Part 3 out of 5
Breckon had not seen the former interest between himself and Ellen lapse
to commonplace acquaintance without due sense of loss. He suffered
justly, but he did not suffer passively, or without several attempts to
regain the higher ground. In spite of these he was aware of being
distinctly kept to the level which he accused himself of having chosen,
by a gentle acquiescence in his choice more fatal than snubbing. The
advances that he made across the table, while he still met Miss Kenton
alone there, did not carry beyond the rack supporting her plate. She
talked on whatever subject he started with that angelic sincerity which
now seemed so far from him, but she started none herself; she did not
appeal to him for his opinion upon any question more psychological than
the barometer; and,
"In a tumultuous privacy of storm,"
he found himself as much estranged from her as if a fair-weather crowd
had surrounded them. He did not believe that she resented the levity he
had shown; but he had reason to fear that she had finally accepted it as
his normal mood, and in her efforts to meet him in it, as if he had no
other, he read a tolerance that was worse than contempt. When he tried
to make her think differently, if that was what she thought of him, he
fancied her rising to the notion he wished to give her, and then
shrinking from it, as if it must bring her the disappointment of some
It was what he had taught her to expect of him, and he had himself to
blame. Now that he had thrown that precious chance away, he might well
have overvalued it. She had certain provincialisms which he could not
ignore. She did not know the right use of will and shall, and would and
should, and she pronounced the letter 'r' with a hard mid-Western twist.
Her voice was weak and thin, and she could not govern it from being at
times a gasp and at times a drawl. She did not dress with the authority
of women who know more of their clothes than the people they buy them of;
she did not carry herself like a pretty girl; she had not the definite
stamp of young-ladyism. Yet she was undoubtedly a lady in every
instinct; she wore with pensive grace the clothes which she had not
subjected to her personal taste; and if she did not carry herself like a
pretty girl, she had a beauty which touched and entreated.
More and more Breckon found himself studying her beauty--her soft, brown
brows, her gentle, dark eyes, a little sunken, and with the lids pinched
by suffering; the cheeks somewhat thin, but not colorless; the long chin,
the clear forehead, and the massed brown hair, that seemed too heavy for
the drooping neck. It was not the modern athletic type; it was rather of
the earlier period, when beauty was associated with the fragility
despised by a tanned and golfing generation. Ellen Kenton's wrists were
thin, and her hands long and narrow. As he looked at her across the
racks during those two days of storm, he had sometimes the wish to take
her long, narrow hands in his, and beg her to believe that he was
worthier her serious friendship than he had shown himself. What he was
sure of at all times now was that he wished to know the secret of that
patient pathos of hers. She was not merely, or primarily, an invalid.
Her family had treated her as an invalid, but, except Lottie, whose rigor
might have been meant sanatively, they treated her more with the
tenderness people use with a wounded spirit; and Breckon fancied moments
of something like humility in her, when she seemed to cower from his
notice. These were not so imaginable after her family took to their
berths and left her alone with him, but the touching mystery remained, a
sort of bewilderment, as he guessed it, a surprise such as a child might
show at some incomprehensible harm. It was this grief which he had
refused not merely to know--he still doubted his right to know it--but to
share; he had denied not only his curiosity but his sympathy, and had
exiled himself to a region where, when her family came back with the fair
weather, he felt himself farther from her than before their acquaintance
He had made an overture to its renewal in the book he lent her, and then
Mrs. Rasmith and her daughter had appeared on deck, and borne down upon
him when he was walking with Lottie Kenton and trying to begin his self-
retrieval through her. She had left him; but they had not, and in the
bonds of a prophet and his followers he found himself bound with them for
much more conversation than he had often held with them ashore. The
parochial duties of an ethical teacher were not strenuous, and Breckon
had not been made to feel them so definitely before. Mrs. Rasmith held
that they now included promising to sit at her table for the rest of the
voyage; but her daughter succeeded in releasing him from the obligation;
and it was she who smilingly detached the clinging hold of the elder
lady. "We mustn't keep Mr. Breckon from his friends, mother," she said,
brightly, and then he said he should like the pleasure of introducing
them, and both of the ladies declared that they would be delighted.
He bowed himself off, and half the ship's-length away he was aware, from
meeting Lottie with her little Englishman, that it was she and not Ellen
whom he was seeking. As the couple paused in whirring past Breckon long
enough to let Lottie make her hat fast against the wind, he heard the
"I say, that sister of yours is a fine girl, isn't she?"
"She's a pretty good--looker," Lottie answered back. "What's the matter
with HER sister?"
"Oh, I say!" her companion returned, in a transport with her slangy
pertness, which Breckon could not altogether refuse to share.
He thought that he ought to condemn it, and he did condemn Mrs. Kenton
for allowing it in one of her daughters, when he came up to her sitting
beside another whom he felt inexpressibly incapable of it. Mrs. Kenton
could have answered his censure, if she had known it, that daughters,
like sons, were not what their mothers but what their environments made
them, and that the same environment sometimes made them different, as he
saw. She could have told him that Lottie, with her slangy pertness, had
the truest and best of the men she knew at her feet, and that Ellen, with
her meekness, had been the prey of the commonest and cheapest spirit in
her world, and so left him to make an inference as creditable to his sex
as he could. But this bold defence was as far from the poor lady as any
spoken reproach was from him. Her daughter had to check in her a
mechanical offer to rise, as if to give Breckon her place, the theory and
practice of Tuskingum being that their elders ought to leave young people
"Don't go, momma," Ellen whispered. "I don't want you to go."
Breckon, when he arrived before them, remained talking on foot, and,
unlike Lottie's company, he talked to the mother. This had happened
before from him, but she had not got used to it, and now she deprecated
in everything but words his polite questions about her sufferings from
the rough weather, and his rejoicing that the worst was probably over.
She ventured the hope that it was so, for she said that Mr. Kenton had
about decided to keep on to Holland, and it seemed to her that they had
had enough of storms. He said he was glad that they were going right on;
and then she modestly recurred to the earlier opinion he had given her
husband that it would be better to spend the rest of the summer in
Holland than to go to Italy, as if she wished to conform herself in the
wisdom of Mr. Kenton's decision. He repeated his conviction, and he said
that if he were in their place he should go to The Hague as soon as they
had seen Rotterdam, and make it their headquarters for the exploration of
the whole country.
"You can't realize how little it is; you can get anywhere in an hour; the
difficulty is to keep inside of Holland when you leave any given point.
I envy you going there."
Mrs. Kenton inferred that he was going to stop in France, but if it were
part of his closeness not to tell, it was part of her pride not to ask.
She relented when he asked if he might get a map of his and prove the
littleness of Holland from it, and in his absence she could not well
avoid saying to Ellen, "He seems very pleasant."
"Yes; why not?" the girl asked.
"I don't know. Lottie is so against him."
"He was very kind when you were all sick."
"Well, you ought to know better than Lottie; you've seen him so much
more." Ellen was silent, and her mother advanced cautiously, "I suppose
he is very cultivated."
"How can I tell? I'm not."
"Why, Ellen, I think you are. Very few girls have read so much."
"Yes, but he wouldn't care if I were cultivated, Ha is like all the rest.
He would like to joke and laugh. Well, I think that is nice, too, and I
wish I could do it. But I never could, and now I can't try. I suppose
he wonders what makes me such a dead weight on you all."
"You know you're not that, Ellen! You musn't let yourself be morbid. It
hurts me to have you say such things."
"Well, I should like to tell him why, and see what he would say."
"Why not? If he is a minister he must have thought about all kinds of
things. Do you suppose he ever knew of a girl before who had been
through what I have? Yes, I would like to know what he would really
"I know what he ought to say! If he knew, he would say that no girl had
ever behaved more angelically."
"Do you think he would? Perhaps he would say that if I hadn't been so
proud and silly--Here he comes! Shall we ask him?"
Breckon approached with his map, and her mother gasped, thinking how
terrible such a thing would be if it could be; Ellen smiled brightly up
at him. "Will you take my chair? And then you can show momma your map.
I am going down," and while he was still protesting she was gone.
"Miss Kenton seems so much better than she did the first day," he said,
as he spread the map out on his knees, and gave Mrs. Kenton one end to
"Yes," the mother assented, as she bent over to look at it.
She followed his explanation with a surface sense, while her nether mind
was full of the worry of the question which Ellen had planted in it.
What would such a man think of what she had been through? Or, rather,
how would he say to her the only things that in Mrs. Kenton's belief he
could say? How could the poor child ever be made to see it in the light
of some mind not colored with her family's affection for her? An
immense, an impossible longing possessed itself of the mother's heart,
which became the more insistent the more frantic it appeared. She
uttered "Yes" and "No" and "Indeed" to what he was saying, but all the
time she was rehearsing Ellen's story in her inner sense. In the end she
remembered so little what had actually passed that her dramatic reverie
seemed the reality, and when she left him she got herself down to her
state-room, giddy with the shame and fear of her imaginary self-betrayal.
She wished to test the enormity, and yet not find it so monstrous, by
submitting the case to her husband, and she could scarcely keep back her
impatience at seeing Ellen instead of her father.
"Momma, what have you been saying to Mr. Breckon about me?"
"Nothing," said Mrs. Kenton, aghast at first, and then astonished to
realize that she was speaking the simple truth. "He said how much better
you were looking; but I don't believe I spoke a single word. We were
looking at the map."
"Very well," Ellen resumed. "I have been thinking it all over, and now I
have made up my mind."
She paused, and her mother asked, tremulously, "About what, Ellen?"
"You know, momma. I see all now. You needn't be afraid that I care
anything about him now," and her mother knew that she meant Bittridge,
"or that I ever shall. That's gone forever. But it's gone," she added,
and her mother quaked inwardly to hear her reason, "because the wrong and
the shame was all for me--for us. That's why I can forgive it, and
forget. If we had done anything, the least thing in the world, to
revenge ourselves, or to hurt him, then--Don't you see, momma?"
"I think I see, Ellen."
"Then I should have to keep thinking about it, and what we had made him
suffer, and whether we hadn't given him some claim. I don't wish ever to
think of him again. You and poppa were so patient and forbearing, all
through; and I thank goodness now for everything you put up with; only I
wish I could have borne everything myself."
"You had enough to bear," Mrs. Kenton said, in tender evasion.
"I'm glad that I had to bear so much, for bearing it is what makes me
free now." She went up to her mother and kissed her, and gazed into her
face with joyful, tearful looks that made her heart sink.
Mrs. Kenton did not rest till she had made sure from Lottie and Boyne
that neither of them had dropped any hint to Ellen of what happened to
Bittridge after his return to Tuskingum. She did not explain to them why
she was so very anxious to know, but only charged them the more solemnly
not to let the secret, which they had all been keeping from Ellen, escape
They promised, but Lottie said, "She's got to know it some time, and I
should think the sooner the better."
"I will be judge of that, Lottie," said her mother, and Boyne seized his
chance of inculpating her with his friend, Mr. Pogis. He said she was
carrying on awfully with him already; and an Englishman could not
understand, and Boyne hinted that he would presume upon her American
"Well, if he does, I'll get you to cowhide him, Boyne," she retorted, and
left him fuming helplessly, while she went to give the young Englishman
an opportunity of resuming the flirtation which her mother had
With her husband Mrs. Kenton found it practicable to be more explicit.
"I haven't had such a load lifted off my heart since I don't know when.
It shows me what I've thought all along: that Ellen hasn't really cared
anything for that miserable thing since he first began going with Mrs.
Uphill a year ago. When he wrote that letter to her in New York she
wanted to be sure she didn't, and when he offered himself and misbehaved
so to both of you, she was afraid that she and you were somehow to blame.
Now she's worked it out that no one else was wronged, and she is
satisfied. It's made her feel free, as she says. But, oh, dear me!"
Mrs. Kenton broke off, "I talk as if there was nothing to bind her; and
yet there is what poor Richard did! What would she say if she knew that?
I have been cautioning Lottie and Boyne, but I know it will come out
somehow. Do you think it's wise to keep it from her? Hadn't we better
tell her? Or shall we wait and see--"
Kenton would not allow to her or to himself that his hopes ran with hers;
love is not business with a man as it is with a woman; he feels it
indecorous and indelicate to count upon it openly, where she thinks it
simply a chance of life, to be considered like another. All that Kenton
would say was, "I see no reason for telling her just yet. She will have
to know in due time. But let her enjoy her freedom now."
"Yes," Mrs. Kenton doubtfully assented.
The judge was thoughtfully silent. Then he said: "Few girls could have
worked out her problem as Ellen has. Think how differently Lottie would
have done it!"
"Lottie has her good points, too," said Mrs. Kenton. "And, of course, I
don't blame Richard. There are all kinds of girls, and Lottie means no
more harm than Ellen does. She's the kind that can't help attracting;
but I always knew that Ellen was attractive, too, if she would only find
it out. And I knew that as soon as anything worth while took up her mind
she would never give that wretch another thought."
Kenton followed her devious ratiocinations to a conclusion which he could
not grasp. "What do you mean, Sarah?"
"If I only," she explained, in terms that did not explain, "felt as sure
of him as I do about him!"
Her husband looked densely at her. "Bittridge?"
"No. Mr. Breckon. He is very nice, Rufus. Yes, he is! He's been
showing me the map of Holland, and we've had a long talk. He isn't the
way we thought--or I did. He is not at all clerical, or worldly. And he
appreciates Ellen. I don't suppose he cares so much for her being
cultivated; I suppose she doesn't seem so to him. But he sees how wise
she is--how good. And he couldn't do that without being good himself!
Rufus! If we could only hope such a thing. But, of course, there are
thousands after him!"
"There are not thousands of Ellens after him," said the judge, before he
could take time to protest. "And I don't want him to suppose that she is
after him at all. If he will only interest her and help her to keep her
mind off herself, it's all I will ask of him. I am not anxious to part
with her, now that she's all ours again."
"Of course," Mrs. Kenton soothingly assented. "And I don't say that she
dreams of him in any such way. She can't help admiring his mind. But
what I mean is that when you see how he appreciates her, you can't help
wishing he could know just how wise, and just how good she is. It did
seem to me as if I would give almost anything to have him know what she
had been through with that--rapscallion!"
"Oh, you may Sarah me! But I can tell you what, Mr. Kenton: I believe
that you could tell him every word of it, and only make him appreciate
her the more. Till you know that about Ellen, you don't know what a
character she is. I just ached to tell him!"
"I don't understand you, my dear," said Kenton. "But if you mean to tell
"Why, who could imagine doing such a thing? Don't you see that it is
impossible? Such a thing would never have come into my head if it hadn't
been for some morbid talk of Ellen's."
"Oh, about wanting to disgust him by telling him why she was such a
burden to us."
"She isn't a burden!"
"I am saying what she said. And it made me think that if such a person
could only know the high-minded way she had found to get out of her
trouble! I would like somebody who is capable of valuing her to value
her in all her preciousness. Wouldn't you be glad if such a man as he is
could know how and why she feels free at last?"
"I don't think it's necessary," said Kenton, haughtily, "There's only one
thing that could give him the right to know it, and we'll wait for that
first. I thought you said that he was frivolous."
"Boyne said that, and Lottie. I took it for granted, till I talked with
him to-day. He is light-hearted and gay; he likes to laugh and joke; but
he can be very serious when he wants to."
"According to all precedent," said the judge, glumly, "such a man ought
to be hanging round Lottie. Everybody was that amounted to anything in
"Oh, in Tuskingum! And who were the men there that amounted to anything?
A lot of young lawyers, and two students of medicine, and some railroad
clerks. There wasn't one that would compare with Mr. Breckon for a
"All the more reason why he can't really care for Ellen. Now see here,
Sarah! You know I don't interfere with you and the children, but I'm
afraid you're in a craze about this young fellow. He's got these friends
of his who have just turned up, and we'll wait and see what he does with
them. I guess he appreciates the young lady as much as he does Ellen."
Mrs. Kenton's heart went down. "She doesn't compare with Ellen!" she
"That's what we think. He may think differently."
Mrs. Kenton was silenced, but all the more she was determined to make
sure that Mr. Breckon was not interested in Miss Rasmith in any measure
or manner detrimental to Ellen. As for Miss Rasmith herself, Mrs. Kenton
would have had greater reason to be anxious about her behavior with Boyne
than Mr. Breckon. From the moment that the minister had made his two
groups of friends acquainted, the young lady had fixed upon Boyne as that
member of the Kenton group who could best repay a more intimate
friendship. She was polite to them all, but to Boyne she was flattering,
and he was too little used to deference from ladies ten years his senior
not to be very sensible of her worth in offering it. To be unremittingly
treated as a grown-up person was an experience so dazzling that his
vision was blinded to any possibilities in the behavior that formed it;
and before the day ended Boyne had possessed Miss Rasmith of all that it
was important for any fellow-being to know of his character and history.
He opened his heart to eyes that had looked into others before his, less
for the sake of exploiting than of informing himself. In the rare
intelligence of Miss Rasmith he had found that serious patience with his
problems which no one else, not Ellen herself, had shown, and after
trying her sincerity the greater part of the day he put it to the supreme
test, one evening, with a book which he had been reading. Boyne's
literature was largely entomological and zoological, but this was a work
of fiction treating of the fortunes of a young American adventurer, who
had turned his military education to account in the service of a German
princess. Her Highness's dominions were not in any map of Europe, and
perhaps it was her condition of political incognito that rendered her the
more fittingly the prey of a passion for the American head of her armies.
Boyne's belief was that this character veiled a real identity, and he
wished to submit to Miss Rasmith the question whether in the exclusive
circles of New York society any young millionaire was known to have taken
service abroad after leaving west Point. He put it in the form of a
scoffing incredulity which it was a comfort to have her take as if almost
hurt by his doubt. She said that such a thing might very well be, and
with rich American girls marrying all sorts of titles abroad, it was not
impossible for some brilliant young fellow to make his way to the steps
of a throne. Boyne declared that she was laughing at him, and she
protested that it was the last thing she should think of doing; she was
too much afraid of him. Then he began to argue against the case supposed
in the romance; he proved from the book itself that the thing could not
happen; such a princess would not be allowed to marry the American, no
matter how rich he was. She owned that she had not heard of just such an
instance, and he might think her very romantic; and perhaps she was; but
if the princess was an absolute princess, such as she was shown in that
story, she held that no power on earth could keep her from marrying the
young American. For herself she did not see, though, how the princess
could be in love with that type of American. If she had been in the
princess's place she should have fancied something quite different. She
made Boyne agree with her that Eastern Americans were all, more or less,
Europeanized, and it stood to reason, she held, that a European princess
would want something as un-European as possible if she was falling in
love to please herself. They had some contention upon the point that the
princess would want a Western American; and then Miss Rasmith, with a
delicate audacity, painted an heroic portrait of Boyne himself which he
could not recognize openly enough to disown; but he perceived
resemblances in it which went to his head when she demurely rose, with a
soft "Good-night, Mr. Kenton. I suppose I mustn't call you Boyne?"
"Oh yes, do!" he entreated. "I'm-I'm not grown up yet, you know."
"Then it will be safe," she sighed. "But I should never have thought of
that. I had got so absorbed in our argument. You are so logical, Mr.
Kenton--Boyne, I mean--thank you. You must get it from your father. How
lovely your sister is!"
"Well, no. I meant the other one. But Miss Kenton is beautiful, too.
You must be so happy together, all of you." She added, with a rueful
smile, "There's only one of me! Good-night."
Boyne did not know whether he ought not in humanity, if not gallantry, to
say he would be a brother to her, but while he stood considering, she put
out a hand to him so covered with rings that he was afraid she had hurt
herself in pressing his so hard, and had left him before he could decide.
Lottie, walking the deck, had not thought of bidding Mr. Pogis good-
night. She had asked him half a dozen times how late it was, and when he
answered, had said as often that she knew better, and she was going below
in another minute. But she stayed, and the flow of her conversation
supplied him with occasion for the remarks of which he seldom varied the
formula. When she said something too audacious for silent emotion, he
called out, "Oh, I say!" If she advanced an opinion too obviously
acceptable, or asked a question upon some point where it seemed to him
there could not be two minds, he was ready with the ironical note, "Well,
rather!" At times she pressed her studies of his character and her
observations on his manner and appearance so far that he was forced to
protest, "You are so personal!" But these moments were rare; for the
most part, "Oh I say!" and "Well, rather!" perfectly covered the
ground. He did not generally mind her parody of his poverty of phrase,
but once, after she had repeated "Well rather!" and "Oh, I say!"
steadily at everything he said for the whole round of the promenade they
were making, he intimated that there were occasions when, in his belief,
a woman's abuse of the freedom generously allowed her sex passed the
point of words.
"And when it passes the point of words" she taunted him, "what do you
"You will see," he said, "if it ever does," and Lottie felt justified by
her inference that he was threatening to kiss her, in answering:
"And if I ever SEE, I will box your ears."
"Oh, I say!" he retorted. "I should like to have you try."
He had ideas of the rightful mastery of a man in all things, which she
promptly pronounced brutal, and when he declared that his father's
conduct towards his wife and children was based upon these ideas, she
affirmed the superiority of her own father's principles and behavior.
Mr. Pogis was too declared an admirer of Judge Kenton to question his
motives or method in anything, and he could only generalize, "The
Americans spoil their women."
"Well, their women are worth it," said Lottie, and after allowing the
paradox time to penetrate his intelligence, he cried out, in a glad
"Oh, I SAY!"
At the moment Boyne's intellectual seance with Miss Rasmith was coming to
an end. Lottie had tacitly invited Mr. Pogis to prolong the comparison
of English and American family life by stopping in front of a couple of
steamer-chairs, and confessing that she was tired to death. They sat
down, and he told her about his mother, whom, although his father's
subordinate, he seemed to be rather fonder of. He had some elder
brothers, most of them in the colonies, and he had himself been out to
America looking at something his father had found for him in Buffalo.
"You ought to come to Tuskingum," said Lottie.
"Is that a large place?" Mr. Pogis asked. "As large as Buffalo?"
"Well, no," Lottie admitted. "But it's a growing place. And we have the
best kind of times."
"What kind?" The young man easily consented to turn the commercial into
a social inquiry.
"Oh, picnics, and river parties, and buggy-rides, and dances."
"I'm keen on dancing," said Mr. Pogis. "I hope they'll give us a dance
on board. Will you put me down for the first dance?"
"I don't care. Will you send me some flowers? The steward must have
some left in the refrigerator."
"Well, rather! I'll send you a spray, if he's got enough."
"A spray? What's a spray?"
"Oh, I say! My sister always wears one. It's a long chain of flowers
reachin' from your shoulder diagonally down to your waist."
Does your sister always have her sprays sent to her?"
"Well, rather! Don't they send flowers to girls for dances in the
"Well, rather! Didn't I just ask you?"
This was very true, and after a moment of baffle Mr. Pogis said, in
generalization, "If you go with a young lady in a party to the theatre
you send her a box of chocolates."
"Only when you go to theatre! I couldn't get enough, then, unless you
asked me every night," said Lottie, and while Mr. Pogis was trying to
choose between "Oh, I say!" and something specific, like, "I should like
to ask you every night," she added, "And what would happen if you sent a
girl a spray for the theatre and chocolates for a dance? Wouldn't it jar
Now, indeed, there was nothing for him but to answer, "Oh, I say!"
"Well, say, then! Here comes Boyne, and I must go. Well, Boyne," she
called, from the dark nook where she sat, to her brother as he stumbled
near, with his eyes to the stars, "has the old lady retired?"
He gave himself away finely. "What old lady!"
"Well, maybe at your age you don't consider her very old. But I don't
think a boy ought to sit up mooning at his grandmother all night. I know
Miss Rasmith's no relation, if that's what you're going to say!"
"Oh, I say!" Mr. Pogis chuckled. "You are so personal."
"Well, rather!" said Lottie, punishing his presumption. "But I don't
think it's nice for a kid, even if she isn't."
"Kid!" Boyne ground, through his clenched teeth.
By this time Lottie was up out of her chair and beyond repartee in her
flight down the gangway stairs. She left the two youngsters confronted.
"What do you say to a lemon-squash?" asked Mr. Pogis, respecting his
friend's wounded dignity, and ignoring Lottie and her offence.
"I don't care if I do," said Boyne in gloomy acquiescence.
Few witnesses of the fact that Julia Rasmith and her mother had found
themselves on the same steamer with the Rev. Hugh Breckon would have been
of such a simple mind as to think they were there by accident, if they
had also been witnesses of their earlier history. The ladies could have
urged that in returning from California only a few days before the Amstel
sailed, and getting a state-room which had been unexpectedly given up,
they had some claim to a charitable interpretation of their behavior, but
this plea could not have availed them with any connoisseur of women.
Besides, it had been a matter of notoriety among such of Mr. Breckon's
variegated congregation as knew one another that Mrs. Rasmith had set her
heart on him, it Julia had not set her cap for him. In that pied flock,
where every shade and dapple of doubt, from heterodox Jew to agnostic
Christian, foregathered, as it has been said, in the misgiving of a
blessed immortality, the devotion of Mrs. Rasmith to the minister had
been almost a scandal. Nothing had saved the appearance from this
character but Mr. Breckon's open acceptance of her flatteries and
hospitalities; this was so frank, and the behavior of Julia herself so
judicious under the circumstances, that envy and virtue were, if not
equally silenced, equally baffled. So far from pretending not to see her
mother's manoeuvres, Julia invited public recognition of them; in the way
of joking, which she kept within the limits of filial fondness, she made
fun of her mother's infatuation to Breckon himself, and warned him
against the moment when her wiles might be too much for him. Before
other people she did not hesitate to save him from her mother, so that
even those who believed her in the conspiracy owned that no girl could
have managed with more cleverness in a situation where not every one
would have refused to be placed. In this situation Julia Rasmith had the
service of a very clear head, and as was believed by some, a cool heart;
if she and her mother had joint designs upon the minister, hers was the
ambition, and her mother's the affection that prompted them. She was a
long, undulant girl, of a mixed blondness that left you in doubt, after
you had left her, whether her hair or her complexion were not of one
tint; but her features were good, and there could be no question of her
captivating laugh, and her charming mouth, which she was always pulling
down with demure irony. She was like her mother in her looks, but her
indolent, droning temperament must have been from her father, whose
memory was lost in that antiquity which swallows up the record of so many
widows' husbands, and who could not have left her what was left of her
mother's money, for none of it had ever been his. It was still her
mother's, and it was supposed to be the daughter's chief attraction.
There must, therefore, have been a good deal of it, for those who were
harshest with the minister did not believe that a little money would
attract him. Not that they really thought him mercenary; some of his
people considered him gay to the verge of triviality, but there were none
that accused him of insincerity. They would have liked a little more
seriousness in him, especially when they had not much of their own, and
would have had him make up in severity of behavior for what he lacked,
and what they wished him to lack, in austerity of doctrine.
The Amstel had lost so much time in the rough weather of her first days
out that she could not make it up with her old-fashioned single screw.
She was at best a ten-day boat, counting from Sandy Hook to Boulogne, and
she had not been four days out when she promised to break her record for
slowness. Three days later Miss Rasmith said to Breckon, as he took the
chair which her mother agilely abandoned to him beside her: "The head
steward says it will be a twelve-day trip, end our bedroom steward thinks
more. What is the consensus of opinion in the smoking-room? Where are
you going, mother? Are you planning to leave Mr. Breckon and me alone
again? It isn't necessary. We couldn't get away from each other if we
tried, and all we ask--Well, I suppose age must he indulged in its
little fancies," she called after Mrs. Rasmith.
Breckon took up the question she had asked him. "The odds are so heavily
in favor of a fifteen-days' run that there are no takers."
"Now you are joking again," she said. "I thought a sea-voyage might make
"It has been tried before. Besides, it's you that I want to be serious."
"What about? Besides, I doubt it."
"Oh! I thought you were going to say some one else."
"No, I think that is very well settled."
"You'll never persuade my mother," said Miss Rasmith, with a low,
"But if you are satisfied--"
"She will have to resign herself? Well, perhaps. But why do you wish me
to be serious about Boyne?"
"I have no doubt he amuses you. But that doesn't seem a very good reason
why you should amuse yourself with him."
"No? Why not?"
"Well, because the poor boy is in earnest; and you're not exactly--
"Why, how old is Boyne?" she asked, with affected surprise.
"About fifteen, I think," said Breckon, gravely.
"And I'm but a very few months past thirty. I don't see the great
disparity. But he is merely a brother to me--an elder brother--and he
gives me the best kind of advice."
"I dare say you need it, but all the same, I am afraid you are putting
ideas into his head."
"Well, if he began it? If he put them in mine first?"
She was evidently willing that he should go further, and create the
common ground between them that grows up when one gives a reproof and the
other accepts it; but Breckon, whether he thought that he had now done
his duty, and need say no more, or because he was vexed with her, left
"Mrs. Rasmith says you are going to Switzerland for the rest of the
"Yes, to Montreux. Are you going to spend it in Paris?"
"I'm going to Paris to see. I have had some thoughts of Etretat; I have
"I wish that I could go to the sea-side. But this happens to be one of
the summers when nothing but mountains can save my mother's life. Shall
you get down to Rome before you go back?"
"I don't know. If I sail from Naples I shall probably pass through
"You had better stop off. We shall be there in November, and they say
Rome is worth seeing," she laughed demurely. "That is what Boyne
understands. He's promised to use his influence with his family to let
him run down to see us there, if he can't get them all to come. You
might offer to personally conduct them."
"Yes." said Breckon, with the effect of cloture. "Have you made many
acquaintances an board?"
"What! Two lone women? You haven't introduced us to any but the
Kentons. But I dare say they are the best. The judge is a dear, and
Mrs. Kenton is everything that is motherly and matronly. Boyne says she
is very well informed, and knows all about the reigning families. If he
decides to marry into them, she can be of great use in saving him from a
mesalliance. I can't say very much for Miss Lottie. Miss Lottie seems
to me distinctly of the minx type. But that poor, pale girl is adorable.
I wish she liked me!"
"What makes you think she doesn't like you?" Breckon asked.
"What? Women don't require anything to convince them that other women
can't bear them. They simply know it. I wonder what has happened to
"Why do you think anything has happened to her?"
"Why? Well, girls don't have that air of melanholy absence for nothing.
She is brooding upon something, you may be sure. But you have had so
many more opportunities than I! Do you mean that you haven't suspected a
tragical past far her?"
"I don't know," said Breckon, a little restively, "that I have allowed
myself to speculate about her past."
"That is, you oughtn't to have allowed yourself to do so. Well, there I
agree with you. But a woman may do so without impertinence, and I am
sure that Miss Kenton has a story. I have watched her, and her face has
told me everything but the story."
Breckon would not say that some such revelation had been made to him, and
in the absence of an answer from him Miss Rasmith asked, "Is she
"Like her mother."
"Oh! I should say she had read a good dial. And she's bookish, yes, in
a simple-hearted kind of way."
"She asks you if you have read 'the book of the year,' and whether you
don't think the heroine is a beautiful character?"
"Not quite so bad as that. But if you care to be serious about her!"
"Oh, I do!"
"I doubt it. Then, I should say that she seems to have grown up in a
place where the interests are so material that a girl who was disposed to
be thoughtful would be thrown back upon reading for her society more than
in more intellectual centres--if there are such things. She has been so
much with books that she does not feel odd in speaking of them as if they
were the usual topics of conversation. It gives her a certain
"And that is what constitutes her charm?"
"I didn't know that we were speaking of her charm."
"No, that is true. But I was thinking of it. She fascinates me. Are
they going to get off at Boulogne?"
"No, they are going on to Rotterdam."
"To be sure! Boyne told me. And are you going on with them?"
"I thought we talked of my going to Paris." Breckon looked round at her,
and she made a gesture of deprecation.
"Why, of course! How could I forget? But I'm so much interested in Miss
Kenton that I can't think of anything else."
"Not even of Miss Rasmith?"
"Not even of Miss Rasmith. I know that she has a history, and that it's
a sad one." She paused in ironical hesitation. "You've been so good as
to caution me about her brother--and I never can be grateful enough--and
that makes me almost free to suggest--"
She stopped again, and he asked, hardily, "What?"
"Oh, nothing. It isn't for me to remind my pastor, my ghostly adviser"--
she pulled down her mouth and glanced at him demurely--" and I will only
offer the generalization that a girl is never so much in danger of having
her heart broken as when she's had it broken--Oh, are you leaving me?"
she cried, as Breckon rose from his chair.
"Well, then, send Boyne to me." She broke into a laugh as he faltered.
"Are you going to sit down again? That is right. And I won't talk any
more about Miss Kenton."
"I don't mind talking of her," said Breckon. "Perhaps it will even be
well to do so if you are in earnest. Though it strikes me that you have
rather renounced the right to criticise me."
"Now, is that logical? It seems to me that in putting myself in the
attitude of a final friend at the start, and refusing to be anything
more, I leave established my right to criticise you on the firmest basis.
I can't possibly be suspected of interested motives. Besides, you've
just been criticizing me, if you want a woman's reason!"
"Well, go on."
"Why, I had finished. That's the amusing part. I should have supposed
that I could go on forever about Miss Kenton, but I have nothing to go
upon. She has kept her secret very well, and so have the rest of them.
You think I might have got it out of Boyne? Perhaps I might, but you
know I have my little scruples. I don't think it would he quite fair, or
"You are scrupulous. And I give you credit for having been more delicate
than I've been."
"You don't mean you've been trying to find it out!"
"Ah, now I'm not sure about the superior delicacy!"
"Oh, how good!" said Miss Rasmith. "What a pity you should be wasted
in a calling that limits you so much."
"You call it limiting? I didn't know but I had gone too far."
"Not at all! You know there's nothing I like so much as those little
"I had forgotten. Then you won't mind my saying that this surveillance
seems to me rather more than I have any right to from you."
"How exquisitely you put it! Who else could have told me to mind my own
business so delightfully? Well, it isn't my business. I acknowledge
that, and I spoke only because I knew you would be sorry if you had gone
too far. I remembered our promise to be friends."
She threw a touch of real feeling into her tone, and he responded, "Yes,
and I thank you for it, though it isn't easy."
She put out her hand to him, and, as he questioningly took it, she
pressed his with animation. "Of course it isn't! Or it wouldn't be for
any other man. But don't you suppose I appreciate that supreme courage
of yours? There is nobody else-nobody!--who could stand up to an
impertinence and turn it to praise by such humility."
"Don't go too far, or I shall be turning your praise to impertinence by
my humility. You're quite right, though, about the main matter. I
needn't suppose anything so preposterous as you suggest, to feel that
people are best left alone to outlive their troubles, unless they are of
the most obvious kind."
"Now, if I thought I had done anything to stop you from offering that
sort of helpfulness which makes you a blessing to everybody, I should
never forgive myself."
"Nothing so dire as that, I believe. But if you've made me question the
propriety of applying the blessing in all cases, you have done a very
Miss Rasmith was silent and apparently serious. After a moment she said,
"And I, for my part, promise to let poor little Boyne alone."
Breckon laughed. "Don't burlesque it! Besides, I haven't promised
"That is very true," said Miss Rasmith, and she laughed, too.
In one of those dramatic reveries which we all hold with ourselves when
fortune has pressingly placed us, Ellen Kenton had imagined it possible
for her to tell her story to the man who had so gently and truly tried to
be her friend. It was mostly in the way of explaining to him how she was
unworthy of his friendship that the story was told, and she fancied
telling it without being scandalized at violating the conventions that
should have kept her from even dreaming of such a thing. It was all
exalted to a plane where there was no question of fit or unfit in doing
it, but only the occasion; and he would never hear of the unworthiness
which she wished to ascribe to herself. Sometimes he mournfully left her
when she persisted, left her forever, and sometimes he refused, and
retained with her in a sublime kindness, a noble amity, lofty and serene,
which did not seek to become anything else. In this case she would break
from her reveries with self-accusing cries, under her breath, of "Silly,
silly! Oh, how disgusting!" and if at that moment Breckon were really
coming up to sit by her, she would blush to her hair, and wish to run
away, and failing the force for this, would sit cold and blank to his
civilities, and have to be skilfully and gradually talked back to self-
respect and self-tolerance.
The recurrence of these reveries and their consequence in her made it
difficult for him to put in effect the promise he had given himself in
Miss Rasmith's presence. If Ellen had been eager to welcome his coming,
it would have been very simple to keep away from her, but as she appeared
anxious to escape him, and had to be entreated, as it were, to suffer his
society, something better than his curiosity was piqued, though that was
piqued, too. He believed that he saw her lapsing again into that morbid
state from which he had seemed once able to save her, and he could not
help trying again. He was the more bound to do so by the ironical
observance of Miss Rasmith, who had to be defied first, and then
propitiated; certainly, when she saw him apparently breaking faith with
her, she had a right to some sort of explanation, but certainly also she
had no right to a blind and unreasoning submission from him. His
embarrassment was heightened by her interest in Miss Kenton, whom, with
an admirable show of now finding her safe from Breckon's attractions, she
was always wishing to study from his observation. What was she really
like? The girl had a perfect fascination for her; she envied him his
opportunities of knowing her, and his privileges of making that
melancholy face light up with that heart-breaking smile, and of banishing
that delicious shyness with which she always seemed to meet him. Miss
Rasmith had noticed it; how could she help noticing it?
Breckon wished to himself that she had been able to help noticing it, or
were more capable of minding her own business than she showed herself,
and his heart closed about Ellen with a tenderness that was dangerously
indignant. At the same time he felt himself withheld by Miss Rasmith's
witness from being all to the girl that he wished to be, and that he now
seemed to have been in those first days of storm, while Miss Rasmith and
her mother were still keeping their cabin. He foresaw that it would end
in Miss Rasmith's sympathetic nature not being able to withhold itself
from Ellen's need of cheerful companionship, and he was surprised, as
little as he was pleased, one morning, when he came to take the chair
beside her to find Miss Rasmith in it, talking and laughing to the girl,
who perversely showed herself amused. Miss Rasmith made as if to offer
him the seat, but he had to go away disappointed, after standing long
enough before them to be aware that they were suspending some topic while
He naturally supposed the topic to be himself, but it was not so, or at
least not directly so. It was only himself as related to the scolding he
had given Miss Rasmith for trifling with the innocence of Boyne, which
she wished Miss Kenton to understand as the effect of a real affection
for her brother. She loved all boys, and Boyne was simply the most
delightful creature in the world. She went on to explain how delightful
he was, and showed a such an appreciation of the infantile sweetness
mingled with the mature severity of Boyne's character that Ellen could
not help being pleased and won. She told some little stories of Boyne
that threw a light also their home life in Tuskingum, and Miss Rasmith
declared herself perfectly fascinated, and wished that she could go and
live in Tuskingum. She protested that she should not find it dull; Boyne
alone would be entertainment enough; and she figured a circumstance so
idyllic from the hints she had gathered, that Ellen's brow darkened in
silent denial, and Miss Rasmith felt herself, as the children say in the
game, very hot in her proximity to the girl's secret. She would have
liked to know it, but whether she felt that she could know it when she
liked enough, or whether she should not be so safe with Breckon in
knowing it, she veered suddenly away, and said that she was so glad to
have Boyne's family know the peculiar nature of her devotion, which did
not necessarily mean running away with him, though it might come to that.
She supposed she was a little morbid about it from what Mr. Breckon had
been saying; he had a conscience that would break the peace of a whole
community, though he was the greatest possible favorite, not only with
his own congregation, which simply worshipped him, but with the best
society, where he was in constant request.
It was not her fault if she did not overdo these history, but perhaps it
was all true about the number of girls who were ready and willing to
marry him. It might even be true, though she had no direct authority for
saying it, that he had made up his mind never to marry, and that was the
reason why he felt himself so safe in being the nicest sort of friend.
He was safe, Miss Rasmith philosophized, but whether other people were so
safe was a different question. There were girls who were said to be
dying for him; but of course those things were always said about a
handsome young minister. She had frankly taken him on his own ground,
from the beginning, and she believed that this was what he liked. At any
rate, they had agreed that they were never to be anything but the best of
friends, and they always had been.
Mrs. Kenton came and shyly took the chair on Miss Rasmith's other side,
and Miss Rasmith said they had been talking about Mr. Breckon, and she
repeated what she had been saying to Ellen. Mrs. Kenton assented more
openly than Ellen could to her praises, but when she went away, and her
daughter sat passive, without comment or apparent interest, the mother
drew a long, involuntary sigh.
"Do you like her, Ellen?"
"She tries to be pleasant, I think."
"Do you think she really knows much about Mr. Breckon?"
"Oh yes. Why not? She belongs to his church."
"He doesn't seem to me like a person who would have a parcel of girls
tagging after him."
"That is what they do in the East, Boyne says."
"I wish she would let Boyne alone. She is making a fool of the child.
He's round with her every moment. I think she ought to be ashamed, such
an old thing!"
Ellen chose to protest, or thought it fair to do so. "I don't believe
she is doing him any harm. She just lets him talk out, and everybody
else checks him up so. It was nice of her to come and talk with me, when
we had all been keeping away from her. Perhaps he sent her, though. She
says they have always been such good friends because she wouldn't be
anything else from the beginning."
"I don't see why she need have told you that."
"Oh, it was just to show he was run after. I wonder if he thinks we are
running after him? Momma, I am tired of him! I wish he wouldn't speak
to me any more."
"Why! do you really dislike him, Ellen?"
"No, not dislike him. But it tires me to have him trying to amuse me.
Don't you understand?"
Mrs. Kenton said yes, she understood, but she was clear only of the fact
that Ellen seemed flushed and weak at that moment. She believed that it
was Miss Rasmith and not Mr. Breckon who was to blame, but she said:
"Well, you needn't worry about it long. It will only be a day or two now
till we get to Boulogne, and then he will leave us. Hadn't you better go
down now, and rest awhile in your berth? I will bring your things."
Ellen rose, pulling her wraps from her skirts to give them to her mother.
A voice from behind said between their meeting shoulders: "Oh, are you
going down? I was just coming to beg Miss Kenton to take a little walk
with me," and they looked round together and met Breckon's smiling face.
"I'm afraid," Mrs. Kenton began, and then, like a well-trained American
mother, she stopped and left the affair to her daughter.
"Do you think you can get down with them, momma?" the girl asked, and
somehow her mother's heart was lightened by her evasion, not to call it
uncandor. It was at least not morbid, it was at least like other girls,
and Mrs. Kenton imparted what comfort there was in it to the judge, when
he asked where she had left Ellen.
"Not that it's any use," she sighed, when she had seen him share it with
a certain shamefacedness. "That woman has got her grip on him, and she
doesn't mean to let go."
Kenton understood Miss Rasmith by that woman; but he would not allow
himself to be so easily cast down. This was one of the things that
provoked Mrs. Kenton with him; when he had once taken hope he would not
abandon it without reason. "I don't see any evidence of her having her
grip on him. I've noticed him, and he doesn't seem attentive to her.
I should say he tried to avoid her. He certainly doesn't avoid Ellen."
"What are you thinking of, Rufus?"
"What are you? You know we'd both be glad if he fancied her."
"Well, suppose we would? I don't deny it. He is one of the most
agreeable gentlemen I ever saw; one of the kindest and nicest."
"He's more than that," said the judge. "I've been sounding him on
various points, and I don't see where he's wrong. Of course, I don't
know much about his religious persuasion, if it is one, but I think I'm a
pretty fair judge of character, and that young man has character. He
isn't a light person, though he likes joking and laughing, and he
"Yes, so do we. And there's about as much prospect of his marrying her.
Rufus, it's pretty hard! She's just in the mood to be taken with him,
but she won't let herself, because she knows it's of no use. That Miss
Rasmith has been telling her how much he is run after, and I could see
that that settled it for Ellen as plainly as if she said so. More
plainly, for there's enough of the girl in her to make her say one thing
when she means another. She was just saying she was sick of him, and
never wanted to speak to him again, when he came up and asked her to
walk, and she went with him instantly. I knew what she meant. She
wasn't going to let him suppose that anything Miss Rasmith had said was
going to change her."
"Well, then," said the judge, "I don't see what you're scared at."
I'm not SCARED. But, oh, Rufus! It can't come to anything! There isn't
time!" An hysterical hope trembled in her asseveration of despair that
made him smile.
"I guess if time's all that's wanted--"
"He is going to get off at Boulogne."
"Well, we can get off there, too."
"Rufus, if you dare to think of such a thing!"
"I don't. But Europe isn't so big but what he can find us again if he
"Ah, if he wants to!"
Ellen seemed to have let her mother take her languor below along with the
shawls she had given her. Buttoned into a close jacket, and skirted
short for the sea, she pushed against the breeze at Breckon's elbow with
a vigor that made him look his surprise at her. Girl-like, she took it
that something was wrong with her dress, and ran herself over with an
Then he explained: "I was just thinking how much you were like Miss
Lottie-if you'll excuse my being so personal. And it never struck me
"I didn't suppose we looked alike," said Ellen.
"No, certainly. I shouldn't have taken you for sisters. And yet, just
now, I felt that you were like her. You seem so much stronger this
morning--perhaps it's that the voyage is doing you good. Shall you be
sorry to have it end?"
"Shall you? That's the way Lottie would answer."
Breckon laughed. "Yes, it is. I shall be very sorry. I should be
willing to have it rough again, it that would make it longer. I liked
it's being rough. We had it to ourselves." He had not thought how that
sounded, but if it sounded particular, she did not notice it.
She merely said, "I was surprised not to be seasick, too."
"And should you be willing to have it rough again?"
"You wouldn't see anything more of your friends, then."
"Ah, yes; Miss Rasmith. She is a great talker, Did you find her
"She was very interesting."
"Yes? What did she talk about?"
Ellen realized the fact too late to withhold "Why, about you."
"And was that what made her interesting?"
"Now, what would Lottie say to such a thing as that?" asked Ellen,
"Something terribly cutting, I'm afraid. But don't you! From you I
don't want to believe I deserve it, no matter what Miss Rasmith said me."
"Oh, she didn't say anything very bad. Unless you mind being a universal
"Well, it makes a man out rather silly."
"But you can't help that."
"Now you remind me of Miss Lottie again!"
"But I didn't mean that," said Ellen, blushing and laughing. "I hope you
wouldn't think I could be so pert."
"I wouldn't think anything that wasn't to your praise," said Breckon, and
a pause ensued, after which the words he added seemed tame and flat.
"I suspect Miss Rasmith has been idealizing the situation. At any rate,
I shouldn't advise you to trust her report implicitly. I'm at the head
of a society, you know, ethical or sociological, or altruistic, whatever
you choose to call it, which hasn't any very definite object of worship,
and yet meets every Sunday for a sort of worship; and I have to be in the
pulpit. So you see?"
Ellen said, "I think I understand," with a temptation to smile at the
ruefulness of his appeal.
Breckon laughed for her. "That's the mischief and the absurdity of it.
But it isn't so bad as it seems. They're really most of them hard-headed
people; and those that are not couldn't make a fool of a man that nature
hadn't begun with. Still, I'm not very well satisfied with my work among
them--that is, I'm not satisfied with myself." He was talking soberly
enough, and he did not find that she was listening too seriously. "I'm
going away to see whether I shall come back." He looked at her to make
sure that she had taken his meaning, and seemed satisfied that she had.
"I'm not sure that I'm fit for any sort of ministry, and I may find the
winter in England trying to find out. I was at school in England, you
Ellen confessed that she had not known that.
"Yes; I suppose that's what made me seem 'so Englishy' the first day to
Miss Lottie, as she called it. But I'm straight enough American as far
as parentage goes. Do you think you will be in England-later?"
"I don't know. If poppa gets too homesick we will go back in the fall."
"Miss Kenton," said the young man, abruptly, "will you let me tell you
how much I admire and revere your father?"
Tears came into her eyes and her throat swelled. "But you don't know,"
she begun; and then she stopped.
"I have been wanting to submit something to his judgment; but I've been
afraid. I might seem to be fishing for his favor."
"Poppa wouldn't think anything that was unjust," said Ellen, gravely.
"Ah," Breckon laughed, "I suspect that I should rather have him unjust.
I wish you'd tell me what he would think."
"But I don't know what it is," she protested, with a reflected smile.
"I was in hopes Miss Rasmith might have told you. Well, it is simply
this, and you will see that I'm not quite the universal favorite she's
been making you fancy me. There is a rift in my lute, a schism in my
little society, which is so little that I could not have supposed there
was enough of it to break in two. There are some who think their
lecturer--for that's what I amount to--ought to be an older, if not a
graver man. They are in the minority, but they're in the right, I'm
afraid; and that's why I happen to be here telling you all this. It's
a question of whether I ought to go back to New York or stay in London,
where there's been a faint call for me." He saw the girl listening
devoutly, with that flattered look which a serious girl cannot keep out
of her face when a man confides a serious matter to her. "I might safely
promise to be older, but could I keep my word if I promised to be graver?
That's the point. If I were a Calvinist I might hold fast by faith, and
fight it out with that; or if I were a Catholic I could cast myself upon
the strength of the Church, and triumph in spite of temperament. Then it
wouldn't matter whether I was grave or gay; it might be even better if I
were gay. But," he went on, in terms which, doubtless, were not then for
the first time formulated in his mind, "being merely the leader of a sort
of forlorn hope in the Divine Goodness, perhaps I have no right to be so
The note of a sad irony in his words appealed to such indignation for him
in Ellen as she never felt for herself. But she only said, "I don't
believe Poppa could take that in the wrong way if you told him."
Breckon stared. "Yes your father! What would he say?"
"I can't tell you. But I'm sure he would know what you meant."
"And you," he pursued, "what should YOU say?"
"I? I never thought about such a thing. You mustn't ask me, if you're
serious; and if you're not--"
"But I am; I am deeply serious. I would like, to know how the case
strikes you. I shall be so grateful if you will tell me."
"I'm sorry I can't, Mr. Breckon. Why don't you ask poppa?"
"No, I see now I sha'n't be able. I feel too much, after telling you, as
if I had been posing. The reality has gone out of it all. And I'm
"You mustn't be," she said, quietly; and she added, "I suppose it would
be like a kind of defeat if you didn't go back?"
"I shouldn't care for the appearance of defeat," he said, courageously.
"The great question is, whether somebody else wouldn't be of more use in
"Nobody could be," said she, in a sort of impassioned absence, and then
coming to herself, "I mean, they wouldn't think so, I don't believe."
"Then you advise--"
"No, no! I can't; I don't. I'm not fit to have an opinion about such a
thing; it would be crazy. But poppa--"
They were at the door of the gangway, and she slipped within and left
him. His nerves tingled, and there was a glow in his breast. It was
sweet to have surprised that praise from her, though he could not have
said why he should value the praise or a girl of her open ignorance and
inexperience in everything that would have qualified her to judge him.
But he found himself valuing it supremely, and wonderingly wishing to be
worthy of it.
Ellen discovered her father with a book in a distant corner of the
dining-saloon, which he preferred to the deck or the library for his
reading, in such intervals as the stewards, laying and cleaning the
tables, left him unmolested in it. She advanced precipitately upon him,
and stood before him in an excitement which, though he lifted his dazed
eyes to it from his page, he was not entirely aware of till afterwards.
Then he realized that her cheeks were full of color, and her eyes of
light, and that she panted as if she had been running when she spoke.
"Poppa," she said, "there is something that Mr. Breckon wants to speak to
you--to ask you about. He has asked me, but I want you to see him, for I
think he had better tell you himself."
While he still stared at her she was as suddenly gone as she had come,
and he remained with his book, which the meaning had as suddenly left.
There was no meaning in her words, except as he put it into them, and
after he had got it in he struggled with it in a sort of perfunctory
incredulity. It was not impossible; it chiefly seemed so because it
seemed too good to be true; and the more he pondered it the more
possible, if not probable, it became. He could not be safe with it till
he had submitted it to his wife; and he went to her while he was sure of
repeating Ellen's words without varying from them a syllable.
To his astonishment, Mrs. Kenton was instantly convinced. "Why, of
course," she said, "it can't possibly mean anything else. Why should it
be so very surprising? The time hasn't been very long, but they've been
together almost every moment; and he was taken with her from the very
beginning--I could see that. Put on your other coat," she said, as she
dusted the collar of the coat the judge was wearing. "He'll be looking
you up, at once. I can't say that it's unexpected," and she claimed a
prescience in the matter which all her words had hitherto denied.
Kenton did not notice her inconsistency. "If it were not so exactly what
I wished," he said, "I don't know that I should be surprised at it
myself. Sarah, if I had been trying to imagine any one for Ellen, I
couldn't have dreamed of a person better suited to her than this young
man. He's everything that I could wish him to be. I've seen the
pleasure and comfort she took in his way from the first moment. He
seemed to make her forget--Do you suppose she has forgotten that
miserable wretch Do you think--"
"If she hadn't, could she be letting him come to speak to you? I don't
believe she ever really cared for Bittridge--or not after he began
flirting with Mrs. Uphill." She had no shrinking from the names which
Kenton avoided with disgust. "The only question for you is to consider
what you shall say to Mr. Breckon."
"Say to him? Why, of course, if Ellen has made up her mind, there's only
one thing I can say."
"Indeed there is! He ought to know all about that disgusting Bittridge
business, and you have got to tell him."
"Sarah, I couldn't. It is too humiliating. How would it do to refer him
to--You could manage that part so much better. I don't see how I could
keep it from seeming an indelicate betrayal of the poor child--"
"Perhaps she's told him herself," Mrs. Kenton provisionally suggested.
The judge eagerly caught at the notion. "Do you think so? It would be
like her! Ellen would wish him to know everything."
He stopped, and his wife could see that he was trembling with excitement.
"We must find out. I will speak to Ellen--"
"And--you don't think I'd better have the talk with him first?"
"Why, Rufus! You were not going to look him up?"
"No," he hesitated; but she could see that some such thing had been on
"Surely," she said, "you must be crazy!" But she had not the heart to
blight his joy with sarcasm, and perhaps no sarcasm would have blighted
"I merely wondered what I had better say in case he spoke to me before
you saw Ellen--that's all. Sarah! I couldn't have believed that
anything could please me so much. But it does seem as if it were the
assurance of Ellen's happiness; and she has deserved it, poor child! If
ever there was a dutiful and loving daughter--at least before that
wretched affair--she was one."
"She has been a good girl," Mrs. Kenton stoically admitted.
"And they are very well matched. Ellen is a cultivated woman. He never
could have cause to blush for her, either her mind or her manners, in any
circle of society; she would do him credit under any and all
circumstances. If it were Lottie--"
"Lottie is all right," said her mother, in resentment of his preference;
but she could not help smiling at it. "Don't you be foolish about Ellen.
I approve of Mr. Breckon as much as you do. But it's her prettiness and
sweetness that's taken his fancy, and not her wisdom, if she's got him."
"If she's got him?"
"Well, you know what I mean. I'm not saying she hasn't. Dear knows, I
don't want to! I feel just as you do about it. I think it's the
greatest piece of good fortune, coming on top of all our trouble with
her. I couldn't have imagined such a thing."
He was instantly appeased. "Are you going to speak with Ellen" he
"I will see. There's no especial hurry, is there?"
"Only, if he should happen to meet me--"
"You can keep out of his way, I reckon. Or You can put him off,
"Yes," Kenton returned, doubtfully. "Don't," he added, "be too blunt
with Ellen. You know she didn't say anything explicit to me."
"I think I will know how to manage, Mr. Kenton."
"Yes, of course, Sarah. I'm not saying that."
Breckon did not apparently try to find the judge before lunch, and at
table he did not seem especially devoted to Ellen in her father's jealous
eyes. He joked Lottie, and exchanged those passages or repartee with her
in which she did not mind using a bludgeon when she had not a rapier at
hand; it is doubtful if she was very sensible of the difference. Ellen
sat by in passive content, smiling now and then, and Boyne carried on a
dignified conversation with Mr. Pogis, whom he had asked to lunch at his
table, and who listened with one ear to the vigorous retorts of Lottie in
her combat with Breckon.
The judge witnessed it all with a grave displeasure, more and more
painfully apparent to his wife. She could see the impatience, the
gathering misgiving, in his face, and she perceived that she must not let
this come to conscious dissatisfaction with Breckon; she knew her husband
capable of indignation with trifling which would complicate the
situation, if it came to that. She decided to speak with Ellen as soon
as possible, and she meant to follow her to her state-room when they left
the table. But fate assorted the pieces in the game differently. Boyne
walked over to the place where Miss Rasmith was sitting with her mother;
Lottie and Mr. Pogis went off to practise duets together, terrible, four-
-handed torments under which the piano presently clamored; and Ellen
stood for a moment talked to by Mr. Breckon, who challenged her then for
a walk on deck, and with whom she went away smiling.
Mrs. Kenton appealed with the reflection of the girl's happiness in her
face to the frowning censure in her husband's; but Kenton spoke first.
"What does he mean?" he demanded, darkly. "If he is making a fool of
her he'll find that that game can't be played twice, with impunity.
Sarah, I believe I should choke him."
"Mr. Kenton!" she gasped, and she trembled in fear of him, even while
she kept herself with difficulty from shaking him for his folly. "Don't
say such a thing! Can't you see that they want to talk it over? If he
hasn't spoken to you it's because he wants to know how you took what she
said." Seeing the effect of these arguments, she pursued: "Will you
never have any sense? I will speak to Ellen the very minute I get her
alone, and you have just got to wait. Don't you suppose it's hard for
me, too? Have I got nothing to bear?"
Kenton went silently back to his book, which he took with him to the
reading-room, where from time to time his wife came to him and reported
that Ellen and Breckon were still walking up and down together, or that
they were sitting down talking, or were forward, looking over at the
prow, or were watching the deck-passengers dancing. Her husband received
her successive advices with relaxing interest, and when she had brought
the last she was aware that the affair was entirely in her hands with all
the responsibility. After the gay parting between Ellen and Breckon,
which took place late in the afternoon, she suffered an interval to
elapse before she followed the girl down to her state-room. She found
her lying in her berth, with shining eyes and glad, red cheeks; she was
smiling to herself.
"That is right, Ellen," her mother said. "You need rest after your long
"I'm not tired. We were sitting down a good deal. I didn't think how
late it was. I'm ever so much better. Where's Lottie?"
"Off somewhere with that young Englishman," said Mrs. Kenton, as if that
were of no sort of consequence. "Ellen," she added, abruptly, trying
within a tremulous smile to hide her eagerness, "what is this that Mr.
Breckon wants to talk with your father about?"
"Mr. Breckon? With poppa?"
"Yes, certainly. You told him this morning that Mr. Breckon--"
"Oh! Oh yes!" said Ellen, as if recollecting something that had slipped
her mind. "He wants poppa to advise him whether to go back to his
congregation in New York or not."
Mrs. Kenton sat in the corner of the sofa next the door, looking into the
girl's face on the pillow as she lay with her arms under her head. Tears
of defeat and shame came into her eyes, and she could not see the girl's
light nonchalance in adding:
"But he hasn't got up his courage yet. He thinks he'll ask him after
dinner. He says he doesn't want poppa to think he's posing. I don't
know what he means."
Mrs. Kenton did not speak at once. Her bitterest mortification was not
for herself, but for the simple and tender father-soul which had been so
tried already. She did not know how he would bear it, the
disappointment, and the cruel hurt to his pride. But she wanted to fall
on her knees in thankfulness that he had betrayed himself only to her.
She started in sudden alarm with the thought. "Where is he now--
"He's gone with Boyne down into the baggage-room."
Mrs. Kenton sank back in her corner, aware now that she would not have
had the strength to go to her husband even to save him from the awful
disgrace of giving himself away to Breckon. "And was that all?" she
"That he wanted to speak to your father about?"
She must make irrefragably sure, for Kenton's sake, that she was not
"Why, of course! What else? Why, momma! what are you crying about?"
"I'm not crying, child. Just some foolishness of your father's. He
understood--he thought--" Mrs. Kenton began to laugh hysterically. "But
you know how ridiculous he is; and he supposed--No, I won't tell you!"
It was not necessary. The girl's mind, perhaps because it was imbued
already with the subject, had possessed itself of what filled her
mother's. She dropped from the elbow on which she had lifted herself,
and turned her face into the pillow, with a long wail of shame.
Mrs. Kenton's difficulties in setting her husband right were indefinitely
heightened by the suspicion that the most unsuspicious of men fell into
concerning Breckon. Did Breckon suppose that the matter could be turned
off in that way? he stupidly demanded; and when he was extricated from
this error by his wife's representation that Breckon had not changed at
all, but had never told Ellen that he wished to speak with him of
anything but his returning to his society, Kenton still could not accept
the fact. He would have contended that at least the other matter must
have been in Breckon's mind; and when he was beaten from this position,
and convinced that the meaning they had taken from Ellen's words had
never been in any mind but their own, he fell into humiliation so abject
that he could hide it only by the hauteur with which he carried himself
towards Breckon when they met at dinner. He would scarcely speak to the
young man; Ellen did not come to the table; Lottie and Boyne and their
friend Mr. Pogis were dining with the Rasmiths, and Mrs. Kenton had to
be, as she felt, cringingly kind to Breckon in explaining just the sort
of temporary headache that kept her eldest daughter away. He was more
than ordinarily sympathetic and polite, but he was manifestly bewildered
by Kenton's behavior. He refused an hilarious invitation from Mrs.
Rasmith, when he rose from table, to stop and have his coffee with her on
his way out of the saloon. His old adorer explained that she had ordered
a small bottle of champagne in honor of its being the night before they
were to get into Boulogne, and that he ought to sit down and help her
keep the young people straight. Julia, she brokenly syllabled, with the
gay beverage bubbling back into her throat, was not the least use; she
was worse than any. Julia did not look it, in the demure regard which
she bent upon her amusing mother, and Breckon persisted in refusing. He
said he thought he might safely leave them to Boyne, and Mrs. Rasmith
said into her handkerchief, "Oh yes! Boyne!" and pressed Boyne's sleeve
with her knobbed and jewelled fingers.
It was evident where most of the small bottle had gone, but Breckon was
none the cheerfuller for the spectacle of Mrs. Rasmith. He could not
have a moment's doubt as to the sort of work he had been doing in New
York if she were an effect of it, and he turned his mind from the sad
certainty back to the more important inquiry as to what offence his wish
to advise with Judge Kenton could have conveyed. Ellen had told him in
the afternoon that she had spoken with her father about it, and she had
not intimated any displeasure or reluctance on him; but apparently he had
decided not to suffer himself to be approached.
It might be as well. Breckon had not been able to convince himself that
his proposal to consult Judge Kenton was not a pose. He had flashes of
owning that it was contemplated merely as a means of ingratiating himself
with Ellen. Now, as he found his way up and down among the empty
steamer-chairs, he was aware, at the bottom of his heart, of not caring
in the least for Judge Kenton's repellent bearing, except as it possibly,
or impossibly, reflected some mood of hers. He could not make out her
not coming to dinner; the headache was clearly an excuse; for some reason
she did not wish to see him, he argued, with the egotism of his
The logic of his conclusion was strengthened at breakfast by her
continued absence; and this time Mrs. Kenton made no apologies for her.
The judge was a shade less severe; or else Breckon did not put himself so
much in the way to be withheld as he had the night before. Boyne and
Lottie carried on a sort of muted scrap, unrebuked by their mother, who
seemed too much distracted in some tacit trouble to mind them. From time
to time Breckon found her eyes dwelling upon him wonderingly,
entreatingly; she dropped them, if she caught his, and colored.
In the afternoon it was early evident that they were approaching
Boulogne. The hatch was opened and the sailors began getting up the
baggage of the passengers who were going to disembark. It seemed a long
time for everybody till the steamer got in; those going ashore sat on
their hand-baggage for an hour before the tug came up to take, them off.
Mr. Pogis was among them; he had begun in the forenoon to mark the
approaching separation between Lottie and himself by intervals of
unmistakable withdrawal. Another girl might have cared, but Lottie did
not care, for her failure to get a rise out of him by her mockingly
varied "Oh, I say!" and "Well, rather!" In the growth of his dignified
reserve Mr. Pogis was indifferent to jeers. By whatever tradition of
what would or would not do he was controlled in relinquishing her
acquaintance, or whether it was in obedience to some imperative ideal, or
some fearful domestic influence subtly making itself felt from the coasts
of his native island, or some fine despair of equalling the imagined
grandeur of Lottie's social state in Tuskingum by anything he could show
her in England, it was certain that he was ending with Lottie then and
there. At the same time he was carefully defining himself from the
Rasmiths, with whom he must land. He had his state-room things put at an
appreciable distance, where he did not escape a final stab from Lottie.
"Oh, do give me a rose out of that," she entreated, in travestied
imploring, as he stood looking at a withered bouquet which the steward
had brought up with his rugs.
"I'm takin' it home," he explained, coldly.
"And I want to take a rose back to New York. I want to give it to a
friend of mine there."
Mr. Pogis hesitated. Then he asked, "A man?" "Well, rather!" said
He answered nothing, but looked definitively down at the flowers in his
"Oh, I say!" Lottie exulted.
Boyne remained fixed in fealty to the Rasmiths, with whom Breckon was
also talking as Mrs. Kenton came up with the judge. She explained how
sorry her daughter Ellen was at not being able to say goodbye; she was
still not at all well; and the ladies received her excuses with polite
patience. Mrs. Rasmith said she did not know what they should do without
Boyne, and Miss Rasmith put her arm across his shoulders and pulled him
up to her, and implored, "Oh, give him to me, Mrs. Kenton!"
Boyne stole an ashamed look at his mother, and his father said, with an
unbending to Breckon which must have been the effect of severe
expostulation from Mrs. Kenton, "I suppose you and the ladies will go to
"Why, no," Breckon said, and he added, with mounting confusion, "I--I had
arranged to keep on to Rotterdam. I was going to mention it."
"Keep on to Rotterdam!" Mrs. Rasmith's eyes expressed the greatest
"Why, of course, mother!" said her daughter. "Don't you know? Boyne
Boyne, after their parting, seized the first chance of assuring his
mother that he had not told Miss Rasmith that, for he had not known it,
and he went so far in her condemnation to wonder how she could say such
a thing. His mother said it was not very nice, and then suggested that
perhaps she had heard it from some one else, and thought it was he. She
acquitted him of complicity with Miss Rasmith in forbearing to contradict
her; and it seemed to her a fitting time to find out from Boyne what she
honestly could about the relation of the Rasmiths to Mr. Breckon. It was
very little beyond their supposition, which every one else had shared,
that he was going to land with them at Boulogne, and he must have changed
his mind very suddenly. Boyne had not heard the Rasmiths speak of it.
Miss Rasmith never spoke of Mr. Breckon at all; but she seemed to want to
talk of Ellen; she was always asking about her, and what was the matter
with her, and how long she had been sick.
"Boyne," said his mother, with a pang, "you didn't tell her anything
"Momma!" said the boy, in such evident abhorrence of the idea that she
rested tranquil concerning it. She paid little attention to what Boyne
told her otherwise of the Rasmiths. Her own horizon were so limited that
she could not have brought home to herself within them that wandering
life the Rasmiths led from climate to climate and sensation to sensation,
with no stay so long as the annually made in New York, where they
sometimes passed months enough to establish themselves in giving and
taking tea in a circle of kindred nomads. She conjectured as ignorantly
as Boyne himself that they were very rich, and it would not have
enlightened her to know that the mother was the widow of a California
politician, whom she had married in the sort of middle period following
upon her less mortuary survival of Miss Rasmith's father, whose name was
What Mrs. Kenton divined was that they had wanted to get Breckon, and
that so far as concerned her own interest in him they had wanted to get
him away from Ellen. In her innermost self-confidences she did not
permit herself the notion that Ellen had any right to him; but still it
was a relief to have them off the ship, and to have him left. Of all the
witnesses of the fact, she alone did not find it awkward. Breckon
himself found it very awkward. He did not wish to be with the Rasmiths,
but he found it uncomfortable not being with them, under the
circumstances, and he followed them ashore in tingling reveries of
explanation and apology. He had certainly meant to get off at Boulogne,
and when he had suddenly and tardily made up his mind to keep on to
Rotterdam, he had meant to tell them as soon as he had the labels on his
baggage changed. He had not meant to tell them why he had changed his
mind, and he did not tell them now in these tingling reveries. He did
not own the reason in his secret thoughts, for it no longer seemed a
reason; it no longer seemed a cause. He knew what the Rasmiths would
think; but he could easily make that right with his conscience, at least,
by parting with the Kentons at Rotterdam, and leaving them to find their
unconducted way to any point they chose beyond. He separated himself
uncomfortably from them when the tender had put off with her passengers
and the ship had got under way again, and went to the smoking-room, while
the judge returned to his book and Mrs. Kenton abandoned Lottie to her
own devices, and took Boyne aside for her apparently fruitless inquiries.
They were not really so fruitless but that at the end of them she could
go with due authority to look up her husband. She gently took his book
from him and shut it up. "Now, Mr. Kenton," she began, "if you don't go
right straight and find Mr. Breckon and talk with him, I--I don't know
what I will do. You must talk to him--"
"About Ellen?" the judge frowned.
"No, certainly not. Talk with him about anything that interests you. Be
pleasant to him. Can't you see that he's going on to Rotterdam on our
"Then I wish he wasn't. There's no use in it."
"No matter! It's polite in him, and I want you to show him that you
"Now see here, Sarah," said the judge, "if you want him shown that we
appreciate his politeness why don't you do it yourself?"
"I? Because it would look as if you were afraid to. It would look as if
we meant something by it."
"Well, I am afraid; and that's just what I'm afraid of. I declare, my
heart comes into my mouth whenever I think what an escape we had. I
think of it whenever I look at him, and I couldn't talk to him without
having that in my mind all the time. No, women can manage those things
better. If you believe he is going along on our account, so as to help
us see Holland, and to keep us from getting into scrapes, you're the one
to make it up to him. I don't care what you say to show him our
gratitude. I reckon we will get into all sorts of trouble if we're left
to ourselves. But if you think he's stayed because he wants to be with
"Oh, I don't KNOW what I think! And that's silly I can't talk to him.
I'm afraid it'll seem as if we wanted to flatter him, and goodness knows
we don't want to. Or, yes, we do! I'd give anything if it was true.
Rufus, do you suppose he did stay on her account? My, oh, my! If I
could only think so! Wouldn't it be the best thing in the world for the
poor child, and for all of us? I never saw anybody that I liked so much.
But it's too good to be true."
"He's a nice fellow, but I don't think he's any too good for Ellen."
"I'm not saying he is. The great thing is that he's good enough, and
gracious knows what will happen if she meets some other worthless fellow,
and gets befooled with him! Or if she doesn't take a fancy to some one,
and goes back to Tuskingum without seeing any one else she likes, there
is that awful wretch, and when she hears what Dick did to him--she's just
wrong-headed enough to take up with him again to make amends to him. Oh,
dear oh, dear! I know Lottie will let it out to her yet!"
The judge began threateningly, "You tell Lottie from me--"
"What?" said the girl herself, who had seen her father and mother
talking together in a remote corner of the music-room and had stolen
light-footedly upon them just at this moment.
"Lottie, child," said her mother, undismayed at Lottie's arrival in her
larger anxiety, "I wish you would try and be agreeable to Mr. Breckon.
Now that he's going on with us to Holland, I don't want him to think
we're avoiding him."
"Because you want to get him for Ellen?"
"Don't be impudent," said her father. "You do as your mother bids you."
"Be agreeable to that old Breckon? I think I see myself! I'd sooner
read! I'm going to get a book now." She left them as abruptly as she
had come upon them, and ran across to the bookcase, where she remained
two stepping and peering through the glass doors at the literature
within, in unaccustomed question concerning it.
"She's a case," said the judge, looking at her not only with relenting,
but with the pride in her sufficiency for all the exigencies of life
which he could not feel in Ellen. "She can take care of herself."
"Oh yes," Mrs. Kenton sadly assented, I don't think anybody will ever
make a fool of Lottie."
"It's a great deal more likely to be the other way," her father
"I think Lottie is conscientious," Mrs. Kenton protested. "She wouldn't
really fool with a man."
"No, she's a good girl," the judge owned.
"It's girls like Ellen who make the trouble and the care. They are too
good, and you have to think some evil in this world. Well!" She rose
and gave her husband back his book.
"Do you know where Boyne is?"
"No. Do you want him to be pleasant to Mr. Breckon?"
"Somebody has got to. But it would be ridiculous if nobody but Boyne
She did not find Boyne, after no very exhaustive search, and the boy was
left to form his bearing towards Breckon on the behavior of the rest of
his family. As this continued helplessly constrained both in his father
and mother, and voluntarily repellent in Lottie, Boyne decided upon a
blend of conduct which left Breckon in greater and greater doubt of his
wisdom in keeping on to Rotterdam. There was no good reason which he
would have been willing to give himself, from the beginning. It had been
an impulse, suddenly coming upon him in the baggage-room where he had
gone to get something out of his trunk, and where he had decided to have
the label of his baggage changed from the original destination at
Boulogne to the final port of the steamer's arrival. When this was once
done he was sorry, but he was ashamed to have the label changed back.
The most assignable motive for his act was his reluctance to go on to
Paris with the Rasmiths, or rather with Mrs. Rasmith; for with her
daughter, who was not a bad fellow, one could always manage. He was
quite aware of being safely in his own hands against any design of Mrs.
Rasmith's, but her machinations humiliated him for her; he hated to see
her going through her manoeuvres, and he could not help grieving for her
failures, with a sort of impersonal sympathy, all the more because he
disliked her as little as he respected her.
The motive which he did not assign to himself was that which probably
prevailed with him, though in the last analysis it was as selfish, no
doubt, as the one he acknowledged. Ellen Kenton still piqued his
curiosity, still touched his compassion. He had so far from exhausted
his wish or his power to befriend her, to help her, that he had still a
wholly unsatisfied longing to console her, especially when she drooped
into that listless attitude she was apt to take, with her face fallen and
her hands let lie, the back of one in the palm of the other, in her lap.
It was possibly the vision of this following him to the baggage-room,
when he went to open his trunk, that as much as anything decided him to
have the label changed on his baggage, but he did not own it then, and
still less did he own it now, when he found himself quite on his own
hands for his pains.
He felt that for some reason the Kentons were all avoiding him. Ellen,
indeed, did not take part, against him, unless negatively, for she had
appeared neither at lunch nor at dinner as the vessel kept on its way
after leaving Boulogne; and when he ventured to ask for her Mrs. Kenton
answered with embarrassment that she was not feeling very well. He asked
for her at lunch, but not at dinner, and when he had finished that meal
he went on the promenade-deck, and walked forlornly up and down, feeling
that he had been a fool.
Mrs. Kenton went below to her daughter's room, and found Ellen there on
the sofa, with her book shut on her thumb at the place where the twilight
had failed her.
"Ellen, dear," her mother said, "aren't you feeling well?"
"Yes, I'm well enough," said the girl, sensible of a leading in the
"Oh, nothing. Only--only I can't make your father behave naturally with
Mr. Breckon. He's got his mind so full of that mistake we both came so
near making that he can't think of anything else. He's so sheepish about
it that he can hardly speak to him or even look at him; and I must
confess that I don't do much better. You know I don't like to put myself
forward where your father is, and if I did, really I don't believe I
could make up my mouth to say anything. I did want Lottie to be nice to
him, but Lottie dislikes him so! And even Boyne--well, it wouldn't
matter about Boyne, if he didn't seem to be carrying out a sort of family
plan--Boyne barely answers him when he speaks to him. I don't know what
he can think." Ellen was a good listener, and Mrs. Kenton, having
begun, did not stop till she had emptied the bag. "I just know that he
didn't get off at Boulogne because he wanted to stay on with us, and
thought he could be useful to us at The Hague, and everywhere; and here
we're acting as ungratefully! Why, we're not even commonly polite to
him, and I know he feels it. I know that he's hurt."
Ellen rose and stood before the glass, into which he asked of her
mother's reflected face, while she knotted a fallen coil of hair into its
place, "Where is he?"
"I don't know. He went on deck somewhere."
Ellen put on her hat and pinned it, and put on her jacket and buttoned
it. Then she started towards the door. Her mother made way for her,
faltering, "What are you going to do, Ellen?"
"I am going to do right."
"Don't-catch cold!" her mother called after her figure vanishing down
the corridor, but the warning couched in these terms had really no
reference to the weather.
The girl's impulse was one of those effects of the weak will in her which
were apt to leave her short of the fulfilment of a purpose. It carried
her as her as the promenade, which she found empty, and she went and
leaned upon the rail, and looked out over the sorrowful North Sea, which
was washing darkly away towards where the gloomy sunset had been.
Steps from the other side of the ship approached, hesitated towards her,
and then arrested themselves. She looked round.
"Why, Miss Kenton!" said Breckon, stupidly.
"The sunset is over, isn't it?" she answered.
"The twilight isn't." Breckon stopped; then he asked, "Wouldn't you like
to take a little walk?"
"Yes," she answered, and smiled fully upon him. He had never known
before how radiant a smile she lead.
"Better have my arm. It's getting rather dark."
"Well." She put her hand on his arm and he felt it tremble there, while
she palpitated, "We are all so glad you could go on to Rotterdam. My
mother wanted me to tell you."
"Oh, don't speak of that," said Breckon, not very appositely. Presently
he forced a laugh, in order to add, with lightness, "I was afraid perhaps
I had given you all some reason to regret it!"
She said, "I was afraid you would think that--or momma was--and I
couldn't bear to have you."
"Well, then, I won't."
Breckon had answered with gayety, but his happiness was something beyond
gayety. He had really felt the exclusion from the Kentons in which he
had passed the day, and he had felt it the more painfully because he
liked them all. It may be owned that he liked Ellen best from the
beginning, and now he liked her better than ever, but even in the day's
exile he had not ceased to like each of them. They were, in their family
affection, as lovable as that sort of selfishness can make people. They
were very united and good to one another. Lottie herself, except in her
most lurid moments, was good to her brother and sister, and almost
invariably kind to her parents. She would not, Breckon saw, have brooked
much meddling with her flirtations from them, but as they did not offer
to meddle, she had no occasion to grumble on that score. She grumbled
when they asked her to do things for Ellen, but she did them, and though
she never did them without grumbling, she sometimes did them without
being asked. She was really very watchful of Ellen when it would least
have been expected, and sometimes she was sweet. She never was sweet
with Boyne, but she was often his friend, though this did not keep her
from turning upon him at the first chance to give him a little dig, or a
large one, for that matter. As for Boyne, he was a mass of helpless
sweetness, though he did not know it, and sometimes took himself for an
iceberg when he was merely an ice-cream of heroic mould. He was as
helplessly sweet with Lottie as with any one, and if he suffered keenly
from her treacheries, and seized every occasion to repay them in kind,
it was clearly a matter of conscience with him, and always for the good.
Their father and mother treated their squabbles very wisely, Breckon
thought. They ignored them as much as possible, and they recognized them
without attempting to do that justice between them which would have
rankled in both their breasts.
To a spectator who had been critical at first, Mr. and Mrs. Kenton seemed
an exemplary father and mother with Ellen as well as with their other
children. It is easy to be exemplary with a sick girl, but they
increasingly affected Breckon as exemplary with Ellen. He fancied that
they acted upon each other beneficially towards her. At first he had
foreboded some tiresome boasting from the father's tenderness, and some
weak indulgence of the daughter's whims from her mother; but there was
either never any ground for this, or else Mrs. Kenton, in keeping her
husband from boasting, had been obliged in mere consistency to set a
guard upon her own fondness.
It was not that. Ellen, he was more and more decided, would have abused
the weakness of either; if there was anything more angelic than her
patience, it was her wish to be a comfort to them, and, between the
caprices of her invalidism, to be a service. It was pathetic to see her
remembering to do things for them which Boyne and Lottie had forgotten,
or plainly shirked doing, and to keep the fact out of sight. She really
kept it out of sight with them, and if she did not hide it from so close
an observer as Breckon, that was more his fault than hers. When her
father first launched out in her praise, or the praise of her reading,
the young man had dreaded a rustic prig; yet she had never been a prig,
but simply glad of what book she had known, and meekly submissive to his
knowledge if not his taste. He owned that she had a right to her taste,
which he found almost always good, and accounted for as instinctive in
the absence of an imaginable culture in her imaginable ambient. So far
as he had glimpses of this, he found it so different from anything he had
known that the modest adequacy of Mrs. Kenton in the political
experiences of modern Europe, as well as the clear judgments of Kenton