Part 4 out of 4
"It wasn't," said the girl, excitedly, after a plunge through all the
minor facts to the heart of the matter, "that he hadn't a perfect right
to do it, if he thought I didn't care for him. I had refused him at
Carlsbad, and I had forbidden him to speak to me about--on the subject.
But that was merely temporary, and he ought to have known it. He ought to
have known that I couldn't accept him, on the spur of the moment, that
way; and when he had come back, after going away in disgrace, before he
had done anything to justify himself. I couldn't have kept my self-
respect; and as it was I had the greatest difficulty; and he ought to
have seen it. Of course he said afterwards that he didn't see it. But
when--when I found out that SHE had been in Weimar, and all that time,
while I had been suffering in Carlsbad and Wurzburg, and longing to see
him--let him know how I was really feeling--he was flirting with that--
that girl, then I saw that he was a false nature, and I determined to put
an end to everything. And that is what I did; and I shall always think
The rest was lost in Agatha's handkerchief, which she put up to her eyes.
Mrs. March watched her from her pillow keeping the girl's unoccupied hand
in her own, and softly pressing it till the storm was past sufficiently
to allow her to be heard.
Then she said, "Men are very strange--the best of them. And from the
very fact that he was disappointed, he would be all the more apt to rush
into a flirtation with somebody else."
Miss Triscoe took down her handkerchief from a face that had certainly
not been beautified by grief. "I didn't blame him for the flirting; or
not so much. It was his keeping it from me afterwards. He ought to have
told me the very first instant we were engaged. But he didn't. He let
it go on, and if I hadn't happened on that bouquet I might never have
known anything about it. That is what I mean by--a false nature.
I wouldn't have minded his deceiving me; but to let me deceive myself--
Oh, it was too much!"
Agatha hid her face in her handkerchief again. She was perching on the
edge of the berth, and Mrs. March said, with a glance, which she did not
see, toward the sofa, "I'm afraid that's rather a hard seat for you.
"Oh, no, thank you! I'm perfectly comfortable--I like it--if you don't
Mrs. March pressed her hand for answer, and after another little delay,
sighed and said, "They are not like us, and we cannot help it. They are
"How do you mean?" Agatha unmasked again.
"They can bear to keep things better than we can, and they trust to time
to bring them right, or to come right of themselves."
"I don't think Mr. March would trust things to come right of themselves!"
said Agatha in indignant accusal of Mrs. March's sincerity.
"Ah, that's just what he would do, my dear, and has done, all along; and
I don't believe we could have lived through without it: we should have
quarrelled ourselves into the grave!"
"Yes, indeed. I don't mean that he would ever deceive me. But he would
let things go on, and hope that somehow they would come right without any
"Do you mean that he would let anybody deceive themselves?"
"I'm afraid he would--if he thought it would come right. It used to be a
terrible trial to me; and it is yet, at times when I don't remember that
he means nothing but good and kindness by it. Only the other day in
Ansbach--how long ago it seems!--he let a poor old woman give him her
son's address in Jersey City, and allowed her to believe he would look
him up when we got back and tell him we had seen her. I don't believe,
unless I keep right round after him, as we say in New England, that he'll
ever go near the man."
Agatha looked daunted, but she said, "That is a very different thing."
"It isn't a different kind of thing. And it shows what men are,--the
sweetest and best of them, that is. They are terribly apt to be
"Then you think I was all wrong?" the girl asked in a tremor.
"No, indeed! You were right, because you really expected perfection of
him. You expected the ideal. And that's what makes all the trouble, in
married life: we expect too much of each other--we each expect more of
the other than we are willing to give or can give. If I had to begin
over again, I should not expect anything at all, and then I should be
sure of being radiantly happy. But all this talking and all this writing
about love seems to turn our brains; we know that men are not perfect,
even at our craziest, because women are not, but we expect perfection of
them; and they seem to expect it of us, poor things! If we could keep on
after we are in love just as we were before we were in love, and take
nice things as favors and surprises, as we did in the beginning! But we
get more and more greedy and exacting--"
"Do you think I was too exacting in wanting him to tell me everything
after we were engaged?"
"No, I don't say that. But suppose he had put it off till you were
married?" Agatha blushed a little, but not painfully, "Would it have
been so bad? Then you might have thought that his flirting up to the
last moment in his desperation was a very good joke. You would have
understood better just how it was, and it might even have made you fonder
of him. You might have seen that he had flirted with some one else
because he was so heart-broken about you."
"Then you believe that if I could have waited till--till--but when I had
found out, don't you see I couldn't wait? It would have been all very
well if I hadn't known it till then. But as I did know it. Don't you
"Yes, that certainly complicated it," Mrs. March admitted. "But I don't
think, if he'd been a false nature, he'd have owned up as he did. You
see, he didn't try to deny it; and that's a great point gained."
"Yes, that is true," said Agatha, with conviction. "I saw that
afterwards. But you don't think, Mrs. March, that I was unjust or--or
"No, indeed! You couldn't have done differently under the circumstances.
You may be sure he felt that--he is so unselfish and generous--" Agatha
began to weep into her handkerchief again; Mrs. March caressed her hand.
"And it will certainly come right if you feel as you do."
"No," the girl protested. "He can never forgive me; it's all over,
everything is over. It would make very little difference to me, what
happened now--if the steamer broke her shaft, or anything. But if I can
only believe I wasn't unjust--"
Mrs. March assured her once more that she had behaved with absolute
impartiality; and she proved to her by a process of reasoning quite
irrefragable that it was only a question of time, with which place had
nothing to do, when she and Burnamy should come together again, and all
should be made right between them. The fact that she did not know where
he was, any more than Mrs. March herself, had nothing to do with the
result; that was a mere detail, which would settle itself. She clinched
her argument by confessing that her own engagement had been broken off,
and that it had simply renewed itself. All you had to do was to keep
willing it, and waiting. There was something very mysterious in it.
"And how long was it till--" Agatha faltered.
"Well, in our ease it was two years."
"Oh!" said the girl, but Mrs. March hastened to reassure her.
"But our case was very peculiar. I could see afterwards that it needn't
have been two months, if I had been willing to acknowledge at once that I
was in the wrong. I waited till we met."
"If I felt that I was in the wrong, I should write," said Agatha.
"I shouldn't care what he thought of my doing it."
"Yes, the great thing is to make sure that you were wrong."
They remained talking so long, that March and the general had exhausted
all the topics of common interest, and had even gone through those they
did not care for. At last the general said, "I'm afraid my daughter will
tire Mrs. March."
"Oh, I don't think she'll tire my wife. But do you want her?"
"Well, when you're going down."
"I think I'll take a turn about the deck, and start my circulation," said
March, and he did so before he went below.
He found his wife up and dressed, and waiting provisionally on the sofa.
"I thought I might as well go to lunch," she said, and then she told him
about Agatha and Burnamy, and the means she had employed to comfort and
encourage the girl. "And now, dearest, I want you to find out where
Burnamy is, and give him a hint. You will, won't you! If you could have
seen how unhappy she was!"
"I don't think I should have cared, and I'm certainly not going to
meddle. I think Burnamy has got no more than he deserved, and that he's
well rid of her. I can't imagine a broken engagement that would more
completely meet my approval. As the case stands, they have my blessing."
"Don't say that, dearest! You know you don't mean it."
"I do; and I advise you to keep your hands off. You've done all and more
than you ought to propitiate Miss Triscoe. You've offered yourself up,
and you've offered me up--"
"No, no, Basil! I merely used you as an illustration of what men were--
the best of them."
"And I can't observe," he continued, "that any one else has been
considered in the matter. Is Miss Triscoe the sole sufferer by Burnamy's
flirtation? What is the matter with a little compassion for the pivotal
"Now, you know you're not serious," said his wife; and though he would
not admit this, he could not be seriously sorry for the new interest
which she took in the affair. There was no longer any question of
changing their state-room. Under the tonic influence of the excitement
she did not go back to her berth after lunch, and she was up later after
dinner than he could have advised. She was absorbed in Agatha, but in
her liberation from her hypochondria, she began also to make a
comparative study of the American swells, in the light of her late
experience with the German highhotes. It is true that none of the swells
gave her the opportunity of examining them at close range, as the
highhotes had done. They kept to their, state-rooms mostly, where, after
he thought she could bear it, March told her how near he had come to
making her their equal by an outlay of six hundred dollars. She now
shuddered at the thought; but she contended that in their magnificent
exclusiveness they could give points to European princes; and that this
showed again how when Americans did try to do a thing, they beat the
world. Agatha Triscoe knew who they were, but she did not know them;
they belonged to another kind of set; she spoke of them as "rich people,"
and she seemed content to keep away from them with Mrs. March and with
the shy, silent old wife of Major Eltwin, to whom March sometimes found
He never found her father talking with Major Eltwin. General Triscoe had
his own friends in the smoking-room, where he held forth in a certain
corner on the chances of the approaching election in New York, and mocked
their incredulity when he prophesied the success of Tammany and the
return of the King. March himself much preferred Major Eltwin to the
general and his friends; he lived back in the talk of the Ohioan into his
own younger years in Indiana, and he was amused and touched to find how
much the mid-Western life seemed still the same as he had known. The
conditions had changed, but not so much as they had changed in the East
and the farther West. The picture that the major drew of them in his own
region was alluring; it made March homesick; though he knew that he
should never go back to his native section. There was the comfort of
kind in the major; and he had a vein of philosophy, spare but sweet,
which March liked; he liked also the meekness which had come through
sorrow upon a spirit which had once been proud.
They had both the elderly man's habit of early rising, and they usually
found themselves together waiting impatiently for the cup of coffee,
ingenuously bad, which they served on the Cupania not earlier than half
past six, in strict observance of a rule of the line discouraging to
people of their habits. March admired the vileness of the decoction,
which he said could not be got anywhere out of the British Empire, and he
asked Eltwin the first morning if he had noticed how instantly on the
Channel boat they had dropped to it and to the sour, heavy, sodden
British bread, from the spirited and airy Continental tradition of coffee
The major confessed that he was no great hand to notice such things, and
he said he supposed that if the line had never lost a passenger, and got
you to New York in six days it had a right to feed you as it pleased; he
surmised that if they could get their airing outside before they took
their coffee, it would give the coffee a chance to taste better; and this
was what they afterwards did. They met, well buttoned and well mined up,
on the promenade when it was yet so early that they were not at once sure
of each other in the twilight, and watched the morning planets pale east
and west before the sun rose. Sometimes there were no paling planets and
no rising sun, and a black sea, ridged with white, tossed under a low
dark sky with dim rifts.
One morning, they saw the sun rise with a serenity and majesty which it
rarely has outside of the theatre. The dawn began over that sea which
was like the rumpled canvas imitations of the sea on the stage, under
long mauve clouds bathed in solemn light. Above these, in the pale
tender sky, two silver stars hung, and the steamer's smoke drifted across
them like a thin dusky veil. To the right a bank of dun cloud began to
burn crimson, and to burn brighter till it was like a low hill-side full
of gorgeous rugosities fleeced with a dense dwarfish growth of autumnal
shrubs. The whole eastern heaven softened and flushed through diaphanous
mists; the west remained a livid mystery. The eastern masses and flakes
of cloud began to kindle keenly; but the stars shone clearly, and then
one star, till the tawny pink hid it. All the zenith reddened, but still
the sun did not show except in the color of the brilliant clouds. At
last the lurid horizon began to burn like a flame-shot smoke, and a
fiercely bright disc edge pierced its level, and swiftly defined itself
as the sun's orb.
Many thoughts went through March's mind; some of them were sad, but in
some there was a touch of hopefulness. It might have been that beauty
which consoled him for his years; somehow he felt himself, if no longer
young, a part of the young immortal frame of things. His state was
indefinable, but he longed to hint at it to his companion.
"Yes," said Eltwin, with a long deep sigh. "I feel as if I could walk
out through that brightness and find her. I reckon that such hopes
wouldn't be allowed to lie to us; that so many ages of men couldn't have
fooled themselves so. I'm glad I've seen this." He was silent and they
both remained watching the rising sun till they could not bear its
splendor. "Now," said the major, "it must be time for that mud, as you
call it." Over their coffee and crackers at the end of the table which
they had to themselves, he resumed. "I was thinking all the time--
we seem to think half a dozen things at once, and this was one of them--
about a piece of business I've got to settle when I reach home; and
perhaps you can advise me about it; you're an editor. I've got a
newspaper on my hands; I reckon it would be a pretty good thing, if it
had a chance; but I don't know what to do with it: I got it in trade with
a fellow who has to go West for his lungs, but he's staying till I get
back. What's become of that young chap--what's his name?--that went out
"Burnamy?" prompted March, rather breathlessly.
"Yes. Couldn't he take hold of it? I rather liked him. He's smart,
"Very," said March. "But I don't know where he is. I don't know that he
would go into the country--. But he might, if--"
They entered provisionally into the case, and for argument's sake
supposed that Burnamy would take hold of the major's paper if he could be
got at. It really looked to March like a good chance for him, on
Eltwin's showing; but he was not confident of Burnamy's turning up very
soon, and he gave the major a pretty clear notion why, by entering into
the young fellow's history for the last three months.
"Isn't it the very irony of fate?" he said to his wife when he found her
in their room with a cup of the same mud he had been drinking, and
reported the facts to her.
"Irony?" she said, with all the excitement he could have imagined or
desired. "Nothing of the kind. It's a leading, if ever there was one.
It will be the easiest thing in the world to find Burnamy. And out there
she can sit on her steps!"
He slowly groped his way to her meaning, through the hypothesis of
Burnamy's reconciliation and marriage with Agatha Triscoe, and their
settlement in Major Eltwin's town under social conditions that implied a
habit of spending the summer evenings on their front porch. While he was
doing this she showered him with questions and conjectures and
requisitions in which nothing but the impossibility of going ashore saved
him from the instant devotion of all his energies to a world-wide,
inquiry into Burnamy's whereabouts.
The next morning he was up before Major Eltwin got out, and found the
second-cabin passengers free of the first-cabin promenade at an hour when
their superiors were not using it. As he watched these inferiors,
decent-looking, well-clad men and women, enjoying their privilege with a
furtive air, and with stolen glances at him, he asked himself in what
sort he was their superior, till the inquiry grew painful. Then he rose
from his chair, and made his way to the place where the material barrier
between them was lifted, and interested himself in a few of them who
seemed too proud to avail themselves of his society on the terms made.
A figure seized his attention with a sudden fascination of conjecture and
rejection: the figure of a tall young man who came out on the promenade
and without looking round, walked swiftly away to the bow of the ship,
and stood there, looking down at the water in an attitude which was
bewilderingly familiar. His movement, his posture, his dress, even, was
that of Burnamy, and March, after a first flush of pleasure, felt a
sickening repulsion in the notion of his presence. It would have been
such a cheap performance on the part of life, which has all sorts of
chances at command, and need not descend to the poor tricks of second-
rate fiction; and he accused Burnamy of a complicity in the bad taste of
the affair, though he realized, when he reflected, that if it were really
Burnamy he must have sailed in as much unconsciousness of the Triscoes as
he himself had done. He had probably got out of money and had hurried
home while he had still enough to pay the second-cabin fare on the first
boat back. Clearly he was not to blame, but life was to blame for such a
shabby device; and March felt this so keenly that he wished to turn from
the situation, and have nothing to do with it. He kept moving toward
him, drawn by the fatal attraction, and at a few paces' distance the
young man whirled about and showed him the face of a stranger.
March made some witless remark on the rapid course of the ship as it cut
its way through the water of the bow; the stranger answered with a strong
Lancashire accent; and in the talk which followed, he said he was going
out to see the cotton-mills at Fall River and New Bedford, and he seemed
hopeful of some advice or information from March; then he said he must go
and try to get his Missus out; March understood him to mean his wife, and
he hurried down to his own, to whom he related his hair-breadth escape
"I don't call it an escape at all!" she declared. "I call it the
greatest possible misfortune. If it had been Burnamy we could have
brought them together at once, just when she has seen so clearly that she
was in the wrong, and is feeling all broken up. There wouldn't have been
any difficulty about his being in the second-cabin. We could have
contrived to have them meet somehow. If the worst came to the worst you
could have lent him money to pay the difference, and got him into the
"I could have taken that six-hundred-dollar room for him," said March,
"and then he could have eaten with the swells."
She answered that now he was teasing; that he was fundamentally incapable
of taking anything seriously; and in the end he retired before the
stewardess bringing her first coffee, with a well-merited feeling that if
it had not been for his triviality the young Lancashireman would really
have been Burnamy.
Except for the first day and night out from Queenstown, when the ship
rolled and pitched with straining and squeaking noises, and a thumping of
the lifted screws, there was no rough weather, and at last the ocean was
livid and oily, with a long swell, on which she swayed with no
perceptible motion save from her machinery.
Most of the seamanship seemed to be done after dark, or in those early
hours when March found the stewards cleaning the stairs, and the sailors
scouring the promenades. He made little acquaintance with his fellow-
passengers. One morning he almost spoke with an old Quaker lady whom he
joined in looking at the Niagara flood which poured from the churning
screws; but he did not quite get the words out. On the contrary he
talked freely with an American who, bred horses on a farm near Boulogne,
and was going home to the Horse Show; he had been thirty-five years out
of the country, but he had preserved his Yankee accent in all its purity,
and was the most typical-looking American on board. Now and then March
walked up and down with a blond Mexican whom he found of the usual well-
ordered Latin intelligence, but rather flavorless; at times he sat beside
a nice Jew, who talked agreeably, but only about business; and he
philosophized the race as so tiresome often because it seemed so often
without philosophy. He made desperate attempts at times to interest
himself in the pool-selling in the smoking-room where the betting on the
ship's wonderful run was continual.
He thought that people talked less and less as they drew nearer home; but
on the last day out there was a sudden expansion, and some whom he had
not spoken with voluntarily addressed him. The sweet, soft air was like
midsummer the water rippled gently, without a swell, blue under the clear
sky, and the ship left a wide track that was silver in the sun. There
were more sail; the first and second class baggage was got up and piled
along the steerage deck.
Some people dressed a little more than usual for the last dinner which
was earlier than usual, so as to be out of the way against the arrival
which had been variously predicted at from five to seven-thirty. An
indescribable nervousness culminated with the appearance of the customs
officers on board, who spread their papers on cleared spaces of the
dining-tables, and summoned the passengers to declare that they had
nothing to declare, as a preliminary to being searched like thieves at
This ceremony proceeded while the Cupania made her way up the Narrows,
and into the North River, where the flare of lights from the crazy steeps
and cliffs of architecture on the New York shore seemed a persistence of
the last Fourth of July pyrotechnics. March blushed for the grotesque
splendor of the spectacle, and was confounded to find some Englishmen
admiring it, till he remembered that aesthetics were not the strong point
of our race. His wife sat hand in hand with Miss Triscoe, and from time
to time made him count the pieces of small baggage in the keeping of
their steward; while General Triscoe held aloof in a sarcastic calm.
The steamer groped into her dock; the gangways were lifted to her side;
the passengers fumbled and stumbled down their incline, and at the bottom
the Marches found themselves respectively in the arms of their son and
daughter. They all began talking at once, and ignoring and trying to
remember the Triscoes to whom the young Marches were presented. Bella
did her best to be polite to Agatha, and Tom offered to get an inspector
for the general at the same time as for his father. Then March,
remorsefully remembered the Eltwins, and looked about for them, so that
his son might get them an inspector too. He found the major already in
the hands of an inspector, who was passing all his pieces after
carelessly looking into one: the official who received the declarations
on board had noted a Grand Army button like his own in the major's lapel,
and had marked his fellow-veteran's paper with the mystic sign which
procures for the bearer the honor of being promptly treated as a
smuggler, while the less favored have to wait longer for this indignity
at the hands of their government. When March's own inspector came he was
as civil and lenient as our hateful law allows; when he had finished
March tried to put a bank-note in his hand, and was brought to a just
shame by his refusal of it. The bed-room steward keeping guard over the
baggage helped put-it together after the search, and protested that March
had feed him so handsomely that he would stay there with it as long as
they wished. This partly restored March's self-respect, and he could
share in General Triscoe's indignation with the Treasury ruling which
obliged him to pay duty on his own purchases in excess of the hundred-
dollar limit, though his daughter had brought nothing, and they jointly
came far within the limit for two.
He found that the Triscoes were going to a quiet old hotel on the way to
Stuyvesant Square, quite in his own neighborhood, and he quickly arranged
for all the ladies and the general to drive together while he was to
follow with his son on foot and by car. They got away from the scene of
the customs' havoc while the steamer shed, with its vast darkness dimly
lit by its many lamps, still showed like a battle-field where the
inspectors groped among the scattered baggage like details from the
victorious army searching for the wounded. His son clapped him on the
shoulder when he suggested this notion, and said he was the same old
father; and they got home as gayly together as the dispiriting influences
of the New York ugliness would permit. It was still in those good and
decent times, now so remote, when the city got something for the money
paid out to keep its streets clean, and those they passed through were
not foul but merely mean.
The ignoble effect culminated when they came into Broadway, and found its
sidewalks, at an hour when those of any European metropolis would have
been brilliant with life, as unpeopled as those of a minor country town,
while long processions of cable-cars carted heaps of men and women up and
down the thoroughfare amidst the deformities of the architecture.
The next morning the March family breakfasted late after an evening
prolonged beyond midnight in spite of half-hourly agreements that now
they must really all go to bed. The children had both to recognize again
and again how well their parents were looking; Tom had to tell his father
about the condition of 'Every Other Week'; Bella had to explain to her
mother how sorry her husband was that he could not come on to meet them
with her, but was coming a week later to take her home, and then she
would know the reason why they could not all, go back to Chicago with
him: it was just the place for her father to live, for everybody to live.
At breakfast she renewed the reasoning with which she had maintained her
position the night before; the travellers entered into a full expression
of their joy at being home again; March asked what had become of that
stray parrot which they had left in the tree-top the morning they
started; and Mrs. March declared that this was the last Silver Wedding
Journey she ever wished to take, and tried to convince them all that she
had been on the verge of nervous collapse when she reached the ship.
They sat at table till she discovered that it was very nearly eleven
o'clock, and said it was disgraceful.
Before they rose, there was a ring at the door, and a card was brought in
to Tom. He glanced at it, and said to his father, "Oh, yes! This man
has been haunting the office for the last three days. He's got to leave
to-day, and as it seemed to be rather a case of life and death with him,
I said he'd probably find you here this morning. But if you don't want
to see him, I can put him off till afternoon, I suppose."
He tossed the card to his father, who looked at it quietly, and then gave
it to his wife. "Perhaps I'd as well see him?"
"See him!" she returned in accents in which all the intensity of her soul
was centred. By an effort of self-control which no words can convey a
just sense of she remained with her children, while her husband with a
laugh more teasing than can be imagined went into the drawing-room to
The poor fellow was in an effect of belated summer as to clothes, and he
looked not merely haggard but shabby. He made an effort for dignity as
well as gayety, however, in stating himself to March, with many apologies
for his persistency. But, he said, he was on his way West, and he was
anxious to know whether there was any chance of his 'Kasper Hauler' paper
being taken if he finished it up. March would have been a far harder-
hearted editor than he was, if he could have discouraged the suppliant
before him. He said he would take the Kasper Hauler paper and add a band
of music to the usual rate of ten dollars a thousand words. Then
Burnamy's dignity gave way, if not his gayety; he began to laugh, and
suddenly he broke down and confessed that he had come home in the
steerage; and was at his last cent, beyond his fare to Chicago. His
straw hat looked like a withered leaf in the light of his sad facts; his
thin overcoat affected March's imagination as something like the
diaphanous cast shell of a locust, hopelessly resumed for comfort at the
approach of autumn. He made Burnamy sit down, after he had once risen,
and he told him of Major Eltwin's wish to see him; and he promised to go
round with him to the major's hotel before the Eltwins left town that
While he prolonged the interview in this way, Mrs. March was kept from
breaking in upon them only by the psychical experiment which she was
making with the help and sympathy of her daughter at the window of the
dining-room which looked up Sixteenth Street. At the first hint she gave
of the emotional situation which Burnamy was a main part of, her son;
with the brutal contempt of young men for other young men's love affairs,
said he must go to the office; he bade his mother tell his father there
was no need of his coming down that day, and he left the two women
together. This gave the mother a chance to develop the whole fact to the
daughter with telegrammic rapidity and brevity, and then to enrich the
first-outline with innumerable details, while they both remained at the
window, and Mrs. March said at two-minutely intervals, with no sense of
iteration for either of them, "I told her to come in the morning, if she
felt like it, and I know she will. But if she doesn't, I shall say there
is nothing in fate, or Providence either. At any rate I'm going to stay
here and keep longing for her, and we'll see whether there's anything in
that silly theory of your father's. I don't believe there is," she said,
to be on the safe side.
Even when she saw Agatha Triscoe enter the park gate on Rutherford Place,
she saved herself from disappointment by declaring that she was not
coming across to their house. As the girl persisted in coming and
coming, and at last came so near that she caught sight of Mrs. March at
the window and nodded, the mother turned ungratefully upon her daughter,
and drove her away to her own room, so that no society detail should
hinder the divine chance. She went to the door herself when Agatha rang,
and then she was going to open the way into the parlor where March was
still closeted with Burnamy, and pretend that she had not known they were
there. But a soberer second thought than this prevailed, and she told
the girl who it was that was within and explained the accident of his
presence. "I think," she said nobly, "that you ought to have the chance
of going away if you don't wish to meet him."
The girl, with that heroic precipitation which Mrs. March had noted in
her from the first with regard to what she wanted to do, when Burnamy was
in question, answered, "But I do wish to meet him, Mrs. March."
While they stood looking at each other, March came out to ask his wife if
she would see Burnamy, and she permitted herself so much stratagem as to
substitute Agatha, after catching her husband aside and subduing his
proposed greeting of the girl to a hasty handshake.
Half an hour later she thought it time to join the young people, urged
largely by the frantic interest of her daughter. But she returned from
the half-open door without entering. "I couldn't bring myself to break
in on the poor things. They are standing at the window together looking
over at St. George's."
Bella silently clasped her hands. March gave cynical laugh, and said,
"Well we are in for it, my dear." Then he added, "I hope they'll take us
with them on their Silver Wedding Journey."
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Declare that they had nothing to declare
Despair which any perfection inspires
Disingenuous, hypocritical passion of love
Fundamentally incapable of taking anything seriously
Held aloof in a sarcastic calm
Illusions: no marriage can be perfect without them
Married life: we expect too much of each other
Not do to be perfectly frank with one's own country
Offence which any difference of taste was apt to give him
Passionate desire for excess in a bad thing
Puddles of the paths were drying up with the haste
Race seemed so often without philosophy
Self-sacrifice which could be had, as it were, at a bargain
She always came to his defence when he accused himself