Part 2 out of 2
Penelope: "No, I'd rather finish; then I can put in everything
that you omit."
Atlas: "Is there so much to tell?"
Tommy: "Rather. Begin with her hair, Penelope."
Mrs. Jack: "No; I'll do that! Don't rattle your knives and forks,
shut up your Baedeker, Jackie, and listen while I quote what a
certain poet wrote of Egeria when she last visited us:-
"'She has a knot of russet hair:
It seems a simple thing to wear
Through years, despite of fashion's check,
The same deep coil about the neck,
But there it twined
When first I knew her,
And learned with passion to pursue her,
And if she changed it, to my mind
She were a creature of new kind.
"'O first of women who has laid
Magnetic glory on a braid!
In others' tresses we may mark
If they be silken, blonde, or dark,
But thine we praise and dare not feel them,
Not Hermes, god of theft, dare steal them;
It is enough for eye to gaze
Upon their vivifying maze.'"
Jack: "She has beautiful hair, but as an architect I shouldn't
think of mentioning it first. Details should follow, not precede,
general characteristics. Her hair is an exquisite detail; so, you
might say, is her nose, her foot, her voice; but viewed as a
captivating whole, Egeria might be described epigrammatically as an
animated lodestone. When a man approaches her he feels his iron-
work gently and gradually drawn out of him."
Atlas looked distinctly incredulous at this statement, which was
reinforced by the affirmative nods of the whole party.
Penelope: "A man cannot talk to Egeria an hour without wishing the
assistance of the Society for First Aid to the Injured. She is a
kind of feminine fly-paper; the men are attracted by the sweetness,
and in trying to absorb a little of it, they stick fast."
Tommy: "Egeria is worth from two to two and a half times more than
any girl alive; I would as lief talk to her as listen to myself."
Atlas: "Great Jove, what a concession! I wish I could find a
woman--an unmarried woman (with a low bow to Mrs. Jack)--that would
produce that effect upon me. So you all like her?"
Aunt Celia: "She is not what I consider a well-informed girl."
Penelope: "Now don't carp, Miss Van Tyck. You love her as much as
we all do. 'Like her,' indeed! I detest the phrase. Werther said
when asked how he liked Charlotte, 'What sort of creature must he
be who merely liked her; whose whole heart and senses were not
entirely absorbed by her! Some one asked me lately how I 'liked'
Atlas: "Don't introduce Ossian, Werther and Charlotte into this
delightful breakfast chat, I beseech you; the most tiresome trio
that ever lived. If they were travelling with us, how they would
jar! Ossian would tear the scenery in tatters with his
apostrophes, Werther would make love to Mrs. Jack, and Charlotte
couldn't cut an English household loaf with a hatchet. Keep to
Egeria,--though if one cannot stop at liking her, she is a
Jack: "Don't imagine from these panegyrics that, to the casual
observer, Egeria is anything more than a nice girl. The deadly
qualities that were mentioned only appeal to the sympathetic eye
(which you have not), and the susceptible heart (which is not
yours), and after long acquaintance (which you can't have, for she
stays only a week). Tommy, you can meet the charmer at the
station; your sister will pack up, and I'll pay the bills and make
arrangements for the journey."
Jack Copley (when left alone with his spouse): "Kitty, I wonder,
why you invited Egeria to travel in the same party with Atlas."
Mrs. Jack (fencing): "Pooh! Atlas is safe anywhere."
Jack: "He is a man."
Mrs. Jack: "No; he is a reformer."
Jack: "Even reformers fall in love."
Mrs. Jack: "Not unless they can find a woman to reform. Egeria is
too nearly perfect to attract Atlas; besides, what does it matter,
Jack: "It matters a good deal if it makes him unhappy; he is too
good a fellow."
Mrs. Jack: "I've lived twenty-five years and I have never seen a
man's unhappiness last more than six months, and I have never seen
a woman make a wound in a man's heart that another woman couldn't
heal. The modern young man is as tough as--well, I can't think of
anything tough enough to compare him to. I've always thought it a
pity that the material of which men's hearts is made couldn't be
utilized for manufacturing purposes; think of its value for hinges,
or for the toes of little boys' boots, or the heels of their
Jack: "I should think you had just been jilted, my dear; how has
Atlas offended you?"
Mrs. Jack: "He hasn't offended me; I love him, but I think he is
too absent-minded lately."
Jack: "And is Egeria invited to join us in order that she may
bring his mind forcibly back to the present?"
Mrs. Jack: "Not at all; I consider Atlas as safe as a--as a
church, or a dictionary, or a guide-post, or anything; he is too
much interested in tenement-house reform to fall in love with a
Jack: "I think a sensible woman wouldn't be out of place in Atlas'
schemes for the regeneration of humanity."
Mrs. Jack: "No; but Egeria isn't a--yes, she is, too; I can't deny
it, but I don't believe she knows anything about the sweating
system, and she adores Ossian and Fiona Macleod, so she probably
won't appeal to Atlas in his present state, which, to my mind, is
unnecessarily intense. The service of humanity renders a young man
perfectly callous to feminine charms. It's the proverbial safety
of numbers, I suppose, for it's always the individual that leads a
man into temptation, if you notice, never the universal;--Woman,
not women. I have studied Atlas profoundly, and he is nearly as
blind as a bat. He paid no attention to my new travelling-dress
last week, and yesterday I wore four rings on my middle finger and
two on each thumb all day long, just to see if I could catch his
eye and hold his attention. I couldn't."
Jack: "That may all be; a man may be blind to the charms of all
women but one (and precious lucky if he is), but he is particularly
keen where the one is concerned."
Mrs. Jack: "Atlas isn't keen about anything but the sweating
system. You needn't worry about him; your favourite Stevenson says
that a wet rag goes safely by the fire, and if a man is blind, he
cannot expect to be much impressed by romantic scenery. Atlas
momentarily a wet rag and temporarily blind. He told me on
Wednesday that he intended to leave all his money to one of those
long-named regenerating societies--I can't remember which."
Jack: "And it was on Wednesday you sent for Egeria. I see."
Mrs. Jack (haughtily): "Then you see a figment of your own
imagination; there is nothing else to see. There! I've packed
everything that belongs to me, while you've been smoking and gazing
at that railway guide. When do we start?"
Jack: "11.59. We arrive in Bideford at 4.40, and have a twelve-
mile drive to Clovelly. I will telegraph for a conveyance to the
inn and for five bedrooms and a sitting-room."
Mrs. Jack: "I hope that Egeria's train will be on time, and I hope
that it will rain so that I can wear my five-guinea mackintosh. It
poured every day when I was economizing and doing without it."
Jack: "I never could see the value of economy that ended in extra
Mrs. Jack: "Very likely; there are hosts of things you never can
see, Jackie. But there she is, stepping out of a hansom, the
darling! What a sweet gown! She's infinitely more interesting
than the sweating system."
We thought we were a merry party before Egeria joined us, but she
certainly introduced a new element of interest. I could not help
thinking of it as we were flying about the Bristol station, just
before entering the first-class carriage engaged by our host.
Tommy had bought us rosebuds at a penny each; Atlas had a bundle of
illustrated papers under his arm--The Sketch, Black and White, The
Queen, The Lady's Pictorial, and half a dozen others. The guard
was pasting an "engaged" placard on the carriage window and piling
up six luncheon-baskets in the corner on the cushions, and speedily
we were off.
It is a sincere tribute to the intrinsic charm of Egeria's
character that Mrs. Jack and I admire her so unreservedly, for she
is for ever being hurled at us as an example in cases where men are
too stupid to see that there is no fault in us, nor any special
virtue in her. For instance, Jack tells Kitty that she could walk
with less fatigue if she wore sensible shoes like Egeria's. Now,
Egeria's foot is very nearly as lovely as Trilby's in the story,
and much prettier than Trilby's in the pictures; consequently, she
wears a hideous, broad-toed, low-heeled boot, and looks trim and
neat in it. Her hair is another contested point: she dresses it
in five minutes in the morning, walks or drives in the rain and
wind for a few hours, rides in the afternoon, bathes in the surf,
lies in a hammock, and, if circumstances demand, the creature can
smooth it with her hands and walk in to dinner! Kitty and I, on
the contrary, rise a half-hour earlier to curl or wave; our spirit-
lamps leak into our dressing-bags, and our beauty is decidedly
damaged by damp or hot weather. Most women's hair is a mere
covering to the scalp, growing out of the head, or pinned on, as
the case may be. Egeria's is a glory like Eve's; it is expressive,
breathing a hundred delicate suggestions of herself; not tortured
into frizzles, or fringes, or artificial shapes, but winding its
lustrous lengths about her head, just high enough to show the
beautiful nape of her neck, "where this way and that the little
lighter-coloured irreclaimable curls run truant from the knot,--
curls, half curls, root curls, vine ringlets, wedding-rings,
fledgling feathers, tufts of down, blown wisps,--all these wave, or
fall, or stray, loose and downward in the form of small, silken
paws, hardly any of them thicker than a crayon shading, cunninger
than long, round locks of gold to trick the heart."
At one o'clock we lifted the covers of our luncheon-baskets.
"Aren't they the tidiest, most self-respecting, satisfying things!"
exclaimed Egeria, as she took out her plate, and knife, and fork,
opened her Japanese napkin, set in dainty order the cold fowl and
ham, the pat of butter, crusty roll, bunch of lettuce, mustard and
salt, the corkscrew, and, finally, the bottle of ale. "I cannot
bear to be unpatriotic, but compare this with the ten minutes for
refreshments at an American lunch-counter, its baked beans, and
pies, and its cream cakes and doughnuts under glass covers. I
don't believe English people are as good as we are; they can't be;
they're too comfortable. I wonder if the little discomforts of
living in America, the dissatisfaction and incompetency of
servants, and all the other problems, will work out for the nation
a more exceeding weight of glory, or whether they will simply ruin
the national temper."
"It's wicked to be too luxurious, Egeria," said Tommy, with a sly
look at Atlas. "It's the hair shirt, not the pearl-studded bosom,
that induces virtue."
"Is it?" she asked innocently, letting her clear gaze follow
Tommy's. "You don't believe, Mr. Atlas, that modest people like
you, and me, and Tommy, and the Copleys, incur danger in being too
comfortable; the trouble lies in the fact that the other half is
too uncomfortable, does it not? But I am just beginning to think
of these things," she added soberly.
"Egeria," said Mrs. Jack sternly, "you may think about them as much
as you like; I have no control over your mental processes, but if
you mention single tax, or tenement-house reform, or Socialism, or
altruism, or communism, or the sweating system, you will be dropped
at Bideford. Atlas is only travelling with us because he needs
complete moral and intellectual rest. I hope, oh, how I hope, that
there isn't a social problem in Clovelly! It seems as if there
couldn't be, in a village of a single street and that a stone
"There will be," I said, "if nothing more than the problem of
supply and demand; of catching and selling herrings."
We had time at Bideford to go into a quaint little shop for tea
before starting on our twelve-mile drive; time also to be dragged
by Tommy to Bideford Bridge, that played so important a part in
Kingsley's "Westward Ho!" We did not approach Clovelly finally
through the beautiful Hobby Drive, laid out in former years by one
of the Hamlyn ladies of Clovelly Court, but by the turnpike road,
which, however, was not uninteresting. It had been market-day at
Bideford and there were many market carts and "jingoes" on the
road, with perhaps a heap of yellow straw inside and a man and a
rosy boy on the seat. The roadway was prettily bordered with
broom, wild honeysuckle, fox-glove, and single roses, and there was
a certain charming post-office called the Fairy Cross, in a garden
of blooming fuchsias, where Egeria almost insisted upon living and
officiating as postmistress.
All at once our driver checked his horses on the brink of a hill,
apparently leading nowhere in particular.
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Jack, who is always expecting accidents.
"Clovelly!" we repeated automatically, gazing about us on every
side for a roof, a chimney, or a sign of habitation.
"You'll find it, mum, as you walk down-along."
"How charming!" cried Egeria, who loves the picturesque. "Towns
are generally so obtrusive; isn't it nice to know that Clovelly is
here and that all we have to do is to walk 'down-along' and find
it? Come, Tommy. Ho, for the stone staircase!"
We who were left behind discovered by more questioning that one
cannot drive into Clovelly; that although an American president or
an English chancellor might, as a great favour, be escorted down on
a donkey's back, or carried down in a sedan chair if he chanced to
have one about his person, the ordinary mortal must walk to the
door of the New Inn, his luggage being dragged "down-along" on
sledges and brought "up-along" on donkeys. In a word, Clovelly is
not built like unto other towns; it seems to have been flung up
from the sea into a narrow rift between wooded hills, and to have
clung there these eight hundred years of its existence. It has
held fast, but it has not expanded, for the very good reason that
it completely fills the hollow in the cliffs, the houses clinging
like limpets to the rocks on either side, so that it would be a
costly and difficult piece of engineering indeed to build any
extensions or additions.
We picked our way "down-along" until we caught the first glimpse of
white-washed cottages covered with creepers, their doors hospitably
open, their windows filled with blooming geraniums and fuchsias.
All at once, as we began to descend the winding, rocky pathway, we
saw that it pitched headlong into the bluest sea in the world. No
wonder the painters have loved it! Shall we ever forget that first
vision! There were a couple of donkeys coming "up-along" laden,
one with coals, the other with bread-baskets; a fisherman was
mending his nets in front of his door; others were lounging "down
to quay pool" to prepare for their evening drift-fishing. A little
further on, at a certain abrupt turning called the "lookout," where
visitors stop to breathe and villagers to gossip, one could catch a
glimpse of the beach and "Crazed Kate's Cottage," the drying-ground
for nets, the lifeboat house, the pier, and the breakwater.
We were all enchanted when we arrived at the door of the inn.
"Devonshire for me! I shall live here!" cried Mrs. Jack. "I said
that a few times in Wales, but I retract it. You had better live
here, too, Atlas; there aren't any problems in Clovelly."
"I am sure of that," he assented smilingly. "I noticed dozens of
live snails in the rocks of the street as we came down; snails
cannot live in combination with problems."
"Then I am a snail," answered Mrs. Jack cheerfully; "for that is
exactly my temperament."
We found that we could not get room enough for all at the tiny inn,
but this only exhilarated Egeria and Tommy. They disappeared and
came back triumphant ten minutes later.
"We got lodgings without any difficulty," said Egeria. "Tommy's
isn't half bad; we saw a small boy who had been taking a box 'down-
along' on a sledge, and he referred us to a nice place where they
took Tommy in; but you should see my lodging--it is ideal. I
noticed the prettiest yellow-haired girl knitting in a doorway.
'There isn't room for me at the inn,' I said; 'could you let me
sleep here?' She asked her mother, and her mother said 'Yes,' and
there was never anything so romantic as my vine-embowered window.
Juliet would have jumped at it."
"She would have jumped out of it, if Romeo had been below," said
Mrs. Jack, "but there are no Romeos nowadays; they are all busy
settling the relations of labour and capital."
The New Inn proved some years ago to be too small for its would-be
visitors. An addition couldn't be built because there wasn't any
room; but the landlady succeeded in getting a house across the way.
Here there are bedrooms, a sort of quiet tap-room of very great
respectability, and the kitchens. As the dining-room is in house
number one, the matter of serving dinner might seem to be attended
with difficulty, but it is not apparent. The maids run across the
narrow street with platters and dishes surmounted by great
Britannia covers, and in rainy weather they give the soup or joint
the additional protection of a large cotton umbrella. The walls of
every room in the inn are covered with old china, much of it
pretty, and some of it valuable, though the finest pieces are not
hung, but are placed in glass cabinets. One cannot see an inch of
wall space anywhere in bedrooms, dining- or sitting-rooms for the
huge delft platters, whole sets of the old green dragon pattern,
quaint perforated baskets, pitchers and mugs of British lustre,
with queer dogs, and cats, and peacocks, and clocks of china. The
massing of colour is picturesque and brilliant, and the whole
effect decidedly unique. The landlady's father and grandfather had
been Bideford sea-captains and had brought here these and other
treasures from foreign parts. As Clovelly is a village of seafolk
and fisher-folk, the houses are full of curiosities, mostly from
the Mediterranean. Egeria had no china in her room, but she had
huge branches of coral, shells of all sizes and hues, and an
immense coloured print of the bay of Naples. Tommy's landlady was
volcanic in her tastes, and his walls were lined with pictures of
Vesuvius in all stages of eruption. My room, a wee, triangular box
of a thing, was on the first floor of the inn. It opened
hospitably on a bit of garden and street by a large glass door that
wouldn't shut, so that a cat or a dog spent the night by my bed-
side now and then, and many a donkey tried to do the same, but was
Oh, the Clovelly mornings! the sunshine, the salt air, the savour
of the boats and the nets, the limestone cliffs of Gallantry Bower
rising steep and white at the head of the village street, with the
brilliant sea at the foot; the walks down by the quay pool (not key
pool, you understand, but quaay puul in the vernacular), the sails
in a good old herring-boat called the Lorna Doone, for we are in
Blackmore's country here.
We began our first day early in the morning, and met at nine-
o'clock breakfast in the coffee-room. Egeria came in glowing. She
reminds me of a phrase in a certain novel, where the heroine is
described as always dressing (seemingly) to suit the season and the
sky. Clad in sea-green linen with a white collar, and belt, she
was the very spirit of a Clovelly morning. She had risen at six,
and in company with Phoebe, daughter of her house (the yellow-
haired lassie mentioned previously), had prowled up and down North
Hill, a transverse place or short street much celebrated by
painters. They had met a certain bold fisher-lad named Jem,
evidently Phoebe's favourite swain, and explored the short passage
where Fish Street is built over, nicknamed Temple Bar.
Atlas came in shortly after and laid a nosegay at Egeria's plate.
"My humble burnt-offering, your ladyship," he said.
Tommy: "She has lots of offerings, but she generally prefers to
burn 'em herself. When Egeria's swains talk about her, it is
always 'ut vidi,' how I saw, succeeded by 'ut perii,' how I sudden
lost my brains."
Egeria: "YOU don't indulge in burnt-offerings" (laughing, with
slightly heightened colour); "but how you do burn incense! You
speak as if the skeletons of my rejected suitors were hanging on
imaginary lines all over the earth's surface."
Tommy: "They are not hanging on 'imaginary' lines."
Mrs. Jack: "Turn your thoughts from Egeria's victims, you
frivolous people, and let me tell you that I've been 'up-along'
this morning and found--what do you think?--a library: a
circulating library maintained by the Clovelly Court people. It is
embowered in roses and jasmine, and there is a bird's nest hanging
just outside one of the open windows next to a shelf of Dickens and
Scott. Never before have young families of birds been born and
brought up with similar advantages. The snails were in the path
just as we saw them yesterday evening, Atlas; not one has moved,
not one has died! Oh, I certainly must come and live here. The
librarian is a dear old lady; if she ever dies, I am coming to take
her place. You will be postmistress at the Fairy Cross then,
Egeria, and we'll visit each other. And I've brought Dickens'
'Message from the Sea' for you, and Kingsley's 'Westward Ho!' for
Tommy, and 'The Wages of Sin' for Atlas, and 'Hypatia' for Egeria,
'Lorna Doone' for Jack, and Charles Kingsley's sermons for myself.
We will read aloud every evening."
"I won't," said Tommy succinctly. "I've been down by the quay
pool, and I've got acquainted with a lot of A1 chaps that have
agreed to take me drift-fishing every night, and they are going to
put out the Clovelly lifeboat for exercise this week, and if the
weather is fine, Bill Marks is going to take Atlas and me to Lundy
Island. You don't catch me round the evening lamp very much in
"Don't be too slangy, Tommy, and who on earth is Bill Marks?" asked
"He's our particular friend, Tommy's and mine," answered Atlas,
seeing that Tommy was momentarily occupied with bacon and eggs.
"He told us more yarns than we ever before heard spun in the same
length of time. He is seventy-seven, and says he was a teetotaler
until he was sixty-nine, but has been trying to make up time ever
since. From his condition last evening, I should say he was likely
to do it. He was so mellow, I asked him how he could manage to
walk down the staircase. 'Oh, I can walk down neat enough,' he
said, 'when I'm in good sailing trim, as I am now, feeling just
good enough, but not too good, your honour; but when I'm half seas
over or three sheets in the wind, I roll down, your honour!' He
spends three shillings a week for his food and the same for his
'rummidge.' He was thrilling when he got on the subject of the
awful wreck just outside this harbour, 'the fourth of October,
seventy-one years ago, two-and-thirty men drowned, your honour, and
half of 'em from Clovelly parish. And I was one of the three men
saved in another storm twenty-four years agone, when two-and-twenty
men were drowned; that's what it means to plough the great salt
field that is never sown, your honour.' When he found we'd been in
Scotland, he was very anxious to know if we could talk 'Garlic,'
said he'd always wanted to know what it sounded like."
Somehow, in the days that followed, Tommy was always with his
particular friends, the fishermen, on the beach, at the Red Lion,
or in the shop of a certain boat-builder, learning the use of the
calking-iron. Mr. and Mrs. Jack, Aunt Celia, and I unexpectedly
found ourselves a quartette for hours together, while Egeria and
Atlas walked in the churchyard, in the beautiful grounds of
Clovelly Court, or in the deer park, where one finds as perfect a
union of marine and woodland scenery as any in England.
Atlas may have taken her there because he could discuss single tax
more eloquently when he was walking over the entailed estates of
the English landed gentry, but I suspect that single tax had taken
off its hat, and bowing profoundly to Egeria, had said, "After you,
Madam!" and retired to its proper place in the universe; for not
even the most blatant economist would affirm that any other problem
can be so important as that which confronts a man when he enters
that land of Beulah, which is upon the borders of Heaven and within
sight of the City of Love.
Atlas was young, warm of heart, high of mind, and generous of soul.
All the necessary chords, therefore, were in him, ready to be set
in vibration. No one could do this more cunningly than Egeria; the
only question was whether love would "run out to meet love," as it
should, "with open arms."
We simply waited to see. Mrs. Jack, with that fine lack of logic
that distinguished her, disclaimed all responsibility. "He is
awake, at least," she said, "and that is a great comfort; and now
and then he observes a few very plain facts, mostly relating to
Egeria, it is true. If it does come to anything, I hope he won't
ask her to live in a college settlement the year round, though I
haven't the slightest doubt that she would like it. If there were
ever two beings created expressly for each other, it is these two,
and for that reason I have my doubts about the matter. Almost all
marriages are made between two people who haven't the least thing
in common, so far as outsiders can judge. Egeria and Atlas are
almost too well suited for marriage."
The progress of the affair had thus far certainly been
astonishingly rapid, but it might mean nothing. Egeria's mind and
heart were so easy of access up to a certain point that the
traveller sometimes overestimated the distance covered and the
distance still to cover. Atlas quoted something about her at the
end of the very first day, that described her charmingly:
"Ordinarily, the sweetest ladies will make us pass through cold
mist and cross a stile or two, or a broken bridge, before the
formalities are cleared away, to grant us rights of citizenship.
She is like those frank lands where we have not to hand out a
passport at the frontier and wait for dubious inspection." But the
description is incomplete. Egeria, indeed, made no one wait at the
frontier for a dubious inspection of his passport; but once in the
new domain, while he would be cordially welcomed to parks, gardens,
lakes, and pleasure grounds, he would find unexpected difficulty in
entering the queen's private apartments, a fact that occasioned
surprise to some of the travellers.
We all took the greatest interest, too, in the romance of Phoebe
and Jem, for the course of true love did not run at all smooth for
this young couple. Jack wrote a ballad about her, and Egeria made
a tune to it, and sang it to the tinkling, old-fashioned piano of
"Have you e'er seen the street of Clovelly?
The quaint, rambling street of Clovelly,
With its staircase of stone leading down to the sea,
To the harbour so sleepy, so old, and so wee,
The queer, crooked street of Clovelly.
"Have you e'er seen the lass of Clovelly?
The sweet little lass of Clovelly,
With kirtle of grey reaching just to her knee,
And ankles as neat as ankles may be,
The yellow-haired lass of Clovelly.
"There's a good honest lad in Clovelly,
A bold, fisher lad of Clovelly,
With purpose as straight and swagger as free
As the course of his boat when breasting a sea,
The brave sailor lad of Clovelly.
"Have you e'er seen the church at Clovelly?
Have you heard the sweet bells of Clovelly?
The lad and the lassie will hear them, maybe,
And join hand in hand to sail over life's sea
From the little stone church at Clovelly."
When the nights were cool or damp we crowded into Mrs. Jack's tiny
china-laden sitting-room, and had a blaze in the grate with a bit
of driftwood burning blue and green and violet on top of the coals.
Tommy sometimes smelled of herring to such a degree that we were
obliged to keep the door open; but his society was so precious that
we endured the odours.
But there were other evenings out of doors, when we sat in a
sheltered corner down on the pier, watching the line of limestone
cliffs running westward to the revolving light at Hartland Point
that sent us alternate flashes of ruby and white across the water.
Clovelly lamps made glittering disks in the quay pool, shining
there side by side with the reflected star-beams. We could hear
the regular swish-swash of the waves on the rocks, and to the
eastward the dripping of a stream that came tumbling over the
Such was our last evening in Clovelly; a very quiet one, for the
charm of the place lay upon us and we were loath to leave it. It
was warm and balmy, and the moonlight lay upon the beach. Egeria
leaned against the parapet, the serge of her dress showing white
against the background of rock. The hood of her dark blue
yachting-cape was slipping off her head, and her eyes were as deep
and clear as crystal pools.
Presently she began to sing,--first, "The Sands o' Dee," then,--
"Three fishers went sailing out into the west,
Out into the west as the sun went down;
Each thought of the woman who loved him the best,
And the children stood watching them out of the town."
Egeria is one of the few women who can sing well without an
accompaniment. She has a thrilling voice, and what with the scene,
the hour, and the pathos of Kingsley's verses, tears rushed into my
eyes, and Bill Marks' words came back to me--"Two-and-twenty men
drowned; that's what it means to plough the great salt field that
is never sown."
Atlas gazed at her with eyes that no longer cared to keep their
secret. Mrs. Jack was still uncertain; for me, I was sure. Love
had rushed past him like a galloping horseman, and shooting an
arrow almost without aim, had struck him full in the heart, that
citadel that had withstood a dozen deliberate sieges.
It was midnight, and our few belongings were packed. Egeria had
come to the Inn to sleep, and stole into my room to warm her toes
before the blaze in my grate, for I was chilly and had ordered a
sixpenny fire. When I say that she came in to warm her toes, I am
asking you to accept her statement, not mine; it is my opinion that
she came in for no other purpose than to tell me something that was
in her mind and heart pleading for utterance.
I didn't help her by leading up to the subject, because I thought
her fib so flagrant and unnecessary; accordingly, we talked over a
multitude of things,--Phoebe and Jem and their hard-hearted
parents, our visit to Cardiff and Ilfracombe, Bill Marks and his
wife, the service at the church, and finally her walk with Atlas in
"We went inside," said Egeria, "and I copied the inscription on the
bronze tablet that Atlas liked so much on Sunday: 'Her grateful
and affectionate husband's last and proudest wish will be that
whenever Divine Providence shall call him hence, his name may be
engraved on the same tablet that is sacred in perpetuating as much
virtue and goodness as could adorn human nature.'" Then she went
on, with apparent lack of sequence: "Penelope, don't you think it
is always perfectly safe to obey a Scriptural command, because I
have done it?"
"Did you find it in the Old or the New Testament?"
"I should say that if you found some remarks about breaking the
bones of your enemy, and have twisted it out of its connection, it
would be particularly bad advice to follow."
"It is nothing of that sort."
"What is it, then?"
She took out a tortoise-shell dagger just here, and gave her head
an absent-minded shake so that her lustrous coil of hair uncoiled
itself and fell on her shoulders in a ruddy spiral. It was a sight
to induce covetousness, but one couldn't be envious of Egeria. She
charmed one by her lack of consciousness.
"The happy lot
Be his to follow
Those threads through lovely curve and hollow,
And muse a lifetime how they got
Into that wild, mysterious knot," -
quoted I, as I gave her head an insinuating pat. "Come, Egeria,
stand and deliver! What is the Scriptural command, that having
first obeyed, you ask my advice about afterwards?"
"Have you a Bible?"
"You might not think it, but I have, and it is here on my table."
"Then I am going into my room, to lock the door, and call the verse
through the keyhole. But you must promise not to say a word to me
till to-morrow morning."
I was not in a position to dictate terms, so I promised. The door
closed, the bolt shot into the socket, and Egeria's voice came so
faintly through the keyhole that I had to stoop to catch the
I flew to my Bible. Genesis--Exodus--Leviticus--Numbers--
"Love ye therefore the stranger--"
PENELOPE AT HOME
"'Tis good when you have crossed the sea and back
To find the sit-fast acres where you left them."
April 15, 19-.
Penelope, in the old sense, is no more! No mound of grass and
daisies covers her; no shaft of granite or marble marks the place
where she rests;--as a matter of fact she never does rest; she
walks and runs and sits and stands, but her travelling days are
over. For the present, in a word, the reason that she is no longer
"Penelope," with dozens of portraits and three volumes of
"Experiences" to her credit, is, that she is Mrs. William Hunt
As for Himself, he is just as much William Hunt Beresford as ever
he was, for marriage has not staled, nor fatherhood withered, his
infinite variety. There may be, indeed, a difference, ever so
slight; a new dignity, and an air of responsibility that harmonizes
well with the inch of added girth at his waist-line and the grey
thread or two that becomingly sprinkle his dark hair.
And where is Herself, the vanished Penelope, you ask; the companion
of Salemina and Francesca; the traveller in England, Scotland,
Ireland, and Wales; the wanderer in Switzerland and Italy? Well,
if she is a thought less irresponsible, merry, and loquacious, she
is happier and wiser. If her easel and her palette are not in
daily evidence, neither are they altogether banished from the
scene; and whatever measure of cunning Penelope's hand possessed in
other days, Mrs. Beresford has contrived to preserve.
If she wields the duster occasionally, in alternation with the
paint-brush and the pen, she has now a new choice of weapons; and
as for models,--her friends, her neighbours, even her enemies and
rivals, might admire her ingenuity, her thrift, and her positive
genius in selecting types to paint! She never did paint anything
beautifully but children, though her backgrounds have been praised,
also the various young things that were a vital part of every
composition. She could never draw a horse or a cow or an ox to her
satisfaction, but a long-legged colt, or a newborn Bossy-calf were
well within her powers. Her puppies and kittens and chickens and
goslings were always admired by the public, and the fact that the
mothers and fathers in the respective groups were never quite as
convincing as their offspring,--this somehow escaped the notice of
Very well, then, what was Penelope inspired to do when she became
Mrs. Beresford and left the Atlantic rolling between the beloved
Salemina, Francesca, and herself? Why, having "crossed the sea and
back" repeatedly, she found "the sit-fast acres" of the house of
Beresford where she "left them" and where they had been sitting
fast for more than a hundred years.
"Here is the proper place for us to live," she said to Himself,
when they first viewed the dear delightful New England landscape
over together. "Here is where your long roots are, and as my roots
have been in half a hundred places they can be easily transplanted.
You have a decent income to begin on; why not eke it out with
apples and hay and corn and Jersey cows and Plymouth Rock cocks and
hens, while I use the scenery for my pictures? There are
backgrounds here for a thousand canvases, all within a mile of your
"I don't know what you will do for models in this remote place,"
said Himself, putting his hands in his pockets and gazing dubiously
at the abandoned farm-houses on the hillsides; the still green
dooryards on the village street where no children were playing, and
the quiet little brick school-house at the turn of the road, from
which a dozen half-grown boys and girls issued decorously, looking
at us like scared rabbits.
"I have an idea about models," said Mrs. Beresford.
And it turned out that she had, for all that was ten years ago, and
Penelope the Painter, merged in Mrs. Beresford the mother, has the
three loveliest models in all the countryside!
Children, of course, are common enough everywhere; not, perhaps, as
common as they should be, but there are a good many clean, well-
behaved, truthful, decently-featured little boys and girls who
will, in course of time, become the bulwarks of the Republic, who
are of no use as models. The public is not interested in, and will
neither purchase nor hang on its walls anything but a winsome
child, a beautiful child, a pathetic child, or a picturesquely
ragged and dirty child. (The latter type is preferably a
foreigner, as dirty American children are for some reason or other
All this is in explanation of the foregoing remarks about Mrs.
Beresford's ingenuity, thrift, and genius in selecting types to
paint. The ingenuity lay in the idea itself; the thrift, in
securing models that should belong to the Beresford "sit-fast
acres" and not have to be searched for and "hired in" by the day;
and the genius, in producing nothing but enchanting, engrossing,
adorable, eminently "paintable" children. They are just as
obedient, interesting, grammatical, and virtuous as other people's
offspring, yet they are so beautiful that it would be the height of
selfishness not to let the world see them and turn green with envy.
When viewed by the casual public in a gallery, nobody of course
believes that they are real until some kind friend says: "No, oh,
no! not ideal heads at all; perfect likenesses; the children of Mr.
and Mrs. Beresford; Penelope Hamilton, whose signature you see in
the corner, IS Mrs. Beresford."
When they are exhibited in the guise of, and under such titles as:
"Young April," "In May Time," "Girl with Chickens," "Three of a
Kind" (Billy with a kitten and a puppy tumbling over him), "Little
Mothers" (Frances and Sally with their dolls), "When all the World
is Young" (Billy, Frances, and Sally under the trees surrounded by
a riot of young feathered things, with a lamb and a Jersey calf
peeping over a fence in the background), then Himself stealthily
visits the gallery. He stands somewhere near the pictures pulling
his moustache nervously and listening to the comments of the
bystanders. Not a word of his identity or paternity does he
vouchsafe, but occasionally some acquaintance happens to draw near,
perhaps to compliment or congratulate him. Then he has been heard
to say vaingloriously: "Oh, no! they are not flattered; rather the
reverse. My wife has an extraordinary faculty of catching
likenesses, and of course she has a wonderful talent, but she
agrees with me that she never quite succeeds in doing the children
Here we are, then, Himself and I, growing old with the country that
gave us birth (God bless it!) and our children growing up with it,
as they always should; for it must have occurred to the reader that
I am Penelope, Hamilton that was, and also, and above all, that I
am Mrs. William Hunt Beresford.
April 20, 19-
Himself and I have gone through the inevitable changes that life
and love, marriage and parenthood, bring to all human creatures;
but no one of the dear old group of friends has so developed as
Francesca. Her last letter, posted in Scotland and delivered here
seven days later, is like a breath of the purple heather and brings
her vividly to mind.
In the old days when we first met she was gay, irresponsible,
vivacious, and a decided flirt,--with symptoms of becoming a
coquette. She was capricious and exacting; she had far too large
an income for a young girl accountable to nobody; she was lovely to
look upon, a product of cities and a trifle spoiled.
She danced through Europe with Salemina and me, taking in no more
information than she could help, but charming everybody that she
met. She was only fairly well educated, and such knowledge as she
possessed was vague, uncertain, and never ready for instant use.
In literature she knew Shakespeare, Balzac, Thackeray, Hawthorne,
and Longfellow, but if you had asked her to place Homer, Schiller,
Dante, Victor Hugo, James Fenimore Cooper, or Thoreau she couldn't
have done it within a hundred years.
In history she had a bowing acquaintance with Napoleon, Washington,
Wellington, Prince Charlie, Henry of Navarre, Paul Revere, and
Stonewall Jackson, but as these gallant gentlemen stand on the
printed page, so they stood shoulder to shoulder, elbowing one
another in her pretty head, made prettier by a wealth of hair,
Marcel-waved twice a week.
These facts were brought out once in examination, by one of
Francesca's earliest lovers, who, at Salemina's request and my own,
acted as her tutor during the spring before our first trip abroad,
the general idea being to prepare her mind for foreign travel.
I suppose we were older and should have known better than to allow
any man under sixty to tutor Francesca in the spring. Anyhow, the
season worked its maddest pranks on the pedagogue. He fell in love
with his pupil within a few days,--they were warm, delicious,
budding days, for it was a very early, verdant, intoxicating spring
that produced an unusual crop of romances in our vicinity.
Unfortunately the tutor was a scholar at heart, as well as a
potential lover, and he interested himself in making psychological
investigations of Francesca's mind. She was perfectly willing, for
she always regarded her ignorance as a huge joke, instead of
viewing it with shame and embarrassment. What was more natural,
when she drove, rode, walked, sailed, danced, and "sat out" to her
heart's content, while more learned young ladies stayed within
doors and went to bed at nine o'clock with no vanity-provoking
memories to lull them to sleep? The fact that she might not be
positive as to whether Dante or Milton wrote "Paradise Lost," or
Palestrina antedated Berlioz, or the Mississippi River ran north
and south or east and west,--these trifling uncertainties had never
cost her an offer of marriage or the love of a girl friend; so she
was perfectly frank and offered no opposition to the investigations
of the unhappy but conscientious tutor, meeting his questions with
the frankness of a child. Her attitude of mind was the more candid
because she suspected the passion of the teacher and knew of no
surer way to cure him than to let him know her mind for what it
When the staggering record of her ignorance on seven subjects was
set down in a green-covered blank book, she awaited the result not
only with resignation, but with positive hope; a hope that proved
to be ill-founded, for curiously enough the tutor was still in love
with her. Salemina was surprised, but I was not. Of course I had
to know anatomy in order to paint, but there is more in it than
that. In painting the outsides of people I assure you that I
learned to guess more of what was inside them than their bony
structures! I sketched the tutor while he was examining Francesca
and I knew that there were no abysmal depths of ignorance that
could appall him where she was concerned. He couldn't explain the
situation at all, himself. If there was anything that he admired
and respected in woman, it was a well-stored, logical mind, and
three months' tutoring of Francesca had shown him that her mental
machinery was of an obsolete pattern and that it was not even in
good working order. He could not believe himself influenced (so he
confessed to me) by such trivial things as curling lashes, pink
ears, waving hair (he had never heard of Marcel), or mere beauties
of colour and line and form. He said he was not so sure about
Francesca's eyes. Eyes like hers, he remarked in confidence, were
not beneath the notice of any man, be he President of Harvard
University or Master of Balliol College, for they seemed to promise
something never once revealed in the green examination book.
"You are quite right," I answered him; "the green book is not all
there is of Miss Monroe, but whatever there is is plainly not for
you"; and he humbly agreed with my dictum.
Is it not strange that a man will talk to one woman about the
charms of another for days upon days without ever realizing that
she may possibly be born for some other purpose than listening to
him? For an hour or two, of course, any sympathetic or generous-
minded person can be interested in the confidences of a lover; but
at the end of weeks or months, during which time he has never once
regarded his listener as a human being of the feminine gender, with
eyes, nose, and hair in no way inferior to those of his beloved,--
at the end of that time he should be shaken, smitten, waked from
his dreams, and told in ringing tones that in a tolerably large
universe there are probably two women worth looking at, the one
about whom he is talking, and the one to whom he is talking!
May 12, 19-
To go on about Francesca, she always had a quick intelligence, a
sense of humour, a heart, and a conscience; four things not to be
despised in the equipment of a woman. The wit she used lavishly
for the delight of the world at large; the heart had not (in the
tutor's time) found anything or anybody on which to spend itself;
the conscience certainly was not working overtime at the same
period, but I always knew that it was there and would be an
excellent reliable organ when once aroused.
Of course there is no reason why the Reverend Ronald MacDonald, of
the Established Church of Scotland, should have been the instrument
chosen to set all the wheels of Francesca's being in motion, but so
it was; and a great clatter and confusion they made in our
Edinburgh household when the machinery started! If Ronald was
handsome he was also a splendid fellow; if he was a preacher he was
also a man; and no member of the laity could have been more
ardently and satisfactorily in love than he. It was the ardour
that worked the miracle; and when Francesca was once warmed through
to the core, she began to grow. Her modest fortune helped things a
little at the beginning of their married life, for it not only made
existence easier, but enabled them to be of more service in the
straggling, struggling country parishes where they found themselves
Francesca's beautiful American clothes shocked Ronald's
congregations now and then, and it was felt that, though possible,
it was not very probable, that the grace of God could live with
such hats and shoes, such gloves and jewels as hers. But by the
time Ronald was called from his Argyllshire church to St. Giles's
Cathedral in Edinburgh there was a better understanding of young
Mrs. MacDonald's raiment and its relation to natural and revealed
religion. It appeared now that a clergyman's wife, by strict
attention to parochial duties; by being the mother of three
children all perfectly well behaved in church; by subscribing
generously to all worthy charities; by never conducting herself as
light-mindedly as her eyes and conversation seemed to portend,--it
appeared that a woman COULD live down her clothes! It was a
Bishop, I think, who argued in Francesca's behalf that godliness
did not necessarily dwell in frieze and stout leather and that it
might flourish in lace and chiffon. Salemina and I used to call
Ronald and Francesca the antinomic pair. Antinomics, one finds by
consulting the authorities, are apparently contradictory poles,
which, however, do not really contradict, but are only
correlatives, the existence of one making the existence of the
other necessary, explaining each other and giving each other a real
standing and equilibrium.
May 7, 19-
What immeasurable leagues of distance lie between Salemina,
Francesca, and me! Not only leagues of space divide us, but the
difference in environment, circumstances, and responsibilities that
give reality to space; yet we have bridged the gulf successfully by
a particular sort of three-sided correspondence, almost impersonal
enough to be published, yet revealing all the little details of
daily life one to the other.
When we three found that we should be inevitably separated for some
years, we adopted the habit of a "loose-leaf diary." The pages are
perforated with large circular holes and put together in such a way
that one can remove any leaf without injuring the book. We write
down, as the spirit moves us, the more interesting happenings of
the day, and once in a fortnight, perhaps, we slip a half-dozen
selected pages into an envelope and the packet starts on its round
between America, Scotland, and Ireland. In this way we have kept
up with each other without any apparent severing of intimate
friendship, and a farmhouse in New England, a manse in Scotland,
and the Irish home of a Trinity College professor and his lady are
brought into frequent contact.
Inspired by Francesca's last budget, full of all sorts of revealing
details of her daily life, I said to Himself at breakfast: "I am
not going to paint this morning, nor am I going to 'keep house'; I
propose to write in my loose-leaf diary, and what is more I propose
to write about marriage!"
When I mentioned to Himself the subject I intended to treat, he
looked up in alarm.
"Don't, I beg of you, Penelope," he said. "If you do it the other
two will follow suit. Women cannot discuss marriage without
dragging in husbands, and MacDonald, La Touche, and I won't have a
leg to stand upon. The trouble with these 'loose leaves' that you
three keep for ever in circulation is, that the cleverer they are
the more publicity they get. Francesca probably reads your screeds
at her Christian Endeavour meetings just as you cull extracts from
Salemina's for your Current Events Club. In a word, the loosened
leaf leads to the loosened tongue, and that's rather epigrammatic
for a farmer at breakfast time."
"I am not going to write about husbands," I said, "least of all my
own, but about marriage as an institution; the part it plays in the
evolution of human beings."
"Nevertheless, everything you say about it will reflect upon me,"
argued Himself. "The only husband a woman knows is her own
husband, and everything she thinks about marriage is gathered from
her own experience."
"Your attitude is not only timid, it is positively cowardly!" I
exclaimed. "You are an excellent husband as husbands go, and I
don't consider that I have retrograded mentally or spiritually
during our ten years of life together. It is true nothing has been
said in private or public about any improvement in me due to your
influence, but perhaps that is because the idea has got about that
your head is easily turned by flattery.--Anyway, I shall be
entirely impersonal in what I write. I shall say I believe in
marriage because I cannot think of any better arrangement; also
that I believe in marrying men because there is nothing else TO
marry. I shall also quote that feminist lecturer who said that the
bitter business of every woman in the world is to convert a trap
into a home. Of course I laughed inwardly, but my shoulders didn't
shake for two minutes as yours did. They were far more eloquent
than any loose leaf from a diary; for they showed every other man
in the audience that you didn't consider that YOU had to set any
'traps' for ME!"
Himself leaned back in his chair and gave way to unbridled mirth.
When he could control his speech, he wiped the tears from his eyes
and said offensively:-
"Well, I didn't; did I?"
"No," I replied, flinging the tea-cosy at his head, missing it, and
breaking the oleander on the plant-shelf ten feet distant.
"You wouldn't be unmarried for the world!" said Himself. "You
couldn't paint every day, you know you couldn't; and where could
you find anything so beautiful to paint as your own children unless
you painted me; and it just occurs to me that you never paid me the
compliment of asking me to sit for you."
"I can't paint men," I objected. "They are too massive and rugged
and ugly. Their noses are big and hard and their bones show
through everywhere excepting when they are fat and then they are
disgusting. Their eyes don't shine, their hair is never beautiful,
they have no dimples in their hands and elbows; you can't see their
mouths because of their moustaches, and generally it's no loss; and
their clothes are stiff and conventional with no colour, nor any
flowing lines to paint."
"I know where you keep your 'properties,' and I'll make myself a
mass of colour and flowing lines if you'll try me," Himself said
"No, dear," I responded amiably. "You are very nice, but you are
not a costume man, and I shudder to think what you would make of
yourself if I allowed you to visit my property-room. If I ever
have to paint you (not for pleasure, but as a punishment), you
shall wear your everyday corduroys and I'll surround you with the
children; then you know perfectly well that the public will never
notice you at all." Whereupon I went to my studio built on the top
of the long rambling New England shed and loved what I painted
yesterday so much that I went on with it, finding that I had said
to Himself almost all that I had in mind to say, about marriage as
June 15, 19-.
We were finishing luncheon on the veranda with all out of doors to
give us appetite. It was Buttercup Sunday, a yellow June one that
had been preceded by Pussy Willow Sunday, Dandelion Sunday, Apple
Blossom, Wild Iris, and Lilac Sunday, to be followed by Daisy and
Black-Eyed Susan and White Clematis and Goldenrod and Wild Aster
and Autumn Leaf Sundays.
Francie was walking over the green-sward with a bowl and spoon,
just as our Scottish men friends used to do with oat-meal at
breakfast time. The Sally-baby was blowing bubbles in her milk,
and Himself and I were discussing a book lately received from
Suddenly I saw Billy, who had wandered from the table, sitting on
the steps bending over a tiny bird's egg in his open hand. I knew
that he must have taken it from some low-hung nest, but taken it in
innocence, for he looked at it with solicitude as an object of
tender and fragile beauty. He had never given a thought to the
mother's days of patient brooding, nor that he was robbing the
summer world of one bird's flight and one bird's song.
"Did you hear the whippoorwills singing last night, Daddy?" I
"I did, indeed, and long before sunrise this morning. There must
be a new family in our orchard, I think; but then we have coaxed
hundreds of birds our way this spring by our little houses, our
crumbs, and our drinking dishes."
"Yes, we have never had so many since we came here to live. Look
at that little brown bird flying about in the tall apple-tree,
Francie; she seems to be in trouble."
"P'r'haps it's Mrs. Smiff's wenomous cat," exclaimed Francie,
running to look for a particularly voracious animal that lived
across the fields, but had been known to enter our bird-Eden.
"Hear this, Daddy; isn't it pretty?" I said, taking up the "Life of
Billy pricked up his ears, for he can never see a book opened
without running to join the circle, so eager he is not to lose a
"The wren sang early this morning" (I read slowly). "We talked
about it at breakfast and how many people there were who would not
be aware of it; and E. said, 'Fancy, if God came in and said: "Did
you notice my wren?" and they were obliged to say they had not
known it was there!'"
Billy rose quietly and stole away behind the trees, returning in a
few moments, empty-handed, to stand by my side.
"Does God know how many eggs there are in a bird's nest, mother?"
"People have so many different ideas about what God sees and takes
note of, that it's hard to say, sonny. Of course you remember that
the Bible says not one sparrow falls to the ground but He knows
"The mother bird can't count her eggs, can she, mother?"
"Oh! Billy, you do ask the hardest questions; ones that I can never
answer by Yes and No! She broods her eggs all day and all night
and never lets them get cold, so she must know, at any rate, that
they are going to BE birds, don't you think? And of course she
wouldn't want to lose one; that's the reason she's so faithful!"
"Well!" said Billy, after a long pause, "I don't care quite so much
about the mother, because sometimes there are five eggs in a weeny,
weeny nest that never could hold five little ones without their
scrunching each other and being uncomfortable. But if God should
come in and say: 'Did you take my egg, that was going to be a
bird?' I just couldn't bear it!"
June 15, 19-.
Another foreign mail is in and the village postmistress has sent an
impassioned request that I steam off the stamps for her boy's
album, enriched during my residence here by specimens from eleven
different countries. ("Mis' Beresford beats the Wanderin' Jew all
holler if so be she's be'n to all them places, an' come back
alive!"--so she says to Himself.) Among the letters there is a
budget of loose leaves from Salemina's diary, Salemina, who is now
Mrs. Gerald La Touche, wife of Professor La Touche, of Trinity
College, Dublin, and stepmother to Jackeen and Broona La Touche.
It is midsummer, College is not in session, and they are at
Rosnaree House, their place in County Meath.
Salemina is the one of our trio who continues to move in grand
society. She it is who dines at the Viceregal Lodge and Dublin
Castle. She it is who goes with her distinguished husband for
week-ends with the Master of the Horse, the Lord Chancellor, and
the Dean of the Chapel Royal. Francesca, it is true, makes her
annual bow to the Lord High Commissioner at Holyrood Palace and
dines there frequently during Assembly Week; and as Ronald numbers
one Duke, two Earls, and several Countesses and Dowager Countesses
in his parish, there are awe-inspiring visiting cards to be found
in the silver salver on her hall table,--but Salemina in Ireland
literally lives with the great, of all classes and conditions! She
is in the heart of the Irish Theatre and the Modern Poetry
movements,--and when she is not hobnobbing with playwrights and
poets she is consorting with the Irish nobility and gentry.
I cannot help thinking that she would still be Miss Peabody, of
Salem, Massachusetts, had it not been for my generous and helpful
offices, and those of Francesca! Never were two lovers, parted in
youth in America and miraculously reunited in middle age in
Ireland, more recalcitrant in declaring their mutual affection than
Dr. La Touche and Salemina! Nothing in the world divided them but
imaginary barriers. He was not rich, but he had a comfortable
salary and a dignified and honourable position among men. He had
two children, but they were charming, and therefore so much to the
good. Salemina was absolutely "foot loose" and tied down to no
duties in America, so no one could blame her for marrying an
Irishman. She had never loved any one else, and Dr. La Touche
might have had that information for the asking; but he was such a
bat for blindness, adder for deafness, and lamb for meekness that
because she refused him once, when she was the only comfort of an
aged mother and father, he concluded that she would refuse him
again, though she was now alone in the world. His late wife, a
poor, flighty, frivolous invalid, the kind of woman who always
entangles a sad, vague, absent-minded scholar, had died six years
before, and never were there two children so in need of a mother as
Jackeen and Broona, a couple of affectionate, hot-headed,
bewitching, ragged, tousled Irish darlings. I would cheerfully
have married Dr. Gerald myself, just for the sake of his neglected
babies, but I dislike changes and I had already espoused Himself.
However, a summer in Ireland, undertaken with no such great stakes
in mind as Salemina's marriage, made possible a chance meeting of
the two old friends. This was followed by several others, devised
by us with incendiary motives, and without Salemina's knowledge.
There was also the unconscious plea of the children working a daily
spell; there was the past, with its memories, tugging at both their
hearts; and above all there was a steady, dogged, copious stream of
mental suggestion emanating from Francesca and me, so that, in
course of time, our middle-aged couple did succeed in confessing to
each other that a separate future was impossible for them.
They never would have encountered each other had it not been for
us; never, never would have become engaged; and as for the wedding,
we forcibly led them to the altar, saying that we must leave
Ireland and the ceremony could not be delayed.
Not that we are the recipients of any gratitude for all this!
Rather the reverse! They constantly allude to their marriage as
made in Heaven, although there probably never was another union
where creatures of earth so toiled and slaved to assist the
I wonder why middle-aged and elderly lovers make such an appeal to
me! Is it because I have lived much in New England, where "ladies-
in-waiting" are all too common,--where the wistful bride-groom has
an invalid mother to support, or a barren farm out of which he
cannot wring a living, or a malignant father who cherishes a bitter
grudge against his son's chosen bride and all her kindred,--where
the woman herself is compassed about with obstacles, dragging out a
pinched and colourless existence year after year?
And when at length the two waiting ones succeed in triumphing over
circumstances, they often come together wearily, soberly, with half
the joy pressed out of life. Young lovers have no fears! That the
future holds any terrors, difficulties, bugbears of any sort they
never seem to imagine, and so they are delightful and amusing to
watch in their gay and sometimes irresponsible and selfish
courtships; but they never tug at my heart-strings as their elders
do, when the great, the long-delayed moment comes.
Francesca and I, in common with Salemina's other friends, thought
that she would never marry. She had been asked often enough in her
youth, but she was not the sort of woman who falls in love at
forty. What we did not know was that she had fallen in love with
Gerald La Touche at five-and-twenty and had never fallen out,--
keeping her feelings to herself during the years that he was
espoused to another, very unsuitable lady. Our own sentimental
experiences, however, had sharpened our eyes, and we divined at
once that Dr. La Touche, a scholar of fifty, shy, reserved, self-
distrustful, and oh! so in need of anchor and harbour,--that he was
the only husband in the world for Salemina; and that he, after
giving all that he had and was to an unappreciative woman, would be
unspeakably blessed in the wife of our choosing.
I remember so well something that he said to me once as we sat at
twilight on the bank of the lake near Devorgilla. The others were
rowing toward us bringing the baskets for a tea picnic, and we, who
had come in the first boat, were talking quietly together about
intimate things. He told me that a frail old scholar, a brother
professor, used to go back from the college to his house every
night bowed down with weariness and pain and care, and that he used
to say to his wife as he sank into his seat by the fire: "Oh!
praise me, my wife, praise me!"
My eyes filled and I turned away to hide the tears when Dr. Gerald
continued absently: "As for me, Mistress Beresford, when I go home
at night I take my only companion from the mantelshelf and leaning
back in my old armchair say, 'Praise me, my pipe, praise me!'"
And Salemina Peabody was in the boat coming toward us, looking as
serenely lovely in a grey tweed and broad white hat as any good
sweet woman of forty could look, while he gazed at her "through a
glass darkly" as if she were practically non-existent, or had
nothing whatever to do with the case.
I concealed rebellious opinions of blind bats, deaf adders, meek
lambs, and obstinate pigs, but said very gently and impersonally:
"I hope you won't always allow your pipe to be your only
companion;--you, with your children, your name and position, your
home and yourself to give--to somebody!"
But he only answered: "You exaggerate, my dear madam; there is not
enough left in me or of me to offer to any woman!"
And I could do nothing but make his tea graciously and hand it to
him, wondering that he was able to see the cup or the bread-and-
butter sandwich that I put into his modest, ungrateful hand.
However, it is all a thing of the past, that dim, sweet, grey
romance that had its rightful background in a country of subdued
colourings, of pensive sweetness, of gentle greenery, where there
is an eternal wistfulness in the face of the natural world,
speaking of the springs of hidden tears.
Their union is a perfect success, and I echo the Boots of the inn
at Devorgilla when he said: "An' sure it's the doctor that's the
satisfied man an' the luck is on him as well as on e'er a man
alive! As for her ladyship, she's one o' the blessings o' the
wurruld an' 't would be an o'jus pity to spile two houses wid 'em."
July 12, 19-.
We were all out in the orchard sunning ourselves on the little
haycocks that the "hired man" had piled up here and there under the
"It is not really so beautiful as Italy," I said to Himself, gazing
up at the newly set fruit on the apple boughs and then across the
close-cut hay field to the level pasture, with its rocks and cow
paths, its blueberry bushes and sweet fern, its clumps of young
sumachs, till my eyes fell upon the deep green of the distant
pines. "I can't bear to say it, because it seems disloyal, but I
almost believe I think so."
"It is not as picturesque," Himself agreed grudgingly, his eye
following mine from point to point; "and why do we love it so?"
"There is nothing delicious and luxuriant about it," I went on
critically, "yet it has a delicate, ethereal, austere, straight-
forward Puritanical loveliness of its own; but, no, it is not as
beautiful as Italy or Ireland, and it isn't as tidy as England. If
you keep away from the big manufacturing towns and their outskirts
you may go by motor or railway through shire after shire in England
and never see anything unkempt, down-at-the-heel, out-at-elbows, or
ill-cared-for; no broken-down fences or stone walls; no heaps of
rubbish or felled trees by the wayside; no unpainted or tottering
"You see plenty of ruins," interrupted Himself in a tone that
"Yes, but ruins are different; they are finished; they are not
tottering, they HAVE tottered! Our country is too big, I suppose,
to be 'tidy,' but how I should like to take just one of the United
States and clear it up, back yards and all, from border line to
"You are talking like a housewife now, not like an artist," said
"Well, I am both, I hope, and I don't intend that any one shall
know where the one begins or the other leaves off, either! And if
any foreigner should remark that America is unfinished or untidy I
shall deny it!"
"Fie! Penelope! You who used to be a citizen of the world!"
"So I am still, so far as a roving foot and a knowledge of three
languages can make me; but you remember that the soul 'retains the
characteristic of its race and the heart is true to its own
country, even to its own parish.'"
"When shall we be going to the other countries, mother?" asked
Billy. "When shall we see our aunt in Scotland and our aunt in
Ireland?" (Poor lambs! Since the death of their Grandmother
Beresford they do not possess a real relation in the world!)
"It will not be very long, Billy," I said. "We don't want to go
until we can leave the perambulator behind. The Sally-baby toddles
now, but she must be able to walk on the English downs and the
"And the Irish bogs," interpolated Billy, who has a fancy for
"Well, the Irish bogs are not always easy travelling," I answered,
"but the Sally-baby will soon be old enough to feel the spring of
the Irish turf under her feet."
"What will the chickens and ducklings and pigeons do while we are
gone?" asked Francie.
"An' the lammies?" piped the Sally-baby, who has all the qualities
of Mary in the immortal lyric.
"Oh! we won't leave home until the spring has come and all the
young things are born. The grass will be green, the dandelions
will have their puff-balls on, the apple blossoms will be over, and
Daddy will get a kind man to take care of everything for us. It
will be May time and we will sail in a big ship over to the aunts
and uncles in Scotland and Ireland and I shall show them my
"And we shall play 'hide-and-go-coop' with their children,"
interrupted Francie joyously.
"They will never have heard of that game, but you will all play
together!" And here I leaned back on the warm haycock and blinked
my eyes a bit in moist anticipation of happiness to come. "There
will be eight-year-old Ronald MacDonald to climb and ride and sail
with our Billy; and there will be little Penelope who is named for
me, and will be Francie's playmate; and the new little boy baby--"
"Proba'ly Aunt Francie's new boy baby will grow up and marry our
girl one," suggested Billy.
"He has my consent to the alliance in advance," said Himself, "but
I dare say your mother has arranged it all in her own mind and my
advice will not be needed."
"I have not arranged anything," I retorted; "or if I have it was
nothing more than a thought of young Ronald or Jack La Touche in--
another quarter,"--this with discreetly veiled emphasis.
"What is another quarter, mother?" inquired Francie, whose mental
agility is somewhat embarrassing.
"Oh, why,--well,--it is any other place than the one you are
talking about. Do you see?"
"Not so very well, but p'r'aps I will in a minute."
"Hope springs eternal!" quoted Francie's father.
"And then, as I was saying before being interrupted by the entire
family, we will go and visit the Irish cousins, Jackeen and Broona,
who belong to Aunt Salemina and Uncle Gerald, and the Sally-baby
will be the centre of attraction because she is her Aunt Salemina's
"But we are all God's children," insisted Billy.
"Of course we are."
"What's the difference between a god-child and a God's child?"
"The bottle of chloroform is in the medicine closet, my poor dear;
shall I run and get it?" murmured Himself sotto voce.
"Every child is a child of God," I began helplessly, "and when she
is somebody's godchild she--oh! lend me your handkerchief, Billy!"
"Is it the nose-bleed, mother?" he asked, bending over me
"No, oh, no! it's nothing at all, dear. Perhaps the hay was going
to make me sneeze. What was I saying?"
"About the god--"
"Oh, yes! I remember! (Ka-choo!) We will take the Irish cousins
and the Scotch cousins and go all together to see the Tower of
London and Westminster Abbey. We'll go to Bushey Park and see the
chestnuts in bloom, and will dine at Number 10, Dovermarle Street--
"I shall not go there, Billy," said Himself. "It was at Number 10,
Dovermarle Street that your mother told me she wouldn't marry me;
or at least that she'd have to do a lot of thinking before she'd
say Yes; so she left London and went to North Malvern."
"Couldn't she think in London?" (This was Billy.)
"Didn't she always want to be married to you?" (This was Francie.)
"Didn't she like US?" (Still Francie.)
"You were never mentioned,--not one of you!"
"That seems rather queer!" remarked Billy, giving me a reproachful
"So we'll leave the Irish and Scotch uncles and aunts behind and go
to North Malvern just by ourselves. It was there that your mother
concluded that she WOULD marry me, and I rather like the place."
"Mother loves it, too; she talks to me about it when she puts me to
bed." (Francie again.)
"No doubt; but you'll find your mother's heart scattered all over
the Continent of Europe. One bit will be clinging to a pink thorn
in England; another will be in the Highlands somewhere,--wherever
the heather's in bloom; another will be hanging on the Irish gorse
bushes where they are yellowest; and another will be hidden under
the seat of a Venetian gondola."
"Don't listen to Daddy's nonsense, children! He thinks mother
throws her heart about recklessly while he loves only one thing at
"Four things!" expostulated Himself, gallantly viewing our little
group at large.
"Strictly speaking, we are not four things, we are only four parts
of one thing;--counting you in, and I really suppose you ought to
be counted in, we are five parts of one thing."
"Shall we come home again from the other countries?" asked Billy.
"Of course, sonny! The little Beresfords must come back and grow
up with their own country."
"Am I a little Beresford, mother?" asked Francie, looking wistfully
at her brother as belonging to the superior sex and the eldest
"And is the Sally-baby one too?"
Himself laughed unrestrainedly at this.
"She is," he said, "but you are more than half mother, with your
"I love to be more than half mother!" cried Francie, casting
herself violently about my neck and imbedding me in the haycock.
"Thank you, dear, but pull me up now. It's supper-time."
Billy picked up the books and the rug and made preparations for the
brief journey to the house. I put my hair in order and smoothed my
"Will there be supper like ours in the other countries, mother?" he
asked. "And if we go in May time, when do we come back again?"
Himself rose from the ground with a luxurious stretch of his arms,
looking with joy and pride at our home fields bathed in the
afternoon midsummer sun. He took the Sally-baby's outstretched
hands and lifted her, crowing, to his shoulder.
"Help sister over the stubble, my son.--We'll come away from the
other countries whenever mother says: 'Come, children, it's time
"We'll be back for Thanksgiving," I assured Billy, holding him by
one hand and Francie by the other, as we walked toward the
farmhouse. "We won't live in the other countries, because Daddy's
'sit-fast acres' are here in New England."
"But whenever and wherever we five are together, especially
wherever mother is, it will always be home," said Himself
thankfully, under his breath.