As soon as possible after dinner they took the train for Mayence, and ran Rhinewards through a pretty country into what seemed a milder climate. It grew so much milder, apparently, that a lady in their compartment to whom March offered his forward-looking seat, ordered the window down when the guard came, without asking their leave. Then the climate proved much colder, and Mrs. March cowered under her shawls the rest of the way, and would not be entreated to look at the pleasant level landscape near, or the hills far off. He proposed to put up the window as peremptorily as it had been put down, but she stayed him with a hoarse whisper, "She may be another Baroness!" At first he did not know what she meant, then he remembered the lady whose claims to rank her presence had so poorly enforced on the way to Wurzburg, and he perceived that his wife was practising a wise forbearance with their fellow-passengers, and giving her a chance to turn out any sort of highhote she chose. She failed to profit by the opportunity; she remained simply a selfish, disagreeable woman, of no more perceptible distinction than their other fellow- passenger, a little commercial traveller from Vienna (they resolved from his appearance and the lettering on his valise that he was no other), who slept with a sort of passionate intensity all the way to Mayence.
The Main widened and swam fuller as they approached the Rhine, and flooded the low-lying fields in-places with a pleasant effect under a wet sunset. When they reached the station in Mayence they drove interminably to the hotel they had chosen on the river-shore, through a city handsomer and cleaner than any American city they could think of, and great part of the way by a street of dwellings nobler, Mrs. March owned, than even Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. It was planted, like that, with double rows of trees, but lacked its green lawns; and at times the sign of Weinhandlung at a corner, betrayed that there was no such restriction against shops as keeps the Boston street so sacred. Otherwise they had to confess once more that any inferior city of Germany is of a more proper and dignified presence than the most parse-proud metropolis in America. To be sure, they said, the German towns had generally a thousand years' start; but all the same the fact galled them.
It was very bleak, though very beautiful when they stopped before their hotel on the Rhine, where all their impalpable memories of their visit to Mayence thirty years earlier precipitated themselves into something tangible. There were the reaches of the storied and fabled stream with its boats and bridges and wooded shores and islands; there were the spires and towers and roofs of the town on either bank crowding to the river's brink; and there within-doors was the stately portier in gold braid, and the smiling, bowing, hand-rubbing landlord, alluring them to his most expensive rooms, which so late in the season he would fain have had them take. But in a little elevator, that mounted slowly, very slowly, in the curve of the stairs, they went higher to something lower, and the landlord retired baked, and left them to the ministrations of the serving-men who arrived with their large and small baggage. All these retired in turn when they asked to have a fire lighted in the stove, without which Mrs. March would never have taken the fine stately rooms, and sent back a pretty young girl to do it. She came indignant, not because she had come lugging a heavy hod of coal and a great arm-load of wood, but because her sense of fitness was outraged by the strange demand.
"What!" she cried. "A fire in September!"
"Yes," March returned, inspired to miraculous aptness in his German by the exigency, "yes, if September is cold."
The girl looked at him, and then, either because she thought him mad, or liked him merry, burst into a loud laugh, and kindled the fire without a word more.
He lighted all the reluctant gas-jets in the vast gilt chandelier, and in less than half an hour the temperature of the place rose to at least sixty-five Fahrenheit, with every promise of going higher. Mrs. March made herself comfortable in a deep chair before the stove, and said she would have her supper there; and she bade him send her just such a supper of chicken and honey and tea as they had all had in Mayence when they supped in her aunt's parlor there all those years ago. He wished to compute the years, but she drove him out with an imploring cry, and he went down to a very gusty dining-room on the ground-floor, where he found himself alone with a young English couple and their little boy. They were friendly, intelligent people, and would have been conversable, apparently, but for the terrible cold of the husband, which he said he had contracted at the manoeuvres in Hombourg. March said he was going to Holland, and the Englishman was doubtful of the warmth which March expected to find there. He seemed to be suffering from a suspense of faith as to the warmth anywhere; from time to time the door of the dining-room self-opened in a silent, ghostly fashion into the court without, and let in a chilling draught about the legs of all, till the little English boy got down from his place and shut it.
He alone continued cheerful, for March's spirits certainly did not rise when some mumbling Americans came in and muttered over their meat at another table. He hated to own it, but he had to own that wherever he had met the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon race together in Europe, the elder had shown, by a superior chirpiness, to the disadvantage of the younger. The cast clothes of the old-fashioned British offishness seemed to have fallen to the American travellers who were trying to be correct and exemplary; and he would almost rather have had back the old-style bragging Americans whom he no longer saw. He asked of an agreeable fellow-countryman whom he found later in the reading-room, what had become of these; and this compatriot said he had travelled with one only the day before, who had posed before their whole compartment in his scorn of the German landscape, the German weather, the German government, the German railway management, and then turned out an American of German birth! March found his wife in great bodily comfort when he went back to her, but in trouble of mind about a clock which she had discovered standing on the lacquered iron top of the stove. It was a French clock, of architectural pretensions, in the taste of the first Empire, and it looked as if it had not been going since Napoleon occupied Mayence early in the century. But Mrs. March now had it sorely on her conscience where, in its danger from the heat of the stove, it rested with the weight of the Pantheon, whose classic form it recalled. She wondered that no one had noticed it before the fire was kindled, and she required her husband to remove it at once from the top of the stove to the mantel under the mirror, which was the natural habitat of such a clock. He said nothing could be simpler, but when he lifted it, it began to fall all apart, like a clock in the house of the Hoodoo. Its marble base dropped-off; its pillars tottered; its pediment swayed to one side. While Mrs. March lamented her hard fate, and implored him to hurry it together before any one came, he contrived to reconstruct it in its new place. Then they both breathed freer, and returned to sit down before the stove. But at the same moment they both saw, ineffaceably outlined on the lacquered top, the basal form of the clock. The chambermaid would see it in the morning; she would notice the removal of the clock, and would make a merit of reporting its ruin by the heat to the landlord, and in the end they would be mulcted of its value. Rather than suffer this wrong they agreed to restore it to its place, and, let it go to destruction upon its own terms. March painfully rebuilt it where he had found it, and they went to bed with a bad conscience to worse dreams.
He remembered, before he slept, the hour of his youth when he was in Mayence before, and was so care free that he had heard with impersonal joy two young American voices speaking English in the street under his window. One of them broke from the common talk with a gay burlesque of pathos in the line:
"Oh heavens! she cried, my Heeding country save!"
and then with a laughing good-night these unseen, unknown spirits of youth parted and departed. Who were they, and in what different places, with what cares or ills, had their joyous voices grown old, or fallen silent for evermore? It was a moonlight night, March remembered, and he remembered how he wished he were out in it with those merry fellows.
He nursed the memory and the wonder in his dreaming thought, and he woke early to other voices under his window. But now the voices, though young, were many and were German, and the march of feet and the stamp of hooves kept time with their singing. He drew his curtain and saw the street filled with broken squads of men, some afoot and some on horseback, some in uniform and some in civil dress with students' caps, loosely straggling on and roaring forth that song whose words he could not make out. At breakfast he asked the waiter what it all meant, and he said that these were conscripts whose service had expired with the late manoeuvres, and who were now going home. He promised March a translation of the song, but he never gave it; and perhaps the sense of their joyful home-going remained the more poetic with him because its utterance remained inarticulate.
March spent the rainy Sunday, on which they had fallen, in wandering about the little city alone. His wife said she was tired and would sit by the fire, and hear about Mayence when he came in. He went to the cathedral, which has its renown for beauty and antiquity, and he there added to his stock of useful information the fact that the people of Mayence seemed very Catholic and very devout. They proved it by preferring to any of the divine old Gothic shrines in the cathedral, an ugly baroque altar, which was everywhere hung about with votive offerings. A fashionably dressed young man and young girl sprinkled themselves with holy water as reverently as if they had been old and ragged. Some tourists strolled up and down the aisles with their red guide-books, and studied the objects of interest. A resplendent beadle in a cocked hat, and with along staff of authority posed before his own ecclesiastical consciousness in blue and silver. At the high altar a priest was saying mass, and March wondered whether his consciousness was as wholly ecclesiastical as the beadle's, or whether somewhere in it he felt the historical majesty, the long human consecration of the place.
He wandered at random in the town through streets German and quaint and old, and streets French and fine and new, and got back to the river, which he crossed on one of the several handsome bridges. The rough river looked chill under a sky of windy clouds, and he felt out of season, both as to the summer travel, and as to the journey he was making. The summer of life as well as the summer of that year was past. Better return to his own radiator in his flat on Stuyvesant Square; to the great ugly brutal town which, if it was not home to him, was as much home to him as to any one. A longing for New York welled up his heart, which was perhaps really a wish to be at work again. He said he must keep this from his wife, who seemed not very well, and whom he must try to cheer up when he returned to the hotel.
But they had not a very joyous afternoon, and the evening was no gayer. They said that if they had not ordered their letters sent to Dusseldorf they believed they should push on to Holland without stopping; and March would have liked to ask, Why not push on to America? But he forbore, and he was afterwards glad that he had done so.
In the morning their spirits rose with the sun, though the sun got up behind clouds as usual; and they were further animated by the imposition which the landlord practised upon them. After a distinct and repeated agreement as to the price of their rooms he charged them twice as much, and then made a merit of throwing off two marks out of the twenty he had plundered them of.
"Now I see," said Mrs. March, on their way down to the boat, "how fortunate it was that we baked his clock. You may laugh, but I believe we were the instruments of justice."
"Do you suppose that clock was never baked before?" asked her husband. "The landlord has his own arrangement with justice. When he overcharges his parting guests he says to his conscience, Well, they baked my clock."
The morning was raw, but it was something not to have it rainy; and the clouds that hung upon the hills and hid their tops were at least as fine as the long board signs advertising chocolate on the river banks. The smoke rising from the chimneys of the manufactories of Mayence was not so bad, either, when one got them in the distance a little; and March liked the way the river swam to the stems of the trees on the low grassy shores. It was like the Mississippi between St. Louis and Cairo in that, and it was yellow and thick, like the Mississippi, though he thought he remembered it blue and clear. A friendly German, of those who began to come aboard more and more at all the landings after leaving Mayence, assured him that be was right, and that the Rhine was unusually turbid from the unusual rains. March had his own belief that whatever the color of the Rhine might be the rains were not unusual, but he could not gainsay the friendly German.
Most of the passengers at starting were English and American; but they showed no prescience of the international affinition which has since realized itself, in their behavior toward one another. They held silently apart, and mingled only in the effect of one young man who kept the Marches in perpetual question whether he was a Bostonian or an Englishman. His look was Bostonian, but his accent was English; and was he a Bostonian who had been in England long enough to get the accent, or was he an Englishman who had been in Boston long enough to get the look? He wore a belated straw hat, and a thin sack-coat; and in the rush of the boat through the raw air they fancied him very cold, and longed to offer him one of their superabundant wraps. At times March actually lifted a shawl from his knees, feeling sure that the stranger was English and that he might make so bold with him; then at some glacial glint in the young man's eye, or at some petrific expression of his delicate face, he felt that he was a Bostonian, and lost courage and let the shawl sink again. March tried to forget him in the wonder of seeing the Germans begin to eat and drink, as soon as they came on boards either from the baskets they had brought with them, or from the boat's provision. But he prevailed, with his smile that was like a sneer, through all the events of the voyage; and took March's mind off the scenery with a sudden wrench when he came unexpectedly into view after a momentary disappearance. At the table d'hote, which was served when the landscape began to be less interesting, the guests were expected to hand their plates across the table to the stewards but to keep their knives and forks throughout the different courses, and at each of these partial changes March felt the young man's chilly eyes upon him, inculpating him for the semi- civilization of the management. At such times he knew that he was a Bostonian.
The weather cleared, as they descended the river, and under a sky at last cloudless, the Marches had moments of swift reversion to their former Rhine journey, when they were young and the purple light of love mantled the vineyarded hills along the shore, and flushed the castled steeps. The scene had lost nothing of the beauty they dimly remembered; there were certain features of it which seemed even fairer and grander than they remembered. The town of Bingen, where everybody who knows the poem was more or less born, was beautiful in spite of its factory chimneys, though there were no compensating castles near it; and the castles seemed as good as those of the theatre. Here and there some of them had been restored and were occupied, probably by robber barons who had gone into trade. Others were still ruinous, and there was now and then such a mere gray snag that March, at sight of it, involuntarily put his tongue to the broken tooth which he was keeping for the skill of the first American dentist.
For natural sublimity the Rhine scenery, as they recognized once more, does not compare with the Hudson scenery; and they recalled one point on the American river where the Central Road tunnels a jutting cliff, which might very well pass for the rock of the Loreley, where she dreams
'Solo sitting by the shores of old romance.'
and the trains run in and out under her knees unheeded. "Still, still you know," March argued, "this is the Loreley on the Rhine, and not the Loreley on the Hudson; and I suppose that makes all the difference. Besides, the Rhine doesn't set up to be sublime; it only means to be storied and dreamy and romantic and it does it. And then we have really got no Mouse Tower; we might build one, to be sure."
"Well, we have got no denkmal, either," said his wife, meaning the national monument to the German reconquest of the Rhine, which they had just passed, "and that is something in our favor."
"It was too far off for us to see how ugly it was," he returned.
"The denkmal at Coblenz was so near that the bronze Emperor almost rode aboard the boat."
He could not answer such a piece of logic as that. He yielded, and began to praise the orcharded levels which now replaced the vine-purpled slopes of the upper river. He said they put him in mind of orchards that he had known in his boyhood; and they, agreed that the supreme charm of travel, after all, was not in seeing something new and strange, but in finding something familiar and dear in the heart of the strangeness.
At Cologne they found this in the tumult of getting ashore with their baggage and driving from the steamboat landing to the railroad station, where they were to get their train for Dusseldorf an hour later. The station swarmed with travellers eating and drinking and smoking; but they escaped from it for a precious half of their golden hour, and gave the time to the great cathedral, which was built, a thousand years ago, just round the corner from the station, and is therefore very handy to it. Since they saw the cathedral last it had been finished, and now under a cloudless evening sky, it soared and swept upward like a pale flame. Within it was a bit over-clean, a bit bare, but without it was one of the great memories of the race, the record of a faith which wrought miracles of beauty, at least, if not piety.
The train gave the Marches another, and last, view of it as they slowly drew out of the city, and began to run through a level country walled with far-off hills; past fields of buckwheat showing their stems like coral under their black tops; past peasant houses changing their wonted shape to taller and narrower forms; past sluggish streams from which the mist rose and hung over the meadows, under a red sunset, glassy clear till the manifold factory chimneys of Dusseldorf stained it with their dun smoke.
This industrial greeting seemed odd from the town where Heinrich Heine was born; but when they had eaten their supper in the capital little hotel they found there, and went out for a stroll, they found nothing to remind them of the factories, and much to make them think of the poet. The moon, beautiful and perfect as a stage moon, came up over the shoulder of a church as they passed down a long street which they had all to themselves. Everybody seemed to have gone to bed, but at a certain corner a girl opened a window above them, and looked out at the moon.
When they returned to their hotel they found a highwalled garden facing it, full of black depths of foliage. In the night March woke and saw the moon standing over the garden, and silvering its leafy tops. This was really as it should be in the town where the idolized poet of his youth was born; the poet whom of all others he had adored, and who had once seemed like a living friend; who had been witness of his first love, and had helped him to speak it. His wife used to laugh at him for his Heine- worship in those days; but she had since come to share it, and she, even more than he, had insisted upon this pilgrimage. He thought long thoughts of the past, as he looked into the garden across the way, with an ache for his perished self and the dead companionship of his youth, all ghosts together in the silvered shadow. The trees shuddered in the night breeze, and its chill penetrated to him where he stood.
His wife called to him from her room, "What are you doing?"
"Oh, sentimentalizing," he answered boldly.
"Well, you will be sick," she said, and he crept back into bed again.
They had sat up late, talking in a glad excitement. But he woke early, as an elderly man is apt to do after broken slumbers, and left his wife still sleeping. He was not so eager for the poetic interests of the town as he had been the night before; he even deferred his curiosity for Heine's birth-house to the instructive conference which he had with his waiter at breakfast. After all, was not it more important to know something of the actual life of a simple common class of men than to indulge a faded fancy for the memory of a genius, which no amount of associations could feed again to its former bloom? The waiter said he was a Nuremberger, and had learned English in London where he had served a year for nothing. Afterwards, when he could speak three languages he got a pound a week, which seemed low for so many, though not so low as the one mark a day which he now received in Dusseldorf; in Berlin he paid the hotel two marks a day. March confided to him his secret trouble as to tips, and they tried vainly to enlighten each other as to what a just tip was.
He went to his banker's, and when he came back he found his wife with her breakfast eaten, and so eager for the exploration of Heine's birthplace that she heard with indifference of his failure to get any letters. It was too soon to expect them, she said, and then she showed him her plan, which she had been working out ever since she woke. It contained every place which Heine had mentioned, and she was determined not one should escape them. She examined him sharply upon his condition, accusing him of having taken cold when he got up in the night, and acquitting him with difficulty. She herself was perfectly well, but a little fagged, and they must have a carriage.
They set out in a lordly two-spanner, which took up half the little Bolkerstrasse where Heine was born, when they stopped across the way from his birthhouse, so that she might first take it all in from the outside before they entered it. It is a simple street, and not the cleanest of the streets in a town where most of them are rather dirty. Below the houses are shops, and the first story of Heine's house is a butcher shop, with sides of pork and mutton hanging in the windows; above, where the Heine family must once have lived, a gold-beater and a frame-maker displayed their signs.
But did the Heine family really once live there? The house looked so fresh and new that in spite of the tablet in its front affirming it the poet's birthplace, they doubted; and they were not reassured by the people who half halted as they passed, and stared at the strangers, so anomalously interested in the place. They dismounted, and crossed to the butcher shop where the provision man corroborated the tablet, but could not understand their wish to go up stairs. He did not try to prevent them, however, and they climbed to the first floor above, where a placard on the door declared it private and implored them not to knock. Was this the outcome of the inmate's despair from the intrusion of other pilgrims who had wised to see the Heine dwelling-rooms? They durst not knock and ask so much, and they sadly descended to the ground-floor, where they found a butcher boy of much greater apparent intelligence than the butcher himself, who told them that the building in front was as new as it looked, and the house where Heine was really born was the old house in the rear. He showed them this house, across a little court patched with mangy grass and lilac-bushes; and when they wished to visit it he led the way. The place was strewn both underfoot and overhead with feathers; it had once been all a garden out to the street, the boy said, but from these feathers, as well as the odor which prevailed, and the anxious behavior of a few hens left in the high coop at one side, it was plain that what remained of the garden was now a chicken slaughteryard. There was one well-grown tree, and the boy said it was of the poet's time; but when he let them into the house, he became vague as to the room where Heine was born; it was certain only that it was somewhere upstairs and that it could not be seen. The room where they stood was the frame- maker's shop, and they bought of him a small frame for a memorial. They bought of the butcher's boy, not so commercially, a branch of lilac; and they came away, thinking how much amused Heine himself would have been with their visit; how sadly, how merrily he would have mocked at their effort to revere his birthplace.
They were too old if not too wise to be daunted by their defeat, and they drove next to the old court garden beside the Rhine where the poet says he used to play with the little Veronika, and probably did not. At any rate, the garden is gone; the Schloss was burned down long ago; and nothing remains but a detached tower in which the good Elector Jan Wilhelm, of Heine's time, amused himself with his many mechanical inventions. The tower seemed to be in process of demolition, but an intelligent workman who came down out of it, was interested in the strangers' curiosity, and directed them to a place behind the Historical Museum where they could find a bit of the old garden. It consisted of two or three low trees, and under them the statue of the Elector by which Heine sat with the little Veronika, if he really did. Afresh gale blowing through the trees stirred the bushes that backed the statue, but not the laurel wreathing the Elector's head, and meeting in a neat point over his forehead. The laurel wreath is stone, like the rest of the Elector, who stands there smirking in marble ermine and armor, and resting his baton on the nose of a very small lion, who, in the exigencies of foreshortening, obligingly goes to nothing but a tail under the Elector's robe.
This was a prince who loved himself in effigy so much that he raised an equestrian statue to his own renown in the market-place, though he modestly refused the credit of it, and ascribed its erection to the affection of his subjects. You see him therein a full-bottomed wig, mounted on a rampant charger with a tail as big round as a barrel, and heavy enough to keep him from coming down on his fore legs as long as he likes to hold them up. It was to this horse's back that Heine clambered when a small boy, to see the French take formal possession of Dusseldorf; and he clung to the waist of the bronze Elector, who had just abdicated, while the burgomaster made a long speech, from the balcony of the Rathhaus, and the Electoral arms were taken down from its doorway.
The Rathhaus is a salad-dressing of German gothic and French rococo as to its architectural style, and is charming in its way, but the Marches were in the market-place for the sake of that moment of Heine's boyhood. They felt that he might have been the boy who stopped as he ran before them, and smacked the stomach of a large pumpkin lying at the feet of an old market-woman, and then dashed away before she could frame a protest against the indignity. From this incident they philosophized that the boys of Dusseldorf are as mischievous at the end of the century as they were at the beginning; and they felt the fascination that such a bounteous, unkempt old marketplace must have for the boys of any period. There were magnificent vegetables of all sorts in it, and if the fruits were meagre that was the fault of the rainy summer, perhaps. The market- place was very dirty, and so was the narrow street leading down from it to the Rhine, which ran swift as a mountain torrent along a slatternly quay. A bridge of boats crossing the stream shook in the rapid current, and a long procession of market carts passed slowly over, while a cluster of scows waited in picturesque patience for the draw to open.
They saw what a beautiful town that was for a boy to grow up in, and how many privileges it offered, how many dangers, how many chances for hairbreadth escapes. They chose that Heine must often have rushed shrieking joyfully down that foul alley to the Rhine with other boys; and they easily found a leaf-strewn stretch of the sluggish Dussel, in the Public Garden, where his playmate, the little Wilhelm, lost his life and saved the kitten's. They were not so sure of the avenue through which the poet saw the Emperor Napoleon come riding on his small white horse when he took possession of the Elector's dominions. But if it was that where the statue of the Kaiser Wilhelm I. comes riding on a horse led by two Victories, both poet and hero are avenged there on the accomplished fact. Defeated and humiliated France triumphs in the badness of that foolish denkmal (one of the worst in all denkmal-ridden Germany), and the memory of the singer whom the Hohenzollern family pride forbids honor in his native place, is immortal in its presence.
On the way back to their hotel, March made some reflections upon the open neglect, throughout Germany, of the greatest German lyrist, by which the poet might have profited if he had been present. He contended that it was not altogether an effect of Hohenzollern pride, which could not suffer a joke or two from the arch-humorist; but that Heine had said things of Germany herself which Germans might well have found unpardonable. He concluded that it would not do to be perfectly frank with one's own country. Though, to be sure, there would always be the question whether the Jew-born Heine had even a step-fatherland in the Germany he loved so tenderly and mocked so pitilessly. He had to own that if he were a negro poet he would not feel bound to measure terms in speaking of America, and he would not feel that his fame was in her keeping.
Upon the whole he blamed Heine less than Germany and he accused her of taking a shabby revenge, in trying to forget him; in the heat of his resentment that there should be no record of Heine in the city where he was born, March came near ignoring himself the fact that the poet Freiligrath was also born there. As for the famous Dusseldorf school of painting, which once filled the world with the worst art, he rejoiced that it was now so dead, and he grudged the glance which the beauty of the new Art Academy extorted from him. It is in the French taste, and is so far a monument to the continuance in one sort of that French supremacy, of which in another sort another denkmal celebrates the overthrow. Dusseldorf is not content with the denkmal of the Kaiser on horseback, with the two Victories for grooms; there is a second, which the Marches found when they strolled out again late in the afternoon. It is in the lovely park which lies in the heart of the city, and they felt in its presence the only emotion of sympathy which the many patriotic monuments of Germany awakened in them. It had dignity and repose, which these never had elsewhere; but it was perhaps not so much for the dying warrior and the pitying lion of the sculpture that their hearts were moved as for the gentle and mournful humanity of the inscription, which dropped into equivalent English verse in March's note-book:
Fame was enough for the Victors, and glory and verdurous laurel; Tears by their mothers wept founded this image of stone.
To this they could forgive the vaunting record, on the reverse, of the German soldiers who died heroes in the war with France, the war with Austria, and even the war with poor little Denmark!
The morning had been bright and warm, and it was just that the afternoon should be dim and cold, with a pale sun looking through a September mist, which seemed to deepen the seclusion and silence of the forest reaches; for the park was really a forest of the German sort, as parks are apt to be in Germany. But it was beautiful, and they strayed through it, and sometimes sat down on the benches in its damp shadows, and said how much seemed to be done in Germany for the people's comfort and pleasure. In what was their own explicitly, as well as what was tacitly theirs, they were not so restricted as we were at home, and especially the children seemed made fondly and lovingly free of all public things. The Marches met troops of them in the forest, as they strolled slowly back by the winding Dussel to the gardened avenue leading to the park, and they found them everywhere gay and joyful. But their elders seemed subdued, and were silent. The strangers heard no sound of laughter in the streets of Dusseldorf, and they saw no smiling except on the part of a very old couple, whose meeting they witnessed and who grinned and cackled at each other like two children as they shook hands. Perhaps they were indeed children of that sad second childhood which one would rather not blossom back into.
In America, life is yet a joke with us, even when it is grotesque and shameful, as it so often is; for we think we can make it right when we choose. But there is no joking in Germany, between the first and second childhoods, unless behind closed doors. Even there, people do not joke above their breath about kings and emperors. If they joke about them in print, they take out their laugh in jail, for the press laws are severely enforced, and the prisons are full of able editors, serious as well as comic. Lese-majesty is a crime that searches sinners out in every walk of life, and it is said that in family jars a husband sometimes has the last word of his wife by accusing her of blaspheming the sovereign, and so having her silenced for three months at least behind penitential bars.
"Think," said March, "how simply I could adjust any differences of opinion between us in Dusseldorf."
"Don't!" his wife implored with a burst of feeling which surprised him. "I want to go home!"
They had been talking over their day, and planning their journey to Holland for the morrow, when it came to this outburst from her in the last half-hour before bed which they sat prolonging beside their stove.
"What! And not go to Holland? What is to become of my after-cure?"
"Oh, it's too late for that, now. We've used up the month running about, and tiring ourselves to death. I should like to rest a week—to get into my berth on the Norumbia and rest!"
"I guess the September gales would have something to say about that."
"I would risk the September gales."
In the morning March came home from his bankers gay with the day's provisional sunshine in his heart, and joyously expectant of his wife's pleasure in the letters he was bringing. There was one from each of their children, and there was one from Fulkerson, which March opened and read on the street, so as to intercept any unpleasant news there might be in them; there were two letters for Mrs. March which he knew without opening were from Miss Triscoe and Mrs. Adding respectively; Mrs. Adding's, from the postmarks, seemed to have been following them about for some time.
"They're all right at home," he said. "Do see what those people have been doing."
"I believe," she said, taking a knife from the breakfast tray beside her bed to cut the envelopes, "that you've really cared more about them all along than I have."
"No, I've only been anxious to be done with them."
She got the letters open, and holding one of them up in each hand she read them impartially and simultaneously; then she flung them both down, and turned her face into her pillow with an impulse of her inalienable girlishness. "Well, it is too silly."
March felt authorized to take them up and read them consecutively; when he had done, so he did not differ from his wife. In one case, Agatha had written to her dear Mrs. March that she and Burnamy had just that evening become engaged; Mrs. Adding, on her part owned a farther step, and announced her marriage to Mr. Kenby. Following immemorial usage in such matters Kenby had added a postscript affirming his happiness in unsparing terms, and in Agatha's letter there was an avowal of like effect from Burnamy. Agatha hinted her belief that her father would soon come to regard Burnamy as she did; and Mrs. Adding professed a certain humiliation in having realized that, after all her misgiving about him, Rose seemed rather relieved than otherwise, as if he were glad to have her off his hands.
"Well," said March, "with these troublesome affairs settled, I don't see what there is to keep us in Europe any longer, unless it's the consensus of opinion in Tom, Bella, and Fulkerson, that we ought to stay the winter."
"Stay the winter!" Mrs. March rose from her pillow, and clutched the home letters to her from the abeyance in which they had fallen on the coverlet while she was dealing with the others. "What do you mean?"
"It seems to have been prompted by a hint you let drop, which Tom has passed to Bella and Fulkerson."
"Oh, but that was before we left Carlsbad!" she protested, while she devoured the letters with her eyes, and continued to denounce the absurdity of the writers. Her son and daughter both urged that now their father and mother were over there, they had better stay as long as they enjoyed it, and that they certainly ought not to come home without going to Italy, where they had first met, and revisiting the places which they had seen together when they were young engaged people: without that their silver wedding journey would not be complete. Her son said that everything was going well with 'Every Other Week', and both himself and Mr. Fulkerson thought his father ought to spend the winter in Italy, and get a thorough rest. "Make a job of it, March," Fulkerson wrote, "and have a Sabbatical year while you're at it. You may not get another."
"Well, I can tell them," said Mrs. March indignantly, "we shall not do anything of the kind."
"Then you didn't mean it?"
"Mean it!" She stopped herself with a look at her husband, and asked gently, "Do you want to stay?"
"Well, I don't know," he answered vaguely. The fact was, he was sick of travel and of leisure; he was longing to be at home and at work again. But if there was to be any self-sacrifice which could be had, as it were, at a bargain; which could be fairly divided between them, and leave him the self and her the sacrifice, he was too experienced a husband not to see the advantage of it, or to refuse the merit. "I thought you wished to stay."
"Yes," she sighed, "I did. It has been very, very pleasant, and, if anything, I have over-enjoyed myself. We have gone romping through it like two young people, haven't we?"
"You have," he assented. "I have always felt the weight of my years in getting the baggage registered; they have made the baggage weigh more every time."
"And I've forgotten mine. Yes, I have. But the years haven't forgotten me, Basil, and now I remember them. I'm tired. It doesn't seem as if I could ever get up. But I dare say it's only a mood; it may be only a cold; and if you wish to stay, why—we will think it over."
"No, we won't, my dear," he said, with a generous shame for his hypocrisy if not with a pure generosity. "I've got all the good out of it that there was in it, for me, and I shouldn't go home any better six months hence than I should now. Italy will keep for another time, and so, for the matter of that, will Holland."
"No, no!" she interposed. "We won't give up Holland, whatever we do. I couldn't go home feeling that I had kept you out of your after-cure; and when we get there, no doubt the sea air will bring me up so that I shall want to go to Italy, too, again. Though it seems so far off, now! But go and see when the afternoon train for the Hague leaves, and I shall be ready. My mind's quite made up on that point."
"What a bundle of energy!" said her husband laughing down at her.
He went and asked about the train to the Hague, but only to satisfy a superficial conscience; for now he knew that they were both of one mind about going home. He also looked up the trains for London, and found that they could get there by way of Ostend in fourteen hours. Then he went back to the banker's, and with the help of the Paris-New York Chronicle which he found there, he got the sailings of the first steamers home. After that he strolled about the streets for a last impression of Dusseldorf, but it was rather blurred by the constantly recurring pull of his thoughts toward America, and he ended by turning abruptly at a certain corner, and going to his hotel.
He found his wife dressed, but fallen again on her bed, beside which her breakfast stood still untasted; her smile responded wanly to his brightness. "I'm not well, my dear," she said. "I don't believe I could get off to the Hague this afternoon."
"Could you to Liverpool?" he returned.
"To Liverpool?" she gasped. "What do you mean?"
"Merely that the Cupania is sailing on the twentieth, and I've telegraphed to know if we can get a room. I'm afraid it won't be a good one, but she's the first boat out, and—"
"No, indeed, we won't go to Liverpool, and we will never go home till you've had your after-cure in Holland." She was very firm in this, but she added, "We will stay another night, here, and go to the Hague tomorrow. Sit down, and let us talk it over. Where were we?"
She lay down on the sofa, and he put a shawl over her. "We were just starting for Liverpool."
"No, no we weren't! Don't say such things, dearest! I want you to help me sum it all, up. You think it's been a success, don't you?"
"As a cure?"
"No, as a silver wedding journey?"
"I do think we've had a good time. I never expected to enjoy myself so much again in the world. I didn't suppose I should ever take so much interest in anything. It shows that when we choose to get out of our rut we shall always find life as fresh and delightful as ever. There is nothing to prevent our coming any year, now that Tom's shown himself so capable, and having another silver wedding journey. I don't like to think of it's being confined to Germany quite."
"Oh, I don't know. We can always talk of it as our German-Silver Wedding Journey."
"That's true. But nobody would understand nowadays what you meant by German-silver; it's perfectly gone out. How ugly it was! A sort of greasy yellowish stuff, always getting worn through; I believe it was made worn through. Aunt Mary had a castor of it, that I can remember when I was a child; it went into the kitchen long before I grew up. Would a joke like that console you for the loss of Italy?"
"It would go far to do it. And as a German-Silver Wedding Journey, it's certainly been very complete."
"What do you mean?"
"It's given us a representative variety of German cities. First we had Hamburg, you know, a great modern commercial centre."
"Yes! Go on!"
"Then we had Leipsic, the academic."
"Then Carlsbad, the supreme type of a German health resort; then Nuremberg, the mediaeval; then Anspach, the extinct princely capital; then Wurzburg, the ecclesiastical rococo; then Weimar, for the literature of a great epoch; then imperial Berlin; then Frankfort, the memory of the old free city; then Dusseldorf, the centre of the most poignant personal interest in the world—I don't see how we could have done better, if we'd planned it all, and not acted from successive impulses."
"It's been grand; it's been perfect! As German-Silver Wedding Journey it's perfect—it seems as if it had been ordered! But I will never let you give up Holland! No, we will go this afternoon, and when I get to Schevleningen, I'll go to bed, and stay there, till you've completed your after-cure."
"Do you think that will be wildly gay for the convalescent?"
She suddenly began to cry. "Oh, dearest, what shall we do? I feel perfectly broken down. I'm afraid I'm going to be sick—and away from home! How could you ever let me overdo, so?" She put her handkerchief to her eyes, and turned her face into the sofa pillow.
This was rather hard upon him, whom her vivid energy and inextinguishable interest had not permitted a moment's respite from pleasure since they left Carlsbad. But he had been married, too long not to understand that her blame of him was only a form of self-reproach for her own self- forgetfulness. She had not remembered that she was no longer young till she had come to what he saw was a nervous collapse. The fact had its pathos and its poetry which no one could have felt more keenly than he. If it also had its inconvenience and its danger he realized these too.
"Isabel," he said, "we are going home."
"Very well, then it will be your doing."
"Quite. Do you think you could stand it as far as Cologne? We get the sleeping-car there, and you can lie down the rest of the way to Ostend."
"This afternoon? Why I'm perfectly strong; it's merely my nerves that are gone." She sat up, and wiped her eyes. "But Basil! If you're doing this for me—"
"I'm doing it for myself," said March, as he went out of the room.
She stood the journey perfectly well, and in the passage to Dover she suffered so little from the rough weather that she was an example to many robust matrons who filled the ladies' cabin with the noise of their anguish during the night. She would have insisted upon taking the first train up to London, if March had not represented that this would not expedite the sailing of the Cupania, and that she might as well stay the forenoon at the convenient railway hotel, and rest. It was not quite his ideal of repose that the first people they saw in the coffee-room when they went to breakfast should be Kenby and Rose Adding, who were having their tea and toast and eggs together in the greatest apparent good- fellowship. He saw his wife shrink back involuntarily from the encounter, but this was only to gather force for it; and the next moment she was upon them in all the joy of the surprise. Then March allowed himself to be as glad as the others both seemed, and he shook hands with Kenby while his wife kissed Rose; and they all talked at once. In the confusion of tongues it was presently intelligible that Mrs. Kenby was going to be down in a few minutes; and Kenby took March into his confidence with a smile which was, almost a wink in explaining that he knew how it was with the ladies. He said that Rose and he usually got down to breakfast first, and when he had listened inattentively to Mrs. March's apology for being on her way home, he told her that she was lucky not to have gone to Schevleningen, where she and March would have frozen to death. He said that they were going to spend September at a little place on the English coast, near by, where he had been the day before with Rose to look at lodgings, and where you could bathe all through the month. He was not surprised that the Marches were going home, and said, Well, that was their original plan, wasn't it?
Mrs. Kenby, appearing upon this, pretended to know better, after the outburst of joyful greeting with the Marches; and intelligently reminded Kenby that he knew the Marches had intended to pass the winter in Paris. She was looking extremely pretty, but she wished only to make them see how well Rose was looking, and she put her arm round his shoulders as she spoke, Schevleningen had done wonders for him, but it was fearfully cold there, and now they were expecting everything from Westgate, where she advised March to come, too, for his after-cure: she recollected in time to say, She forgot they were on their way home. She added that she did not know when she should return; she was merely a passenger, now; she left everything to the men of the family. She had, in fact, the air of having thrown off every responsibility, but in supremacy, not submission. She was always ordering Kenby about; she sent him for her handkerchief, and her rings which she had left either in the tray of her trunk, or on the pin-cushion, or on the wash-stand or somewhere, and forbade him to come back without them. He asked for her keys, and then with a joyful scream she owned that she had left the door-key in the door and the whole bunch of trunk-keys in her trunk; and Kenby treated it all as the greatest joke; Rose, too, seemed to think that Kenby would make everything come right, and he had lost that look of anxiety which he used to have; at the most he showed a friendly sympathy for Kenby, for whose sake he seemed mortified at her. He was unable to regard his mother as the delightful joke which she appeared to Kenby, but that was merely temperamental; and he was never distressed except when she behaved with unreasonable caprice at Kenby's cost.
As for Kenby himself he betrayed no dissatisfaction with his fate to March. He perhaps no longer regarded his wife as that strong character which he had sometimes wearied March by celebrating; but she was still the most brilliant intelligence, and her charm seemed only to have grown with his perception of its wilful limitations. He did not want to talk about her so much; he wanted rather to talk about Rose, his health, his education, his nature, and what was best to do for him. The two were on terms of a confidence and affection which perpetually amused Mrs. Kenby, but which left the sympathetic witness nothing to desire in their relation.
They all came to the train when the Marches started up to London, and stood waving to them as they pulled out of the station. "Well, I can't see but that's all right," he said as he sank back in his seat with a sigh of relief. "I never supposed we should get out of their marriage half so well, and I don't feel that you quite made the match either, my dear."
She was forced to agree with him that the Kenbys seemed happy together, and that there was nothing to fear for Rose in their happiness. He would be as tenderly cared for by Kenby as he could have been by his mother, and far more judiciously. She owned that she had trembled for him till she had seen them all together; and now she should never tremble again.
"Well?" March prompted, at a certain inconclusiveness in her tone rather than her words.
"Well, you can see that it, isn't ideal."
"Why isn't it ideal? I suppose you think that the marriage of Burnamy and Agatha Triscoe will be ideal, with their ignorances and inexperiences and illusions."
"Yes! It's the illusions: no marriage can be perfect without them, and at their age the Kenbys can't have them."
"Kenby is a solid mass of illusion. And I believe that people can go and get as many new illusions as they want, whenever they've lost their old ones."
"Yes, but the new illusions won't wear so well; and in marriage you want illusions that will last. No; you needn't talk to me. It's all very well, but it isn't ideal."
March laughed. "Ideal! What is ideal?"
"Going home!" she said with such passion that he had not the heart to point out that they were merely returning to their old duties, cares and pains, with the worn-out illusion that these would be altogether different when they took them up again.
In fulfilment of another ideal Mrs. March took straightway to her berth when she got on board the Cupania, and to her husband's admiration she remained there till the day before they reached New York. Her theory was that the complete rest would do more than anything else to calm her shaken nerves; and she did not admit into her calculations the chances of adverse weather which March would not suggest as probable in the last week in September. The event justified her unconscious faith. The ship's run was of unparalled swiftness, even for the Cupania, and of unparalled smoothness. For days the sea was as sleek as oil; the racks were never on the tables once; the voyage was of the sort which those who make it no more believe in at the time than those whom they afterwards weary in boasting of it.
The ship was very full, but Mrs. March did not show the slightest curiosity to know who her fellow-passengers were. She said that she wished to be let perfectly alone, even by her own emotions, and for this reason she forbade March to bring her a list of the passengers till after they had left Queenstown lest it should be too exciting. He did not take the trouble to look it up, therefore; and the first night out he saw no one whom he knew at dinner; but the next morning at breakfast he found himself to his great satisfaction at the same table with the Eltwins. They were so much at ease with him that even Mrs. Eltwin took part in the talk, and told him how they had spent the time of her husband's rigorous after-cure in Switzerland, and now he was going home much better than they had expected. She said they had rather thought of spending the winter in Europe, but had given it up because they were both a little homesick. March confessed that this was exactly the case with his wife and himself; and he had to add that Mrs. March was not very well otherwise, and he should be glad to be at home on her account. The recurrence of the word home seemed to deepen Eltwin's habitual gloom, and Mrs. Eltwin hastened to leave the subject of their return for inquiry into Mrs. March's condition; her interest did not so far overcome her shyness that she ventured to propose a visit to her; and March found that the fact of the Eltwins' presence on board did not agitate his wife. It seemed rather to comfort her, and she said she hoped he would see all he could of the poor old things. She asked if he had met any one else he knew, and he was able to tell her that there seemed to be a good many swells on board, and this cheered her very much, though he did not know them; she liked to be near the rose, though it was not a flower that she really cared for.
She did not ask who the swells were, and March took no trouble to find out. He took no trouble to get a passenger-list, and he had the more trouble when he tried at last; the lists seemed to have all vanished, as they have a habit of doing, after the first day; the one that he made interest for with the head steward was a second-hand copy, and had no one he knew in it but the Eltwins. The social solitude, however, was rather favorable to certain other impressions. There seemed even more elderly people than there were on the Norumbia; the human atmosphere was gray and sober; there was nothing of the gay expansion of the outward voyage; there was little talking or laughing among those autumnal men who were going seriously and anxiously home, with faces fiercely set for the coming grapple; or necks meekly bowed for the yoke. They had eaten their cake, and it had been good, but there remained a discomfort in the digestion. They sat about in silence, and March fancied that the flown summer was as dreamlike to each of them as it now was to him. He hated to be of their dreary company, but spiritually he knew that he was of it; and he vainly turned to cheer himself with the younger passengers. Some matrons who went about clad in furs amused him, for they must have been unpleasantly warm in their jackets and boas; nothing but the hope of being able to tell the customs inspector with a good conscience that the things had been worn, would have sustained one lady draped from head to foot in Astrakhan.
They were all getting themselves ready for the fray or the play of the coming winter; but there seemed nothing joyous in the preparation. There were many young girls, as there always are everywhere, but there were not many young men, and such as there were kept to the smoking-room. There was no sign of flirtation among them; he would have given much for a moment of the pivotal girl, to see whether she could have brightened those gloomy surfaces with her impartial lamp. March wished that he could have brought some report from the outer world to cheer his wife, as he descended to their state-room. They had taken what they could get at the eleventh hour, and they had got no such ideal room as they had in the Norumbia. It was, as Mrs. March graphically said, a basement room. It was on the north side of the ship, which is a cold exposure, and if there had been any sun it could not have got into their window, which was half the time under water. The green waves, laced with foam, hissed as they ran across the port; and the electric fan in the corridor moaned like the wind in a gable.
He felt a sinking of the heart as he pushed the state-room door open, and looked at his wife lying with her face turned to the wall; and he was going to withdraw, thinking her asleep, when she said quietly, "Are we going down?"
"Not that I know of," he answered with a gayety he did not feel. "But I'll ask the head steward."
She put out her hand behind her for him to take, and clutched his fingers convulsively. "If I'm never any better, you will always remember this happy, summer, won't you? Oh, it's been such a happy summer! It has been one long joy, one continued triumph! But it was too late; we were too old; and it's broken me."
The time had been when he would have attempted comfort; when he would have tried mocking; but that time was long past; he could only pray inwardly for some sort of diversion, but what it was to be in their barren circumstance he was obliged to leave altogether to Providence. He ventured, pending an answer to his prayers upon the question, "Don't you think I'd better see the doctor, and get you some sort of tonic?"
She suddenly turned and faced him. "The doctor! Why, I'm not sick, Basil! If you can see the purser and get our rooms changed, or do something to stop those waves from slapping against that horrible blinking one-eyed window, you can save my life; but no tonic is going to help me."
She turned her face from him again, and buried it in the bedclothes, while he looked desperately at the racing waves, and the port that seemed to open and shut like a weary eye.
"Oh, go away!" she implored. "I shall be better presently, but if you stand there like that—Go and see if you can't get some other room, where I needn't feel as if I were drowning, all the way over."
He obeyed, so far as to go away at once, and having once started, he did not stop short of the purser's office. He made an excuse of getting greenbacks for some English bank-notes, and then he said casually that he supposed there would be no chance of having his room on the lower deck changed for something a little less intimate with the sea. The purser was not there to take the humorous view, but he conceived that March wanted something higher up, and he was able to offer him a room of those on the promenade where he had seen swells going in and out, for six hundred dollars. March did not blench, but said he would get his wife to look at it with him, and then he went out somewhat dizzily to take counsel with himself how he should put the matter to her. She would be sure to ask what the price of the new room would be, and he debated whether to take it and tell her some kindly lie about it, or trust to the bracing effect of the sum named in helping restore the lost balance of her nerves. He was not so rich that he could throw six hundred dollars away, but there might be worse things; and he walked up and down thinking. All at once it flashed upon him that he had better see the doctor, anyway, and find out whether there were not some last hope in medicine before he took the desperate step before him. He turned in half his course, and ran into a lady who had just emerged from the door of the promenade laden with wraps, and who dropped them all and clutched him to save herself from falling.
"Why, Mr. March!" she shrieked.
"Miss Triscoe!" he returned, in the astonishment which he shared with her to the extent of letting the shawls he had knocked from her hold lie between them till she began to pick them up herself. Then he joined her and in the relief of their common occupation they contrived to possess each other of the reason of their presence on, the same boat. She had sorrowed over Mrs. March's sad state, and he had grieved to hear that her father was going home because he was not at all well, before they found the general stretched out in his steamer-chair, and waiting with a grim impatience for his daughter.
"But how is it you're not in the passenger-list?" he inquired of them both, and Miss Triscoe explained that they had taken their passage at the last moment, too late, she supposed, to get into the list. They were in London, and had run down to Liverpool on the chance of getting berths. Beyond this she was not definite, and there was an absence of Burnamy not only from her company but from her conversation which mystified March through all his selfish preoccupations with his wife. She was a girl who had her reserves, but for a girl who had so lately and rapturously written them of her engagement, there was a silence concerning her betrothed that had almost positive quality. With his longing to try Miss Triscoe upon Mrs. March's malady as a remedial agent, he had now the desire to try Mrs. March upon Miss Triscoe's mystery as a solvent. She stood talking to him, and refusing to sit down and be wrapped up in the chair next her father. She said that if he were going to ask Mrs. March to let her come to her, it would not be worth while to sit down; and he hurried below.
"Did you get it?" asked his wife, without looking round, but not so apathetically as before.
"Oh, yes. That's all right. But now, Isabel, there's something I've got to tell you. You'd find it out, and you'd better know it at once."
She turned her face, and asked sternly, "What is it?"
Then he said, with, an almost equal severity, "Miss Triscoe is on board. Miss Triscoe-and-her-father. She wishes to come down and see you."
Mrs. March sat up and began to twist her hair into shape. "And Burnamy?"
"There is no Burnamy physically, or so far as I can make out, spiritually. She didn't mention him, and I talked at least five minutes with her."
"Hand me my dressing-sack," said Mrs. March, "and poke those things on the sofa under the berth. Shut up that wash-stand, and pull the curtain across that hideous window. Stop! Throw those towels into your berth. Put my shoes, and your slippers into the shoe-bag on the door. Slip the brushes into that other bag. Beat the dent out of the sofa cushion that your head has made. Now!"
"Then—then yon will see her?"
Her voice was so terrible that he fled before it, and he returned with Miss Triscoe in a dreamlike simultaneity. He remembered, as he led the way into his corridor, to apologize for bringing her down into a basement room.
"Oh, we're in the basement, too; it was all we could get," she said in words that ended within the state-room he opened to her. Then he went back and took her chair and wraps beside her father.
He let the general himself lead the way up to his health, which he was not slow in reaching, and was not quick in leaving. He reminded March of the state he had seen him in at Wurzburg, and he said it had gone from bad to worse with him. At Weimar he had taken to his bed and merely escaped from it with his life. Then they had tried Schevleningen for a week, where, he said in a tone of some injury, they had rather thought they might find them, the Marches. The air had been poison to him, and they had come over to England with some notion of Bournemouth; but the doctor in London had thought not, and urged their going home. "All Europe is damp, you know, and dark as a pocket in winter," he ended.
There had been nothing about Burnamy, and March decided that he must wait to see his wife if he wished to know anything, when the general, who had been silent, twisted his head towards him, and said without regard to the context, "It was complicated, at Weimar, by that young man in the most devilish way. Did my daughter write to Mrs. March about—Well it came to nothing, after all; and I don't understand how, to this day. I doubt if they do. It was some sort of quarrel, I suppose. I wasn't consulted in the matter either way. It appears that parents are not consulted in these trifling affairs, nowadays." He had married his daughter's mother in open defiance of her father; but in the glare of his daughter's wilfulness this fact had whitened into pious obedience. "I dare say I shall be told, by-and-by, and shall be expected to approve of the result."
A fancy possessed March that by operation of temperamental laws General Triscoe was no more satisfied with Burnamy's final rejection than with his acceptance. If the engagement was ever to be renewed, it might be another thing; but as it stood, March divined a certain favor for the young man in the general's attitude. But the affair was altogether too delicate for comment; the general's aristocratic frankness in dealing with it might have gone farther if his knowledge had been greater; but in any case March did not see how he could touch it. He could only say, He had always liked Burnamy, himself.
He had his good qualities, the general owned. He did not profess to understand the young men of our time; but certainly the fellow had the instincts of a gentleman. He had nothing to say against him, unless in that business with that man—what was his name?
"Stoller?" March prompted. "I don't excuse him in that, but I don't blame him so much, either. If punishment means atonement, he had the opportunity of making that right very suddenly, and if pardon means expunction, then I don't see why that offence hasn't been pretty well wiped out.
"Those things are not so simple as they used to seem," said the general, with a seriousness beyond his wont in things that did not immediately concern his own comfort or advantage.
In the mean time Mrs. March and Miss Triscoe were discussing another offence of Burnamy's.
"It wasn't," said the girl, excitedly, after a plunge through all the minor facts to the heart of the matter, "that he hadn't a perfect right to do it, if he thought I didn't care for him. I had refused him at Carlsbad, and I had forbidden him to speak to me about—on the subject. But that was merely temporary, and he ought to have known it. He ought to have known that I couldn't accept him, on the spur of the moment, that way; and when he had come back, after going away in disgrace, before he had done anything to justify himself. I couldn't have kept my self- respect; and as it was I had the greatest difficulty; and he ought to have seen it. Of course he said afterwards that he didn't see it. But when—when I found out that SHE had been in Weimar, and all that time, while I had been suffering in Carlsbad and Wurzburg, and longing to see him—let him know how I was really feeling—he was flirting with that— that girl, then I saw that he was a false nature, and I determined to put an end to everything. And that is what I did; and I shall always think I—did right—and—"
The rest was lost in Agatha's handkerchief, which she put up to her eyes. Mrs. March watched her from her pillow keeping the girl's unoccupied hand in her own, and softly pressing it till the storm was past sufficiently to allow her to be heard.
Then she said, "Men are very strange—the best of them. And from the very fact that he was disappointed, he would be all the more apt to rush into a flirtation with somebody else."
Miss Triscoe took down her handkerchief from a face that had certainly not been beautified by grief. "I didn't blame him for the flirting; or not so much. It was his keeping it from me afterwards. He ought to have told me the very first instant we were engaged. But he didn't. He let it go on, and if I hadn't happened on that bouquet I might never have known anything about it. That is what I mean by—a false nature. I wouldn't have minded his deceiving me; but to let me deceive myself— Oh, it was too much!"
Agatha hid her face in her handkerchief again. She was perching on the edge of the berth, and Mrs. March said, with a glance, which she did not see, toward the sofa, "I'm afraid that's rather a hard seat for you.
"Oh, no, thank you! I'm perfectly comfortable—I like it—if you don't mind?"
Mrs. March pressed her hand for answer, and after another little delay, sighed and said, "They are not like us, and we cannot help it. They are more temporizing."
"How do you mean?" Agatha unmasked again.
"They can bear to keep things better than we can, and they trust to time to bring them right, or to come right of themselves."
"I don't think Mr. March would trust things to come right of themselves!" said Agatha in indignant accusal of Mrs. March's sincerity.
"Ah, that's just what he would do, my dear, and has done, all along; and I don't believe we could have lived through without it: we should have quarrelled ourselves into the grave!"
"Yes, indeed. I don't mean that he would ever deceive me. But he would let things go on, and hope that somehow they would come right without any fuss."
"Do you mean that he would let anybody deceive themselves?"
"I'm afraid he would—if he thought it would come right. It used to be a terrible trial to me; and it is yet, at times when I don't remember that he means nothing but good and kindness by it. Only the other day in Ansbach—how long ago it seems!—he let a poor old woman give him her son's address in Jersey City, and allowed her to believe he would look him up when we got back and tell him we had seen her. I don't believe, unless I keep right round after him, as we say in New England, that he'll ever go near the man."
Agatha looked daunted, but she said, "That is a very different thing."
"It isn't a different kind of thing. And it shows what men are,—the sweetest and best of them, that is. They are terribly apt to be —easy-going."
"Then you think I was all wrong?" the girl asked in a tremor.
"No, indeed! You were right, because you really expected perfection of him. You expected the ideal. And that's what makes all the trouble, in married life: we expect too much of each other—we each expect more of the other than we are willing to give or can give. If I had to begin over again, I should not expect anything at all, and then I should be sure of being radiantly happy. But all this talking and all this writing about love seems to turn our brains; we know that men are not perfect, even at our craziest, because women are not, but we expect perfection of them; and they seem to expect it of us, poor things! If we could keep on after we are in love just as we were before we were in love, and take nice things as favors and surprises, as we did in the beginning! But we get more and more greedy and exacting—"
"Do you think I was too exacting in wanting him to tell me everything after we were engaged?"
"No, I don't say that. But suppose he had put it off till you were married?" Agatha blushed a little, but not painfully, "Would it have been so bad? Then you might have thought that his flirting up to the last moment in his desperation was a very good joke. You would have understood better just how it was, and it might even have made you fonder of him. You might have seen that he had flirted with some one else because he was so heart-broken about you."
"Then you believe that if I could have waited till—till—but when I had found out, don't you see I couldn't wait? It would have been all very well if I hadn't known it till then. But as I did know it. Don't you see?"
"Yes, that certainly complicated it," Mrs. March admitted. "But I don't think, if he'd been a false nature, he'd have owned up as he did. You see, he didn't try to deny it; and that's a great point gained."
"Yes, that is true," said Agatha, with conviction. "I saw that afterwards. But you don't think, Mrs. March, that I was unjust or—or hasty?"
"No, indeed! You couldn't have done differently under the circumstances. You may be sure he felt that—he is so unselfish and generous—" Agatha began to weep into her handkerchief again; Mrs. March caressed her hand. "And it will certainly come right if you feel as you do."
"No," the girl protested. "He can never forgive me; it's all over, everything is over. It would make very little difference to me, what happened now—if the steamer broke her shaft, or anything. But if I can only believe I wasn't unjust—"
Mrs. March assured her once more that she had behaved with absolute impartiality; and she proved to her by a process of reasoning quite irrefragable that it was only a question of time, with which place had nothing to do, when she and Burnamy should come together again, and all should be made right between them. The fact that she did not know where he was, any more than Mrs. March herself, had nothing to do with the result; that was a mere detail, which would settle itself. She clinched her argument by confessing that her own engagement had been broken off, and that it had simply renewed itself. All you had to do was to keep willing it, and waiting. There was something very mysterious in it.
"And how long was it till—" Agatha faltered.
"Well, in our ease it was two years."
"Oh!" said the girl, but Mrs. March hastened to reassure her.
"But our case was very peculiar. I could see afterwards that it needn't have been two months, if I had been willing to acknowledge at once that I was in the wrong. I waited till we met."
"If I felt that I was in the wrong, I should write," said Agatha. "I shouldn't care what he thought of my doing it."
"Yes, the great thing is to make sure that you were wrong."
They remained talking so long, that March and the general had exhausted all the topics of common interest, and had even gone through those they did not care for. At last the general said, "I'm afraid my daughter will tire Mrs. March."
"Oh, I don't think she'll tire my wife. But do you want her?"
"Well, when you're going down."
"I think I'll take a turn about the deck, and start my circulation," said March, and he did so before he went below.
He found his wife up and dressed, and waiting provisionally on the sofa. "I thought I might as well go to lunch," she said, and then she told him about Agatha and Burnamy, and the means she had employed to comfort and encourage the girl. "And now, dearest, I want you to find out where Burnamy is, and give him a hint. You will, won't you! If you could have seen how unhappy she was!"
"I don't think I should have cared, and I'm certainly not going to meddle. I think Burnamy has got no more than he deserved, and that he's well rid of her. I can't imagine a broken engagement that would more completely meet my approval. As the case stands, they have my blessing."
"Don't say that, dearest! You know you don't mean it."
"I do; and I advise you to keep your hands off. You've done all and more than you ought to propitiate Miss Triscoe. You've offered yourself up, and you've offered me up—"
"No, no, Basil! I merely used you as an illustration of what men were— the best of them."
"And I can't observe," he continued, "that any one else has been considered in the matter. Is Miss Triscoe the sole sufferer by Burnamy's flirtation? What is the matter with a little compassion for the pivotal girl?"
"Now, you know you're not serious," said his wife; and though he would not admit this, he could not be seriously sorry for the new interest which she took in the affair. There was no longer any question of changing their state-room. Under the tonic influence of the excitement she did not go back to her berth after lunch, and she was up later after dinner than he could have advised. She was absorbed in Agatha, but in her liberation from her hypochondria, she began also to make a comparative study of the American swells, in the light of her late experience with the German highhotes. It is true that none of the swells gave her the opportunity of examining them at close range, as the highhotes had done. They kept to their, state-rooms mostly, where, after he thought she could bear it, March told her how near he had come to making her their equal by an outlay of six hundred dollars. She now shuddered at the thought; but she contended that in their magnificent exclusiveness they could give points to European princes; and that this showed again how when Americans did try to do a thing, they beat the world. Agatha Triscoe knew who they were, but she did not know them; they belonged to another kind of set; she spoke of them as "rich people," and she seemed content to keep away from them with Mrs. March and with the shy, silent old wife of Major Eltwin, to whom March sometimes found her talking.
He never found her father talking with Major Eltwin. General Triscoe had his own friends in the smoking-room, where he held forth in a certain corner on the chances of the approaching election in New York, and mocked their incredulity when he prophesied the success of Tammany and the return of the King. March himself much preferred Major Eltwin to the general and his friends; he lived back in the talk of the Ohioan into his own younger years in Indiana, and he was amused and touched to find how much the mid-Western life seemed still the same as he had known. The conditions had changed, but not so much as they had changed in the East and the farther West. The picture that the major drew of them in his own region was alluring; it made March homesick; though he knew that he should never go back to his native section. There was the comfort of kind in the major; and he had a vein of philosophy, spare but sweet, which March liked; he liked also the meekness which had come through sorrow upon a spirit which had once been proud.
They had both the elderly man's habit of early rising, and they usually found themselves together waiting impatiently for the cup of coffee, ingenuously bad, which they served on the Cupania not earlier than half past six, in strict observance of a rule of the line discouraging to people of their habits. March admired the vileness of the decoction, which he said could not be got anywhere out of the British Empire, and he asked Eltwin the first morning if he had noticed how instantly on the Channel boat they had dropped to it and to the sour, heavy, sodden British bread, from the spirited and airy Continental tradition of coffee and rolls.
The major confessed that he was no great hand to notice such things, and he said he supposed that if the line had never lost a passenger, and got you to New York in six days it had a right to feed you as it pleased; he surmised that if they could get their airing outside before they took their coffee, it would give the coffee a chance to taste better; and this was what they afterwards did. They met, well buttoned and well mined up, on the promenade when it was yet so early that they were not at once sure of each other in the twilight, and watched the morning planets pale east and west before the sun rose. Sometimes there were no paling planets and no rising sun, and a black sea, ridged with white, tossed under a low dark sky with dim rifts.
One morning, they saw the sun rise with a serenity and majesty which it rarely has outside of the theatre. The dawn began over that sea which was like the rumpled canvas imitations of the sea on the stage, under long mauve clouds bathed in solemn light. Above these, in the pale tender sky, two silver stars hung, and the steamer's smoke drifted across them like a thin dusky veil. To the right a bank of dun cloud began to burn crimson, and to burn brighter till it was like a low hill-side full of gorgeous rugosities fleeced with a dense dwarfish growth of autumnal shrubs. The whole eastern heaven softened and flushed through diaphanous mists; the west remained a livid mystery. The eastern masses and flakes of cloud began to kindle keenly; but the stars shone clearly, and then one star, till the tawny pink hid it. All the zenith reddened, but still the sun did not show except in the color of the brilliant clouds. At last the lurid horizon began to burn like a flame-shot smoke, and a fiercely bright disc edge pierced its level, and swiftly defined itself as the sun's orb.
Many thoughts went through March's mind; some of them were sad, but in some there was a touch of hopefulness. It might have been that beauty which consoled him for his years; somehow he felt himself, if no longer young, a part of the young immortal frame of things. His state was indefinable, but he longed to hint at it to his companion.
"Yes," said Eltwin, with a long deep sigh. "I feel as if I could walk out through that brightness and find her. I reckon that such hopes wouldn't be allowed to lie to us; that so many ages of men couldn't have fooled themselves so. I'm glad I've seen this." He was silent and they both remained watching the rising sun till they could not bear its splendor. "Now," said the major, "it must be time for that mud, as you call it." Over their coffee and crackers at the end of the table which they had to themselves, he resumed. "I was thinking all the time— we seem to think half a dozen things at once, and this was one of them— about a piece of business I've got to settle when I reach home; and perhaps you can advise me about it; you're an editor. I've got a newspaper on my hands; I reckon it would be a pretty good thing, if it had a chance; but I don't know what to do with it: I got it in trade with a fellow who has to go West for his lungs, but he's staying till I get back. What's become of that young chap—what's his name?—that went out with us?"
"Burnamy?" prompted March, rather breathlessly.
"Yes. Couldn't he take hold of it? I rather liked him. He's smart, isn't he?"
"Very," said March. "But I don't know where he is. I don't know that he would go into the country—. But he might, if—"
They entered provisionally into the case, and for argument's sake supposed that Burnamy would take hold of the major's paper if he could be got at. It really looked to March like a good chance for him, on Eltwin's showing; but he was not confident of Burnamy's turning up very soon, and he gave the major a pretty clear notion why, by entering into the young fellow's history for the last three months.
"Isn't it the very irony of fate?" he said to his wife when he found her in their room with a cup of the same mud he had been drinking, and reported the facts to her.
"Irony?" she said, with all the excitement he could have imagined or desired. "Nothing of the kind. It's a leading, if ever there was one. It will be the easiest thing in the world to find Burnamy. And out there she can sit on her steps!"
He slowly groped his way to her meaning, through the hypothesis of Burnamy's reconciliation and marriage with Agatha Triscoe, and their settlement in Major Eltwin's town under social conditions that implied a habit of spending the summer evenings on their front porch. While he was doing this she showered him with questions and conjectures and requisitions in which nothing but the impossibility of going ashore saved him from the instant devotion of all his energies to a world-wide, inquiry into Burnamy's whereabouts.
The next morning he was up before Major Eltwin got out, and found the second-cabin passengers free of the first-cabin promenade at an hour when their superiors were not using it. As he watched these inferiors, decent-looking, well-clad men and women, enjoying their privilege with a furtive air, and with stolen glances at him, he asked himself in what sort he was their superior, till the inquiry grew painful. Then he rose from his chair, and made his way to the place where the material barrier between them was lifted, and interested himself in a few of them who seemed too proud to avail themselves of his society on the terms made. A figure seized his attention with a sudden fascination of conjecture and rejection: the figure of a tall young man who came out on the promenade and without looking round, walked swiftly away to the bow of the ship, and stood there, looking down at the water in an attitude which was bewilderingly familiar. His movement, his posture, his dress, even, was that of Burnamy, and March, after a first flush of pleasure, felt a sickening repulsion in the notion of his presence. It would have been such a cheap performance on the part of life, which has all sorts of chances at command, and need not descend to the poor tricks of second- rate fiction; and he accused Burnamy of a complicity in the bad taste of the affair, though he realized, when he reflected, that if it were really Burnamy he must have sailed in as much unconsciousness of the Triscoes as he himself had done. He had probably got out of money and had hurried home while he had still enough to pay the second-cabin fare on the first boat back. Clearly he was not to blame, but life was to blame for such a shabby device; and March felt this so keenly that he wished to turn from the situation, and have nothing to do with it. He kept moving toward him, drawn by the fatal attraction, and at a few paces' distance the young man whirled about and showed him the face of a stranger.
March made some witless remark on the rapid course of the ship as it cut its way through the water of the bow; the stranger answered with a strong Lancashire accent; and in the talk which followed, he said he was going out to see the cotton-mills at Fall River and New Bedford, and he seemed hopeful of some advice or information from March; then he said he must go and try to get his Missus out; March understood him to mean his wife, and he hurried down to his own, to whom he related his hair-breadth escape from Burnamy.
"I don't call it an escape at all!" she declared. "I call it the greatest possible misfortune. If it had been Burnamy we could have brought them together at once, just when she has seen so clearly that she was in the wrong, and is feeling all broken up. There wouldn't have been any difficulty about his being in the second-cabin. We could have contrived to have them meet somehow. If the worst came to the worst you could have lent him money to pay the difference, and got him into the first-cabin."
"I could have taken that six-hundred-dollar room for him," said March, "and then he could have eaten with the swells."
She answered that now he was teasing; that he was fundamentally incapable of taking anything seriously; and in the end he retired before the stewardess bringing her first coffee, with a well-merited feeling that if it had not been for his triviality the young Lancashireman would really have been Burnamy.
Except for the first day and night out from Queenstown, when the ship rolled and pitched with straining and squeaking noises, and a thumping of the lifted screws, there was no rough weather, and at last the ocean was livid and oily, with a long swell, on which she swayed with no perceptible motion save from her machinery.
Most of the seamanship seemed to be done after dark, or in those early hours when March found the stewards cleaning the stairs, and the sailors scouring the promenades. He made little acquaintance with his fellow- passengers. One morning he almost spoke with an old Quaker lady whom he joined in looking at the Niagara flood which poured from the churning screws; but he did not quite get the words out. On the contrary he talked freely with an American who, bred horses on a farm near Boulogne, and was going home to the Horse Show; he had been thirty-five years out of the country, but he had preserved his Yankee accent in all its purity, and was the most typical-looking American on board. Now and then March walked up and down with a blond Mexican whom he found of the usual well- ordered Latin intelligence, but rather flavorless; at times he sat beside a nice Jew, who talked agreeably, but only about business; and he philosophized the race as so tiresome often because it seemed so often without philosophy. He made desperate attempts at times to interest himself in the pool-selling in the smoking-room where the betting on the ship's wonderful run was continual.
He thought that people talked less and less as they drew nearer home; but on the last day out there was a sudden expansion, and some whom he had not spoken with voluntarily addressed him. The sweet, soft air was like midsummer the water rippled gently, without a swell, blue under the clear sky, and the ship left a wide track that was silver in the sun. There were more sail; the first and second class baggage was got up and piled along the steerage deck.
Some people dressed a little more than usual for the last dinner which was earlier than usual, so as to be out of the way against the arrival which had been variously predicted at from five to seven-thirty. An indescribable nervousness culminated with the appearance of the customs officers on board, who spread their papers on cleared spaces of the dining-tables, and summoned the passengers to declare that they had nothing to declare, as a preliminary to being searched like thieves at the dock.
This ceremony proceeded while the Cupania made her way up the Narrows, and into the North River, where the flare of lights from the crazy steeps and cliffs of architecture on the New York shore seemed a persistence of the last Fourth of July pyrotechnics. March blushed for the grotesque splendor of the spectacle, and was confounded to find some Englishmen admiring it, till he remembered that aesthetics were not the strong point of our race. His wife sat hand in hand with Miss Triscoe, and from time to time made him count the pieces of small baggage in the keeping of their steward; while General Triscoe held aloof in a sarcastic calm.
The steamer groped into her dock; the gangways were lifted to her side; the passengers fumbled and stumbled down their incline, and at the bottom the Marches found themselves respectively in the arms of their son and daughter. They all began talking at once, and ignoring and trying to remember the Triscoes to whom the young Marches were presented. Bella did her best to be polite to Agatha, and Tom offered to get an inspector for the general at the same time as for his father. Then March, remorsefully remembered the Eltwins, and looked about for them, so that his son might get them an inspector too. He found the major already in the hands of an inspector, who was passing all his pieces after carelessly looking into one: the official who received the declarations on board had noted a Grand Army button like his own in the major's lapel, and had marked his fellow-veteran's paper with the mystic sign which procures for the bearer the honor of being promptly treated as a smuggler, while the less favored have to wait longer for this indignity at the hands of their government. When March's own inspector came he was as civil and lenient as our hateful law allows; when he had finished March tried to put a bank-note in his hand, and was brought to a just shame by his refusal of it. The bed-room steward keeping guard over the baggage helped put-it together after the search, and protested that March had feed him so handsomely that he would stay there with it as long as they wished. This partly restored March's self-respect, and he could share in General Triscoe's indignation with the Treasury ruling which obliged him to pay duty on his own purchases in excess of the hundred- dollar limit, though his daughter had brought nothing, and they jointly came far within the limit for two.
He found that the Triscoes were going to a quiet old hotel on the way to Stuyvesant Square, quite in his own neighborhood, and he quickly arranged for all the ladies and the general to drive together while he was to follow with his son on foot and by car. They got away from the scene of the customs' havoc while the steamer shed, with its vast darkness dimly lit by its many lamps, still showed like a battle-field where the inspectors groped among the scattered baggage like details from the victorious army searching for the wounded. His son clapped him on the shoulder when he suggested this notion, and said he was the same old father; and they got home as gayly together as the dispiriting influences of the New York ugliness would permit. It was still in those good and decent times, now so remote, when the city got something for the money paid out to keep its streets clean, and those they passed through were not foul but merely mean.
The ignoble effect culminated when they came into Broadway, and found its sidewalks, at an hour when those of any European metropolis would have been brilliant with life, as unpeopled as those of a minor country town, while long processions of cable-cars carted heaps of men and women up and down the thoroughfare amidst the deformities of the architecture.
The next morning the March family breakfasted late after an evening prolonged beyond midnight in spite of half-hourly agreements that now they must really all go to bed. The children had both to recognize again and again how well their parents were looking; Tom had to tell his father about the condition of 'Every Other Week'; Bella had to explain to her mother how sorry her husband was that he could not come on to meet them with her, but was coming a week later to take her home, and then she would know the reason why they could not all, go back to Chicago with him: it was just the place for her father to live, for everybody to live. At breakfast she renewed the reasoning with which she had maintained her position the night before; the travellers entered into a full expression of their joy at being home again; March asked what had become of that stray parrot which they had left in the tree-top the morning they started; and Mrs. March declared that this was the last Silver Wedding Journey she ever wished to take, and tried to convince them all that she had been on the verge of nervous collapse when she reached the ship. They sat at table till she discovered that it was very nearly eleven o'clock, and said it was disgraceful.
Before they rose, there was a ring at the door, and a card was brought in to Tom. He glanced at it, and said to his father, "Oh, yes! This man has been haunting the office for the last three days. He's got to leave to-day, and as it seemed to be rather a case of life and death with him, I said he'd probably find you here this morning. But if you don't want to see him, I can put him off till afternoon, I suppose."
He tossed the card to his father, who looked at it quietly, and then gave it to his wife. "Perhaps I'd as well see him?"
"See him!" she returned in accents in which all the intensity of her soul was centred. By an effort of self-control which no words can convey a just sense of she remained with her children, while her husband with a laugh more teasing than can be imagined went into the drawing-room to meet Burnamy.
The poor fellow was in an effect of belated summer as to clothes, and he looked not merely haggard but shabby. He made an effort for dignity as well as gayety, however, in stating himself to March, with many apologies for his persistency. But, he said, he was on his way West, and he was anxious to know whether there was any chance of his 'Kasper Hauler' paper being taken if he finished it up. March would have been a far harder- hearted editor than he was, if he could have discouraged the suppliant before him. He said he would take the Kasper Hauler paper and add a band of music to the usual rate of ten dollars a thousand words. Then Burnamy's dignity gave way, if not his gayety; he began to laugh, and suddenly he broke down and confessed that he had come home in the steerage; and was at his last cent, beyond his fare to Chicago. His straw hat looked like a withered leaf in the light of his sad facts; his thin overcoat affected March's imagination as something like the diaphanous cast shell of a locust, hopelessly resumed for comfort at the approach of autumn. He made Burnamy sit down, after he had once risen, and he told him of Major Eltwin's wish to see him; and he promised to go round with him to the major's hotel before the Eltwins left town that afternoon.
While he prolonged the interview in this way, Mrs. March was kept from breaking in upon them only by the psychical experiment which she was making with the help and sympathy of her daughter at the window of the dining-room which looked up Sixteenth Street. At the first hint she gave of the emotional situation which Burnamy was a main part of, her son; with the brutal contempt of young men for other young men's love affairs, said he must go to the office; he bade his mother tell his father there was no need of his coming down that day, and he left the two women together. This gave the mother a chance to develop the whole fact to the daughter with telegrammic rapidity and brevity, and then to enrich the first-outline with innumerable details, while they both remained at the window, and Mrs. March said at two-minutely intervals, with no sense of iteration for either of them, "I told her to come in the morning, if she felt like it, and I know she will. But if she doesn't, I shall say there is nothing in fate, or Providence either. At any rate I'm going to stay here and keep longing for her, and we'll see whether there's anything in that silly theory of your father's. I don't believe there is," she said, to be on the safe side.
Even when she saw Agatha Triscoe enter the park gate on Rutherford Place, she saved herself from disappointment by declaring that she was not coming across to their house. As the girl persisted in coming and coming, and at last came so near that she caught sight of Mrs. March at the window and nodded, the mother turned ungratefully upon her daughter, and drove her away to her own room, so that no society detail should hinder the divine chance. She went to the door herself when Agatha rang, and then she was going to open the way into the parlor where March was still closeted with Burnamy, and pretend that she had not known they were there. But a soberer second thought than this prevailed, and she told the girl who it was that was within and explained the accident of his presence. "I think," she said nobly, "that you ought to have the chance of going away if you don't wish to meet him."