find that she would not have minded doing it for Fulkerson, and he experienced another proof of the bluntness of the feminine instincts in some directions, and of the personal favor which Fulkerson seemed to enjoy with the whole sex. This alone was enough to account for the willingness of these correspondents to write about the first number, but March accused him of sending it to their addresses with boxes of Jacqueminot roses and Huyler candy.

Fulkerson let him enjoy his joke. He said that he would do that or anything else for the good cause, short of marrying the whole circle of female correspondents.

March was inclined to hope that if the first number had been made too good for the country at large, the more enlightened taste of metropolitan journalism would invite a compensating favor for it in New York. But first Fulkerson and then the event proved him wrong. In spite of the quality of the magazine, and in spite of the kindness which so many newspaper men felt for Fulkerson, the notices in the New York papers seemed grudging and provisional to the ardor of the editor. A merit in the work was acknowledged, and certain defects in it for which March had trembled were ignored; but the critics astonished him by selecting for censure points which he was either proud of or had never noticed; which being now brought to his notice he still could not feel were faults. He owned to Fulkerson that if they had said so and so against it, he could have agreed with them, but that to say thus and so was preposterous; and that if the advertising had not been adjusted with such generous recognition of the claims of the different papers, he should have known the counting-room was at the bottom of it. As it was, he could only attribute it to perversity or stupidity. It was certainly stupid to condemn a magazine novelty like ‘Every Other Week’ for being novel; and to augur that if it failed, it would fail through its departure from the lines on which all the other prosperous magazines had been built, was in the last degree perverse, and it looked malicious. The fact that it was neither exactly a book nor a magazine ought to be for it and not against it, since it would invade no other field; it would prosper on no ground but its own.

Chapter XIV • 3,600 Words

The more March thought of the injustice of the New York press (which had not, however, attacked the literary quality of the number) the more bitterly he resented it; and his wife’s indignation superheated his own. ‘Every Other Week’ had become a very personal affair with the whole family; the children shared their parents’ disgust; Belle was outspoken in, her denunciations of a venal press. Mrs. March saw nothing but ruin ahead, and began tacitly to plan a retreat to Boston, and an establishment retrenched to the basis of two thousand a year. She shed some secret tears in anticipation of the privations which this must involve; but when Fulkerson came to see March rather late the night of the publication day, she nobly told him that if the worst came to the worst she could only have the kindliest feeling toward him, and should not regard him as in the slightest degree responsible.

“Oh, hold on, hold on!” he protested. “You don’t think we’ve made a failure, do you?”

“Why, of course,” she faltered, while March remained gloomily silent.

“Well, I guess we’ll wait for the official count, first. Even New York hasn’t gone against us, and I guess there’s a majority coming down to Harlem River that could sweep everything before it, anyway.”

“What do you mean, Fulkerson?” March demanded, sternly.

“Oh, nothing! Only, the ‘News Company’ has ordered ten thousand now; and you know we had to give them the first twenty on commission.”

“What do you mean?” March repeated; his wife held her breath.

“I mean that the first number is a booming success already, and that it’s going to a hundred thousand before it stops. That unanimity and variety of censure in the morning papers, combined with the attractiveness of the thing itself, has cleared every stand in the city, and now if the favor of the country press doesn’t turn the tide against us, our fortune’s made.” The Marches remained dumb. “Why, look here! Didn’t I tell you those criticisms would be the making of us, when they first began to turn you blue this morning, March?”

“He came home to lunch perfectly sick,” said Mrs. March; “and I wouldn’t let him go back again.”

“Didn’t I tell you so?” Fulkerson persisted.

March could not remember that he had, or that he had been anything but incoherently and hysterically jocose over the papers, but he said, “Yes, yes—I think so.”

“I knew it from the start,” said Fulkerson. “The only other person who took those criticisms in the right spirit was Mother Dryfoos—I’ve just been bolstering up the Dryfoos family. She had them read to her by Mrs. Mandel, and she understood them to be all the most flattering prophecies of success. Well, I didn’t read between the lines to that extent, quite; but I saw that they were going to help us, if there was anything in us, more than anything that could have been done. And there was something in us! I tell you, March, that seven-shooting self-cocking donkey of a Beaton has given us the greatest start! He’s caught on like a mouse. He’s made the thing awfully chic; it’s jimmy; there’s lots of dog about it. He’s managed that process so that the illustrations look as expensive as first-class wood-cuts, and they’re cheaper than chromos. He’s put style into the whole thing.”

“Oh yes,” said March, with eager meekness, “it’s Beaton that’s done it.”

Fulkerson read jealousy of Beaton in Mrs. March’s face. “Beaton has given us the start because his work appeals to the eye. There’s no denying that the pictures have sold this first number; but I expect the literature of this first number to sell the pictures of the second. I’ve been reading it all over, nearly, since I found how the cat was jumping; I was anxious about it, and I tell you, old man, it’s good. Yes, sir! I was afraid maybe you had got it too good, with that Boston refinement of yours; but I reckon you haven’t. I’ll risk it. I don’t see how you got so much variety into so few things, and all of them palpitant, all of ‘em on the keen jump with actuality.”

The mixture of American slang with the jargon of European criticism in Fulkerson’s talk made March smile, but his wife did not seem to notice it in her exultation. “That is just what I say,” she broke in. “It’s perfectly wonderful. I never was anxious about it a moment, except, as you say, Mr. Fulkerson, I was afraid it might be too good.”

They went on in an antiphony of praise till March said: “Really, I don’t see what’s left me but to strike for higher wages. I perceive that I’m indispensable.”

“Why, old man, you’re coming in on the divvy, you know,” said Fulkerson.

They both laughed, and when Fulkerson was gone, Mrs. March asked her husband what a divvy was.

“It’s a chicken before it’s hatched.”

“No! Truly?”

He explained, and she began to spend the divvy.

At Mrs. Leighton’s Fulkerson gave Alma all the honor of the success; he told her mother that the girl’s design for the cover had sold every number, and Mrs. Leighton believed him.

“Well, Ah think Ah maght have some of the glory,” Miss Woodburn pouted. “Where am Ah comin’ in?”

“You’re coming in on the cover of the next number,” said Fulkerson. “We’re going to have your face there; Miss Leighton’s going to sketch it in.” He said this reckless of the fact that he had already shown them the design of the second number, which was Beaton’s weird bit of gas-country landscape.

“Ah don’t see why you don’t wrahte the fiction for your magazine, Mr. Fulkerson,” said the girl.

This served to remind Fulkerson of something. He turned to her father. “I’ll tell you what, Colonel Woodburn, I want Mr. March to see some chapters of that book of yours. I’ve been talking to him about it.”

“I do not think it would add to the popularity of your periodical, sir,” said the Colonel, with a stately pleasure in being asked. “My views of a civilization based upon responsible slavery would hardly be acceptable to your commercialized society.”

“Well, not as a practical thing, of course,” Fulkerson admitted. “But as something retrospective, speculative, I believe it would make a hit. There’s so much going on now about social questions; I guess people would like to read it.”

“I do not know that my work is intended to amuse people,” said the Colonel, with some state.

“Mah goodness! Ah only wish it WAS, then,” said his daughter; and she added: “Yes, Mr. Fulkerson, the Colonel will be very glad to submit po’tions of his woak to yo’ edito’. We want to have some of the honaw. Perhaps we can say we helped to stop yo’ magazine, if we didn’t help to stawt it.”

They all laughed at her boldness, and Fulkerson said: “It’ll take a good deal more than that to stop ‘Every Other Week’. The Colonel’s whole book couldn’t do it.” Then he looked unhappy, for Colonel Woodburn did not seem to enjoy his reassuring words; but Miss Woodburn came to his rescue. “You maght illustrate it with the po’trait of the awthoris daughtaw, if it’s too late for the covah.”

“Going to have that in every number, Miss Woodburn!” he cried.

“Oh, mah goodness!” she said, with mock humility.

Alma sat looking at her piquant head, black, unconsciously outlined against the lamp, as she sat working by the table. “Just keep still a moment!”

She got her sketch-block and pencils, and began to draw; Fulkerson tilted himself forward and looked over her shoulder; he smiled outwardly; inwardly he was divided between admiration of Miss Woodburn’s arch beauty and appreciation of the skill which reproduced it; at the same time he was trying to remember whether March had authorized him to go so far as to ask for a sight of Colonel Woodburn’s manuscript. He felt that he had trenched upon March’s province, and he framed one apology to the editor for bringing him the manuscript, and another to the author for bringing it back.

“Most Ah hold raght still like it was a photograph?” asked Miss Woodburn. “Can Ah toak?”

“Talk all you want,” said Alma, squinting her eyes. “And you needn’t be either adamantine, nor yet—wooden.”

“Oh, ho’ very good of you! Well, if Ah can toak—go on, Mr. Fulkerson!”

“Me talk? I can’t breathe till this thing is done!” sighed Fulkerson; at that point of his mental drama the Colonel was behaving rustily about the return of his manuscript, and he felt that he was looking his last on Miss Woodburn’s profile.

“Is she getting it raght?” asked the girl.

“I don’t know which is which,” said Fulkerson.

“Oh, Ah hope Ah shall! Ah don’t want to go round feelin’ like a sheet of papah half the time.”

“You could rattle on, just the same,” suggested Alma.

“Oh, now! Jost listen to that, Mr. Fulkerson. Do you call that any way to toak to people?”

“You might know which you were by the color,” Fulkerson began, and then he broke off from the personal consideration with a business inspiration, and smacked himself on the knee, “We could print it in color!”

Mrs. Leighton gathered up her sewing and held it with both hands in her lap, while she came round, and looked critically at the sketch and the model over her glasses. “It’s very good, Alma,” she said.

Colonel Woodburn remained restively on his side of the table. “Of course, Mr. Fulkerson, you were jesting, sir, when you spoke of printing a sketch of my daughter.”

“Why, I don’t know—If you object—?

“I do, sir—decidedly,” said the Colonel.

“Then that settles it, of course,—I only meant—”

“Indeed it doesn’t!” cried the girl. “Who’s to know who it’s from? Ah’m jost set on havin’ it printed! Ah’m going to appear as the head of Slavery—in opposition to the head of Liberty.”

“There’ll be a revolution inside of forty-eight hours, and we’ll have the Colonel’s system going wherever a copy of ‘Every Other Week’ circulates,” said Fulkerson.

“This sketch belongs to me,” Alma interposed. “I’m not going to let it be printed.”

“Oh, mah goodness!” said Miss Woodburn, laughing good-humoredly. “That’s becose you were brought up to hate slavery.”

“I should like Mr. Beaton to see it,” said Mrs. Leighton, in a sort of absent tone. She added, to Fulkerson: “I rather expected he might be in to-night.”

“Well, if he comes we’ll leave it to Beaton,” Fulkerson said, with relief in the solution, and an anxious glance at the Colonel, across the table, to see how he took that form of the joke. Miss Woodburn intercepted his glance and laughed, and Fulkerson laughed, too, but rather forlornly.

Alma set her lips primly and turned her head first on one side and then on the other to look at the sketch. “I don’t think we’ll leave it to Mr. Beaton, even if he comes.”

“We left the other design for the cover to Beaton,” Fulkerson insinuated. “I guess you needn’t be afraid of him.”

“Is it a question of my being afraid?” Alma asked; she seemed coolly intent on her drawing.

“Miss Leighton thinks he ought to be afraid of her,” Miss Woodburn explained.

“It’s a question of his courage, then?” said Alma.

“Well, I don’t think there are many young ladies that Beaton’s afraid of,” said Fulkerson, giving himself the respite of this purely random remark, while he interrogated the faces of Mrs. Leighton and Colonel Woodburn for some light upon the tendency of their daughters’ words.

He was not helped by Mrs. Leighton’s saying, with a certain anxiety, “I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Fulkerson.”

“Well, you’re as much in the dark as I am myself, then,” said Fulkerson. “I suppose I meant that Beaton is rather—a—favorite, you know. The women like him.”

Mrs. Leighton sighed, and Colonel Woodburn rose and left the room.

In the silence that followed, Fulkerson looked from one lady to the other with dismay. “I seem to have put my foot in it, somehow,” he suggested, and Miss Woodburn gave a cry of laughter.

“Poo’ Mr. Fulkerson! Poo’ Mr. Fulkerson! Papa thoat you wanted him to go.”

“Wanted him to go?” repeated Fulkerson.

“We always mention Mr. Beaton when we want to get rid of papa.”

“Well, it seems to me that I have noticed that he didn’t take much interest in Beaton, as a general topic. But I don’t know that I ever saw it drive him out of the room before!”

“Well, he isn’t always so bad,” said Miss Woodburn. “But it was a case of hate at first sight, and it seems to be growin’ on papa.”

“Well, I can understand that,” said Fulkerson. “The impulse to destroy Beaton is something that everybody has to struggle against at the start.”

“I must say, Mr. Fulkerson,” said Mrs. Leighton, in the tremor through which she nerved herself to differ openly with any one she liked, “I never had to struggle with anything of the kind, in regard to Mr. Beaton. He has always been most respectful and—and—considerate, with me, whatever he has been with others.”

“Well, of course, Mrs. Leighton!” Fulkerson came back in a soothing tone. “But you see you’re the rule that proves the exception. I was speaking of the way men felt about Beaton. It’s different with ladies; I just said so.”

“Is it always different?” Alma asked, lifting her head and her hand from her drawing, and staring at it absently.

Fulkerson pushed both his hands through his whiskers. “Look here! Look here!” he said. “Won’t somebody start some other subject? We haven’t had the weather up yet, have we? Or the opera? What is the matter with a few remarks about politics?”

“Why, Ah thoat you lahked to toak about the staff of yo’ magazine,” said Miss Woodburn.

“Oh, I do!” said Fulkerson. “But not always about the same member of it. He gets monotonous, when he doesn’t get complicated. I’ve just come round from the Marches’,” he added, to Mrs. Leighton.

“I suppose they’ve got thoroughly settled in their apartment by this time.” Mrs. Leighton said something like this whenever the Marches were mentioned. At the bottom of her heart she had not forgiven them for not taking her rooms; she had liked their looks so much; and she was always hoping that they were uncomfortable or dissatisfied; she could not help wanting them punished a little.

“Well, yes; as much as they ever will be,” Fulkerson answered. “The Boston style is pretty different, you know; and the Marches are old-fashioned folks, and I reckon they never went in much for bric-a-brac. They’ve put away nine or ten barrels of dragon candlesticks, but they keep finding new ones.”

“Their landlady has just joined our class,” said Alma. “Isn’t her name Green? She happened to see my copy of ‘Every Other Week’, and said she knew the editor; and told me.”

“Well, it’s a little world,” said Fulkerson. “You seem to be touching elbows with everybody. Just think of your having had our head translator for a model.”

“Ah think that your whole publication revolves aroand the Leighton family,” said Miss Woodburn.

“That’s pretty much so,” Fulkerson admitted. “Anyhow, the publisher seems disposed to do so.”

“Are you the publisher? I thought it was Mr. Dryfoos,” said Alma.

“It is.”

“Oh!”

The tone and the word gave Fulkerson a discomfort which he promptly confessed. “Missed again.”

The girls laughed, and he regained something of his lost spirits, and smiled upon their gayety, which lasted beyond any apparent reason for it.

Miss Woodburn asked, “And is Mr. Dryfoos senio’ anything like ouah Mr. Dryfoos?”

“Not the least.”

“But he’s jost as exemplary?”

“Yes; in his way.”

“Well, Ah wish Ah could see all those pinks of puffection togethah, once.”

“Why, look here! I’ve been thinking I’d celebrate a little, when the old gentleman gets back. Have a little supper—something of that kind. How would you like to let me have your parlors for it, Mrs. Leighton? You ladies could stand on the stairs, and have a peep at us, in the bunch.”

“Oh, mah! What a privilege! And will Miss Alma be there, with the othah contributors? Ah shall jost expah of envy!”

“She won’t be there in person,” said Fulkerson, “but she’ll be represented by the head of the art department.”

“Mah goodness! And who’ll the head of the publishing department represent?”

“He can represent you,” said Alma.

“Well, Ah want to be represented, someho’.”

“We’ll have the banquet the night before you appear on the cover of our fourth number,” said Fulkerson.

“Ah thoat that was doubly fo’bidden,” said Miss Woodburn. “By the stern parent and the envious awtust.”

“We’ll get Beaton to get round them, somehow. I guess we can trust him to manage that.”

Mrs. Leighton sighed her resentment of the implication.

“I always feel that Mr. Beaton doesn’t do himself justice,” she began.

Fulkerson could not forego the chance of a joke. “Well, maybe he would rather temper justice with mercy in a case like his.” This made both the younger ladies laugh. “I judge this is my chance to get off with my life,” he added, and he rose as he spoke. “Mrs. Leighton, I am about the only man of my sex who doesn’t thirst for Beaton’s blood most of the time. But I know him and I don’t. He’s more kinds of a good fellow than people generally understand. He doesn’t wear his heart upon his sleeve—not his ulster sleeve, anyway. You can always count me on your side when it’s a question of finding Beaton not guilty if he’ll leave the State.”

Alma set her drawing against the wall, in rising to say goodnight to Fulkerson. He bent over on his stick to look at it. “Well, it’s beautiful,” he sighed, with unconscious sincerity.

Alma made him a courtesy of mock modesty. “Thanks to Miss Woodburn!”

“Oh no! All she had to do was simply to stay put.”

“Don’t you think Ah might have improved it if Ah had looked better?” the girl asked, gravely.

“Oh, you couldn’t!” said Fulkerson, and he went off triumphant in their applause and their cries of “Which? which?”

Mrs. Leighton sank deep into an accusing gloom when at last she found herself alone with her daughter. “I don’t know what you are thinking about, Alma Leighton. If you don’t like Mr. Beaton—”

“I don’t.”

“You don’t? You know better than that. You know that, you did care for him.”

“Oh! that’s a very different thing. That’s a thing that can be got over.”