Part 2 out of 10
One day, about the middle of the week, Van Berg found a stranger
seated opposite to him at the dinner table. His first impression
was, that the lady was not very young and that her features were
quite plain; but before the meal was over he concluded that her
face was decidedly interesting, and that the suggestion of age had
been made by maturity of character and the impress which some real
and deep experience gives to the countenance, rather than by the
trace of years.
While yet a stranger, the expression of her blue eyes, as she
glanced around, was so kindly that she at once won the good-will
of all who encountered them. This genial, friendly light in her
eyes seemed a marked characteristic. It was so different from the
obtrusive, forward manner with which some seek to make acquaintances,
that it would not have suggested a departure from modest reserve,
even to the most cynical. It rather indicated a heart aglow with
gentle feeling and genial good-will, like a maple-wood fire on a
hospitality hearth, that warms all who come within the sphere of
Van Berg was naturally reserved, and slow to make new acquaintances.
But before he had stolen many glances of the face opposite him he
began to wish for the privilege of speaking to her--a wish that
was increased by the fact that they were alone at the table, the
other guests who usually occupied the chairs not having returned
from their morning drive. she did not look at him in particular,
nor appear to be in the least struck by his "distingue" air, as
Ida had been before she was blinded by prejudice; but she looked
out upon the world at large with such a friendly aspect that he
was sure she had something pleasant to say. He was therefore well
pleased when at last the landlord bustled up in his brusque way
"Mr. Van Berg, permit me to make you acquainted with Miss Burton.
She has had the faith to put herself under my charge for a few
weeks, and I shall reward her by sharing the responsibility with
you, who seem blessed with the benevolent desire of giving us all
a good time," and then he bustled off to look after some other matter
which required his attention during the critical hour of dinner.
Miss Burton acknowledged the young man's bow without a trace of
affectation or reserve.
"I shall try not to prove a burden to either of you," she said,
with a smile.
"I have already discovered that you will not be," said Van Berg,
"and was wishing for an introduction."
"I hope your wishes may always find so ready a fulfillment."
"That's a kindly wish, Miss Burton, but a vain one."
"Were we misanthropical people, Mr. Van Berg, we might sigh, 'and
such are human wishes generally.'"
"One is often tempted to do that anyway, even when not especially
prone to look askance at fortune."
"There is an easy way of escaping that temptation."
"Do not form many wishes."
"Have you very few wishes?"
With a slight and piquant motion of her head she replied, "I was
only giving a bit of trite advice. It's asking a great deal to
require that one should both preach and practice."
"I think you are possessed by one wish which swallows up most
others," said Van Berg, a little abruptly.
A visible pallor overspread her face, and she drew back perceptibly
as one might shrink from a blow.
"You know how strong first impressions are," resumed Van Berg
hastily, "and the thought has passed through my mind that you might
be so preoccupied in wishing good things for others as to quite
"If one could be completely occupied in that way," she said, with
a faint smile which suggested rather than revealed a vista of her
past experience, "one might have little occasion to wish for anything
for self. But, Mr. Van Berg, only we poor unreasoning women put
much faith in first impressions; and you know how often they mislead
even us, who are supposed to have safe instincts."
"Do they often mislead you?"
"Indeed, sir," she replied, with a merry twinkle in her eye, "I
think you must have learned the questions in the catechism, if not
Van Berg bit his lip. Here was a suggestion of a thorn in the
sweetbrier he believed he had discovered.
"Now see how far I am astray," she resumed with a frankness which
had in it no trace of familiarity. "It is my impression you are
At this Van Berg laughed outright and said: "You are indeed
mistaken. I have no connection with the influential class whose
business it is to make and evade the laws. I am only one among
the humble masses who aim to obey them. But perhaps you think your
intuition goes deeper than surface facts and that I OUGHT to have
been a cross-questioner."
"I am quite sure my intuition is correct in thinking that you would
not be very cross about it."
"Perhaps not, if disarmed by so smiling a face as yours."
The others, who had been delayed by a longer ride than usual, now
entered and took the vacant chairs around the table. Van Berg felt
sufficiently acquainted with them to introduce Miss Burton, for he
was curious to observe whether she would make the same impression
on them as he had been conscious of himself.
They bowed with the quiet, well-bred manner of society people, but
were at first inclined to pay little heed to the plainly dressed
and rather plain appearing young stranger. As one and another,
however, glanced towards her, something about her seemed to linger
in their memories and cause them to look again. The lady next to
her offered a commonplace remark, chiefly out of politeness, and
received so pleasant a reply in return that she turned her thoughts
as well as her eyes to see who it really was that had made it. Then
another spoke, and the response led her to speak again and again;
and soon the entire party were describing their drive and living
over its pleasantest features; and before the meal ended they were
all gathered, metaphorically, around the mystical, maple-wood fire
that burned on the hearth of a nature that seemed so hospitable
and kindly as to have no other mission than to cheer and entertain.
"Who is that little brown thrush of a woman that you were so taken
with at dinner?" asked Stanton, as they were enjoying a quiet smoke
in their favorite corner of the piazza.
"Good for you, Stanton. I never knew you to be so appreciative
before. Your term quite accurately describes her. She is both shy
and reserved, but not diffident or awkward in the least. Indeed
her manner might strike some as being peculiarly frank. But there
is something back of it all; for young as she undoubtedly is, her
face suggests to me some deep and unusual experience."
"Jupiter Ammon! What an abyss of mystery, surmise, and metaphysics
you fell into while I was eating my dinner! I used the phrase
'brown thrush,' only in reference to her dress and general homeliness."
"Oh, I beg your pardon! I take all back about your nice appreciation
of character. I now grasp the whole truth--your attention wandered
sufficiently from your dinner to observe that she wore a brown
dress, and the one fact about the thrush that has impressed you is
that it is brown. 'Here be truths' which leave nothing more to be
"You imaginative fellows are often ridiculously astray on the other
tack, and see a thousand-fold more than exists. But it's a pity
you could not read all there was in this young woman's face, for
it was certainly PLAIN enough. At this rate you will be asking our
burly landlord to unbosom himself, insisting that he has a 'silent
sorrow' tucked away somewhere under his ample waistcoat."
"His troubles, like yours, are banished by the dinner hour. I
recognize your feeble witticism about her plain face, and forgive
you because I thought it plain also at first, but when she came to
speak and smile it ceased to be plain. I do not say she has had
trouble, but she has had some experience in her past history which
neither you nor I could understand."
"Quite likely; the measles, for instance, which I never had to my
knowledge. Possibly she has had a lover who was not long in finding
a prettier face, and so left her, but not so disconsolate that she
could not smile bewilderingly upon you."
"Come now, Stanton, I'll forewarn and forearm you. I confidently
predict that the voice of this brown thrush will lure you out
of a life which, to put it mildly, is a trifle matter-of-fact and
material. You have glanced at her, but you have not seen her yet.
Mark my words; your appetite will flag before many weeks pass."
"I wish I could pin you down to a large wager on this absurdity."
"I agree to paint you a picture if my prediction fails."
"And to finish it within a natural lifetime?" said Stanton, with
"To finish as promptly as good work can be done."
"Pardon me, Van. You had too much wine for dinner; I don't want
to take advantage of you."
"I did not have any."
"In order to carry out this transaction honestly, am I expected to
make conscious and patient effort to come under the influence of
this maiden in brown, who has had some mysterious complaint in the
past, about which 'neither you, nor I, nor anybody knows,' as the
poet saith: or, like the ancient mariner, will she 'hold me with
her glittering eye?'"
"You have only to jog on in your old ways until she wakes you up
and makes a man of you."
"I surely am dreaming; for never did the level-headed Van Berg talk
such arrant nonsense before. If she seems to you such a marvel,
why don't you open your own mouth and let the ripe cherry drop into
"One reason will answer, were there no others--she wouldn't drop.
If you ever win her, my boy, you will have to bestir yourself."
"I'd rather win the picture. Let me see--I know the very place in
my room where I shall hang it."
"You are a little premature. That chicken is not yet hatched,
and you may feel like hanging yourself in the place of the picture
before the summer is over."
"Let me wrap your head in ice-water, Van. There's mine host--O, Mr.
Burleigh!" he cried to the landlord, who at that moment happened
to cross the piazza; "please step here. My friend Mr. Van Berg has
been strangely fascinated by the stranger in brown whom you, with
some deep and malicious design, placed opposite to him at the
table. What are her antecedents, and who are her uncles? I take
a friendly interest in this young man. Indeed, I'm sort of a
guardian angel to him, having saved his life many a time."
"Saved his life!" ejaculated the landlord. "How?"
"By quenching his consuming genius with good dinners. But come--solve
for me this riddle in brown. My friend usually gives but little
heed to the feminine conundrums that smilingly ask to be answered,
but for some occult reason he is in a state of sleepless interest
over this one, and I know that his waistcoat is selling with
gratitude to me for having the courage to ask these questions."
"He is speaking several words for himself to one for me," said
Van Berg; "and yet I admit that her face and manner struck me very
"Well, she has a pleasant little phiz, now hasn't she, Mr. Van Berg?
I don't wonder Mr. Stanton was taken by her, for I was myself.
It's but little I can tell you, save that she is a teacher in one
of the New England female colleges, and that she brings letters to
me from the most respectable parties, who introduce her as a lady
in the best sense of the word. Further than that nothing was
written, nor do I know anything concerning her. But any one who
can't see that she's a perfect lady is no judge of the article."
"I will stake any amount on that, basing my belief only on the
first impression of one interview," added Van Berg, decidedly.
"You now see how deeply my friend is impressed," said Stanton, with
a satirical smile. "Thanks, Mr. Burleigh; we will not detain you
When alone again, he resumed, with an expression of disgust:
"A 'New England FEMALE college!' How aptly he words it. If there's
any region on the face of the earth that I detest, it's New England;
and if there is one type of women that I'd shun as I would 'ever
angry bears,' it's a New England school-ma'am."
"'But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea' of a restless,
all-absorbing passion, 'Thou'dst meet the bear I' the mouth,' as
you will try to in this case. You will be ready to barter your
ears for a kiss before very long."
"It will be after they have grown prodigiously long and hairy in
some transformation scene like that in which the immortal Bottom
was the victim."
"Your illustration tells against you, for it was only after his
appropriate transformation that Bottom saw the fairy queen; but in
your case the desire to 'munch' will be banned."
"Come, Van, we have had enough chaff on this topic, already
worn threadbare. I now know all about the mysterious complaint,
the impress of which on the face of the school-ma'am has so dazed
you. It's a New England female college--a place where they give
a razor-like edge to the wits of Yankee women, already too sharp,
and develop in attenuated maidens the hatchet faces of their sires.
You may as well set about that picture at once, whenever you feel
in the mood for work."
"I admit that I have been speaking nonsense, and yet you may find
many grains of truth in my chaff, nevertheless."
"But is my picture to end in chaff?"
"I will stand by my promise. If I lose, perhaps I'll paint you
the school-ma'am's portrait."
"Then we would both lose, for I would have no earthly use for that."
"Well, I will paint what you wish, within reason."
"I'm content, and with good reason, for never did I have such absurd
good luck before."
"Ha! look yonder--quick!"
Both the young men started to their feet, but before they could
spring forward, the event, which had so suddenly aroused them, was
an accomplished fact.
Both drew a long breath of relief as they looked at each other,
and Van Berg remarked, with some emphasis:
"Act first, scene first, and it does not open like a comedy either."
Chapter VIII. Glimpses of Tragedy.
Stanton threw away his half-burned cigar--an act which proved him
strongly moved--and strode rapidly towards the main entrance near
which a little group had already gathered, and among the others,
Ida Mayhew. Not a hair of anybody's head was hurt, but an event
had almost occurred which would have more than satisfied Stanton's
spite against 'Yankee school-ma'ams,' and would also have made him
very miserable for months to come.
He had ordered his bays to the farther end of the piazza where they
were smoking, as he proposed to take Van Berg out for a drive. His
coachmen liked to wheel around the corner of the hotel and past the
main entrance in a dashing showy style, and thus far had suffered
no rebuke from his master for this habit. But on this occasion a
careless nursery maid, neglectful of her charge, had left a little
child to toddle to the centre of the carriage drive and there it had
stood, balancing itself with the uncertain footing characteristic
of first steps. Even if it could have seen the rapidly approaching
carriage that was hidden by the angle of the building, its baby
feet could not have carried it out of harm's way in time, and it
is more than probable that its inexperience would have prevented
any sense of danger.
But help was at hand in the person of one who never seemed so
preoccupied with self as to lose an opportunity to serve others.
Two of the ladies, who had casually formed Miss Burton's acquaintance
at dinner, still lingered in the door-way to talk with her, wondering
in the mean time why they remained so long, and meaning to break
away every moment, but the expression of the young lady's eyes was
so pleasant, and her manner, more than anything she said, so like
spring sunshine that they were still standing in the door-way when
the rumble and rush of the carriage was heard. The others did not
notice these sounds, but Miss Burton, whose eyes had been following
the child with an amused interest, suddenly broke off in the midst
of a sentence, listened a second, then swiftly springing down the
steps, darted towards the child.
Quick as she had been it seemed as if she would be too late, for,
with cries of horror, the startled ladies on the piazza saw the
horses coming so rapidly that it appeared that both the maiden and
the child must be trampled under their feet. And so they would
have been, had Miss Burton sought to snatch up the child and return,
but with rare presence of mind she carried the child across the
carriage track to its farther side, thus making the most of the
impetus with which she had rushed to the rescue.
The exclamations of the ladies drew many eyes to the scene, and
all held their breath as the horses dashed past, the driver vainly
endeavoring to pull them up in time. Having passed, even Stanton
was compelled to admit that the "school-ma'am" appeared to very
great advantage as she stood panting, and with heightened color,
holding in her arms the laughing child that seemed to think that
the whole excitement was created for its amusement. She was about
to restore the child to its nurse quietly, who now came bustling
up with many protestations, when she was arrested by a loud voice
"Don't let that hateful creature touch my child again--give him
to me," and a lady, who had been drawn to the scene by the outcry,
ran down the steps, and snatching the child, almost devoured him
with kisses. Then, turning to the trembling nurse, she said harshly:
"Begone; I never wish to see your face again. Had it not been for
this lady, my child would have been killed through your carelessness.
Excuse me, Miss--Miss--"
"Miss Burton," said the young lady quietly.
"Excuse my show of feeling; but you can't realize the service you
have done us. Bertie is our only child, and we just idolize him.
I'm so agitated, I must go to my room."
When the lady had disappeared, Miss Burton turned to the sobbing
nurse and said:
"Will you promise me to be careful in the future if I intercede
"Dade, Miss, an' I will."
"Come to me, then, after supper. In the mean time remain where
your mistress can summon you should she need your services, or be
inclined to forgive you of her own accord," and leaving the crude
and offending jumble of humanity much comforted, she returned to
the piazza again.
Of course many pressed around her with congratulations and words
of commendation. Van Berg was much interested in observing how
she would receive this sudden gush of mingled honest praise and
extravagant flattery, for he recognized that the occasion would
prove a searching and delicate test of character for which there
was no time to prepare. She did not listen to their words with
deprecatory smirk, nor with the pained expression of those sensitive
souls to whom hearty words and demonstrations are like rough winds;
nor was there a trace of exultation and self-complacency in her
bearing. Van Berg thought that her manner was peculiarly her own,
for she looked into the faces around her with frank gladness, and
her unconsciousness of herself can be, perhaps, best suggested by
her own words.
"How fortunate it was," she said, "that I stood where I did, and
happened to be looking at the child. If somebody had not been at
hand it might have gone hard with the little fellow. Not that I
think he would have been killed, but he might have been maimed or
disfigured in a way that would have caused him pain and mortification
all his life."
"Miss Burton, I take my hat to you," said Van Berg, laughing.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you all appreciate the force of Miss
Burton's phrase, 'somebody,' since it implies that any one of us
would have shown like courage and presence of mind if we had only
been 'at hand,' or had stood where she did. Really Miss Burton,
you are like smiling fortune, and 'thrust upon' us 'greatness' and
"Mr. Van Berg, you are laughing at me, and your quotation suggests
that other Shakespearean words are in your mind--to wit, 'much
ado about nothing.' Now if YOU had had the opportunity you would
have achieved the rescue in a way that would have been heroic and
striking. Instead of scrambling out of the way with the child,
like a timid woman, you would have rushed upon the horses, seized
them by their heads, thrown them back upon their haunches, and
while posing in that masterful attitude, you would have called out
in stentorian tones--'Remove the child.'"
All laughed at this unexpected sally, and no one enjoyed it more
than Stanton, who, a little before, had been excessively angry
at his coachman, and, like the mother of the child, had summarily
dismissed the poor fellow from his service. Quite forgetful of his
uncomplimentary words concerning "Yankee school-ma'ams" in general,
and this one in particular, he now stood near, and was regarding
her not only with approval but with admiration. Her ready reply
to Van Berg pleased him exceedingly, especially as the rising color
in the face of his self-possessed friend indicated a palpable hit.
But the artist was equal to the occasion, and quickly replied as
one who had felt a slight spur.
"I fear you are in part correct, Miss Burton. Instead of deftly
saving the child and taking both it and myself out of harm's way,
after your quiet womanly fashion, I should, no doubt, have 'rushed
upon the horses and seized them by their heads.' But I fear your
striking tableau, in which I appeared to such advantage, would
have been wholly wanting. I could not have stopped the horses in
time; the child would have been run over and killed; the big, fat
coroner would have come and sat on it and have made us all, who
witnessed the scene, swear over the matter; the poor mother would
have gone to the lunatic asylum; the father would have committed
suicide; the nursery maid would have--obtained another place and
been the death of an indefinite number of other innocent babies;
and last, but not least, I should have been dragged and trampled
upon, my legs and arms broken, and perhaps my head, and so you
would all have had to take care of me--and you know a cross bear
is a pleasanter subject than a sick man."
"Oh, what a chapter of horrors!" exclaimed several ladies in chorus.
"Nevertheless, we would have been equal to the occasion, even if
you had been so dreadfully fractured," said Miss Burton. "We all
would have become your devoted nurses, and each one of us would
have had a separate and infallible remedy, which, out of courtesy,
you would have been compelled to use."
"Oh, bless my soul!" exclaimed Van Berg; "I have had a greater
escape than the child. In being 'at hand' as you express it, Miss
Burton, I am beginning to feel that you have saved me from death
"What a compliment to us!" said Miss Burton, appealing to the ladies;
"he regards our ministrations as equivalent to death by torture."
"Oh, pardon me, I referred to the numberless 'separate and infallible
remedies,' the very thought of which curdles my blood."
"I cannot help thinking that my friend's prospects would have been
very dismal," put in Stanton; "for with broken legs and arms and
head he would have been very badly fractured indeed to begin with,
and then some one of his fair nurses might have broken his heart."
"My friend probably thinks, from a direful experience," said Van
Berg, "that this would be worse than all the other fractures put
together; and perhaps it would. An additional cause for gratitude,
Miss Burton, that you, and not I, were 'at hand.'"
"My reasons for gratitude to Miss Burton," said Stanton, "do not
rest on what undoubtedly would have happened had my friend attempted
the rescue, but on what has happened; and if Mr. Van Berg will
introduce me I will cordially express my thanks."
"With all my heart. Miss Burton, permit me to present to you Mr.
Stanton, whose only fault is a slight monomania for New England
and her institutions."
The lady recognized Stanton with her wonted smiling and pleasant
manner, which seemed so frank and open, but behind which some
present eventually learned the real woman was hiding, and said:
"I am inclined to think that Mr. Van Berg's English, like Hebrew,
reads backwards. I warn you Mr. Stanton, not to express any
indebtedness to me, or I shall straightway exhibit one of the Yankee
traits which you undoubtedly detest, and attempt a bargain."
"Although assured that I shall get the worst of this bargain, I
shall nevertheless heartily thank you that you were not only 'at
hand,' but that you acted so promptly and courageously that the
child was saved. What pleasure could I have taken with my horses
if their feet had trampled that little boy?"
"I see my opportunity," replied Miss Burton, with a decisive little
nod. "Your afternoon drives might have been marred by unpleasant
thoughts as one's sleep is sometimes disturbed by bad dreams. You
have no idea what a delight it is to the average New England mind,
Mr. Stanton, to secure the vantage ground in a bargain. In view of
your own voluntary admissions, you can scarcely do otherwise than
let me have my own way."
With the exception of the two or three who had formed Miss Burton's
acquaintance at dinner, those who at first had gathered around her
had by this time dwindled away. Ida Mayhew sat near in an open
window of the parlor, ostensibly reading a novel, but in reality
observant of all that occurred. Both she and Van Berg had been
amused by the fact that Stanton, usually so languid and nonchalant,
had been for once thoroughly aroused. Between anger at his coachmen,
alarm for the child, and interest in its preserver, he was quite
shaken out of his wonted equanimity, which was composed equally
of indolent good-nature, self-complacency, and a disposition to
satirize the busy, earnest world around him. It was apparent that
he was somewhat nonplussed by Miss Burton's manner and words, and
those who knew him well enjoyed his perplexity, although at a loss
themselves to imagine what object Miss Burton could have in view.
Half unconsciously Van Berg turned his smiling, interested face
towards Ida Mayhew, who was regarding her cousin with a similar
expression, but the moment she caught the artist's eyes she coldly
dropped her own to her book again.
"Well, Miss Burton," said Stanton, with a slightly embarrassed
laugh, "I admit that I am cornered, so you can make your own terms."
"They shall be grievous, I assure you. Do you see that rueful face
in your carriage yonder?"
"That of my coachman? Bad luck to his ill-omened visage! Yes."
"No need of wishing bad luck to any poor creature--it will come only
too soon without. In view of the indebtedness--which you have so
gracefully acknowledged--to one of that trading and thrifty race
that never loses an opportunity to turn, if not a penny more or
less honest, why, something else, to their advantage, I stipulate
that you give your dependent there another chance. I heard you
dismiss him from your service a short time since, and he evidently
does not wish to go. His disconsolate face troubles me; so please
banish his dismal looks, and he'll be more careful hereafter."
"And have you had time to see and think about him?" said Stanton,
with a little surprise in his tone. "You shall banish his dismal
looks yourself. Barney," he called, "drive close to the piazza
here. This lady has probably saved you from arrest, and she now
intercedes in your behalf. In compliance with her request, I will
keep you in my service, but I wish you to thank her and not me."
Barney took off his hat and ejaculated: "May yees shadder niver
grow less, me leddy, an' may the Powers grant that yees bright
eyes may see no trouble o' their own, bain they're so quick to see
a poor man's bad luck."
The smiling manner with which she acknowledged his good wishes
seemed to warm the man all over, and he looked as if transformed
as he drove back to his stand.
"How is this, Miss Burton?" said Stanton. "I feel as if I had had
the best of this bargain."
"That impression is wholly due to my Yankee shrewdness; and now,
having gained my point," she added, with a graceful inclination,
"I will not keep you from your drive any longer."
"My conscience will not permit me to complete this transaction
until I have assured you that my horses and carriage are at your
service at any time."
"Be careful; I may take advantage of you again."
"Please do so," replied Stanton, lifting his hat; and then he went
to his carriage more surprised at himself than at anything else
that had occurred. Miss Burton returned to the doorway and quietly
resumed the conversation that had been interrupted by the peril of
Van Berg was about to follow his friend, but an acquaintance coming
up the steps, detained him a few moments.
"Oh, Harold, come!" cried Stanton, impatiently.
Miss Burton started violently. The sentence upon her lips was never
finished, and her face became ashen in color. She looked at Van
Berg with a strange expression as he, unconscious of her agitation,
"Yes, I'm coming," and moved away.
"My dear Miss Burton," said the lady with whom she was speaking,
"you are ill; you look ready to faint. This excitement has been
a greater strain upon you than you have realized."
"Perhaps I had better go to my room," faltered the young lady; and
she fled with a precipitancy that her companion could not understand.
Ida Mayhew also witnessed this unexpected bit of mystery, and it
puzzled her not a little. She had left the parlor and was standing
in the hall-way when her cousin's voice summoned his friend after
his familiar fashion. Why should this stranger look at Mr. Van
Berg as if the sound of his Christian name were a mortal wound? Or
was that a mere coincidence--and in reaction from excitement and
unwonted effort had she suddenly taken ill? For a wonder, she
thought more about Miss Burton than herself that afternoon. She
had decided from the first that she did not like this new-comer.
That point had been settled by the fact that the artist's first
impressions concerning her had evidently been favorable, and she
remembered that his earliest glances and words in regard to herself
had been anything but complimentary.
Chapter IX. Unexpectedly Thrown Together.
"I suppose you are satisfied by this time, Stanton," began Van
Berg, as they drove away, "that I was very safe in offering you
that picture on the conditions named, and that you have not the
ghost of a chance of obtaining it."
"Nonsense," replied Stanton. "The picture is practically won already.
I admit that Miss Burton is an exception to all her species; and,
now that I have seen her, I prove how little I am under the influence
of prejudice by acknowledging the fact, and by giving her credit
for her courage and agreeable manners. But how absurd to imagine
that this plain little stranger can ever be to me more than she is
to-day--a summer acquaintance at a summer resort! She will soon
drop from our memories and leave no more trace than these rustling
leaves overhead after they have fulfilled their brief purpose."
"Here's a symptom already," cried Van Berg. "My matter-of-fact
friend is already in the subtle current, and unconsciously drops
into sentiment, and expresses himself in poetic trope. I foresee
that the 'rustling leaves' will end in a rustling wedding-robe and
gorgeous apparel; for when you cage the 'brown thrush' you will
have the bad taste to insist on a change of plumage."
"I begin to understand you at last," retorted Stanton. "You have
been smitten yourself, and this is your strategy to conceal the fact.
The trouble is that you have overdone the matter, and revealed your
transfixed heart long before I should have suspected the wound.
Had you not better commence on the picture soon, for this matter
may disable you for a season?"
"I won't swear that I will not become your rival, for our little
heroine interests me hugely. There is something back of her smiling
face. Her manner seems like crystal in its frankness, and yet I
think few in the house will ever become better acquainted with her
than they are to-day."
"I shall take more than a languid interest in watching you progress
with this smiling sphinx," said Stanton, "and in the mean time
shall gloat over my picture."
"Well, Barney," said Van Berg, as they drove up to the stables on
their return, "you did have a streak of good luck this afternoon.
I hope you are grateful to the lady who secured it for you."
"Faix, sur, an' I niver seed the likes o' her afore. The smilin'
look she gave me jist warmed the very core o' me heart, and her swate
eyes seemed to say, 'Nary a bit o' ill-luck would ye have again,
Barney, had I me way.' What's more, she's a goin' to intercade
for the nurse-maid. They nadn't tell me that all the heretics will
stay in purgatory."
"Look here, Stanton, were I a theologian I'd make a note of that.
Miss Burton has discovered a logic that routs superstition."
Van Berg quite longed for the supper hour, that he might resume
conversation with the interesting stranger, and he was promptly
in his place at the table. But she did not appear. The lady with
whom she had been conversing, remarked:
"She was taken suddenly ill, just as you and your friend drove
away this afternoon. Learning from Mr. Burleigh that she is here
alone and without friends, I knocked at her door before I came
down, and asked if I could do anything for her. She said that she
would be better in the morning, and that all she needed was perfect
quiet. It's strange how suddenly she was taken ill! She seemed
perfectly well one moment, and then she fled to her room as if the
ghost were in pursuit. I suppose it was reaction from excitement;
or she may have some form of heart disease."
"Are heart difficulties so serious as that with ladies?" asked Van
Berg with a smile.
"I never had acute symptoms of any kind," the lady replied. "Indeed
I think I am a trifle cold and matter-of-fact in my disposition,
but I began to thaw so perceptibly under Miss Burton's influence
that I became quite interested in her. I think I deserve some credit
for saving the child also, for it was I who kept her talking in the
doorway. Most people are a weariness to me, and I was surprised
to find so marked an exception."
It must not be supposed that Van Berg's interest in the new arrival
had led him to forget the motive which had brought him to the Lake
House. This would not be in accordance with his character, and
as far as possible, he had been closely observant of Miss Mayhew
during the scenes of the afternoon. He had been rewarded by
discovering, for the first time, that she was at least capable of
a good and generous impulse, for her face had been expressive of
genuine admiration and gladness when she saw Miss Burton with the
rescued child in her arms after the carriage swept by. In this
expression he obtained a clearer hint than he had ever before
received of the beauty that might be her constant possession could
the mean and marring traits of her character be exchanged for
qualities in harmony with her perfect features. But while this
gleam, this flash of ideal beauty increased his desire for success
in his experiment, the young lady's bearing towards him was as
discouraging as ever. If he had not been at Miss Burton's side,
he believed that she would have come forward and offered her
congratulations as had several other ladies. It would seem that
her vanity had been so severely wounded she would never forgive
him, and he determined he would no longer make a martyr of himself
by playing the agreeable to all in the hotel in the hope that,
by pouring so much oil on the waters, even her asperity might be
removed. He half believed that she recognized his effort to form
her acquaintance, and found a malicious pleasure in thwarting him.
Therefore, he decided to take his sketch-book and go off upon
the hills in the morning, thus enjoying a little respite from his
apparently philanthropic labors.
Before he left the breakfast table the following day, Miss Burton
appeared. He thought he detected an ominous redness about her
eyes, as well as the pallor which would be the natural result of
illness; but she seemed to have recovered her spirits, and the rather
quiet and self-absorbed little group that had hitherto seriously
devoted themselves to steak and coffee, speedily brightened up
under her pleasantries. Indeed she kept them lingering so long
that the Mayhews and Stanton passed out before them, the latter
casting a wistful glance at the cheerful party, for he had been
having a stupid time.
When, much later than he expected, he started on his brief sketching
excursion he found that his mind was kindled and aglow with pleasant
thoughts, and that the summer landscape had been made sunnier by
the sunny face he had just left.
But as he plodded his way back late in the afternoon, the sunbeams,
no longer genial, became oppressive, and he was glad to hail one
of the hotel stages that was returning from a neighboring village.
The vehicle already contained two adult passengers. One was
a stout, red-faced woman with a baby and an indefinite number of
parcels, and the other was--Ida Mayhew, who was returning from a
brief shopping excursion.
As the latter saw Van Berg enter she colored, bit her lip, half
frowned, and looked steadfastly away from him. Thus the stage
lumbered on with its oddly assorted inmates, that, although belonging
to the same human family, seemed to have as little in common as if
each had come from a different planet. That Miss Mayhew looked so
resolutely away from him was rather to Van Berg's advantage, for
it gave him a chance to compare her exquisite profile with the
expanse, slightly diversified, of the broad red face opposite.
The stout woman held her baby as if it were a bundle, and stared
straight before her. As far as Van Berg could observe, not a trace
of an idea or a change of expression flitted across the wide area
of her sultry visage, and he found himself speculating as to whether
the minds of these two women differed as greatly as their outward
appearance. Indeed he questioned whether one had any more mind
than the other, and was inclined to think that despite their widely
separated spheres of life they were equally dwarfed.
While he was thus amusing himself with the contrasts, physical
and metaphysical, which the two passengers opposite him presented,
the stout woman suddenly looked out of the window at her side, and
then, in a tone that would startle the quietest nerves, shouted to
Miss Mayhew half rose from her seat and looked around with something
like dismay; but as she only encountered Van Berg's slightly humorous
expression, she colored more deeply than before, and recalled her
eyes to the farther angle of the stage with a fixedness and rigidity
as great as if it had contained the head of Medusa.
Meantime the driver drew up to a small cottage by the road-side,
and scrambled down from his seat that he might assist the stout
woman with her accumulation of bundles. She handed him out the
baby, preferring to look after the more precious parcels herself.
Van Berg politely held the door open for her; but just as she was
squeezing through the stage entrance with her arms full and had her
foot on the last step, her cottage door flew open with something
to the effect of an explosion, and out burst three or four children
with a perfect din of cries and shouts. Two vociferous dogs joined
in the sudden uproar; the hitherto drowsy horses started as if a
bomb-shell had dropped under their noses, and speedily broke into
a mad gallop, leaving the stout woman prostrate upon her bundles
in the road, and the driver helplessly holding her baby.
Miss Mayhew's cold rigidity vanished at once. Indeed dignity was
impossible in the swaying, bounding vehicle. There was a momentary
effort to ignore her companion, and then terror overcame all
scruples. Turning her white face towards him, she exclaimed:
"Are we not in great danger?"
"I admit I would rather be in my chair on Mr. Burleigh's piazza.
With your permission, I will come to your end of the stage and
speak to the horses through the open window."
"Oh, come--do anything under heaven to stop these horrid beasts."
Van Berg edged his way up a little past Miss Mayhew, and began
speaking to the frightened horses in firm, quiet tones. At first
they paid no heed to him, and as the stage made a sudden and
desperate lurch, the young lady commenced to scream.
"If you do that you will insure the breaking of both our necks,"
said Van Berg, sharply. "If you will keep quiet I think I can
stop them. See, we have quite a stretch of level road beyond us,
before we come to a hill. Give me a chance to quiet them."
The terror-stricken girl kept still for a moment, and then started
"I shall spring out."
"No, Miss Mayhew, you must not do that," said Van Berg, decidedly.
"You must be greatly injured, and you would with almost certainty
be disfigured for life if you sprang out upon the stony road. You
could not help falling on your face."
"Oh, horrible!" she exclaimed.
At the next heavy lurch of the stage she half-rose again to carry
out her rash purpose, but the artist seized her hand and held her
in her place, at the same time speaking kindly and firmly to the
horses. They now began to heed his voice, and to recover from
"See, Miss Mayhew," he said, "you have only to control yourself a
few moments longer, and our danger is over."
"Oh, do stop them, quick," she gasped, clinging to his hand as if
he were her only hope, "and I'll never forget your kind--oh, merciful
At this favorable moment, when the horses were fast coming under
control, a spiteful cur came tearing out after them, renewing their
panic with tenfold intensity. As the dog barked on one side they
sheered off on the other, until they plunged down the side of the
road. The stage was nearly overturned, and then it stopped with
a sudden and heavy thump. Miss Mayhew was precipitated into Mr.
Van Berg's arms, and she clung to him for a moment in a paroxysm of
terror. His wits had not so far deserted him but that he perceived
that the stage had struck against a tree, that the horses had broken
away, and that he and his companion were perfectly safe. If the
whole truth must be told, it cannot be said that he endured the
young lady's embrace with only cold and stoical philosophy. He
found it wholly novel and not a painful experience. Indeed he was
conscious of a temptation to delay the information of their escape,
but a second's thought taught him that he must at once employ all
his tact in the delicate and difficult task of reconciling the
frightened girl to herself and her own conduct; otherwise her pride,
and also her sense of delicacy, would now receive a new and far
deeper wound, and a more hopeless estrangement follow. He therefore
promptly lifted her up, and placed her limp form on the opposite
"I assure you we are now perfectly safe, Miss Mayhew," he said;
"and let me congratulate you that your self-control prevented you
from leaving the stage, for if you had done so you would undoubtedly
have been greatly injured."
"Where--where are--the horses?" she faltered.
"I really do not know! They have disappeared. The stage struck
a tree, and the brutes broke away. They will probably gallop home
to the alarm and excitement of every one about the hotel. Pray
compose yourself. The house is not far away, and we can soon reach
it if you are not very much hurt."
"Are you sure the danger is all over?"
"Yes; this is now not the slightest chance of a tragedy."
There must have been a faint twinkle in his eye, for she exclaimed,
"The whole thing has been a comedy to you, and I half believe you
brought it all about to annoy me."
"You do me great injustice, Miss Mayhew," said Van Berg, warmly.
"Here we are sitting in this horrid old stage by the roadside,"
she resumed, in tones of strong vexation. "Was there ever anything
more absurd and ridiculous than it has all been! I am mortified
beyond expression, and suppose I shall never hear the last of it,"
and she burst into a hysterical passion of tears.
"Miss Mayhew," said Van Berg hastily, "you certainly must realize
that we have passed through very great peril together, and if you
think me capable of saying a word about this episode that is not
to your credit, you were never more mistaken in your life."
At this assurance she became more calm.
"I know you dislike me most heartily," Van Berg continued; "but
you have less reason to do so than you think---"
"I have good reason to dislike you. You despise me; and now that
I have been such a coward you are comparing me with Miss Burton
who acted so differently yesterday."
"I have not even thought of Miss Burton," protested Van Berg, at
the same time conscious, now that her name had been recalled to his
memory, that she would have acted a much better part. "I am only
sincerely glad that our necks were not broken, and I hope that you
have not suffered any severe bruises. As to my despising you, if
you will honor me with your acquaintance you may discover that you
are greatly in error."
"Then you truly think that we have been in danger?" she asked,
wiping her eyes.
"Most assuredly. When you come to think the matter over calmly,
you will realize that we were in very great danger. I think the
affair has ended most happily rather than absurdly."
"Really, sir, when I remember how the 'affair,' as you term it,
actually did end, I feel as if I never wished to see you again."
"Miss Mayhew, I appeal to your generosity. Was I to blame for
that which was so disagreeable to you? Surely you will not be so
unfair as to punish me for what neither you nor I could help. I
think fate means we shall be friends, and has employed this unexpected
episode to break the ice between us. If you are now sufficiently
composed I will assist you to alight, in order that the driver,
who is approaching, may be relieved of all fears on our account."
"Oh, certainly. As it is, I suppose he will have a ridiculous
story to tell."
"There is nothing that he, or the others who are following him can
tell, save that the horses ran away and that we most fortunately
escaped all injury. Ah! I see that you are a little lame. Please
take my arm; the hotel is but a quarter of a mile away. Or perhaps
you would prefer that I should send the driver for a carriage. You
could wait in yonder cottage, or here, in the shade of the trees."
"I am not very lame, and if I were I would not mind it. My wish is
that the horrid affair may occasion as little remark as possible.
I can reach my room by a side entrance, and so come quietly down
to dinner. I suppose that I must take your arm since I cannot walk
very well without it."
They therefore turned their backs on the breathless driver and his
eager questions, and proceeded slowly towards the hotel. After a
brief examination of the shattered stage, the man ran panting past
them in search of his horses; and they were again left alone.
Chapter X. Phrases too Suggestive.
For a few moments Miss Mayhew and Van Berg walked on in silence,
each very doubtful of the other. At last the artist began:
"I am well aware, Miss Mayhew, that this unexpected episode and
this enforced companionship give me no rights whatever. I do not
propose to annoy you, after seeing you safely to the hotel, by
assuming that we are acquainted, nor do I intend to subject myself
to the mortification of being informed publicly, by your manner,
that we are not on speaking terms. I would be glad to have this
question settled now. I ask your pardon for anything that I may
have said or done to hurt your feelings, and having thus gone more
than half-way it would be ungenerous on your part not to respond
in like spirit."
"You apologize, then?"
"No; I ask your pardon for anything that may have hurt your feelings."
"You have said very disagreeable things about me, Mr. Van Berg."
"I did not know you then."
"I do not think you have changed your opinion of me in the least."
"I evidently have a much higher opinion of you than you of me, and
I am seeking your acquaintance with a persistence such as I never
manifested in the case of any other lady. Thus the odds are all
in your favor. Having been so unexpectedly thrown together---"
"'Thrown together,' indeed--Mr. Van Berg, you ARE mocking me," and
her eyes again filled with tears of vexation.
"I assure you I am not," said Van Berg earnestly. "I could not be
so mean as to twit you with an accident which you could not help,
and with an act which was wholly involuntary on your part. Can we
not both let by-gones by by-gones and commence anew?"
Miss Mayhew bit her lip and hesitated a few moments.
"I think that will be the better way," she said. "We will both let
by-gones, especially this ridiculous episode in the stage. I'll
put you on your good behavior."
"Thank you, Miss Mayhew. I would take our late risk twenty times
for such a result."
"I would not take it again on any account whatever. Please refer
to it no more. I declare, there comes Cousin Ik and Mr. Burleigh
to meet us. Was one's fortune ever so exasperating! Ik will teaze
me out of all comfort for weeks to come."
"Say little and leave all to my discretion," said Van Berg, reassuringly;
"and, by the way, you might limp a little more decidedly," which
she immediately did.
"My dear Miss Mayhew, I trust you are not seriously hurt," began
Mr. Burleigh while still several yards off.
Stanton's face was a study as he approached. Indeed he seemed half
ready to explode with suppressed merriment, but before he could
speak a warning glance from Van Berg checked him.
"Miss Mayhew might have been seriously and possibly fatally injured,"
said the artist gravely, "had it not been for her self-control.
Although it seemed that the stage would be dashed to pieces every
moment, I told her that in my judgement it would be safer to remain
within it than to spring out upon the hard and stony road, and I
am very glad that the final event confirmed my opinion."
As they were by this time near to the hotel, others who had been
alarmed by seeing the horses tearing up to the stable door, now
hastily joined them; and last, but not least, Mrs. Mayhew came
panting upon the scene. Van Berg felt the hand of the young lady
trembling in nervous apprehension upon his arm, from which, in her
embarrassment, she forgot to remove it. But the artist did not
fail her, and in answer to Mr. Burleigh's eager questions as to
the cause of the accident, explained all so plausibly, and in such
a matter-of-fact manner as left little more even to be surmised.
His brief and prosaic history of the affair concluded with the
following implied tribute to his companion, which still further
relieved her from fear of ridicule:
"Miss Mayhew," he said, "instead of jumping out, after the frantic
terror-blinded manner of most people, remained in the stage and
so has escaped, I trust, with nothing worse than a slight lameness
caused by the violent motion of the vehicle. I will now resign her
to your care, Mr. Stanton, and I am glad to believe that the occasion
will require the services of the wheelwright and harness-maker only,
and not those of a surgeon," and lifting his hat to Mrs. Mayhew
and her daughter he bowed himself off the scene.
Ida, leaning on the arm of her cousin, limped appropriately to her
room, whither she had her dinner sent to her, more for the purpose
of gaining time to compose her nerves than for any other reason.
The impression that she had behaved courageously in peril was
rapidly increased as the story was repeated by one and another, and
she received several congratulatory visits in the afternoon from
her lady acquaintances; and when she came down to supper she found
that she was even a greater heroine than Miss Burton had been. In
answer to many sympathetic inquiries, she said that she "felt as
well as ever," and she tried to prove it by her gayety and careful
But she was decidedly ill at ease. Her old self-complacency was
ebbing away faster than ever. From the time that it had first been
disturbed by the artist's frown in the concert garden, she had been
conscious of a secret and growing self-dissatisfaction.
It seemed to be this stranger's mission to break the spell vanity
and flattery had woven about her. The congratulations she was now
receiving were secured by a fraudulent impression, if not by actual
falsehood, and she permitted this impression to remain and grow.
The one, who above all others she most feared and disliked, knew
this. In smilingly accepting the compliments showered upon her
from all sides she felt that she must appear to him as if receiving
stolen goods, and she believed that in his heart he despised her
more thoroughly than ever.
To the degree that he caused her disquietude and secret humiliation,
her desire to retaliate increased, and she resolved, before the
day closed, to use her beauty as a weapon to inflict upon him the
severest wound possible. If it were within the power of her art
she would bring him to her feet and keep him there until she could,
in the most decided and public manner, spurn his abject homage.
She would have no scruple in doing this in any case, but, in this
instance, success would give her the keenest satisfaction.
His very desire for her acquaintance, as she understood it, was
humiliating, and, in a certain sense, demoralizing. Her other
suitors had imagined that she had good traits back of her beauty,
and hitherto she had been carelessly content to believe that she
could display such traits in abundance should the occasion require
them. Here was one, however, who, while despising the woman, was
apparently seeking her for the sake of her beauty merely; and her
woman's soul, warped and dwarfed as it was, resented an homage that
was seemingly sensuous and superficial, and would, of necessity,
be transient. In her ignorance of Van Berg's motives, and in the
utter impossibility of surmising them, she could scarcely come to
any other conclusion; and she determined to punish him to the utmost
extent of her ability.
Thus it came to pass that Miss Mayhew had designs against Van Berg
that were not quite as amiable as those of the artist in regard to
Stanton, in a low tone, remarked to her at the supper table, "Now
that fate has throw you and Van Berg together in such a remarkable
manner" (the young lady colored deeply at this unfortunate expression
and looked at him keenly), "I trust that you will yield gracefully
to destiny and treat him with ordinary courtesy when you meet.
Otherwise you may occasion surmises that will not be agreeable to
"Has he been telling you anything about this morning?" she asked
"Nothing more than he said in your presence. Why, was there anything
more to tell?"
"Certainly not, but he made ill-natured remarks about me once--that
is, you said he did--and why should he not again?"
"Well, he has not. I think he spoke very handsomely of you this
morning. I hope he didn't exaggerate your good behavior."
"If you prefer to believe ill of me you are welcome to do so. For
my part, I believe you exaggerate what Mr. Van Berg said at the
concert, and that he never meant to be so rude. As far as I can
judge, he has shown no such unmannerly disposition since coming
"Indeed, you are right. I think his disposition has compared
favorably with your own."
"Well," she replied, with a peculiar smile, "we are on speaking
terms for the present."
"That smile bodes no good-will towards my friend, but for once you
will find a man who will not fall helplessly in love with your mere
"If you will glance at yonder table you can see that Miss Burton
has already so absorbed him that he has eyes for no one else."
"They have jolly good times at that table. I wish we were there."
"Indeed! are you bewitched also? I can't see what it is that people
find so attractive in that plain-looking girl."
"Well, for one thing, she has a mind. Beauty without mind is like
salad without dressing."
"And do you mean to say that I have no mind?" Ida asked, with a
"My dear Coz, we were speaking solely of Miss Burton. Indeed, I
think you have a very decided will of your own."
"I understand you. Well, in what other respects is Miss Burton my
"I doubt if Miss Burton ever thinks of herself as superior to any
one, and that's another very amiable trait in her."
"Can you not sum up her perfections a little more rapidly? Life
is short," remarked Ida, acidly.
"Come, Coz, let me get you some sweet-oil before you finish your
supper. You know you are the handsomest girl in the State, and
that's distinction enough for one woman. To you, Miss Burton is
only a plain school-teacher. Why should you envy her?"
"I do not envy her, nor can I see why people are so carried away
"It IS remarkable to see what an impression she has made in two
brief days. Of course her courage in saving the child served as
a general and favorable introduction, but it does not by any means
explain her growing popularity. For some reason or other those
about her always seem to be having a good time. See how animated
and pleased is the expression of all the faces at her table yonder.
It was the same on the croquet-ground this morning. She effervesced
like champagne, and before we knew it we were all in a state of
exhilaration and the morning had gone."
"I hate these bold, forward women who are quick to become acquainted
with every one. A man of this type is bad enough, but a woman is
"I agree with you in the abstract most heartily; but the only bold
thing that I have seen Miss Burton do was to run under the feet
of my horses. You might as well call a ray of sunshine bold and
forward; and people like sunshine when it is as nicely tempered as
her manner is. I confess that when I first learned who she was, and
before I had met her personally, I was greatly prejudiced against
her, but one would have to be a churl indeed to remain proof against
her genial good-nature. For my part I intend to enjoy it, as I do
all the other good things the gods throw in my way."
"The gods would indeed be careless to leave any good things within
your reach, unless they were meant for you," snapped Ida.
"Good for you, Coz; your ride with Van Berg has already brightened
you up. There is no telling what you might not become if you
would only associate with men who had sufficient brains not to grow
spooney over your pretty face."
As Ida and her mother passed out on the piazza, Van Berg joined
them and said:
"I am glad to see that you have so fully recovered, Miss Mayhew.
You prove again that you possess good strong nerves."
"Thank you," said the young lady, laconically, and with a sudden
accession of color.
"Mr. Van Berg," began Mrs. Mayhew with great animation, "I'm
excessively thankful that you happened to be on the road, and that
the stage overtook you this morning. It was so fortunate that
I almost think it providential. How dreadful it would have been
if Ida had been alone in such frightful peril! I cannot tell you
also how delighted I am that my daughter behaved so beautifully.
Indeed, I must confess that I am agreeably surprised, for Ida was
never famous for her courage. Your own manner must have inspired
confidence in her; and now that you have been so fortunately THROWN
TOGETHER, I trust you may be better friends in the future."
Miss Mayhew's rising color deepened into an intense scarlet, and,
as she turned away to hide her confusion, she could not forbear
shooting a wrathful glance at the artist. He had sufficient
self-control not to change a muscle, or to appear in the slightest
degree aware of the embarrassment caused by her mother's words,
and especially the use of the phrase--grown to be most hateful from
its associations--that so vividly recalled to the incensed maiden
the anomalous position in which she found herself at the end of
her perilous morning ride.
"You ladies differ favorably from us men," said Van Berg, quietly.
"You rise to meet an emergency by an innate quality of your sex,
whereas, in our case, if our native strength is not equal to the
occasion we fall below it as a matter of course."
"Oh, that accounts for Ida's coming off with such flying colors--she
rose to meet the emergency. I hope, however, she will EMBRACE
no more such opportunities of showing her courage--why! Ida, what
IS the matter? what have I said?" but the young lady, with face
inflamed, vanished in the direction of her room.
"Well, this IS strange," remarked the lady with a sharp glance of
inquiry at the artist, who still managed to maintain an expression
of lamb-like innocence. "I do believe the poor child is ill, and,
now I think of it, she has not acted like herself for several days;"
and she sought her daughter with hasty steps.
But the young lady did not go to her room, being well aware that
her mother would soon follow for the explanation which she could
not give. Therefore, taking a side corridor, she joined some
acquaintances on another piazza.
Chapter XI. A "Tableau Vivant."
"Miss Mayhew, will you please step here?" said a very fashionably
Turning, Ida saw near her the mother of the child that had been
rescued the previous day. She, with her husband, had been talking
very earnestly to Mr. Burleigh, the proprietor of the house, who
seemed in rather a dubious state of mind over some proposition of
"Miss Mayhew, we want your opinion in regard to a certain matter,"
began the lady volubly. "Of course I and my husband feel very
grateful to the young woman who saved our child from your cousin's
horses yesterday. Indeed, my husband feels so deeply indebted that
he wishes to make some return and I have suggested that he present
her with a check for five hundred dollars. I learn from Mr. Burleigh
that she is a teacher, and therefore, of course, she must be poor.
Now, in my view, if my husband or some other gentleman should present
this check in the parlor, with an appropriate little speech, it
would be a nice acknowledgment of her act. Don't you think so?"
"I do not think I am qualified to give an opinion," said Ida, "as
I have no acquaintance with the lady whatever."
"I'm sure it will be just the thing to do," said the lady, becoming
more infatuated with her project every moment. "Do you think your
cousin would be willing to make the speech?"
At this suggestion Ida laughed outright. "The idea," she said,
"of my cousin making a speech of any kind, or in any circumstances!"
"Now I think of it," persisted the lady, "Miss Burton and Mr. Van
Berg sit at the same table, and he seems better acquainted with her
than any of the gentlemen. He's the one to make the speech, only
I do not feel that I know him well enough to ask him. Do you, Miss
"Indeed I do not," said the young lady, decisively; "I am the last
one in the house to ask any favors of Mr. Van Berg."
"Well, then, Mr. Burleigh can explain everything and ask him."
"Really now, Mrs. Chints"--for such was the lady's name--"I don't
quite believe that Mr. Van Berg would approve of giving Miss Burton
money in public, and before anything further is done I would like
to ask his judgement. It all may be eminently proper, as you
say, and I would not like to stand in the way of the young lady's
receiving so handsome a present, and would not for the world if I
thought it would be agreeable to her; but there is something about
"I have it," interrupted the positive-minded lady, unheeding and
scarcely hearing Mr. Burleigh's dubious circumlocution, and she put
her finger to her forehead for a moment in an affected stage-like
manner, as if her ideas of the "eternal fitness of things" had
been obtained from the sensational drama. "I have it: the child
himself shall hand her the gift from his own little hand, and you,
Mr. Chints, can say all that need be said. It will be a pretty
scene, a 'tableau vivant.' Mr. Chints, come with me before the
young woman leaves her present favorable position near the parlor
door. Mr. Burleigh, your scruples are sentimental and groundless.
Of course the young woman will be delighted to receive in one
evening as much, and perhaps more, than her whole year's salary
amounts to. Come, Mr. Chints, Mr. Burleigh, if you wish, you may
group some of your friends near;" and away she rustled, sweeping
the floor with her silken train.
Mr. Chints lumbered after her with a perplexed and martyr-like
expression. He was a mighty man in Washington Market, but in a
matter like this he was as helpless as a stranded whale. The gift
of five hundred dollars did not trouble him in the least; he could
soon make that up; but taking part in a "tableau vivant" under the
auspices of his dramatic wife was like being impaled.
"Well," said Mr. Burleigh, shaking his head, "I wash my hands of
the whole matter. Five hundred dollars is a snug sum, but I doubt
if that little woman takes it. I'm more afraid she'll be offended
and hurt. What do you think, Miss Mayhew?"
"I've no opinion to offer, Mr. Burleigh. These people are all
comparative strangers to me. Mrs. Chints is determined to have
her own way, and nothing that you or I can say would make any
difference. My rule is to let people alone, and if they get into
scrapes it sometimes does them good;" and she left him that she
might witness the Chints' tableau.
"That's just the difference between you and Miss Burton," muttered
Mr. Burleigh, nodding his head significantly after her. "She'd
help a fellow out of a scrape and you'd help him into one. Well,
if the old saying's true, 'Handsome is that handsome does,' the
little school-teacher would be the girl for me were I looking for
On her way to the entrance of the main parlor, Ida stopped a moment
at an open window near the corner where Stanton and Van Berg were
"Cousin Ik," she said, 'sotto voce.'
He rose and joined her.
"If you wish to see a rich scene, hover near the entrance of the
"What do you mean?"
"I've learned that Mr. and Mrs. Chints, and possibly your favorite
new performer, Miss Burton, are going to act a little comedy
together: come and see;" and she vanished.
"Van," said Stanton in a vexed tone, "there's some mischief on foot;"
and he mentioned what his cousin had said, adding: "Can Ida have
been putting that brassy Mrs. Chints up to some absurd performance
that will hurt Miss Burton's feelings?"
They rose and sauntered down the piazza, Van Berg trying to imagine
what was about to take place and how he could shield the young lady
from any annoyance.
She sat inside the entrance of the main parlor facing the open
windows, and a little group had gathered around her, including
the ladies who sat at her table, with whom she had already become
a favorite. Ida had demurely entered by one of the open windows
and was apparently reading a novel under one of the gas jets not
far away. Groups of people were chatting near or were seated around
card-tables; others were quietly promenading in the hall-ways and
on the piazza. There was not an indication of any expected or
unexpected "scene." Only Ida's conscious, observant expression
and the absence of Mrs. Chints foreboded mischief.
"What enormity can that odious family be about to perpetrate?"
"I cannot surmise," answered Van Berg; "something in reference to
the rescue of her child, I suppose. I wish I could thwart them,
for Miss Burton's position will place her full in the public eye,
and I do not wish her to be the victim of their vulgarity."
After a little further hesitation and thought he stepped in, and
approaching Miss Burton, said:
"Pardon me for interrupting you, but I wish to show you something
on the piazza that will interest you."
She rose to follow him, but before she could take a step Mrs. Chints
swept in on the arm of her husband, followed by the nurse--who had
been retained at Miss Burton's intercession--bearing in her arms
the little boy, that stared at the lights and people with the round
eyes of childish wonder.
Every one looked up in surprise at the sudden appearance of the
little group, that suggested a christening more than anything else.
Planting themselves before Miss Burton, thus barring all egress,
Mr. Chints fumbled a moment in his pocket and drew out an envelope,
and with a loud, prefatory "Ahem!" began:
"My dear Miss Burton--that is the way Mrs. Chints says I should address
you, thought it strikes me as a trifle familiar and affectionate;
but I mean no harm--we're under pecul--very great obligations to
YOU. We learn--my wife has--that you are engaged--engaged--in--I
mean that you--teach. I'm sure that's a lawful calling--I mean
a laudable one, and no one can deny that it's useful. In my view
it's to your credit that you are engaged--in--that you teach.
I work myself, and always mean to. In fact I enjoy it more than
making speeches. But feeling that we were under wonderful obligations
to YOU, and learning--my wife did--that you were dependent on--on
your own labor, we thought that if this little fellow that you saved
so handsomely should hand you this check for five hundred dollars
it wouldn't be amiss." And here, according to rehearsal, the nurse
with great parade handed the child to Mrs. Chints, who now, with
much 'empressement,' advanced to a position immediately before Miss
Burton; meanwhile the poor, perspiring Mr. Chints put the envelope
into the child's chubby hand, saying:
"Give it to the lady, Augustus."
But the small Augustus, on the contrary, stared at the lady and
put the envelope in his mouth, to the great mortification of Mrs.
Chints, who had been so preoccupied with the Chints side of the
affair, and the impression they were making on the extemporized
audience, that she had no eyes for Miss Burton.
And that young lady's face was, in truth, a study. An expression
of surprise was followed quickly by one of resentment. Even Stanton
was obliged to admit that for a moment the little "school-ma'am"
looked formidable. But as Mr. Chints floundered on in his speech,
as some poor wretch who could not swim might struggle to get out
of the deep water into which he had been thrown, the expression
of her face softened, and one might imagine the thought passing
through her mind--"They don't know any better;" and when, at last,
the child, instead of carrying out the climax that Mrs. Chints had
intended, began vigorously to munch the envelope containing the
precious check, there was even a twinkle of humor in the young
lady's eyes. But she responded gravely:
"Mr. Chints, I was at first inclined to resent this scene, but time
has been given me to perceive that neither you nor your wife wish
to hurt my feelings, and that you are in part, at least, actuated
by feelings of gratitude for the service that I was so fortunate
as to render you. But I fear you do not quite understand me. You
are right in one respect, however. I do labor for my own livelihood,
and it is a source of the deepest satisfaction to me that I can
live from my own work and not from gifts. If your hearts prompt
this large donation, there are hundreds of poor little waifs in
the city to whom this money will bring a little of the care and
comfort which blesses your child. As for myself, this is all the
reward that I wish or can receive," and she stooped and kissed
the child on both cheeks. Then taking Van Berg's arm, she gladly
escaped to the cool and dusky piazza.
Mr. Chints looked at Mrs. Chints in dismay. Mrs. Chints handed
the baby to the nurse, and beat an undramatic and hasty retreat,
her husband following in a dazed sort of manner, treading on her
train at every other step.
As Van Berg passed out of the parlor, he saw Ida Mayhew vanishing
from its farther side, with Stanton in close pursuit. When Miss
Burton ended the disagreeable affair by kissing the child, there had
been a slight murmur of applause. Significant smiles and a rising
him of voices descanting on the affair in a way not at all complimentary
to the crestfallen Chints family, followed the disappearances of
all the actors in the unexpected scene.
Chapter XII. Miss Mayhew is Puzzled.
"Miss Burton," said Van Berg, as soon as they were alone, "I wish
I could have saved you from this disagreeable experience. I tried
to do so, but was not quick enough. I much blame my slow wits that
I was not more prompt."
"I wish it might have been prevented," she replied, "for their
sakes as well as my own."
"I have no compunctions on their account whatever," said Van Berg,
"and feel that you let them off much too kindly. I think, however,
that they and all others here will understand you much better
hereafter. I cannot express too strongly to you how thoroughly our
brief acquaintance has taught me to respect you, and if you will
permit me to give an earnest meaning to Mr. Burleigh's jesting offer
to share with me the responsibility of your care, I will esteem it
"I sincerely thank you, Mr. Van Berg, and should I ever need the
services of a gentleman,"--she laid a slight emphasis upon the
term--"I shall, without any hesitancy, turn to you. But I have
long since learned to be my own protectress, as, after all, one
must be, situated as I am."
"You seem to have the ability, not only to take care of yourself,
but of others, Miss Burton. Nevertheless I shall, with your
permission, establish a sort of protectorate over you which shall
be exceedingly unobtrusive and undemonstrative, and not in the
least like that which some powers make the excuse for exactions,
until the protected party is ready to cry out in desperation to
be delivered from its friends. I hesitated too long this evening
from the fear of being forward; and yet I did not know what was
coming, and had learned only accidentally but a few moments before
that anything was coming."
"Well," replied Miss Burton with a slight laugh, "it's a comfortable
thought that there's a fort near, to which one can run should an
enemy appear; and a pleasanter thought still, that the fort is strong
and staunch. but, to change the figure, I have a great fancy for
paddling my own light canoe, and such small craft will often float,
you know, where a ship of the line would strike."
"I will admit, Miss Burton, that ships of the line are often unwieldy
and clumsily deep in the water; but if you ever do need a gunboat
with a howitzer or two on deck, may I hope to be summoned?"
"I could ask for no better champion. I fairly tremble at the
broadside that would follow."
"Are you thinking of the discharge or the recoil?"
"Both might involve danger," said Miss Burton, laughing; "but I
have concluded to keep on your side through such wars as may rage
at the Lake House during my sojourn. I cannot help thinking of
poor Mr. and Mrs. Chints. I feel almost as sorry for such people
as I do for the blind and deaf. They seem to lack a certain sense
which, if possessed, would teach them to avoid such scenes."
"I detest such people and like to snub them unmercifully," said
Van Berg, heartily.
"That may be in accordance with a gunboat character; but is it
"Why not? What does snobbishness and rich vulgarity deserve at
any man's hands?"
"Nothing but sturdy blows. But what do weak, imperfect, half-educated
men and women, who have never had a tithe of your advantages, NEED
at your hands? Can we not condemn faults, and at the same time
pity and help the faulty? The gunboat sends its shot crashing too
much at random. It seems to me that true knighthood would spare
weakness of any kind."
"I'm glad you have not spared mine. You have demolished me as a
gunboat, but I would fain be your knight."
"It is Mrs. Chints who needs a knight at present, and not I. It
troubles me to think of her worriment over this foolish little
episode, and with your permission I will go and try to banish the
As she turned she was intercepted by Stanton, who said:
"Miss Burton, let my present to you my cousin, Miss Mayhew."
A ray from a parlor lamp fell upon Ida's face, and Van Berg saw at
once that it was clouded and unamiable in its expression. Stanton
had evidently been reproaching her severely.
Miss Burton held out her hand cordially and said; "I wish to thank
you for maintaining the credit of our sex this morning. These
superior men are so fond of portraying us as hysterical, clinging
creatures whose only instinct in peril is to throw themselves on
man's protection, that I always feel a little exultation when one
of the 'weaker and gentler sex,' as we are termed, show the courage
and presence of mind which they coolly appropriate as masculine
"Are you an advocate of woman's rights, Miss Burton?" asked Miss
Mayhew, stung by the unconscious sarcasm of the lady's words, to reply
in almost as resentful a manner as if a wound had been intended.
"Not of woman's, particularly," was the quiet answer; "I would be
glad if every one had their rights."
"You philanthropy is very wide, certainly."
"And therefore very thin, perhaps you think, since it covers so much
ground. I agree with you, Miss Mayhew, that general good-will is
as cold and thin as moonshine. One ray of sunlight that warms some
particular thing into life is worth it all."
"Indeed! I think I prefer moonlight."
"There are certain absorbing avocations in life to which moonshine
is better adapted then sunlight, is probably the thought in my
cousin's mind," said Stanton, satirically.
"And what are they?" asked Miss Burton.
"Flirtation, for instance."
"My cousin is speaking for himself," said Ida, acidly; "and knows
better what is in his own mind than in mine."
"If some ladies themselves never know their own minds, how can
another know?" Stanton retorted.
"Well," said Miss Burton, with a laugh, "if we accept a practical
philosophy much in vogue--that of taking the world as we find
it--flirting is one of the commonest pursuits of mankind."
"I'm quite sure, Miss Burton," said Van Berg, "that your philosophy
of life is the reverse of taking the world as we find it."
"Indeed, you are mistaken, sir; I am exceedingly prosaic in my views,
and cherish no Utopian dreams and theories. I do indeed take the
old matter-of-fact world as I find it, and try to make the best of
"Ah, your last is a very saving clause. Too many are seemingly
trying to make the worst of it, and unfortunately they succeed."
Ida here shot a quick and vengeful glance at the speaker.
"Please do not present me as a general reformer, Mr. Van Berg,"
protested Miss Burton, with a light laugh; "I have my hands full
in mending my own ways."
"And so might we all, no doubt," said Stanton; "only most of us
leave our ways unmended. but I am curious to know, Miss Burton, how
you would make the best of a flirtation; since this is emphatically
a part of the world as we find it, especially at a summer hotel."
"The best that we can do with many things that exist," she replied,
"is to leave them alone. Italy is pre-eminently the land of garlic
and art; but fortunately we shall not find it necessary to indulge
in both and in equal proportions when we are so happy as to go
"A great many people prefer the garlic," said Stanton.
"Oh, certainly," she answered; "it's a matter of taste."
"So then garlic and flirtation are corresponding terms in your
"I cannot say which term outranks the other, but it seems to me that
if a woman regards her love as a sacred thing, she cannot permit
an indefinite number of commonplace people even to attempt to stain
it with their soiling touch."
"I think gentlemen show just as much of a disposition to flirt as
ladies," said Ida, with resentment in her tone.
"I will not dispute that statement," replied Miss Burton, with a
laugh; "indeed, I'm inclined to think they are very human."
"Humane, you mean," interposed Stanton. "Yes, I often wonder at
our patient endurance."
"Which shall be taxed no longer to-night by me. Good-evening, Miss
Mayhew. Good-evening, patient martyrs."
"Humane, indeed!" said Stanton. "Are you that way inclined, Van?"
"I have no occasion to be otherwise."
"Well, I feel savage enough to scalp some one."
"So I should judge," remarked Ida.
"Perhaps then, as my mood contrasts somewhat favorably with your
cousin's, you will venture to walk with me for awhile?" said Van
"Indeed, sir," she replied, taking his arm, "there are times when
any change is a relief."
"I cannot be very greatly elated over that view of the case,
certainly," remarked Van Berg, with a laugh.
She did not reply at once, but after a moment said: "I suppose
you regard me as a hopeless case at best."
"what suggests that thought to you, Miss Mayhew?"
"You are not so dull as to need to ask that question, and you only
ask it to draw me out. For one thing, you probably think that
I instigated Mr. and Mrs. Chints to act as they did. This is not
"I'm very glad to hear it."
"I'm no more to blame than Mr. Burleigh was. He knew about it as
well as I did, but Mrs. Chints was bound to carry out her project."
"Will you permit a suggestion?"
"I suppose you wish to insinuate that I acted like a heathen,
instead of saying that I am one plainly, as does Cousin Ik?"
"I think you acted a little thoughtlessly. If Miss Burton had been
in your place, she would have tried to prevent the disagreeable
"Oh, certainly! she is perfect."
"No; she is kind."
"Would it be possible to speak upon some agreeable subject, Mr.
Van Berg? I have had enough mortifications for one day."
He was puzzled. What topic could he introduce that would interest
this spoiled and petulant beauty.
He touched on art, but she was only artful in her small way, and
could not follow him. He tried literature, and here they had even
less in common. He would not and indeed could not read the thin
society novels which reflected modes of life as trivial as her
own, and his books might have been written in another language,
so slight was her acquaintance with them. The various political,
social, or scientific questions of the day had never puzzled her
brain. Van Berg cautiously felt his way towards his companion's
knowledge of two or three of the most popular of them. Her answers,
however, were so superficial and irrelevant, and also so evidently
embarrassed, that he saw his only resources to be society chit-chat,
gossip about mutual acquaintances, the latest modes, the attractions
of pleasure resorts in the city, and of summer resorts in the country.
But he gave his mind to these unwonted themes, and labored hard to
be entertaining; for now that he had gained the vantage-ground he
sought, he was determined to discover whether there was a sleeping
mind or a vacuum behind Miss Mayhew's shapely forehead. Granting
that there was a womanly intelligence there, as yet unquickened,
he was not so irrational as to imagine he could jostle it into
illumining activity in one short hour, or day, or week. But it
seemed to him that if any mind existed worth the name, it would
give such encouraging signs of life before many days passed as
would promise success of his experiment. He felt that his first
aim must be to establish an intimacy that would permit as full
and frank an exchange of thought as was possible between people so
While he tried to bring himself down to the littleness of her daily
life, he determined to show his disapproval of every phrase of its
meanness as far as he could without offending her. He had made her
feel that he condemned her course towards Miss Burton that evening,
and he had meant to do so.
She resented this disapproval, and at the same time respected him
for it. Indeed he puzzled her. He evidently sought and wished
for her society; and yet as they walked back and forth, even though
she did not look at him when the light gave her the opportunity
to do so, she felt intuitively that he did not enjoy her company.
She saw that he was laboring hard to make himself agreeable; but
his small talk had not the familiar flippancy and fluency of one
speaking in his native tongue; nor was his manner that of one who,
infatuated with her beauty, had thrown aside all other considerations.
She felt that the man at her side measured her, and understood her
And she herself had a growing consciousness of insignificance that
was as painful as it was novel. Adding to all the humiliations
of this day here was a man, not so very much older than herself,
trying to come down to her level, as he would accommodate his
language to a child. No labored argument could have revealed her
ignorance to her so clearly, as her conscious inability to follow
him into his ordinary range of thought. Unwittingly he had demonstrated
his superiority in a way that she could not deny, however much she
might be inclined to resent it. And yet he treated her with a sort
of respect, and occasionally she saw that he bent his eyes upon
her face as if in search of something.
After a transient effort to ignore everything and talk in her usual
superficial manner, she became more and more silent and oppressed,
and, at last said, somewhat abruptly:
"Mr. Van Berg, I am weary, and I imagine you are too. I think I
will say good-night."
"I scarcely wonder that you are fatigued. You have had a trying
"It has been a horrid day," she said, emphatically.
"It might have ended much worse, nevertheless."
"Possibly," she admitted with a shrug.
"You have more reason to congratulate yourself than you imagine,
Miss Mayhew. Even that disagreeable souvenir of our morning peril,
your lameness, has disappeared, and you might have been maimed for
"My lameness, like my courage, was chiefly a fraud to begin with,
and soon disappeared; but I have other souvenirs of that occasion
that I cannot get rid of so easily."
"If I am one of them, you are right, Miss Mayhew; I shall hold you
to our agreement this morning. You put me on my good behavior--have
I not behaved well?"
"Yes, better than I have. I was not referring to you personally,
but to certain memories."
"We agreed to let by-gones be by-gones."
"But others are not parties to this agreement, and every reference
to the affair is odious to me."
"I shall make no further reference to it, and you must be fair
enough not to punish me for the acts of others."
"You also despise me in your heart of my course towards Miss Burton
"If I despised you would I have sought your society this evening?"
"I do not know. I don't understand you, if you will permit my
"Possibly you don't understand yourself, Miss Mayhew."
"I understand that I have had a miserable day, and I hope I may
never see another like it. Good-night, sir."
Chapter XIII. Nature's Broken Promise.
Van Berg had been left to himself but a little time before Stanton
and Mr. Burleigh came out upon the piazza, and the three gentlemen
sat down for a quiet chat.
"Well," remarked mine host, with a sigh of relief such as a pilot
might heave after taking his ship round a perilous point; "well,
thanks to Miss Burton's good sense, the affair has ended without any
trouble. In a house like this, 'Satan is finding mischief still'
whenever my back is turned, and sometimes he threatens to get up
a row right under my nose, as in this instance. I was a 'blarsted
fool,' as our English friends have it, not to know that Mrs.
Chint's drama, although beginning in comedy, might end in tragedy
of my losing some good paying boarders. Still further did
I demonstrate the length of my ears by even imagining it possible
that Miss Burton would take five hundred, or five hundred thousand
dollars in any such circumstances. But the whole thing was done
in a jiffy, and Mrs. Chints was possessed to have her 'tableau
vivant.' Lively picture wasn't it? Still, if Miss Mayhew, when
appealed to by Mrs. Chints, had confirmed my doubts, I would have
tried to stop the nonsense at any cost."
"Did Miss Mayhew advise the step?" asked Stanton.
"Oh, no! She was non-committal. She acted as if it were none of
her affair, save as it might afford her a little amusement. But
these rows are no light matters to us poor publicans, who must
please every one and keep the whole menagerie in order. Mr. Chints
was swearing up and down his room that he had been made a fool of.
Mrs. Chints was for leaving to-morrow morning, declaring that she
would not endure such airs from a school-teacher. They are rich
and have a number of friends who are coming soon, and so my mind
was full of 'strange oaths' also, at my prospective loss, when this
blessed little woman appears, taps at their door, enters like the
angel into the lion's den, and shuts their mouths by some magic
all her own. And now they're going to stay; Mr. Chints will give
the five hundred to the Children's Aid Society, all is serene and
I'm happy, so much so that I'll smoke another of your good cigars,
"Certainly, half-a-dozen if you wish. How do you imagine she
quieted the unruly beasts?"
"Oh, I suppose she got around them through the child--somewhat as
she won over my wife this afternoon by means of our cross baby.
It's teething, you know--and yet how should you young chaps know
anything about babies! No matter, your time will come. This
promenading the piazza with lovely creatures who have been half the
afternoon at their toilets is all very nice; but wait till you have
weathered innumerable squalls in the dead of night--then you'll
learn that teething-time in a household is like going around Cape
Horn. Well, to return from your future to my present. When so
good-natured a man as I am gets into a sympathetic mood with old
King Herod, you can imagine what a state the mother's nerves must be
in who has to stand it night and day. But as Miss Burton had been
commended to my care, I felt that I was in duty bound to introduce
her to my wife and show her some attention. So I said to my wife,
this afternoon, 'I'm going to bring a young lady in to see you.'
'Do you think I'm in a condition to entertain company?' she asked,
with a faint suggestion of hard cider in her tone. 'Well, my
dear,' I expostulated, 'it was just the same yesterday, and will
be a little more so to-morrow, and I feel that I shall be remiss
if I delay any longer.' 'Oh, very well,' she said, as if it were
a tooth that must come out sooner or later, 'since the matter must
be attended to, let us have it over at once.' But bless you, it
wasn't over till supper-time. As I brought the young lady in, the
baby waked out of a five-minutes' nap that had cost about an hour's
rocking, and I thought the roof would come off. My wife looked
cross and worried--well, it was prose, gentlemen, prose--not the
poetry of life; and I said to myself, 'I suppose I have about made
it certain that this young woman will live and die an old maid by
giving her this glimpse behind the scenes. I thought the ladies
could get on better without me than with me, so I bowed myself out,
glad to escape the din; and I supposed Miss Burton would say a few
pleasant things in the direction of Mrs. Burleigh, which she, poor
woman, might not be able to hear, and then she would bow herself
out, also glad to escape. An hour and a half later I went back to
see if I could not coax my wife away for a drive, and what do you
suppose I saw?"
"The baby in convulsions," said Stanton.
"Give it up," added Van Berg.
"Sweet transformation scene; deep hush; my wife asleep in her
rocking-chair, the baby asleep in the arms of Miss Burton, who
held up a warning finger at me to be quiet. But the mischief was
done; my wife started up and was mortified beyond measure that she
had treated her guest so rudely. The good fairy, however, was so
genuinely delighted that she had quieted the baby and given the
tired mother a little rest, that we had to come to the conclusion
that she found pleasure in ways that are a trifle uncommon. By
some miracle or other she kept the baby asleep, and then my wife
and I tried to entertain her a little, but we were the ones that
were entertained. Before we knew it, the supper-bell rang, and
then I'm blessed if the little chap didn't wake up and grin at us
all. To think then that I should reward her by letting Mr. Chints
slap her face with a five-hundred-dollar check! I guess we'll all
know better next time."
"Did she tell you anything further about her history or her
connections?" asked Stanton.