Part 1 out of 2
AN INTERNATIONAL EPISODE
By Henry James
Four years ago--in 1874--two young Englishmen had occasion to go
to the United States. They crossed the ocean at midsummer,
and, arriving in New York on the first day of August,
were much struck with the fervid temperature of that city.
Disembarking upon the wharf, they climbed into one of those huge
high-hung coaches which convey passengers to the hotels,
and with a great deal of bouncing and bumping, took their
course through Broadway. The midsummer aspect of New York
is not, perhaps, the most favorable one; still, it is
not without its picturesque and even brilliant side.
Nothing could well resemble less a typical English street
than the interminable avenue, rich in incongruities,
through which our two travelers advanced--looking out on each
side of them at the comfortable animation of the sidewalks,
the high-colored, heterogeneous architecture, the huge white marble
facades glittering in the strong, crude light, and bedizened
with gilded lettering, the multifarious awnings, banners,
and streamers, the extraordinary number of omnibuses, horsecars,
and other democratic vehicles, the vendors of cooling fluids,
the white trousers and big straw hats of the policemen,
the tripping gait of the modish young persons on the pavement,
the general brightness, newness, juvenility, both of people
and things. The young men had exchanged few observations;
but in crossing Union Square, in front of the monument to Washington--
in the very shadow, indeed, projected by the image of the pater patriae>--one of them remarked to the other, "It seems
a rum-looking place."
"Ah, very odd, very odd," said the other, who was the clever
man of the two.
"Pity it's so beastly hot," resumed the first speaker after a pause.
"You know we are in a low latitude," said his friend.
"I daresay," remarked the other.
"I wonder," said the second speaker presently, "if they can give
one a bath?"
"I daresay not," rejoined the other.
"Oh, I say!" cried his comrade.
This animated discussion was checked by their arrival at the hotel,
which had been recommended to them by an American gentleman whose acquaintance
they made--with whom, indeed, they became very intimate--on the steamer,
and who had proposed to accompany them to the inn and introduce them,
in a friendly way, to the proprietor. This plan, however, had been
defeated by their friend's finding that his "partner" was awaiting him on
the wharf and that his commercial associate desired him instantly to come
and give his attention to certain telegrams received from St. Louis.
But the two Englishmen, with nothing but their national prestige and
personal graces to recommend them, were very well received at the hotel,
which had an air of capacious hospitality. They found that a bath was
not unattainable, and were indeed struck with the facilities for prolonged
and reiterated immersion with which their apartment was supplied.
After bathing a good deal--more, indeed, than they had ever done before on
a single occasion--they made their way into the dining room of the hotel,
which was a spacious restaurant, with a fountain in the middle, a great
many tall plants in ornamental tubs, and an array of French waiters.
The first dinner on land, after a sea voyage, is, under any circumstances,
a delightful occasion, and there was something particularly agreeable
in the circumstances in which our young Englishmen found themselves.
They were extremely good natured young men; they were more observant than
they appeared; in a sort of inarticulate, accidentally dissimulative fashion,
they were highly appreciative. This was, perhaps, especially the case
with the elder, who was also, as I have said, the man of talent.
They sat down at a little table, which was a very different affair
from the great clattering seesaw in the saloon of the steamer.
The wide doors and windows of the restaurant stood open, beneath large
awnings, to a wide pavement, where there were other plants in tubs,
and rows of spreading trees, and beyond which there was a large
shady square, without any palings, and with marble-paved walks.
And above the vivid verdure rose other facades of white marble and of
pale chocolate-colored stone, squaring themselves against the deep
blue sky. Here, outside, in the light and the shade and the heat,
there was a great tinkling of the bells of innumerable streetcars,
and a constant strolling and shuffling and rustling of many pedestrians,
a large proportion of whom were young women in Pompadour-looking dresses.
Within, the place was cool and vaguely lighted, with the plash of water,
the odor of flowers, and the flitting of French waiters, as I have said,
upon soundless carpets.
"It's rather like Paris, you know," said the younger of our two travelers."
"It's like Paris--only more so," his companion rejoined.
"I suppose it's the French waiters," said the first speaker.
"Why don't they have French waiters in London?"
"Fancy a French waiter at a club," said his friend.
The young Englishman started a little, as if he could not fancy it.
"In Paris I'm very apt to dine at a place where there's an English waiter.
Don't you know what's-his-name's, close to the thingumbob?
They always set an English waiter at me. I suppose they think I
can't speak French."
"Well, you can't." And the elder of the young Englishmen unfolded his napkin.
His companion took no notice whatever of this declaration. "I say,"
he resumed in a moment, "I suppose we must learn to speak American.
I suppose we must take lessons."
"I can't understand them," said the clever man.
"What the deuce is HE saying?" asked his comrade,
appealing from the French waiter.
"He is recommending some soft-shell crabs," said the clever man.
And so, in desultory observation of the idiosyncrasies of the new society
in which they found themselves, the young Englishmen proceeded to dine--
going in largely, as the phrase is, for cooling draughts and dishes,
of which their attendant offered them a very long list. After dinner
they went out and slowly walked about the neighboring streets. The early
dusk of waning summer was coming on, but the heat was still very great.
The pavements were hot even to the stout boot soles of the British travelers,
and the trees along the curbstone emitted strange exotic odors.
The young men wandered through the adjoining square--that queer place
without palings, and with marble walks arranged in black and white lozenges.
There were a great many benches, crowded with shabby-looking people,
and the travelers remarked, very justly, that it was not much like
Belgrave Square. On one side was an enormous hotel, lifting up into
the hot darkness an immense array of open, brightly lighted windows.
At the base of this populous structure was an eternal jangle of horsecars,
and all round it, in the upper dusk, was a sinister hum of mosquitoes.
The ground floor of the hotel seemed to be a huge transparent cage,
flinging a wide glare of gaslight into the street, of which it formed a sort
of public adjunct, absorbing and emitting the passersby promiscuously.
The young Englishmen went in with everyone else, from curiosity, and saw
a couple of hundred men sitting on divans along a great marble-paved corridor,
with their legs stretched out, together with several dozen more standing
in a queue, as at the ticket office of a railway station, before a
brilliantly illuminated counter of vast extent. These latter persons,
who carried portmanteaus in their hands, had a dejected, exhausted look;
their garments were not very fresh, and they seemed to be rendering
some mysterious tribute to a magnificent young man with a waxed mustache,
and a shirtfront adorned with diamond buttons, who every now and
then dropped an absent glance over their multitudinous patience.
They were American citizens doing homage to a hotel clerk.
"I'm glad he didn't tell us to go there," said one of our Englishmen,
alluding to their friend on the steamer, who had told them so many things.
They walked up the Fifth Avenue, where, for instance, he had told
them that all the first families lived. But the first families
were out of town, and our young travelers had only the satisfaction
of seeing some of the second--or perhaps even the third--
taking the evening air upon balconies and high flights of doorsteps,
in the streets which radiate from the more ornamental thoroughfare.
They went a little way down one of these side streets, and they
saw young ladies in white dresses--charming-looking persons--
seated in graceful attitudes on the chocolate-colored steps.
In one or two places these young ladies were conversing across the street
with other young ladies seated in similar postures and costumes
in front of the opposite houses, and in the warm night air their
colloquial tones sounded strange in the ears of the young Englishmen.
One of our friends, nevertheless--the younger one--intimated that
he felt a disposition to interrupt a few of these soft familiarities;
but his companion observed, pertinently enough, that he had
better be careful. "We must not begin with making mistakes,"
said his companion.
"But he told us, you know--he told us," urged the young man,
alluding again to the friend on the steamer.
"Never mind what he told us!" answered his comrade, who, if he had
greater talents, was also apparently more of a moralist.
By bedtime--in their impatience to taste of a terrestrial couch again our
seafarers went to bed early--it was still insufferably hot, and the buzz
of the mosquitoes at the open windows might have passed for an audible
crepitation of the temperature. "We can't stand this, you know,"
the young Englishmen said to each other; and they tossed about all night
more boisterously than they had tossed upon the Atlantic billows.
On the morrow, their first thought was that they would re-embark that day
for England; and then it occured to them that they might find an asylum
nearer at hand. The cave of Aeolus became their ideal of comfort,
and they wondered where the Americans went when they wished to cool off.
They had not the least idea, and they determined to apply for information
to Mr. J. L. Westgate. This was the name inscribed in a bold hand on the back
of a letter carefully preserved in the pocketbook of our junior traveler.
Beneath the address, in the left-hand corner of the envelope,
were the words, "Introducing Lord Lambeth and Percy Beaumont, Esq."
The letter had been given to the two Englishmen by a good friend
of theirs in London, who had been in America two years previously,
and had singled out Mr. J. L. Westgate from the many friends
he had left there as the consignee, as it were, of his compatriots.
"He is a capital fellow," the Englishman in London had said,
"and he has got an awfully pretty wife. He's tremendously hospitable--
he will do everything in the world for you; and as he knows everyone
over there, it is quite needless I should give you any other introduction.
He will make you see everyone; trust to him for putting you into circulation.
He has got a tremendously pretty wife." It was natural that in the hour
of tribulation Lord Lambeth and Mr. Percy Beaumont should have bethought
themselves of a gentleman whose attractions had been thus vividly depicted;
all the more so that he lived in the Fifth Avenue, and that the Fifth Avenue,
as they had ascertained the night before, was contiguous to their hotel.
"Ten to one he'll be out of town," said Percy Beaumont; "but we can at least
find out where he has gone, and we can immediately start in pursuit.
He can't possibly have gone to a hotter place, you know."
"Oh, there's only one hotter place," said Lord Lambeth,
"and I hope he hasn't gone there."
They strolled along the shady side of the street to the number
indicated upon the precious letter. The house presented
an imposing chocolate-colored expanse, relieved by facings
and window cornices of florid sculpture, and by a couple of dusty
rose trees which clambered over the balconies and the portico.
This last-mentioned feature was approached by a monumental
flight of steps.
"Rather better than a London house," said Lord Lambeth,
looking down from this altitude, after they had rung the bell.
"It depends upon what London house you mean," replied his companion.
"You have a tremendous chance to get wet between the house door
and your carriage."
"Well," said Lord Lambeth, glancing at the burning heavens,
"I 'guess' it doesn't rain so much here!"
The door was opened by a long Negro in a white jacket, who grinned
familiarly when Lord Lambeth asked for Mr. Westgate.
"He ain't at home, sah; he's downtown at his o'fice."
"Oh, at his office?" said the visitors. "And when will he be at home?"
"Well, sah, when he goes out dis way in de mo'ning, he ain't
liable to come home all day."
This was discouraging; but the address of Mr. Westgate's
office was freely imparted by the intelligent black
and was taken down by Percy Beaumont in his pocketbook.
The two gentlemen then returned, languidly, to their hotel,
and sent for a hackney coach, and in this commodious vehicle
they rolled comfortably downtown. They measured the whole
length of Broadway again and found it a path of fire; and then,
deflecting to the left, they were deposited by their conductor
before a fresh, light, ornamental structure, ten stories high,
in a street crowded with keen-faced, light-limbed young men,
who were running about very quickly and stopping each other eagerly
at corners and in doorways. Passing into this brilliant building,
they were introduced by one of the keen-faced young men--
he was a charming fellow, in wonderful cream-colored garments
and a hat with a blue ribbon, who had evidently perceived them
to be aliens and helpless--to a very snug hydraulic elevator,
in which they took their place with many other persons,
and which, shooting upward in its vertical socket,
presently projected them into the seventh horizontal compartment
of the edifice. Here, after brief delay, they found themselves
face to face with the friend of their friend in London.
His office was composed of several different rooms, and they
waited very silently in one of them after they had sent in
their letter and their cards. The letter was not one which it
would take Mr. Westgate very long to read, but he came out
to speak to them more instantly than they could have expected;
he had evidently jumped up from his work. He was a tall,
lean personage and was dressed all in fresh white linen;
he had a thin, sharp, familiar face, with an expression that was
at one and the same time sociable and businesslike, a quick,
intelligent eye, and a large brown mustache, which concealed
his mouth and made his chin, beneath it, look small.
Lord Lambeth thought he looked tremendously clever.
"How do you do, Lord Lambeth--how do you do, sir?" he said,
holding the open letter in his hand. "I'm very glad to see you;
I hope you're very well. You had better come in here; I think
it's cooler," and he led the way into another room, where there were
law books and papers, and windows wide open beneath striped awning.
Just opposite one of the windows, on a line with his eyes,
Lord Lambeth observed the weathervane of a church steeple.
The uproar of the street sounded infinitely far below,
and Lord Lambeth felt very high in the air. "I say it's cooler,"
pursued their host, "but everything is relative.
How do you stand the heat?"
"I can't say we like it," said Lord Lambeth; "but Beaumont likes
it better than I."
"Well, it won't last," Mr. Westgate very cheerfully declared;
"nothing unpleasant lasts over here. It was very hot when Captain
Littledale was here; he did nothing but drink sherry cobblers.
He expressed some doubt in his letter whether I will remember him--
as if I didn't remember making six sherry cobblers for him one day
in about twenty minutes. I hope you left him well, two years having
elapsed since then."
"Oh, yes, he's all right," said Lord Lambeth.
"I am always very glad to see your countrymen," Mr. Westgate pursued.
"I thought it would be time some of you should be coming along.
A friend of mine was saying to me only a day or two ago, 'It's time
for the watermelons and the Englishmen."
"The Englishmen and the watermelons just now are about the same thing,"
Percy Beaumont observed, wiping his dripping forehead.
"Ah, well, we'll put you on ice, as we do the melons.
You must go down to Newport."
"We'll go anywhere," said Lord Lambeth.
"Yes, you want to go to Newport; that's what you want to do,"
Mr. Westgate affirmed. "But let's see--when did you get here?"
"Only yesterday," said Percy Beaumont.
"Ah, yes, by the Russia. Where are you staying?"
"At the Hanover, I think they call it."
"Pretty comfortable?" inquired Mr. Westgate.
"It seems a capital place, but I can't say we like the gnats,"
said Lord Lambeth.
Mr. Westgate stared and laughed. "Oh, no, of course you don't
like the gnats. We shall expect you to like a good many things
over here, but we shan't insist upon your liking the gnats;
though certainly you'll admit that, as gnats, they are fine, eh?
But you oughtn't to remain in the city."
"So we think," said Lord Lambeth. "If you would kindly suggest something--"
"Suggest something, my dear sir?" and Mr. Westgate looked at him,
narrowing his eyelids. "Open your mouth and shut your eyes!
Leave it to me, and I'll put you through. It's a matter of national
pride with me that all Englishmen should have a good time;
and as I have had considerable practice, I have learned to minister
to their wants. I find they generally want the right thing.
So just please to consider yourselves my property; and if anyone
should try to appropriate you, please to say, 'Hands off;
too late for the market.' But let's see," continued the American,
in his slow, humorous voice, with a distinctness of utterance
which appeared to his visitors to be part of a humorous intention--
a strangely leisurely, speculative voice for a man evidently
so busy and, as they felt, so professional--"let's see;
are you going to make something of a stay, Lord Lambeth?"
"Oh, dear, no," said the young Englishman; "my cousin was coming
over on some business, so I just came across, at an hour's notice,
for the lark."
"Is it your first visit to the United States?"
"Oh, dear, yes."
"I was obliged to come on some business," said Percy Beaumont,
"and I brought Lambeth along."
"And YOU have been here before, sir?"
"I thought, from your referring to business--" said Mr. Westgate.
"Oh, you see I'm by way of being a barrister," Percy Beaumont answered.
"I know some people that think of bringing a suit against one of your
railways, and they asked me to come over and take measures accordingly."
"What's your railroad?" he asked.
"The Tennessee Central."
The American tilted back his chair a little and poised it an instant.
"Well, I'm sorry you want to attack one of our institutions,"
he said, smiling. "But I guess you had better enjoy yourself FIRST!"
"I'm certainly rather afraid I can't work in this weather,"
the young barrister confessed.
"Leave that to the natives," said Mr. Westgate.
"Leave the Tennessee Central to me, Mr. Beaumont.
Some day we'll talk it over, and I guess I can make it square.
But I didn't know you Englishmen ever did any work,
in the upper classes."
"Oh, we do a lot of work; don't we, Lambeth?" asked Percy Beaumont.
"I must certainly be at home by the 19th of September,"
said the younger Englishman, irrelevantly but gently.
"For the shooting, eh? or is it the hunting, or the fishing?"
inquired his entertainer.
"Oh, I must be in Scotland," said Lord Lambeth, blushing a little.
"Well, then," rejoined Mr. Westgate, "you had better amuse
yourself first, also. You must go down and see Mrs. Westgate."
"We should be so happy, if you would kindly tell us the train,"
said Percy Beaumont.
"It isn't a train--it's a boat."
"Oh, I see. And what is the name of--a-- the--a-- town?"
"It isn't a town," said Mr. Westgate, laughing. "It's a--well, what shall
I call it? It's a watering place. In short, it's Newport.
You'll see what it is. It's cool; that's the principal thing.
You will greatly oblige me by going down there and putting yourself
into the hands of Mrs. Westgate. It isn't perhaps for me to say it,
but you couldn't be in better hands. Also in those of her sister,
who is staying with her. She is very fond of Englishmen.
She thinks there is nothing like them."
"Mrs. Westgate or--a-- her sister?" asked Percy Beaumont modestly,
yet in the tone of an inquiring traveler.
"Oh, I mean my wife," said Mr. Westgate. "I don't suppose
my sister-in-law knows much about them. She has always led
a very quiet life; she has lived in Boston."
Percy Beaumont listened with interest. "That, I believe,"
he said, "is the most--a-- intellectual town?"
"I believe it is very intellectual. I don't go there much,"
responded his host.
"I say, we ought to go there," said Lord Lambeth to his companion.
"Oh, Lord Lambeth, wait till the great heat is over,"
Mr. Westgate interposed. "Boston in this weather would be very trying;
it's not the temperature for intellectual exertion. At Boston,
you know, you have to pass an examination at the city limits;
and when you come away they give you a kind of degree."
Lord Lambeth stared, blushing a little; and Percy Beaumont
stared a little also--but only with his fine natural complexion--
glancing aside after a moment to see that his companion was not looking
too credulous, for he had heard a great deal of American humor.
"I daresay it is very jolly," said the younger gentleman.
"I daresay it is," said Mr. Westgate. "Only I must impress
upon you that at present--tomorrow morning, at an early hour--
you will be expected at Newport. We have a house there;
half the people in New York go there for the summer.
I am not sure that at this very moment my wife can take
you in; she has got a lot of people staying with her;
I don't know who they all are; only she may have no room.
But you can begin with the hotel, and meanwhile you can live
at my house. In that way--simply sleeping at the hotel--
you will find it tolerable. For the rest, you must make
yourself at home at my place. You mustn't be shy, you know;
if you are only here for a month that will be a great waste
of time. Mrs. Westgate won't neglect you, and you had better
not try to resist her. I know something about that.
I expect you'll find some pretty girls on the premises.
I shall write to my wife by this afternoon's mail,
and tomorrow morning she and Miss Alden will look out for you.
Just walk right in and make yourself comfortable.
Your steamer leaves from this part of the city, and I will
immediately send out and get you a cabin. Then, at half past
four o'clock, just call for me here, and I will go with you
and put you on board. It's a big boat; you might get lost.
A few days hence, at the end of the week, I will come down
to Newport and see how you are getting on."
The two young Englishmen inaugurated the policy of not resisting Mrs. Westgate
by submitting, with great docility and thankfulness, to her husband.
He was evidently a very good fellow, and he made an impression upon
his visitors; his hospitality seemed to recommend itself consciously--
with a friendly wink, as it were--as if it hinted, judicially, that you
could not possibly make a better bargain. Lord Lambeth and his cousin
left their entertainer to his labors and returned to their hotel,
where they spent three or four hours in their respective shower baths.
Percy Beaumont had suggested that they ought to see something of
the town; but "Oh, damn the town!" his noble kinsman had rejoined.
They returned to Mr. Westgate's office in a carriage, with their luggage,
very punctually; but it must be reluctantly recorded that, this time,
he kept them waiting so long that they felt themselves missing
the steamer, and were deterred only by an amiable modesty from dispensing
with his attendance and starting on a hasty scramble to the wharf.
But when at last he appeared, and the carriage plunged into the
purlieus of Broadway, they jolted and jostled to such good purpose
that they reached the huge white vessel while the bell for departure
was still ringing and the absorption of passengers still active.
It was indeed, as Mr. Westgate had said, a big boat, and his leadership
in the innumerable and interminable corridors and cabins, with which
he seemed perfectly acquainted, and of which anyone and everyone appeared
to have the entree, was very grateful to the slightly bewildered voyagers.
He showed them their stateroom--a spacious apartment, embellished with
gas lamps, mirrors en pied, and sculptured furniture--and then,
long after they had been intimately convinced that the steamer was in motion
and launched upon the unknown stream that they were about to navigate,
he bade them a sociable farewell.
"Well, goodbye, Lord Lambeth," he said; "goodbye, Mr. Percy Beaumont.
I hope you'll have a good time. Just let them do what they want with you.
I'll come down by-and-by and look after you."
The young Englishmen emerged from their cabin and amused
themselves with wandering about the immense labyrinthine steamer,
which struck them as an extraordinary mixture of a ship and a hotel.
It was densely crowded with passengers, the larger number
of whom appeared to be ladies and very young children;
and in the big saloons, ornamented in white and gold,
which followed each other in surprising succession,
beneath the swinging gaslight, and among the small side
passages where the Negro domestics of both sexes assembled
with an air of philosophic leisure, everyone was moving
to and fro and exchanging loud and familiar observations.
Eventually, at the instance of a discriminating black,
our young men went and had some "supper" in a wonderful
place arranged like a theater, where, in a gilded gallery,
upon which little boxes appeared to open, a large orchestra
was playing operatic selections, and, below, people were
handing about bills of fare, as if they had been programs.
All this was sufficiently curious; but the agreeable thing, later,
was to sit out on one of the great white decks of the steamer,
in the warm breezy darkness, and, in the vague starlight,
to make out the line of low, mysterious coast. The young
Englishmen tried American cigars--those of Mr. Westgate--
and talked together as they usually talked, with many
odd silences, lapses of logic, and incongruities of transition;
like people who have grown old together and learned to
supply each other's missing phrases; or, more especially,
like people thoroughly conscious of a common point of view,
so that a style of conversation superficially lacking in finish
might suffice for reference to a fund of associations in the light
of which everything was all right.
"We really seem to be going out to sea," Percy Beaumont observed.
"Upon my word, we are going back to England. He has shipped us off again.
I call that 'real mean.'"
"I suppose it's all right," said Lord Lambeth. "I want to see those
pretty girls at Newport. You know, he told us the place was an island;
and aren't all islands in the sea?"
"Well," resumed the elder traveler after a while, "if his house
is as good as his cigars, we shall do very well."
"He seems a very good fellow," said Lord Lambeth, as if this idea
had just occurred to him.
"I say, we had better remain at the inn," rejoined his companion presently.
"I don't think I like the way he spoke of his house. I don't like stopping
in the house with such a tremendous lot of women."
"Oh, I don't mind," said Lord Lambeth. And then they smoked
a while in silence. "Fancy his thinking we do no work in England!"
the young man resumed.
"I daresay he didn't really think so," said Percy Beaumont.
"Well, I guess they don't know much about England over here!"
declared Lord Lambeth humorously. And then there was another long pause.
"He was devilish civil," observed the young nobleman.
"Nothing, certainly, could have been more civil," rejoined his companion.
"Littledale said his wife was great fun," said Lord Lambeth.
"This American's--Mrs. Westgate. What's his name? J.L."
Beaumont was silent a moment. "What was fun to Littledale,"
he said at last, rather sententiously, "may be death to us."
"What do you mean by that?" asked his kinsman. "I am as good
a man as Littledale."
"My dear boy, I hope you won't begin to flirt," said Percy Beaumont.
"I don't care. I daresay I shan't begin."
"With a married woman, if she's bent upon it, it's all very well,"
Beaumont expounded. "But our friend mentioned a young lady--a sister,
a sister-in-law. For God's sake, don't get entangled with her!"
"How do you mean entangled?"
"Depend upon it she will try to hook you."
"Oh, bother!" said Lord Lambeth.
"American girls are very clever," urged his companion.
"So much the better," the young man declared.
"I fancy they are always up to some game of that sort," Beaumont continued.
"They can't be worse than they are in England," said Lord Lambeth judicially.
"Ah, but in England," replied Beaumont, "you have got your
natural protectors. You have got your mother and sisters."
"My mother and sisters--" began the young nobleman with a certain energy.
But he stopped in time, puffing at his cigar.
"Your mother spoke to me about it, with tears in her eyes,"
said Percy Beaumont. "She said she felt very nervous.
I promised to keep you out of mischief."
"You had better take care of yourself," said the object of maternal
and ducal solicitude.
"Ah," rejoined the young barrister, "I haven't the expectation of a hundred
thousand a year, not to mention other attractions."
"Well," said Lord Lambeth, "don't cry out before you're hurt!"
It was certainly very much cooler at Newport, where our travelers
found themselves assigned to a couple of diminutive bedrooms
in a faraway angle of an immense hotel. They had gone ashore
in the early summer twilight and had very promptly put themselves
to bed; thanks to which circumstance and to their having,
during the previous hours, in their commodious cabin,
slept the sleep of youth and health, they began to feel,
toward eleven o'clock, very alert and inquisitive.
They looked out of their windows across a row of small
green fields, bordered with low stone walls of rude construction,
and saw a deep blue ocean lying beneath a deep blue sky,
and flecked now and then with scintillating patches of foam.
A strong, fresh breeze came in through the curtainless casements
and prompted our young men to observe, generally, that it didn't
seem half a bad climate. They made other observations after they
had emerged from their rooms in pursuit of breakfast--a meal
of which they partook in a huge bare hall, where a hundred Negroes,
in white jackets, were shuffling about upon an uncarpeted floor;
where the flies were superabundant, and the tables and dishes covered
over with a strange, voluminous integument of coarse blue gauze;
and where several little boys and girls, who had risen late,
were seated in fastidious solitude at the morning repast.
These young persons had not the morning paper before them,
but they were engaged in languid perusal of the bill of fare.
This latter document was a great puzzle to our friends, who, on reflecting
that its bewildering categories had relation to breakfast alone,
had an uneasy prevision of an encyclopedic dinner list.
They found a great deal of entertainment at the hotel, an enormous
wooden structure, for the erection of which it seemed to them that
the virgin forests of the West must have been terribly deflowered.
It was perforated from end to end with immense bare corridors,
through which a strong draught was blowing--bearing along
wonderful figures of ladies in white morning dresses and clouds
of Valenciennes lace, who seemed to float down the long vistas
with expanded furbelows, like angels spreading their wings.
In front was a gigantic veranda, upon which an army might have encamped--
a vast wooden terrace, with a roof as lofty as the nave of a cathedral.
Here our young Englishmen enjoyed, as they supposed, a glimpse
of American society, which was distributed over the measureless
expanse in a variety of sedentary attitudes, and appeared to consist
largely of pretty young girls, dressed as if for a fete champetre,
swaying to and fro in rocking chairs, fanning themselves with large
straw fans, and enjoying an enviable exemption from social cares.
Lord Lambeth had a theory, which it might be interesting to trace
to its origin, that it would be not only agreeable, but easily possible,
to enter into relations with one of these young ladies; and his companion
(as he had done a couple of days before) found occasion to check
the young nobleman's colloquial impulses.
"You had better take care," said Percy Beaumont, "or you will have an offended
father or brother pulling out a bowie knife."
"I assure you it is all right," Lord Lambeth replied. "You know
the Americans come to these big hotels to make acquaintances."
"I know nothing about it, and neither do you," said his kinsman, who, like a
clever man, had begun to perceive that the observation of American society
demanded a readjustment of one's standard.
"Hang it, then let's find out!" cried Lord Lambeth with some impatience.
"You know I don't want to miss anything."
"We will find out," said Percy Beaumont very reasonably.
"We will go and see Mrs. Westgate and make all proper inquiries."
And so the two inquiring Englishmen, who had this lady's
address inscribed in her husband's hand upon a card,
descended from the veranda of the big hotel and took their way,
according to direction, along a large straight road, past a
series of fresh-looking villas embosomed in shrubs and flowers
and enclosed in an ingenious variety of wooden palings.
The morning was brilliant and cool, the villas were smart and snug,
and the walk of the young travelers was very entertaining.
Everything looked as if it had received a coat of fresh paint
the day before--the red roofs, the green shutters, the clean,
bright browns and buffs of the housefronts. The flower beds
on the little lawns seemed to sparkle in the radiant air,
and the gravel in the short carriage sweeps to flash and twinkle.
Along the road came a hundred little basket phaetons, in which,
almost always, a couple of ladies were sitting--ladies in white
dresses and long white gloves, holding the reins and looking
at the two Englishmen, whose nationality was not elusive,
through thick blue veils tied tightly about their faces as if
to guard their complexions. At last the young men came within
sight of the sea again, and then, having interrogated a gardener
over the paling of a villa, they turned into an open gate.
Here they found themselves face to face with the ocean and with
a very picturesque structure, resembling a magnified chalet,
which was perched upon a green embankment just above it.
The house had a veranda of extraordinary width all around it
and a great many doors and windows standing open to the veranda.
These various apertures had, in common, such an accessible,
hospitable air, such a breezy flutter within of light curtains,
such expansive thresholds and reassuring interiors, that our friends
hardly knew which was the regular entrance, and, after hesitating
a moment, presented themselves at one of the windows.
The room within was dark, but in a moment a graceful figure
vaguely shaped itself in the rich-looking gloom, and a lady
came to meet them. Then they saw that she had been seated at
a table writing, and that she had heard them and had got up.
She stepped out into the light; she wore a frank, charming smile,
with which she held out her hand to Percy Beaumont.
"Oh, you must be Lord Lambeth and Mr. Beaumont," she said.
"I have heard from my husband that you would come. I am extremely
glad to see you." And she shook hands with each of her visitors.
Her visitors were a little shy, but they had very good manners;
they responded with smiles and exclamations, and they apologized
for not knowing the front door. The lady rejoined, with vivacity,
that when she wanted to see people very much she did not insist
upon those distinctions, and that Mr. Westgate had written to her
of his English friends in terms that made her really anxious.
"He said you were so terribly prostrated," said Mrs. Westgate.
"Oh, you mean by the heat?" replied Percy Beaumont.
"We were rather knocked up, but we feel wonderfully better.
We had such a jolly--a-- voyage down here. It's so very good
of you to mind."
"Yes, it's so very kind of you," murmured Lord Lambeth.
Mrs. Westgate stood smiling; she was extremely pretty. "Well, I did mind,"
she said; "and I thought of sending for you this morning to the Ocean House.
I am very glad you are better, and I am charmed you have arrived.
You must come round to the other side of the piazza." And she led the way,
with a light, smooth step, looking back at the young men and smiling.
The other side of the piazza was, as Lord Lambeth presently remarked,
a very jolly place. It was of the most liberal proportions,
and with its awnings, its fanciful chairs, its cushions and rugs,
its view of the ocean, close at hand, tumbling along the base of the low
cliffs whose level tops intervened in lawnlike smoothness, it formed
a charming complement to the drawing room. As such it was in course
of use at the present moment; it was occupied by a social circle.
There were several ladies and two or three gentlemen, to whom
Mrs. Westgate proceeded to introduce the distinguished strangers.
She mentioned a great many names very freely and distinctly;
the young Englishmen, shuffling about and bowing, were rather bewildered.
But at last they were provided with chairs--low, wicker chairs,
gilded, and tied with a great many ribbons--and one of the ladies
(a very young person, with a little snub nose and several dimples)
offered Percy Beaumont a fan. The fan was also adorned with pink
love knots; but Percy Beaumont declined it, although he was very hot.
Presently, however, it became cooler; the breeze from the sea
was delicious, the view was charming, and the people sitting there
looked exceedingly fresh and comfortable. Several of the ladies
seemed to be young girls, and the gentlemen were slim, fair youths,
such as our friends had seen the day before in New York.
The ladies were working upon bands of tapestry, and one of the young
men had an open book in his lap. Beaumont afterward learned
from one of the ladies that this young man had been reading aloud,
that he was from Boston and was very fond of reading aloud.
Beaumont said it was a great pity that they had interrupted him;
he should like so much (from all he had heard) to hear a Bostonian read.
Couldn't the young man be induced to go on?
"Oh no," said his informant very freely; "he wouldn't be able
to get the young ladies to attend to him now."
There was something very friendly, Beaumont perceived,
in the attitude of the company; they looked at the young Englishmen
with an air of animated sympathy and interest; they smiled,
brightly and unanimously, at everything either of the visitors said.
Lord Lambeth and his companion felt that they were being made
very welcome. Mrs. Westgate seated herself between them, and,
talking a great deal to each, they had occasion to observe
that she was as pretty as their friend Littledale had promised.
She was thirty years old, with the eyes and the smile of a girl
of seventeen, and she was extremely light and graceful,
elegant, exquisite. Mrs. Westgate was extremely spontaneous.
She was very frank and demonstrative and appeared always--
while she looked at you delightedly with her beautiful
young eyes--to be making sudden confessions and concessions,
after momentary hesitations.
"We shall expect to see a great deal of you," she said to Lord
Lambeth with a kind of joyous earnestness. "We are very fond
of Englishmen here; that is, there are a great many we have been
fond of. After a day or two you must come and stay with us;
we hope you will stay a long time. Newport's a very nice place
when you come really to know it, when you know plenty of people.
Of course you and Mr. Beaumont will have no difficulty about that.
Englishmen are very well received here; there are almost always
two or three of them about. I think they always like it,
and I must say I should think they would. They receive ever
so much attention. I must say I think they sometimes get spoiled;
but I am sure you and Mr. Beaumont are proof against that.
My husband tells me you are a friend of Captain Littledale;
he was such a charming man. He made himself most agreeable here,
and I am sure I wonder he didn't stay. It couldn't have been
pleasanter for him in his own country, though, I suppose,
it is very pleasant in England, for English people.
I don't know myself; I have been there very little.
I have been a great deal abroad, but I am always on the Continent.
I must say I'm extremely fond of Paris; you know we Americans
always are; we go there when we die. Did you ever hear that before?
That was said by a great wit, I mean the good Americans;
but we are all good; you'll see that for yourself.
All I know of England is London, and all I know of London is
that place on that little corner, you know, where you buy jackets--
jackets with that coarse braid and those big buttons.
They make very good jackets in London, I will do you
the justice to say that. And some people like the hats;
but about the hats I was always a heretic; I always got
my hats in Paris. You can't wear an English hat--at least
I never could--unless you dress your hair a l'Anglaise;
and I must say that is a talent I have never possessed.
In Paris they will make things to suit your peculiarities;
but in England I think you like much more to have--how shall I
say it?--one thing for everybody. I mean as regards dress.
I don't know about other things; but I have always
supposed that in other things everything was different.
I mean according to the people--according to the classes,
and all that. I am afraid you will think that I don't take
a very favorable view; but you know you can't take a very
favorable view in Dover Street in the month of November.
That has always been my fate. Do you know Jones's Hotel
in Dover Street? That's all I know of England. Of course
everyone admits that the English hotels are your weak point.
There was always the most frightful fog; I couldn't see to try
my things on. When I got over to America--into the light--
I usually found they were twice too big. The next time I
mean to go in the season; I think I shall go next year.
I want very much to take my sister; she has never been to England.
I don't know whether you know what I mean by saying
that the Englishmen who come here sometimes get spoiled.
I mean that they take things as a matter of course--
things that are done for them. Now, naturally, they are
only a matter of course when the Englishmen are very nice.
But, of course, they are almost always very nice.
Of course this isn't nearly such an interesting country as England;
there are not nearly so many things to see, and we haven't your
country life. I have never seen anything of your country life;
when I am in Europe I am always on the Continent. But I have
heard a great deal about it; I know that when you are among
yourselves in the country you have the most beautiful time.
Of course we have nothing of that sort, we have nothing on
that scale. I don't apologize, Lord Lambeth; some Americans
are always apologizing; you must have noticed that.
We have the reputation of always boasting and bragging and
waving the American flag; but I must say that what strikes me
is that we are perpetually making excuses and trying to smooth
things over. The American flag has quite gone out of fashion;
it's very carefully folded up, like an old tablecloth.
Why should we apologize? The English never apologize--
do they? No; I must say I never apologize. You must take
us as we come--with all our imperfections on our heads.
Of course we haven't your country life, and your old ruins,
and your great estates, and your leisure class, and all that.
But if we haven't, I should think you might find it a pleasant change--
I think any country is pleasant where they have pleasant manners.
Captain Littledale told me he had never seen such pleasant manners
as at Newport, and he had been a great deal in European society.
Hadn't he been in the diplomatic service? He told me
the dream of his life was to get appointed to a diplomatic
post in Washington. But he doesn't seem to have succeeded.
I suppose that in England promotion--and all that sort of thing--
is fearfully slow. With us, you know, it's a great deal too fast.
You see, I admit our drawbacks. But I must confess I think Newport
is an ideal place. I don't know anything like it anywhere.
Captain Littledale told me he didn't know anything like it anywhere.
It's entirely different from most watering places;
it's a most charming life. I must say I think that when one
goes to a foreign country one ought to enjoy the differences.
Of course there are differences, otherwise what did one come
abroad for? Look for your pleasure in the differences,
Lord Lambeth; that's the way to do it; and then I am sure
you will find American society--at least Newport society--
most charming and most interesting. I wish very much my
husband were here; but he's dreadfully confined to New York.
I suppose you think that is very strange--for a gentleman.
But you see we haven't any leisure class."
Mrs. Westgate's discourse, delivered in a soft, sweet voice,
flowed on like a miniature torrent, and was interrupted by a
hundred little smiles, glances, and gestures, which might have
figured the irregularities and obstructions of such a stream.
Lord Lambeth listened to her with, it must be confessed,
a rather ineffectual attention, although he indulged in a good
many little murmurs and ejaculations of assent and deprecation.
He had no great faculty for apprehending generalizations.
There were some three or four indeed which, in the play
of his own intelligence, he had originated, and which had
seemed convenient at the moment; but at the present time
he could hardly have been said to follow Mrs. Westgate
as she darted gracefully about in the sea of speculation.
Fortunately she asked for no especial rejoinder,
for she looked about at the rest of the company as well,
and smiled at Percy Beaumont, on the other side of her,
as if he too much understand her and agree with her.
He was rather more successful than his companion;
for besides being, as we know, cleverer, his attention was
not vaguely distracted by close vicinity to a remarkably
interesting young girl, with dark hair and blue eyes.
This was the case with Lord Lambeth, to whom it occurred
after a while that the young girl with blue eyes and dark
hair was the pretty sister of whom Mrs. Westgate had spoken.
She presently turned to him with a remark which established
"It's a great pity you couldn't have brought my brother-in-law with you.
It's a great shame he should be in New York in these days."
"Oh, yes; it's so very hot," said Lord Lambeth.
"It must be dreadful," said the young girl.
"I daresay he is very busy," Lord Lambeth observed.
"The gentlemen in America work too much," the young girl went on.
"Oh, do they? I daresay they like it," said her interlocutor.
"I don't like it. One never sees them."
"Don't you, really?" asked Lord Lambeth. "I shouldn't have fancied that."
"Have you come to study American manners?" asked the young girl.
"Oh, I don't know. I just came over for a lark. I haven't got long."
Here there was a pause, and Lord Lambeth began again. "But Mr. Westgate
will come down here, will not he?"
"I certainly hope he will. He must help to entertain you and Mr. Beaumont."
Lord Lambeth looked at her a little with his handsome brown eyes.
"Do you suppose he would have come down with us if we had urged him?"
Mr. Westgate's sister-in-law was silent a moment, and then,
"I daresay he would," she answered.
"Really!" said the young Englishman. "He was immensely civil
to Beaumont and me," he added.
"He is a dear good fellow," the young lady rejoined,
"and he is a perfect husband. But all Americans are that,"
she continued, smiling.
"Really!" Lord Lambeth exclaimed again and wondered whether all American
ladies had such a passion for generalizing as these two.
He sat there a good while: there was a great deal of talk;
it was all very friendly and lively and jolly. Everyone present,
sooner or later, said something to him, and seemed to make
a particular point of addressing him by name. Two or three other
persons came in, and there was a shifting of seats and changing
of places; the gentlemen all entered into intimate conversation
with the two Englishmen, made them urgent offers of hospitality,
and hoped they might frequently be of service to them.
They were afraid Lord Lambeth and Mr. Beaumont were not very
comfortable at their hotel; that it was not, as one of them said,
"so private as those dear little English inns of yours."
This last gentleman went on to say that unfortunately,
as yet, perhaps, privacy was not quite so easily obtained
in America as might be desired; still, he continued,
you could generally get it by paying for it; in fact,
you could get everything in America nowadays by paying for it.
American life was certainly growing a great deal more private;
it was growing very much like England. Everything at Newport,
for instance, was thoroughly private; Lord Lambeth would
probably be struck with that. It was also represented to
the strangers that it mattered very little whether their hotel
was agreeable, as everyone would want them to make visits;
they would stay with other people, and, in any case,
they would be a great deal at Mrs. Westgate's. They would find
that very charming; it was the pleasantest house in Newport.
It was a pity Mr. Westgate was always away; he was a man
of the highest ability--very acute, very acute. He worked like
a horse, and he left his wife--well, to do about as she liked.
He liked her to enjoy herself, and she seemed to know how.
She was extremely brilliant and a splendid talker.
Some people preferred her sister; but Miss Alden was very different;
she was in a different style altogether. Some people even
thought her prettier, and, certainly, she was not so sharp.
She was more in the Boston style; she had lived a great deal
in Boston, and she was very highly educated. Boston girls,
it was propounded, were more like English young ladies.
Lord Lambeth had presently a chance to test the truth of this proposition,
for on the company rising in compliance with a suggestion from their
hostess that they should walk down to the rocks and look at the sea,
the young Englishman again found himself, as they strolled across the grass,
in proximity to Mrs. Westgate's sister. Though she was but a girl of twenty,
she appeared to feel the obligation to exert an active hospitality; and this
was, perhaps, the more to be noticed as she seemed by nature a reserved
and retiring person, and had little of her sister's fraternizing quality.
She was perhaps rather too thin, and she was a little pale; but as she moved
slowly over the grass, with her arms hanging at her sides, looking gravely
for a moment at the sea and then brightly, for all her gravity, at him,
Lord Lambeth thought her at least as pretty as Mrs. Westgate, and reflected
that if this was the Boston style the Boston style was very charming.
He thought she looked very clever; he could imagine that she was
highly educated; but at the same time she seemed gentle and graceful.
For all her cleverness, however, he felt that she had to think a little
what to say; she didn't say the first thing that came into her head;
he had come from a different part of the world and from a different society,
and she was trying to adapt her conversation. The others were scattering
themselves near the rocks; Mrs. Westgate had charge of Percy Beaumont.
"Very jolly place, isn't it?" said Lord Lambeth.
"It's a very jolly place to sit."
"Very charming," said the young girl. "I often sit here;
there are all kinds of cozy corners--as if they had been
made on purpose."
"Ah! I suppose you have had some of them made," said the young man.
Miss Alden looked at him a moment. "Oh no, we have had nothing made.
It's pure nature."
"I should think you would have a few little benches--rustic seats
and that sort of thing. It might be so jolly to sit here, you know,"
Lord Lambeth went on.
"I am afraid we haven't so many of those things as you,"
said the young girl thoughtfully.
"I daresay you go in for pure nature, as you were saying.
Nature over here must be so grand, you know." And Lord Lambeth
looked about him.
The little coast line hereabouts was very pretty, but it was not
at all grand, and Miss Alden appeared to rise to a perception
of this fact. "I am afraid it seems to you very rough," she said.
"It's not like the coast scenery in Kingsley's novels."
"Ah, the novels always overdo it, you know," Lord Lambeth rejoined.
"You must not go by the novels."
They were wandering about a little on the rocks, and they stopped
and looked down into a narrow chasm where the rising tide made
a curious bellowing sound. It was loud enough to prevent their
hearing each other, and they stood there for some moments in silence.
The young girl looked at her companion, observing him attentively,
but covertly, as women, even when very young, know how to do.
Lord Lambeth repaid observation; tall, straight, and strong,
he was handsome as certain young Englishmen, and certain young
Englishmen almost alone, are handsome; with a perfect finish
of feature and a look of intellectual repose and gentle good temper
which seemed somehow to be consequent upon his well-cut nose and chin.
And to speak of Lord Lambeth's expression of intellectual repose
is not simply a civil way of saying that he looked stupid.
He was evidently not a young man of an irritable imagination;
he was not, as he would himself have said, tremendously clever;
but though there was a kind of appealing dullness in his eye,
he looked thoroughly reasonable and competent, and his appearance
proclaimed that to be a nobleman, an athlete, and an excellent
fellow was a sufficiently brilliant combination of qualities.
The young girl beside him, it may be attested without further delay,
thought him the handsomest young man she had ever seen;
and Bessie Alden's imagination, unlike that of her companion,
was irritable. He, however, was also making up his mind that she
was uncommonly pretty.
"I daresay it's very gay here, that you have lots of balls and parties,"
he said; for, if he was not tremendously clever, he rather prided himself
on having, with women, a sufficiency of conversation.
"Oh, yes, there is a great deal going on," Bessie Alden replied.
"There are not so many balls, but there are a good many other things.
You will see for yourself; we live rather in the midst of it."
"It's very kind of you to say that. But I thought you Americans
were always dancing."
"I suppose we dance a good deal; but I have never seen much of it.
We don't do it much, at any rate, in summer. And I am sure,"
said Bessie Alden, "that we don't have so many balls as you
have in England."
"Really!" exclaimed Lord Lambeth. "Ah, in England it all depends, you know."
"You will not think much of our gaieties," said the young girl,
looking at him with a little mixture of interrogation and decision
which was peculiar to her. The interrogation seemed earnest and
the decision seemed arch; but the mixture, at any rate, was charming.
"Those things, with us, are much less splendid than in England."
"I fancy you don't mean that," said Lord Lambeth, laughing.
"I assure you I mean everything I say," the young girl declared.
"Certainly, from what I have read about English society,
it is very different."
"Ah well, you know," said her companion, "those things are
often described by fellows who know nothing about them.
You mustn't mind what you read."
"Oh, I SHALL mind what I read!" Bessie Alden rejoined.
"When I read Thackeray and George Eliot, how can I help minding them?"
"Ah well, Thackeray, and George Eliot," said the young nobleman;
"I haven't read much of them."
"Don't you suppose they know about society?" asked Bessie Alden.
"Oh, I daresay they know; they were so very clever.
But these fashionable novels," said Lord Lambeth, "they are
awful rot, you know."
His companion looked at him a moment with her dark blue eyes, and then
she looked down in the chasm where the water was tumbling about.
"Do you mean Mrs. Gore, for instance?" she said presently,
raising her eyes.
"I am afraid I haven't read that, either," was the young
man's rejoinder, laughing a little and blushing.
"I am afraid you'll think I am not very intellectual."
"Reading Mrs. Gore is no proof of intellect. But I like
reading everything about English life--even poor books.
I am so curious about it."
"Aren't ladies always curious?" asked the young man jestingly.
But Bessie Alden appeared to desire to answer his question seriously.
"I don't think so--I don't think we are enough so--that we care
about many things. So it's all the more of a compliment," she added,
"that I should want to know so much about England."
The logic here seemed a little close; but Lord Lambeth, made conscious
of a compliment, found his natural modesty just at hand.
"I am sure you know a great deal more than I do."
"I really think I know a great deal--for a person who has never been there."
"Have you really never been there?" cried Lord Lambeth. "Fancy!"
"Never--except in imagination," said the young girl.
"Fancy!" repeated her companion. "But I daresay you'll go soon, won't you?"
"It's the dream of my life!" declared Bessie Alden, smiling.
"But your sister seems to know a tremendous lot about London,"
Lord Lambeth went on.
The young girl was silent a moment. "My sister and I are two
very different persons," she presently said. "She has been
a great deal in Europe. She has been in England several times.
She has known a great many English people."
"But you must have known some, too," said Lord Lambeth.
"I don't think that I have ever spoken to one before.
You are the first Englishman that--to my knowledge--
I have ever talked with."
Bessie Alden made this statement with a certain gravity--
almost, as it seemed to Lord Lambeth, an impressiveness.
Attempts at impressiveness always made him feel awkward,
and he now began to laugh and swing his stick. "Ah, you
would have been sure to know!" he said. And then he added,
after an instant, "I'm sorry I am not a better specimen."
The young girl looked away; but she smiled, laying aside her impressiveness.
"You must remember that you are only a beginning," she said.
Then she retraced her steps, leading the way back to the lawn, where they
saw Mrs. Westgate come toward them with Percy Beaumont still at her side.
"Perhaps I shall go to England next year," Miss Alden continued;
"I want to, immensely. My sister is going to Europe, and she has
asked me to go with her. If we go, I shall make her stay as long
as possible in London."
"Ah, you must come in July," said Lord Lambeth.
"That's the time when there is most going on."
"I don't think I can wait till July," the young girl rejoined.
"By the first of May I shall be very impatient." They had gone further,
and Mrs. Westgate and her companion were near them. "Kitty," said
Miss Alden, "I have given out that we are going to London next May.
So please to conduct yourself accordingly."
Percy Beaumont wore a somewhat animated--even a slightly irritated--air.
He was by no means so handsome a man as his cousin, although in
his cousin's absence he might have passed for a striking specimen
of the tall, muscular, fair-bearded, clear-eyed Englishman.
Just now Beaumont's clear eyes, which were small and of a pale
gray color, had a rather troubled light, and, after glancing at
Bessie Alden while she spoke, he rested them upon his kinsman.
Mrs. Westgate meanwhile, with her superfluously pretty gaze,
looked at everyone alike.
"You had better wait till the time comes," she said to her sister.
"Perhaps next May you won't care so much about London.
Mr. Beaumont and I," she went on, smiling at her companion,
"have had a tremendous discussion. We don't agree about anything.
It's perfectly delightful."
"Oh, I say, Percy!" exclaimed Lord Lambeth.
"I disagree," said Beaumont, stroking down his back hair,
"even to the point of not thinking it delightful."
"Oh, I say!" cried Lord Lambeth again.
"I don't see anything delightful in my disagreeing with Mrs. Westgate,"
said Percy Beaumont.
"Well, I do!" Mrs. Westgate declared; and she turned to her sister.
"You know you have to go to town. The phaeton is there.
You had better take Lord Lambeth."
At this point Percy Beaumont certainly looked straight at his kinsman;
he tried to catch his eye. But Lord Lambeth would not look at him; his own
eyes were better occupied. "I shall be very happy," cried Bessie Alden.
"I am only going to some shops. But I will drive you about and show
you the place."
"An American woman who respects herself," said Mrs. Westgate,
turning to Beaumont with her bright expository air, "must buy
something every day of her life. If she can not do it herself,
she must send out some member of her family for the purpose.
So Bessie goes forth to fulfill my mission."
The young girl had walked away, with Lord Lambeth by her side,
to whom she was talking still; and Percy Beaumont watched them
as they passed toward the house. "She fulfills her own mission,"
he presently said; "that of being a very attractive young lady."
"I don't know that I should say very attractive," Mrs. Westgate rejoined.
"She is not so much that as she is charming when you really know her.
She is very shy."
"Oh, indeed!" said Percy Beaumont.
"Extremely shy," Mrs. Westgate repeated. "But she is a dear good girl; she is
a charming species of girl. She is not in the least a flirt; that isn't
at all her line; she doesn't know the alphabet of that sort of thing.
She is very simple, very serious. She has lived a great deal in Boston,
with another sister of mine--the eldest of us--who married a Bostonian.
She is very cultivated, not at all like me; I am not in the least cultivated.
She has studied immensely and read everything; she is what they call
in Boston 'thoughtful.'"
"A rum sort of girl for Lambeth to get hold of!" his lordship's
kinsman privately reflected.
"I really believe," Mrs. Westgate continued, "that the most charming
girl in the world is a Boston superstructure upon a New York fonds;
or perhaps a New York superstructure upon a Boston fonds. At any rate,
it's the mixture," said Mrs. Westgate, who continued to give Percy
Beaumont a great deal of information.
Lord Lambeth got into a little basket phaeton with Bessie Alden,
and she drove him down the long avenue, whose extent he had
measured on foot a couple of hours before, into the ancient town,
as it was called in that part of the world, of Newport. The ancient
town was a curious affair--a collection of fresh-looking little
wooden houses, painted white, scattered over a hillside and clustered
about a long straight street paved with enormous cobblestones.
There were plenty of shops--a large proportion of which appeared
to be those of fruit vendors, with piles of huge watermelons and
pumpkins stacked in front of them; and, drawn up before the shops,
or bumping about on the cobblestones, were innumerable other basket
phaetons freighted with ladies of high fashion, who greeted each other
from vehicle to vehicle and conversed on the edge of the pavement
in a manner that struck Lord Lambeth as demonstrative, with a great
many "Oh, my dears," and little quick exclamations and caresses.
His companion went into seventeen shops--he amused himself with
counting them--and accumulated at the bottom of the phaeton a pile
of bundles that hardly left the young Englishman a place for his feet.
As she had no groom nor footman, he sat in the phaeton to hold
the ponies, where, although he was not a particularly acute observer,
he saw much to entertain him--especially the ladies just mentioned,
who wandered up and down with the appearance of a kind of aimless
intentness, as if they were looking for something to buy, and who,
tripping in and out of their vehicles, displayed remarkably pretty feet.
It all seemed to Lord Lambeth very odd, and bright, and gay.
Of course, before they got back to the villa, he had had a great
deal of desultory conversation with Bessie Alden.
The young Englishmen spent the whole of that day and the whole
of many successive days in what the French call the intimite
of their new friends. They agreed that it was extremely jolly,
that they had never known anything more agreeable.
It is not proposed to narrate minutely the incidents
of their sojourn on this charming shore; though if it were
convenient I might present a record of impressions nonetheless
delectable that they were not exhaustively analyzed.
Many of them still linger in the minds of our travelers,
attended by a train of harmonious images--images of brilliant
mornings on lawns and piazzas that overlooked the sea;
of innumerable pretty girls; of infinite lounging and talking
and laughing and flirting and lunching and dining; of universal
friendliness and frankness; of occasions on which they knew
everyone and everything and had an extraordinary sense of ease;
of drives and rides in the late afternoon over gleaming beaches,
on long sea roads, beneath a sky lighted up by marvelous sunsets;
of suppers, on the return, informal, irregular, agreeable;
of evenings at open windows or on the perpetual verandas,
in the summer starlight, above the warm Atlantic.
The young Englishmen were introduced to everybody,
entertained by everybody, intimate with everybody. At the end
of three days they had removed their luggage from the hotel
and had gone to stay with Mrs. Westgate--a step to which Percy
Beaumont at first offered some conscientious opposition.
I call his opposition conscientious, because it was founded upon
some talk that he had had, on the second day, with Bessie Alden.
He had indeed had a good deal of talk with her, for she
was not literally always in conversation with Lord Lambeth.
He had meditated upon Mrs. Westgate's account of her sister,
and he discovered for himself that the young lady was clever,
and appeared to have read a great deal. She seemed very nice,
though he could not make out, as Mrs. Westgate had said, she was shy.
If she was shy, she carried it off very well.
"Mr. Beaumont," she had said, "please tell me something about Lord
Lambeth's family. How would you say it in England--his position?"
"His position?" Percy Beaumont repeated.
"His rank, or whatever you call it. Unfortunately we haven't got
a PEERAGE, like the people in Thackeray."
"That's a great pity," said Beaumont. "You would find it all set
forth there so much better than I can do it."
"He is a peer, then?"
"Oh, yes, he is a peer."
"And has he any other title than Lord Lambeth?"
"His title is the Marquis of Lambeth," said Beaumont; and then he was silent.
Bessie Alden appeared to be looking at him with interest. "He is the son
of the Duke of Bayswater," he added presently.
"The eldest son?"
"The only son."
"And are his parents living?"
"Oh yes; if his father were not living he would be a duke."
"So that when his father dies," pursued Bessie Alden with more
simplicity than might have been expected in a clever girl,
"he will become Duke of Bayswater?"
"Of course," said Percy Beaumont. "But his father is in excellent health."
"And his mother?"
Beaumont smiled a little. "The duchess is uncommonly robust."
"And has he any sisters?"
"Yes, there are two."
"And what are they called?"
"One of them is married. She is the Countess of Pimlico."
"And the other?"
"The other is unmarried; she is plain Lady Julia."
Bessie Alden looked at him a moment. "Is she very plain?"
Beaumont began to laugh again. "You would not find her so handsome as
her brother," he said; and it was after this that he attempted to dissuade
the heir of the Duke of Bayswater from accepting Mrs. Westgate's invitation.
"Depend upon it," he said, "that girl means to try for you."
"It seems to me you are doing your best to make a fool of me,"
the modest young nobleman answered.
"She has been asking me," said Beaumont, "all about your people
and your possessions."
"I am sure it is very good of her!" Lord Lambeth rejoined.
"Well, then," observed his companion, "if you go, you go
with your eyes open."
"Damn my eyes!" exclaimed Lord Lambeth. "If one is to be a dozen times
a day at the house, it is a great deal more convenient to sleep there.
I am sick of traveling up and down this beastly avenue."
Since he had determined to go, Percy Beaumont would, of course,
have been very sorry to allow him to go alone; he was a man
of conscience, and he remembered his promise to the duchess.
It was obviously the memory of this promise that made him say
to his companion a couple of days later that he rather wondered
he should be so fond of that girl.
"In the first place, how do you know how fond I am of her?"
asked Lord Lambeth. "And, in the second place, why shouldn't
I be fond of her?"
"I shouldn't think she would be in your line."
"What do you call my 'line'? You don't set her down as 'fast'?"
"Exactly so. Mrs. Westgate tells me that there is no such thing
as the 'fast girl' in America; that it's an English invention,
and that the term has no meaning here."
"All the better. It's an animal I detest."
"You prefer a bluestocking."
"Is that what you call Miss Alden?"
"Her sister tells me," said Percy Beaumont, "that she
is tremendously literary."
"I don't know anything about that. She is certainly very clever."
"Well," said Beaumont, "I should have supposed you would have found
that sort of thing awfully slow."
"In point of fact," Lord Lambeth rejoined, "I find it uncommonly lively."
After this, Percy Beaumont held his tongue; but on
the 10th of August he wrote to the Duchess of Bayswater.
He was, as I have said, a man of conscience, and he had
a strong, incorruptible sense of the proprieties of life.
His kinsman, meanwhile, was having a great deal of talk
with Bessie Alden--on the red sea rocks beyond the lawn;
in the course of long island rides, with a slow return in
the glowing twilight; on the deep veranda late in the evening.
Lord Lambeth, who had stayed at many houses, had never stayed
at a house in which it was possible for a young man to converse
so frequently with a young lady. This young lady no longer applied
to Percy Beaumont for information concerning his lordship.
She addressed herself directly to the young nobleman.
She asked him a great many questions, some of which bored him
a little; for he took no pleasure in talking about himself.
"Lord Lambeth," said Bessie Alden, "are you a hereditary legislator?"
"Oh, I say!" cried Lord Lambeth, "don't make me call myself
such names as that."
"But you are a member of Parliament," said the young girl.
"I don't like the sound of that, either."
"Don't you sit in the House of Lords?" Bessie Alden went on.
"Very seldom," said Lord Lambeth.
"Is it an important position?" she asked.
"Oh, dear, no," said Lord Lambeth.
"I should think it would be very grand," said Bessie Alden,
"to possess, simply by an accident of birth, the right to make
laws for a great nation."
"Ah, but one doesn't make laws. It's a great humbug."
"I don't believe that," the young girl declared.
"It must be a great privilege, and I should think that if one
thought of it in the right way--from a high point of view--
it would be very inspiring."
"The less one thinks of it, the better," Lord Lambeth affirmed.
"I think it's tremendous," said Bessie Alden; and on
another occasion she asked him if he had any tenantry.
Hereupon it was that, as I have said, he was a little bored.
"Do you want to buy up their leases?" he asked.
"Well, have you got any livings?" she demanded.
"Oh, I say!" he cried. "Have you got a clergyman that is looking out?"
But she made him tell her that he had a castle; he confessed to but one.
It was the place in which he had been born and brought up, and, as he had
an old-time liking for it, he was beguiled into describing it a little
and saying it was really very jolly. Bessie Alden listened with great
interest and declared that she would give the world to see such a place.
Whereupon--"It would be awfully kind of you to come and stay there,"
said Lord Lambeth. He took a vague satisfaction in the circumstance
that Percy Beaumont had not heard him make the remark I have just recorded.
Mr. Westgate all this time had not, as they said at Newport, "come on."
His wife more than once announced that she expected him on the morrow;
but on the morrow she wandered about a little, with a telegram in her
jeweled fingers, declaring it was very tiresome that his business detained him
in New York; that he could only hope the Englishmen were having a good time.
"I must say," said Mrs. Westgate, "that it is no thanks to him if you are."
And she went on to explain, while she continued that slow-paced
promenade which enabled her well-adjusted skirts to display themselves
so advantageously, that unfortunately in America there was no leisure class.
It was Lord Lambeth's theory, freely propounded when the young men
were together, that Percy Beaumont was having a very good time with
Mrs. Westgate, and that, under the pretext of meeting for the purpose
of animated discussion, they were indulging in practices that imparted
a shade of hypocrisy to the lady's regret for her husband's absence.
"I assure you we are always discussing and differing,"
said Percy Beaumont. "She is awfully argumentative.
American ladies certainly don't mind contradicting you.
Upon my word I don't think I was ever treated so by a woman before.
She's so devilish positive."
Mrs. Westgate's positive quality, however, evidently had
its attractions, for Beaumont was constantly at his hostess's side.
He detached himself one day to the extent of going to New
York to talk over the Tennessee Central with Mr. Westgate;
but he was absent only forty-eight hours, during which,
with Mr. Westgate's assistance, he completely settled this piece
of business. "They certainly do things quickly in New York,"
he observed to his cousin; and he added that Mr. Westgate
had seemed very uneasy lest his wife should miss her visitor--
he had been in such an awful hurry to send him back to her.
"I'm afraid you'll never come up to an American husband,
if that's what the wives expect," he said to Lord Lambeth.
Mrs. Westgate, however, was not to enjoy much longer the entertainment
with which an indulgent husband had desired to keep her provided.
On the 21st of August Lord Lambeth received a telegram from his mother,
requesting him to return immediately to England; his father had been
taken ill, and it was his filial duty to come to him.
The young Englishman was visibly annoyed. "What the deuce does it mean?"
he asked of his kinsman. "What am I to do?"
Percy Beaumont was annoyed as well; he had deemed it his duty,
as I have narrated, to write to the duchess, but he had not expected
that this distinguished woman would act so promptly upon his hint.
"It means," he said, "that your father is laid up.
I don't suppose it's anything serious; but you have no option.
Take the first steamer; but don't be alarmed.
Lord Lambeth made his farewells; but the few last words that he exchanged
with Bessie Alden are the only ones that have a place in our record.
"Of course I needn't assure you," he said, "that if you should come to England
next year, I expect to be the first person that you inform of it."
Bessie Alden looked at him a little, and she smiled.
"Oh, if we come to London," she answered, "I should think you
would hear of it."
Percy Beaumont returned with his cousin, and his sense of duty
compelled him, one windless afternoon, in mid-Atlantic, to say
to Lord Lambeth that he suspected that the duchess's telegram was
in part the result of something he himself had written to her.
"I wrote to her--as I explicitly notified you I had promised to do--
that you were extremely interested in a little American girl."
Lord Lambeth was extremely angry, and he indulged for some
moments in the simple language of indignation. But I have said
that he was a reasonable young man, and I can give no better
proof of it than the fact that he remarked to his companion
at the end of half an hour, "You were quite right, after all.
I am very much interested in her. Only, to be fair,"
he added, "you should have told my mother also that she
is not--seriously--interested in me."
Percy Beaumont gave a little laugh. "There is nothing
so charming as modesty in a young man in your position.
That speech is a capital proof that you are sweet on her."
"She is not interested--she is not!" Lord Lambeth repeated.
"My dear fellow," said his companion, "you are very far gone."
In point of fact, as Percy Beaumont would have said,
Mrs. Westgate disembarked on the 18th of May on
the British coast. She was accompanied by her sister,
but she was not attended by any other member of her family.
To the deprivation of her husband's society Mrs. Westgate was,
however, habituated; she had made half a dozen journeys
to Europe without him, and she now accounted for his absence,
to interrogative friends on this side of the Atlantic,
by allusion to the regrettable but conspicuous fact that in
America there was no leisure class. The two ladies came up
to London and alighted at Jones's Hotel, where Mrs. Westgate,
who had made on former occasions the most agreeable impression
at this establishment, received an obsequious greeting.
Bessie Alden had felt much excited about coming to England;
she had expected the "associations" would be very charming,
that it would be an infinite pleasure to rest her eyes upon
the things she had read about in the poets and historians.
She was very fond of the poets and historians, of the picturesque,
of the past, of retrospect, of mementos and reverberations
of greatness; so that on coming into the English world,
where strangeness and familiarity would go hand in hand,
she was prepared for a multitude of fresh emotions.
They began very promptly--these tender, fluttering sensations;
they began with the sight of the beautiful English landscape,
whose dark richness was quickened and brightened by the season;
with the carpeted fields and flowering hedgerows, as she
looked at them from the window of the train; with the spires
of the rural churches peeping above the rook-haunted treetops;
with the oak-studded parks, the ancient homes, the cloudy light,
the speech, the manners, the thousand differences.
Mrs. Westgate's impressions had, of course, much less novelty
and keenness, and she gave but a wandering attention to her
sister's ejaculations and rhapsodies.
"You know my enjoyment of England is not so intellectual as Bessie's," she
said to several of her friends in the course of her visit to this country.
"And yet if it is not intellectual, I can't say it is physical.
I don't think I can quite say what it is, my enjoyment of England."
When once it was settled that the two ladies should come abroad and should
spend a few weeks in England on their way to the Continent, they of course
exchanged a good many allusions to their London acquaintance.
"It will certainly be much nicer having friends there,"
Bessie Alden had said one day as she sat on the sunny deck
of the steamer at her sister's feet on a large blue rug.
"Whom do you mean by friends?" Mrs. Westgate asked.
"All those English gentlemen whom you have known and entertained.
Captain Littledale, for instance. And Lord Lambeth and Mr. Beaumont,"
added Bessie Alden.
"Do you expect them to give us a very grand reception?"
Bessie reflected a moment; she was addicted, as we know,
to reflection. "Well, yes."
"My poor, sweet child," murmured her sister.
"What have I said that is so silly?" asked Bessie.
"You are a little too simple; just a little. It is very becoming,
but it pleases people at your expense."
"I am certainly too simple to understand you," said Bessie.
"Shall I tell you a story?" asked her sister.
"If you would be so good. That is what they do to amuse simple people."
Mrs. Westgate consulted her memory, while her companion sat gazing
at the shining sea. "Did you ever hear of the Duke of Green-Erin?"
"I think not," said Bessie.
"Well, it's no matter," her sister went on.
"It's a proof of my simplicity."
"My story is meant to illustrate that of some other people,"
said Mrs. Westgate. "The Duke of Green-Erin is what they call in
England a great swell, and some five years ago he came to America.
He spent most of his time in New York, and in New York he spent his
days and his nights at the Butterworths'. You have heard, at least,
of the Butterworths. Bien. They did everything in the world for him--
they turned themselves inside out. They gave him a dozen dinner parties
and balls and were the means of his being invited to fifty more.
At first he used to come into Mrs. Butterworth's box at the opera
in a tweed traveling suit; but someone stopped that. At any rate,
he had a beautiful time, and they parted the best friends in the world.
Two years elapse, and the Butterworths come abroad and go to London.
The first thing they see in all the papers--in England those things
are in the most prominent place--is that the Duke of Green-Erin
has arrived in town for the Season. They wait a little, and then
Mr. Butterworth--as polite as ever--goes and leaves a card.
They wait a little more; the visit is not returned; they wait
three weeks--silence de mort--the Duke gives no sign.
The Butterworths see a lot of other people, put down the Duke
of Green-Erin as a rude, ungrateful man, and forget all about him.
One fine day they go to Ascot Races, and there they meet him face
to face. He stares a moment and then comes up to Mr. Butterworth,
taking something from his pocketbook--something which proves
to be a banknote. 'I'm glad to see you, Mr. Butterworth,' he says,
'so that I can pay you that ten pounds I lost to you in New York.
I saw the other day you remembered our bet; here are the ten pounds,
Mr. Butterworth. Goodbye, Mr. Butterworth.' And off he goes,
and that's the last they see of the Duke of Green-Erin."
"Is that your story?" asked Bessie Alden.
"Don't you think it's interesting?" her sister replied.
"I don't believe it," said the young girl.
"Ah," cried Mrs. Westgate, "you are not so simple after all!
Believe it or not, as you please; there is no smoke without fire."
"Is that the way," asked Bessie after a moment, "that you expect
your friends to treat you?"
"I defy them to treat me very ill, because I shall not give
them the opportunity. With the best will in the world,
in that case they can't be very offensive."
Bessie Alden was silent a moment. "I don't see what makes you talk that way,"
she said. "The English are a great people."
"Exactly; and that is just the way they have grown great--
by dropping you when you have ceased to be useful.
People say they are not clever; but I think they are very clever."
"You know you have liked them--all the Englishmen you have seen," said Bessie.
"They have liked me," her sister rejoined; "it would be more correct
to say that. And, of course, one likes that."
Bessie Alden resumed for some moments her studies in sea green.
"Well," she said, "whether they like me or not, I mean to like them.
And happily," she added, "Lord Lambeth does not owe me ten pounds."
During the first few days after their arrival at Jones's Hotel our charming
Americans were much occupied with what they would have called looking
about them. They found occasion to make a large number of purchases,
and their opportunities for conversation were such only as were offered
by the deferential London shopmen. Bessie Alden, even in driving
from the station, took an immense fancy to the British metropolis,
and at the risk of exhibiting her as a young woman of vulgar tastes it
must be recorded that for a considerable period she desired no higher
pleasure than to drive about the crowded streets in a hansom cab.
To her attentive eyes they were full of a strange picturesque life,
and it is at least beneath the dignity of our historic muse to enumerate
the trivial objects and incidents which this simple young lady from Boston
found so entertaining. It may be freely mentioned, however, that whenever,
after a round of visits in Bond Street and Regent Street, she was
about to return with her sister to Jones's Hotel, she made an earnest
request that they should be driven home by way of Westminster Abbey.
She had begun by asking whether it would not be possible to take the Tower
on the way to their lodgings; but it happened that at a more primitive stage
of her culture Mrs. Westgate had paid a visit to this venerable monument,
which she spoke of ever afterward vaguely as a dreadful disappointment;
so that she expressed the liveliest disapproval of any attempt to combine
historical researches with the purchase of hairbrushes and notepaper.
The most she would consent to do in this line was to spend half
an hour at Madame Tussaud's, where she saw several dusty wax effigies
of members of the royal family. She told Bessie that if she
wished to go to the Tower she must get someone else to take her.
Bessie expressed hereupon an earnest disposition to go alone; but upon
this proposal as well Mrs. Westgate sprinkled cold water.
"Remember," she said, "that you are not in your innocent little Boston.
It is not a question of walking up and down Beacon Street."
Then she went on to explain that there were two classes of American
girls in Europe--those that walked about alone and those that did not.
"You happen to belong, my dear," she said to her sister, "to the class
that does not."
"It is only," answered Bessie, laughing, "because you happen to prevent me."
And she devoted much private meditation to this question of effecting a visit
to the Tower of London.
Suddenly it seemed as if the problem might be solved; the two
ladies at Jones's Hotel received a visit from Willie Woodley.
Such was the social appellation of a young American who had sailed
from New York a few days after their own departure, and who,
having the privilege of intimacy with them in that city, had lost
no time, on his arrival in London, in coming to pay them his respects.
He had, in fact, gone to see them directly after going to see his tailor,
than which there can be no greater exhibition of promptitude on the part
of a young American who has just alighted at the Charing Cross Hotel.
He was a slim, pale youth, of the most amiable disposition,
famous for the skill with which he led the "German" in New York.
Indeed, by the young ladies who habitually figured in this Terpsichorean
revel he was believed to be "the best dancer in the world";
it was in these terms that he was always spoken of, and that his
identity was indicated. He was the gentlest, softest young
man it was possible to meet; he was beautifully dressed--"in
the English style"--and he knew an immense deal about London.
He had been at Newport during the previous summer, at the time of our
young Englishmen's visit, and he took extreme pleasure in the society
of Bessie Alden, whom he always addressed as "Miss Bessie."
She immediately arranged with him, in the presence of her sister,
that he should conduct her to the scene of Anne Boleyn's execution.
"You may do as you please," said Mrs. Westgate.
"Only--if you desire the information--it is not the custom
here for young ladies to knock about London with young men."
"Miss Bessie has waltzed with me so often," observed Willie Woodley;
"she can surely go out with me in a hansom."
"I consider waltzing," said Mrs. Westgate, "the most innocent pleasure
of our time."
"It's a compliment to our time!" exclaimed the young man with a little laugh,
in spite of himself.
"I don't see why I should regard what is done here," said Bessie Alden.
"Why should I suffer the restrictions of a society of which I enjoy none
of the privileges?"
"That's very good--very good," murmured Willie Woodley.
"Oh, go to the Tower, and feel the ax, if you like," said Mrs. Westgate.
"I consent to your going with Mr. Woodley; but I should not let you go
with an Englishman."
"Miss Bessie wouldn't care to go with an Englishman!"
Mr. Woodley declared with a faint asperity that was, perhaps,
not unnatural in a young man, who, dressing in the manner
that I have indicated and knowing a great deal, as I have said,
about London, saw no reason for drawing these sharp distinctions.
He agreed upon a day with Miss Bessie--a day of that same week.
An ingenious mind might, perhaps, trace a connection between the young
girl's allusion to her destitution of social privileges and a question
she asked on the morrow as she sat with her sister at lunch.
"Don't you mean to write to--to anyone?" said Bessie.
"I wrote this morning to Captain Littledale," Mrs. Westgate replied.
"But Mr. Woodley said that Captain Littledale had gone to India."
"He said he thought he had heard so; he knew nothing about it."
For a moment Bessie Alden said nothing more; then, at last,
"And don't you intend to write to--to Mr. Beaumont?" she inquired.
"You mean to Lord Lambeth," said her sister.
"I said Mr. Beaumont because he was so good a friend of yours."
Mrs. Westgate looked at the young girl with sisterly candor.
"I don't care two straws for Mr. Beaumont."
"You were certainly very nice to him."
"I am nice to everyone," said Mrs. Westgate simply.
"To everyone but me," rejoined Bessie, smiling.
Her sister continued to look at her; then, at last, "Are you
in love with Lord Lambeth?" she asked.
The young girl stared a moment, and the question was apparently too humorous
even to make her blush. "Not that I know of," she answered.
"Because if you are," Mrs. Westgate went on, "I shall certainly
not send for him."
"That proves what I said," declared Bessie, smiling--"that you
are not nice to me."
"It would be a poor service, my dear child," said her sister.
"In what sense? There is nothing against Lord Lambeth that I know of."
Mrs. Westgate was silent a moment. "You ARE in love with him then?"
Bessie stared again; but this time she blushed a little.
"Ah! if you won't be serious," she answered, "we will not
mention him again."
For some moments Lord Lambeth was not mentioned again, and it was
Mrs. Westgate who, at the end of this period, reverted to him.
"Of course I will let him know we are here, because I think he would
be hurt--justly enough--if we should go away without seeing him.
It is fair to give him a chance to come and thank me for the kindness
we showed him. But I don't want to seem eager."
"Neither do I," said Bessie with a little laugh.
"Though I confess," added her sister, "that I am curious to see
how he will behave."
"He behaved very well at Newport."
"Newport is not London. At Newport he could do as he liked;
but here it is another affair. He has to have an eye to consequences."
"If he had more freedom, then, at Newport," argued Bessie, "it is the more
to his credit that he behaved well; and if he has to be so careful here,
it is possible he will behave even better."
"Better--better," repeated her sister. "My dear child,
what is your point of view?"
"How do you mean--my point of view?"
"Don't you care for Lord Lambeth--a little?"
This time Bessie Alden was displeased; she slowly got up
from the table, turning her face away from her sister.
"You will oblige me by not talking so," she said.
Mrs. Westgate sat watching her for some moments as she moved
slowly about the room and went and stood at the window.
"I will write to him this afternoon," she said at last.
"Do as you please!" Bessie answered; and presently she turned round.
"I am not afraid to say that I like Lord Lambeth. I like him very much."
"He is not clever," Mrs. Westgate declared.
"Well, there have been clever people whom I have disliked,"
said Bessie Alden; "so that I suppose I may like a stupid one.
Besides, Lord Lambeth is not stupid."
"Not so stupid as he looks!" exclaimed her sister, smiling.
"If I were in love with Lord Lambeth, as you said just now,
it would be bad policy on your part to abuse him."
"My dear child, don't give me lessons in policy!" cried Mrs. Westgate.
"The policy I mean to follow is very deep."
The young girl began to walk about the room again; then she
stopped before her sister. "I have never heard in the course
of five minutes," she said, "so many hints and innuendoes.
I wish you would tell me in plain English what you mean."
"I mean that you may be much annoyed."
"That is still only a hint," said Bessie.
Her sister looked at her, hesitating an instant.
"It will be said of you that you have come after Lord Lambeth--
that you followed him."
Bessie Alden threw back her pretty head like a startled hind, and a look
flashed into her face that made Mrs. Westgate rise from her chair.
"Who says such things as that?" she demanded.
"I don't believe it," said Bessie.
"You have a very convenient faculty of doubt. But my policy will be,
as I say, very deep. I shall leave you to find out this kind
of thing for yourself."
Bessie fixed her eyes upon her sister, and Mrs. Westgate thought for a moment
there were tears in them. "Do they talk that way here?" she asked.
"You will see. I shall leave you alone."
"Don't leave me alone," said Bessie Alden. "Take me away."
"No; I want to see what you make of it," her sister continued.
"I don't understand."
"You will understand after Lord Lambeth has come," said Mrs. Westgate
with a little laugh.
The two ladies had arranged that on this afternoon Willie
Woodley should go with them to Hyde Park, where Bessie Alden
expected to derive much entertainment from sitting on a little
green chair, under the great trees, beside Rotten Row.
The want of a suitable escort had hitherto rendered this
pleasure inaccessible; but no escort now, for such an expedition,
could have been more suitable than their devoted young countryman,
whose mission in life, it might almost be said, was to find
chairs for ladies, and who appeared on the stroke of half-past
five with a white camellia in his buttonhole.
"I have written to Lord Lambeth, my dear," said Mrs. Westgate to her sister,
on coming into the room where Bessie Alden, drawing on her long gray gloves,
was entertaining their visitor.
Bessie said nothing, but Willie Woodley exclaimed that his lordship
was in town; he had seen his name in the Morning Post.
"Do you read the Morning Post?" asked Mrs. Westgate.
"Oh, yes; it's great fun," Willie Woodley affirmed.
"I want so to see it," said Bessie; "there is so much about it in Thackeray."
"I will send it to you every morning," said Willie Woodley.
He found them what Bessie Alden thought excellent places,
under the great trees, beside the famous avenue whose
humors had been made familiar to the young girl's childhood
by the pictures in Punch. The day was bright and warm,
and the crowd of riders and spectators, and the great procession