Part 2 out of 5
Lydia stooped down to make closer acquaintance with the devoted birds.
They huddled themselves away from her in one corner of their prison,
and talked together in low tones of grave mistrust. "Poor things!"
she said. As a country girl, used to the practical ends of poultry,
she knew as well as the cook that it was the fit and simple destiny
of chickens to be eaten, sooner or later; and it must have been less
in commiseration of their fate than in self-pity and regret for the
scenes they recalled that she sighed. The hens that burrowed yesterday
under the lilacs in the door-yard; the cock that her aunt so often
drove, insulted and exclamatory, at the head of his harem, out
of forbidden garden bounds; the social groups that scratched and
descanted lazily about the wide, sunny barn doors; the anxious
companies seeking their favorite perches, with alarming outcries,
in the dusk of summer evenings; the sentinels answering each other
from farm to farm before winter dawns, when all the hills were
drowned in snow, were of kindred with these hapless prisoners.
Dunham was touched at Lydia's compassion. "Would you like--would you
like to feed them?" he asked by a happy inspiration. He turned to the
cook, with his gentle politeness: "There's no objection to our feeding
them, I suppose?"
"Laws, no!" said the cook. "Fats 'em up." He went inside, and
reappeared with a pan full of scraps of meat and crusts of bread.
"Oh, I say!" cried Dunham. "Haven't you got some grain, you know,
of some sort; some seeds, don't you know?"
"They will like this," said Lydia, while the cook stared in
perplexity. She took the pan, and opening the little door of the coop
flung the provision inside. But the fowls were either too depressed
in spirit to eat anything, or they were not hungry; they remained in
their corner, and merely fell silent, as if a new suspicion had been
roused in their unhappy breasts.
"Dey'll come, to it," observed the cook.
Dunham felt far from content, and regarded the poultry with silent
disappointment. "Are you fond of pets?" he asked, after a while.
"Yes, I used to have pet chickens when I was a little thing."
"You ought to adopt one of these," suggested Dunham. "That white one
is a pretty creature."
"Yes," said Lydia. "He looks as if he were Leghorn. Leghorn breed,"
she added, in reply to Dunham's look of inquiry. "He's a beauty."
"Let me get him out for you a moment!" cried the young man, in his
amiable zeal. Before Lydia could protest, or the cook interfere, he
had opened the coop-door and plunged his arm into the tumult which
his manoeuvre created within. He secured the cockerel, and drawing it
forth was about to offer it to Lydia, when in its struggles to escape
it drove one of its spurs into his hand. Dunham suddenly released it;
and then ensued a wild chase for its recapture, up and down the ship,
in which it had every advantage of the young man. At last it sprang
upon the rail; he put out his hand to seize it, when it rose with a
desperate screech, and flew far out over the sea. They watched the
suicide till it sank exhausted into a distant white-cap.
"Dat's gone," said the cook, philosophically. Dunham looked round.
Half the ship's company, alarmed by his steeple-chase over the deck,
were there, silently agrin.
Lydia did not laugh. When he asked, still with his habitual sweetness,
but entirely at random, "Shall we--ah--go below?" she did not answer
definitely, and did not go. At the same time she ceased to be so
timidly intangible and aloof in manner. She began to talk to Dunham,
instead of letting him talk to her; she asked him questions, and
listened with deference to what he said on such matters as the
probable length of the voyage and the sort of weather they were likely
to have. She did not take note of his keeping his handkerchief wound
round his hand, nor of his attempts to recur to the subject of his
mortifying adventure. When they were again quite alone, the cook's
respect having been won back through his ethnic susceptibility to
silver, she remembered that she must go to her room.
"In other words," said Staniford, after Dunham had reported the whole
case to him, "she treated your hurt vanity as if you had been her pet
schoolboy. She lured you away from yourself, and got you to talking
and thinking of other things. Lurella is deep, I tell you. What
consummate tacticians the least of women are! It's a pity that they
have to work so often in such dull material as men; they ought always
to have women to operate on. The youngest of them has more wisdom
in human nature than the sages of our sex. I must say, Lurella is
magnanimous, too. She might have taken her revenge on you for pitying
her yesterday when she sat in that warehouse door on the wharf. It
was rather fine in Lurella not to do it. What did she say, Dunham?
What did she talk about? Did she want to know?"
"No!" shouted Dunham. "She talked very well, like any young lady."
"Oh, all young ladies talk well, of course. But what did this one
say? What did she do, except suffer a visible pang of homesickness
at the sight of unattainable poultry? Come, you have represented
the interview with Miss Blood as one of great brilliancy."
"I haven't," said Dunham. "I have done nothing of the kind. Her
talk was like any pleasant talk; it was refined and simple, and--
"That is, it was in no way remarkable," observed Staniford, with a
laugh. "I expected something better of Lurella; I expected something
salient. Well, never mind. She's behaved well by you, seeing what
a goose you had made of yourself. She behaved like a lady, and I've
noticed that she eats with her fork. It often happens in the country
that you find the women practicing some of the arts of civilization,
while their men folk are still sunk in barbaric uses. Lurella, I see,
is a social creature; she was born for society, as you were, and I
suppose you will be thrown a good deal together. We're all likely to
be associated rather familiarly, under the circumstances. But I wish
you would note down in your mind some points of her conversation.
I'm really curious to know what a girl of her traditions thinks about
the world when she first sees it. Her mind must be in most respects
an unbroken wilderness. She's had schooling, of course, and she knows
her grammar and algebra; but she can't have had any cultivation. If
she were of an earlier generation, one would expect to find something
biblical in her; but you can't count upon a Puritanic culture now
among our country folks."
"If you are so curious," said Dunham, "why don't you study her mind,
"No, no, that wouldn't do," Staniford answered. "The light of your
innocence upon hers is invaluable. I can understand her better through
you. You must go on. I will undertake to make your peace with Miss
The young men talked as they walked the deck and smoked in the
starlight. They were wakeful after their long nap in the afternoon,
and they walked and talked late, with the silences that old friends
can permit themselves. Staniford recurred to his loss of money and his
Western projects, which took more definite form now that he had placed
so much distance between himself and their fulfillment. With half a
year in Italy before him, he decided upon a cattle-range in Colorado.
Then, "I should like to know," he said, after one of the pauses, "how
two young men of our form strike that girl's fancy. I haven't any
personal curiosity about her impressions, but I should like to know,
as an observer of the human race. If my conjectures are right, she's
never met people of our sort before."
"What sort of men has she been associated with?" asked Dunham.
"Well, I'm not quite prepared to say. I take it that it isn't exactly
the hobbledehoy sort. She has probably looked high,--as far up as the
clerk in the store. He has taken her to drive in a buggy Saturday
afternoons, when he put on his ready-made suit,--and looked very well
in it, too; and they've been at picnics together. Or may be, as she's
in the school-teaching line, she's taken some high-browed, hollow-
cheeked high-school principal for her ideal. Or it is possible that
she has never had attention from any one. That is apt to happen to
self-respectful girls in rural communities, and their beauty doesn't
save them. Fellows, as they call themselves, like girls that have what
they call go, that make up to them. Lurella doesn't seem of that kind;
and I should not be surprised if you were the first gentleman who had
ever offered her his arm. I wonder what she thought of you. She's
acquainted by sight with the ordinary summer boarder of North America;
they penetrate everywhere, now; but I doubt if she's talked with them
much, if at all. She must be ignorant of our world beyond anything we
"But how do you account for her being so well dressed?"
"Oh, that's instinct. You find it everywhere. In every little
village there is some girl who knows how to out-preen all the others.
I wonder," added Staniford, in a more deeply musing tone, "if she
kept from laughing at you out of good feeling, or if she was merely
overawed by your splendor."
"She didn't laugh," Dunham answered, "because she saw that it would
have added to my annoyance. My splendor had nothing to do with it."
"Oh, don't underrate your splendor, my dear fellow!" cried Staniford,
with a caressing ridicule that he often used with Dunham. "Of course,
_I_ know what a simple and humble fellow you are, but you've no
idea how that exterior of yours might impose upon the agricultural
imagination; it has its effect upon me, in my pastoral moods." Dunham
made a gesture of protest, and Staniford went on: "Country people
have queer ideas of us, sometimes. Possibly Lurella was afraid of
you. Think of that, Dunham,--having a woman afraid of you, for once
in your life! Well, hurry up your acquaintance with her, Dunham, or
I shall wear myself out in mere speculative analysis. I haven't the
_aplomb_ for studying the sensibilities of a young lady, and
catching chickens for her, so as to produce a novel play of emotions.
I thought this voyage was going to be a season of mental quiet, but
having a young lady on board seems to forbid that kind of repose. I
shouldn't mind a half dozen, but _one_ is altogether too many.
Poor little thing! I say, Dunham! There's something rather pretty
about having her with us, after all, isn't there? It gives a certain
distinction to our voyage. We shall not degenerate. We shall shave
every day, wind and weather permitting, and wear our best things."
They talked of other matters, and again Staniford recurred to Lydia:
"If she has any regrets for her mountain home,--though I don't see why
she should have,--I hope they haven't kept her awake. My far-away cot
on the plains is not going to interfere with my slumbers."
Staniford stepped to the ship's side, and flung the end of his
cigarette overboard; it struck, a red spark amidst the lurid
phosphorescence of the bubbles that swept backward from the vessel's
The weather held fine. The sun shone, and the friendly winds blew out
of a cloudless heaven; by night the moon ruled a firmament powdered
with stars of multitudinous splendor. The conditions inspired Dunham
with a restless fertility of invention in Lydia's behalf. He had heard
of the game of shuffle-board, that blind and dumb croquet, with which
the jaded passengers on the steamers appease their terrible leisure,
and with the help of the ship's carpenter he organized this pastime,
and played it with her hour after hour, while Staniford looked on
and smoked in grave observance, and Hicks lurked at a distance, till
Dunham felt it on his kind heart and tender conscience to invite him
to a share in the diversion. As his nerves recovered their tone, Hicks
showed himself a man of some qualities that Staniford would have liked
in another man: he was amiable, and he was droll, though apt to turn
sulky if Staniford addressed him, which did not often happen. He knew
more than Dunham of shuffle-board, as well as of tossing rings of rope
over a peg set up a certain space off in the deck,--a game which they
eagerly took up in the afternoon, after pushing about the flat wooden
disks all the morning. Most of the talk at the table was of the
varying fortunes of the players; and the yarn of the story-teller
in the forecastle remained half-spun, while the sailors off watch
gathered to look on, and to bet upon Lydia's skill. It puzzled
Staniford to make out whether she felt any strangeness in the
situation, which she accepted with so much apparent serenity.
Sometimes, in his frequently recurring talks with Dunham, he
questioned whether their delicate precautions for saving her feelings
were not perhaps thrown away upon a young person who played shuffle-
board and ring-toss on the deck of the Aroostook with as much self-
possession as she would have played croquet on her native turf at
"Their ideal of propriety up country is very different from ours,"
he said, beginning one of his long comments. "I don't say that it
concerns the conscience more than ours does; but they think evil of
different things. We're getting Europeanized,--I don't mean you,
Dunham; in spite of your endeavors you will always remain one of the
most hopelessly American of our species,--and we have our little
borrowed anxieties about the free association of young people. They
have none whatever; though they are apt to look suspiciously upon
married people's friendships with other people's wives and husbands.
It's quite likely that Lurella, with the traditions of her queer
world, has not imagined anything anomalous in her position. She may
realize certain inconveniences. But she must see great advantages in
it. Poor girl! How she must be rioting on the united devotion of cabin
and forecastle, after the scanty gallantries of a hill town peopled by
elderly unmarried women! I'm glad of it, for her sake. I wonder which
she really prizes most: your ornate attentions, or the uncouth homage
of those sailors, who are always running to fetch her rings and blocks
when she makes a wild shot. I believe I don't care and shouldn't
disapprove of her preference, whichever it was." Staniford frowned
before he added: "But I object to Hicks and his drolleries. It's
impossible for that little wretch to think reverently of a young girl;
it's shocking to see her treating him as if he were a gentleman."
Hicks's behavior really gave no grounds for reproach; and it was only
his moral mechanism, as Staniford called the character he constructed
for him, which he could blame; nevertheless, the thought of him gave
an oblique cast to Staniford's reflections, which he cut short by
saying, "This sort of worship is every woman's due in girlhood; but
I suppose a fortnight of it will make her a pert and silly coquette.
What does she say to your literature, Dunham?"
Dunham had already begun to lend Lydia books,--his own and
Staniford's,--in which he read aloud to her, and chose passages
for her admiration; but he was obliged to report that she had rather
a passive taste in literature. She seemed to like what he said was
good, but not to like it very much, or to care greatly for reading;
or else she had never had the habit of talking books. He suggested
this to Staniford, who at once philosophized it.
"Why, I rather like that, you know. We all read in such a literary
way, now; we don't read simply for the joy or profit of it; we expect
to talk about it, and say how it is this and that; and I've no doubt
that we're sub-consciously harassed, all the time, with an automatic
process of criticism. Now Lurella, I fancy, reads with the sense of
the days when people read in private, and not in public, as we do.
She believes that your serious books are all true; and she knows that
my novels are all lies--that's what some excellent Christians would
call the fiction even of George Eliot or of Hawthorne; she would be
ashamed to discuss the lives and loves of heroes and heroines who
never existed. I think that's first-rate. She must wonder at your
distempered interest in them. If one could get at it, I suppose the
fresh wholesomeness of Lurella's mind would be something delicious,
--a quality like spring water."
He was one of those men who cannot rest in regard to people they meet
till they have made some effort to formulate them. He liked to ticket
them off; but when he could not classify them, he remained content
with his mere study of them. His habit was one that does not promote
sympathy with one's fellow creatures. He confessed even that it
disposed him to wish for their less acquaintance when once he had
got them generalized; they became then collected specimens. Yet,
for the time being, his curiosity in them gave him a specious air of
sociability. He lamented the insincerity which this involved, but he
could not help it. The next novelty in character was as irresistible
as the last; he sat down before it till it yielded its meaning, or
suggested to him some analogy by which he could interpret it.
With this passion for the arrangement and distribution of his
neighbors, it was not long before he had placed most of the people on
board in what he called the psychology of the ship. He did not care
that they should fit exactly in their order. He rather preferred that
they should have idiosyncrasies which differentiated them from their
species, and he enjoyed Lydia's being a little indifferent about books
for this and for other reasons. "If she were literary, she would be
like those vulgar little persons of genius in the magazine stories.
She would have read all sorts of impossible things up in her village.
She would have been discovered by some aesthetic summer boarder, who
had happened to identify her with the gifted Daisy Dawn, and she would
be going out on the aesthetic's money for the further expansion of her
spirit in Europe. Somebody would be obliged to fall in love with her,
and she would sacrifice her career for a man who was her inferior,
as we should be subtly given to understand at the close. I think it's
going to be as distinguished by and by not to like books as it is not
to write them. Lurella is a prophetic soul; and if there's anything
comforting about her, it's her being so merely and stupidly pretty."
"She is not merely and stupidly pretty!" retorted Dunham. "She never
does herself justice when you are by. She can talk very well, and on
some subjects she thinks strongly."
"Oh, I'm sorry for that!" said Staniford. "But call me some time when
she's doing herself justice."
"I don't mean that she's like the women we know. She doesn't say witty
things, and she hasn't their responsive quickness; but her ideas are
her own, no matter how old they are; and what she says she seems to
be saying for the first time, and as if it had never been thought out
"That is what I have been contending for," said Staniford; "that is
what I meant by spring water. It is that thrilling freshness which
charms me in Lurella." He laughed. "Have you converted her to your
spectacular faith, yet?" Dunham blushed. "You have tried," continued
Staniford. "Tell me about it!"
"I will not talk with you on such matters," said Dunham, "till you
know how to treat serious things seriously."
"I shall know how when I realize that they are serious with you. Well,
I don't object to a woman's thinking strongly on religious subjects:
it's the only safe ground for her strong thinking, and even there
she had better feel strongly. Did you succeed in convincing her that
Archbishop Laud was a _saint incompris_, and the good King
Charles a blessed martyr."
Dunham did not answer till he had choked down some natural resentment.
He had, several years earlier, forsaken the pale Unitarian worship of
his family, because, Staniford always said, he had such a feeling for
color, and had adopted an extreme tint of ritualism. It was rumored at
one time, before his engagement to Miss Hibbard, that he was going to
unite with a celibate brotherhood; he went regularly into retreat at
certain seasons, to the vast entertainment of his friend; and, within
the bounds of good taste, he was a zealous propagandist of his faith,
of which he had the practical virtues in high degree. "I hope," he
said presently, "that I know how to respect convictions, even of
those adhering to the Church in Error."
Staniford laughed again. "I see you have not converted Lurella.
Well, I like that in her, too. I wish I could have the arguments,
_pro_ and _con_. It would have been amusing. I suppose,"
he pondered aloud, "that she is a Calvinist of the deepest dye, and
would regard me as a lost spirit for being outside of her church. She
would look down upon me from one height, as I look down upon her from
another. And really, as far as personal satisfaction in superiority
goes, she might have the advantage of me. That's very curious, very
As the first week wore away, the wonted incidents of a sea voyage lent
their variety to the life on board. One day the ship ran into a school
of whales, which remained heavily thumping and lolling about in her
course, and blowing jets of water into the air, like so many breaks
in garden hose, Staniford suggested. At another time some flying-fish
came on board. The sailors caught a dolphin, and they promised a
shark, by and by. All these things were turned to account for the
young girl's amusement, as if they had happened for her. The dolphin
died that she might wonder and pity his beautiful death; the cook
fried her some of the flying-fish; some one was on the lookout to
detect even porpoises for her. A sail in the offing won the discoverer
envy when he pointed it out to her; a steamer, celebrity. The captain
ran a point out of his course to speak to a vessel, that she might be
able to tell what speaking a ship at sea was like.
At table the stores which the young men had laid in for private use
became common luxuries, and she fared sumptuously every day upon
dainties which she supposed were supplied by the ship,--delicate
jellies and canned meats and syruped fruits; and, if she wondered at
anything, she must have wondered at the scrupulous abstinence with
which Captain Jenness, seconded by Mr. Watterson, refused the luxuries
which his bounty provided them, and at the constancy with which
Staniford declined some of these dishes, and Hicks declined others.
Shortly after the latter began more distinctly to be tolerated, he
appeared one day on deck with a steamer-chair in his hand, and offered
it to Lydia's use, where she sat on a stool by the bulwark. After
that, as she reclined in this chair, wrapped in her red shawl, and
provided with a book or some sort of becoming handiwork, she was even
more picturesquely than before the centre about which the ship's pride
and chivalrous sentiment revolved. They were Americans, and they knew
how to worship a woman.
Staniford did not seek occasions to please and amuse her, as the
others did. When they met, as they must, three times a day, at
table, he took his part in the talk, and now and then addressed her
a perfunctory civility. He imagined that she disliked him, and he
interested himself in imagining the ignorant grounds of her dislike.
"A woman," he said, "must always dislike some one in company; it's
usually another woman; as there's none on board, I accept her enmity
with meekness." Dunham wished to persuade him that he was mistaken.
"Don't try to comfort me, Dunham," he replied. "I find a pleasure
in being detested which is inconceivable to your amiable bosom."
Dunham turned to go below, from where they stood at the head of the
cabin stairs. Staniford looked round, and saw Lydia, whom they had
kept from coming up; she must have heard him. He took his cigar from
his mouth, and caught up a stool, which he placed near the ship's
side, where Lydia usually sat, and without waiting for her concurrence
got a stool for himself, and sat down with her.
"Well, Miss Blood," he said, "it's Saturday afternoon at last, and
we're at the end of our first week. Has it seemed very long to you?"
Lydia's color was bright with consciousness, but the glance she gave
Staniford showed him looking tranquilly and honestly at her. "Yes,"
she said, "it _has_ seemed long."
"That's merely the strangeness of everything. There's nothing like
local familiarity to make the time pass,--except monotony; and one
gets both at sea. Next week will go faster than this, and we shall
all be at Trieste before we know it. Of course we shall have a storm
or two, and that will retard us in fact as well as fancy. But you
wouldn't feel that you'd been at sea if you hadn't had a storm."
He knew that his tone was patronizing, but he had theorized the girl
so much with a certain slight in his mind that he was not able at once
to get the tone which he usually took towards women. This might not,
indeed, have pleased some women any better than patronage: it mocked
while it caressed all their little pretenses and artificialities; he
addressed them as if they must be in the joke of themselves, and did
not expect to be taken seriously. At the same time he liked them
greatly, and would not on any account have had the silliest of them
different from what she was. He did not seek them as Dunham did;
their society was not a matter of life or death with him; but he
had an elder-brotherly kindness for the whole sex.
Lydia waited awhile for him to say something more, but he added
nothing, and she observed, with a furtive look: "I presume you've
seen some very severe storms at sea."
"No," Staniford answered, "I haven't. I've been over several times,
but I've never seen anything alarming. I've experienced the ordinary
"Have you--have you ever been in Italy?" asked Lydia, after another
"Yes," he said, "twice; I'm very fond of Italy." He spoke of it in
a familiar tone that might well have been discouraging to one of her
total unacquaintance with it. Presently he added of his own motion,
looking at her with his interest in her as a curious study, "You're
going to Venice, I think Mr. Dunham told me."
"Yes," said Lydia.
"Well, I think it's rather a pity that you shouldn't arrive there
directly, without the interposition of Trieste." He scanned her yet
more closely, but with a sort of absence in his look, as if he
addressed some ideal of her.
"Why?" asked Lydia, apparently pushed to some self-assertion by
this way of being looked and talked at.
"It's the strangest place in the world," said Staniford; and then he
mused again. "But I suppose--" He did not go on, and the word fell
again to Lydia.
"I'm going to visit my aunt, who is staying there. She was where I
live, last summer, and she told us about it. But I couldn't seem to
"No one can understand it, without seeing it."
"I've read some descriptions of it," Lydia ventured.
"They're of no use,--the books."
"Is Trieste a strange place, too?"
"It's strange, as a hundred other places are,--and it's picturesque;
but there's only one Venice."
"I'm afraid sometimes," she faltered, as if his manner in regard to
this peculiar place had been hopelessly exclusive, "that it will be
almost too strange."
"Oh, that's another matter," said Staniford. "I confess I should be
rather curious to know whether you liked Venice. I like it, but I can
imagine myself sympathizing with people who detested it,--if they said
so. Let me see what will give you some idea of it. Do you know Boston
"No; I've only been there twice," Lydia acknowledged.
"Then you've never seen the Back Bay by night, from the Long Bridge.
Well, let me see--"
"I'm afraid," interposed Lydia, "that I've not been about enough for
you to give me an idea from other places. We always go to Greenfield
to do our trading; and I've been to Keene and Springfield a good many
"I'm sorry to say I haven't," said Staniford. "But I'll tell you:
Venice looks like an inundated town. If you could imagine those
sunset clouds yonder turned marble, you would have Venice as she is
at sunset. You must first think of the sea when you try to realize
the place. If you don't find the sea too strange, you won't find
"I wish it would ever seem half as home-like!" cried the girl.
"Then you find the ship--I'm glad you find the ship--home-like,"
said Staniford, tentatively.
"Oh, yes; everything is so convenient and pleasant. It seems
sometimes as if I had always lived here."
"Well, that's very nice," assented Staniford, rather blankly. "Some
people feel a little queer at sea--in the beginning. And you haven't
--at all?" He could not help this leading question, yet he knew its
meanness, and felt remorse for it.
"Oh, _I_ did, at first," responded the girl, but went no farther;
and Staniford was glad of it. After all, why should he care to know
what was in her mind?
"Captain Jenness," he merely said, "understands making people
"Oh, yes, indeed," assented Lydia. "And Mr. Watterson is very
agreeable, and Mr. Mason. I didn't suppose sailors were so. What
soft, mild voices they have!"
"That's the speech of most of the Down East coast people."
"Is it? I like it better than our voices. Our voices are so sharp
and high, at home."
"It's hard to believe that," said Staniford, with a smile.
Lydia looked at him. "Oh, I wasn't born in South Bradfield. I was
ten years old when I went there to live."
"Where _were_ you born, Miss Blood?" he asked.
"In California. My father had gone out for his health, but he died
"Oh!" said Staniford. He had a book in his hand, and he began to
scribble a little sketch of Lydia's pose, on a fly-leaf. She looked
round and saw it. "You've detected me," he said; "I haven't any right
to keep your likeness, now. I must make you a present of this work
of art, Miss Blood." He finished the sketch with some ironical
flourishes, and made as if to tear out the leaf.
"Oh!" cried Lydia, simply, "you will spoil the book!"
"Then the book shall go with the picture, if you'll let it," said
"Do you mean to give it to me?" she asked, with surprise.
"That was my munificent intention. I want to write your name in it.
What's the initial of your first name, Miss Blood?"
"L, thank you," said Lydia.
Staniford gave a start. "No!" he exclaimed. It seemed a fatality.
"My name is Lydia," persisted the girl. "What letter should it begin
"Oh--oh, I knew Lydia began with an L," stammered Staniford, "but
I--I--I thought your first name was--"
"What?" asked Lydia sharply.
"I don't know. Lily," he answered guiltily.
"Lily _Blood_!" cried the girl. "Lydia is bad enough; but
_Lily_ Blood! They couldn't have been such fools!"
"I beg your pardon. Of course not. I don't know how I could have got
the idea. It was one of those impressions--hallucinations--" Staniford
found himself in an attitude of lying excuse towards the simple girl,
over whom he had been lording it in satirical fancy ever since he had
seen her, and meekly anxious that she should not be vexed with him.
He began to laugh at his predicament, and she smiled at his mistake.
"What is the date?" he asked.
"The 15th," she said; and he wrote under the sketch, _Lydia Blood.
Ship Aroostook, August_ 15, 1874, and handed it to her, with a bow
surcharged with gravity.
She took it, and regarded the picture without comment.
"Ah!" said Staniford, "I see that you know how bad my sketch is.
"No, I don't know how to draw," replied Lydia.
"So glad," said Staniford. He began to like this. A young man must
find pleasure in sitting alone near a pretty young girl, and talking
with her about herself and himself, no matter how plain and dull
her speech is; and Staniford, though he found Lydia as blankly
unresponsive as might be to the flattering irony of his habit, amused
himself in realizing that here suddenly he was almost upon the terms
of window-seat flirtation with a girl whom lately he had treated
with perfect indifference, and just now with fatherly patronage.
The situation had something more even than the usual window-seat
advantages; it had qualities as of a common shipwreck, of their being
cast away on a desolate island together. He felt more than ever that
he must protect this helpless loveliness, since it had begun to please
his imagination. "You don't criticise," he said. "Is that because you
are so amiable? I'm sure you could, if you would."
"No," returned Lydia; "I don't really know. But I've often wished
I did know."
"Then you didn't teach drawing, in your school?"
"How did you know I had a school?" asked Lydia quickly.
He disliked to confess his authority, because he disliked the
authority, but he said, "Mr. Hicks told us."
"Mr. Hicks!" Lydia gave a little frown as of instinctive displeasure,
which gratified Staniford.
"Yes; the cabin-boy told him. You see, we are dreadful gossips on
the Aroostook,--though there are so few ladies--" It had slipped
from him, but it seemed to have no personal slant for Lydia.
"Oh, yes; I told Thomas," she said. "No; it's only a country school.
Once I thought I should go down to the State Normal School, and
study drawing there; but I never did. Are you--are you a painter,
He could not recollect that she had pronounced his name before; he
thought it came very winningly from her lips. "No, I'm not a painter.
I'm not anything." He hesitated; then he added recklessly, "I'm a
"A farmer?" Lydia looked incredulous, but grave.
"Yes; I'm a horny-handed son of the soil. I'm a cattle-farmer; I'm
a sheep-farmer; I don't know which. One day I'm the one, and the next
day I'm the other." Lydia looked mystified, and Staniford continued:
"I mean that I have no profession, and that sometimes I think of going
into farming, out West."
"Yes?" said Lydia.
"How should I like it? Give me an opinion, Miss Blood."
"Oh, I don't know," answered the girl.
"You would never have dreamt that I was a farmer, would you?"
"No, I shouldn't," said Lydia, honestly. "It's very hard work."
"And I don't look fond of hard work?"
"I didn't say that."
"And I've no right to press you for your meaning."
"What I meant was--I mean--Perhaps if you had never tried it you
didn't know what very hard work it was. Some of the summer boarders
used to think our farmers had easy times."
"I never was a summer boarder of that description. I know that farming
is hard work, and I'm going into it because I dislike it. What do you
think of that as a form of self-sacrifice?"
"I don't see why any one should sacrifice himself uselessly."
"You don't? You have very little conception of martyrdom. Do you
like teaching school?"
"No," said Lydia promptly.
"Why do you teach, then?" Staniford had blundered. He knew why
she taught, and he felt instantly that he had hurt her pride, more
sensitive than that of a more sophisticated person, who would have had
no scruple in saying that she did it because she was poor. He tried
to retrieve himself. "Of course, I understand that school-teaching
is useful self-sacrifice." He trembled lest she should invent some
pretext for leaving him; he could not afford to be left at a
disadvantage. "But do you know, I would no more have taken you
for a teacher than you me for a farmer."
"Yes?" said Lydia.
He could not tell whether she was appeased or not, and he rather
feared not. "You don't ask why. And I asked you why at once."
Lydia laughed. "Well, why?"
"Oh, that's a secret. I'll tell you one of these days." He had really
no reason; he said this to gain time. He was always honest in his talk
with men, but not always with women.
"I suppose I look very young," said Lydia. "I used to be afraid of
the big boys."
"If the boys were big enough," interposed Staniford, "they must have
been afraid of you."
Lydia said, as if she had not understood, "I had hard work to get
my certificate. But I was older than I looked."
"That is much better," remarked Staniford, "than being younger than
you look. I am twenty-eight, and people take me for thirty-four. I'm
a prematurely middle-aged man. I wish you would tell me, Miss Blood,
a little about South Bradfield. I've been trying to make out whether
I was ever there. I tramped nearly everywhere when I was a student.
What sort of people are they there?"
"Oh, they are very nice people," said Lydia.
"Do you like them?"
"I never thought whether I did. They are nearly all old. Their
children have gone away; they don't seem to live; they are just
staying. When I first came there I was a little girl. One day I went
into the grave-yard and counted the stones; there were three times
as many as there were living persons in the village."
"I think I know the kind of place," said Staniford. "I suppose
you're not very homesick?"
"Not for the place," answered Lydia, evasively.
"Of course," Staniford hastened to add, "you miss your own family
circle." To this she made no reply. It is the habit of people bred
like her to remain silent for want of some sort of formulated
comment upon remarks to which they assent.
Staniford fell into a musing mood, which was without visible
embarrassment to the young girl, who must have been inured to much
severer silences in the society of South Bradfield. He remained
staring at her throughout his reverie, which in fact related to her.
He was thinking what sort of an old maid she would have become if she
had remained in that village. He fancied elements of hardness and
sharpness in her which would have asserted themselves as the joyless
years went on, like the bony structure of her face as the softness
of youth left it. She was saved from that, whatever was to be her
destiny in Italy. From South Bradfield to Venice,--what a prodigious
transition! It seemed as if it must transfigure her. "Miss Blood,"
he exclaimed, "I wish I could be with you when you first see Venice!"
"Yes?" said Lydia.
Even the interrogative comment, with the rising inflection, could not
chill his enthusiasm. "It is really the greatest sight in the world."
Lydia had apparently no comment to make on this fact. She waited
tranquilly a while before she said, "My father used to talk about
Italy to me when I was little. He wanted to go. My mother said
afterwards--after she had come home with me to South Bradfield--that
she always believed he would have lived if he had gone there. He had
"Oh!" said Staniford softly. Then he added, with the tact of his sex,
"Miss Blood, you mustn't take cold, sitting here with me. This wind
is chilly. Shall I go below and get you some more wraps?"
"No, thank you," said Lydia; "I believe I will go down, now."
She went below to her room, and then came out into the cabin with
some sewing at which she sat and stitched by the lamp. The captain
was writing in his log-book; Dunham and Hicks were playing checkers
together. Staniford, from a corner of a locker, looked musingly
upon this curious family circle. It was not the first time that its
occupations had struck him oddly. Sometimes when they were all there
together, Dunham read aloud. Hicks knew tricks of legerdemain which
he played cleverly. The captain told some very good stories, and led
off in the laugh. Lydia always sewed and listened. She did not seem
to find herself strangely placed, and her presence characterized all
that was said and done with a charming innocence. As a bit of life,
it was as pretty as it was quaint.
"Really," Staniford said to Dunham, as they turned in, that night,
"she has domesticated us."
"Yes," assented Dunham with enthusiasm; "isn't she a nice girl?"
"She's intolerably passive. Or not passive, either. She says what she
thinks, but she doesn't seem to have thought of many things. Did she
ever tell you about her father?"
"No," said Dunham.
"I mean about his dying of consumption?"
"No, she never spoke of him to me. Was he--"
"Um. It appears that we have been upon terms of confidence, then."
Staniford paused, with one boot in his hand. "I should never have
"What was her father?" asked Dunham.
"Upon my word, I don't know. I didn't seem to get beyond elemental
statements of intimate fact with her. He died in California, where
she was born; and he always had a longing to go to Italy. That was
"It's very touching, I think."
"Yes, of course. We might fancy this about Lurella: that she has a
sort of piety in visiting the scenes that her father wished to visit,
and that--Well, anything is predicable of a girl who says so little
and looks so much. She's certainly very handsome; and I'm bound to say
that her room could not have been better than her company, so far."
The dress that Lydia habitually wore was one which her aunt Maria
studied from the costume of a summer boarder, who had spent a
preceding summer at the sea-shore, and who found her yachting-dress
perfectly adapted to tramping over the South Bradfield hills. Thus
reverting to its original use on shipboard, the costume looked far
prettier on Lydia than it had on the summer boarder from whose
unconscious person it had been plagiarized. It was of the darkest blue
flannel, and was fitly set off with those bright ribbons at the throat
which women know how to dispose there according to their complexions.
One day the bow was scarlet, and another crimson; Staniford did not
know which was better, and disputed the point in vain with Dunham.
They all grew to have a taste in such matters. Captain Jenness
praised her dress outright, and said that he should tell his girls
about it. Lydia, who had always supposed it was a walking costume,
remained discreetly silent when the young men recognized its nautical
character. She enjoyed its success; she made some little changes in
the hat she wore with it, which met the approval of the cabin family;
and she tranquilly kept her black silk in reserve for Sunday. She came
out to breakfast in it, and it swept the narrow spaces, as she emerged
from her state-room, with so rich and deep a murmur that every one
looked up. She sustained their united glance with something tenderly
deprecatory and appealingly conscious in her manner, much as a very
sensitive girl in some new finery meets the eyes of her brothers
when she does not know whether to cry or laugh at what they will
say. Thomas almost dropped a plate. "Goodness!" he said, helplessly
expressing the public sentiment in regard to a garment of which he
alone had been in the secret. No doubt it passed his fondest dreams
of its splendor; it fitted her as the sheath of the flower fits the
Captain Jenness looked hard at her, but waited a decent season after
saying grace before offering his compliment, which he did in drawing
the carving-knife slowly across the steel. "Well, Miss Blood, that's
right!" Lydia blushed richly, and the young men made their obeisances
across the table.
The flushes and pallors chased each other over her face, and the sight
of her pleasure in being beautiful charmed Staniford. "If she were
used to worship she would have taken our adoration more arrogantly,"
he said to his friend when they went on deck after breakfast. "I can
place her; but one's circumstance doesn't always account for one in
America, and I can't make out yet whether she's ever been praised for
being pretty. Some of our hill-country people would have felt like
hushing up her beauty, as almost sinful, and some would have gone down
before it like Greeks. I can't tell whether she knows it all or not;
but if you suppose her unconscious till now, it's pathetic. And black
silks must be too rare in her life not to be celebrated by a high
tumult of inner satisfaction. I'm glad we bowed down to the new
"Yes," assented Dunham, with an uneasy absence; "but--Staniford, I
should like to propose to Captain Jenness our having service this
morning. It is the eleventh Sunday after--"
"Ah, yes!" said Staniford. "It is Sunday, isn't it? I _thought_
we had breakfast rather later than usual. All over the Christian
world, on land and sea, there is this abstruse relation between
a late breakfast and religious observances."
Dunham looked troubled. "I wish you wouldn't talk that way, Staniford,
and I hope you won't say anything--"
"To interfere with your proposition? My dear fellow, I am at least
"I beg your pardon," said Dunham, gratefully.
Staniford even went himself to the captain with Dunham's wish; it is
true the latter assumed the more disagreeable part of proposing the
matter to Hicks, who gave a humorous assent, as one might to a joke
of doubtful feasibility.
Dunham gratified both his love for social management and his zeal for
his church in this organization of worship; and when all hands were
called aft, and stood round in decorous silence, he read the lesson
for the day, and conducted the service with a gravity astonishing to
the sailors, who had taken him for a mere dandy. Staniford bore his
part in the responses from the same prayer-book with Captain Jenness,
who kept up a devout, inarticulate under-growl, and came out strong
on particular words when he got his bearings through his spectacles.
Hicks and the first officer silently shared another prayer-book, and
Lydia offered half hers to Mr. Mason.
When the hymn was given out, she waited while an experimental search
for the tune took place among the rest. They were about to abandon
the attempt, when she lifted her voice and began to sing. She sang as
she did in the meeting-house at South Bradfield, and her voice seemed
to fill all the hollow height and distance; it rang far off like a
mermaid's singing, on high like an angel's; it called with the same
deep appeal to sense and soul alike. The sailors stood rapt; Dunham
kept up a show of singing for the church's sake. The others made no
pretense of looking at the words; they looked at her, and she began
to falter, hearing herself alone. Then Staniford struck in again
wildly, and the sea-voices lent their powerful discord, while the
girl's contralto thrilled through all.
"Well, Miss Blood," said the captain, when the service had ended in
that subordination of the spiritual to the artistic interest which
marks the process and the close of so much public worship in our day,
"you've given us a surprise. I guess we shall keep you pretty busy
with our calls for music, after this."
"She is a genius!" observed Staniford at his first opportunity with
Dunham. "I knew there must be something the matter. Of course she's
going out to school her voice; and she hasn't strained it in idle
babble about her own affairs! I must say that Lu--Miss Blood's
power of holding her tongue commands my homage. Was it her little
_coup_ to wait till we got into that hopeless hobble before
she struck in?"
"Coup? For shame, Staniford! Coup at such a time!"
"Well, well! I don't say so. But for the theatre one can't begin
practicing these effects too soon. Really, that voice puts a new
complexion on Miss Blood. I have a theory to reconstruct. I have been
philosophizing her as a simple country girl. I must begin on an
operatic novice. I liked the other better. It gave value to the black
silk; as a singer she'll wear silk as habitually as a cocoon. She will
have to take some stage name; translate Blood into Italian. We shall
know her hereafter as La Sanguinelli; and when she comes to Boston
we shall make our modest brags about going out to Europe with her. I
don't know; I think I preferred the idyllic flavor I was beginning to
find in the presence of the ordinary, futureless young girl, voyaging
under the chaperonage of her own innocence,--the Little Sister of the
Whole Ship. But this crepusculant prima donna--no, I don't like it.
Though it explains some things. These splendid creatures are never
sent half equipped into the world. I fancy that where there's an
operatic voice, there's an operatic soul to go with it. Well, La
Sanguinelli will wear me out, yet! Suggest some new topic, Dunham;
talk of something else, for heaven's sake!"
"Do you suppose," asked Dunham, "that she would like to help get up
some _musicales_, to pass away the time?"
"Oh, do you call that talking of something else? What an insatiate
organizer you are! You organize shuffleboard; you organize public
worship; you want to organize musicales. She would have to do all
your music for you."
"I think she would like to go in for it," said Dunham. "It must be a
pleasure to exercise such a gift as that, and now that it's come out
in the way it has, it would be rather awkward for us not to recognize
Staniford refused point-blank to be a party to the new enterprise,
and left Dunham to his own devices at dinner, where he proposed
"If you had my Persis here, now," observed Captain Jenness, "with
her parlor organ, you could get along."
"I wish Miss Jenness was here," said Dunham, politely. "But we
must try to get on as it is. With Miss Blood's voice to start with,
nothing ought to discourage us." Dunham had a thin and gentle pipe of
his own, and a fairish style in singing, but with his natural modesty
he would not offer himself as a performer except in default of all
others. "Don't you sing, Mr. Hicks?"
"Anything to oblige a friend," returned Hicks. "But I don't sing
--before Miss Blood."
"Miss Blood," said Staniford, listening in ironic safety, "you overawe
us all. I never did sing, but I think I should want to make an effort
if you were not by."
"But don't you--don't you play something, anything?" persisted Dunham,
in desperate appeal to Hicks.
"Well, yes," the latter admitted, "I play the flute a little."
"Flutes on water!" said Staniford. Hicks looked at him in sulky
dislike, but as if resolved not to be put down by him.
"And have you got your flute with you?" demanded Dunham, joyously.
"Yes, I have," replied Hicks.
"Then we are all right. I think I can carry a part, and if you will
play to Miss Blood's singing--"
"Try it this evening, if you like," said the other.
"Well, ah--I don't know. Perhaps--we hadn't better begin this evening."
Staniford laughed at Dunham's embarrassment. "You might have a sacred
concert, and Mr. Hicks could represent the shawms and cymbals with
Dunham looked sorry for Staniford's saying this. Captain Jenness
stared at him, as if his taking the names of these scriptural
instruments in vain were a kind of blasphemy, and Lydia seemed
puzzled and a little troubled.
"I didn't think of its being Sunday," said Hicks, with what Staniford
felt to be a cunning assumption of manly frankness, "or any more
Sunday than usual; seems as if we had had a month of Sundays already
since we sailed. I'm not much on religion myself, but I shouldn't like
to interfere with other people's principles."
Staniford was vexed with himself for his scornful pleasantry, and
vexed with the others for taking it so seriously and heavily, and
putting him so unnecessarily in the wrong. He was angry with Dunham,
and he said to Hicks, "Very just sentiments."
"I am glad you like them," replied Hicks, with sullen apprehension
of the offensive tone.
Staniford turned to Lydia. "I suppose that in South Bradfield your
Sabbath is over at sundown on Sunday evening."
"That used to be the custom," answered the girl. "I've heard my
grandfather tell of it."
"Oh, yes," interposed Captain Jenness. "They used to keep Saturday
night down our way, too. I can remember when I was a boy. It came
pretty hard to begin so soon, but it seemed to kind of break it,
after all, having a night in."
The captain did not know what Staniford began to laugh at. "Our
Puritan ancestors knew just how much human nature could stand, after
all. We did not have an uninterrupted Sabbath till the Sabbath had
become much milder. Is that it?"
The captain had probably no very clear notion of what this meant, but
simply felt it to be a critical edge of some sort. "I don't know as
you can have too much religion," he remarked. "I've seen some pretty
rough customers in the church, but I always thought, What would they
be out of it!"
"Very true!" said Staniford, smiling. He wanted to laugh again, but
he liked the captain too well to do that; and then he began to rage
in his heart at the general stupidity which had placed him in the
attitude of mocking at religion, a thing he would have loathed to do.
It seemed to him that Dunham was answerable for his false position.
"But we shall not see the right sort of Sabbath till Mr. Dunham gets
his Catholic church fully going," he added.
They all started, and looked at Dunham as good Protestants must when
some one whom they would never have suspected of Catholicism turns out
to be a Catholic. Dunham cast a reproachful glance at his friend, but
said simply, "I am a Catholic,--that is true; but I do not admit the
pretensions of the Bishop of Rome."
The rest of the company apparently could not follow him in making this
distinction; perhaps some of them did not quite know who the Bishop of
Rome was. Lydia continued to look at him in fascination; Hicks seemed
disposed to whistle, if such a thing were allowable; Mr. Watterson
devoutly waited for the captain. "Well," observed the captain at last,
with the air of giving the devil his due, "I've seen some very good
people among the Catholics."
"That's so, Captain Jenness," said the first officer.
"I don't see," said Lydia, without relaxing her gaze, "why, if you
are a Catholic, you read the service of a Protestant church."
"It is not a Protestant church," answered Dunham, gently, "as I have
tried to explain to you."
"The Episcopalian?" demanded Captain Jenness.
"The Episcopalian," sweetly reiterated Dunham.
"I should like to know what kind of a church it is, then," said
Captain Jenness, triumphantly.
"An Apostolic church."
Captain Jenness rubbed his nose, as if this were a new kind of church
"Founded by Saint Henry VIII. himself," interjected Staniford.
"No, Staniford," said Dunham, with a soft repressiveness. And now
a threatening light of zeal began to burn in his kindly eyes. These
souls had plainly been given into his hands for ecclesiastical
enlightenment. "If our friends will allow me, I will explain--"
Staniford's shaft had recoiled upon his own head. "O Lord!" he cried,
getting up from the table, "I can't stand _that_!" The others
regarded him, as he felt, even to that weasel of a Hicks, as a sheep
of uncommon blackness. He went on deck, and smoked a cigar without
relief. He still heard the girl's voice in singing; and he still felt
in his nerves the quality of latent passion in it which had thrilled
him when she sang. His thought ran formlessly upon her future, and
upon what sort of being was already fated to waken her to those
possibilities of intense suffering and joy which he imagined in her.
A wound at his heart, received long before, hurt vaguely; and he
No one said anything more of the musicales, and the afternoon and
evening wore away without general talk. Each seemed willing to keep
apart from the rest. Dunham suffered Lydia to come on deck alone
after tea, and Staniford found her there, in her usual place, when he
went up some time later. He approached her at once, and said, smiling
down into her face, to which the moonlight gave a pale mystery, "Miss
Blood, did you think I was very wicked to-day at dinner?"
Lydia looked away, and waited a moment before she spoke. "I don't
know," she said. Then, impulsively, "Did you?" she asked.
"No, honestly, I don't think I was," answered Staniford. "But I seemed
to leave that impression on the company. I felt a little nasty, that
was all; and I tried to hurt Mr. Dunham's feelings. But I shall make
it right with him before I sleep; he knows that. He's used to having
me repent at leisure. Do you ever walk Sunday night?"
"Yes, sometimes," said Lydia interrogatively.
"I'm glad of that. Then I shall not offend against your scruples if
I ask you to join me in a little ramble, and you will refuse from
purely personal considerations. Will you walk with me?"
"Yes." Lydia rose.
"And will you take my arm?" asked Staniford, a little surprised
at her readiness.
She put her hand upon his arm, confidently enough, and they began
to walk up and down the stretch of open deck together.
"Well," said Staniford, "did Mr. Dunham convince you all?"
"I think he talks beautifully about it," replied Lydia, with quaint
"I am glad you see what a very good fellow he is. I have a real
affection for Dunham."
"Oh, yes, he's good. At first it surprised me. I mean--"
"No, no," Staniford quickly interrupted, "why did it surprise you
to find Dunham good?"
"I don't know. You don't expect a person to be serious who
"No,--so--I don't know just how to say it: fashionable."
Staniford laughed. "Why, Miss Blood, you're fashionably dressed
yourself, not to go any farther, and you're serious."
"It's different with a man," the girl explained.
"Well, then, how about me?" asked Staniford. "Am I too well dressed
to be expected to be serious?"
"Mr. Dunham always seems in earnest," Lydia answered, evasively.
"And you think one can't be in earnest without being serious?" Lydia
suffered one of those silences to ensue in which Staniford had already
found himself helpless. He knew that he should be forced to break it:
and he said, with a little spiteful mocking, "I suppose the young men
of South Bradfield are both serious and earnest."
"How?" asked Lydia.
"The young men of South Bradfield."
"I told you that there were none. They all go away."
"Well, then, the young men of Springfield, of Keene, of Greenfield."
"I can't tell. I am not acquainted there."
Staniford had begun to have a disagreeable suspicion that her
ready consent to walk up and down with a young man in the moonlight
might have come from a habit of the kind. But it appeared that her
fearlessness was like that of wild birds in those desert islands where
man has never come. The discovery gave him pleasure out of proportion
to its importance, and he paced back and forth in a silence that no
longer chafed. Lydia walked very well, and kept his step with rhythmic
unison, as if they were walking to music together. "That's the time
in her pulses," he thought, and then he said, "Then you don't have a
great deal of social excitement, I suppose,--dancing, and that kind
of thing? Though perhaps you don't approve of dancing?"
"Oh, yes, I like it. Sometimes the summer boarders get up little
dances at the hotel."
"Oh, the summer boarders!" Staniford had overlooked them. "The young
men get them up, and invite the ladies?" he pursued.
"There are no young men, generally, among the summer boarders.
The ladies dance together. Most of the gentlemen are old, or else
"Oh!" said Staniford.
"At the Mill Village, where I've taught two winters, they have dances
sometimes,--the mill hands do."
"And do you go?"
"No. They are nearly all French Canadians and Irish people."
"Then you like dancing because there are no gentlemen to dance with?"
"There are gentlemen at the picnics."
"The teachers' picnics. They have them every summer, in a grove
by the pond."
There was, then, a high-browed, dyspeptic high-school principal, and
the desert-island theory was probably all wrong. It vexed Staniford,
when he had so nearly got the compass of her social life, to find
this unexplored corner in it.
"And I suppose you are leaving very agreeable friends among
"Some of them are pleasant. But I don't know them very well. I've
only been to one of the picnics."
Staniford drew a long, silent breath. After all, he knew everything.
He mechanically dropped a little the arm on which her hand rested,
that it might slip farther within. Her timid remoteness had its
charm, and he fell to thinking, with amusement, how she who was so
subordinate to him was, in the dimly known sphere in which he had been
groping to find her, probably a person of authority and consequence.
It satisfied a certain domineering quality in him to have reduced her
to this humble attitude, while it increased the protecting tenderness
he was beginning to have for her. His mind went off further upon this
matter of one's different attitudes toward different persons; he
thought of men, and women too, before whom he should instantly feel
like a boy, if he could be confronted with them, even in his present
lordliness of mood. In a fashion of his when he convicted himself
of anything, he laughed aloud. Lydia shrank a little from him, in
question. "I beg your pardon," he said. "I was laughing at something
I happened to think of. Do you ever find yourself struggling very
hard to be what you think people think you are?"
"Oh, yes," replied Lydia. "But I thought no one else did."
"Everybody does the thing that we think no one else does," said
"I don't know whether I quite like it," said Lydia. "It seems like
hypocrisy. It used to worry me. Sometimes I wondered if I had any
real self. I seemed to be just what people made me, and a different
person to each."
"I'm glad to hear it, Miss Blood. We are companions in hypocrisy.
As we are such nonentities we shall not affect each other at all."
Lydia laughed. "Don't you think so? What are you laughing at? I told
you what I was laughing at!"
"But I didn't ask you."
"You wished to know."
"Yes, I did."
"Then you ought to tell me what I wish to know."
"It's nothing," said Lydia. "I thought you were mistaken in what
"Oh! Then you believe that there's enough of you to affect me?"
"The other way, then?"
She did not answer.
"I'm delighted!" exclaimed Staniford. "I hope I don't exert an
uncomfortable influence. I should be very unhappy to think so." Lydia
stooped side-wise, away from him, to get a fresh hold of her skirt,
which she was carrying in her right hand, and she hung a little more
heavily upon his arm. "I hope I make you think better of yourself,
--very self-satisfied, very conceited even."
"No," said Lydia.
"You pique my curiosity beyond endurance. Tell me how I make you
She looked quickly round at him, as if to see whether he was in
earnest. "Why, it's nothing," she said. "You made me feel as if
you were laughing at everybody."
It flatters a man to be accused of sarcasm by the other sex, and
Staniford was not superior to the soft pleasure of the reproach.
"Do you think I make other people feel so, too?"
"Mr. Dunham said--"
"Oh! Mr. Dunham has been talking me over with you, has he? What did
he tell you of me? There is nobody like a true friend for dealing
an underhand blow at one's reputation. Wait till you hear my account
of Dunham! What did he say?"
"He said that was only your way of laughing at yourself."
"The traitor! What did you say?"
"I don't know that I said anything."
"You were reserving your opinion for my own hearing?"
"Why don't you tell me what you thought? It might be of great use
to me. I'm in earnest, now; I'm serious. Will you tell me?"
"Yes, some time," said Lydia, who was both amused and mystified
at this persistence.
"Oh, that's too soon. When I get to Venice!"
"Ah! That's a subterfuge. You know we shall part in Trieste."
"I thought," said Lydia, "you were coming to Venice, too."
"Oh, yes, but I shouldn't be able to see you there."
"Why not? Why, because--" He was near telling the young girl who hung
upon his arm, and walked up and down with him in the moonlight, that
in the wicked Old World towards which they were sailing young people
could not meet save in the sight and hearing of their elders, and that
a confidential analysis of character would be impossible between them
there. The wonder of her being where she was, as she was, returned
upon him with a freshness that it had been losing in the custom of the
week past. "Because you will be so much taken up with your friends,"
he said, lamely. He added quickly, "There's one thing I should like to
know, Miss Blood: did you hear what Mr. Dunham and I were saying, last
night, when we stood in the gangway and kept you from coming up?"
Lydia waited a moment. Then she said, "Yes. I couldn't help
"That's all right. I don't care for your hearing what I said. But--
I hope it wasn't true?"
"I couldn't understand what you meant by it," she answered, evasively,
but rather faintly.
"Thanks," said Staniford. "I didn't mean anything. It was merely the
guilty consciousness of a generally disagreeable person." They walked
up and down many turns without saying anything. She could not have
made any direct protest, and it pleased him that she could not frame
any flourishing generalities. "Yes," Staniford resumed, "I will try
to see you as I pass through Venice. And I will come to hear you sing
when you come out at Milan."
"Come out? At Milan?"
"Why, yes! You are going to study at the conservatory in Milan?"
"How did you know that?" demanded Lydia.
"From hearing you to-day. May I tell you how much I liked your
"My aunt thought I ought to cultivate my voice. But I would never go
upon the stage. I would rather sing in a church. I should like that
better than teaching."
"I think you're quite right," said Staniford, gravely. "It's certainly
much better to sing in a church than to sing in a theatre. Though I
believe the theatre pays best."
"Oh, I don't care for that. All I should want would be to make
The reference to her poverty touched him. It was a confidence, coming
from one so reticent, that was of value. He waited a moment and said,
"It's surprising how well we keep our footing here, isn't it? There's
hardly any swell, but the ship pitches. I think we walk better
together than alone."
"Yes," answered Lydia, "I think we do."
"You mustn't let me tire you. I'm indefatigable."
"Oh, I'm not tired. I like it,--walking."
"Do you walk much at home?"
"Not much. It's a pretty good walk to the school-house."
"Oh! Then you like walking at sea better than you do on shore?"
"It isn't the custom, much. If there were any one else, I should have
liked it there. But it's rather dull, going by yourself."
"Yes, I understand how that is," said Staniford, dropping his teasing
tone. "It's stupid. And I suppose it's pretty lonesome at South
Bradfield every way."
"It is,--winters," admitted Lydia. "In the summer you see people, at
any rate, but in winter there are days and days when hardly any one
passes. The snow is banked up everywhere."
He felt her give an involuntary shiver; and he began to talk to her
about the climate to which she was going. It was all stranger to her
than he could have realized, and less intelligible. She remembered
California very dimly, and she had no experience by which she could
compare and adjust his facts. He made her walk up and down more and
more swiftly, as he lost himself in the comfort of his own talking
and of her listening, and he failed to note the little falterings
with which she expressed her weariness.
All at once he halted, and said, "Why, you're out of breath! I beg
your pardon. You should have stopped me. Let us sit down." He wished
to walk across the deck to where the seats were, but she just
perceptibly withstood his motion, and he forbore.
"I think I won't sit down," she said. "I will go down-stairs." She
began withdrawing her hand from his arm. He put his right hand upon
hers, and when it came out of his arm it remained in his hand.
"I'm afraid you won't walk with me again," said Staniford. "I've
tired you shamefully."
"Oh, not at all!"
"And you will?"
"Thanks. You're very amiable." He still held her hand. He pressed it.
The pressure was not returned, but her hand seemed to quiver and throb
in his like a bird held there. For the time neither of them spoke,
and it seemed a long time. Staniford found himself carrying her hand
towards his lips; and she was helplessly, trustingly, letting him.
He dropped her hand, and said, abruptly, "Good-night."
"Good-night," she answered, and ceased from his side like a ghost.
Staniford sat in the moonlight, and tried to think what the steps were
that had brought him to this point; but there were no steps of which
he was sensible. He remembered thinking the night before that the
conditions were those of flirtation; to-night this had not occurred
to him. The talk had been of the dullest commonplaces; yet he had
pressed her hand and kept it in his, and had been about to kiss it. He
bitterly considered the disparity between his present attitude and the
stand he had taken when he declared to Dunham that it rested with them
to guard her peculiar isolation from anything that she could remember
with pain or humiliation when she grew wiser in the world. He recalled
his rage with Hicks, and the insulting condemnation of his bearing
towards him ever since; and could Hicks have done worse? He had done
better: he had kept away from her; he had let her alone.
That night Staniford slept badly, and woke with a restless longing to
see the girl, and to read in her face whatever her thought of him had
been. But Lydia did not come out to breakfast. Thomas reported that
she had a headache, and that he had already carried her the tea and
toast she wanted. "Well, it seems kind of lonesome without her," said
the captain. "It don't seem as if we could get along."
It seemed desolate to Staniford, who let the talk flag and fail
round him without an effort to rescue it. All the morning he lurked
about, keeping out of Dunham's way, and fighting hard through a dozen
pages of a book, to which he struggled to nail his wandering mind.
A headache was a little matter, but it might be even less than a
headache. He belated himself purposely at dinner, and entered the
cabin just as Lydia issued from her stateroom door.
She was pale and looked heavy-eyed. As she lifted her glance to him,
she blushed; and he felt the answering red stain his face. When
she sat down, the captain patted her on the shoulder with his burly
right hand, and said he could not navigate the ship if she got sick.
He pressed her to eat of this and that; and when she would not, he
said, well, there was no use trying to force an appetite, and that
she would be better all the sooner for dieting. Hicks went to his
state-room, and came out with a box of guava jelly, from his private
stores, and won a triumph enviable in all eyes when Lydia consented
to like it with the chicken. Dunham plundered his own and Staniford's
common stock of dainties for her dessert; the first officer agreed
and applauded right and left; Staniford alone sat taciturn and
inoperative, watching her face furtively. Once her eyes wandered
to the side of the table where he and Dunham sat; then she colored
and dropped her glance.
He took his book again after dinner, and with his finger between the
leaves, at the last-read, unintelligible page, he went out to the bow,
and crouched down there to renew the conflict of the morning. It was
not long before Dunham followed. He stooped over to lay a hand on
either of Staniford's shoulders.
"What makes you avoid me, old man?" he demanded, looking into
Staniford's face with his frank, kind eyes.
"And I avoid you?" asked Staniford.
"Because I feel rather shabby, I suppose. I knew I felt shabby, but
I didn't know I was avoiding you."
"Well, no matter. If you feel shabby, it's all right; but I hate to
have you feel shabby." He got his left hand down into Staniford's
right, and a tacit reconciliation was transacted between them. Dunham
looked about for a seat, and found a stool, which he planted in front
of Staniford. "Wasn't it pleasant to have our little lady back at
"Very," said Staniford.
"I couldn't help thinking how droll it was that a person whom we
all considered a sort of incumbrance and superfluity at first should
really turn out an object of prime importance to us all. Isn't
"Why, we were quite lost without her, at breakfast. I couldn't have
imagined her taking such a hold upon us all, in so short a time. But
she's a pretty creature, and as good as she's pretty."
"I remember agreeing with you on those points before." Staniford
feigned to suppress fatigue.
Dunham observed him. "I know you don't take so much interest in her
as--as the rest of us do, and I wish you did. You don't know what
a lovely nature she is."
"No; and I'm sure you'd like her."
"Is it important that I should like her? Don't let your enthusiasm
for the sex carry you beyond bounds, Dunham."
"No, no. Not important, but very pleasant. And I think acquaintance
with such a girl would give you some new ideas of women."
"Oh, my old ones are good enough. Look here, Dunham," said Staniford,
sharply, "what are you after?"
"What makes you think I'm after anything?"
"Because you're not a humbug, and because I am. My depraved spirit
instantly recognized the dawning duplicity of yours. But you'd better
be honest. You can't make the other thing work. What do you want?"
"I want your advice. I want your help, Staniford."
"I thought so! Coming and forgiving me in that--apostolic manner."
"Well. What do you want my help for? What have you been doing?"
Staniford paused, and suddenly added: "Have you been making love
to Lurella?" He said this in his ironical manner, but his smile
was rather ghastly.
"For shame, Staniford!" cried Dunham. But he reddened violently.
"Then it isn't with Miss Hibbard that you want my help. I'm glad of
that. It would have been awkward. I'm a little afraid of Miss Hibbard.
It isn't every one has your courage, my dear fellow."
"I haven't been making love to her," said Dunham, "but--I--"
"But you what?" demanded Staniford sharply again. There had been less
tension of voice in his joking about Miss Hibbard.
"Staniford," said his friend, "I don't know whether you noticed her,
at dinner, when she looked across to our own side?"
"What did she do?"
"Did you notice that she--well, that she blushed a little?"
Staniford waited a while before he answered, after a gulp, "Yes,
I noticed that."
"Well, I don't know how to put it exactly, but I'm afraid that I
have unwittingly wronged this young girl."
"Wronged her? What the devil _do_ you mean, Dunham?" cried
Staniford, with bitter impatience.
"I'm afraid--I'm afraid--Why, it's simply this: that in trying to
amuse her, and make the time pass agreeably, and relieve her mind,
and all that, don't you know, I've given her the impression that I'm
--well--interested in her, and that she may have allowed herself--
insensibly, you know--to look upon me in that light, and that she may
have begun to think--that she may have become--"
"Interested in you?" interrupted Staniford rudely.
"Well--ah--well, that is--ah--well--yes!" cried Dunham, bracing
himself to sustain a shout of ridicule. But Staniford did not
laugh, and Dunham had courage to go on. "Of course, it sounds rather
conceited to say so, but the circumstances are so peculiar that I
think we ought to recognize even any possibilities of that sort."
"Oh, yes," said Staniford, gravely. "Most women, I believe, are
so innocent as to think a man in love when he behaves like a lover.
And this one," he added ruefully, "seems more than commonly ignorant
of our ways,--of our infernal shilly-shallying, purposeless
no-mindedness. She couldn't imagine a man--a gentleman--devoting
himself to her by the hour, and trying by every art to show his
interest and pleasure in her society, without imagining that he
wished her to like him,--love him; there's no half-way about it.
She couldn't suppose him the shallow, dawdling, soulless, senseless
ape he really was." Staniford was quite in a heat by this time, and
Dunham listened in open astonishment.
"You are hard upon me," he said. "Of course, I have been to blame;
I know that, I acknowledge it. But my motive, as you know well enough,
was never to amuse myself with her, but to contribute in any way I
could to her enjoyment and happiness. I--"
"_You_!" cried Staniford. "What are you talking about?"
"What are _you_ talking about?" demanded Dunham, in his turn.
Staniford recollected himself. "I was speaking of abstract flirtation.
I was firing into the air."
"In my case, I don't choose to call it flirtation," returned Dunham.
"My purpose, I am bound to say, was thoroughly unselfish and kindly."
"My dear fellow," said Staniford, with a bitter smile, "there can be
no unselfishness and no kindliness between us and young girls, unless
we mean business,--love-making. You may be sure that they feel it so,
if they don't understand it so."
"I don't agree with you. I don't believe it. My own experience is
that the sweetest and most generous friendships may exist between
us, without a thought of anything else. And as to making love, I must
beg you to remember that my love has been made once for all. I never
dreamt of showing Miss Blood anything but polite attention."
"Then what are you troubled about?"
"I am troubled--" Dunham stopped helplessly, and Staniford laughed in
a challenging, disagreeable way, so that the former perforce resumed:
"I'm troubled about--about her possible misinterpretation."
"Oh! Then in this case of sweet and generous friendship the party of
the second part may have construed the sentiment quite differently!
Well, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to take the contract
off your hands?"
"You put it grossly," said Dunham.
"And _you_ put it offensively!" cried the other. "My regard for
the young lady is as reverent as yours. You have no right to miscolor
"Staniford, you are too bad," said Dunham, hurt even more than
angered. "If I've come to you in the wrong moment--if you are vexed
at anything, I'll go away, and beg your pardon for boring you."
Staniford was touched; he looked cordially into his friend's face.
"I _was_ vexed at something, but you never can come to me at the
wrong moment, old fellow. I beg _your_ pardon. _I_ see your
difficulty plainly enough, and I think you're quite right in proposing
to hold up,--for that's what you mean, I take it?"
"Yes," said Dunham, "it is. And I don't know how she will like it. She
will be puzzled and grieved by it. I hadn't thought seriously about
the matter till this morning, when she didn't come to breakfast. You
know I've been in the habit of asking her to walk with me every night
after tea; but Saturday evening you were with her, and last night I
felt sore about the affairs of the day, and rather dull, and I didn't
ask her. I think she noticed it. I think she was hurt."
"You think so?" said Staniford, peculiarly.
"I might not have thought so," continued Dunham, "merely because she
did not come to breakfast; but her blushing when she looked across
at dinner really made me uneasy."
"Very possibly you're right." Staniford mused a while before he spoke
again. "Well, what do you wish me to do?"
"I must hold up, as you say, and of course she will feel the
difference. I wish--I wish at least you wouldn't avoid her, Staniford.
That's all. Any little attention from you--I know it bores you--would
not only break the loneliness, but it would explain that--that
my--attentions didn't--ah--hadn't meant anything."
"Yes; that it's common to offer them. And she's a girl of so much
force of character that when she sees the affair in its true light--I
suppose I'm to blame! Yes, I ought to have told her at the beginning
that I was engaged. But you can't force a fact of that sort upon a new
acquaintance: it looks silly." Dunham hung his head in self-reproach.
"Well?" asked Staniford.
"Well, that's all! No, it _isn't_ all, either. There's something
else troubles me. Our poor little friend is a blackguard, I suppose?"
"You have invited him to be the leader of your orchestra, haven't
"Oh, don't, Staniford!" cried Dunham in his helplessness. "I should
hate to see her dependent in any degree upon that little cad for
society." Cad was the last English word which Dunham had got himself
used to. "That was why I hoped that you wouldn't altogether neglect
her. She's here, and she's no choice but to remain. We can't leave
her to herself without the danger of leaving her to Hicks. You see?"
"Well," said Staniford gloomily, "I'm not sure that you couldn't leave
her to a worse cad than Hicks." Dunham looked up in question. "To me,
"Oh, hallo!" cried Dunham.
"I don't see how I'm to be of any use," continued the other. "I'm not
a squire of dames; I should merely make a mess of it."
"You're mistaken, Staniford,--I'm sure you are,--in supposing that
she dislikes you," urged his friend.
"Oh, very likely."
"I know that she's simply afraid of you."
"Don't flatter, Dunham. Why should I care whether she fears me or
affects me? No, my dear fellow. This is irretrievably your own affair.
I should be glad to help you out if I knew how. But I don't. In the
mean time your duty is plain, whatever happens. You can't overdo the
sweet and the generous in this wicked world without paying the
Staniford smiled at the distress in which Dunham went his way. He
understood very well that it was not vanity, but the liveliness of a
sensitive conscience, that had made Dunham search his conduct for the
offense against the young girl's peace of heart which he believed he
had committed, and it was the more amusing because he was so guiltless
of harm. Staniford knew who was to blame for the headache and the
blush. He knew that Dunham had never gone so far; that his chivalrous
pleasure in her society might continue for years free from flirtation.
But in spite of this conviction a little poignant doubt made itself
felt, and suddenly became his whole consciousness. "Confound him!" he
mused. "I wonder if she really could care anything for him!" He shut
his book, and rose to his feet with such a burning in his heart that
he could not have believed himself capable of the greater rage he felt
at what he just then saw. It was Lydia and Hicks seated together in
the place where he had sat with her. She leaned with one arm upon
the rail, in an attitude that brought all her slim young grace into
evidence. She seemed on very good terms with him, and he was talking
and making her laugh as Staniford had never heard her laugh before--so
freely, so heartily.
The atoms that had been tending in Staniford's being toward a certain
form suddenly arrested and shaped themselves anew at the vibration
imparted by this laughter. He no longer felt himself Hicks's possible
inferior, but vastly better in every way, and out of the turmoil of
his feelings in regard to Lydia was evolved the distinct sense of
having been trifled with. Somehow, an advantage had been taken of his
sympathies and purposes, and his forbearance had been treated with
The conviction was neither increased nor diminished by the events of
the evening, when Lydia brought out some music from her state-room,
and Hicks appeared, flute in hand, from his, and they began practicing
one of the pieces together. It was a pretty enough sight. Hicks had
been gradually growing a better-looking fellow; he had an undeniable
picturesqueness, as he bowed his head over the music towards hers;
and she, as she held the sheet with one hand for him to see, while she
noiselessly accompanied herself on the table with the fingers of the
other, and tentatively sang now this passage and now that, was divine.
The picture seemed pleasing to neither Staniford nor Dunham; they
went on deck together, and sat down to their cigarettes in their
wonted place. They did not talk of Lydia, or of any of the things that
had formed the basis of their conversation hitherto, but Staniford
returned to his Colorado scheme, and explained at length the nature of
his purposes and expectations. He had discussed these matters before,
but he had never gone into them so fully, nor with such cheerful
earnestness. He said he should never marry,--he had made up his
mind to that; but he hoped to make money enough to take care of his
sister's boy Jim handsomely, as the little chap had been named for
him. He had been thinking the matter over, and he believed that he
should get back by rail and steamer as soon as he could after they
reached Trieste. He was not sorry he had come; but he could not afford
to throw away too much time on Italy, just then.
Dunham, on his part, talked a great deal of Miss Hibbard, and of
some curious psychological characteristics of her dyspepsia. He asked
Staniford whether he had ever shown him the photograph of Miss Hibbard
taken by Sarony when she was on to New York the last time: it was a
three-quarters view, and Dunham thought it the best she had had done.
He spoke of her generous qualities, and of the interest she had always
had in the Diet Kitchen, to which, as an invalid, her attention had
been particularly directed: and he said that in her last letter she
had mentioned a project for establishing diet kitchens in Europe, on
the Boston plan. When their talk grew more impersonal and took a wider
range, they gathered suggestion from the situation, and remarked upon
the immense solitude of the sea. They agreed that there was something
weird in the long continuance of fine weather, and that the moon had a
strange look. They spoke of the uncertainty of life. Dunham regretted,
as he had often regretted before, that his friend had no fixed
religious belief; and Staniford gently accepted his solicitude, and
said that he had at least a conviction if not a creed. He then begged
Dunham's pardon in set terms for trying to wound his feelings the day
before; and in the silent hand-clasp that followed they renewed all
the cordiality of their friendship. From time to time, as they talked,
the music from below came up fitfully, and once they had to pause as
Lydia sang through the song that she and Hicks were practicing.
As the days passed their common interest in the art brought Hicks and
the young girl almost constantly together, and the sound of their
concerting often filled the ship. The musicales, less formal than
Dunham had intended, and perhaps for that reason a source of rapidly
diminishing interest with him, superseded both ring-toss and shuffle-
board, and seemed even more acceptable to the ship's company as an
entertainment. One evening, when the performers had been giving a
piece of rather more than usual excellence and difficulty, one of the
sailors, deputed by his mates, came aft, with many clumsy shows of
deference, and asked them to give Marching through Georgia. Hicks
found this out of his repertory, but Lydia sang it. Then the group
at the forecastle shouted with one voice for Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,
the Boys are Marching, and so beguiled her through the whole list
of war-songs. She ended with one unknown to her listeners, but better
than all the rest in its pathetic words and music, and when she had
sung The Flag's come back to Tennessee, the spokesman of the sailors
came aft again, to thank her for his mates, and to say they would not
spoil that last song by asking for anything else. It was a charming
little triumph for her, as she sat surrounded by her usual court: the
captain was there to countenance the freedom the sailors had taken,
and Dunham and Staniford stood near, but Hicks, at her right hand,
held the place of honor.
The next night Staniford found her alone in the waist of the ship,
and drew up a stool beside the rail where she sat.
"We all enjoyed your singing so much, last night, Miss Blood. I think
Mr. Hicks plays charmingly, but I believe I prefer to hear your voice
"Thank you," said Lydia, looking down, demurely.
"It must be a great satisfaction to feel that you can give so much
"I don't know," she said, passing the palm of one hand over the back
of the other.
"When you are a _prima donna_ you mustn't forget your old friends
of the Aroostook. We shall all take vast pride in you."
It was not a question, and Lydia answered nothing. Staniford, who
had rather obliged himself to this advance, with some dim purpose of
showing that nothing had occurred to alienate them since the evening,
of their promenade, without having proved to himself that it was
necessary to do this, felt that he was growing angry. It irritated him
to have her sit as unmoved after his words as if he had not spoken.
"Miss Blood," he said, "I envy you your gift of snubbing people."
Lydia looked at him. "Snubbing people?" she echoed.
"Yes; your power of remaining silent when you wish to put down some
one who has been wittingly or unwittingly impertinent."
"I don't know what you mean," she said, in a sort of breathless way.
"And you didn't intend to mark your displeasure at my planning your
"No! We had talked of that. I--"
"And you were not vexed with me for anything? I have been afraid that
I--that you--" Staniford found that he was himself getting short of
breath. He had begun with the intention of mystifying her, but matters
had suddenly taken another course, and he was really anxious to know
whether any disagreeable associations with that night lingered in
her mind. With this longing came a natural inability to find the
right word. "I was afraid--" he repeated, and then he stopped again.
Clearly, he could not tell her that he was afraid he had gone too far;
but this was what he meant. "You don't walk with me, any more, Miss
Blood," he concluded, with an air of burlesque reproach.
"You haven't asked me--since," she said.
He felt a singular value and significance in this word, since. It
showed that her thoughts had been running parallel with his own; it
permitted, if it did not signify, that he should resume the mood of
that time, where their parting had interrupted it. He enjoyed the fact
to the utmost, but he was not sure that he wished to do what he was
permitted. "Then I didn't tire you?" he merely asked. He was not sure,
now he came to think of it, that he liked her willingness to recur to
that time. He liked it, but not quite in the way he would have liked
to like it.
"No," she said.
"The fact is," he went on aimlessly, "that I thought I had rather
abused your kindness. Besides," he added, veering off, "I was afraid
I should be an interruption to the musical exercises."
"Oh, no," said Lydia. "Mr. Dunham hasn't arranged anything yet."
Staniford thought this uncandid. It was fighting shy of Hicks, who
was the person in his own mind; and it reawakened a suspicion which
was lurking there. "Mr. Dunham seems to have lost his interest."
This struck Staniford as an expression of pique; it reawakened quite
another suspicion. It was evident that she was hurt at the cessation
of Dunham's attentions. He was greatly minded to say that Dunham was
a fool, but he ended by saying, with sarcasm, "I suppose he saw that
he was superseded."
"Mr. Hicks plays well," said Lydia, judicially, "but he doesn't really
know so much of music as Mr. Dunham."
"No?" responded Staniford, with irony. "I will tell Dunham. No doubt
he's been suffering the pangs of professional jealousy. That must be
the reason why he keeps away."
"Keeps away?" asked Lydia.
"_Now_ I've made an ass of myself!" thought Staniford. "You said
that he seemed to have lost his interest," he answered her.
"Oh! Yes!" assented Lydia. And then she remained rather distraught,
pulling at the ruffling of her dress.
"Dunham is a very accomplished man," said Staniford, finding the usual
satisfaction in pressing his breast against the thorn. "He's a great
favorite in society. He's up to no end of things." Staniford uttered
these praises in a curiously bitter tone. "He's a capital talker.
Don't you think he talks well?"
"I don't know; I suppose I haven't seen enough people to be a good
"Well, you've seen enough people to know that he's very good