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The Entire March Family Trilogy by William Dean Howells

Part 21 out of 21

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for the general at the same time as for his father. Then March,
remorsefully remembered the Eltwins, and looked about for them, so that
his son might get them an inspector too. He found the major already in
the hands of an inspector, who was passing all his pieces after
carelessly looking into one: the official who received the declarations
on board had noted a Grand Army button like his own in the major's lapel,
and had marked his fellow-veteran's paper with the mystic sign which
procures for the bearer the honor of being promptly treated as a
smuggler, while the less favored have to wait longer for this indignity
at the hands of their government. When March's own inspector came he was
as civil and lenient as our hateful law allows; when he had finished
March tried to put a bank-note in his hand, and was brought to a just
shame by his refusal of it. The bed-room steward keeping guard over the
baggage helped put-it together after the search, and protested that March
had feed him so handsomely that he would stay there with it as long as
they wished. This partly restored March's self-respect, and he could
share in General Triscoe's indignation with the Treasury ruling which
obliged him to pay duty on his own purchases in excess of the hundred-
dollar limit, though his daughter had brought nothing, and they jointly
came far within the limit for two.

He found that the Triscoes were going to a quiet old hotel on the way to
Stuyvesant Square, quite in his own neighborhood, and he quickly arranged
for all the ladies and the general to drive together while he was to
follow with his son on foot and by car. They got away from the scene of
the customs' havoc while the steamer shed, with its vast darkness dimly
lit by its many lamps, still showed like a battle-field where the
inspectors groped among the scattered baggage like details from the
victorious army searching for the wounded. His son clapped him on the
shoulder when he suggested this notion, and said he was the same old
father; and they got home as gayly together as the dispiriting influences
of the New York ugliness would permit. It was still in those good and
decent times, now so remote, when the city got something for the money
paid out to keep its streets clean, and those they passed through were
not foul but merely mean.

The ignoble effect culminated when they came into Broadway, and found its
sidewalks, at an hour when those of any European metropolis would have
been brilliant with life, as unpeopled as those of a minor country town,
while long processions of cable-cars carted heaps of men and women up and
down the thoroughfare amidst the deformities of the architecture.

The next morning the March family breakfasted late after an evening
prolonged beyond midnight in spite of half-hourly agreements that now
they must really all go to bed. The children had both to recognize again
and again how well their parents were looking; Tom had to tell his father
about the condition of 'Every Other Week'; Bella had to explain to her
mother how sorry her husband was that he could not come on to meet them
with her, but was coming a week later to take her home, and then she
would know the reason why they could not all, go back to Chicago with
him: it was just the place for her father to live, for everybody to live.
At breakfast she renewed the reasoning with which she had maintained her
position the night before; the travellers entered into a full expression
of their joy at being home again; March asked what had become of that
stray parrot which they had left in the tree-top the morning they
started; and Mrs. March declared that this was the last Silver Wedding
Journey she ever wished to take, and tried to convince them all that she
had been on the verge of nervous collapse when she reached the ship.
They sat at table till she discovered that it was very nearly eleven
o'clock, and said it was disgraceful.

Before they rose, there was a ring at the door, and a card was brought in
to Tom. He glanced at it, and said to his father, "Oh, yes! This man
has been haunting the office for the last three days. He's got to leave
to-day, and as it seemed to be rather a case of life and death with him,
I said he'd probably find you here this morning. But if you don't want
to see him, I can put him off till afternoon, I suppose."

He tossed the card to his father, who looked at it quietly, and then gave
it to his wife. "Perhaps I'd as well see him?"

"See him!" she returned in accents in which all the intensity of her soul
was centred. By an effort of self-control which no words can convey a
just sense of she remained with her children, while her husband with a
laugh more teasing than can be imagined went into the drawing-room to
meet Burnamy.

The poor fellow was in an effect of belated summer as to clothes, and he
looked not merely haggard but shabby. He made an effort for dignity as
well as gayety, however, in stating himself to March, with many apologies
for his persistency. But, he said, he was on his way West, and he was
anxious to know whether there was any chance of his 'Kasper Hauler' paper
being taken if he finished it up. March would have been a far harder-
hearted editor than he was, if he could have discouraged the suppliant
before him. He said he would take the Kasper Hauler paper and add a band
of music to the usual rate of ten dollars a thousand words. Then
Burnamy's dignity gave way, if not his gayety; he began to laugh, and
suddenly he broke down and confessed that he had come home in the
steerage; and was at his last cent, beyond his fare to Chicago. His
straw hat looked like a withered leaf in the light of his sad facts; his
thin overcoat affected March's imagination as something like the
diaphanous cast shell of a locust, hopelessly resumed for comfort at the
approach of autumn. He made Burnamy sit down, after he had once risen,
and he told him of Major Eltwin's wish to see him; and he promised to go
round with him to the major's hotel before the Eltwins left town that

While he prolonged the interview in this way, Mrs. March was kept from
breaking in upon them only by the psychical experiment which she was
making with the help and sympathy of her daughter at the window of the
dining-room which looked up Sixteenth Street. At the first hint she gave
of the emotional situation which Burnamy was a main part of, her son;
with the brutal contempt of young men for other young men's love affairs,
said he must go to the office; he bade his mother tell his father there
was no need of his coming down that day, and he left the two women
together. This gave the mother a chance to develop the whole fact to the
daughter with telegrammic rapidity and brevity, and then to enrich the
first-outline with innumerable details, while they both remained at the
window, and Mrs. March said at two-minutely intervals, with no sense of
iteration for either of them, "I told her to come in the morning, if she
felt like it, and I know she will. But if she doesn't, I shall say there
is nothing in fate, or Providence either. At any rate I'm going to stay
here and keep longing for her, and we'll see whether there's anything in
that silly theory of your father's. I don't believe there is," she said,
to be on the safe side.

Even when she saw Agatha Triscoe enter the park gate on Rutherford Place,
she saved herself from disappointment by declaring that she was not
coming across to their house. As the girl persisted in coming and
coming, and at last came so near that she caught sight of Mrs. March at
the window and nodded, the mother turned ungratefully upon her daughter,
and drove her away to her own room, so that no society detail should
hinder the divine chance. She went to the door herself when Agatha rang,
and then she was going to open the way into the parlor where March was
still closeted with Burnamy, and pretend that she had not known they were
there. But a soberer second thought than this prevailed, and she told
the girl who it was that was within and explained the accident of his
presence. "I think," she said nobly, "that you ought to have the chance
of going away if you don't wish to meet him."

The girl, with that heroic precipitation which Mrs. March had noted in
her from the first with regard to what she wanted to do, when Burnamy was
in question, answered, "But I do wish to meet him, Mrs. March."

While they stood looking at each other, March came out to ask his wife if
she would see Burnamy, and she permitted herself so much stratagem as to
substitute Agatha, after catching her husband aside and subduing his
proposed greeting of the girl to a hasty handshake.

Half an hour later she thought it time to join the young people, urged
largely by the frantic interest of her daughter. But she returned from
the half-open door without entering. "I couldn't bring myself to break
in on the poor things. They are standing at the window together looking
over at St. George's."

Bella silently clasped her hands. March gave cynical laugh, and said,
"Well we are in for it, my dear." Then he added, "I hope they'll take us
with them on their Silver Wedding Journey."


Declare that they had nothing to declare
Despair which any perfection inspires
Disingenuous, hypocritical passion of love
Fundamentally incapable of taking anything seriously
Held aloof in a sarcastic calm
Illusions: no marriage can be perfect without them
Married life: we expect too much of each other
Not do to be perfectly frank with one's own country
Offence which any difference of taste was apt to give him
Passionate desire for excess in a bad thing
Puddles of the paths were drying up with the haste
Race seemed so often without philosophy
Self-sacrifice which could be had, as it were, at a bargain
She always came to his defence when he accused himself


Affected absence of mind
Affectional habit
All the loveliness that exists outside of you, dearest is little
All luckiest or the unluckiest, the healthiest or the sickest
Americans are hungrier for royalty than anybody else
Amusing world, if you do not refuse to be amused
Anticipative homesickness
Anticipative reprisal
Any sort of stuff was good enough to make a preacher out of
Appearance made him doubt their ability to pay so much
Artists never do anything like other people
As much of his story as he meant to tell without prompting
At heart every man is a smuggler
Bad wars, or what are comically called good wars
Ballast of her instinctive despondency
Be good, sweet man, and let who will be clever
Beautiful with the radiance of loving and being loved
Bewildering labyrinth of error
Biggest place is always the kindest as well as the cruelest
Brag of his wife, as a good husband always does
Brown-stone fronts
But when we make that money here, no one loses it
Buttoned about him as if it concealed a bad conscience
Calm of those who have logic on their side
Civilly protested and consented
Clinging persistence of such natures
Coldly and inaccessibly vigilant
Collective silence which passes for sociality
Comfort of the critical attitude
Conscience weakens to the need that isn't
Considerable comfort in holding him accountable
Courage hadn't been put to the test
Deadly summer day
Death is peace and pardon
Death is an exile that no remorse and no love can reach
Decided not to let the facts betray themselves by chance
Declare that they had nothing to declare
Despair which any perfection inspires
Did not idealize him, but in the highest effect she realized him
Dinner unites the idea of pleasure and duty
Disingenuous, hypocritical passion of love
Dividend: It's a chicken before it's hatched
Does any one deserve happiness
Does anything from without change us?
Dog that had plainly made up his mind to go mad
Effort to get on common ground with an inferior
Europe, where society has them, as it were, in a translation
Evil which will not let a man forgive his victim
Explained perhaps too fully
Extract what consolation lurks in the irreparable
Family buryin' grounds
Favorite stock of his go up and go down under the betting
Feeblest-minded are sure to lead the talk
Feeling rather ashamed,--for he had laughed too
Feeling of contempt for his unambitious destination
Flavors not very sharply distinguished from one another
Fundamentally incapable of taking anything seriously
Futility of travel
Gayety, which lasted beyond any apparent reason for it
Glad; which considering, they ceased to be
Got their laugh out of too many things in life
Guilty rapture of a deliberate dereliction
Had learned not to censure the irretrievable
Had no opinions that he was not ready to hold in abeyance
Handsome pittance
Happiness is so unreasonable
Happiness built upon and hedged about with misery
He expected to do the wrong thing when left to his own devices
He buys my poverty and not my will
Headache darkens the universe while it lasts
Heart that forgives but does not forget
Held aloof in a sarcastic calm
Helplessness begets a sense of irresponsibility
Helplessness accounts for many heroic facts in the world
Hemmed round with this eternal darkness of death
Homage which those who have not pay to those who have
Honest selfishness
Hopeful recklessness
How much can a man honestly earn without wronging or oppressing
Humanity may at last prevail over nationality
Hurry up and git well--or something
Hypothetical difficulty
I cannot endure this--this hopefulness of yours
I want to be sorry upon the easiest possible terms
I supposed I had the pleasure of my wife's acquaintance
I'm not afraid--I'm awfully demoralized
If you dread harm enough it is less likely to happen
Ignorant of her ignorance
Illusions: no marriage can be perfect without them
Impertinent prophecies of their enjoying it so much
Indulge safely in the pleasures of autobiography
Intrepid fancy that they had confronted fate
It had come as all such calamities come, from nothing
It must be your despair that helps you to bear up
It don't do any good to look at its drawbacks all the time
It 's the same as a promise, your not saying you wouldn't
Jesting mood in the face of all embarrassments
Justice must be paid for at every step in fees and costs
Less intrusive than if he had not been there
Less certain of everything that I used to be sure of
Life was like the life at a sea-side hotel, but more monotonous
Life of the ship, like the life of the sea: a sodden monotony
Life has taught him to truckle and trick
Long life of holidays which is happy marriage
Love of justice hurry them into sympathy with violence
Made money and do not yet know that money has made them
Madness of sight-seeing, which spoils travel
Man's willingness to abide in the present
Married life: we expect too much of each other
Married the whole mystifying world of womankind
Married for no other purpose than to avoid being an old maid
Marry for love two or three times
Monologue to which the wives of absent-minded men resign
Muddy draught which impudently affected to be coffee
Nervous woes of comfortable people
Never-blooming shrub
Never could have an emotion without desiring to analyze it
Night so bad that it was worse than no night at all
No man deserves to sufer at the hands of another
No longer the gross appetite for novelty
No right to burden our friends with our decisions
Not do to be perfectly frank with one's own country
Nothing so apt to end in mutual dislike,--except gratitude
Nothing so sad to her as a bride, unless it's a young mother
Novelists, who really have the charge of people's thinking
Oblivion of sleep
Offence which any difference of taste was apt to give him
Only so much clothing as the law compelled
Only one of them was to be desperate at a time
Our age caricatures our youth
Passionate desire for excess in a bad thing
Patience with mediocrity putting on the style of genius
Patronizing spirit of travellers in a foreign country
People that have convictions are difficult
Person talks about taking lessons, as if they could learn it
Poverty as hopeless as any in the world
Prices fixed by his remorse
Puddles of the paths were drying up with the haste
Race seemed so often without philosophy
Recipes for dishes and diseases
Reckless and culpable optimism
Reconciliation with death which nature brings to life at last
Rejoice in everything that I haven't done
Rejoice as much at a non-marriage as a marriage
Repeated the nothings they had said already
Respect for your mind, but she don't think you've got any sense
Say when he is gone that the woman gets along better without him
Seemed the last phase of a world presently to be destroyed
Seeming interested in points necessarily indifferent to him
Self-sufficiency, without its vulgarity
Self-sacrifice which could be had, as it were, at a bargain
Servant of those he loved
She always came to his defence when he accused himself
She cares for him: that she was so cold shows that
She could bear his sympathy, but not its expression
Shouldn't ca' fo' the disgrace of bein' poo'--its inconvenience
Sigh with which ladies recognize one another's martyrdom
So hard to give up doing anything we have meant to do
So old a world and groping still
Society: All its favors are really bargains
Sorry he hadn't asked more; that's human nature
Suffering under the drip-drip of his innocent egotism
Superstition that having and shining is the chief good
Superstition of the romances that love is once for all
That isn't very old--or not so old as it used to be
The knowledge of your helplessness in any circumstances
There is little proportion about either pain or pleasure
They were so near in age, though they were ten years apart
They can only do harm by an expression of sympathy
Timidity of the elder in the presence of the younger man
To do whatever one likes is finally to do nothing that one likes
Took the world as she found it, and made the best of it
Tragical character of heat
Travel, with all its annoyances and fatigues
Tried to be homesick for them, but failed
Turn to their children's opinion with deference
Typical anything else, is pretty difficult to find
Unfounded hope that sooner or later the weather would be fine
Used to having his decisions reached without his knowledge
Vexed by a sense of his own pitifulness
Voice of the common imbecility and incoherence
Voting-cattle whom they bought and sold
Wages are the measure of necessity and not of merit
We get too much into the hands of other people
We don't seem so much our own property
Weariness of buying
What we can be if we must
When you look it--live it
Wilful sufferers
Willingness to find poetry in things around them
Wish we didn't always recognize the facts as we do
Without realizing his cruelty, treated as a child
Woman harnessed with a dog to a cart
Wooded with the precise, severely disciplined German forests
Work he was so fond of and so weary of
Would sacrifice his best friend to a phrase

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