Part 2 out of 8
"You do not look _middle-aged_ enough," says Bobby, bluntly.
"Put on your bonnet," suggests Algy. "You look twenty years older in
that, particularly when you cock it well over your nose, as you did last
"You are all very unkind!" say I, in a whimpering voice, walking toward
"And if he becomes too demonstrative," says the Brat, overtaking me with
a rush before I reach it, "say--
'Unhand me, graybeard loon!'"
Then I go. As I know perfectly well, that if I give myself time to
think, I shall stand with the drawing-room door-handle in my grasp for
half an hour, before I can make up my mind to enter, I take the bull by
the horns, and whisking in suddenly and noisily, find myself
_tete-a-tete_ with my lover.
Certainly, I never felt such a fool in my life. How _awful_ it will be
if I burst out laughing in his face! It is quite as likely as not that I
shall do it out of sheer hysterical fright. Oh, how different! how much
nicer it was when we last parted! I had taken him to see the jackdaw,
and the little bear that Bobby brought from foreign parts; and jacky had
bitten his finger so humorously, and we had been so merry, and I had
told him again how much I wished that he could change places with
father. And now! _I feel_--more than see--that he is drawing nigh me.
Through my eyelids--for I am very sure that I never lift my eyes--get an
idea of his appearance.
Under his present aspect I am much more disposed to be critical, and to
pick holes in him, than I was under his former one. Any attempt at
youthfulness, any effort at _smartness_, will not escape my vigilant
reprobation--down-eyed and red-cheeked as I appear to be. But none such
do I find. There is no false juvenility--there is no trace of dandyism
in the plain and quiet clothes, in the hair sparsely sprinkled with
snow, in the mature and goodly face.
An iron-gray, middle-aged gentleman stands before me, more vigorous,
more full of healthy life than two-thirds of the puny youth, nourished
on sherry and bitters, of the present small generation, but with no
wish, no smallest effort to take away one from the burden of years that
God has laid on his strong shoulders.
There is no doubt that I shall not speak first, so for a moment there is
a profound silence. Then I find my hot hand in Sir Roger's where it has
so often and so familiarly lain before, and I hear Sir Roger's voice
"I am an old fool, Nancy, and you have come to tell me so?"
Somehow I know that the bronze of his face is a little paled by emotion,
but there is no sawny sentiment in his tone, none of the lover's whine.
It is the same voice--as manly, as sustained--that made comments on
Bobby's little bear. And yet, for the moment, I am physically unable to
answer him. Who _can_ answer the simplest question ever put with a lump
the size of a cocoa-nut in their throat? My eyelids are still hopelessly
drooped over my eyes, but, by some sense that is not eyesight, I am
aware that there is a sort of shyness in his face, a diffidence in his
"Nancy, have I come back too soon? am I hurrying you?"
I raise my eyes for an instant, and then let them fall.
"No, thank you," I say, demurely, "not at all. I have had plenty of
And then, somehow, there seems to me something so ludicrous in the sound
of my own speech, that I tremble on the verge of a burst of loud and
"Speak out all your thought to me, whatever it is," he says, in a tone
of grave entreaty, moved and tender, yet manly withal. "Look at me with
the same friendly, fearless eyes that you did last week! I know, my
dear, that you always think of others more than yourself, and I dare say
that _now_ you are afraid of hurting me! Indeed, you need not be! I am
tough and well-seasoned; I have known what pain is before now--it would
be very odd, at my time of life, if I had not! I can well bear a little
more, and be the better for it, perhaps."
I stand stupidly silent. One's outer man or woman often does an
injustice to one's inner feelings. As he speaks, my heart goes out to
him, but I can find no words in which to dress my thought.
"Nancy!" in a tone of thorough distress. "I can bear any thing but
seeing you shrink and shiver away from me, as I have seen you do from
"You _never_ will see that," reply I, laconically, gathering bravery
enough to look him in the face, as I deliver this encouraging remark.
"Do you think," he says, beginning to walk restlessly about the room--
(long ago he dropped my limp hand)--"that all this week I have had much
hope? Every time that I have caught a glimpse of myself in the glass, I
have said, 'Is this a face likely to take a child's fancy? Do you bear
much resemblance to the hero of her storybooks?' My dear"--(stopping
before me)--"you cannot think my presumption more absurd than I do
"I do not think it at all absurd," reply I, beginning to speak quite
stoutly, and to be rather diffuse than otherwise. "Perhaps I did, just
at first, when they were all laughing, and saying about your having been
at school with father; but _now_ I do not in the least--I do not care
what the boys say--I do not, really. I am not joking."
At my words he half stretches out his hand to take mine; but, as if
repressing some strong impulse, withdraws it again, and speaks quietly,
with a rather sober smile.
"I am afraid that one's soul ages more slowly than one's body, Nancy!
Even at my age it has seemed difficult to me to be brought into hourly
companionship with all that was most fresh and womanly, and spirited,
"_Pretty_!" think I. "I wish the boys could hear him! they will never
believe me if I tell them."
"And not wish to have it for my own, to take and make much of. I that
have never had any thing very lovely or lovable in my life. And then,
dear, it was all your good-nature, you did not know what you were doing;
you seemed to find some little pleasure in my society--even chose it by
preference now and then. My talk did not weary you, as I should have
thought it would have done, and so I grew to think--to think--Bah!"
(with a movement of impatience) "it was a foolish thought! what can
there be in common between me and a child like you?"
"I think that there is a great deal," reply I, speaking very steadily,
and so saying, I stretch out my hand and of my own accord put it in his
again. He cannot well return it to me, so he keeps it.
"And yet it is impossible?" he says, with hesitating interrogation,
while his steel-blue eyes look anxiously into mine.
"Is it?" say I, a wily smile beginning to creep over my features. "If it
is, what was the use of asking me?" I have the grace to grow extremely
red as I make this observation.
"Nancy!" seizing my other hand, too, and speaking in a hurried; low
voice that slightly shakes with the force of his emotion, "what are you
saying? You do not know what you are implying."
"Yes I do," reply I, firmly. "I know perfectly. And it is _not_
impossible. Not at all, I should say."
Upon this explicit declaration an ordinary lover would have had me in
his arms and smothered me with kisses before you could look round, but
my lover is abnormal. He does nothing of the kind.
"Are you sure," he says, with an earnest gravity and imploring emphasis,
"that you understand what you are doing? Are you certain, Nancy, that if
we had not been friends, if you had not been loath to pain me, that you
would not have answered differently? Think, child! think well of it!
this is not a matter of months or even years, but of your whole long
"Yes," say I, gravely, looking down. "I know it is."
And put thus solemnly before me, the idea of the marriage state seems to
me, hardly less weightily oppressive than the idea of eternity.
"How should I feel," he continues (he has put a hand on each of my
shoulders, and is looking-at me with a serious yet tender fixity), "if,
by-and-by, in the years ahead of us, you came and told me that by my
selfishness, taking advantage of your youth, I had destroyed your life?"
"And do you think," say I, with a flash of indignation, "that even if
you had done it, I should come and tell you?"
"Are you _quite_ sure that among all the men of your acquaintance, men
nearer you in age, more akin in tastes, men _not_ gray-haired, _not_
weather-beaten, _not_ past their best years--there is not one with whom
you would more willingly spend your life than with me? If it is so, I
_beseech_ you to tell me, as you would tell your mother!"
"If there were," reply I, smiling broadly, a smile which greatly widens
my mouth, and would show my dimples if I had any, "I should _indeed_ be
susceptible! The two curates that you saw the other night--the one who
tore his gloves into strips, you know, and the other who ate so much--
Toothless Jack--these are the sort of men among whom my lines have lain.
Do you think I am likely to be very much in love with any of _them_?"
My speech does not seem so altogether reassuring as I had expected.
"I am very suspicious," he says, half apologetically, "but you have seen
so little of the world, you have led such a nun's life! how can you
answer for it that hereafter out in the world you may not meet some one
more to your liking? You are a dear little, kindly, tender-hearted sort,
and you do not tell me so, but you do not like me _much_ Nancy! Indeed,
dear, I could far better do without you now, than see you by-and-by
wishing me away and yet be unable to rid you of me."
"People can help falling in love," say I, with matter-of-fact
common-sense. "If I belonged to you, of course I should never think of
any one else in that way."
"Are you sure--?"
"I wish that you would not ask me any more questions," say I,
interrupting him with a pout. "I am quite sure of everything you can
possibly think of."
"I will only ask _one_ more--are you quite sure that it is not for your
brothers' and sisters' sakes--not your own--that you are doing this? Do
you remember" (with a smile half playful, half sad) "what you told me
about your views of marriage on that first day when I found you in the
"I hope to Heaven that you did not think I was _hinting_," say I,
growing crimson; "it certainly sounded very like it, but I really and
truly was not. I was thinking of a _young_ man! I assure you" (speaking
with great earnestness) "that I had as much idea of marrying you as of
Looking back with mature reflection at this speech, I think that it may
be safely reckoned among my unlucky things.
"No," he says, wincing a little, a very little. "I know you had not;
but--you have not answered my question."
For a moment I look down irresolute, then, through some fixed belief in
him, I look up and tell him the plain, bare truth.
"I _did_ think that it would be a nice thing for the boys," I say, "and
so it will, there is no doubt; you will be as good as a fa--, as a
brother to them; but--I like you _myself_ besides, you may believe it or
not as you please, but it is quite, _quite_, QUITE true."
As I speak, the tears steal into my eyes.
"And _I_ like _you!_" he answers very simply, and so saying, stoops, and
with a sort of diffidence, kisses me.
"Well, how did it go off?" cries Bobby, curiously, when I next rejoin my
compeers. "Did you laugh?"
"_Laugh!_" I echo, with lofty anger, "I do not know what you mean! I
never felt in the least inclined." Then seeing my brethren look rather
aghast at this sudden change in the wind, I add gayly: "Bobby, you must
never again breathe a word about Sir Roger's having been at school with
father; let it be supposed that he did without education."
This is my wooing: thus I am disposed of. Without a shadow of previous
flirtation with any man born of woman--without any of the ups and downs,
the ins and outs of an ordinary love-affair, I place my fate in Sir
Roger's hands. Henceforth I must have done with all girlish
speculations, as to the manner of man who is to drop from the clouds to
be my wooer. Well, I have not many daydreams to relinquish. When I have
built Spanish castles--in a large family, one has not time for many--a
lover for myself has been less the theme of my aspirations than a
benefactor for the family. One, who will exercise a wholesomely
repressive influence over father, has been more than any thing the theme
of my longings; on the unlikely hypothesis of my marrying at all. For, O
friends, it has seemed to me _most_ unlikely; I dare say that I might
not have been over-difficult--might have thankfully and heartily loved
some one not quite a Bayard, but one cannot love _any thing_--any odd
and end--and, say what you will, the choice of a country girl, with a
little dowry and a plain face, is but small. For--do not dislike me for
it if you can help--I _am_ plain. I know it by the joint and honest
testimony of all my brethren. I have had no trouble in gathering the
truth from them. A hundred times they have volunteered it, with that
healthy disregard of any sickly sensitiveness which arms one against
blows to one's vanity through all after-life. Yes: I am plain; not
offensively so, not largely, fatly, staringly plain, but in a small,
blond, harmless way. However, Sir Roger thinks me pretty. Did not he say
so, in unmistakable English? I have tried darkly to hint this to the
boys, but have been so decisively pooh-poohed that I resolve not to
allude to the subject again. Not only am I plain now, but I shall remain
plain to my life's end. Unlike the generality of ugly heroines, you will
not see me develop and effloresce into beauty toward the end of my
The interval between my betrothal and my marriage is but short. On April
22d, I put my hand into Sir Roger's. On May 20th, I am to put it into
his for good. When the bridegroom is forty-seven, and the bride one of
six, why should there be any delay? Why should a man keep and lodge his
daughter any longer than he can help, when he has found some one else
willing to do it for him? This, I think, is father's view. And,
meanwhile, father himself is more like an _angel_ than a man. Not once
do we hear the terrible polite voice that chills the marrow of our
bones. Not once is his nose more than becomingly hooked. Not once does
he look like a hawk. _Another_ long bill comes in for Algy, and is
dismissed with the benevolent comment that you cannot put gray heads
upon green shoulders. I dine every day now; and father and I converse
agreeably upon indifferent topics. Once--oh, prodigious!--we take a walk
round the Home Farm together, and he consults me about the Berkshire
pigs. Then comes a mad rush for clothes. I am involved in a whirlwind of
haberdashery, Brussels lace, diamonds. It feels very odd--the becoming
possessed of a great number of stately garments, to which Barbara has no
fellows--Barbara and I, who hitherto have been always stitch for stitch
alike. And meanwhile I see next to nothing of my future husband. This is
chiefly my own doing.
"You will not mind," I say, standing before him one day in the
drawing-room window, and speaking rather bashfully--somehow I do not
feel so comfortably easy and outspoken with him as I did before the
catastrophe--"you will not mind if I do not see much of you--do not go
out walking--do not talk to you very much till--till _it_ is over!"
"And why am I not to mind?" he asks, half jestingly, and yet a little
"You will have quite enough--_too much_ of me afterward," I say, with a
shy laugh, "and _they_--they will never have much of me again--never so
much, at least--and" (with rather a tremble in my voice) "we have had
_such_ fun together!"
And so Sir Roger keeps away. Whether his self-denial costs him much, I
cannot say. It never occurs to me at the time that it does. He may think
me a very nice little girl, and that I shall be a great comfort to him,
but he cannot care much about having any very long conversations with
me--he that has seen so many lands, and known so many great and clever
people, and read so many books. He has always been _most_
undemonstrative to me. At _his_ age, no doubt, he does not care much for
the foolish endearments of lovers; so, with an easy conscience, I devote
myself, for my short space, to the boys, to Barbara, to Vick, and the
jackdaw. Once, indeed--just once--I have a little talk with him, and
afterward I almost wish that I had not had it. We are sitting under a
horse-chestnut-tree in the garden--a tree that, under the handling of
the warm air, is breaking into a thousand tender faces. We did not begin
by being _tete-a-tete_; indeed, several lately-occupied chairs intervene
between us, but first one and then another has slipped away, and we are
"Nancy!" says Sir Roger, his eyes following the Brat, who is lightly
tripping up the stone steps, looking very small and agile in his
white-flannel cricketing things, "what is that boy's real name? Why do
you call him 'the Brat?'"
"Because he _is_ such a _Brat_," reply I, fondly, picking up from the
grass a green chestnut-bud that the squirrels or the rooks have untimely
nipped. "Did you ever see any thing so little, so white and pert? He has
sadly mistaken his vocation in life: he ought to have been a street
"One gets rather sick of one's surname," says my companion. "Except your
father, hardly any one calls me Roger now! I should be glad to answer to
He turns and looks at me with a kind of appeal as he says this. If he
were not forty-seven and a man, I should say that he was coloring a
little. After all, blushing is confined to no age. I have seen a veteran
of sixty-five redden violently.
"Do you mean to say," cry I, looking rather aghast, and speaking, as
usual, without thinking, "that you mean _me_ to call you _Roger!_
indeed, I could not think of such a thing! it would sound so--so
_disrespectful_! I should as soon think of calling my father _James_."
"Should you?" he answers, turning away his face toward the garden-beds,
where the blue forget-me-not is unrolling her sky-colored sheet, and the
double daisies are stiffly parading their tight pink buttons. "Then call
me what you like!"
I am not learned in the variations of his voice, as I am in those of
father and Algy, in either of which I can at once detect each fine
inflection of anger, contest, or pain; but, comparatively unversed as I
am in it, there sounds to me a slight, carefully smothered, yet still
perceptible, intonation of disappointment--mortification. I wish that
the air would give me back my words; but that it never yet was known to
"I will try if you like," say I, cheerfully, but a little shyly, as,
like the March Hare and the Hatter in the "Mad Sea Party," I move up
past the empty chairs to the one next him. "I do not see, after all, why
I should not get quite used to it in time! Roger! Roger! it is a name I
have always been very partial to until" (laughing a little) "the
Claimant threw discredit on all Rogers!"
He is looking at me again. After all, I must have been mistaken. There
is no shadow of disappointment or mortification near him. He is smiling
with some friendliness.
"You must never mind what _I_ say," I continue, dragging my wicker chair
along the shortly-shorn sward a little nearer to him."_Never!_ nobody
ever does; I am a proverb and a by-word for my malapropos speeches.
Mother always _trembles_ when she hears me talking to a stranger. The
first day that I dined after you came, Algy made me a list of things
that I was not to talk about to you."
"A list of sore subjects?" says my lover, laughing. "But how did the boy
know what _were_ my sore subjects? What were they, Nancy?"
"Oh, I do not know! I have forgotten," reply I, in some confusion. "I've
made some very bad shots."
And so we slip away from the subject; but, all the same, I wish that I
had not said it.
We have come to the day before the wedding. My spirits, which held up
bravely during the first two weeks of my engagement, have now fallen--
fallen, like a wind at sundown. I am as limp, lachrymose, and
lamentable, a young woman as you would find between the three seas. I
have cried with loud publicity in full school-room conclave; I have
cried with silent privacy in bed. I have cried over the jackdaw. I have
cried over the bear. I have not cried over Vick, as I am to take her
with me. To-day we have _all_ cried--boys and all; and have moistened
the bun-loaf and the gooseberry-jam at tea with our tears. Our spirits
being now temporarily revived, I am undergoing the operation of trying
my wedding-dress. I am having a private rehearsal, in fact, in mother's
boudoir, with only mother, Barbara, and the maid, for audience.
"Mine is the most hopeless kind of ugliness," say I, with an admirable
dispassionateness, as if I were talking of some one else, as, armed in
full panoply, I stand staring at my white reflection in a long mirror
let into the wall--staring at myself from top to toe--from the highest
jasmine star of my wreath to the lowest edge of my Brussels flounce. "If
I were very fat, I might fine down; if I were very thin, I might plump
up; if I were very red, I might grow pale; if I were--hush! here are the
boys. I would not for worlds that they should see me!"
So saying, I run behind the folding-screen--the screen which, through so
many winter evenings, we have adorned with gay and ingenious pictures,
and which, after having worked openly at it under her nose for a year
and a half, we presented to mother _as a surprise_, on her last
"Come out, ostrich!" cries Algy, laughing. "Do you suppose that you are
hidden? Did it never occur to you that we could see your reflection in
Thus adjured, I reissue forth.
"Did you ever see such a fool as I look?" say I, feeling very sneaky,
and going through a few uncouth antics to disguise my confusion,
"Talk of _me_ being a Brat," cries the Brat, triumphantly. "I am not
half such a brat as you are! You look about ten years old!"
"Mark my words!" cries Bobby. "Wherever you go, on the Continent, you
will be taken for a good little girl making a tour with her grandpapa!"
Bobby is speaking at the top of his voice; as, indeed, we have all of us
rather a bad habit of doing. Bobby has the most excuse for it, as, being
a sailor, I suppose that he has to bellow a good deal at the
blue-jackets. In the present case, he has _one_ more listener than he
thinks. Sir Roger is among us. The door has been left ajar, and he,
hearing the merry clamor, and having always the _entree_ to mother's
room, has entered. By the pained smile on his face, I can see that he
"You are right, my boy," he says, quite gently, looking kindly at the
unfortunate Bobby; "she _does_ look very--_very_ young!" "I shall mend
of that!" cry I, briskly, putting my arm through his, in anxious amends
for Bobby's hapless speech. "We are a family who age particularly early.
I have a cousin whose hair was gray at five-and-twenty, and I am sure
that any one who did not know father, would say that he was sixty, if he
was a day--would not they, mother?"
The preparations are ended; the guests are come; no great number. A few
unavoidable Tempests, a few necessary Greys (I have told you, have not
I, that my name is Grey?). The heels have been amputated from a large
number of white satin slippers, preparatory to their being thrown after
us. The school-children have had their last practice at the
I have resolved to rise at five o'clock on my wedding-morning, so as to
make a last gloomy progress round every bird and beast and
gooseberry-bush on the premises. I have exacted--binding her by many
stringent oaths--a solemn promise from Barbara to make me, if I do not
do so of my own accord, at the appointed hour. I am sunk in heavy sleep,
and wake only very gradually, to find her, in conformity with her
engagements, giving my shoulder reluctant and gentle pushes, and softly
"Is it five?" say I, sitting up and yawning. Then as the recollection of
my position flashes across my mind, "I will _not_ be married!" I cry,
turning round, and burying all my face in my pillow again. "Nobody shall
induce me! Let some one go and tell Sir Roger so."
"Sir Roger is not awake," replied Barbara, laughing rather sleepily,
"you forget that."
And by the time he is awake, I have come to a saner mind. We dress, for
the last time, _alike_. The thought that never again shall I have a
holland frock like Barbara's is nearly too much for us both. We run
quietly downstairs, and out into as August a morning as God ever gave
his poor pensioners.
We walk along soberly and silently, hand-in-hand, as we used to do when
we were little children. My heart is _very, very full_. I may be going
to be happy in my new life. I fully expect to be. At nineteen, happiness
seems one's right, one's matter of course; but it will not be in the
same way. _This_ chapter of my life is ended, and it has been _such_ a
good chapter, so full of love, of healthy, strong affection, of
interchanged, kind offices, and little glad self-denials, so abounding
in good jokes and riotous laughter, in little pleasures that--looked
back on--seem great; in little wholesome pains that--in retrospect--seem
joys. And, as we walk, the birds
"Prefer soft anthems to the ears of men
To woo them from their beds, still murmuring
That men can sleep while they their matins sing.
Most divine service, whose so early lay
Prevents the eyelids of the blushing day."
The old singers have said many a fine and lovely thing about lusty
spring. From their pages there seems to come a whiff of clean and
healthy perfume from many dead Mays. In sweet and matterful verse they
have sung their praises; but, oh! no singer, old or new--none, at least,
that was but human--none but a God-intoxicated man could tell the
glories of that serenely shining and suave morn.
One so seldom sees the best part of a summer day! Buried in swinish
slumber, with window-curtains heedfully drawn, and shutters closely
fastened, between us and it, we know nothing of the stately pageant
spread outside our doors.
It is wasted; nay, not wasted, for the birds have it. It is so early,
that the gardening-men are not yet come to their work. Every thing is as
wet as though there had been a shower, but there has been none.
Talk of the earth moving round the sun--he himself the while stupidly
stock-still--let _them_ believe it who like; is not he now placidly
sailing through the turquoise sea? Below, the earth is unfolding all her
freshened meadows, bravely pied with rainbow flowers. There is a very
small soft wind, that comes in honeyed puffs and little sighs, that wags
the lilac-heads, and the long droop of the laburnum-blooms. The grass is
so wet--so wet--as we swish through it, every blade a separate green
sparkle. The young daisies give our feet little friendly knocks as we
All round the old flowering thorn there is a small carpet, milk-white
and rose-red, of strewn petals. Every flower that has a cup, is holding
it brimful of cool dew. Vick is sitting on the top of the stone steps,
her ears pricked, and her little black nose working mysteriously as she
sniffs the morning air.
On the bright gravel walk stands the jackdaw, looking rather a funereal
object in his black suit, on this gaudy-colored day; his gray head very
much on one side, his round, sly eyes turned upward in dishonest
meditation. A worse bird than Jacky does not hop. His life is one long
course of larceny, and I know that if he had the gift of speech, he
would also be a consummate liar. I kneel on the walk, and, holding out a
bit of cake, call him softly and clearly, "Jacky! Jacky!" He snatches it
rudely, with a short hoarse caw, puts one black foot on it, and begins
"Jacky! Jacky!" say I, sorrowfully, "I am going to be married! Oh, you
know that? You may thank your stars that you are not."
As I speak, my tears fall on his sleek black wings and his dear gray
head. I try to kiss him; but he makes such a spiteful peck at my nose,
that I have to give up the idea. Thus one of my good-byes is over. By
the time that they are all ended, and we have returned to the house, I
am drowned in tears, and my appearance for the day is irretrievably
damaged. My nose is certainly _very_ red. It surprises even myself, who
have known its capabilities of old. Bobby, always prosaic, suggests that
I shall hold it in the steam of boiling water, to reduce the
inflammation. But I have not the heart to try this remedy. It may be sky
blue, for all I care. Nose or no nose, I am dressed now.
Instead of the costly artificial wreath that Madame Elise sent me,
Barbara has made a little natural garland of my own flowers--my Nancies.
I smell them all the time that I am being married. I have no female
friends--Barbara has always been friend enough for me--so I have
stipulated that I shall have no other bridesmaids but her and Tou Tou.
They are not much to brag of in the way of a match. Algy indeed
suggested that in order to bring them into greater harmony, Tou Tou
shall clothe her thin legs with long petticoats, or Barbara abridge her
garments to Tou Tou's length; but the proposition has met with as little
favor in the family's eyes as did Squire Thornhill's proposal, that
every gentleman should sit on a lady's lap, in the Vicar of Wakefield.
The guests are all off to the church. I follow with my parents. Mother
is inclined to cry, until snubbed and withered into dry-eyedness by her
consort. He is, however, all benignity to me. I catch myself wondering
whether I _can_ be his own daughter; whether I am not one of the train
of neighboring misses who have sometimes made me the depository of their
raptures about him.
We reach the church. I am walking up the aisle on red cloth: the
wedding-hymn is in my ears, gayly and briskly sung, though it _is_ a
hymn, and not an _Epithalamium_: a vague idea of many people is in my
head. I am standing before the altar--the altar smothered in flowers.
The old vicar who christened me is to marry me. I have declined the
intervention of all strange bishops and curates whatsoever. He is a
clergyman of the old school, and spares us not a word of the ritual.
Truly in no squeamish age was the marriage-service composed! I know--
that is, I could have told you if you had asked me--that I am standing
beside a large and stately person, to whom, if neither God nor man
interpose to prevent it, I shall, within five minutes, be lawfully wed;
but I do not in the least degree realize it.
Now and again a strong sense of the ludicrous rushes over me. There
seems to me something acutely ridiculous in the idea of myself standing
here, so finely dressed--of the boys, demure and prim in their tall hats
and Sunday coats, gathered to see _me_ married--_me_ of all people!
Like lightning-flash there darts into my head the recollection of the
_last time that I was married!_ when, long ago we were little children,
one wet Sunday afternoon, for want of a job, I had espoused Bobby; and
Algy, standing on a chair, with his night-gown on for a surplice, had
married us. It is over now. I am aware that several persons of different
genders have kissed me. I have signed my name. I am walking down the
church-yard path, the bells jangling gayly above my head, drowning the
sweet thrushes; and the school-children flinging bountiful garden
flowers before my feet. It seems to me a sin to tread upon them. It goes
to my heart. We reach the house. Vick comes out to meet us in a
crawling, groveling manner, which owes its birth to the _shame_ caused
in her mind by the huge favor which my maid has tied round her little
neck. We go into breakfast and feed--the _women_ with easy minds; the
_men_, with such appetites as the fear of impending speeches, of
horrible shattered commonplaces leaves them.
I suppose that, despite my change of name, I cannot yet be wholly a
Tempest; for, while I remain perfectly serene and calm during Sir
Roger's few plain words, I am one red misery while Algy is returning
thanks for the bridesmaids, which he does in so appallingly lame,
stammering, and altogether agonizing a manner, that I have serious
thoughts of slipping from my bridegroom's side under the friendly shade
of the table, among its sheltering legs.
Thank God it is over, and I am gone to put on my traveling-dress! The
odious parting moment has come. The carriage is at the door: the maid
and valet are in the dickey. What a pity that they are not bride and
bridegroom too! Vick has jumped in--alert and self-respecting again now
that she has bitten off her favor.
I have begun my voluminous farewells. I have kissed them all round once,
and am beginning again. How can one make up one's mind where to stop?
with whom to end?
"Never you marry, Barbara!" say I, in a sobbing whisper, as I clasp her
in my last embrace, greatly distorting my new bonnot, "it is _so_
We are off, followed by a tornado of shoes--one, aimed with dexterous
violence by that unlucky Bobby, goes nigh to cut the bridegroom's left
eye open, as he waves his good-byes.
As we trot smartly away, I turn round in the carriage and look at them
through my tears. There they all are! After all, what a nice-looking
family! Even Tou Tou! there is something pretty about her, and standing
as she is now, her legs look quite nice and thick.
* * * * *
We reach Dover before dinner-time. Sir Roger has gone out to speak to
the courier who meets us there. I am left alone in our great stiff
sitting-room at the Lord Warden. Instantly I rush to the
"What, writing already?" says my husband, reentering, and coming over
with a smile toward me. "Have you forgotten any of your finery?"
"No, no!" cry I, impulsively, spreading both hands over the sheet; "do
not look! you must not look!"
"Do you think I _should?_" he says, reproachfully, turning quickly away.
"But you may," cry I, with one of my sudden useless remorses, holding
out the note to him. "Do! I should like you to!--I do not know why I
said it!--I was only sending them a line, just to tell them how
_dreadfully_ I missed them all!"
I have been married a week. A _week_ indeed! a week in the sense in
which the creation of the world occupied a week!--seven geological ages,
perhaps, but _not_ seven days. We have been to Brussels, to Antwerp, to
Cologne. We have seen--(with the penetrating incense odor in our
nostrils, and the kneeling peasants at our feet)--the Descent from the
Cross, the Elevation of the Cross--dead Christs manifold. Can it be
possible that the brush which worthily painted Christ's agony, can be
the same that descended to eternize redundant red fishwives, and call
them goddesses? We have given ourselves cricks in the necks, staring up
at the divine incompleteness of Cologne Cathedral. And all through
Crucifixions, cathedrals, table d'hotes, I have been deadly, _deadly_
homesick--homesick as none but one that has been a member of a large
family and has been out into the world on his or her own account, for
the first time, can understand. When first I drove away through the
park, my sensations were something like those that we all used to
experience, on the rare occasions when father, as a treat, took one or
other of us out on an excursion with him--the _honor_ great, but the
It seems to myself, as if I had not laughed once since we set off!--yes
--_once_ I did, at the recollection of an old joke of Bobby's, that we
all thought very silly at the time, but that strikes me as irresistibly
funny now that it recurs to me in the midst of strange scenes, and of
After forty, people do not laugh at absolutely _nothing_. They may be
very easily moved to mirth, as, indeed, to do him justice, Sir Roger is;
but they do not laugh for the pure physical pleasure of grinning. The
weight of the absolute _tete-a-tete_ of a honey-moon, which has proved
trying to a more violent love than mine, is oppressing me.
At home, if I grew tired of talking to one, I could talk to another. If
I waxed weary of Bobby's sea-tales, I might refresh myself with
listening to the Brat's braggings about Oxford--with Tou Tou's murdered
J'aime, I love.
Tu aimes, Thou lovest.
Il aime, He loves.
How many thousand years ago, the labored conjugation of that verb seems
_Now_, if I do not converse with Sir Roger, I must remain silent. And,
somehow, I cannot talk to him now as fluently as I used. Before--during
our short previous acquaintance--where I used to pester the poor man
with filial aspirations that he could not reciprocate, there seemed no
end to the things I had to say to him. I felt as if I could have told
him any thing. I bubbled over with silly jests.
It never occurred to me to think whether I pleased him or not; but _now
--now_, the sense of my mental inferiority--of the gulf of years and
inequalities that yawns between us--weighs like a lump of lead upon me.
I am in constant fear of falling below his estimate of me. Before I
speak, I think whether what I am going to say will be worth saying, and,
as very few of my remarks come up to this standard, I become extremely
silent. Oh, if we could meet some one we knew--even if it were some one
that we rather disliked than otherwise: some one that would laugh and
have as few wits as I, and be _young_.
But it is too early in the year for many people to be yet abroad, and,
so far, we have fallen upon no acquaintances. Once, indeed, at Antwerp,
I see in the distance a man whose figure bears a striking resemblance to
that of "Toothless Jack," and my heart leaps--detestable as I have
always thought Barbara's aspirant; but on coming nearer the likeness
disappears, and I relapse into depression.
Long ago, I had told my husband--on the first day I had made his
acquaintance indeed--that I had no conversation, and now he is proving
experimentally the truth of my confession. At home, our talk has always
been made up of allusions, half-words, petrified witticisms, that have
become part of our language. Each sentence would require a dictionary of
explanation to any strange hearer. _Now_, if I wish to be understood, I
must say my meaning in plain English, and very laborious I find it.
To-day, we are on our way from Cologne to Dresden; sixteen hours and a
half at a stretch. This of itself is enough to throw the equablest mind
off its balance.
We have a _coupe_ to ourselves. This is quite opposed to my wishes, nor
is it Sir Roger's doing, but Schmidt, the courier, knowing what is
seemly on those occasions--what he has always done for all former
freshly-wed couples whom he has escorted--secured it before we could
prevent him. As for me, it would have amused me to see the people come
in and out, to air my timid German in little remarks about the weather;
albeit I have thus early discovered that the German, which we have been
exhorted to talk among ourselves in the school-room, to perfect us in
that tongue, bears no very pronounced likeness to the language as talked
by the indigenous inhabitants. They _will_ talk so fast, and they never
say any thing in the least like Ollendorff.
_Sixteen hours and a half_ of a _tete-a-tete_ more complete and unbroken
than any we have yet enjoyed. All day I watch the endless, treeless,
hedgeless German flats fly past; the straight-lopped poplars, the spread
of tall green wheat, the blaze of rape-fields--the villages and towns,
with two-towered German churches, over and over, and over again. Oh, for
a hill, were it no bigger than a molehill! Oh, for a broad-armed English
At Minden we stop to lunch. The whole train pushes and jostles into the
refreshment-room, and, in ten galloping minutes, we devour three filthy
_plats_; a nauseous potage, a terrible dish of sickly veal, and a ragged
Braten. Then a rush and tumble-off again.
The day rolls past, dustily, samely, wearily. There have been flying
thunder-storms--lightning-flashes past the windows. I hide my face in my
dusty gloves to avoid seeing the quick red forks, and leave a smear on
each grimy cheek. Every moment, I am a rape-field--a corn-field, a
bean-field, farther from Barbara, farther from the Brat, farther from
"This is rather a long day for you, child!" says Sir Roger, kindly,
perceiving, I suppose, the joviality of the expression with which I am
eying the German landscape. "The most tedious railway-journey you ever
took, I suppose?"
"Yes," reply I, "far! It seems like three Sundays rolled into one, does
not it? What time is it now?"
He takes out his watch and looks.
"Twenty past five."
"_Seven_ hours more!" say I, with a burst of desperateness.
"I am so sorry for you, Nancy! what can one do for you?" says my
husband, looking thoroughly discomfited, concerned, and helpless. "Would
you care to have a book?"
"I cannot read in a train," reply I, dolorously, "it makes me _sick_!"
Then feeling rather ashamed of my peevishness--"Never mind me!" I say,
with a dusty smile; "I am quite happy! I--I--like looking out."
The day falls, the night comes. On, on, on! There is a bit of
looking-glass opposite me. I can no longer see any thing outside. I have
to sit staring at my own plain, grimed, bored face. In a sudden fury, I
draw the little red silk curtain across my own image. Thank God! I can
no longer see myself. Sir Roger ceases to try his eyes with the print of
the _Westminster_, and closes it.
"I wonder," say I, pouring some eau-de-cologne on my
pocket-handkerchief, and trying to cleanse my face therewith, but only
succeeding in making it a muddy instead of a dusty smudge--"I wonder
whether we shall meet any one we know at Dresden?"
"I should not wonder," replies Sir Roger, cheerfully.
"Is the Hotel de Saxe the place where most English go?" inquire I,
anxiously. "Ah, you do not know! I must ask Schmidt."
"I hope we shall," say I, straining my eyes to make out the objects in
the dark outside. "We have been very unlucky so far, have not we?"
"Are you so anxious to meet people? are you so dull already, Nancy?" he
asks, in that voice of peculiar gentleness which I have already learned
to know hides inward pain.
"Oh, no, no!" cry I, with quick remorse. "Not at all! I have always
_longed_ to travel! At one time Barbara and I were always talking about
it, making plans, you know, of where we would go. I enjoy it, of all
things, especially the pictures--but do not you think it would be
amusing to have some one to talk to at the _tables d'hote_, some one
English, to laugh at the people with?"
"Yes," he answers, readily, "of course it would. It is quite natural
that you should wish it. I heartily hope we shall. We will go wherever
it is most likely."
After long, _long_ hours of dark rushing, Dresden at last. We drive in
an open carriage through an unknown town, moonlit, silent, and asleep.
German towns go to bed early. We cross the Elbe, in which a second moon,
big and clear as the one in heaven, lies quivering, waving with the
water's wave; then through dim, ghostly streets, and at last--at last--
we pull up at the door of the Hotel de Saxe, and the sleepy porter comes
"There is no doubt," say I, aloud, when I find myself alone in my
bedroom, Sir Roger not having yet come up, and the maid having gone to
bed--addressing the remark to the hot water in which I have been bathing
my face, stiff with dirt, and haggard with fatigue. "There is no use
denying it, I _hate_ being married!"
We have been in Dresden three whole days, and as yet my aspirations
have not met their fulfillment. We have met no one we know. We have
borrowed the Visitors' Book from the porter, and diligently searched it.
We have expectantly examined the guests at the _tables d'hote_ every
day, but with no result. It is too early in the year. The hotel is not
half full. Of its inmates one half are American, a quarter German, and
the other quarter English, such as not the most rabidly social mind can
wish to forgather with. At the discovery of our ill-success, Sir Roger
looks so honestly crestfallen that my heart smites me.
"How eager you are!" I say, laying my hand on his, with a smile. "You
are far more anxious about it than I am! I begin to think that you are
growing tired of me already! As for me," continue I, nonchalantly,
seeing his face brighten at my words, "I think I have changed my mind.
Perhaps it would be rather a _bore_ to meet any acquaintance, and--and--
we do very well as we are, do not we?"
"Is that true, Nancy?" he says, eagerly. "I have been bothering my head
rather with the notion that I was but poor company for a little young
thing like you; that you must be wearying for some of your own friends."
"I never had a friend," reply I, "_never_--that is--except _you_! The
boys"--(with a little stealing smile)--"always used to call you my
friend--always from the first, from the days I used to take you out
walking, and keep wishing that you were my father, and be rather hurt
because I never could get you to echo the wish."
"And you are not much disappointed _really?_" he says, with a wistful
persistence, as if he but half believed the words my lips made. "If you
are, mind you tell me, child--tell me every thing that vexes you--
"I will tell you every thing that happens to me, bad and good," reply I,
quite gayly, "and all the unlucky things I say--there, that is a large
promise, I can tell you!"
I am no longer dusty and grimy; quite spick and span, on the contrary;
so freshly and prettily dressed, indeed, that the thought _will_ occur
to me that it is a pity there are not more people to see me. However, no
doubt some one will turn up by-and-by. The weather is serenely, evenly
fine. It seems as if no rain _could_ come from such a high blue sky. It
is late afternoon or early evening. Since dinner is over--dinner at the
godless hour of half-past four--I suppose we must call it evening. Sir
Roger and I are driving out in an open carriage beyond the town, across
the Elbe, up the shady road to Weisserhoisch. The calm of coming night
is falling with silky softness upon every thing. The acacias stand on
each side of the highway, with the delicate abundance of their airy
flowers, faintly yet most definitely sweet on the evening air.
I look up and see the crowded blooms drooping in pensive beauty above my
head. The guelder-rose's summer snow-balls, and the mock-orange with its
penetrating odor, whiten the still gardens as we pass. The billowy
meadow-grass, the tall red sorrel, the untidy, ragged robin, all the
yearly-recurring May miracles! What can I say, O my friends, to set them
fairly before you?
Under the trees the townsfolk are walking, chatting low and friendly. A
soldier has his arm round a fat-faced Maedchen's waist, an attention
which she takes with the stolidity engendered by long habit. Dear,
willing, panting dogs, are laboriously dragging the washer-women's
little carts up-hill.
"Vick," say I, gravely, "how would you like to drag a little cart to the
Vick does not answer verbally, but she stretches her small neck over the
carriage-side, and gives a disdainful yet inquisitive _smell_ at her low
brethren. No words could express a fuller contempt for a dog that earns
his own living.
The driver is taking his horses along very easily, but we do not care to
hurry him. I have not felt so happy, so at ease, so gay, since I was
"This _is_ nice," say I, making a frantic snatch at a long acacia-droop;
"_how_ I wish they were _all_ here!"
Sir Roger laughs a little, and raises his eyebrows slightly.
"Do you mean _with us_--_now_--_in the carriage_? Should not we be
rather a tight fit?"
"Rather," say I, laughing too. "We should be puzzled how to pack them
all, should not we? We would be like the animals in a Noah's ark."
A little pause.
"General," say I, impulsively, "it has just occurred to me, are not you
sometimes deadly, _deadly_ tired of hearing about the boys? I am sure I
should be, if I were you. Confess! I will try not to be any angrier with
you than I can help; but do not you sometimes wish that Algy and Bobby,
and the Brat--not to speak of Tou Tou--were drowned in the Bed Sea, or
in the horse-pond, at home?"
"At least you gave me fair warning," he says, with a smile. "Do you
remember telling me that whoever married you would have to marry all
"I wish you would not remind me of that," say I, reddening.
It was quite the broadest hint any one ever gave. The evening is
deepening. We have reached Weisserhoisch. Now our faces are turned
homeward again. As we pass the entrance to the Gardens of the Linnisches
Bad, we see the lamps springing into light, and the people gayly yet
quietly trooping in, while on the soft evening air comes the swell of
"Stop! stop!" cry I, springing up, excitedly. "Let us go in. I _love_ a
band! It is almost as good as a circus. May we, general? Do you mind?
Would it bore you?"
Five minutes more, and we are sitting at a little round table, each with
a tall green glass of Mai. Frank [Transcriber's note: sic] before us,
and a brisk Uhlanenritt in our ears. I look round with a pleasant sense
of dissipation. The still, green trees; the cluster of oval lamps, like
great bright ostrich-eggs; the countless little tables like our own; the
happy social groups; the waiters running madly about with bif-tecks; the
great-lidded goblets of amber-colored Bohemian beer; the young Bavarian
officers, in light-blue uniforms, at the next table to us--stalwart,
fair-haired boys--I should not altogether mind knowing a few of them;
and, over all, the arch of suave, dark, evening sky.
"What shall we have for supper?" cry I, vivaciously. "I never can see
anybody eating without longing to eat too. _Blutwurst!_ That means
black-pudding, I suppose--certainly not _that_--how they do call a spade
a spade in German! By-the-by, what are the soldiers having? Can you see?
I think I saw a vision of _prawns!_ I saw things sticking out like their
legs. I _must_ find out!"
I rise, on pretense of getting a little wooden stool from under an
unoccupied table close to the object of my curiosity, and, as I stoop to
pick it up, I fraudulently glance over the nearest warrior's shoulder.
My sin finds me out. He turns and catches me in the act, and at the same
time a young man--_not_ a warrior, at least not in uniform, but in loose
gray British clothes--turns, too, and fixes me with a stony, British
stare. I am returning in some confusion, having moreover incidentally
discovered that they were _not_ prawns, when to my extreme surprise, I
hear my husband addressing the young gentleman in gray.
"Why, Frank, my dear boy, is that you? Who would have thought of seeing
"As to that," replies the young man, stretching out a ready right hand,
"who would have thought of seeing _you?_ What on earth has brought _you_
Sir Roger laughs, but with a sort of shyness.
"Like the man in the parable, I have married a wife," he says; then,
putting his hand kindly on the young fellow's shoulder--"Nancy, you have
been wishing that we might meet some one we knew, have not you? Well,
here is some one. I suppose that I must introduce you formally to each
other. Lady Tempest--Mr. Musgrave."
Despite the searching, and, I should have thought, exhaustive
examination of my appearance, that my new friend has already indulged
in, he thinks good to look at me again, as he bows, and this time with a
sort of undisguisable surprise in his great dark eyes.
"I must apologize," he says, taking off his hat. "I had heard that you
were going to be married, but I am so behind the time, have been so out
of the way of hearing news, that I did not know that it had come off
He says this with a little of that doubtful stiffness, which sometimes
owes its birth to shyness, and sometimes to self-consciousness; but he
seems in no hurry to return to his friends, the big, blond soldiers. On
the contrary, he draws a chair up to our table.
"Do they ever get _prawns_ here?" say I, with apparent irrelevancy, not
being able to disengage my mind from the thought of shell-fish, "or is
it too far inland? I am _so_ fond of them, and I fancied that these
gentlemen--" (slightly indicating the broad, blue warrior-backs)--"were
His mouth curves into a sudden smile.
"Was that why you came to look?"
"I did not mean to be seen: that person must have had eyes in the back
of his head."
I relapse into silence, and fish for the sprigs of woodruff floating in
my Mai-Trank, while the talk passes to Sir Roger. Presently I become
aware that the stranger is addressing me by that new title which makes
me disposed to laugh.
"Lady Tempest, have you seen those lamps that they have here, in the
shape of flowers? Cockney sort of things, but they are rather pretty."
"No," say I, eagerly, dropping my spoon and looking up; "_in the shape
of flowers?_ Where?"
"You cannot see them from here," he answers; "they are over there,
nearer the river."
"I should like to see them," say I, decisively; "shall we, general?"
"Will you spare Lady Tempest for five minutes?" says the young man,
addressing my husband; "it is not a hundred yards off."
At _my_ words Sir Roger had made a slight movement toward rising; but,
at the stranger's, he resettles himself in his chair.
"Will you not come, too? Do!" say I, pleadingly; and, as I speak, I half
stretch out my hand to lay it on his arm; then hastily draw it back,
afraid and ashamed of vexing him by public demonstrations.
He looks up at me with a smile, but shakes his head.
"I think I am lazy," he says; "I will wait for you here."
We set off; I with a strongish, but unexplained feeling of resentment
against my companion.
"Where are they?" I ask, pettishly; "not far off, I hope! I do not fancy
I shall care about them!"
"I did not suppose that you would," he replies, in an extremely happy
tone; "would you like us to go back?"
"No," reply I, carelessly, "it would not be worth while now we have
We march on in solemn silence, not particularly pleased with each other.
I am staring about me, with as greedily wondering eyes as if I were a
young nun let loose for the first time. We pass a score--twoscore,
threescore, perhaps--of happy parties, soldiers again, a _bourgeois_
family of three generations, the old grandmother with a mushroom-hat
tied over her cap--soldiers and Fraeuleins _coketteering._ The air comes
to our faces, dry, warm, and elastic, yet freshened by the river, far
down in whose quiet heart all the lamps are burning again.
"Have you been here long?" says Mr. Musgrave, presently, in a formal
voice, from which I see that resentment is not yet absent.
"Yes," say I, having on the other hand fully recovered my good-humor, "a
good while--that is, not very long--three, four, three whole days."
"Do you call that a _good while_?"
"It seems more," reply I, looking frankly back at him in the lamplight,
and thinking that he cannot be much older than Algy, and that, in
consequence, it is rather a comfort not to be obliged to feel the
slightest respect for him.
"And how long have you been abroad altogether?"
We have reached the flower-lamps. We are standing by the bed in which
they are supposed to grow. There are half a dozen of them: a fuchsia, a
"I do not think much of them," say I, disparagingly, kneeling down to
examine them. "What a villainous rose! It is like an _artichoke_!"
"I told you you would not like them," he says, not looking at the
flowers, but switching a little stick nonchalantly about; then, after a
moment: "How long did you say you had been abroad?"
"You asked me that before," reply I, sharply, rising from my knees, and
discovering that the evening grass has left a disfiguring green trace on
my smart _trousseau_ gown.
"Yes, and you did not give me any answer," he replies, with equal
"Because I cannot for the life of me recollect," reply I, looking up for
inspiration to the stars, which the great bright lamps make look small
and pale. "I must do a sum: what day of the month is this?--the 31st?
Oh, thanks, so it is; and we were married on the 20th. It is ten days,
then. Oh, it _must_ be more--it seems like ten _months_"
I am looking him full in the face as I say this, and I see a curious,
and to me _puzzling_, expression of inquiry and laughter in the shady
darkness of his eyes.
"Has the time seemed so long to you, then?"
"No," reply I, reddening with vexation at my own _betise_; "that is--
yes--because we have been to so many places, and seen so many things--
any one would understand _that_"
"And when do you go home?"
"In less than three weeks now," I reply, in an alert, or rather joyful
tone; "at least I hope so--I mean" (again correcting myself)--"I _think_
Somehow I feel dissatisfied with my own explanations, and recommence:
"The boys--that is, my brothers--will soon be scattered to the ends of
the earth; Algy has got his commission, and Bobby will soon be sent to a
foreign station--he is in the navy, you will understand; and so we all
want to be together once again before they go." "You are not going home
_really_, then?" inquires my companion, with a slight shade of
disappointment in his tone; "not to _Tempest_--that is?"
"What a number of questions you do ask!" say I, impatiently. "Of what
possible interest can it be to you where we are going?"
"Only that I shall be your nearest neighbor," replies he, stiffly; "and,
as Sir Roger has hardly ever been down hitherto, I am rather tired of
living next an empty house."
"Our nearest neighbor!" cry I, with animation, opening my eyes. "Not
_really?_ Well, I am rather glad! Only yesterday I was asking Sir Roger
whether there were many young people about. And _how_ near are you?
"About as near as I well can be," answers he, dryly. "My lodge exactly
"Too close," say I, shaking my head. "We shall quarrel."
"And do you mean to say," in a tone of attempted lightness that but
badly disguises a good deal of hurt conceit, "that you never heard my
Again I shake my head.
"Never! and, what is more, I do not think I know what it is now: I
suppose I did not listen very attentively, but I do not think I caught
"And your tone says" (with a very considerable accession of huffiness)
"that you are supremely indifferent as to whether you _ever_ catch it."
"_Catch_ it! you talk as if it were a _disease_. Well" (speaking
demurely), "perhaps on the whole it _would_ be more convenient if I were
to know it."
"Well! what is it?"
"I shall have to ask at your lodge!"
"Who _can_ pronounce his _own_ name in cold blood?" he says, reddening a
little. "I, for one, cannot--there--if you do not mind looking at this
He takes one out of his pocket, and I stop--we are slowly strolling
back--under a lamp, to read it:
MR. FRANCIS MUSGRAVE,
"And Sir Roger has never mentioned me to you--_really?_" he says,
recurring with persistent hurt vanity to the topic. "How very odd of
"Not in the least odd!" reply I, brusquely. "Why should he? He knew that
I was not aware of your existence, and that therefore you would not be a
very interesting subject to me; no doubt"--(smiling a little)--"I shall
hear all about you from him now."
He is silent.
"And do you live _here_ at this abbey"--(pointing to the card I still
hold in my hand)--"_all by yourself?_"
"Do you mean without a _wife?_" he asks, with a half-sneering smile.
"Yes--I have that misfortune."
"I was not thinking of a _wife_," say I, rather angrily. "It never
occurred to me that you could have one! you are too young--a great deal
"_Too young_, am I? At what age, then, may one be supposed to deserve
that blessing? forty? fifty? sixty?"
I feel rather offended, but cannot exactly grasp in my own mind the
ground of offense.
"I meant, of course, had you any father? any mother?"
"Neither. I am that most affecting spectacle--an orphan-boy."
"You have no brothers and sisters, I am _sure_," say I, confidently.
"I have not, but why you should be _sure_ of it, I am at a loss to
"You seem to take offense rather easily," I say, ingenuously. "You
looked quite cross when I said I did not think much of the flowers--and
again when I said I had forgotten your name--and again when I told you,
you were too young to have a wife: now, you know, in a large family, one
has all that sort of nonsense knocked out of one."
"Has one?" (rather shortly).
"Nobody would mind whether one were huffy or not," continue I; "they
would only laugh at one."
"What a pleasant, civil-spoken thing a large family must be!" he says,
We have reached Sir Roger. I had set off on my little expedition feeling
rather out of conceit with my young friend, and I return with those
dispositions somewhat aggravated. We find my husband sitting where we
left him, placidly smoking and listening to the band.
"Four-and-twenty fiddlers all in a row!"
They have long finished the Uhlanenritt, and are now clashing out a
brisk Hussarenritt, in which one plainly hears the hussars' thundering
gallop, while the conductor madly waves his arms, as he has been doing
unintermittingly for the last two hours.
"You were quite wise," say I, laying my hand on the back of his chair;
"you had much the best of it! they were a great imposture!"
"Were they?" he says, taking his cigar out of his mouth, and lifting his
handsome and severe iron-gray eyes to mine. "They were farther off than
you thought, were not they? I began to think you had not been able to
"Have we been so long?" I say, surprised. "It did not _seem_ long! I
suppose we dawdled. We began to talk--bah! it is growing chill! let us
Mr. Musgrave accompanies us to the entrance to the gardens.
"Good-night, Frank!" cries Sir Roger, as he follows me into the
As soon as I am in, I recollect that I have ungratefully forgotten to
shake hands with my late escort.
"Good-night!" cry I, too, stretching out a compunctious hand, over Sir
Roger and the carriage-side. "I am so sorry! I forgot all about you!"
"What hotel are you at?" asks Sir Roger, closing the carriage-door after
him. "The Victoria? Oh, yes. We are at the Saxe. You must come and look
us up when you have nothing better to do. Our rooms are number--what is
it, Nancy? I never can recollect."
"No. 5." reply I. "But, indeed, it is not much use any one coming to
call upon us, is it? For we are always out--morning, noon, and night."
With this parting encouragement on my part, we drive off, and leave our
young friend trying, with only moderate success, to combine a gracious
smile to Sir Roger, with a resentful scowl at me, under a lamp-post. We
roll along quickly and easily, through the soft, cool, lamplit night.
"Well, how did you get on with him, Nancy?" asks Sir Roger.
"Good-looking fellow, is not he?"
"Is he?" say I, carelessly. "Yes, I suppose he is, only that I never
_can_ admire _dark_ men: I am so glad that all the boys are fair--I
should have hated a _black_ brother."
"How do you know that my hair was not coal-black before it turned gray?"
he asks, with a smile. "It may have been the hue of the carrion-crow for
all you know."
"I am _sure_ it was not," reply I, stoutly; then, after a little pause,
"I do not think that I _did_ get on well with him--not what _I_ call
getting on--he seems rather a touchy young gentleman."
"You must not quarrel with him, Nancy," says Sir Roger, laughing. "He
lives not a stone's-throw from us."
"So he told me!"
"Poor fellow!" with an accent of compassion. "He has never had much of a
chance; he has been his own master almost ever since he was born--a bad
thing for any boy--he has no parents, you know."
"So he told me."
"Neither has he any brothers or sisters."
"So he told me!"
"He seems to have told you a great many things."
"Yes," reply I, "but then I asked him a great many questions: our
conversation was rather like the catechism: the moment I stopped asking
_him_ questions, he began asking me!"
Three long days--all blue and gold--blue sky and gold sunshine--roll
away. If Schmidt, the courier, _has_ a fault, it is over-driving us. We
visit the Gruene Gewoelbe, the Japanese Palace, the Zwinger--and we visit
them _alone_. Dresden is not a very large place, yet in no part of it,
in none of its bright streets--in neither its old nor its new market, in
none of its public places, do I catch a glimpse of my new acquaintance.
Neither does he come to call. This last fact surprises me a little, and
disappoints me a good deal. Our walk at the Linnisches Bad in the gay
lamplight, his character, his conversation, even his appearance, begin
to undergo a transformation in my mind. After all, he was not _really_
dark--not one of those black men, against whom Barbara and I have
always lifted up our testimonies; by daylight, I think his eyes would
have been hazel. He certainly was very easy to talk to. One had not to
pump up conversation for him, and I do not suppose that, _as men go_, he
was _really_ very touchy. One cannot expect everybody to be so
jest-hardened and robustly good-tempered as the boys. Often before now I
have only been able to gauge the unfortunateness of my speeches to men,
by the rasping effect they have had on their tempers, and which has
often taken me honestly by surprise.
"_Again_, Mr. Musgrave has not been to call," say I, one afternoon, on
returning from a long and rather grilling drive, speaking in a slightly
"Did you expect that he would?" asks Sir Roger, with a smile. "I think
that, after the searching snub you gave him, he would have been a bolder
man than I take him for, if he had risked his head in the lion's mouth."
"_Am_ I such a lion?" say I, with an accent of vexation. "_Did_ I snub
him? I am sure I had no more idea of snubbing him than I had of snubbing
_you_; that is the way in which I always cut my own throat!"
I draw a chair into the balcony, where he has already established
himself with his cigar, and sit down beside him.
"I foresee," say I, beginning to laugh rather grimly, "that a desert
will spread all round our house! your friends will disappear before my
tongue, like morning mist."
After a pause, edging a little nearer to him, and, regardless of the
hay-carts in the market below--laying my fair-haired head on his
"What _could_ have made you marry such a _shrew?_ I believe it was the
"That was it!" he answers, fondly. "To save any other poor fellow from
such an infliction!"
"Quite unnecessary!" rejoin I, shaking my head. "If you had not married
me, it is very certain that nobody else would!"
Another day has come. It is hot afternoon. Sir Roger is reading the
_Times_ in our balcony, and I am strolling along the dazzling streets by
myself. What can equal the white glare of a foreign town? I am strolling
along by myself under a big sun-shade. My progress is slow, as my nose
has a disposition to flatten itself against every shop-window--saving,
perhaps, the cigar ones. A grave problem is engaging my mind. What
present am I to take to father? It is this question which moiders our
young brains as often as his birthday recurs. My thoughts are trailing
back over all our former gifts to him. This year we gave him a
spectacle-case (he is short-sighted); last year a pocket-book; the year
before, an inkstand. What is there left to give him? A cigar-case? He
does not smoke. A hunting-flask? He has half a dozen. A Norwegian stove?
He does not approve of them, but says that men ought to be satisfied
with sandwiches out shooting. A telescope? He never lifts his eyes high
enough above our delinquencies to look at the stars. I cannot arrive at
any approximation to a decision. As I issue from a china-shop, with a
brown-paper parcel under my arm, and out on the hot and glaring flags, I
see a young man come stepping down the street, with a long, loose,
British stride; a young man, pale and comely, and a good deal worn out
by the flies, that have also eaten most of me.
"How are you?" cry I, hastily shifting my umbrella to the other hand, so
as to have my right one ready to offer him. "Are not these streets
blinding? I am blinking like an owl in daylight!--so you never came to
see us, after all!"
"It was so likely that I should!" he answers, with his nose in the air.
"Very likely!" reply I, taking him literally; "so likely that I have
been expecting you every day."
"You seem to forget--confound these flies!"--(as a stout blue-bottle
blunders into one flashing eye)--"you seem to forget that you told me,
in so many words, to stay away."
"You _were_ huffy, then!" say I, with an accent of incredulity. "Sir
Roger was right! he said you were, and I could not believe it; he was
quite sorry for you. He said I had snubbed you so."
"_Snubbed_ me!" reddening self-consciously, and drawing himself up as if
he did not much relish the application of the word. "I do not often give
any one the chance of doing that _twice!_"
"You are not going to be offended _again_, I suppose," say I,
apprehensively; "it must be with Sir Roger this time, if you are! it was
he that was sorry for you, not I."
We look at each other under my green sunshade (his eyes _are_ hazel, by
daylight), and then we both burst into a duet of foolish friendly
"I want you to give me your advice," say I, as we toddle amicably along,
side by side. "What would be a nice present for a gentleman--an elderly
gentleman--at least _rather_ elderly, who _has_ a spectacle-case, a
pocket-book, an inkstand, six Church services, and who does not smoke."
"But he _does_ smoke," says Mr. Musgrave, correcting me. "I _saw_ him
the other day."
"Saw _whom?_ What--do you mean?"
"Are not you talking of Sir Roger?" he asks, with an accent of surprise.
"_Sir Roger_!" (indignantly). "No, indeed! do you think _he_ wants
spectacles? No! I was talking of my father."
"_Your father?_ You are not, like me, a poor misguided orphan, then; you
have a father."
"I should think I _had_," reply I, expressively.
"Any brothers? Oh, yes, by-the-by, I know you have! you held them up for
my imitation the other day--half a dozen fellows who never take offense
at any thing."
"No more they do!" cry I, firing up. "If I tell them when I go home, as
I certainly shall, if I remember, that you were out of humor and bore
malice for _three_ whole days, because I happened to say that we were
generally out-of-doors most of the day--they will not believe it--simply
they will not."
"And have you also six sisters?" asks the young man, dexterously
shifting the conversation a little.
"And are they _all_ to have presents?--six and two is eight, and your
father nine, and--I suppose you have a mother, too?"
"Nine and one is ten--ten brown-paper parcels, each as large as the one
you now have under your arm--by-the-by, would you like me to carry it?
_What_ a lot you will have to pay for extra luggage!"
His offer to carry my parcel is so slightly and incidentally made, and
is so unaccompanied by any gesture suited to the words, that I decline
the attention. The people pass to and fro in the sun as we pace
"Have you nearly done your shopping?" asks my companion, presently.
"What do you say to taking a tour through the gallery?" he says, "or are
you sick of the pictures?"
"Far from it," say I, briskly, "but, all the same, I cannot do it; I am
going back at once to Sir Roger; we are to drive to Loschwitz: I only
came out for a little prowl by myself, to think about father's present!
Sir Roger cannot help me at all," I continue, marching off again into
the theme which is uppermost in my thoughts. "_He_ suggested a
traveling-bag, but I know that father would _hate_ that."
"To _drive!_ this time of day!" cried Mr. Musgrave, in a tone of extreme
disapprobation; "will not you get well baked?"
"I dare say," I answer, absently; then, in a low tone to myself, "_why_
does not he smoke? it would be so easy then--a smoking-cap, a
tobacco-pouch, a cigar-holder, a hundred things!"
"Is it _quite_ settled about Loschwitz?" asks the young man, with an air
"Quite," say I, still not thinking of what I am saying. "That is, no--
not quite--nearly--a bag _is_ useful, you know."
"I passed the Saxe just now," he says, giving his hat a little tilt over
his nose, "and saw Sir Roger sitting in the balcony, with his cigar and
his _Times_, and he looked so luxuriously comfortable that it seemed a
sin to disturb him. Do not you think, taking the dust and the
blue-bottles into consideration, that it would be kinder to leave him in
peace in his arm-chair?"
"No, I do not," reply I, flatly. "I suppose he knows best what he likes
himself; and why a strong, hearty man in the prime of life should be
supposed to wish to spend a whole summer afternoon nodding in an
arm-chair, any more than you would wish it yourself, I am at a loss to
inquire!" The suggestion has irritated me so much that for the moment I
forget the traveling-bag.
"When I am as old as he," replies the young man, coldly, shaking the ash
off his cigar, "if I ever am, which I doubt, and have knocked about the
world for as many years, and imperiled my liver in as many climates, and
sent as many Russians, and Chinamen, and Sikhs to glory as he has, I
shall think myself entitled to sit in an armchair--yes, and sleep in it
too--all day, if I feel inclined."
I do not answer, partly because I am exasperated, partly because at this
moment my eye is caught by an object in a shop-window--a traveling-bag,
with its mouth invitingly open, displaying all manner of manly
conveniences. I hastily furl my green umbrella, and step in. My squire
does not follow me. I hardly notice the fact, but suppose that he is
standing outside in the sun. However, when I reissue forth, I find that
he has disappeared. I look up the street, down the street. There is no
trace of him. I walk away, feeling a little mortified. I go into a few
more shops: I dawdle over some china. Then I turn my steps homeward.
At a narrow street-corner, in the grateful shade cast by some tall
houses, I come face to face with him again.
"Did not you wonder where I had disappeared to?" he asks; "or perhaps
you never noticed that I had?"
He is panting a little, as if he had been running, or walking fast.
"I thought that most likely you had taken offense again," reply I, with
a laugh, "and that I had lost sight of you for three more days."
"I have been to the Hotel de Saxe," he replies, with a rather triumphant
smile on his handsome mustacheless lips. "I thought I would find out
"Find out _what?_" cry I, standing still, raising my voice a little, and
growing even redder than the sun, the flies, the brown-paper parcel, and
the heavy umbrella, have already made me. "There was nothing to find
out! I wish you would leave things alone; I wish you would let me manage
my own business."
The smile disappears rather rapidly.
"You have not been telling the general," continue I, in a tone of rapid
apprehension, "that I did not want to go with him? because, if you have,
it was a great, great _mistake._"
"I told him nothing of the kind," replies Mr. Musgrave, looking, like
me, fierce, but--unlike me--cool and pale. "I was not so inventive. I
merely suggested that sunstroke would most likely be your portion if you
went now, and that it would be quite as easy, and a great deal
pleasanter, to go three hours later."
"Yes? and he said--what?"
"He was foolish enough to agree with me."
We are standing in a little quiet street, all shade and dark shops.
There are very few passers-by. I feel rather ashamed of myself, and my
angry eyes peruse the pavement. Neither does he speak. Presently I look
up at him rather shyly.
"How about the gallery? the pictures?"
"Do you wish to go there?" he asks, with rather the air of a polite
martyr. "I shall be happy to take you if you like."
"Do!" say I, heartily, "and let us try to be friends, and to spend five
minutes without quarreling!"
* * * * *
We have spent more than five, a great deal more--thirty, forty, perhaps,
and our harmony is still unbroken, _uncracked_ even. We have sat in awed
and chastened silence before the divine meekness of the Sistine Madonna.
We have turned away in disgust from Jordain's brutish "Triumphs of
Silenus," and tiresome repetitions of Hercules in drink. We have admired
the exuberance of St. Mary of Egypt's locks, and irreverently compared
them to the effects of Mrs. Allen's "World-wide Hair Restorer." We have
observed that the forehead of Holbein's great Virgin is too high to
please _us_, and made many other connoisseur-like remarks. I have
pointed out to Mr. Musgrave the Saint Catherine which has a look of
Barbara, and we have both grown rather tired of St. Sebastian, stuck as
full of darts as a pin-cushion of pins. Now we are sitting down resting
our eyes and our strained powers of criticism, and have fallen into easy
"I am glad you are coming to dine at our _table d'hote_ to-night," say
I, in a friendly tone. "It will be nice for the general to have an
Englishman to talk to. I hope you will sit by him; he has been so much
used to men all his life that he must get rather sick of having nothing
but the chatter of one woman to depend upon."
"At least he has no one but himself to blame for that," replies the
young fellow, laughing. "I suppose it was his own doing."
"How do you know that?" cry I, gayly, and then the recollection of my
_hint_ to Sir Roger--a remembrance that always makes me rather hot--
comes over me, and causes me to turn my head quickly away with a red
blush. "It certainly _has_ a look of Barbara," I say, glancing toward
the Saint Catherine, and rushing quickly into another subject.
"Has it?" he says, apparently unaware of the rapidity of my transition.
"Then I wish I knew Barbara."
"I dare say you do."
"She is not much like you, I suppose?" he says, turning from the
saint's straight and strict Greek profile to the engaging irregularity
"Not exactly," say I, with emphasis. "Ah!" (in a tone of prospective
triumph), "wait till you see her!"
"I am afraid that I shall have to wait some time."
"The Brat--that is one of my brothers, you know--is the one like me," I
say, becoming diffuse, as I always do, when the theme of my family is
started; "we _are_ like! We can see it ourselves."
"Is he one of the thick-skinned six that you told me about?"
"There are _not_ six," cry I, impatiently. "I do not know what put it
into your head that there were _six_ there are only _three._"
"You certainly told me there were six."
"I am _he_ in petticoats," say I, resuming the thread of my own
narrative; "everybody sees the likeness. One day when he was three or
four years younger, we dressed him up in my things--my gown and bonnet,
you know--and all the servants took him for me; they only found him out
because he held up his gown so awkwardly high, and gave it such great
kicks to keep it out of his way, that they saw his great nailed boots!
Sir Roger thought we were twins the first time he saw us."
"Sir Roger!" repeats the young man, as if reminded by the name of
something he had meant to say. "Oh, by-the-by, if you will not think me
impertinent for asking, where did you first fall in with Sir Roger? I
should have thought that he was rather out of your beat; you do not hail
from his part of the world, do you?"
"No," reply I, my thoughts traveling back to the day when we made taffy,
and tumbled over each other, hot and sticky to the window, to see the
dog-cart bearing the stranger roll up the drive. "I never saw him till
this last March, when he came to stay with us."
"To stay with you?"
"Yes," reply I, thinking of our godless jokes about his wig and his
false calves, and smiling gently to myself; "he was an old friend of
"A contemporary, I suppose?" (a little inquisitively).
"Yes, he was at school with father," I answer; and the moment I have
given utterance to the abhorred formula I repent.
"At school with him?" (speaking rather slowly, and looking at me, with a
sort of flickering smile in lips and eyes). "Oh, I see!"
"What do you see?" cry I, sharply.
"Nothing, nothing! I only meant to say I understand, I comprehend."
"There is nothing to understand," reply I, brusquely, and rising. "I am
tired--I shall go home!"
We walk back rather silently; there is nothing so trying to eyes and
mind as picture-seeing, and I am fagged, and also indefinitely, yet
certainly, cross. As we reach the door of the Saxe, I hold out my hand.
"Now that we have come to the end of our walk," say I, "and that you
cannot think that I am _hinting_ to you, I will tell you that I think it
was very ill-mannered and selfish of you not to _insist_ on carrying
_this_" (holding out the brown-paper parcel); "there is not _one_ of the
boys--not even Bobby, whom we always call so rough, who would have
_dreamed_ of letting a lady carry a parcel for herself, when he was by
to take it. There! I am better now! I _had_ to tell you; I wish you
"If he does not like it," say I, setting it on the floor, and regarding
it from a little distance, with my head on one side, while friendly
criticism and admiration meet in happy wedlock in my eyes, "I can give
it to you; I had much rather make you a present than _him_"
"Then Heaven grant that it may find disfavor in his sight!" says Sir
We are talking of the traveling-bag, which at last, in despair of any
thing suitable occurring to my mind, I have bought, and now regard with
a sort of apprehensive joy. The blinds are half lowered for the heat,
but, through them and under them, the broad gold sunshine is streaming
and pushing itself, washing the careful twists of my flax hair, the
bag's stout red leather sides, and Sir Roger's nose, as he leans over
it, with manly distrust, trying the clasp by many searching snappings.
"I never gave you a present in my life--never--did I?" say I, squatting
down on the floor beside him, crumpling my nice crisp muslin frock with
the recklessness of a woman who knows that there are many more such
frocks in the cupboard, and to whom this knowledge has but newly come;
"never mind! next birthday I will give you one--a really nice, handsome,
rather expensive one--all bought with your own money, too--there!"
This is on the morning of our last day in Dresden. Yes! _to-morrow_ we
set off homeward. Our wedding-tour is nearly ended: tyrant Custom, which
sent us off, permits us to rejoin our fellows. Well, it really has not
been so bad! I do not know that I should care to have it over again--
that is, just immediately; but it has gone off very well altogether--
quite as well as most other people's, I fancy. These are my thoughts in
the afternoon, as (Sir Roger having gone to the post-office, and I
having made myself very hot by superintending the packing of the
presents--most of them of a brittle, _crackable_ nature) I am leaning,
to cool myself, over our balcony, and idly watching the little events
that are happening under my nose. The omnibus stands, as usual, in the
middle of the square, about to start for Blasewitz. Mysterious 'bus!
always about to start--always full of patient passengers, and that yet
was never seen by mortal man to set off. As I watch it with the
wondering admiration with which I have daily regarded it, I hear the
door of our sitting-room open, and Vick give a little shrewish shrill
bark, speedily changed into an apologetic and friendly whiffling and
"Is that you?" cry I, holding on by the balcony, and leaning back to
peep over my own shoulder into the interior. "Come out here, if it is."
"Sir Roger is out," I say, a second later, putting my hand into that of
Mr. Musgrave (for it is he), as he comes stepping, in his usual
unsmiling, discontented beauty, to meet me.
"I know he is! I met him!"
"I am seeing the people start for Blasewitz for the last time! it makes
me quite low!" I say, replacing my arms on the balcony, and speaking
with an irrepressibly jovial broad smile on my face that rather
contradicts my words.
"You _look_ low," he answers, ironically, standing beside me, and
looking rather provoked at my urbanity.
"This time to-morrow we shall be off," say I, beginning to laugh out of
pure light-heartedness, though there is no joke within a mile of me, and
to count on my fingers; "this time the day after to-morrow we shall be
at Cologne--this time the day after _that_ we shall be getting toward
Brussels--this time the day after _that_ we shall be getting toward
Dover--this time the day after _that_--"
"You will all be rushing higgledy-piggledy, helter-skelter, into each
other's arms," interrupts my companion, looking at me with a lowering
"Yes," say I, my eyes dancing. "You are quite right."
"Algy, and the Brat, and--what is the other fellow's name?--Dicky?--
"Bobby," say I, correcting him. "But you are not quite right; the Brat
will not be there!--worse luck--he is in Paris!"
"Well, Barbara will not be in Paris," says the young man, still in the
same discontented, pettish voice. "_She_ will be there, no doubt--well
to the front--in the thickest of the osculations."
"_That_ she will!" cry I, heartily. "But you must give up calling her
Barbara; that is not at all pretty manners."
"We will make a bargain," he says, beginning to smile a little, but
rather as if it were against his will and intention. "I will allow her
to call me 'Frank,' if she will allow me to call her 'Barbara.'"
"I dare say you will" (laughing).
A little pause. Another person has got into the omnibus; it is growing
"I _hate_ last days," says my companion, hitting viciously at the iron
balcony rails with his stick, and scowling.
"'The Last Days of Pompeii,'" say I, stupidly, and yet laughing again;
not because I think my witticism good, which no human being could do,
but because I _must_ laugh for very gladness. Another longer pause.
(Shall I present the bag the night we arrive, or wait till next day?)
"I have got a riddle to ask you," says Frank; abruptly, and firing the
observation off somewhat like a bomb-shell.
"Have you?" say I, absently. "I hope it is a good one."
"Of course, _you_ must judge of that--'_Mon premier_--'"
"It is in _French!_" cry I, with an accent of disgust.
"Well, why should not it be?" (rather tartly).
"No reason whatever, only that I warn you beforehand I shall not
understand it: I always _shiver_ when people tell me a French anecdote;
I never know when the point has arrived: I always laugh too soon or too
He says nothing, but looks black.
"Go on!" say I, laughing. "We will try, if you like."
"_Mon--premier--est--le--premier--de tout_," he says, pronouncing each
word very separately and distinctly. "Do you understand _that?_"
I nod. "My first is the first of all--yes."
"_Mon second n'a pas de second._"
"My second has no second--yes."
"_Mon tout_"--(turning his long, sleepy eyes sentimentally toward me)--
"_je ne saurai vous le dire._"
"My whole--I cannot tell it you!--then why on earth did you ask me?" cry
I, breaking out into hearty, wholesome laughter.
Again he blackens.
"Well, have you guessed it?"
"Guessed it!" I echo, recovering my gravity. "Not I!--my first is the
first of all--my second has no second--my whole, I cannot tell it you!--
I do not believe it is a riddle at all! it is a hoax--a take-in, like
'Why does a miller wear a white hat?'"
"It is nothing of the kind," he answers, looking thoroughly annoyed.
"Must I tell you the answer?"
"I shall certainly never arrive at it by my unassisted genius," I reply,
yawning. "Ah! there is M. Dom going out riding! Alas! never again shall
I see him mount that peacocking steed!"
"It is 'Adieu!'" says my companion, blurting it out in a rage, seeing
that I _will_ not be interested in or excited by it.
"_Adieu!_" repeat I, standing with my mouth wide open, looking perfectly
"You do not see?" he says. (His face has grown scarlet.) "Well, you must
excuse me for saying that you are rather--" He breaks off and begins
again, very fast this time. "My first is the first of all--is not _A_
the first letter in the alphabet? My second has no second--has God
_(Dieu)_ any second? My whole--I cannot say it to you--_Adieu!_"
The contrast between the sentimentality of the words, and the brusque
and defiant anger of his tone, is so abrupt, that I am sorry to say, I
laugh again: indeed, I retire from the balcony into the saloon inside,
throw myself into a chair, and, covering my face with my handkerchief,
"It is very good," say I, in a choked voice; "very--so civil and pretty
--but it is not _very funny_, is it?"
I receive no answer. I am still in my pocket-handkerchief, and he might
be gone, but that I hear his quick, angry breathing, and know, by
instinct, that he is standing over me, looking like a handsome
thunder-cloud. I dare not look up at him, lest another mad cachinnation,
such as sometimes overtakes one for the punishment of one's sins in
church, should again lay violent hands upon me.
"I think I like 'Why was Balaam like a Life-Guardsman?' better, _on the
whole_" I say, presently, peeping through my fingers, and speaking with
a suspicious tremble in my voice.
"I have no doubt it is far superior," he answers, in a fierce and sulky
tone, that he in vain tries to make sound playful. "'_Balaam like a
Life-Guardsman?_' and why was he, may I ask? Something humorous about
his donkey, I suppose."
"Because he had a queer ass (cuirass)," reply I, again exploding, and
hiding my face in the back of the chair.
"A _queer ass!_" (in a tone of the profoundest contempt); "you have no
more sentiment in you than _this table!_" smiting it with his bare hand.
"I know I have not," say I, sitting up, and holding my hand to my side
to ease the pain my excessive mirth has caused; "they always said so at
home. Oh, here is the general! we will make _him_ umpire, which is
funniest, yours or mine!"
Sir Roger enters, and glances in some surprise from Frank's crimson face
to my convulsed one.
"Oh, general, do we not look as if we had been having an affecting
parting?" cry I, jumping up and running to him. "Do not I look as if I
had been crying? Quite the contrary, I assure you. But Musgrave and I
have been asking each other such amusing riddles--would you like to hear
them? _Mine_ is good, plain, vulgar English; but his is French, so we
will begin with _it_--'_Mon premier_--'"
I stop suddenly, for Mr. Musgrave is looking at me with an expression
"Well, what are you stopping for? I am on the horns of expectation--
"After all, it is not so funny as I thought," I answer, brusquely. "I
think we will keep it for some wet Sunday afternoon, when we are short
of something to do."
The day of departure has really come. "We have eaten our last bif-teck
_aux pommes frites_" and drank our last cup of coffee in the Saxe. I
have had my last look at the familiar square, at the great dome of the
Frauen Kirchen, at the high houses with their dormer-windows, at the
ugly big statue standing with its stiff black back rudely turned to the
hotel, at the piled hay-carts. We are really and truly off. Our faces
are set Barbara-ward, Bobby-ward, jackdaw-ward. I am in such rampaging
spirits, that I literally do not know what to do with myself. I feel
that I should like to tuck my tail, if I had one, between my legs, like
Vick; and race round and round in an insane and unmeaning circle, as she
does on the lawn at home, when oppressed by the overflow of her own
It seems to me as if there never had been such a day. I look at the sky
as we drive along to the station. Call it sapphire, turquoise--indeed!
What dull stone that ever lived darkling in a mine is fit to be named
even in metaphor with this pale yet brilliant arch that so softly leans
above us? It seems to me as if all the people we meet were handsome and
well-featured--as if the Elbe were the noblest river that ever ran,
carrying the sunlight in flakes of gold and diamond on its breast--as if
all life were one long and kindly jest.
As we reach the station I see Mr. Musgrave standing on the pavement
awaiting us, with a sort of mixed and compound look on his face.
"Here is Mr. Musgrave come to see us off!" I cry, jocundly. "Come to say
_'Adieu' ha! ha!_! I must not forget to ask him whether he has any more