Part 3 out of 5
every appearance of being an important place, and when our party, holding
on to their seats in a buckboard, were whirled at a gallop up to
Rodick's, and ushered into a spacious office swarming with people, they
realized that they were entering upon a lively if somewhat haphazard
life. The first confused impression was of a bewildering number of slim,
pretty girls, nonchalant young fellows in lawn-tennis suits, and
indefinite opportunities in the halls and parlors and wide piazzas for
promenade and flirtations.
Rodick's is a sort of big boarding-house, hesitating whether to be a
hotel or not, no bells in the rooms, no bills of fare (or rarely one),
no wine-list, a go-as-you-please, help-yourself sort of place, which is
popular because it has its own character, and everybody drifts into it
first or last. Some say it is an acquired taste; that people do not take
to it at first. The big office is a sort of assembly-room, where new
arrivals are scanned and discovered, and it is unblushingly called the
"fish-pond" by the young ladies who daily angle there. Of the
unconventional ways of the establishment Mr. King had an illustration
when he attempted to get some washing done. Having read a notice that
the hotel had no laundry, he was told, on applying at the office, that if
he would bring his things down there they would try to send them out for
him. Not being accustomed to carrying about soiled clothes, he declined
this proposal, and consulted a chambermaid. She told him that ladies
came to the house every day for the washing, and that she would speak to
one of them. No result following this, after a day King consulted the
proprietor, and asked him point blank, as a friend, what course he would
pursue if he were under the necessity of having washing done in that
region. The proprietor said that Mr. King's wants should be attended to
at once. Another day passed without action, when the chambermaid was
again applied to. "There's a lady just come in to the hall I guess will
"Is she trustworthy?"
"Don't know, she washes for the woman in the room next to you." And the
lady was at last secured.
Somebody said that those who were accustomed to luxury at home liked
Rodick's, and that those who were not grumbled. And it was true that
fashion for the moment elected to be pleased with unconventionality,
finding a great zest in freedom, and making a joke of every
inconvenience. Society will make its own rules, and although there are
several other large hotels, and good houses as watering-place hotels go,
and cottage-life here as elsewhere is drawing away its skirts from hotel
life, society understood why a person might elect to stay at Rodick's.
Bar Harbor has one of the most dainty and refined little hotels in the
world-the Malvern. Any one can stay there who is worth two millions of
dollars, or can produce a certificate from the Recorder of New York that
he is a direct descendant of Hendrick Hudson or Diedrich Knickerbocker.
It is needless to say that it was built by a Philadelphian--that is to
say one born with a genius for hotel-keeping. But though a guest at the
Malvern might not eat with a friend at Rodick's, he will meet him as a
man of the world on friendly terms.
Bar Harbor was indeed an interesting society study. Except in some of
the cottages, it might be said that society was on a lark. With all the
manners of the world and the freemasonry of fashionable life, it had
elected to be unconventional. The young ladies liked to appear in
nautical and lawn-tennis toilet, carried so far that one might refer to
the "cut of their jib," and their minds were not much given to any
elaborate dressing for evening. As to the young gentlemen, if there were
any dress-coats on the island, they took pains not to display them, but
delighted in appearing in the evening promenade, and even in the
ballroom, in the nondescript suits that made them so conspicuous in the
morning, the favorite being a dress of stripes, with striped jockey cap
to match, that did not suggest the penitentiary uniform, because in
state-prisons the stripes run round. This neglige costume was adhered to
even in the ballroom. To be sure, the ballroom was little frequented,
only an adventurous couple now and then gliding over the floor, and
affording scant amusement to the throng gathered on the piazza and about
the open windows. Mrs. Montrose, a stately dame of the old school,
whose standard was the court in the days of Calhoun, Clay, and Webster,
disapproved of this laxity, and when a couple of young fellows in striped
array one evening whirled round the room together, with brier-wood pipes
in their mouths, she was scandalized. If the young ladies shared her
sentiments they made no resolute protests, remembering perhaps the
scarcity of young men elsewhere, and thinking that it is better to be
loved by a lawn-tennis suit than not to be loved at all. The daughters
of Mrs. Montrose thought they should draw the line on the brier-wood
Dancing, however, is not the leading occupation at Bar Harbor, it is
rather neglected. A cynic said that the chief occupation was to wait at
the "fishpond" for new arrivals--the young ladies angling while their
mothers and chaperons--how shall we say it to complete the figure?--held
the bait. It is true that they did talk in fisherman's lingo about this,
asked each other if they had a nibble or a bite, or boasted that they had
hauled one in, or complained that it was a poor day for fishing. But
this was all chaff, born of youthful spirits and the air of the place.
If the young men took airs upon themselves under the impression they were
in much demand, they might have had their combs cut if they had heard how
they were weighed and dissected and imitated, and taken off as to their
peculiarities, and known, most of them, by sobriquets characteristic of
their appearance or pretentions. There was one young man from the West,
who would have been flattered with the appellation of "dude," so
attractive in the fit of his clothes, the manner in which he walked and
used his cane and his eyeglass, that Mr. King wanted very much to get him
and bring him away in a cage. He had no doubt that he was a favorite
with every circle and wanted in every group, and the young ladies did
seem to get a great deal of entertainment out of him. He was not like
the young man in the Scriptures except that he was credited with having
No, the principal occupation at Bar Harbor was not fishing in the house.
It was outdoor exercise, incessant activity in driving, walking, boating,
rowing and sailing--bowling, tennis, and flirtation. There was always an
excursion somewhere, by land or sea, watermelon parties, races in the
harbor in which the girls took part, drives in buckboards which they
organized--indeed, the canoe and the buckboard were in constant demand.
In all this there was a pleasing freedom--of course under proper
chaperonage. And such delightful chaperons as they were, their business
being to promote and not to hinder the intercourse of the sexes!
This activity, this desire to row and walk and drive and to become
acquainted, was all due to the air. It has a peculiar quality. Even the
skeptic has to admit this. It composes his nerves to sleep, it
stimulates to unwonted exertion. The fanatics of the place declare that
the fogs are not damp as at other resorts on the coast. Fashion can make
even a fog dry. But the air is delicious. In this latitude, and by
reason of the hills, the atmosphere is pure and elastic and stimulating,
and it is softened by the presence of the sea. This union gives a
charming effect. It is better than the Maine Law. The air being like
wine, one does not need stimulants. If one is addicted to them and is
afraid to trust the air, he is put to the trouble of sneaking into masked
places, and becoming a party to petty subterfuges for evading the law.
And the wretched man adds to the misdemeanor of this evasion the moral
crime of consuming bad liquor.
"Everybody" was at Bar Harbor, or would be there in course of the season.
Mrs. Cortlandt was there, and Mrs. Pendragon of New Orleans, one of the
most brilliant, amiable, and charming of women. I remember her as far
back as the seventies. A young man like Mr. King, if he could be called
young, could not have a safer and more sympathetic social adviser.
Why are not all handsome women cordial, good-tempered, and well-bred!
And there were the Ashleys--clever mother and three daughters, au-fait
girls, racy and witty talkers; I forget whether they were last from
Paris, Washington, or San Francisco. Family motto: "Don't be dull."
All the Van Dams from New York, and the Sleiderheifers and Mulligrubs of
New Jersey, were there for the season, some of them in cottages. These
families are intimate, even connected by marriage, with the Bayardiers of
South Carolina and the Lontoons of Louisiana. The girls are handsome,
dashing women, without much information, but rattling talkers, and so
exclusive! and the young men, with a Piccadilly air, fancy that they
belong to the "Prince of Wales set," you know. There is a good deal of
monarchical simplicity in our heterogeneous society.
Mrs. Cortlandt was quite in her element here as director-general of
expeditions and promoter of social activity. "I have been expecting
you," she was kind enough to say to Mr. King the morning after his
arrival. "Kitty Van Sanford spied you last night, and exclaimed, 'There,
now, is a real reinforcement!" You see that you are mortgaged already."
"It's very kind of you to expect me. Is there anybody else here I know?"
"Several hundreds, I should say. If you cannot find friends here, you
are a subject for an orphan-asylum. And you have not seen anybody?"
"Well, I was late at breakfast."
"And you have not looked on the register?"
"Yes, I did run my eye over the register."
"And you are standing right before me and trying to look as if you did
not know that Irene Benson is in the house. I didn't think, Mr. King, it
had gone that far-indeed I didn't. You know I'm in a manner responsible
for it. And I heard all about you at Newport. She's a heart of gold,
"Did she--did Miss Benson say anything about Newport?"
"Oh, I didn't know but she might have mentioned how she liked it."
"I don't think she liked it as much as her mother did. Mrs. Benson talks
of nothing else. Irene said nothing special to me. I don't know what
she may have said to Mr. Meigs," this wily woman added, in the most
"Who is Mr. Meigs?"
"Mr. Alfred Meigs, Boston. He is a rich widower, about forty--the most
fascinating age for a widower, you know. I think he is conceited, but he
is really a most entertaining man; has traveled all over the world--
Egypt, Persia--lived in Japan, prides himself a little on never having
been in Colorado or Florida."
"What does he do?"
"Do? He drives Miss Benson to Otter Cliffs, and out on the Cornice Road,
about seven days in the week, and gets up sailing-parties and all that in
"I mean his occupation."
"Isn't that occupation enough? Well, he has a library and a little
archaeological museum, and prints monographs on art now and then. If he
were a New-Yorker, you know, he would have a yacht instead of a library.
There they are now."
A carriage with a pair of spirited horses stood at the bottom of the
steps on the entrance side. Mrs. Cortlandt and King turned the corner of
the piazza and walked that way. On the back seat were Mrs. Benson and
Mrs. Simpkins. The gentleman holding the reins was just helping Irene to
the high seat in front. Mr. King was running down the long flight of
steps. Mrs. Benson saw him, bowed most cordially, and called his name.
Irene, turning quickly, also bowed--he thought there was a flush on her
face. The gentleman, in the act of starting the horses, raised his hat.
King was delighted to notice that he was bald. He had a round head,
snugly-trimmed beard slightly dashed with gray, was short and a trifle
stout--King thought dumpy. "I suppose women like that kind of man," he
said to Mrs. Cortlandt when the carriage was out of sight.
Why not? He has perfect manners; he knows the world--that is a great
point, I can tell you, in the imagination of a girl; he is rich; and he
is no end obliging."
"How long has he been here?"
"Several days. They happened to come up from the Isles of Shoals
together. He is somehow related to the Simpkinses. There! I've wasted
time enough on you. I must go and see Mrs. Pendragon about a watermelon
party to Jordan Pond. You'll see, I'll arrange something."
King had no idea what a watermelon party was, but he was pleased to think
that it was just the sort of thing that Mr. Meigs would shine in. He
said to himself that he hated dilettante snobs. His bitter reflections
were interrupted by the appearance of Miss Lamont and the artist, and
with them Mr. Benson. The men shook hands with downright heartiness.
Here is a genuine man, King was thinking.
"Yes. We are still at it," he said, with his humorous air of
resignation. "I tell my wife that I'm beginning to understand how old
Christian felt going through Vanity Fair. We ought to be pretty near the
Heavenly Gates by this time. I reckoned she thought they opened into
Newport. She said I ought to be ashamed to ridicule the Bible. I had to
have my joke. It's queer how different the world looks to women."
"And how does it look to men?" asked Miss Lamont.
"Well, my dear young lady, it looks like a good deal of fuss, and
tolerably large bills."
"But what does it matter about the bills if you enjoy yourself?"
"That's just it. Folks work harder to enjoy themselves than at anything
else I know. Half of them spend more money than they can afford to, and
keep under the harrow all the time, just because they see others spend
"I saw your wife and daughter driving away just now," said King, shifting
the conversation to a more interesting topic.
"Yes. They have gone to take a ride over what they call here the
Cornneechy. It's a pretty enough road along the bay, but Irene says it's
about as much like the road in Europe they name it from as Green Mountain
is like Mount Blanck. Our folks seem possessed to stick a foreign name
on to everything. And the road round through the scrub to Eagle Lake
they call Norway. If Norway is like that, it's pretty short of timber.
If there hadn't been so much lumbering here, I should like it better.
There is hardly a decent pine-tree left. Mr. Meigs--they have gone
riding with Mr. Meigs--says the Maine government ought to have a Maine
law that amounts to something--one that will protect the forests, and
start up some trees on the coast."
"Is Mr. Meigs in the lumber business?" asked King.
"Only for scenery, I guess. He is great on scenery. He's a Boston man.
I tell the women that he is what I call a bric-er-brac man. But you come
to set right down with him, away from women, and he talks just as
sensible as anybody. He is shrewd enough. It beats all how men are with
men and with women."
Mr. Benson was capable of going on in this way all day. But the artist
proposed a walk up to Newport, and Mr. King getting Mrs. Pendragon to
accompany them, the party set out. It is a very agreeable climb up
Newport, and not difficult; but if the sun is out, one feels, after
scrambling over the rocks and walking home by the dusty road, like taking
a long pull at a cup of shandygaff. The mountain is a solid mass of
granite, bare on top, and commands a noble view of islands and ocean, of
the gorge separating it from Green Mountain, and of that respectable
hill. For this reason, because it is some two or three hundred feet
lower than Green Mountain, and includes that scarred eminence in its
view, it is the most picturesque and pleasing elevation on the island.
It also has the recommendation of being nearer to the sea than its sister
mountain. On the south side, by a long slope, it comes nearly to the
water, and the longing that the visitor to Bar Harbor has to see the
ocean is moderately gratified. The prospect is at once noble and poetic.
Mrs. Pendragon informed Mr. King that he and Miss Lamont and Mr. Forbes
were included in the watermelon party that was to start that afternoon at
five o'clock. The plan was for the party to go in buckboards to Eagle
Lake, cross that in the steamer, scramble on foot over the "carry" to
Jordan Pond, take row-boats to the foot of that, and find at a farmhouse
there the watermelons and other refreshments, which would be sent by the
shorter road, and then all return by moonlight in the buckboards.
This plan was carried out. Mrs. Cortlandt, Mrs. Pendragon, and Mrs.
Simpkins were to go as chaperons, and Mr. Meigs had been invited by Mrs.
Cortlandt, King learned to his disgust, also to act as a chaperon. All
the proprieties are observed at Bar Harbor. Half a dozen long buckboards
were loaded with their merry freight. At the last Mrs. Pendragon pleaded
a headache, and could not go. Mr. King was wandering about among the
buckboards to find an eligible seat. He was not put in good humor by
finding that Mr. Meigs had ensconced himself beside Irene, and he was
about crowding in with the Ashley girls--not a bad fate--when word was
passed down the line from Mrs. Cortlandt, who was the autocrat of the
expedition, that Mr. Meigs was to come back and take a seat with Mrs.
Simpkins in the buckboard with the watermelons. She could not walk
around the "carry"; she must go by the direct road, and of course she
couldn't go alone. There was no help for it, and Mr. Meigs, looking as
cheerful as an undertaker in a healthy season, got down from his seat and
trudged back. Thus two chaperons were disposed of at a stroke, and the
young men all said that they hated to assume so much responsibility.
Mr. King didn't need prompting in this emergency; the wagons were already
moving, and before Irene knew exactly what had happened, Mr. King was
begging her pardon for the change, and seating himself beside her. And
he was thinking, "What a confoundedly clever woman Mrs. Cortlandt is!"
There is an informality about a buckboard that communicates itself at
once to conduct. The exhilaration of the long spring-board, the
necessity of holding on to something or somebody to prevent being tossed
overboard, put occupants in a larkish mood that they might never attain
in an ordinary vehicle. All this was favorable to King, and it relieved
Irene from an embarrassment she might have felt in meeting him under
ordinary circumstances. And King had the tact to treat himself and their
meeting merely as accidents.
"The American youth seem to have invented a novel way of disposing of
chaperons," he said. "To send them in one direction and the party
chaperoned in another is certainly original."
"I'm not sure the chaperons like it. And I doubt if it is proper to pack
them off by themselves, especially when one is a widow and the other is a
"It's a case of chaperon eat chaperon. I hope your friend didn't mind
it. I had nearly despaired of finding a seat."
"Mr. Meigs? He did not say he liked it, but he is the most obliging of
"I suppose you have pretty well seen the island?"
"We have driven about a good deal. We have seen Southwest Harbor, and
Somes's Sound and Schooner Head, and the Ovens and Otter Cliffs--there's
no end of things to see; it needs a month. I suppose you have been up
"No. I sent Mr. Forbes."
"You ought to go. It saves buying a map. Yes, I like the place
immensely. You mustn't judge of the variety here by the table at
Rodick's. I don't suppose there's a place on the coast that compares
with it in interest; I mean variety of effects and natural beauty.
If the writers wouldn't exaggerate so, talk about 'the sublimity of the
mountains challenging the eternal grandeur of the sea'!"
"Don't use such strong language there on the back seat," cried Miss
Lamont. "This is a pleasure party. Mr. Van Dusen wants to know why Maud
S. is like a salamander?"
"He is not to be gratified, Marion. If it is conundrums, I shall get out
Before the conundrum was guessed, the volatile Van Dusen broke out into,
"Here's a how d'e do! "One of the Ashley girls in the next wagon caught
up the word with, "Here's a state of things!" and the two buckboards went
rattling down the hill to Eagle Lake in a "Mikado" chorus.
"The Mikado troupe seems to have got over here in advance of Sullivan,"
said Mr. King to Irene. "I happened to see the first representation."
"Oh, half these people were in London last spring. They give you the
impression that they just run over to the States occasionally. Mr. Van
Dusen says he keeps his apartments in whatever street it is off
Piccadilly, it's so much more convenient."
On the steamer crossing the lake, King hoped for an opportunity to make
an explanation to Irene. But when the opportunity came he found it very
difficult to tell what it was he wanted to explain, and so blundered on
"You like Bar Harbor so well," he said, "that I suppose your father will
be buying a cottage here?"
"Hardly. Mr. Meigs" (King thought there was too much Meigs in the
conversation) "said that he had once thought of doing so, but he likes
the place too well for that. He prefers to come here voluntarily. The
trouble about owning a cottage at a watering-place is that it makes a
duty of a pleasure. You can always rent, father says. He has noticed
that usually when a person gets comfortably established in a summer
cottage he wants to rent it."
"And you like it better than Newport?"
"On some accounts--the air, you know, and--"
"I want to tell you," he said breaking in most illogically--" I want to
tell you, Miss Benson, that it was all a wretched mistake at Newport that
morning. I don't suppose you care, but I'm afraid you are not quite just
"I don't think I was unjust." The girl's voice was low, and she spoke
slowly. "You couldn't help it. We can't any of us help it. We cannot
make the world over, you know." And she looked up at him with a faint
"But you didn't understand. I didn't care for any of those people. It
was just an accident. Won't you believe me? I do not ask much. But I
cannot have you think I'm a coward."
"I never did, Mr. King. Perhaps you do not see what society is as I do.
People think they can face it when they cannot. I can't say what I mean,
and I think we'd better not talk about it."
The boat was landing; and the party streamed up into the woods, and with
jest and laughter and feigned anxiety about danger and assistance, picked
its way over the rough, stony path. It was such a scramble as young
ladies enjoy, especially if they are city bred, for it seems to them an
achievement of more magnitude than to the country lasses who see nothing
uncommon or heroic in following a cow-path. And the young men like it
because it brings out the trusting, dependent, clinging nature of girls.
King wished it had been five miles long instead of a mile and a half.
It gave him an opportunity to show his helpful, considerate spirit. It
was necessary to take her hand to help her over the bad spots, and either
the bad spots increased as they went on, or Irene was deceived about it.
What makes a path of this sort so perilous to a woman's heart? Is it
because it is an excuse for doing what she longs to do? Taking her hand
recalled the day on the rocks at Narragansett, and the nervous clutch of
her little fingers, when the footing failed, sent a delicious thrill
through her lover. King thought himself quite in love with Forbes--there
was the warmest affection between the two--but when he hauled the artist
up a Catskill cliff there wasn't the least of this sort of a thrill in
the grip of hands. Perhaps if women had the ballot in their hands all
this nervous fluid would disappear out of the world.
At Jordan Pond boats were waiting. It is a pretty fresh-water pond
between high sloping hills, and twin peaks at the north end give it even
picturesqueness. There are a good many trout in it--at least that is the
supposition, for the visitors very seldom get them out. When the boats
with their chattering passengers had pushed out into the lake and
accomplished a third of the voyage, they were met by a skiff containing
the faithful chaperons Mrs. Simpkins and Mr. Meigs. They hailed, but
Mr. King, who was rowing his boat, did not slacken speed. "Are you much
tired, Miss Benson?" shouted Mr. Meigs. King didn't like this assumption
of protection. "I've brought you a shawl."
"Hang his paternal impudence!" growled King, under his breath, as he
threw himself back with a jerk on the oars that nearly sent Irene over
the stern of the boat.
Evidently the boat-load, of which the Ashley girls and Mr. Van Dusen were
a part, had taken the sense of this little comedy, for immediately they
"For he is going to marry Yum-Yum--
For he is going to marry Yum-Yum--
This pleasantry passed entirely over the head of Irene, who had not heard
the "Mikado," but King accepted it as a good omen, and forgave its
impudence. It set Mr. Meigs thinking that he had a rival.
At the landing, however, Mr. Meigs was on hand to help Irene out, and a
presentation of Mr. King followed. Mr. Meigs was polite even to
cordiality, and thanked him for taking such good care of her. Men will
make such blunders sometimes.
"Oh, we are old friends," she said carelessly.
Mr. Meigs tried to mend matters by saying that he had promised Mrs.
Benson, you know, to look after her. There was that in Irene's manner
that said she was not to be appropriated without leave. But the
consciousness that her look betrayed this softened her at once towards
Mr. Meigs, and decidedly improved his chances for the evening. The
philosopher says that women are cruelest when they set out to be kind.
The supper was an 'al fresco' affair, the party being seated about on
rocks and logs and shawls spread upon the grass near the farmer's house.
The scene was a very pretty one, at least the artist thought so, and Miss
Lamont said it was lovely, and the Ashley girls declared it was just
divine. There was no reason why King should not enjoy the chaff and
merriment and the sunset light which touched the group, except that the
one woman he cared to serve was enveloped in the attentions of Mr. Meigs.
The drive home in the moonlight was the best part of the excursion, or it
would have been if there had not been a general change of seats ordered,
altogether, as Mr. King thought, for the accommodation of the Boston man.
It nettled him that Irene let herself fall to the escort of Mr. Meigs,
for women can always arrange these things if they choose, and he had only
a melancholy satisfaction in the college songs and conundrums that
enlivened the festive buckboard in which he was a passenger. Not that he
did not join in the hilarity, but it seemed only a poor imitation of
pleasure. Alas, that the tone of one woman's voice, the touch of her
hand, the glance of her eye, should outweigh the world!
Somehow, with all the opportunities, the suit of our friend did not
advance beyond a certain point. Irene was always cordial, always
friendly, but he tried in vain to ascertain whether the middle-aged man
from Boston had touched her imagination. There was a boating party the
next evening in Frenchman's Bay, and King had the pleasure of pulling
Miss Benson and Miss Lamont out seaward under the dark, frowning cliffs
until they felt the ocean swell, and then of making the circuit of
Porcupine Island. It was an enchanting night, full of mystery. The rock
face of the Porcupine glistened white in the moonlight as if it were
encrusted with salt, the waves beat in a continuous roar against its
base, which is honeycombed by the action of the water, and when the boat
glided into its shadow it loomed up vast and wonderful. Seaward were the
harbor lights, the phosphorescent glisten of the waves, the dim forms of
other islands; all about in the bay row-boats darted in and out of the
moonlight, voices were heard calling from boat to boat, songs floated
over the water, and the huge Portland steamer came plunging in out of the
night, a blazing, trembling monster. Not much was said in the boat, but
the impression of such a night goes far in the romance of real life.
Perhaps it was this impression that made her assent readily to a walk
next morning with Mr. King along the bay. The shore is nearly all
occupied by private cottages, with little lawns running down to the
granite edge of the water. It is a favorite place for strolling; couples
establish themselves with books and umbrellas on the rocks, children are
dabbling in the coves, sails enliven the bay, row-boats dart about, the
cawing of crows is heard in the still air. Irene declared that the scene
was idyllic. The girl was in a most gracious humor, and opened her life
more to King than she had ever done before. By such confidences usually
women invite avowals, and as the two paced along, King felt the moment
approach when there would be the most natural chance in the world for him
to tell this woman what she was to him; at the next turn in the shore, by
that rock, surely the moment would come. What is this airy nothing by
which women protect themselves in such emergencies, by a question, by a
tone, an invisible strong barrier that the most impetuous dare not
attempt to break?
King felt the subtle restraint which he could not define or explain.
And before he could speak she said: "We are going away tomorrow."
"We? And who are we?" "Oh, the Simpkinses and our whole family, and
Mr. Meigs." "And where?"
"Mr. Meigs has persuaded mother into the wildest scheme. It is nothing
less than to leap from, here across all the intervening States to the
White Sulphur Springs in Virginia. Father falls into the notion because
he wants to see more of the Southerners, Mrs. Simpkins and her daughter
are crazy to go, and Mr. Meigs says he has been trying to get there all
his life, and in August the season is at its height. It was all arranged
before I was consulted, but I confess I rather like it. It will be a
"Yes, I should think it would be delightful," King replied, rather
absent-mindedly. "It's a long journey, a very long journey. I should
think it would be too long a journey for Mr. Meigs--at his time of life."
It was not a fortunate remark, and still it might be; for who could tell
whether Irene would not be flattered by this declaration of his jealousy
of Mr. Meigs. But she passed it over as not serious, with the remark
that the going did not seem to be beyond the strength of her father.
The introduction of Mr. Meigs in the guise of an accepted family friend
and traveling companion chilled King and cast a gloom over the landscape.
Afterwards he knew that he ought to have dashed in and scattered this
encompassing network of Meigs, disregarded the girl's fence of reserve,
and avowed his love. More women are won by a single charge at the right
moment than by a whole campaign of strategy.
On the way back to the hotel he was absorbed in thought, and he burst
into the room where Forbes was touching up one of his sketches, with a
fully-formed plan. "Old fellow, what do you say to going to Virginia?"
Forbes put in a few deliberate touches, moving his head from side to
side, and with aggravating slowness said, "What do you want to go to
"Why White Sulphur, of course; the most characteristic watering-place in
America. See the whole Southern life there in August; and there's the
"I've seen pictures of the Natural Bridge. I don't know as I care much"
(still contemplating the sketch from different points of view, and softly
whistling) "for the whole of Southern life."
"See here, Forbes, you must have some deep design to make you take that
"Deep design!" replied Forbes, facing round. "I'll be hanged if I see
what you are driving at. I thought it was Saratoga and Richfield, and
mild things of that sort."
"And the little Lamont. I know we talked of going there with her and her
uncle; but we can go there afterwards. I tell you what I'll do: I'll go
to Richfield, and stay till snow comes, if you will take a dip with me
down into Virginia first. You ought to do it for your art. It's
something new, picturesque--negroes, Southern belles, old-time manners.
You cannot afford to neglect it."
"I don't see the fun of being yanked all over the United States in the
middle of August."
"You want shaking up. You've been drawing seashores with one figure in
them till your pictures all look like--well, like Lamont and water."
"That's better," Forbes retorted, "than Benson and gruel."
And the two got into a huff. The artist took his sketch-book and went
outdoors, and King went to his room to study the guide-books and the map
of Virginia. The result was that when the friends met for dinner, King
"I thought you might do it for me, old boy."
And Forbes replied: "Why didn't you say so? I don't care a rap where I
go. But it's Richfield afterwards."
NATURAL BRIDGE, WHITE SULFUR
What occurred at the parting between the artist and the little Lamont at
Bar Harbor I never knew. There was that good comradeship between the
two, that frank enjoyment of each other's society, without any
sentimental nonsense, so often seen between two young people in America,
which may end in a friendship of a summer, or extend to the cordial
esteem of a lifetime, or result in marriage. I always liked the girl;
she had such a sunny temper, such a flow of originality in her mental
attitude towards people and things without being a wit or a critic, and
so much piquancy in all her little ways. She would take to matrimony,
I should say, like a duck to water, with unruffled plumage, but as a wife
she would never be commonplace, or anything but engaging, and, as the
saying is, she could make almost any man happy. And, if unmarried, what
a delightful sister-in-law she would be, especially a deceased wife's
I never imagined that she was capable of a great passion, as was Irene
Benson, who under a serene exterior was moved by tides of deep feeling,
subject to moods, and full of aspirations and longings which she herself
only dimly knew the meaning of. With Irene marriage would be either
supreme happiness or extreme wretchedness, no half-way acceptance of a
conventional life. With such a woman life is a failure, either tragic or
pathetic, without a great passion given and returned. It is fortunate,
considering the chances that make unions in society, that for most men
and women the "grand passion" is neither necessary nor possible. I did
not share King's prejudice against Mr. Meigs. He seemed to me, as the
world goes, a 'bon parti,' cultivated by travel and reading, well-bred,
entertaining, amiable, possessed of an ample fortune, the ideal husband
in the eyes of a prudent mother. But I used to think that if Irene,
attracted by his many admirable qualities, should become his wife, and
that if afterwards the Prince should appear and waken the slumbering
woman's heart in her, what a tragedy would ensue. I can imagine their
placid existence if the Prince should not appear, and I can well believe
that Irene and Stanhope would have many a tumultuous passage in the
passionate symphony of their lives. But, great heavens, is the ideal
marriage a Holland!
If Marion had shed any tears overnight, say on account of a little
lonesomeness because her friend was speeding away from her southward,
there were no traces of them when she met her uncle at the breakfast-
table, as bright and chatty as usual, and in as high spirits as one can
maintain with the Rodick coffee.
What a world of shifting scenes it is! Forbes had picked up his traps
and gone off with his unreasonable companion like a soldier. The day
after, when he looked out of the window of his sleeping-compartment at
half-past four, he saw the red sky of morning, and against it the spires
At ten o'clock the two friends were breakfasting comfortably in the car,
and running along down the Cumberland Valley. What a contrast was this
rich country, warm with color and suggestive of abundance, to the pale
and scrimped coast land of Maine denuded of its trees! By afternoon they
were far down the east valley of the Shenandoah, between the Blue Ridge
and the Massanutten range, in a country broken, picturesque, fertile,
so attractive that they wondered there were so few villages on the route,
and only now and then a cheap shanty in sight; and crossing the divide to
the waters of the James, at sundown, in the midst of a splendid effect of
mountains and clouds in a thunderstorm, they came to Natural Bridge
station, where a coach awaited them.
This was old ground to King, who had been telling the artist that the two
natural objects east of the Rocky Mountains that he thought entitled to
the epithet "sublime" were Niagara Falls and the Natural Bridge; and as
for scenery, he did not know of any more noble and refined than this
region of the Blue Ridge. Take away the Bridge altogether, which is a
mere freak, and the place would still possess, he said, a charm unique.
Since the enlargement of hotel facilities and the conversion of this
princely domain into a grand park, it has become a favorite summer
resort. The gorge of the Bridge is a botanical storehouse, greater
variety of evergreens cannot be found together anywhere else in the
country, and the hills are still clad with stately forests. In opening
drives, and cutting roads and vistas to give views, the proprietor has
shown a skill and taste in dealing with natural resources, both in regard
to form and the development of contrasts of color in foliage, which are
rare in landscape gardening on this side of the Atlantic. Here is the
highest part of the Blue Ridge, and from the gentle summit of Mount
Jefferson the spectator has in view a hundred miles of this remarkable
range, this ribbed mountain structure, which always wears a mantle of
beauty, changeable purple and violet.
After supper there was an illumination of the cascade, and the ancient
gnarled arbor-vita: trees that lean over it-perhaps the largest known
specimens of this species-of the gorge and the Bridge. Nature is apt to
be belittled by this sort of display, but the noble dignity of the vast
arch of stone was superior to this trifling, and even had a sort of
mystery added to its imposing grandeur. It is true that the flaming
bonfires and the colored lights and the tiny figures of men and women
standing in the gorge within the depth of the arch made the scene
theatrical, but it was strange and weird and awful, like the fantasy of a
Walpurgis' Night or a midnight revel in Faust.
The presence of the colored brother in force distinguished this from
provincial resorts at the North, even those that employ this color as
servants. The flavor of Old Virginia is unmistakable, and life drops
into an easy-going pace under this influence. What fine manners, to be
sure! The waiters in the diningroom, in white ties and dress-coats, move
on springs, starting even to walk with a complicated use of all the
muscles of the body, as if in response to the twang of a banjo; they do
nothing without excessive motion and flourish. The gestures and good-
humored vitality expended in changing plates would become the leader of
an orchestra. Many of them, besides, have the expression of class-
leaders--of a worldly sort. There were the aristocratic chambermaid and
porter, who had the air of never having waited on any but the first
families. And what clever flatterers and readers of human nature! They
can tell in a moment whether a man will be complimented by the remark,
"I tuk you for a Richmond gemman, never shod have know'd you was from de
Norf," or whether it is best to say, "We depen's on de gemmen frum de
Norf; folks down hyer never gives noflin; is too pore." But to a
Richmond man it is always, "The Yankee is mighty keerful of his money; we
depen's on the old sort, marse." A fine specimen of the "Richmond
darkey" of the old school-polite, flattering, with a venerable head of
gray wool, was the bartender, who mixed his juleps with a flourish as if
keeping time to music. "Haven't I waited on you befo', sah? At Capon
Springs? Sorry, sah, but tho't I knowed you when you come in. Sorry,
but glad to know you now, sah. If that julep don't suit you, sah, throw
it in my face."
A friendly, restful, family sort of place, with music, a little mild
dancing, mostly performed by children, in the pavilion, driving and
riding-in short, peace in the midst of noble scenery. No display of
fashion, the artist soon discovered, and he said he longed to give the
pretty girls some instruction in the art of dress. Forbes was a
missionary of "style." It hurt his sense of the fitness of things to see
women without it. He used to say that an ill-dressed woman would spoil
the finest landscape. For such a man, with an artistic feeling so
sensitive, the White Sulphur Springs is a natural goal. And he and his
friend hastened thither with as much speed as the Virginia railways,
whose time-tables are carefully adjusted to miss all connections, permit.
"What do you think of a place," he wrote Miss Lamont--the girl read me a
portion of his lively letter that summer at Saratoga--" into which you
come by a belated train at half-past eleven at night, find friends
waiting up for you in evening costume, are taken to a champagne supper at
twelve, get to your quarters at one, and have your baggage delivered to
you at two o'clock in the morning?" The friends were lodged in "Paradise
Row"--a whimsical name given to one of the quarters assigned to single
gentlemen. Put into these single-room barracks, which were neat but
exceedingly primitive in their accommodations, by hilarious negro
attendants who appeared to regard life as one prolonged lark, and who
avowed that there was no time of day or night when a mint-julep or any
other necessary of life would not be forthcoming at a moment's warning,
the beginning of their sojourn at "The White" took on an air of
adventure, and the two strangers had the impression of having dropped
into a garrison somewhere on the frontier. But when King stepped out
upon the gallery, in the fresh summer morning, the scene that met his
eyes was one of such peaceful dignity, and so different from any in his
experience, that he was aware that he had come upon an original
development of watering-place life.
The White Sulphur has been for the better part of a century, as everybody
knows, the typical Southern resort, the rendezvous of all that was most
characteristic in the society of the whole South, the meeting-place of
its politicians, the haunt of its belles, the arena of gayety, intrigue,
and fashion. If tradition is to be believed, here in years gone by were
concocted the measures that were subsequently deployed for the government
of the country at Washington, here historic matches were made, here
beauty had triumphs that were the talk of a generation, here hearts were
broken at a ball and mended in Lovers' Walk, and here fortunes were
nightly lost and won. It must have been in its material conditions a
primitive place in the days of its greatest fame. Visitors came to it in
their carriages and unwieldy four-horse chariots, attended by troops of
servants, making slow but most enjoyable pilgrimages over the mountain
roads, journeys that lasted a week or a fortnight, and were every day
enlivened by jovial adventure. They came for the season. They were all
of one social order, and needed no introduction; those from Virginia were
all related to each other, and though life there was somewhat in the
nature of a picnic, it had its very well-defined and ceremonious code of
etiquette. In the memory of its old habitues it was at once the freest
and the most aristocratic assembly in the world. The hotel was small and
its arrangements primitive; a good many of the visitors had their own
cottages, and the rows of these cheap structures took their names from
their occupants. The Southern presidents, the senators, and statesmen,
the rich planters, lived in cottages which still have an historic
interest in their memory. But cottage life was never the exclusive
affair that it is elsewhere; the society was one body, and the hotel was
Time has greatly changed the White Sulphur; doubtless in its physical
aspect it never was so beautiful and attractive as it is today, but all
the modern improvements have not destroyed the character of the resort,
which possesses a great many of its primitive and old-time peculiarities.
Briefly the White is an elevated and charming mountain region, so cool,
in fact, especially at night, that the "season" is practically limited to
July and August, although I am not sure but a quiet person, who likes
invigorating air, and has no daughters to marry off, would find it
equally attractive in September and October, when the autumn foliage is
in its glory. In a green rolling interval, planted with noble trees and
flanked by moderate hills, stands the vast white caravansary, having wide
galleries and big pillars running round three sides. The front and two
sides are elevated, the galleries being reached by flights of steps, and
affording room underneath for the large billiard and bar-rooms. From the
hotel the ground slopes down to the spring, which is surmounted by a
round canopy on white columns, and below is an opening across the stream
to the race-track, the servants' quarters, and a fine view of receding
hills. Three sides of this charming park are enclosed by the cottages
and cabins, which back against the hills, and are more or less embowered
in trees. Most of these cottages are built in blocks and rows, some
single rooms, others large enough to accommodate a family, but all
reached by flights of steps, all with verandas, and most of them
connected by galleries. Occasionally the forest trees have been left,
and the galleries built around them. Included in the premises are two
churches, a gambling-house, a couple of country stores, and a post-
office. There are none of the shops common at watering-places for the
sale of fancy articles, and, strange to say, flowers are not
systematically cultivated, and very few are ever to be had. The hotel
has a vast dining-room, besides the minor eating-rooms for children and
nurses, a large ballroom, and a drawing-room of imposing dimensions.
Hotel and cottages together, it is said, can lodge fifteen hundred
The natural beauty of the place is very great, and fortunately there is
not much smart and fantastic architecture to interfere with it. I cannot
say whether the knowledge that Irene was in one of the cottages affected
King's judgment, but that morning, when he strolled to the upper part of
the grounds before breakfast, he thought he had never beheld a scene of
more beauty and dignity, as he looked over the mass of hotel buildings,
upon the park set with a wonderful variety of dark green foliage, upon
the elevated rows of galleried cottages marked by colonial simplicity,
and the soft contour of the hills, which satisfy the eye in their
delicate blending of every shade of green and brown. And after an
acquaintance of a couple of weeks the place seemed to him ravishingly
King was always raving about the White Sulphur after he came North, and
one never could tell how much his judgment was colored by his peculiar
experiences there. It was my impression that if he had spent those two
weeks on a barren rock in the ocean, with only one fair spirit for his
minister, he would have sworn that it was the most lovely spot on the
face of the earth. He always declared that it was the most friendly,
cordial society at this resort in the country. At breakfast he knew
scarcely any one in the vast dining-room, except the New Orleans and
Richmond friends with whom he had a seat at table. But their
acquaintance sufficed to establish his position. Before dinner-time he
knew half a hundred; in the evening his introductions had run up into the
hundreds, and he felt that he had potential friends in every Southern
city; and before the week was over there was not one of the thousand
guests he did not know or might not know. At his table he heard Irene
spoken of and her beauty commented on. Two or three days had been enough
to give her a reputation in a society that is exceedingly sensitive to
beauty. The men were all ready to do her homage, and the women took her
into favor as soon as they saw that Mr. Meigs, whose social position was
perfectly well known, was of her party. The society of the White Sulphur
seems perfectly easy of access, but the ineligible will find that it is
able, like that of Washington, to protect itself. It was not without a
little shock that King heard the good points, the style, the physical
perfections, of Irene so fully commented on, and not without some alarm
that he heard predicted for her a very successful career as a belle.
Coming out from breakfast, the Benson party were encountered on the
gallery, and introductions followed. It was a trying five minutes for
King, who felt as guilty, as if the White Sulphur were private property
into which he had intruded without an invitation. There was in the
civility of Mr. Meigs no sign of an invitation. Mrs. Benson said she was
never so surprised in her life, and the surprise seemed not exactly an
agreeable one, but Mr. Benson looked a great deal more pleased than
astonished. The slight flush in Irene's face as she greeted him might
have been wholly due to the unexpectedness of the meeting. Some of the
gentlemen lounged off to the office region for politics and cigars, the
elderly ladies took seats upon the gallery, and the rest of the party
strolled down to the benches under the trees.
"So Miss Benson was expecting you!" said Mrs. Farquhar, who was walking
with King. It is enough to mention Mrs. Farquhar's name to an habitue of
the Springs. It is not so many years ago since she was a reigning belle,
and as noted for her wit and sparkling raillery as for her beauty. She
was still a very handsome woman, whose original cleverness had been
cultivated by a considerable experience of social life in this country as
well as in London and Paris.
"Was she? I'm sure I never told her I was coming here."
"No, simple man. You were with her at Bar Harbor, and I suppose she
never mentioned to you that she was coming here?"
"But why did you think she expected me?"
"You men are too aggravatingly stupid. I never saw astonishment better
feigned. I dare say it imposed upon that other admirer of hers also.
Well, I like her, and I'm going to be good to her." This meant a good
deal. Mrs. Farquhar was related to everybody in Virginia--that is,
everybody who was anybody before the war--and she could count at that
moment seventy-five cousins, some of them first and some of them double-
first cousins, at the White Sulphur. Mrs. Farquhar's remark meant that
all these cousins and all their friends the South over would stand by
Miss Benson socially from that moment.
The morning german had just begun in the ballroom. The gallery was
thronged with spectators, clustering like bees about the large windows,
and the notes of the band came floating out over the lawn, bringing to
the groups there the lulling impression that life is all a summer
"And they say she is from Ohio. It is right odd, isn't it? but two or
three of the prettiest women here are from that State. There is Mrs.
Martin, sweet as a jacqueminot. I'd introduce you if her husband were
here. Ohio! Well, we get used to it. I should have known the father
and mother were corn-fed. I suppose you prefer the corn-feds to the
Confeds. But there's homespun and homespun. You see those under the
trees yonder? Georgia homespun! Perhaps you don't see the difference.
"I suppose you mean provincial."
"Oh, dear, no. I'm provincial. It is the most difficult thing to be in
these leveling days. But I am not going to interest you in myself. I am
too unselfish. Your Miss Benson is a fine girl, and it does not matter
about her parents. Since you Yankees upset everything by the war, it is
really of no importance who one's mother is. But, mind, this is not my
opinion. I'm trying to adjust myself. You have no idea how
reconstructed I am."
And with this Mrs. Farquhar went over to Miss Benson, and chatted for a
few moments, making herself particularly agreeable to Mr. Meigs, and
actually carried that gentleman off to the spring, and then as an escort
to her cottage, shaking her fan as she went away at Mr. King and Irene,
and saying, "It is a waste of time for you youngsters not to be in the
The german was just ended, and the participants were grouping themselves
on the gallery to be photographed, the usual custom for perpetuating the
memory of these exercises, which only take place every other morning.
And since something must be done, as there are only six nights for
dancing in the week, on the off mornings there are champagne and fruit
parties on the lawn.
It was not about the german, however, that King was thinking. He was
once more beside the woman he loved, and all the influences of summer and
the very spirit of this resort were in his favor. If I cannot win her
here, he was saying to himself, the Meigs is in it. They talked about
the journey, about Luray, where she had been, and about the Bridge, and
the abnormal gayety of the Springs.
"The people are all so friendly," she said, "and strive so much to put
the stranger at his ease, and putting themselves out lest time hang heavy
on one's hands. They seem somehow responsible."
"Yes," said King, "the place is unique in that respect. I suppose it is
partly owing to the concentration of the company in and around the
"But the sole object appears to me to be agreeable, and make a real
social life. At other like places nobody seems to care what becomes of
"Doubtless the cordiality and good feeling are spontaneous, though
something is due to manner, and a habit of expressing the feeling that
arises. Still, I do not expect to find any watering-place a paradise.
This must be vastly different from any other if it is not full of cliques
and gossip and envy underneath. But we do not go to a summer resort to
philosophize. A market is a market, you know."
"I don't know anything about markets, and this cordiality may all be on
the surface, but it makes life very agreeable, and I wish our Northerners
would catch the Southern habit of showing sympathy where it exists."
"Well, I'm free to say that I like the place, and all its easy-going
ways, and I have to thank you for a new experience."
"Me? Why so?"
"Oh, I wouldn't have come if it had not been for your suggestion--I mean
for your--your saying that you were coming here reminded me that it was a
place I ought to see."
"I'm glad to have served you as a guide-book."
"And I hope you are not sorry that I--"
At this moment Mrs. Benson and Mr. Meigs came down with the announcement
of the dinner hour, and the latter marched off with the ladies with a
The party did not meet again till evening in the great drawing-room.
The business at the White Sulphur is pleasure. And this is about the
order of proceedings: A few conscientious people take an early glass at
the spring, and later patronize the baths, and there is a crowd at the
post-office; a late breakfast; lounging and gossip on the galleries and
in the parlor; politics and old-fogy talk in the reading-room and in the
piazza corners; flirtation on the lawn; a german every other morning at
eleven; wine-parties under the trees; morning calls at the cottages;
servants running hither and thither with cooling drinks; the bar-room not
absolutely deserted and cheerless at any hour, day or night; dinner from
two to four; occasionally a riding-party; some driving; though there were
charming drives in every direction, few private carriages, and no display
of turn-outs; strolls in Lovers' Walk and in the pretty hill paths;
supper at eight, and then the full-dress assembly in the drawing-room,
and a "walk around" while the children have their hour in the ballroom;
the nightly dance, witnessed by a crowd on the veranda, followed
frequently by a private german and a supper given by some lover of his
kind, lasting till all hours in the morning; and while the majority of
the vast encampment reposes in slumber, some resolute spirits are
fighting the tiger, and a light gleaming from one cottage and another
shows where devotees of science are backing their opinion of the relative
value of chance bits of pasteboard, in certain combinations, with a
liberality and faith for which the world gives them no credit. And lest
their life should become monotonous, the enterprising young men are
continually organizing entertainments, mock races, comical games.
The idea seems to prevail that a summer resort ought to be a place of
The White Sulphur is the only watering-place remaining in the United
States where there is what may be called an "assembly," such as might
formerly be seen at Saratoga or at Ballston Spa in Irving's young days.
Everybody is in the drawing-room in the evening, and although, in the
freedom of the place, full dress is not exacted, the habit of parade in
full toilet prevails. When King entered the room the scene might well be
called brilliant, and even bewildering, so that in the maze of beauty and
the babble of talk he was glad to obtain the services of Mrs. Farquhar as
cicerone. Between the rim of people near the walls and the elliptical
centre was an open space for promenading, and in this beauty and its
attendant cavalier went round and round in unending show. This is called
the "tread-mill." But for the seriousness of this frank display, and the
unflagging interest of the spectators, there would have been an element
of high comedy in it. It was an education to join a wall group and hear
the free and critical comments on the style, the dress, the physical
perfection, of the charming procession. When Mrs. Farquhar and King had
taken a turn or two, they stood on one side to enjoy the scene.
"Did you ever see so many pretty girls together before? If you did,
don't you dare say so."
"But at the North the pretty women are scattered in a thousand places.
You have here the whole South to draw on. Are they elected as
representatives from the various districts, Mrs. Farquhar?"
"Certainly. By an election that your clumsy device of the ballot is not
equal to. Why shouldn't beauty have a reputation? You see that old lady
in the corner? Well, forty years ago the Springs just raved over her;
everybody in the South knew her; I suppose she had an average of seven
proposals a week; the young men went wild about her, followed her,
toasted her, and fought duels for her possession--you don't like duels?--
why, she was engaged to three men at one time, and after all she went off
with a worthless fellow."
"That seems to me rather a melancholy history."
"Well, she is a most charming old lady; just as entertaining! I must
introduce you. But this is history. Now look! There's the belle of
Mobile, that tall, stately brunette. And that superb figure, you
wouldn't guess she is the belle of Selma. There is a fascinating girl.
What a mixture of languor and vivacity! Creole, you know; full blood.
She is the belle of New Orleans--or one of them. Oh! do you see that
Paris dress? I must look at it again when it comes around; she carries
it well, too--belle of Richmond. And, see there; there's one of the
prettiest girls in the South--belle of Macon. And that handsome woman--
Nashville?--Louisville? See, that's the new-comer from Ohio." And so
the procession went on, and the enumeration--belle of Montgomery, belle
of Augusta, belle of Charleston, belle of Savannah, belle of Atlanta--
always the belle of some place.
"No, I don't expect you to say that these are prettier than Northern
women; but just between friends, Mr. King, don't you think the North
might make a little more of their beautiful women? Yes, you are right;
she is handsome" (King was bowing to Irene, who was on the arm of Mr.
Meigs), "and has something besides beauty. I see what you mean" (King
had not intimated that he meant anything), "but don't you dare to say
"Oh, I'm quite subdued."
"I wouldn't trust you. I suppose you Yankees cannot help your critical
"Critical? Why, I've heard more criticism in the last half-hour from
these spectators than in a year before. And--I wonder if you will let me
"Seems to me that the chief topic here is physical beauty--about the
shape, the style, the dress, of women, and whether this or that one is
well made and handsome."
"Well, suppose beauty is worshiped in the South--we worship what we have;
we haven't much money now, you know. Would you mind my saying that Mr.
Meigs is a very presentable man?"
"You may say what you like about Mr. Meigs."
"That's the reason I took him away this morning."
"He is full of information, and so unobtrusive--"
"I hadn't noticed that."
"And I think he ought to be encouraged. I'll tell you what you ought to
do, Mr. King: you ought to give a german. If you do not, I shall put
Mr. Meigs up to it--it is the thing to do here."
"Mr. Meigs give a german!"--[Dance, cotillion--always lively. D.W.]
"Why not? You see that old beau there, the one smiling and bending
towards her as he walks with the belle of Macon? He does not look any
older than Mr. Meigs. He has been coming here for fifty years; he owns
up to sixty-five and the Mexican war; it's my firm belief that he was out
in 1812. Well, he has led the german here for years. You will find
Colonel Fane in the ballroom every night. Yes, I shall speak to Mr.
The room was thinning out. King found himself in front of a row of
dowagers, whose tongues were still going about the departing beauties.
"No mercy there," he heard a lady say to her companion; "that's a jury
for conviction every time." What confidential communication Mrs.
Farquhar made to Mr. Meigs, King never knew, but he took advantage of the
diversion in his favor to lead Miss Benson off to the ballroom.
OLD SWEET AND WHITE SULFUR
The days went by at the White Sulphur on the wings of incessant gayety.
Literally the nights were filled with music, and the only cares that
infested the day appeared in the anxious faces of the mothers as the
campaign became more intricate and uncertain. King watched this with the
double interest of spectator and player. The artist threw himself into
the melee with abandon, and pacified his conscience by an occasional
letter to Miss Lamont, in which he confessed just as many of his
conquests and defeats as he thought it would be good for her to know.
The colored people, who are a conspicuous part of the establishment,
are a source of never-failing interest and amusement. Every morning the
mammies and nurses with their charges were seated in a long, shining row
on a part of the veranda where there was most passing and repassing,
holding a sort of baby show, the social consequence of each one depending
upon the rank of the family who employed her, and the dress of the
children in her charge. High-toned conversation on these topics occupied
these dignified and faithful mammies, upon whom seemed to rest to a
considerable extent the maintenance of the aristocratic social
traditions. Forbes had heard that while the colored people of the South
had suspended several of the ten commandments, the eighth was especially
regarded as nonapplicable in the present state of society. But he was
compelled to revise this opinion as to the White Sulphur. Nobody ever
locked a door or closed a window. Cottages most remote were left for
hours open and without guard, miscellaneous articles of the toilet were
left about, trunks were not locked, waiters, chambermaids, porters,
washerwomen, were constantly coming and going, having access to the rooms
at all hours, and yet no guest ever lost so much as a hairpin or a cigar.
This fashion of trust and of honesty so impressed the artist that he said
he should make an attempt to have it introduced elsewhere. This sort of
esprit de corps among the colored people was unexpected, and he wondered
if they are not generally misunderstood by writers who attribute to them
qualities of various kinds that they do not possess. The negro is not
witty or consciously humorous, or epigrammatic. The humor of his actions
and sayings lies very much in a certain primitive simplicity. Forbes
couldn't tell, for instance, why he was amused at a remark he heard one
morning in the store. A colored girl sauntered in, looking about
vacantly. "You ain't got no cotton, is you?" "Why, of course we have
cotton." "Well" (the girl only wanted an excuse to say something),
"I only ast, is you?"
Sports of a colonial and old English flavor that have fallen into disuse
elsewhere varied the life at the White. One day the gentlemen rode in a
mule-race, the slowest mule to win, and this feat was followed by an
exhibition of negro agility in climbing the greased pole and catching the
greased pig; another day the cavaliers contended on the green field
surrounded by a brilliant array of beauty and costume, as two Amazon
baseball nines, the one nine arrayed in yellow cambric frocks and sun-
bonnets, and the other in bright red gowns--the whiskers and big boots
and trousers adding nothing whatever to the illusion of the female
The two tables, King's and the Benson's, united in an expedition to the
Old Sweet, a drive of eighteen miles. Mrs. Farquhar arranged the affair,
and assigned the seats in the carriages. It is a very picturesque drive,
as are all the drives in this region, and if King did not enjoy it, it
was not because Mrs. Farquhar was not even more entertaining than usual.
The truth is that a young man in love is poor company for himself and for
everybody else. Even the object of his passion could not tolerate him
unless she returned it. Irene and Mr. Meigs rode in the carriage in
advance of his, and King thought the scenery about the tamest he had ever
seen, the roads bad, the horses slow. His ill-humor, however, was
concentrated on one spot; that was Mr. Meigs's back; he thought he had
never seen a more disagreeable back, a more conceited back. It ought to
have been a delightful day; in his imagination it was to be an eventful
day. Indeed, why shouldn't the opportunity come at the Old Sweet, at the
end of the drive?--there was something promising in the name. Mrs.
Farquhar was in a mocking mood all the way. She liked to go to the Old
Sweet, she said, because it was so intolerably dull; it was a sensation.
She thought, too, that it might please Miss Benson, there was such a
fitness in the thing--the old sweet to the Old Sweet. "And he is not so
very old either," she added; "just the age young girls like. I should
think Miss Benson in danger--seriously, now--if she were three or four
The Old Sweet is, in fact, a delightful old-fashioned resort, respectable
and dull, with a pretty park, and a crystal pond that stimulates the
bather like a glass of champagne, and perhaps has the property of
restoring youth. King tried the spring, which he heard Mrs. Farquhar
soberly commending to Mr. Meigs; and after dinner he manoeuvred for a
half-hour alone with Irene. But the fates and the women were against
him. He had the mortification to see her stroll away with Mr. Meigs to a
distant part of the grounds, where they remained in confidential
discourse until it was time to return.
In the rearrangement of seats Mrs. Farquhar exchanged with Irene. Mrs.
Farquhar said that it was very much like going to a funeral each way.
As for Irene, she was in high, even feverish spirits, and rattled away in
a manner that convinced King that she was almost too happy to contain
Notwithstanding the general chaff, the singing, and the gayety of Irene,
the drive seemed to him intolerably long. At the half-way house, where
in the moonlight the horses drank from a shallow stream, Mr. Meigs came
forward to the carriage and inquired if Miss Benson was sufficiently
protected against the chilliness of the night. King had an impulse to
offer to change seats with him; but no, he would not surrender in the
face of the enemy. It would be more dignified to quietly leave the
Springs the next day.
It was late at night when the party returned. The carriage drove to the
Benson cottage; King helped Irene to alight, coolly bade her good-night,
and went to his barracks. But it was not a good night to sleep.
He tossed about, he counted every step of the late night birds on his
gallery; he got up and lighted a cigar, and tried dispassionately to
think the matter over. But thinking was of no use. He took pen and
paper; he would write a chill letter of farewell; he would write a manly
avowal of his passion; he would make such an appeal that no woman could
resist it. She must know, she did know--what was the use of writing?
He sat staring at the blank prospect. Great heavens! what would become
of his life if he lost the only woman in the world? Probably the world
would go on much the same. Why, listen to it! The band was playing on
the lawn at four o'clock in the morning. A party was breaking up after a
night of german and a supper, and the revelers were dispersing. The
lively tunes of "Dixie," "Marching through Georgia," and "Home, Sweet
Home," awoke the echoes in all the galleries and corridors, and filled
the whole encampment with a sad gayety. Dawn was approaching. Good-
nights and farewells and laughter were heard, and the voice of a wanderer
explaining to the trees, with more or less broken melody, his fixed
purpose not to go home till morning.
Stanhope King might have had a better though still a sleepless night if
he had known that Mr. Meigs was packing his trunks at that hour to the
tune of "Home, Sweet Home," and if he had been aware of the scene at the
Benson cottage after he bade Irene good-night. Mrs. Benson had a light
burning, and the noise of the carriage awakened her. Irene entered the
room, saw that her mother was awake, shut the door carefully, sat down on
the foot of the bed, said, "It's all over, mother," and burst into the
tears of a long-repressed nervous excitement.
"What's over, child?" cried Mrs. Benson, sitting bolt-upright in bed.
"Mr. Meigs. I had to tell him that it couldn't be. And he is one of the
best men I ever knew."
"You don't tell me you've gone and refused him, Irene?"
"Please don't scold me. It was no use. He ought to have seen that I did
not care for him, except as a friend. I'm so sorry!"
"You are the strangest girl I ever saw." And Mrs. Benson dropped back on
the pillow again, crying herself now, and muttering, "I'm sure I don't
know what you do want."
When King came out to breakfast he encountered Mr. Benson, who told him
that their friend Mr. Meigs had gone off that morning--had a sudden
business call to Boston. Mr. Benson did not seem to be depressed about
it. Irene did not appear, and King idled away the hours with his equally
industrious companion under the trees. There was no german that morning,
and the hotel band was going through its repertoire for the benefit of a
champagne party on the lawn. There was nothing melancholy about this
party; and King couldn't help saying to Mrs. Farquhar that it hardly
represented his idea of the destitution and depression resulting from the
war; but she replied that they must do something to keep up their
"And I think," said the artist, who had been watching, from the little
distance at which they sat, the table of the revelers, "that they will
succeed. Twenty-six bottles of champagne, and not many more guests!
What a happy people, to be able to enjoy champagne before twelve
"Oh, you never will understand us!" said Mrs. Farquhar; "there is nothing
spontaneous in you."
"We do not begin to be spontaneous till after dinner," said King.
"And then it is all calculated. Think of Mr. Forbes counting the
bottles! Such a dreadfully mercenary spirit! Oh, I have been North.
Because you are not so open as we are, you set up for being more
"And you mean," said King, "that frankness and impulse cover a multitude
"I don't mean anything of the sort. I just mean that conventionality
isn't virtue. You yourself confessed that you like the Southern openness
right much, and you like to come here, and you like the Southern people
as they are at home."
"And now will you tell me, Mr. Prim, why it is that almost all Northern
people who come South to live become more Southern than the Southerners
themselves; and that almost all Southern people who go North to live
remain just as Southern as ever?"
"No. Nor do I understand any more than Dr. Johnson did why the Scotch,
who couldn't scratch a living at home, and came up to London, always kept
on bragging about their native land and abused the metropolis."
This sort of sparring went on daily, with the result of increasing
friendship between the representatives of the two geographical sections,
and commonly ended with the declaration on Mrs. Farquhar's part that she
should never know that King was not born in the South except for his
accent; and on his part that if Mrs. Farquhar would conceal her
delightful Virginia inflection she would pass everywhere at the North for
a Northern woman.
"I hear," she said, later, as they sat alone, "that Mr. Meigs has beat a
retreat, saving nothing but his personal baggage. I think Miss Benson is
a great goose. Such a chance for an establishment and a position!
You didn't half appreciate him."
"I'm afraid I did not."
"Well, it is none of my business; but I hope you understand the
responsibility of the situation. If you do not, I want to warn you about
one thing: don't go strolling off before sunset in the Lovers' Walk.
It is the most dangerous place. It is a fatal place. I suppose every
turn in it, every tree that has a knoll at the foot where two persons can
sit, has witnessed a tragedy, or, what is worse, a comedy. There are
legends enough about it to fill a book. Maybe there is not a Southern
woman living who has not been engaged there once at least. I'll tell you
a little story for a warning. Some years ago there was a famous belle
here who had the Springs at her feet, and half a dozen determined
suitors. One of them, who had been unable to make the least impression
on her heart, resolved to win her by a stratagem. Walking one evening on
the hill with her, the two stopped just at a turn in the walk--I can show
you the exact spot, with a chaperon--and he fell into earnest discourse
with her. She was as cool and repellant as usual. Just then he heard a
party approaching; his chance had come. The moment the party came in
sight he suddenly kissed her. Everybody saw it. The witnesses
discreetly turned back. The girl was indignant. But the deed was done.
In half an hour the whole Springs would know it. She was compromised.
No explanations could do away with the fact that she had been kissed in
Lovers' Walk. But the girl was game, and that evening the engagement was
announced in the drawing-room. Isn't that a pretty story?"
However much Stanhope might have been alarmed at this recital, he
betrayed nothing of his fear that evening when, after walking to the
spring with Irene, the two sauntered along and unconsciously, as it
seemed, turned up the hill into that winding path which has been trodden
by generations of lovers with loitering steps--steps easy to take and so
hard to retrace! It is a delightful forest, the walk winding about on
the edge of the hill, and giving charming prospects of intervales,
stream, and mountains. To one in the mood for a quiet hour with nature,
no scene could be more attractive.
The couple walked on, attempting little conversation, both apparently
prepossessed and constrained. The sunset was spoken of, and when Irene
at length suggested turning back, that was declared to be King's object
in ascending the hill to a particular point; but whether either of them
saw the sunset, or would have known it from a sunrise, I cannot say.
The drive to the Old Sweet was pleasant. Yes, but rather tiresome.
Mr. Meigs had gone away suddenly. Yes; Irene was sorry his business
should have called him away. Was she very sorry? She wouldn't lie awake
at night over it, but he was a good friend. The time passed very quickly
here. Yes; one couldn't tell how it went; the days just melted away; the
two weeks seemed like a day. They were going away the next day. King
said he was going also.
"And," he added, as if with an effort, "when the season is over, Miss
Benson, I am going to settle down to work."
"I'm glad of that," she said, turning upon him a face glowing with
"Yes, I have arranged to go on with practice in my uncle's office.
I remember what you said about a dilettante life."
"Why, I never said anything of the kind."
"But you looked it. It is all the same."
They had come to the crown of the hill, and stood looking over the
intervales to the purple mountains. Irene was deeply occupied in tying
up with grass a bunch of wild flowers. Suddenly he seized her hand.
"No, no," she cried, turning away. The flowers dropped from her hand.
"You must listen, Irene. I love you--I love you."
She turned her face towards him; her lips trembled; her eyes were full of
tears; there was a great look of wonder and tenderness in her face.
"Is it all true?"
She was in his arms. He kissed her hair, her eyes--ah me! it is the old
story. It had always been true. He loved her from the first, at
Fortress Monroe, every minute since. And she--well, perhaps she could
learn to love him in time, if he was very good; yes, maybe she had loved
him a little at Fortress Monroe. How could he? what was there in her to
attract him? What a wonder it was that she could tolerate him! What
could she see in him?
So this impossible thing, this miracle, was explained? No, indeed!
It had to be inquired into and explained over and over again, this
absolutely new experience of two people loving each other.
She could speak now of herself, of her doubt that he could know his own
heart and be stronger than the social traditions, and would not mind, as
she thought he did at Newport--just a little bit--the opinions of other
people. I do not by any means imply that she said all this bluntly, or
that she took at all the tone of apology; but she contrived, as a woman
can without saying much, to let him see why she had distrusted, not the
sincerity, but the perseverance of his love. There would never be any
more doubt now. What a wonder it all is.
The two parted--alas! alas! till supper-time!
I don't know why scoffers make so light of these partings--at the foot of
the main stairs of the hotel gallery, just as Mrs. Farquhar was
descending. Irene's face was radiant as she ran away from Mrs. Farquhar.
"Bless you, my children! I see my warning was in vain, Mr. King. It is
a fatal walk. It always was in our family. Oh, youth! youth! "A shade
of melancholy came over her charming face as she turned alone towards the
LONG BRANCH, OCEAN GROVE
Mrs. Farquhar, Colonel Fane, and a great many of their first and second
cousins were at the station the morning the Bensons and King and Forbes
departed for the North. The gallant colonel was foremost in his
expressions of regret, and if he had been the proprietor of Virginia, and
of the entire South added thereto, and had been anxious to close out the
whole lot on favorable terms to the purchaser, he would not have
exhibited greater solicitude as to the impression the visitors had
received. This solicitude was, however, wholly in his manner--and it is
the traditional-manner that has nearly passed away--for underneath all
this humility it was plain to be seen that the South had conferred a
great favor, sir, upon these persons by a recognition of their merits.
"I am not come to give you good-by, but au revoir," said Mrs. Farquhar to
Stanhope and Irene, who were standing apart. "I hate to go North in the
summer, it is so hot and crowded and snobbish, but I dare say I shall
meet you somewhere, for I confess I don't like to lose sight of so much
happiness. No, no, Miss Benson, you need not thank me, even with a
blush; I am not responsible for this state of things. I did all I could
to warn you, and I tell you now that my sympathy is with Mr. Meigs, who
never did either of you any harm, and I think has been very badly
"I don't know any one, Mrs. Farquhar, who is so capable of repairing his
injuries as yourself," said King.
"Thank you; I'm not used to such delicate elephantine compliments. It is
just like a man, Miss Benson, to try to kill two birds with one stone--
get rid of a rival by sacrificing a useless friend. All the same, au
"We shall be glad to see you," replied Irene, "you know that, wherever we
are; and we will try to make the North tolerable for you."
"Oh, I shall hide my pride and go. If you were not all so rich up there!
Not that I object to wealth; I enjoy it. I think I shall take to that
old prayer: 'May my lot be with the rich in this world, and with the
South in the next!'"
I suppose there never was such a journey as that from the White Sulphur
to New York. If the Virginia scenery had seemed to King beautiful when
he came down, it was now transcendently lovely. He raved about it, when
I saw him afterwards--the Blue Ridge, the wheat valleys, the commercial
advantages, the mineral resources of the State, the grand old traditional
Heaven knows what of the Old Dominion; as to details he was obscure, and
when I pinned him down, he was not certain which route they took. It is
my opinion that the most costly scenery in the world is thrown away upon
a pair of newly plighted lovers.
The rest of the party were in good spirits. Even Mrs. Benson, who was at
first a little bewildered at the failure of her admirably planned
campaign, accepted the situation with serenity.
"So you are engaged!" she said, when Irene went to her with the story of
the little affair in Lovers' Walk. "I suppose he'll like it. He always
took a fancy to Mr. King. No, I haven't any objections, Irene, and I
hope you'll be happy. Mr. King was always very polite to me--only he
didn't never seem exactly like our folks. We only want you to be happy."
And the old lady declared with a shaky voice, and tears streaming down
her cheeks, that she was perfectly happy if Irene was.
Mr. Meigs, the refined, the fastidious, the man of the world, who had
known how to adapt himself perfectly to Mrs. Benson, might nevertheless
have been surprised at her implication that he was "like our folks."
At the station in Jersey City--a place suggestive of love and romance and
full of tender associations--the party separated for a few days, the
Bensons going to Saratoga, and King accompanying Forbes to Long Branch,
in pursuance of an agreement which, not being in writing, he was unable
to break. As the two friends went in the early morning down to the coast
over the level salt meadows, cut by bayous and intersected by canals,
they were curiously reminded both of the Venice lagoons and the plains of
the Teche; and the artist went into raptures over the colors of the
landscape, which he declared was Oriental in softness and blending.
Patriotic as we are, we still turn to foreign lands for our comparisons.
Long Branch and its adjuncts were planned for New York excursionists who
are content with the ocean and the salt air, and do not care much for the
picturesque. It can be described in a phrase: a straight line of sandy
coast with a high bank, parallel to it a driveway, and an endless row of
hotels and cottages. Knowing what the American seaside cottage and hotel
are, it is unnecessary to go to Long Branch to have an accurate picture
of it in the mind. Seen from the end of the pier, the coast appears to
be all built up--a thin, straggling city by the sea. The line of
buildings is continuous for two miles, from Long Branch to Elberon;
midway is the West End, where our tourists were advised to go as the best
post of observation, a medium point of respectability between the
excursion medley of one extremity and the cottage refinement of the
other, and equally convenient to the races, which attract crowds of
metropolitan betting men and betting women. The fine toilets of these
children of fortune are not less admired than their fashionable race-
course manners. The satirist who said that Atlantic City is typical of
Philadelphia, said also that Long Branch is typical of New York. What
Mr. King said was that the satirist was not acquainted with the good
society of either place.
All the summer resorts get somehow a certain character, but it is not
easy always to say how it is produced. The Long Branch region was the
resort of politicians, and of persons of some fortune who connect
politics with speculation. Society, which in America does not identify
itself with politics as it does in England, was not specially attracted
by the newspaper notoriety of the place, although, fashion to some extent
declared in favor of Elberon.
In the morning the artist went up to the pier at the bathing hour.
Thousands of men, women, and children were tossing about in the lively
surf promiscuously, revealing to the spectators such forms as Nature had
given them, with a modest confidence in her handiwork. It seemed to the
artist, who was a student of the human figure, that many of these people
would not have bathed in public if Nature had made them self-conscious.
All down the shore were pavilions and bath-houses, and the scene at a
distance was not unlike that when the water is occupied by schools of
leaping mackerel. An excursion steamer from New York landed at the pier.
The passengers were not of any recognized American type, but mixed
foreign races a crowd of respectable people who take their rare holidays
rather seriously, and offer little of interest to an artist. The boats
that arrive at night are said to bring a less respectable cargo.
It is a pleasant walk or drive down to Elberon when there is a sea-
breeze, especially if there happen to be a dozen yachts in the offing.
Such elegance as this watering-place has lies in this direction; the
Elberon is a refined sort of hotel, and has near it a group of pretty
cottages, not too fantastic for holiday residences, and even the "greeny-
yellowy" ones do not much offend, for eccentricities of color are toned
down by the sea atmosphere. These cottages have excellent lawns set with
brilliant beds of flowers; and the turf rivals that of Newport; but
without a tree or shrub anywhere along the shore the aspect is too
unrelieved and photographically distinct. Here as elsewhere the cottage
life is taking the place of hotel life.
There were few handsome turn-outs on the main drive, and perhaps the
popular character of the place was indicated by the use of omnibuses
instead of carriages. For, notwithstanding Elberon and such fashion as
is there gathered, Long Branch lacks "style." After the White Sulphur,
it did not seem to King alive with gayety, nor has it any society.
In the hotel parlors there is music in the evenings, but little dancing
except by children. Large women, offensively dressed, sit about the
veranda, and give a heavy and "company" air to the drawing-rooms. No,
the place is not gay. The people come here to eat, to bathe, to take the
air; and these are reasons enough for being here. Upon the artist, alert
for social peculiarities, the scene made little impression, for to an
artist there is a limit to the interest of a crowd showily dressed,
though they blaze with diamonds.
It was in search of something different from this that King and Forbes
took the train and traveled six miles to Asbury Park and Ocean Grove.
These great summer settlements are separated by a sheet of fresh water
three-quarters of a mile long; its sloping banks are studded with pretty
cottages, its surface is alive with boats gay with awnings of red and
blue and green, and seats of motley color, and is altogether a fairy
spectacle. Asbury Park is the worldly correlative of Ocean Grove, and
esteems itself a notch above it in social tone. Each is a city of small
houses, and each is teeming with life, but Ocean Grove, whose centre is
the camp-meeting tabernacle, lodges its devotees in tents as well as
cottages, and copies the architecture of Oak Bluffs. The inhabitants of
the two cities meet on the two-mile-long plank promenade by the sea.
Perhaps there is no place on the coast that would more astonish the
foreigner than Ocean Grove, and if he should describe it faithfully he
would be unpopular with its inhabitants. He would be astonished at the
crowds at the station, the throngs in the streets, the shops and stores
for supplying the wants of the religious pilgrims, and used as he might
be to the promiscuous bathing along our coast, he would inevitably
comment upon the freedom existing here. He would see women in their
bathing dresses, wet and clinging, walking in the streets of the town,
and he would read notices posted up by the camp-meeting authorities
forbidding women so clad to come upon the tabernacle ground. He would
also read placards along the beach explaining the reason why decency in
bathing suits is desirable, and he would wonder why such notices should
be necessary. If, however, he walked along the shore at bathing times he
might be enlightened, and he would see besides a certain simplicity of
social life which sophisticated Europe has no parallel for. A peculiar
custom here is sand-burrowing. To lie in the warm sand, which
accommodates itself to any position of the body, and listen to the dash
of the waves, is a dreamy and delightful way of spending a summer day.
The beach for miles is strewn with these sand-burrowers in groups of two
or three or half a dozen, or single figures laid out like the effigies of
Crusaders. One encounters these groups sprawling in all attitudes, and
frequently asleep in their promiscuous beds. The foreigner is forced to
see all this, because it is a public exhibition. A couple in bathing
suits take a dip together in the sea, and then lie down in the sand.
The artist proposed to make a sketch of one of these primitive couples,
but it was impossible to do so, because they lay in a trench which they
had scooped in the sand two feet deep, and had hoisted an umbrella over
their heads. The position was novel and artistic, but beyond the reach
of the artist. It was a great pity, because art is never more agreeable
than when it concerns itself with domestic life.
While this charming spectacle was exhibited at the beach, afternoon
service was going on in the tabernacle, and King sought that in
preference. The vast audience under the canopy directed its eyes to a
man on the platform, who was violently gesticulating and shouting at the
top of his voice. King, fresh from the scenes of the beach, listened a
long time, expecting to hear some close counsel on the conduct of life,
but he heard nothing except the vaguest emotional exhortation. By this
the audience were apparently unmoved, for it was only when the preacher
paused to get his breath on some word on which he could dwell by reason
of its vowels, like w-o-r-l-d or a-n-d, that he awoke any response from
his hearers. The spiritual exercise of prayer which followed was even
more of a physical demonstration, and it aroused more response. The
officiating minister, kneeling at the desk, gesticulated furiously,
doubled up his fists and shook them on high, stretched out both arms, and
pounded the pulpit. Among people of his own race King had never before
seen anything like this, and he went away a sadder if not a wiser man,
having at least learned one lesson of charity--never again to speak
lightly of a negro religious meeting.
This vast city of the sea has many charms, and is the resort of thousands
of people, who find here health and repose. But King, who was immensely
interested in it all as one phase of American summer life, was glad that
Irene was not at Ocean Grove.
It was the 22d of August, and the height of the season at Saratoga.
Familiar as King had been with these Springs, accustomed as the artist
was to foreign Spas, the scene was a surprise to both. They had been
told that fashion had ceased to patronize it, and that its old-time
character was gone. But Saratoga is too strong for the whims of fashion;
its existence does not depend upon its decrees; it has reached the point
where it cannot be killed by the inroads of Jew or Gentile. In ceasing
to be a society centre, it has become in a manner metropolitan; for the
season it is no longer a provincial village, but the meeting-place of as
mixed and heterogeneous a throng as flows into New York from all the
Union in the autumn shopping period.
It was race week, but the sporting men did not give Saratoga their
complexion. It was convention time, but except in the hotel corridors
politicians were not the feature of the place. One of the great hotels
was almost exclusively occupied by the descendants of Abraham, but the
town did not at all resemble Jerusalem. Innumerable boarding-houses
swarmed with city and country clergymen, who have a well-founded
impression that the waters of the springs have a beneficent relation to
the bilious secretions of the year, but the resort had not an oppressive
air of sanctity. Nearly every prominent politician in the State and a
good many from other States registered at the hotels, but no one seemed
to think that the country was in danger. Hundreds of men and women were
there because they had been there every year for thirty or forty years
back, and they have no doubt that their health absolutely requires a week
at Saratoga; yet the village has not the aspect of a sanitarium. The
hotel dining-rooms and galleries were thronged with large, overdressed
women who glittered with diamonds and looked uncomfortable in silks and
velvets, and Broadway was gay with elegant equipages, but nobody would go
to Saratoga to study the fashions. Perhaps the most impressive spectacle
in this lowly world was the row of millionaires sunning themselves every
morning on the piazza of the States, solemn men in black broadcloth and
white hats, who said little, but looked rich; visitors used to pass that
way casually, and the townspeople regarded them with a kind of awe, as if
they were the king-pins of the whole social fabric; but even these
magnates were only pleasing incidents in the kaleidoscopic show.
The first person King encountered on the piazza of the Grand Union was
not the one he most wished to see, although it could never be otherwise
than agreeable to meet his fair cousin, Mrs. Bartlett Glow. She was in a
fresh morning toilet, dainty, comme il faut, radiant, with that
unobtrusive manner of "society" which made the present surroundings,
appear a trifle vulgar to King, and to his self-disgust forced upon him
the image of Mrs. Benson.
"You here?" was his abrupt and involuntary exclamation.
"Yes--why not?" And then she added, as if from the Newport point of view
some explanation were necessary: "My husband thinks he must come here for
a week every year to take the waters; it's an old habit, and I find it
amusing for a few days. Of course there is nobody here. Will you take
me to the spring? Yes, Congress. I'm too old to change. If I believed
the pamphlets the proprietors write about each other's springs I should
never go to either of them."
Mrs. Bartlett Glow was not alone in saying that nobody was there. There
were scores of ladies at each hotel who said the same thing, and who
accounted for their own presence there in the way she did. And they were
not there at all in the same way they would be later at Lenox. Mrs.
Pendragon, of New Orleans, who was at the United States, would have said
the same thing, remembering the time when the Southern colony made a very
distinct impression upon the social life of the place; and the Ashleys,
who had put up at the Congress Hall in company with an old friend,
a returned foreign minister, who stuck to the old traditions--even the
Ashleys said they were only lookers-on at the pageant.
Paying their entrance, and passing through the turnstile in the pretty
pavilion gate, they stood in the Congress Spring Park. The band was
playing in the kiosk; the dew still lay on the flowers and the green
turf; the miniature lake sparkled in the sun. It is one of the most
pleasing artificial scenes in the world; to be sure, nature set the great
pine-trees on the hills, and made the graceful little valley, but art and
exquisite taste have increased the apparent size of the small plot of
ground, and filled it with beauty. It is a gem of a place with a
character of its own, although its prettiness suggests some foreign Spa.
Groups of people, having taken the water, were strolling about the
graveled paths, sitting on the slopes overlooking the pond, or wandering
up the glen to the tiny deer park.
"So you have been at the White Sulphur?" said Mrs. Glow. "How did you
"Immensely. It's the only place left where there is a congregate social
"You mean provincial life. Everybody knows everybody else."
"Well," King retorted, with some spirit, "it is not a place where people
pretend not to know each other, as if their salvation depended on it."
"Oh, I see; hospitable, frank, cordial-all that. Stanhope, do you know,
I think you are a little demoralized this summer. Did you fall in love
with a Southern belle? Who was there?"
"Well, all the South, pretty much. I didn't fall in love with all the
belles; we were there only two weeks. Oh! there was a Mrs. Farquhar
"Georgiana Randolph! Georgie! How did she look? We were at Madame
Sequin's together, and a couple of seasons in Paris. Georgie! She was
the handsomest, the wittiest, the most fascinating woman I ever saw.
I hope she didn't give you a turn?"
"Oh, no. But we were very good friends. She is a very handsome woman--
perhaps you would expect me to say handsome still; but that seems a sort
of treason to her mature beauty."
"And who else?"
"Oh, the Storbes from New Orleans, the Slifers from Mobile--no end of
people--some from Philadelphia--and Ohio."
"Ohio? Those Bensons!" said she, turning sharply on him.
"Yes, those Bensons, Penelope. Why not?"
"Oh, nothing. It's a free country. I hope, Stanhope, you didn't
encourage her. You might make her very unhappy."
"I trust not," said King stoutly. "We are engaged."
"Engaged!" repeated Mrs. Glow, in a tone that implied a whole world of
astonishment and improbability.
"Yes, and you are just in time to congratulate us. There they are!"
Mr. Benson, Mrs. Benson, and Irene were coming down the walk from the
deer park. King turned to meet them, but Mrs. Glow was close at his
side, and apparently as pleased at seeing them again as the lover.
Nothing could be more charming than the grace and welcome she threw into
her salutations. She shook hands with Mr. Benson; she was delighted to
meet Mrs. Benson again, and gave her both her little hands; she almost
embraced Irene, placed a hand on each shoulder, kissed her on the cheek,
and said something in a low voice that brought the blood to the girl's
face and suffused her eyes with tenderness.
When the party returned to the hotel the two women were walking lovingly
arm in arm, and King was following after, in the more prosaic atmosphere
of Cyrusville, Ohio. The good old lady began at once to treat King as
one of the family; she took his arm, and leaned heavily on it, as they
walked, and confided to him all her complaints. The White Sulphur
waters, she said, had not done her a mite of good; she didn't know but
she'd oughter see a doctor, but he said that it warn't nothing but
indigestion. Now the White Sulphur agreed with Irene better than any
other place, and I guess that I know the reason why, Mr. King, she said,
with a faintly facetious smile. Meantime Mrs. Glow was talking to Irene
on the one topic that a maiden is never weary of, her lover; and so
adroitly mingled praises of him with flattery of herself that the girl's
heart went out to her in entire trust.
"She is a charming girl," said Mrs. Glow to King, later. "She needs a
little forming, but that will be easy when she is separated from her
family. Don't interrupt me. I like her. I don't say I like it. But if
you will go out of your set, you might do a great deal worse. Have you
written to your uncle and to your aunt?"
"No; I don't know why, in a matter wholly personal to myself, I should
call a family council. You represent the family completely, Penelope."
"Yes. Thanks to my happening to be here. Well, I wouldn't write to them
if I were you. It's no use to disturb the whole connection now. By the
way, Imogene Cypher was at Newport after you left; she is more beautiful
than ever--just lovely; no other girl there had half the attention."
"I am glad to hear it," said King, who did not fancy the drift their
conversation was taking. "I hope she will make a good match. Brains are
not necessary, you know."
"Stanhope, I never said that--never. I might have said she wasn't a bas
bleu. No more is she. But she has beauty, and a good temper, and money.
It isn't the cleverest women who make the best wives, sir."
"Well, I'm not objecting to her being a wife. Only it does not follow
that, because my uncle and aunts are in love with her, I should want to
"I said nothing about marriage, my touchy friend. I am not advising you
to be engaged to two women at the same time. And I like Irene
It was evident that she had taken a great fancy to the girl. They were
always together; it seemed to happen so, and King could hardly admit to
himself that Mrs. Glow was de trop as a third. Mr. Bartlett Glow was
very polite to King and his friend, and forever had one excuse and
another for taking them off with him--the races or a lounge about town.
He showed them one night, I am sorry to say, the inside of the Temple of
Chance and its decorous society, its splendid buffet, the quiet tables of
rouge et noir, and the highly respectable attendants--aged men,
whitehaired, in evening costume, devout and almost godly in appearance,
with faces chastened to resignation and patience with a wicked world,
sedate and venerable as the deacons in a Presbyterian church. He was
lonesome and wanted company, and, besides, the women liked to be by
One might be amused at the Saratoga show without taking an active part in
it, and indeed nobody did seem to take a very active part in it.
Everybody was looking on. People drove, visited the springs--in a vain
expectation that excessive drinking of the medicated waters would
counteract the effect of excessive gormandizing at the hotels--sat about
in the endless rows of armchairs on the piazzas, crowded the heavily
upholstered parlors, promenaded in the corridors, listened to the music
in the morning, and again in the afternoon, and thronged the stairways
and passages, and blocked up the entrance to the ballrooms. Balls? Yes,
with dress de rigueur, many beautiful women in wonderful toilets, a few
debutantes, a scarcity of young men, and a delicious band--much better
music than at the White Sulphur.
And yet no society. But a wonderful agglomeration, the artist was
saying. It is a robust sort of place. If Newport is the queen of the
watering-places, this is the king. See how well fed and fat the people
are, men and women large and expansive, richly dressed, prosperous
--looking! What a contrast to the family sort of life at the White
Sulphur! Here nobody, apparently, cares for anybody else--not much;
it is not to be expected that people should know each other in such a
heterogeneous concern; you see how comparatively few greetings there are
on the piazzas and in the parlors. You notice, too, that the types are
not so distinctively American as at the Southern resort--full faces,
thick necks--more like Germans than Americans. And then the everlasting
white hats. And I suppose it is not certain that every man in a tall
white hat is a politician, or a railway magnate, or a sporting man.
These big hotels are an epitome of expansive, gorgeous American life.
At the Grand Union, King was No. 1710, and it seemed to him that he
walked the length of the town to get to his room after ascending four
stories. He might as well, so far as exercise was concerned, have taken
an apartment outside. And the dining-room. Standing at the door, he had
a vista of an eighth of a mile of small tables, sparkling with brilliant
service of glass and porcelain, chandeliers and frescoed ceiling. What
perfect appointments! what well-trained waiters!--perhaps they were not
waiters, for he was passed from one "officer" to another "officer" down
to his place. At the tables silent couples and restrained family
parties, no hilarity, little talking; and what a contrast this was to the
happy-go-lucky service and jollity of the White Sulphur! Then the
interior parks of the United States and the Grand Union, with corridors
and cottages, close-clipped turf, banks of flowers, forest trees,
fountains, and at night, when the band filled all the air with seductive
strains, the electric and the colored lights, gleaming through the
foliage and dancing on fountains and greensward, made a scene of
enchantment. Each hotel was a village in itself, and the thousands of
guests had no more in common than the frequenters of New York hotels and
theatres. But what a paradise for lovers!
"It would be lonesome enough but for you, Irene," Stanhope said, as they
sat one night on the inner piazza of the Grand Union, surrendering
themselves to all the charms of the scene.
"I love it all," she said, in the full tide of her happiness.
On another evening they were at the illumination of the Congress Spring
Park. The scene seemed the creation of magic. By a skillful arrangement
of the colored globes an illusion of vastness was created, and the little
enclosure, with its glowing lights, was like the starry heavens for
extent. In the mass of white globes and colored lanterns of paper the
eye was deceived as to distances. The allies stretched away
interminably, the pines seemed enormous, and the green hillsides
mountainous. Nor were charming single effects wanting. Down the winding
walk from the hill, touched by a distant electric light, the loitering
people, in couples and in groups, seemed no more in real life than the
supernumeraries in a scene at the opera. Above, in the illuminated
foliage, were doubtless a castle and a broad terrace, with a row of
statues, and these gay promenaders were ladies and cavaliers in an old-
time masquerade. The gilded kiosk on the island in the centre of the
miniature lake and the fairy bridge that leads to it were outlined by
colored globes; and the lake, itself set about with brilliants, reflected
kiosk and bridge and lights, repeating a hundredfold the fantastic scene,
while from their island retreat the band sent out through the illumined
night strains of sentiment and gayety and sadness. In the intervals of
the music there was silence, as if the great throng were too deeply
enjoying this feast of the senses to speak. Perhaps a foreigner would
have been impressed with the decorous respectability of the assembly; he
would have remarked that there were no little tables scattered about the
ground, no boys running about with foaming mugs of beer, no noise, no
loud talking; and how restful to all the senses!
Mrs. Bartlett Glow had the whim to devote herself to Mrs. Benson, and was
repaid by the acquisition of a great deal of information concerning the
social and domestic, life in Cyrusville, Ohio, and the maternal ambition
for Irene. Stanhope and Irene sat a little apart from the others, and
gave themselves up to the witchery of the hour. It would not be easy to
reproduce in type all that they said; and what was most important to
them, and would be most interesting to the reader, are the things they
did not say--the half exclamations, the delightful silences, the tones,
the looks that are the sign language of lovers. It was Irene who first
broke the spell of this delightful mode of communication, and in a pause
of the music said, "Your cousin has been telling me of your relatives in
New York, and she told me more of yourself than you ever did."
"Very likely. Trust your friends for that. I hope she gave me a good
"Oh, she has the greatest admiration for you, and she said the family
have the highest expectations of your career. Why didn't you tell me you
were the child of such hopes? It half frightened me."
"It must be appalling. What did she say of my uncle and aunts?"
"Oh, I cannot tell you, except that she raised an image in my mind of an
awful vision of ancient family and exclusiveness, the most fastidious,
delightful, conventional people, she said, very old family, looked down
upon Washington Irving, don't you know, because he wrote. I suppose she
wanted to impress me with the value of the prize I've drawn, dear. But I
should like you just as well if your connections had not looked down on
Irving. Are they so very high and mighty?"
"Oh, dear, no. Much like other people. My aunts are the dearest old
ladies, just a little nearsighted, you know, about seeing people that are
not--well, of course, they live in a rather small world. My uncle is a
bachelor, rather particular, not what you would call a genial old man;
been abroad a good deal, and moved mostly in our set; sometimes I think
he cares more for his descent than for his position at the bar, which is
a very respectable one, by the way. You know what an old bachelor is who
never has had anybody to shake him out of his contemplation of his
"Do you think," said Irene, a little anxiously, letting her hand rest a
moment upon Stanhope's, "that they will like poor little me? I believe I
am more afraid of the aunts than of the uncle. I don't believe they will
be as nice as your cousin."
"Of course they will like you. Everybody likes you. The aunts are just
a little old-fashioned, that is all. Habit has made them draw a social
circle with a small radius. Some have one kind of circle, some another.
Of course my aunts are sorry for any one who is not descended from the
Van Schlovenhovens--the old Van Schlovenhoven had the first brewery of
the colony in the time of Peter Stuyvesant. In New York it's a family
matter, in Philadelphia it's geographical. There it's a question whether
you live within the lines of Chestnut Street and Spruce Street--outside
of these in the city you are socially impossible: Mrs. Cortlandt told me
that two Philadelphia ladies who had become great friends at a summer
resort--one lived within and the other without the charmed lines--went
back to town together in the autumn. At the station when they parted,
the 'inside' lady said to the other: 'Good-by. It has been such a