Part 4 out of 5
"And that we were going on to Trieste with her?"
"She had it out of me before I knew," said Dunham. "I didn't realize
what she was after; and I didn't realize how peculiar the situation
"I see nothing peculiar in the situation," interrupted Staniford,
haughtily. Then he laughed consciously. "Or, yes, I do; of course I
do! You must know _her_ to appreciate it, though." He mused a
while before he added: "No wonder Mrs. Rivers was determined to come
aboard! I wish we had let her,--confound her! She'll think I was
ashamed of it. There's nothing to be ashamed of! By Heaven, I should
like to hear any one--" Staniford broke off, and laughed, and then bit
his lip, smiling. Suddenly he burst out again, frowning: "I won't view
it in that light. I refuse to consider it from that point of view. As
far as I'm concerned, it's as regular as anything else in life. It's
the same to me as if she were in her own house, and I had come there
to tell her that she has my future in her hand. She's such a lady by
instinct that she's made it all a triumph, and I thank God that I
haven't done or said anything to mar it. Even that beast of a Hicks
didn't; it's no merit. I've made love to her,--I own it; of course
I have, because I was in love with her; and my fault has been that I
haven't made love to her openly, but have gone on fancying that I was
studying her character, or some rubbish of that sort. But the fault
is easily repaired." He turned about, as if he were going to look for
Lydia at once, and ask her to be his wife. But he halted abruptly,
and sat down. "No; that won't do," he said. "That won't do at all."
He remained thinking, and Dunham, unwilling to interrupt his reverie,
moved a few paces off. "Dunham, don't go. I want your advice. Perhaps
I don't see it in the right light."
"How is it you see it, my dear fellow?" asked Dunham.
"I don't know whether I've a right to be explicit with her, here. It
seems like taking an advantage. In a few days she will be with her
"You must wait," said Dunham, decisively. "You can't speak to her
before she is in their care; it wouldn't be the thing. You're quite
right about that."
"No, it wouldn't be the thing," groaned Staniford. "But how is it all
to go on till then?" he demanded desperately.
"Why, just as it has before," answered Dunham, with easy confidence.
"But is that fair to her?"
"Why not? You mean to say to her at the right time all that a man can.
Till that time comes I haven't the least doubt she understands you."
"Do you think so?" asked Staniford, simply. He had suddenly grown very
subject and meek to Dunham.
"Yes," said the other, with the superiority of a betrothed lover;
"women are very quick about those things."
"I suppose you're right," sighed Staniford, with nothing of his wonted
arrogant pretension in regard to women's moods and minds, "I suppose
you're right. And you would go on just as before?"
"I would, indeed. How could you change without making her unhappy--if
she's interested in you?"
"That's true. I could imagine worse things than going on just as
before. I suppose," he added, "that something more explicit has its
charms; but a mutual understanding is very pleasant,--if it _is_
a mutual understanding." He looked inquiringly at Dunham.
"Why, as to that, of course I don't know. You ought to be the best
judge of that. But I don't believe your impressions would deceive
"Yours did, once," suggested Staniford, in suspense.
"Yes; but I was not in love with her," explained Dunham.
"Of course," said Staniford, with a breath of relief. "And you think
--Well, I must wait!" he concluded, grimly. "But don't--don't mention
this matter, Dunham, unless I do. Don't keep an eye on me, old fellow.
Or, yes, you must! You can't help it. I want to tell you, Dunham, what
makes me think she may be a not wholly uninterested spectator of my
--sentiments." He made full statement of words and looks and tones.
Dunham listened with the patience which one lover has with another.
The few days that yet remained of their voyage were falling in the
latter half of September, and Staniford tried to make the young girl
see the surpassing loveliness of that season under Italian skies;
the fierceness of the summer is then past, and at night, when chiefly
they inspected the firmament, the heaven has begun to assume something
of the intense blue it wears in winter. She said yes, it was very
beautiful, but she could not see that the days were finer, or the
skies bluer, than those of September at home; and he laughed at her
loyalty to the American weather. "Don't _you_ think so, too?" she
asked, as if it pained her that he should like Italian weather better.
"Oh, yes,--yes," he said. Then he turned the talk on her, as he did
whenever he could. "I like your meteorological patriotism. If I were
a woman, I should stand by America in everything."
"Don't you as a man?" she pursued, still anxiously.
"Oh, certainly," he answered. "But women owe our continent a double
debt of fidelity. It's the Paradise of women, it's their Promised
Land, where they've been led up out of the Egyptian bondage of Europe.
It's the home of their freedom. It is recognized in America that women
have consciences and souls."
Lydia looked very grave. "Is it--is it so different with women in
Europe?" she faltered.
"Very," he replied, and glanced at her half-laughingly, half-tenderly.
After a while, "I wish you would tell me," she said, "just what you
mean. I wish you would tell me what is the difference."
"Oh, it's a long story. I will tell you--when we get to Venice."
The well-worn jest served its purpose again; she laughed, and he
continued: "By the way, just when will that be? The captain says
that if this wind holds we shall be in Trieste by Friday afternoon.
I suppose your friends will meet you there on Saturday, and that
you'll go back with them to Venice at once."
"Yes," assented Lydia.
"Well, if I should come on Monday, would that be too soon?"
"Oh, no!" she answered. He wondered if she had been vaguely hoping
that he might go directly on with her to Venice. They were together
all day, now, and the long talks went on from early morning, when they
met before breakfast on deck, until late at night, when they parted
there, with blushed and laughed good-nights. Sometimes the trust she
put upon his unspoken promises was terrible; it seemed to condemn
his reticence as fantastic and hazardous. With her, at least, it was
clear that this love was the first; her living and loving were one. He
longed to testify the devotion which he felt, to leave it unmistakable
and safe past accident; he thought of making his will, in which he
should give her everything, and declare her supremely dear; he could
only rid himself of this by drawing up the paper in writing, and then
he easily tore it in pieces.
They drew nearer together, not only in their talk about each other,
but in what they said of different people in their relation to
themselves. But Staniford's pleasure in the metaphysics of reciprocal
appreciation, his wonder at the quickness with which she divined
characters he painfully analyzed, was not greater than his joy in the
pretty hitch of the shoulder with which she tucked her handkerchief
into the back pocket of her sack, or the picturesqueness with, which
she sat facing him, and leant upon the rail, with her elbow wrapped
in her shawl, and the fringe gathered in the hand which propped her
cheek. He scribbled his sketch-book full of her contours and poses,
which sometimes he caught unawares, and which sometimes she sat for
him to draw. One day, as they sat occupied in this, "I wonder," he
said, "if you have anything of my feeling, nowadays. It seems to me
as if the world had gone on a pleasure excursion, without taking me
along, and I was enjoying myself very much at home."
"Why, yes," she said, joyously; "do you have that feeling, too?"
"I wonder what it is makes us feel so," he ventured.
"Perhaps," she returned, "the long voyage."
"I shall hate to have the world come back, I believe," he said,
reverting to the original figure. "Shall you?"
"You know I don't know much about it," she answered, in lithe evasion,
for which she more than atoned with a conscious look and one of her
dark blushes. Yet he chose, with a curious cruelty, to try how far
she was his.
"How odd it would be," he said, "if we never should have a chance
to talk up this voyage of ours when it is over!"
She started, in a way that made his heart smite him. "Why, you said
you--" And then she caught herself, and struggled pitifully for the
self-possession she had lost. She turned her head away; his pulse
"Did you think I wouldn't? I am living for that." He took the hand
that lay in her lap; she seemed to try to free it, but she had not
the strength or will; she could only keep her face turned from him.
They arrived Friday afternoon in Trieste, and Captain Jenness
telegraphed his arrival to Lydia's uncle as he went up to the
consulate with his ship's papers. The next morning the young men
sent their baggage to a hotel, but they came back for a last dinner
on the Aroostook. They all pretended to be very gay, but everybody
was perturbed and distraught. Staniford and Dunham had paid their way
handsomely with the sailors, and they had returned with remembrances
in florid scarfs and jewelry for Thomas and the captain and the
officers. Dunham had thought they ought to get something to give Lydia
as a souvenir of their voyage; it was part of his devotion to young
ladies to offer them little presents; but Staniford overruled him,
and said there should be nothing of the kind. They agreed to be out of
the way when her uncle came, and they said good-by after dinner. She
came on deck to watch them ashore. Staniford would be the last to take
leave. As he looked into her eyes, he saw brave trust of him, but he
thought a sort of troubled wonder, too, as if she could not understand
his reticence, and suffered from it. There was the same latent appeal
and reproach in the pose in which she watched their boat row away. She
stood with one hand resting on the rail, and her slim grace outlined
against the sky. He waved his hand; she answered with a little languid
wave of hers; then she turned away. He felt as if he had forsaken her.
The afternoon was very long. Toward night-fall he eluded Dunham, and
wandered back to the ship in the hope that she might still be there.
But she was gone. Already everything was changed. There was bustle and
discomfort; it seemed years since he had been there. Captain Jenness
was ashore somewhere; it was the second mate who told Staniford of
her uncle's coming.
"What sort of person was he?" he asked vaguely.
"Oh, well! _Dum_ an Englishman, any way," said Mason, in a tone
of easy, sociable explanation.
The scruple to which Staniford had been holding himself for the past
four or five days seemed the most incredible of follies,--the most
fantastic, the most cruel. He hurried back to the hotel; when he
found Dunham coming out from the _table d'hote_ he was wild.
"I have been the greatest fool in the world, Dunham," he said.
"I have let a quixotic quibble keep me from speaking when I ought
to have spoken."
Dunham looked at him in stupefaction. "Where have you been?" he
"Down to the ship. I was in hopes that she might be still there.
But she's gone."
"The Aroostook _gone_?"
"Look here, Dunham," cried Staniford, angrily, "this is the second
time you've done that! If you are merely thick-witted, much can be
forgiven to your infirmity; but if you've a mind to joke, let me tell
you you choose your time badly."
"I'm not joking. I don't know what you're talking about. I may be
thick-witted, as you say; or you may be scatter-witted," said Dunham,
indignantly. "What are you after, any way?"
"What was my reason for not being explicit with her; for going away
from her without one honest, manly, downright word; for sneaking off
without telling her that she was more than life to me, and that if
she cared for me as I cared for her I would go on with her to Venice,
and meet her people with her?"
"Why, I don't know," replied Dunham, vaguely. "We agreed that there
would be a sort of--that she ought to be in their care before--"
"Then I can tell you," interrupted Staniford, "that we agreed upon the
greatest piece of nonsense that ever was. A man can do no more than
offer himself, and if he does less, after he's tried everything to
show that he's in love with a woman, and to make her in love with him,
he's a scamp to refrain from a bad motive, and an ass to refrain from
a good one. Why in the name of Heaven _shouldn't_ I have spoken,
instead of leaving her to eat her heart out in wonder at my delay,
and to doubt and suspect and dread--Oh!" he shouted, in supreme
Dunham had nothing to urge in reply. He had fallen in with what he
thought Staniford's own mind in regard to the course he ought to take;
since he had now changed his mind, there seemed never to have been
any reason for that course.
"My dear fellow," he said, "it isn't too late yet to see her, I dare
say. Let us go and find what time the trains leave for Venice."
"Do you suppose I can offer myself in the _salle d'attente_?"
sneered Staniford. But he went with Dunham to the coffee-room,
where they found the Osservatore Triestino and the time-table of
the railroad. The last train left for Venice at ten, and it was now
seven; the Austrian Lloyd steamer for Venice sailed at nine.
"Pshaw!" said Staniford, and pushed the paper away. He sat brooding
over the matter before the table on which the journals were scattered,
while Dunham waited for him to speak. At last he said, "I can't stand
it; I must see her. I don't know whether I told her I should come
on to-morrow night or not. If she should be expecting me on Monday
morning, and I should be delayed--Dunham, will you drive round with
me to the Austrian Lloyd's wharf? They may be going by the boat, and
if they are they'll have left their hotel. We'll try the train later.
I should like to find out if they are on board. I don't know that
I'll try to speak with them; very likely not."
"I'll go, certainly," answered Dunham, cordially.
"I'll have some dinner first," said Staniford. "I'm hungry."
It was quite dark when they drove on to the wharf at which the boat
for Venice lay. When they arrived, a plan had occurred to Staniford,
through the timidity which had already succeeded the boldness of his
desperation. "Dunham," he said, "I want you to go on board, and see
if she's there. I don't think I could stand not finding her. Besides,
if she's cheerful and happy, perhaps I'd better not see her. You can
come back and report. Confound it, you know, I should be so conscious
before that infernal uncle of hers. You understand!"
"Yes, yes," returned Dunham, eager to serve Staniford in a case like
this. "I'll manage it."
"Well," said Staniford, beginning to doubt the wisdom of either going
aboard, "do it if you think best. I don't know--"
"Don't know what?" asked Dunham, pausing in the door of
"Oh, nothing, nothing! I hope we're not making fools of ourselves."
"You're morbid, old fellow!" said Dunham, gayly. He disappeared in
the darkness, and Staniford waited, with set teeth, till he came back.
He seemed a long time gone. When he returned, he stood holding fast
to the open fiacre-door, without speaking.
"Well!" cried Staniford, with bitter impatience.
"Well what?" Dunham asked, in a stupid voice.
"Were they there?"
"I don't know. I can't tell."
"Can't tell, man? Did you go to see?"
"I think so. I'm not sure."
A heavy sense of calamity descended upon Staniford's heart, but
patience came with it. "What's the matter, Dunham?" he asked, getting
"I don't know. I think I've had a fall, somewhere. Help me in."
Staniford got out and helped him gently to the seat, and then mounted
beside him, giving the order for their return. "Where is your hat?"
he asked, finding that Dunham was bareheaded.
"I don't know. It doesn't matter. Am I bleeding?"
"It's so dark, I can't see."
"Put your hand here." He carried Staniford's hand to the back of
"There's no blood; but you've had an ugly knock there."
"Yes, that's it," said Dunham. "I remember now; I slipped and struck
my head." He lapsed away in a torpor; Staniford could learn nothing
more from him.
The hurt was not what Staniford in his first anxiety had feared, but
the doctor whom they called at the hotel was vague and guarded as to
everything but the time and care which must be given in any event.
Staniford despaired; but there was only one thing to do. He sat down
beside his friend to take care of him.
His mind was a turmoil of regrets, of anxieties, of apprehensions; but
he had a superficial calmness that enabled him to meet the emergencies
of the case. He wrote a letter to Lydia which he somehow knew to be
rightly worded, telling her of the accident. In terms which conveyed
to her all that he felt, he said that he should not see her at the
time he had hoped, but promised to come to Venice as soon as he could
quit his friend. Then, with a deep breath, he put that affair away
for the time, and seemed to turn a key upon it.
He called a waiter, and charged him to have his letter posted at once.
The man said he would give it to the _portier_, who was sending
out some other letters. He returned, ten minutes later, with a
number of letters which he said the portier had found for him at
the post-office. Staniford glanced at them. It was no time to read
them then, and he put them into the breast pocket of his coat.
At the hotel in Trieste, to which Lydia went with her uncle before
taking the train for Venice, she found an elderly woman, who made her
a courtesy, and, saying something in Italian, startled her by kissing
"It's our Veronica," her uncle explained; "she wants to know how she
can serve you." He gave Veronica the wraps and parcels he had been
carrying. "Your aunt thought you might need a maid."
"Oh, no!" said Lydia. "I always help myself."
"Ah, I dare say," returned her uncle. "You American ladies are so--up
to snuff, as you say. But your aunt thought we'd better have her with
us, in any case."
"And she sent her all the way from Venice?"
"Well, I never did!" said Lydia, not lightly, but with something of
Her uncle smiled, as if she had said something peculiarly acceptable
to him, and asked, hesitatingly, "When you say you never did, you
know, what is the full phrase?"
Lydia looked at him. "Oh! I suppose I meant I never heard of such
"Ah, thanks, thanks!" said her uncle. He was a tall, slender man
of fifty-five or sixty, with a straight gray mustache, and not at
all the typical Englishman, but much more English-looking than if he
had been. His bearing toward Lydia blended a fatherly kindness and
a colonial British gallantry, such as one sees in elderly Canadian
gentlemen attentive to quite young Canadian ladies at the provincial
watering-places. He had an air of adventure, and of uncommon pleasure
and no small astonishment in Lydia's beauty. They were already good
friends; she was at her ease with him; she treated him as if he were
an old gentleman. At the station, where Veronica got into the same
carriage with them, Lydia found the whole train very queer-looking,
and he made her describe its difference from an American train. He
said, "Oh, yes--yes, engine," when she mentioned the locomotive, and
he apparently prized beyond its worth the word cow-catcher, a fixture
which Lydia said was wanting to the European locomotive, and left it
very stubby. He asked her if she would allow him to set it down; and
he entered the word in his note-book, with several other idioms she
had used. He said that he amused himself in picking up these things
from his American friends. He wished to know what she called this
and that and the other thing, and was equally pleased whether her
nomenclature agreed or disagreed with his own. Where it differed,
he recorded the fact, with her leave, in his book. He plied her with
a thousand questions about America, with all parts of which he seemed
to think her familiar; and she explained with difficulty how very
little of it she had seen. He begged her not to let him bore her,
and to excuse the curiosity of a Britisher, "As I suppose you'd call
me," he added.
Lydia lifted her long-lashed lids half-way, and answered, "No,
I shouldn't call you so."
"Ah, yes," he returned, "the Americans always disown it. But I don't
mind it at all, you know. I like those native expressions." Where they
stopped for refreshments he observed that one of the dishes, which was
flavored to the national taste, had a pretty tall smell, and seemed
disappointed by Lydia's unresponsive blankness at a word which a
countryman of hers--from Kentucky--had applied to the odor of the
Venetian canals. He suffered in like measure from a like effect in
her when he lamented the complications that had kept him the year
before from going to America with Mrs. Erwin, when she revisited
her old stomping-ground.
As they rolled along, the warm night which had fallen after the
beautiful day breathed through the half-dropped window in a rich,
soft air, as strange almost as the flying landscape itself. Mr. Erwin
began to drowse, and at last he fell asleep; but Veronica kept her
eyes vigilantly fixed upon Lydia, always smiling when she caught her
glance, and offering service. At the stations, so orderly and yet
so noisy, where the passengers were held in the same meek subjection
as at Trieste, people got in and out of the carriage; and there were
officers, at first in white coats, and after they passed the Italian
frontier in blue, who stared at Lydia. One of the Italians, a handsome
young hussar, spoke to her. She could not know what he said; but when
he crossed over to her side of the carriage, she rose and took her
place beside Veronica, where she remained even after he left the
carriage. She was sensible of growing drowsy. Then she was aware of
nothing till she woke up with her head on Veronica's shoulder, against
which she had fallen, and on which she had been patiently supported
for hours. "Ecco Venezia!" cried the old woman, pointing to a swarm
of lights that seemed to float upon an expanse of sea. Lydia did not
understand; she thought she was again on board the Aroostook, and that
the lights she saw were the lights of the shipping in Boston harbor.
The illusion passed, and left her heart sore. She issued from the
glare of the station upon the quay before it, bewildered by the
ghostly beauty of the scene, but shivering in the chill of the dawn,
and stunned by the clamor of the gondoliers. A tortuous course in the
shadow of lofty walls, more deeply darkened from time to time by the
arch of a bridge, and again suddenly pierced by the brilliance of a
lamp that shot its red across the gloom, or plunged it into the black
water, brought them to a palace gate at which they stopped, and where,
after a dramatic ceremony of sliding bolts and the reluctant yielding
of broad doors on a level with the water, she passed through a
marble-paved court and up a stately marble staircase to her uncle's
apartment. "You're at home, now, you know," he said, in a kindly way,
and took her hand, very cold and lax, in his for welcome. She could
not answer, but made haste to follow Veronica to her room, whither
the old woman led the way with a candle. It was a gloomily spacious
chamber, with sombre walls and a lofty ceiling with a faded splendor
of gilded paneling. Some tall, old-fashioned mirrors and bureaus stood
about, with rugs before them on the stone floor; in the middle of the
room was a bed curtained with mosquito-netting. Carved chairs were
pushed here and there against the wall. Lydia dropped into one of
these, too strange and heavy-hearted to go to bed in that vastness
and darkness, in which her candle seemed only to burn a small round
hole. She longed forlornly to be back again in her pretty state-room
on the Aroostook; vanishing glimpses and echoes of the faces and
voices grown so familiar in the past weeks haunted her; the helpless
tears ran down her cheeks.
There came a tap at her door, and her aunt's voice called, "Shall I
come in?" and before she could faintly consent, her aunt pushed in,
and caught her in her arms, and kissed her, and broke into a twitter
of welcome and compassion. "You poor child! Did you think I was going
to let you go to sleep without seeing you, after you'd come half round
the world to see me?" Her aunt was dark and slight like Lydia, but
not so tall; she was still a very pretty woman, and she was a very
effective presence now in the long white morning-gown of camel's hair,
somewhat fantastically embroidered in crimson silk, in which she
drifted about before Lydia's bewildered eyes. "Let me see how you
look! Are you as handsome as ever?" She held the candle she carried so
as to throw its light full upon Lydia's face. "Yes!" she sighed. "How
pretty you are! And at your age you'll look even better by daylight!
I had begun to despair of you; I thought you couldn't be all I
remembered; but you are,--you're more! I wish I had you in Rome,
instead of Venice; there would be some use in it. There's a great deal
of society there,--_English_ society; but never mind: I'm going
to take you to church with me to-morrow,--the English service; there
are lots of English in Venice now, on their way south for the winter.
I'm crazy to see what dresses you've brought; your aunt Maria has told
me how she fitted you out. I've got two letters from her since you
started, and they're all perfectly well, dear. Your black silk will
do nicely, with bright ribbons, especially; I hope you haven't got
it spotted or anything on the way over." She did not allow Lydia to
answer, nor seem to expect it. "You've got your mother's eyes, Lydia,
but your father had those straight eyebrows: you're very much like
him. Poor Henry! And now I'm having you get something to eat. I'm not
going to risk coffee on you, for fear it will keep you awake; though
you can drink it in this climate with _comparative_ impunity.
Veronica is warming you a bowl of _bouillon_, and that's all
you're to have till breakfast!"
"Why, aunt Josephine," said the girl, not knowing what bouillon was,
and abashed by the sound of it, "I'm not the least hungry. You
oughtn't to take the trouble--"
"You'll be hungry when you begin to eat. I'm so impatient to hear
about your voyage! I am going to introduce you to some very nice
people, here,--English people. There are no Americans living in
Venice; and the Americans in Europe are so queer! You've no idea
how droll our customs seem here; and I much prefer the English. Your
poor uncle can never get me to ask Americans. I tell him I'm American
enough, and he'll have to get on without others. Of course, he's
perfectly delighted to get at you. You've quite taken him by storm,
Lydia; he's in raptures about your looks. It's what I told him before
you came; but I couldn't believe it till I took a look at you. I
couldn't have gone to sleep without it. Did Mr. Erwin talk much with
"He was very pleasant. He talked--as long as he was awake,"
"I suppose he was trying to pick up Americanisms from you; he's always
doing it. I keep him away from Americans as much as I can: but he will
get at them on the cars and at the hotels. He's always asking them
such ridiculous questions, and I know some of them just talk nonsense
Veronica came in with a tray, and a bowl of bouillon on it; and
Mrs. Erwin pulled up a light table, and slid about, serving her,
in her cabalistic dress, like an Oriental sorceress performing her
incantations. She volubly watched Lydia while she ate her supper,
and at the end she kissed her again. "Now you feel better," she said.
"I knew it would cheer you up more than any one thing. There's nothing
like something to eat when you're homesick. I found that out when I
was off at school."
Lydia was hardly kissed so much at home during a year as she had been
since meeting Mrs. Erwin. Her aunt Maria sparely embraced her when she
went and came each week from the Mill Village; anything more than this
would have come of insincerity between them; but it had been agreed
that Mrs. Erwin's demonstrations of affection, of which she had been
lavish during her visit to South Bradfield, might not be so false.
Lydia accepted them submissively, and she said, when Veronica returned
for the tray, "I hate to give you so much trouble. And sending her
all the way to Trieste on my account,--I felt ashamed. There wasn'
a thing for her to do."
"Why, of course not!" exclaimed her aunt. "But what did you think
I was made of? Did you suppose I was going to have you come on a
night-journey alone with your uncle? It would have been all over
Venice; it would have been ridiculous. I sent Veronica along for
"A dragon? I don't understand," faltered Lydia.
"Well, you will," said her aunt, putting the palms of her hands
against Lydia's, and so pressing forward to kiss her. "We shall
have breakfast at ten. Go to bed!"
When Lydia came to breakfast she found her uncle alone in the room,
reading Galignani's Messenger. He put down his paper, and came forward
to take her hand. "You are all right this morning, I see, Miss Lydia,"
he said. "You were quite up a stump, last night, as your countrymen
At the same time hands were laid upon her shoulders from behind, and
she was pulled half round, and pushed back, and held at arm's-length.
It was Mrs. Erwin, who, entering after her, first scanned her face,
and then, with one devouring glance, seized every detail of her
dress--the black silk which had already made its effect--before
she kissed her. "You _are_ lovely, my dear! I shall spoil you,
I know; but you're worth it! What lashes you have, child! And your
aunt Maria made and fitted that dress? She's a genius!"
"Miss Lydia," said Mr. Erwin, as they sat down, "is of the fortunate
age when one rises young every morning." He looked very fresh
himself in his clean-shaven chin, and his striking evidence of snowy
wristbands and shirt-bosom. "Later in life, you can't do that. She
looks as blooming," he added, gallantly, "as a basket of chips,--as
you say in America."
"Smiling," said Lydia, mechanically correcting him.
"Ah! It is? Smiling,--yes; thanks. It's very good either way; very
characteristic. It would be curious to know the origin of a saying
like that. I imagine it goes back to the days of the first settlers.
It suggests a wood-chopping period. Is it--ah--in general use?" he
"Of course it isn't, Henshaw!" said his wife.
"You've been a great while out of the country, my dear," suggested
"Not so long as not to know that your Americanisms are enough to make
one wish we had held our tongues ever since we were discovered, or had
never been discovered at all. I want to ask Lydia about her voyage. I
haven't heard a word yet. Did your aunt Maria come down to Boston with
"No, grandfather brought me."
"And you had good weather coming over? Mr. Erwin told me you were not
"We had one bad storm, before we reached Gibraltar; but I wasn't
"Were the other passengers?"
"One was." Lydia reddened a little, and then turned somewhat paler
than at first.
"What is it, Lydia?" her aunt subtly demanded. "Who was the one
that was sick?"
"Oh, a gentleman," answered Lydia.
Her aunt looked at her keenly, and for whatever reason abruptly left
the subject. "Your silk," she said, "will do very well for church,
"Oh, I say, now!" cried her husband, "you're not going to make her
go to church to-day!"
"Yes, I am! There will be more people there to-day than any other
time this fall. She must go."
"But she's tired to death,--quite tuckered, you know."
"Oh, I'm rested, now," said Lydia. "I shouldn't like to miss going
"Your silk," continued her aunt, "will be quite the thing for church."
She looked hard at the dress, as if it were not quite the thing
for breakfast. Mrs. Erwin herself wore a morning-dress of becoming
delicacy, and an airy French cap; she had a light fall of powder on
her face. "What kind of overthing have you got?" she asked.
"There's a sack goes with this," said the girl, suggestively.
"That's nice! What is your bonnet?"
"I haven't any bonnet. But my best hat is nice. I could--"
"_No_ one goes to church in a hat! You can't do it. It's simply
"Why, my dear," said her husband, "I saw some very pretty American
girls in hats at church, last Sunday."
"Yes, and everybody _knew_ they were Americans by their hats!"
retorted Mrs. Erwin.
"_I_ knew they were Americans by their good looks," said
Mr. Erwin, "and what you call their stylishness."
"Oh, it's all well enough for you to talk. _You're_ an
Englishman, and you could wear a hat, if you liked. It would be
set down to character. But in an American it would be set down
to greenness. If you were an American, you would have to wear
"I'm glad, then, I'm not an American," said her husband; "I don't
think I should look well in a bonnet."
"Oh, stuff, Henshaw! You know what I mean. And I'm not going to
have English people thinking we're ignorant of the common decencies
of life. Lydia shall not go to church in a hat; she had better
_never_ go. I will lend her one of my bonnets. Let me see,
_which_ one." She gazed at Lydia in critical abstraction. "I
wear rather young bonnets," she mused aloud, "and we're both rather
dark. The only difficulty is I'm so much more delicate--" She brooded
upon the question in a silence, from which she burst exulting. "The
very thing! I can fuss it up in no time. It won't take two minutes
to get it ready. And you'll look just killing in it." She turned grave
again. "Henshaw," she said, "I _wish_ you would go to church this
"I would do almost anything for you, Josephine; but really, you know,
you oughtn't to ask that. I was there last Sunday; I can't go every
Sunday. It's bad enough in England; a man ought to have some relief
on the Continent."
"Well, well. I suppose I oughtn't to ask you," sighed his wife,
"especially as you're going with us to-night."
"I'll go to-night, with pleasure," said Mr. Erwin. He rose when his
wife and Lydia left the table, and opened the door for them with a
certain courtesy he had; it struck even Lydia's uneducated sense as
something peculiarly sweet and fine, and it did not overawe her own
simplicity, but seemed of kind with it.
The bonnet, when put to proof, did not turn out to be all that it was
vaunted. It looked a little odd, from the first; and Mrs. Erwin, when
she was herself dressed, ended by taking it off, and putting on Lydia
the hat previously condemned. "You're divine in that," she said. "And
after all, you are a traveler, and I can say that some of your things
were spoiled coming over,--people always get things ruined in a sea
voyage,--and they'll think it was your bonnet."
"I kept my things very nicely, aunt Josephine," said Lydia
conscientiously. "I don't believe anything was hurt."
"Oh, well, you can't tell till you've unpacked; and we're not
responsible for what people happen to think, you know. Wait!"
her aunt suddenly cried. She pulled open a drawer, and snatched two
ribbons from it, which she pinned to the sides of Lydia's hat, and
tied in a bow under her chin; she caught out a lace veil, and drew
that over the front of the hat, and let it hang in a loose knot
behind. "Now," she said, pushing her up to a mirror, that she might
see, "it's a bonnet; and I needn't say _any_thing!"
They went in Mrs. Erwin's gondola to the palace in which the English
service was held, and Lydia was silent, as she looked shyly, almost
fearfully, round on the visionary splendors of Venice.
Mrs. Erwin did not like to be still. "What are you thinking of,
Lydia?" she asked.
"Oh! I suppose I was thinking that the leaves were beginning to turn
in the sugar orchard," answered Lydia faithfully. "I was thinking how
still the sun would be in the pastures, there, this morning. I suppose
the stillness here put me in mind of it. One of these bells has the
same tone as our bell at home."
"Yes," said Mrs. Erwin. "Everybody finds a familiar bell in Venice.
There are enough of them, goodness knows. I don't see why you call it
still, with all this clashing and banging. I suppose this seems very
odd to you, Lydia," she continued, indicating the general Venetian
effect. "It's an old story to me, though. The great beauty of Venice
is that you get more for your money here than you can anywhere else in
the world. There isn't much society, however, and you mustn't expect
to be very gay."
"I have never been gay," said Lydia.
"Well, that's no reason you shouldn't be," returned her aunt. "If you
were in Florence, or Rome, or even Naples, you could have a good time.
There! I'm glad your uncle didn't hear me say that!"
"What?" asked Lydia.
"Good time; that's an Americanism."
"Yes. He's perfectly delighted when he catches me in one. I try to
break myself of them, but I don't always know them myself. Sometimes
I feel almost like never talking at all. But you can't do that, you
"No," assented Lydia.
"And you have to talk Americanisms if you're an American. You mustn't
think your uncle isn't obliging, Lydia. He is. I oughtn't to have
asked him to go to church,--it bores him so much. I used to feel
terribly about it once, when we were first married. But things have
changed very much of late years, especially with all this scientific
talk. In England it's quite different from what it used to be. Some of
the best people in society are skeptics now, and that makes it quite
another thing." Lydia looked grave, but she said nothing, and her
aunt added, "I wouldn't have asked him, but I had a little headache,
"Aunt Josephine," said Lydia, "I'm afraid you're doing too much
for me. Why didn't you let me come alone?"
"Come alone? To church!" Mrs. Erwin addressed her in a sort of
whispered shriek. "It would have been perfectly scandalous."
"To go to church alone?" demanded Lydia, astounded.
"Yes. A young girl mustn't go _any_where alone."
"I'll explain to you, sometime, Lydia; or rather, you'll learn for
yourself. In Italy it's very different from what it is in America."
Mrs. Erwin suddenly started up and bowed with great impressiveness,
as a gondola swept towards them. The gondoliers wore shirts of blue
silk, and long crimson sashes. On the cushions of the boat, beside a
hideous little man who was sucking the top of an ivory-handled stick,
reclined a beautiful woman, pale, with purplish rings round the large
black eyes with which, faintly smiling, she acknowledged Mrs. Erwin's
salutation, and then stared at Lydia.
"Oh, you may look, and you may look, and you may look!" cried Mrs.
Erwin, under her breath. "You've met more than your match at last!
The Countess Tatocka," she explained to Lydia. "That was her palace
we passed just now,--the one with the iron balconies. Did you notice
the gentleman with her? She always takes to those monsters. He's
a Neapolitan painter, and ever so talented,--clever, that is. He's
dead in love with her, they say."
"Are they engaged?" asked Lydia.
"Engaged!" exclaimed Mrs. Erwin, with her shriek in dumb show.
"Why, child, she's married!"
"To _him_?" demanded the girl, with a recoil.
"No! To her husband."
"To her husband?" gasped Lydia. "And she--"
"Why, she isn't quite well seen, even in Venice," Mrs. Erwin
explained. "But she's rich, and her _conversazioni_ are perfectly
brilliant. She's very artistic, and she writes poetry,--Polish poetry.
I _wish_ she could hear you sing, Lydia! I know she'll be frantic
to see you again. But I don't see how it's to be managed; her house
isn't one you can take a young girl to. And _I_ can't ask her:
your uncle detests her."
"Do you go to her house?" Lydia inquired stiffly.
"Why, as a foreigner, _I_ can go. Of course, Lydia, you can't be
as particular about everything on the Continent as you are at home."
The former oratory of the Palazzo Grinzelli, which served as the
English chapel, was filled with travelers of both the English-speaking
nationalities, as distinguishable by their dress as by their faces.
Lydia's aunt affected the English style, but some instinctive elegance
betrayed her, and every Englishwoman there knew and hated her for an
American, though she was a precisian in her liturgy, instant in all
the responses and genuflexions. She found opportunity in the course of
the lesson to make Lydia notice every one, and she gave a telegrammic
biography of each person she knew, with a criticism of the costume of
all the strangers, managing so skillfully that by the time the sermon
began she was able to yield the text a statuesquely close attention,
and might have been carved in marble where she sat as a realistic
conception of Worship.
The sermon came to an end; the ritual proceeded; the hymn, with the
hemming and hawing of respectable inability, began, and Lydia lifted
her voice with the rest. Few of the people were in their own church;
some turned and stared at her; the bonnets and the back hair of those
who did not look were intent upon her; the long red neck of one
elderly Englishman, restrained by decorum from turning his head toward
her, perspired with curiosity. Mrs. Erwin fidgeted, and dropped her
eyes from the glances which fell to her for explanation of Lydia, and
hurried away with her as soon as the services ended. In the hall on
the water-floor of the palace, where they were kept waiting for their
gondola a while, she seemed to shrink even from the small, surly
greetings with which people whose thoughts are on higher things permit
themselves to recognize fellow-beings of their acquaintance in coming
out of church. But an old lady, who supported herself with a cane,
pushed through the crowd to where they stood aloof, and, without
speaking to Mrs. Erwin, put out her hand to Lydia; she had a strong,
undaunted, plain face, in which was expressed the habit of doing what
she liked. "My dear," she said, "how wonderfully you sing! Where did
you get that heavenly voice? You are an American; I see that by your
beauty. You are Mrs. Erwin's niece, I suppose, whom she expected.
Will you come and sing to me? You must bring her, Mrs. Erwin."
She hobbled away without waiting for an answer, and Lydia and her aunt
got into their gondola. "_Oh_! How glad I am!" cried Mrs. Erwin,
in a joyful flutter. "She's the very tip-top of the English here; she
has a whole palace, and you meet the very best people at her house.
I was afraid when you were singing, Lydia, that they would think your
voice was too good to be good form,--that's an expression you must
get; it means everything,--it sounded almost professional. I wanted
to nudge you to sing a little lower, or different, or something; but
I couldn't, everybody was looking so. No matter. It's all right now.
If _she_ liked it, nobody else will dare to breathe. You can see
that she has taken a fancy to you; she'll make a great pet of you."
"Who is she?" asked Lydia, bluntly.
"Lady Fenleigh. Such a character,--so eccentric! But really, I
suppose, very hard to live with. It must have been quite a release
for poor Sir Fenleigh."
"She didn't seem in mourning," said Lydia. "Has he been dead long?"
"Why, he isn't dead at all! He is what you call a grass-widower.
The best soul in the world, everybody says, and very, very fond of
her; but she couldn't stand it; he was _too_ good, don't you
understand? They've lived apart a great many years. She's lived a
great deal in Asia Minor,--somewhere. She likes Venice; but of course
there's no telling how long she may stay. She has another house in
Florence, all ready to go and be lived in at a day's notice. I wish
I had presented you! It did go through my head; but it didn't seem
as if I _could_ get the Blood out. It _is_ a fearful name,
Lydia; I always felt it so when I was a girl, and I was _so_
glad to marry out of it; and it sounds so terribly American. I think
you must take your mother's name, my dear. Latham is rather flattish,
but it's worlds better than Blood."
"I am not ashamed of my father's name," said Lydia.
"But you'll have to change it some day, at any rate,--when you get
Lydia turned away. "I will be called Blood till then. If Lady
"Yes, my dear," promptly interrupted her aunt, "I know that sort of
independence. I used to have whole Declarations of it. But you'll get
over that, in Europe. There was a time--just after the war--when the
English quite liked our sticking up for ourselves; but that's past
now. They like us to be outlandish, but they don't like us to be
independent. How did you like the sermon? Didn't you think we had
a nicely-dressed congregation?"
"I thought the sermon was very short," answered Lydia.
"Well, that's the English way, and I like it. If you get in all
the service, you _must_ make the sermon short."
Lydia did not say anything for a little while. Then she asked,
"Is the service the same at the evening meeting?"
"Evening meeting?" repeated Mrs. Erwin.
"Yes,--the church to-night."
"Why, child, there isn't any church to-night! What _are_ you
"Didn't uncle--didn't Mr. Erwin say he would go with us to-night?"
Mrs. Erwin seemed about to laugh, and then she looked embarrassed.
"Why, Lydia," she cried at last, "he didn't mean church; he meant
"Opera! Sunday night! Aunt Josephine, do you go to the theatre
on Sabbath evening?"
There was something appalling in the girl's stern voice. Mrs. Erwin
gathered herself tremulously together for defense. "Why, of course,
Lydia, I don't approve of it, though I never _was_ Orthodox.
Your uncle likes to go; and if everybody's there that you want to see,
and they will give the best operas Sunday night, what are you to do?"
Lydia said nothing, but a hard look came into her face, and she shut
her lips tight.
"Now you see, Lydia," resumed her aunt, with an air of deductive
reasoning from the premises, "the advantage of having a bonnet on,
even if it's only a make-believe. I don't believe a soul knew it.
All those Americans had hats. You were the only American girl there
with a bonnet. I'm sure that it had more than half to do with Lady
Fenleigh's speaking to you. It showed that you had been well
"But I never wore a bonnet to church at home," said Lydia.
"That has nothing to do with it, if they thought you did. And Lydia,"
she continued, "I was thinking while you were singing there that I
wouldn't say anything at once about your coming over to cultivate your
voice. That's got to be such an American thing, now. I'll let it out
little by little,--and after Lady Fenleigh's quite taken you under
her wing. Perhaps we may go to Milan with you, or to Naples,--there's
a conservatory there, too; and we can pull up stakes as easily as
not. Well!" said Mrs. Erwin, interrupting herself, "I'm glad Henshaw
wasn't by to hear _that_ speech. He'd have had it down among
his Americanisms instantly. I don't know whether it _is_ an
Americanism; but he puts down all the outlandish sayings he gets
hold of to Americans; he has no end of English slang in his book.
Everything has opened _beautifully_, Lydia, and I intend you
shall have the _best_ time!" She looked fondly at her brother's
child. "You've no idea how much you remind me of your poor father.
You have his looks exactly. I always thought he would come out to
Europe before he died. We used to be so proud of his looks at home!
I can remember that, though I was the youngest, and he was ten years
older than I. But I always did worship beauty. A perfect Greek, Mr.
Rose-Black calls me: you'll see him; he's an English painter staying
here; he comes a _great_ deal."
"Mrs. Erwin, Mrs. Erwin!" called a lady's voice from a gondola
behind them. The accent was perfectly English, but the voice entirely
Italian. "Where are you running to?"
"Why, Miss Landini!" retorted Mrs. Erwin, looking back over her
shoulder. "Is that you? Where in the world are _you_ going?"
"Oh, I've been to pay a visit to my old English teacher. He's awfully
ill with rheumatism; but awfully! He can't turn in bed."
"Why, poor man! This is my niece whom I told you I was expecting!
Arrived last night! We've been to church!" Mrs. Erwin exclaimed
each of the facts.
The Italian girl stretched her hand across the gunwales of the boats,
which their respective gondoliers had brought skillfully side by side,
and took Lydia's hand. "I'm glad to see you, my dear. But my God, how
beautiful you Americans are! But you don't look American, you know;
you look Spanish! I shall come a great deal to see you, and practice
"Come home with, us now, Miss Landini, and have lunch," said
"No, my dear, I can't. My aunt will be raising the devil if I'm not
there to drink coffee with her; and I've been a great while away now.
Till tomorrow!" Miss Landini's gondolier pushed his boat away, and
rowed it up a narrow canal on the right.
"I suppose," Mrs. Erwin explained, "that she's really her mother,--
everybody says so; but she always calls her aunt. Dear knows who her
father was. But she's a very bright girl, Lydia, and you'll like her.
Don't you think she speaks English wonderfully for a person who's
never been out of Venice?"
"Why does she swear?" asked Lydia, stonily.
"_Swear_? Oh, I know what you mean. That's the funniest thing
about Miss Landini. Your uncle says it's a shame to correct her; but
I do, whenever I think of it. Why, you know, such words as God and
devil don't sound at all wicked in Italian, and ladies use them quite
commonly. She understands that it isn't good form to do so in English,
but when she gets excited she forgets. Well, you can't say but what
_she_ was impressed, Lydia!"
After lunch, various people came to call upon Mrs. Erwin. Several
of them were Italians who were learning English, and they seemed to
think it inoffensive to say that they were glad of the opportunity
to practice the language with Lydia. They talked local gossip with
her aunt, and they spoke of an approaching visit to Venice from the
king; it seemed to Lydia that the king's character was not good.
Mr. Rose-Black, the English artist, came. He gave himself the effect
of being in Mrs. Erwin's confidence, apparently without her authority,
and he bestowed a share of this intimacy upon Lydia. He had the
manner of a man who had been taken up by people above him, and the
impudence of a talent which had not justified the expectations formed
of it. He softly reproached Mrs. Erwin for running away after service
before he could speak to her, and told her how much everybody had been
enchanted by her niece's singing. "At least, they said it was your
"Oh, yes, Mr. Rose-Black, let me introduce you to Miss--" Lydia
looked hard, even to threatening, at her aunt, and Mrs. Erwin added,
"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Rose-Black, with his picked-up
politeness, "I didn't get the name."
"Blood," said Mrs. Erwin, more distinctly.
"Aoh!" said Mr. Rose-Black, in a cast-off accent of jaded
indifferentism, just touched with displeasure. "Yes," he added,
dreamily, to Lydia, "it was divine, you know. You might say it needed
training; but it had the _naive_ sweetness we associate with
your countrywomen. They're greatly admired in England now, you know,
for their beauty. Oh, I assure you, it's quite the thing to admire
American ladies. I want to arrange a little lunch at my studio for
Mrs. Erwin and yourself; and I want you to abet me in it, Miss Blood."
Lydia stared at him, but he was not troubled. "I'm going to ask to
sketch you. Really, you know, there's a poise--something bird-like--
a sort of repose in movement--" He sat in a corner of the sofa, with
his head fallen back, and abandoned to an absent enjoyment of Lydia's
pictorial capabilities. He was very red; his full beard, which started
as straw color, changed to red when it got a little way from his face.
He wore a suit of rough blue, the coat buttoned tightly about him,
and he pulled a glove through his hand as he talked. He was scarcely
roused from his reverie by the entrance of an Italian officer, with
his hussar jacket hanging upon one shoulder, and his sword caught up
in his left hand. He ran swiftly to Mrs. Erwin, and took her hand.
"Ah, my compliments! I come practice my English with you a little.
Is it well said, a little, or do you say a small?"
"A little, cavaliere," answered Mrs. Erwin, amiably. "But you must
say a good deal, in this case."
"Yes, yes,--good deal. For what?"
"Let me introduce you to my niece. Colonel Pazzelli," said Mrs. Erwin.
"Ah! Too much honor, too much honor!" murmured the cavaliere. He
brought his heels together with a click, and drooped towards Lydia
till his head was on a level with his hips. Recovering himself, he
caught up his eye-glasses, and bent them on Lydia. "Very please, very
honored, much--" He stopped, and looked confused, and Lydia turned
pale and red.
"Now, won't you play that pretty _barcarole_ you played the other
night at Lady Fenleigh's?" entreated Mrs. Erwin.
Colonel Pazzelli wrenched himself from the fascination of Lydia's
presence, and lavished upon Mrs. Erwin the hoarded English of a week.
"Yes, yes; very nice, very good. With much pleasure. I thank you.
Yes, I play." He was one of those natives who in all the great Italian
cities haunt English-speaking societies; they try to drink tea without
grimacing, and sing for the ladies of our race, who innocently pet
them, finding them so very like other women in their lady-like
sweetness and softness; it is said they boast among their own
countrymen of their triumphs. The cavaliere unbuckled his sword,
and laying it across a chair sat down at the piano. He played not
one but many barcaroles, and seemed loath to leave the instrument.
"Now, Lydia," said Mrs. Erwin, fondly, "won't you sing us something?"
"Do!" called Mr. Rose-Black from the sofa, with the intonation of
a spoiled first-cousin, or half-brother.
"I don't feel like singing to-day," answered Lydia, immovably. Mrs.
Erwin was about to urge her further, but other people came in,--some
Jewish ladies, and then a Russian, whom Lydia took at first for an
American. They all came and went, but Mr. Rose-Black remained in his
corner of the sofa, and never took his eyes from Lydia's face. At last
he went, and then Mr. Erwin looked in.
"Is that beast gone?" he asked. "I shall be obliged to show him the
door, yet, Josephine. You ought to snub him. He's worse than his
pictures. Well, you've had a whole raft of folks today,--as your
"Yes, thank Heaven," cried Mrs. Erwin, "and they're all gone. I don't
want Lydia to think that I let everybody come to see me on Sunday.
Thursday is my day, Lydia, but a few privileged friends understand
that they can drop in Sunday afternoon." She gave Lydia a sketch of
the life and character of each of these friends. "And now I must tell
you that your manner is very good, Lydia. That reserved way of yours
is quite the thing for a young girl in Europe: I suppose it's a gift;
I never could get it, even when I _was_ a girl. But you mustn't
show any _hauteur_, even when you dislike people, and you refused
to sing with _rather_ too much _aplomb_. I don't suppose it
was noticed though,--those ladies coming in at the same time. Really,
I thought Mr. Rose-Black and Colonel Pazzelli were trying to outstare
each other! It was certainly amusing. I never saw such an evident
case, Lydia! The poor cavaliere looked as if he had seen you somewhere
before in a dream, and was struggling to make it all out."
Lydia remained impassive. Presently she said she would go to her room,
and write home before dinner. When she went out Mrs. Erwin fetched a
deep sigh, and threw herself upon her husband's sympathy.
"She's terribly unresponsive," she began. "I supposed she'd be in
raptures with the place, at least, but you wouldn't know there was
anything at all remarkable in Venice from anything she's said. We have
met ever so many interesting people to-day,--the Countess Tatocka,
and Lady Fenleigh, and Miss Landini, and everybody, but I don't really
think she's said a word about a soul. She's too queer for anything."
"I dare say she hasn't the experience to be astonished from,"
suggested Mr. Erwin easily. "She's here as if she'd been dropped
down from her village."
"Yes, that's true," considered his wife. "But it's hard, with Lydia's
air and style and self-possession, to realize that she _is_
merely a village girl."
"She may be much more impressed than she chooses to show," Mr. Erwin
continued. "I remember a very curious essay by a French writer about
your countrymen: he contended that they were characterized by a savage
stoicism through their contact with the Indians."
"Nonsense, Henshaw! There hasn't been an Indian _near_ South
Bradfield for two hundred years. And besides that, am _I_
"I'm bound to say," replied her husband, "that so far as you go,
you're a complete refutation of the theory."
"I hate to see a young girl so close," fretted Mrs. Erwin. "But
perhaps," she added, more cheerfully, "she'll be the easier managed,
being so passive. She doesn't seem at all willful,--that's one
She went to Lydia's room just before dinner, and found the girl
with her head fallen on her arms upon the table, where she had been
writing. She looked up, and faced her aunt with swollen eyes.
"Why, poor thing!" cried Mrs. Erwin. "What is it, dear? What is it,
Lydia?" she asked, tenderly, and she pulled Lydia's face down upon
"Oh, nothing," said Lydia. "I suppose I was a little homesick;
writing home made me."
She somewhat coldly suffered Mrs. Erwin to kiss her and smooth her
hair, while she began to talk with her of her grandfather and her aunt
at home. "But this is going to be home to you now," said Mrs. Erwin,
"and I'm not going to let you be sick for any other. I want you to
treat me just like a mother, or an older sister. Perhaps I shan't be
the wisest mother to you in the world, but I mean to be one of the
best. Come, now, bathe your eyes, my dear, and let's go to dinner.
I don't like to keep your uncle waiting." She did not go at once, but
showed Lydia the appointments of the room, and lightly indicated what
she had caused to be done, and what she had done with her own hands,
to make the place pretty for her. "And now shall I take your letter,
and have your uncle post it this evening?" She picked up the letter
from the table. "Hadn't you any wax to seal it? You know they don't
generally mucilage their envelopes in Europe."
Lydia blushed. "I left it open for you to read. I thought you ought
to know what I wrote."
Mrs. Erwin dropped her hands in front of her, with the open letter
stretched between them, and looked at her niece in rapture. "Lydia,"
she cried, "one would suppose you had lived all your days in Europe!
Showing me your letter, this way,--why, it's quite like a Continental
"I thought it was no more than right you should see what I was writing
home," said Lydia, unresponsively.
"Well, no matter, even if it _was_ right," replied Mrs. Erwin.
"It comes to the same thing. And now, as you've been quite a European
daughter, I'm going to be a real American mother." She took up the
wax, and sealed Lydia's letter without looking into it. "There!" she
She was very good to Lydia all through dinner, and made her talk
of the simple life at home, and the village characters whom she
remembered from her last summer's visit. That amused Mr. Erwin, who
several times, when, his wife was turning the talk upon Lydia's voyage
over, intervened with some new question about the life of the queer
little Yankee hill-town. He said she must tell Lady Fenleigh about
it,--she was fond of picking up those curios; it would make any
one's social fortune who could explain such a place intelligibly
in London; when they got to having typical villages of the different
civilizations at the international expositions,--as no doubt they
would,--somebody must really send South Bradfield over. He pleased
himself vastly with this fancy, till Mrs. Erwin, who had been eying
Lydia critically from time to time, as if making note of her features
and complexion, said she had a white cloak, and that in Venice, where
one need not dress a great deal for the opera, Lydia could wear it
Lydia looked up in astonishment, but she sat passive during her aunt's
discussion of her plans. When they rose from table, she said, at her
stiffest and coldest, "Aunt Josephine, I want you to excuse me from
going with you to-night. I don't feel like going."
"Not feel like going!" exclaimed her aunt in dismay. "Why, your uncle
has taken a box!"
Lydia opposed nothing to this argument. She only said, "I would
rather not go."
"Oh, but you _will_, dear," coaxed her aunt. "You would enjoy
it so much."
"I thought you understood from what I said to-day," replied Lydia,
"that I could not go."
"Why, no, I didn't! I knew you objected; but if I thought it was
proper for you to go--"
"I should not go at home," said Lydia, in the same immovable fashion.
"Of course not. Every place has its customs, and in Venice it has
_always_ been the custom to go to the opera on Sunday night."
This fact had no visible weight with Lydia, and after a pause her
aunt added, "Didn't Paul himself say to do in Rome as the Romans do?"
"No, aunt Josephine," cried Lydia, indignantly, "he did _not_!"
Mrs. Erwin turned to her husband with a face of appeal, and he
answered, "Really, my dear, I think you're mistaken. I always had
the impression that the saying was--an Americanism of some sort."
"But it doesn't matter," interposed Lydia decisively. "I couldn't
go, if I didn't think it was right, whoever said it."
"Oh, well," began Mrs. Erwin, "if you wouldn't mind what _Paul_
said--" She suddenly checked herself, and after a little silence she
resumed, kindly, "I won't try to force you, Lydia. I didn't realize
what a very short time it is since you left home, and how you still
have all those ideas. I wouldn't distress you about them for the
world, my dear. I want you to feel at home with me, and I'll make it
as like home for you as I can in everything. Henshaw, I think you
must go alone, this evening. I will stay with Lydia."
"Oh, no, no! I couldn't let you; I can't let you! I shall not know
what to do if I keep you at home. Oh, don't leave it that way,
please! I shall feel so badly about it--"
"Why, we can both stay," suggested Mr. Erwin, kindly.
Lydia's lips trembled and her eyes glistened, and Mrs. Erwin said,
"I'll go with you, Henshaw. I'll be ready in half an hour. I won't
dress _much_." She added this as if not to dress a great deal
at the opera Sunday night might somehow be accepted as an observance
of the Sabbath.
The next morning Veronica brought Lydia a little scrawl from her aunt,
bidding the girl come and breakfast with her in her room at nine.
"Well, my dear," her aunt called to her from her pillow, when she
appeared, "you find me flat enough, this morning. If there was
anything wrong about going to the opera last night, I was properly
punished for it. Such wretched stuff as _I_ never heard! And
instead of the new ballet that they promised, they gave an old thing
that I had seen till I was sick of it. You didn't miss much, I can
tell you. How fresh and bright you _do_ look, Lydia!" she
sighed. "Did you sleep well? Were you lonesome while we were gone?
Veronica says you were reading the whole evening. Are you fond of
"I don't think I am, very," said Lydia. "It was a book that I began
on the ship. It's a novel." She hesitated. "I wasn't reading it; I
was just looking at it."
"What a queer child you are! I suppose you were dying to read it, and
wouldn't because it was Sunday. Well!" Mrs. Erwin put her hand under
her pillow, and pulled out a gossamer handkerchief, with which she
delicately touched her complexion here and there, and repaired with
an instinctive rearrangement of powder the envious ravages of a slight
rash about her nose. "I respect your high principles beyond anything,
Lydia, and if they can only be turned in the right direction they will
never be any disadvantage to you." Veronica came in with the breakfast
on a tray, and Mrs. Erwin added, "Now, pull up that little table, and
bring your chair, my dear, and let us take it easy. I like to talk
while I'm breakfasting. Will you pour out my chocolate? That's it, in
the ugly little pot with the wooden handle; the copper one's for you,
with coffee in it. I never could get that repose which seems to come
perfectly natural to you. I was always inclined to be a little rowdy,
my dear, and I've had to fight hard against it, without any help from
_either_ of my husbands; men like it; they think it's funny. When
I was first married, I was very young, and so was he; it was a real
love match; and my husband was very well off, and when I began to be
delicate, nothing would do but he must come to Europe with me. How
little I ever expected to outlive him!"
"You don't look very sick now," began Lydia.
"Ill," said her aunt. "You must say ill. Sick is an Americanism."
"It's in the Bible," said Lydia, gravely.
"Oh, there are a great many words in the _Bible_ you can't use,"
returned her aunt. "No, I don't look ill now, and I'm worlds better.
But I couldn't live a year in any other climate, I suppose. You seem
to take after your mother's side. Well, as I was saying, the European
ways didn't come natural to me, at all. I used to have a great deal
of gayety when I was a girl, and I liked beaux and attentions; and I
had very free ways. I couldn't get their stiffness here for years and
years, and all through my widowhood it was one wretched failure with
me. Do what I would, I was always violating the most essential rules,
and the worst of it was that it only seemed to make me the more
popular. I do believe it was nothing but my rowdiness that attracted
Mr. Erwin; but I determined when I had got an Englishman I would make
one bold strike for the proprieties, and have them, or die in the
attempt. I determined that no Englishwoman I ever saw should outdo
me in strict conformity to all the usages of European society. So I
cut myself off from all the Americans, and went with nobody but the
"Do you like them better?" asked Lydia, with the blunt, child-like
directness that had already more than once startled her aunt.
"_Like_ them! I detest them! If Mr. Erwin were a real Englishman,
I think I should go crazy; but he's been so little in his own country
--all his life in India, nearly, and the rest on the Continent,--that
he's quite human; and no American husband was ever more patient and
indulgent; and _that_'s saying a good deal. He would be glad to
have nothing but Americans around; he has an enthusiasm for them,--or
for what he supposes they are. Like the English! You ought to have
heard them during our war; it would have made your blood boil! And
then how they came crawling round after it was all over, and trying
to pet us up! Ugh!"
"If you feel so about them," said Lydia, as before, "why do you want
to go with them so much?"
"My dear," cried her aunt, "_to beat them with their own weapons
on their own ground_,--to show them that an American can be more
European than any of them, if she chooses! And now you've come here
with looks and temperament and everything just to my hand. You're more
beautiful than any English girl ever dreamt of being; you're very
distinguished-looking; your voice is perfectly divine; and you're
colder than an iceberg. _Oh_, if I only had one winter with you
in Rome, I think I should die in peace!" Mrs. Erwin paused, and drank
her chocolate, which she had been letting cool in the eagerness of
her discourse. "But, never mind," she continued, "we will do the best
we can here. I've seen English girls going out two or three together,
without protection, in Rome and Florence; but I mean that you shall
be quite Italian in that respect. The Italians never go out without a
chaperone of some sort, and you must never be seen without me, or your
uncle, or Veronica. Now I'll tell you how you must do at parties, and
so on. You must be very retiring; you're that, any way; but you must
always keep close to me. It doesn't do for young people to talk much
together in society; it makes scandal about a girl. If you dance,
you must always hurry back to me. Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Erwin, "I
remember how, when I was a girl, I used to hang on to the young men's
arms, and promenade with them after a dance, and go out to supper with
them, and flirt on the stairs,--_such_ times! But that wouldn't
do here, Lydia. It would ruin a girl's reputation; she could hardly
walk arm in arm with a young man if she was engaged to him." Lydia
blushed darkly red, and then turned paler than usual, while her aunt
went on. "You might do it, perhaps, and have it set down to American
eccentricity or under-breeding, but I'm not going to have that. I
intend you to be just as dull and diffident in society as if you were
an Italian, and _more_ than if you were English. Your voice, of
course, is a difficulty. If you sing, that will make you conspicuous,
in spite of everything. But I don't see why that can't be turned to
advantage; it's no worse than your beauty. Yes, if you're so splendid-
looking and so gifted, and at the same time as stupid as the rest,
it's so much clear gain. It will come easy for you to be shy with men,
for I suppose you've hardly ever talked with any, living up there
in that out-of-the-way village; and your manner is very good. It's
reserved, and yet it isn't green. The way," continued Mrs. Erwin,
"to treat men in Europe is to behave as if they were guilty till they
prove themselves innocent. All you have to do is to reverse all your
American ideas. But here I am, lecturing you as if you had been just
such a girl as I was, with half a dozen love affairs on her hands at
once, and no end of gentlemen friends. Europe won't be hard for you,
my dear, for you haven't got anything to unlearn. But _some_
girls that come over!--it's perfectly ridiculous, the trouble they
get into, and the time they have getting things straight. They take
it for granted that men in good society are gentlemen,--what we mean
Lydia had been letting her coffee stand, and had scarcely tasted
the delicious French bread and the sweet Lombard butter of which
her aunt ate so heartily. "Why, child," said Mrs. Erwin, at last,
"where is your appetite? One would think you were the elderly invalid
who had been up late. Did you find it too exciting to sit at home
_looking_ at a novel? What was it? If it's a new story I should
like to see it. But you didn't bring a novel from South Bradfield
"No," said Lydia, with a husky reluctance. "One of the--passengers
gave it to me."
"Had you many passengers? But of course not. That was what made it
so delightful when I came over that way. I was newly married then,
and with spirits--oh dear me!--for anything. It was one adventure,
the whole way; and we got so well acquainted, it was like one family.
I suppose your grandfather put you in charge of some family. I know
artists sometimes come out that way, and people for their health."
"There was no family on our ship," said Lydia. "My state-room had
been fixed up for the captain's wife--"
"Our captain's wife was along, too," interposed Mrs. Erwin. "She was
such a joke with us. She had been out to Venice on a voyage before,
and used to be always talking about the Du-_cal_ Palace. And
did they really turn out of their state-room for you?"
"She was not along," said Lydia.
"Not along?" repeated Mrs. Erwin, feebly. "Who--who were the other
"There were three gentlemen," answered Lydia.
"Three gentlemen? Three men? Three--And you--and--" Mrs. Erwin fell
back upon her pillow, and remained gazing at Lydia, with a sort of
remote bewildered pity, as at perdition, not indeed beyond compassion,
but far beyond help. Lydia's color had been coming and going, but now
it settled to a clear white. Mrs. Erwin commanded herself sufficiently
to resume: "And there were--there were--no other ladies?"
"And you were--"
"I was the only woman on board," replied Lydia. She rose abruptly,
striking the edge of the table in her movement, and setting its china
and silver jarring. "Oh, I know what you mean, aunt Josephine, but
two days ago I couldn't have dreamt it! From the time the ship sailed
till I reached this wicked place, there wasn't a word said nor a look
looked to make me think I wasn't just as right and safe there as if
I had been in my own room at home. They were never anything but kind
and good to me. They never let me think that they could be my enemies,
or that I must suspect them and be on the watch against them. They
were Americans! I had to wait for one of your Europeans to teach me
that,--for that officer who was here yesterday--"
"The cavaliere? Why, where--"
"He spoke to me in the cars, when Mr. Erwin was asleep! Had he any
right to do so?"
"He would think he had, if he thought you were alone," said Mrs.
Erwin, plaintively. "I don't see how we could resent it. It was
simply a mistake on his part. And now you see, Lydia--"
"Oh, I see how my coming the way I have will seem to all these
people!" cried Lydia, with passionate despair. "I know how it will
seem to that married woman who lets a man be in love with her, and
that old woman who can't live with her husband because he's too good
and kind, and that girl who swears and doesn't know who her father
is, and that impudent painter, and that officer who thinks he has
the right to insult women if he finds them alone! I wonder the sea
doesn't swallow up a place where even Americans go to the theatre
on the Sabbath!"
"Lydia, Lydia! It isn't so bad as it seems to you," pleaded her aunt,
thrown upon the defensive by the girl's outburst. "There are ever so
many good and nice people in Venice, and I know them, too,--Italians
as well as foreigners. And even amongst those you saw, Miss Landini
is one of the kindest girls in the world, and she had just been to
see her old teacher when we met her,--she half takes care of him; and
Lady Fenleigh's a perfect mother to the poor; and I never was at the
Countess Tatocka's except in the most distant way, at a ball where
everybody went; and is it better to let your uncle go to the opera
alone, or to go with him? You told me to go with him yourself; and
they consider Sunday over, on the Continent, after morning service,
"Oh, it makes no difference!" retorted Lydia, wildly. "I am going
away. I am going home. I have money enough to get to Trieste, and the
ship is there, and Captain Jenness will take me back with him. Oh!"
she moaned. "_He_ has been in Europe, too, and I suppose he's
like the rest of you; and he thought because I was alone and helpless
he had the right to--Oh, I see it, I see now that he never meant
anything, and--Oh, oh, oh!" She fell on her knees beside the bed, as
if crushed to them by the cruel doubt that suddenly overwhelmed her,
and flung out her arms on Mrs. Erwin's coverlet--it was of Venetian
lace sewed upon silk, a choice bit from the palace of one of the
ducal families--and buried her face in it.
Her aunt rose from her pillow, and looked in wonder and trouble at
the beautiful fallen head, and the fair young figure shaken with sobs.
"He--who--what are you talking about, Lydia? Whom do you mean? Did
"No, no!" wailed the girl, "the one that gave me the book."
"The one that gave you the book? The book you were looking at last
"Yes," sobbed Lydia, with her voice muffled in the coverlet.
Mrs. Erwin lay down again with significant deliberation. Her face
was still full of trouble, but of bewilderment no longer. In moments
of great distress the female mind is apt to lay hold of some minor
anxiety for its distraction, and to find a certain relief in it.
"Lydia," said her aunt in a broken voice, "I wish you wouldn't cry
in the coverlet: it doesn't hurt the lace, but it stains the silk."
Lydia swept her handkerchief under her face but did not lift it. Her
aunt accepted the compromise. "How came he to give you the book?"
"Oh, I don't know. I can't tell. I thought it was because--because--
It was almost at the very beginning. And after that he walked up and
down with me every night, nearly; and he tried to be with me all he
could; and he was always saying things to make me think--Oh dear, oh
_dear_, oh dear! And he _tried_ to make me care for him!
Oh, it was cruel, cruel!"
"You mean that he made love to you?" asked her aunt.
"Yes--no--I don't know. He tried to make me care for him, and to
make me think he cared for me."
"Did he say he cared for you? Did he--"
Mrs. Erwin mused a while before she said, "Yes, it was cruel indeed,
poor child, and it was cowardly, too."
"Cowardly?" Lydia lifted her face, and flashed a glance of tearful
fire at her aunt. "He is the bravest man in the world! And the most
generous and high-minded! He jumped into the sea after that wicked Mr.
Hicks, and saved his life, when he disliked him worse than anything!"
"_Who_ was Mr. Hicks?"
"He was the one that stopped at Messina. He was the one that got some
brandy at Gibraltar, and behaved so dreadfully, and wanted to fight
"This one. The one who gave me the book. And don't you see that his
being so good makes it all the worse? Yes; and he pretended to be glad
when I told him I thought he was good,--he got me to say it!" She had
her face down again in her handkerchief. "And I suppose _you_
think it was horrible, too, for me to take his arm, and talk and walk
with him whenever he asked me!"
"No, not for you, Lydia," said her aunt, gently. "And don't you think
now," she asked after a pause, "that he cared for you?"
"Oh, I _did_ think so,--I _did_ believe it; but now,
"Now, I'm afraid that may be he was only playing with me, and putting
me off; and pretending that he had something to tell me when he got
to Venice, and he never meant anything by anything."
"Is he coming to--" her aunt began, but Lydia broke vehemently out
"If he had cared for me, why couldn't he have told me so at once,
and not had me wait till he got to Venice? He _knew_ I--"
"There are two ways of explaining it," said Mrs. Erwin. "He _may_
have been in earnest, Lydia, and felt that he had no right to be more
explicit till you were in the care of your friends. That would be the
European way which you consider so bad," said Mrs. Erwin. "Under the
circumstances, it was impossible for him to keep any distance, and
all he could do was to postpone his declaration till there could be
something like good form about it. Yes, it might have been that." She
was silent, but the troubled look did not leave her face. "I am sorry
for you, Lydia," she resumed, "but I don't know that I wish he was
in earnest." Lydia looked up at her in dismay. "It might be far less
embarrassing the other way, however painful. He may not be at all a
suitable person." The tears stood in Lydia's eyes, and all her face
expressed a puzzled suspense. "Where was he from?" asked Mrs. Erwin,
finally; till then she had been more interested in the lover than
"Boston," mechanically answered Lydia.
"What was his name?"
"Mr. Staniford," owned Lydia, with a blush.
Her aunt seemed dispirited at the sound. "Yes, I know who they are,"
"And aren't they nice? Isn't he--suitable?" asked Lydia, tremulously.
"Oh, poor child! He's only _too_ suitable. I can't explain to
you, Lydia; but at home he wouldn't have looked at a girl like you.
What sort of looking person is he?"
"He's rather--red; and he has--light hair."
"It must be the family I'm thinking of," said Mrs. Erwin. She had
lived nearly twenty years in Europe, and had seldom revisited her
native city; but at the sound of a Boston name she was all Bostonian
again. She rapidly sketched the history of the family to which she
imagined Staniford to belong. "I remember his sister; I used to see
her at school. She must have been five or six years younger than I;
and this boy--"
"Why, he's twenty-eight years old!" interrupted Lydia.
"How came he to tell you?"
"I don't know. He said that he looked thirty-four."
"Yes; _she_ was always a forward thing too,--with her freckles,"
said Mrs. Erwin, musingly, as if lost in reminiscences, not wholly
pleasing, of Miss Staniford.
"_He_ has freckles," admitted Lydia.
"Yes, it's the one," said Mrs. Erwin. "He couldn't have known what
your family was from anything you said?"
"We never talked about our families."
"Oh, I dare say! You talked about yourselves?"
"All the time?"
"And he didn't try to find out who or what you were?"
"He asked a great deal about South Bradfield."
"Of course, that was where he thought you had always belonged." Mrs.
Erwin lay quiescent for a while, in apparent uncertainty as to how
she should next attack the subject. "How did you first meet?"
Lydia began with the scene on Lucas Wharf, and little by little told
the whole story up to the moment of their parting at Trieste. There
were lapses and pauses in the story, which her aunt was never at
a loss to fill aright. At the end she said, "If it were not for his
promising to come here and see you, I should say Mr. Staniford had
been flirting, and as it is he may not regard it as anything more
than flirtation. Of course, there was his being jealous of Mr. Dunham
and Mr. Hicks, as he certainly was; and his wanting to explain about
that lady at Messina--yes, that looked peculiar; but he may not have
meant anything by it. His parting so at Trieste with you, that might
be either because he was embarrassed at its having got to be such
a serious thing, or because he really felt badly. Lydia," she asked
at last, "what made _you_ think he cared for you?"
"I don't know," said the girl; her voice had sunk to a husky whisper.
"I didn't believe it till he said he wanted me to be his--conscience,
and tried to make me say he was good, and--"
"That's a certain kind of man's way of flirting. It may mean nothing
at all. I could tell in an instant, if I saw him."
"He said he would be here this afternoon," murmured Lydia,
"This afternoon!" cried Mrs. Erwin. "I must get up!"
At her toilette she had the exaltation and fury of a champion arming
Mr. Erwin entered about the completion of her preparations, and
without turning round from her glass she said, "I want you to think
of the worst thing you can, Henshaw. I don't see how I'm ever to lift
up my head again." As if this word had reminded her of her head, she
turned it from side to side, and got the effect in the glass, first of
one ear-ring, and then of the other. Her husband patiently waited, and
she now confronted him. "You may as well know first as last, Henshaw,
and I want you to prepare yourself for it. Nothing can be done, and
you will just have to live through it. Lydia--has come over--on that
ship--alone,--with three young men,--and not the shadow--not the
ghost--of another woman--on board!" Mrs. Erwin gesticulated with her
hand-glass in delivering the words, in a manner at once intensely
vivid and intensely solemn, yet somehow falling short of the due
tragic effect. Her husband stood pulling his mustache straight down,
while his wife turned again to the mirror, and put the final touches
to her personal appearance with hands which she had the effect of
having desperately washed of all responsibility. He stood so long
in this meditative mood that she was obliged to be peremptory with
his image in the glass. "Well?" she cried.
"Why, my dear," said Mr. Erwin, at last, "they were all Americans
together, you know."
"And what difference does that make?" demanded Mrs. Erwin, whirling
from his image to the man again.
"Why, of course, you know, it isn't as if they were--English." Mrs.
Erwin flung down three hair-pins upon her dressing-case, and visibly
despaired. "Of course you don't expect your countrymen--" His wife's
appearance was here so terrible that he desisted, and resumed by
saying, "Don't be vexed, my dear. I--I rather like it, you know.
It strikes me as a genuine bit of American civilization."
"American civilization! Oh, Henshaw!" wailed Mrs. Erwin, "is it
possible that after all I've said, and done, and lived, you still
think that any one but a girl from the greenest little country place
could do such a thing as that? Well, it is no use trying to enlighten
English people. You like it, do you? Well, I'm not sure that the
Englishman who misunderstands American things and likes them isn't
a little worse than the Englishman who misunderstands them and
dislikes them. You _all_ misunderstand them. And would you
like it, if one of the young men had been making love to Lydia?"
The amateur of our civilization hesitated and was serious, but he
said at last, "Why, you know, I'm not surprised. She's so uncommonly
pretty. I--I suppose they're engaged?" he suggested.
His wife held her peace for scorn. Then she said, "The gentleman is
of a very good Boston family, and would no more think of engaging
himself to a young girl without the knowledge of her friends than
you would. Besides, he's been in Europe a great deal."
"I wish I could meet some Americans who hadn't been in Europe,"
said Mr. Erwin. "I should like to see what you call the simon-pure
American. As for the young man's not engaging himself, it seems to
me that he didn't avail himself of his national privileges. I should
certainly have done it in his place, if I'd been an American."
"Well, if you'd been an American, you wouldn't," answered his wife.
"Because an American would have had too much delicacy."
"I don't understand that."
"I know you don't, Henshaw. And there's where you show yourself
"Really," said her husband, "you're beginning to crow, my dear. Come,
I like that a great deal better than your cringing to the effete
despotisms of the Old World, as your Fourth of July orators have it.
It's almost impossible to get a bit of good honest bounce out of an
American, nowadays,--to get him to spread himself, as you say."
"All that is neither here nor there, Henshaw," said his wife. "The
question is how to receive Mr. Staniford--that's his name--when he
comes. How are we to regard him? He's coming here to see Lydia, and
she thinks he's coming to propose."
"Excuse me, but how does she regard him?"
"Oh, there's no question about that, poor child. She's _dead_
in love with him, and can't understand why he didn't propose on
"And she isn't an Englishman, either!" exulted Mr. Erwin. "It appears
that there are Americans and Americans, and that the men of your
nation have more delicacy than the women like."
"Don't be silly," said his wife. "Of course, women always think what
they would do in such cases, if they were men; but if men did what
women think they would do if they were men, the women would be
"Yes. Her feeling in the matter is no guide."
"Do you know his family?" asked Mr. Erwin.
"I think I do. Yes, I'm sure I do."
"Are they nice people?"
"Haven't I told you they were a good Boston family?"
"Then upon my word, I don't see that we've to take any attitude at
all. I don't see that we've to regard him in one way or the other.
It quite remains for him to make the first move."
As if they had been talking of nothing but dress before, Mrs. Erwin
asked: "Do you think I look better in this black mexicaine, or would
you wear your ecru?"
"I think you look very well in this. But why--He isn't going to
propose to you, I hope?"
"I must have on something decent to receive him in. What time does
the train from Trieste get in?"
"At three o'clock."
"It's one, now. There's plenty of time, but there isn't any too
much. I'll go and get Lydia ready. Or perhaps you'll tap on her
door, Henshaw, and send her here. Of course, this is the end of
her voice,--if it is the end."
"It's the end of having an extraordinarily pretty girl in the house.
I don't at all like it, you know,--having her whisked away in this
Mrs. Erwin refused to let her mind wander from the main point. "He'll
be round as soon as he can, after he arrives. I shall expect him by
four, at the latest."
"I fancy he'll stop for his dinner before he comes," said Mr. Erwin.
"Not at all," retorted his wife, haughtily. And with his going out of
the room, she set her face in a resolute cheerfulness, for the task
of heartening Lydia when she should appear; but it only expressed
misgiving when the girl came in with her yachting-dress on. "Why,
Lydia, shall you wear that?"
Lydia swept her dress with a downward glance.
"I thought I would wear it. I thought he--I should seem--more natural
in it. I wore it all the time on the ship, except Sundays. He said--
he liked it the best."
Mrs. Erwin shook her head. "It wouldn't do. Everything must be on
a new basis now. He might like it; but it would be too romantic,
wouldn't it, don't you think?" She shook her head still, but less
decisively. "Better wear your silk. Don't you think you'd better wear
your silk? This is very pretty, and the dark blue does become you,
awfully. Still, I don't know--_I_ don't know, either! A great
many English wear those careless things in the house. Well,
_wear_ it, Lydia! You _do_ look perfectly killing in it.
I'll tell you: your uncle was going to ask you to go out in his boat;
he's got one he rows himself, and this is a boating costume; and you
know you could time yourselves so as to get back just right, and you
could come in with this on--"
Lydia turned pale. "Oughtn't I--oughtn't I--to be here?" she faltered.
Her aunt laughed gayly. "Why, he'll ask for _me_, Lydia."
"For you?" asked Lydia, doubtfully.
"Yes. And I can easily keep him till you get back. If you're here
"The train," said Lydia, "arrives at three."
"How did you know?" asked her aunt, keenly.
Lydia's eyelids fell even lower than their wont.
"I looked it out in that railroad guide in the parlor."
Her aunt kissed her. "And you've thought the whole thing out, dear,
haven't you? I'm glad to see you so happy about it."
"Yes," said the girl, with a fluttering breath, "I have thought it
out, and _I believe him_. I--" She tried to say something more,
but could not.
Mrs. Erwin rang the bell, and sent for her husband. "He knows
about it, Lydia," she said.
"He's just as much interested as we are, dear, but you needn't be
worried. He's a perfect post for not showing a thing if you don't want
him to. He's really quite superhuman, in that,--equal to a woman. You
can talk Americanisms with him. If we sat here staring at each other
till four o'clock,--he _must_ go to his hotel before he comes
here; and I say four at the earliest; and it's much more likely to
be five or six, or perhaps evening,--I should die!"
Mr. Erwin's rowing was the wonder of all Venice. There was every
reason why he should fall overboard at each stroke, as he stood to
propel the boat in the gondolier fashion, except that he never yet
had done so. It was sometimes his fortune to be caught on the shallows
by the falling tide; but on that day he safely explored the lagoons,
and returned promptly at four o'clock to the palace.
His wife was standing on the balcony, looking out for them, and she
smiled radiantly down into Lydia's anxiously lifted face. But when
she met the girl at the head of the staircase in the great hall, she
embraced her, and said, with the same gay smile, "He hasn't come yet,
dear, and of course he won't come till after dinner. If I hadn't been
as silly as you are, Lydia, I never should have let you expect him
sooner. He'll want to go to his hotel: and no matter how impatient he
is, he'll want to dress, and be a little ceremonious about his call.
You know we're strangers to him, whatever _you_ are."
"Yes," said Lydia, mechanically. She was going to sit down, as she
was; of her own motion she would not have stirred from the place till
he came, or it was certain he would not come; but her aunt would not
permit the despair into which she saw her sinking.
She laughed resolutely, and said, "I think we must give up the little
sentimentality of meeting him in that dress, now. Go and change it,
Lydia. Put on your silk,--or wait: let me go with you. I want to try
some little effects with your complexion. We've experimented with the
simple and familiar, and now we'll see what can be done in the way of
the magnificent and unexpected. I'm going to astonish the young man
with a Venetian beauty; you know you look Italian, Lydia."
"Yes, he said so," answered Lydia.
"Did he? That shows he has an eye, and he'll appreciate what we
are going to do."
She took Lydia to her own room, for the greater convenience of her
experiments, and from that moment she did not allow her to be alone;
she scarcely allowed her to be silent; she made her talk, she kept her
in movement. At dinner she permitted no lapse. "Henshaw," she said,
"Lydia has been telling me about a storm they had just before they
reached Gibraltar. I wish you would tell her of the typhoon you were
in when you first went out to India." Her husband obeyed; and then
recurring to the days of his civil employment in India, he told
stories of tiger-hunts, and of the Sepoy mutiny. Mrs. Erwin would not
let them sit very long at table. After dinner she asked Lydia to sing,
and she suffered her to sing all the American songs her uncle asked
for. At eight o'clock she said with a knowing little look at Lydia,
which included a sub-wink for her husband, "You may go to your cafe
alone, this evening, Henshaw. Lydia and I are going to stay at home
and talk South Bradfield gossip. I've hardly had a moment with her
yet." But when he was gone, she took Lydia to her own room again, and
showed her all her jewelry, and passed the time in making changes in
the girl's toilette.