Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

his clasped hands and lift his leg from the ground. I have noticed that this is a philosophical attitude with some people, and I was prepared by it for some thoughtful generalizing from my companion. «Women would be willing to stay on in a place for a year to see if something would n't happen; and if you take 'em away before anything happens, they 'll always think that if they 'd stayed something would have happened the next day, or maybe the day they left.»

He stared upward into the pine boughs, and I said: «Yes, that 's so. I suppose we should be like them if we had the same conditions. Their whole life is an expectation of something to happen. Men have the privilege of making things happen-or trying to.» «Oh, I don't know as I want to criticize 'em. As you say, I guess we should be just so.» He dropped his leg, and bent over as if to examine the grass; he ended by taking a blade of it between his teeth before he spoke again, with his head still down. «I don't want to hurry 'em; I want to give 'em a fair show now we 're here, and I 'll let the stock go as long as I can. But I don't see very much gaiety around.»>

I laughed. Why, it 's all gaiety, in one way. Saratoga is a perpetual Fourth of July, we think.»

«Oh, yes; there's enough going on, and my wife and me we could enjoy it first rate.» «If the young lady could?» I ventured, with a smile of sympathetic intelligence.

« Well, yes. You see, we don't know anybody, and I suppose we did n't take that into account. Well, I suppose it 's like this: they thought it would be easy to get acquainted in the hotel, and commence having a good time right away. I don't know; my wife had the idea when they cooked it up amongst 'em that she was to come with us. But I swear I don't know how to go about it. I can't seem to make up my mouth to speak to folks first; and then you can't tell whether a man ain't a gambler, or on for the horse-races anyway. So we 've been here a week now, and you're the first ones we 've spoken to besides the waiters since we came.»

I could n't help laughing, their experience was so exactly as I had imagined it when I first saw this disconsolate party. In my triumph at my own penetration, I would not have had their sufferings in the past one pang the less; but the simple frankness of his confession fixed me in the wish that the future might be brighter for them. I thought myself warranted by my wife's imprudence in taking a step toward their further intimacy

on my own account, and I said: «Well, perhaps I ought to tell you that I have n't been inside the Saratoga Club or bet on the races since I've been here. That's my name in full,»-and I gave him my card,-" and I'm in the literary line; that is, I'm the editor of a magazine in New York-the Every Other Week.>>>

«Oh, yes; I know who you are,» said my companion, with my card in his hand. << Fact is, I was round at your place this morning trying to get rooms, and the clerk told me all about you from my description. I felt as mean as pu'sley goin'; seemed to be takin' kind of an advantage of you.>>

«Not at all; it's a public house,» I interrupted; but I thought I should be stronger with Mrs. March if I did not give the fact away to her, and I resolved to keep it.

«But they could n't rest easy till I tried, and I was more than half glad there was n't any rooms.>>

«Oh, I'm very sorry,» I said; and I indulged a real regret from the vantage I had. «It would have been very pleasant to have you there. Perhaps later-we shall be giving up our rooms at the end of the month.»

«No, he said, with a long breath. «If I've got to leave 'em, I guess it 'll be just as well to leave 'em where they 're acquainted with the house, anyway.» His remark betrayed a point in his thinking which had not perhaps been reached in his talk with the ladies. "It's a quiet place, and they 're used to it; and I guess they would n't want to stay through the rest of the month, quite. I don't believe my wife would, anyway.»>

He did not say this very confidently, but hopefully rather, and I thought it afforded me an opening to find out something yet more definite about the ladies.

«Miss Gage is remarkably fine-looking,» I began.

«Think so?» he answered. «Well, so does my wife. I don't know as I like her style exactly," he said, with a kind of latent grudge. «Her style is magnificent,» I insisted. "Well, maybe so. I guess she 's good enough looking, if that 's what you mean. But I think it's always a kind of a mistake for three persons to come off together, I don't care who they are. Then there's three opinions. She 's a nice girl, and a good girl, and she don't put herself forward. But when you 've got a young lady on your hands, you 've got her, and you feel bound to keep doin' something for her all the time; and if you don't know what to do yourself, and your wife can't tell->

I added intelligently, «Yes.»> "Well, that's just where it is. Sometimes I wish the whole dumn town would burn up.» I laughed and laughed; and my friend, having begun to unpack his heart, went on to ease it of the rest of its load. I had not waited for this before making some reflections concerning him, but I now formulated them to myself. He really had none of that reserve I had attributed to him the night before; it was merely caution; and this is the case with most country people. They are cautious, but not reserved; if they think they can trust you, they keep back none of their affairs; and this is the American character, for we are nearly all country people. I understood him perfectly when he said, "I ruther break stone than go through what I have been through the last week! You understand how it is. "T ain't as if she said anything; I wish she would; but you feel all the while that it ain't what she expected it to be, and you feel as if it was you that was to blame for the failure. By George! if any man was to come along and make an offer for my contract I would sell out cheap. It's worse because my wife asked her to come, and thought she was doin' her all kinds of a favor to let her. They 've always been great friends since they were little girls together, and when we talked of coming to Saratoga this summer, nothing would do my wife but Julia must come with us. Her and her father usually take a trip off somewhere in the hot weather, but this time he could n't leave; president our National Bank, and president of the village, too." He threw in the fact of these dignities explanatorily, but with a willingness, I could see, that it should affect me. He went on: «They're kind of connections my first wife's. Well, she's a nice girl; too nice, I guess, to get along very fast. I see girls all the way along down gettin' acquainted on the cars and boats, we come east on the Ogdensburg road to Rouse's Point, and then took the boat down Lake Champlain and Lake George, but she always seemed to hold back. I don't know 's she's proud either; I can't make it out. It balls my wife all up, too. I tell her she's fretted off all the good her trip 's goin' to do her before she 's got it.»

He laughed ruefully, and just then the band began to play the «Washington Post.>>

« What tune 's that?» he demanded. "Washington Post,>> I said, proud of knowing it.

By George! that tune goes right to fellow's legs, don't it?»

a

"It's the new march,» I said.

He listened with a simple joy in it, and his pleasure strengthened the mystic bond which had formed itself between us through the confidences he had made me, so flatteringly corroborative of all my guesses concerning him and his party.

IV.

I LONGED to have the chance of bragging to my wife; but this chance did not come till the concert was quite over, after I rejoined her with my companion, and she could take leave of them all without seeming to abandon them. Then I judged it best to let her have the word; for I knew by the way she ran her hand through my arm, and began pushing me along out of earshot, that she was full of it.

« Well, Basil, I think that is the sweetest and simplest and kindest creature in the world, and I 'm perfectly in love with her.»>

I did not believe somehow that she meant the girl, but I thought it best merely to suggest, «There are two.»

«You know very well which I mean, and I would do anything I could for her. She's got a difficult problem before her, and I pity her. The girl 's very well, and she is a beauty; and I suppose she has been having a dull time, and of course you could n't please Mrs. Deering half so well as by doing something for her friend. I suppose you 're feeling very proud that they 're just what you divined.»>

«Not at all; I'm so used to divining people. How did you know I knew it?» «I saw you talking to him, and I knew you were pumping him.»

«Pumping? He asked nothing better than to flow. He would put to shame the provoked spontaneity of any spring in Saratoga.»

« Well, did he say that he was going to leave them here?»>>

«He would like to do it-yes. He was very sweet and simple and kind, too, Isabel. He complained bitterly of the goddess, and all but said she sulked.»

«Why, I don't know,» said my wife. «I think, considering, that she is rather amiable. She brightened up more and more.»

«That was prosperity, or the hope of it, my dear. Nothing illumines us like the prospect of pleasant things. She took you for society smiling upon her, and of course she smiled back. But it's only the first smile of prosperity that cheers. If it keeps on smiling it ends by making us dissatisfied again. When people are getting into society they are very glad; when they have got in they

seem to be rather gloomy. We must n't let these things go too far. Now that you've got your friends in good humor, the right way is to drop them-to cut them dead when you meet them, to look the other way. That will send them home perfectly radiant.»>

«Nonsense! I am going to do all I can for them. What do you think we can do? They have n't the first idea how to amuse themselves here. It's a miracle they ever got that dress the girl is wearing. They just made a bold dash because they saw it in a dressmaker's window the first day, and she had to have something. It's killingly becoming to her; but I don't believe they know it, and they don't begin to know how cheap it was: it was simply thrown away. I'm going shopping with them in the morning.»>

«Oh! »

«But now the question is, what we can do to give them some little glimpse of social gaiety. That's what they 've come for.»>

We were passing the corner of a large inclosure which seems devoted in Saratoga to the most distracting of its pleasures, and I said: «Well, we might give them a turn on the circular railway or the switchback; or we could take them to the Punch and Judy drama, or get their fortunes told in the seeress's tent, or let them fire in the shooting gallery, or buy some sweet-grass baskets of the Indians; and there is the pop-corn and the lemonade.»

«I will tell you what,» said Mrs. March, who had not been listening to a word I said; for if she had heard me she would not have had patience with my ironical suggestions. «Well, what?»

«Or, no; that would n't do, either.»>

«I'm glad you don't approve of the notion, on second thoughts. I did n't like it from the beginning, and I did n't even know what it was.»

«We could have them up to the house this evening, and introduce them to some of our friends, only there is n't a young man in the whole place, and have them stay to the charades.»

«What do you think,» I said, «of their having come up this morning and tried to get rooms at our house?»>

«Yes; they told me.»>

«And don't you call that rather forthputting? It seems to me that it was taking a mean advantage of my brags.»

«It was perfectly innocent in them. But now, dearest, don't be tiresome. I know that you like them as well as I do, and I will take all your little teasing affectations for granted. The question is, What can we do for them?»

«And the answer is, I don't in the least know. There is n't any society life at Saratoga that I can see; and if there is, we are not in it. How could we get any one else in? I see that 's what you 're aiming at. Those public socialities at the big hotels they could get into as well as we could; but they would n't be anywhere when they got there, and they would n't know what to do. You know what hollow mockeries those things are. Don't you remember that hop we went to with the young Braceys the first summer? If those girls had n't waltzed with each other they would n't have danced a step the whole evening.»

«I know, I know,» sighed my wife; «it was terrible. But these people are so very unworldly that don't you think they could be deluded into the belief that they were seeing society if we took a little trouble? You used to be so inventive! You could think up something now if you tried.»>

«My dear, a girl knows beyond all the arts of hoodwinking whether she 's having a good time, and your little scheme of passing off one of those hotel hops on her for a festivity would never work in the world.»

« Well, I think it is too bad! What has become of all the easy, simple gaiety there used to be in the world?»

<< It has been starched and ironed out of it, apparently. Saratoga is still trying to do the good old American act, with its big hotels, and its heterogeneous hops, and I don't suppose there 's ever such a thing as a society person at any of them. That would n't be so bad. But the unsociety people seem to be afraid of one another. They feel that there is something in the air-something they don't and can't understand; something alien, that judges their old-fashioned American impulse to be sociable, and contemns it. No; we can't do anything for our hapless friends-I can hardly call them our acquaintances. We must avoid them, and keep them merely as a pensive color in our own vivid memories of Saratoga. If we made them have a good time, and sent them on their way rejoicing, I confess that I should feel myself distinctly a loser. As it is, they 're a strain of melancholy poetry in my life, of music in the minor key. I shall always associate their pathos with this hot summer weather, and I shall think of them whenever the thermometer registers eighty-nine. Don't you see the advantage of that? I believe I can ultimately get some literature out of them. If I can think of a fitting fable for them Fulkerson will feature it in Every Other Week. He'll

get out a Saratoga number, and come up here and strike the hotels and springs for ad's.» "Well,» said Mrs. March, «I wish I had never seen them; and it 's all your fault, Basil. Of course, when you had played upon my sympathies so about them, I could n't help feeling interested in them. We are a couple of romantic old geese, my dear.»

«Not at all, or at least I'm not. I simply used these people conjecturally to give myself an agreeable pang. I did n't want to know anything more about them than I imagined, and I certainly did n't dream of doing anything for them. You'll spoil everything if you turn them from fiction into fact, and try to manipulate their destiny. Let them alone; they will work it out for themselves.» «You know I can't let them alone now,» she lamented. «I am not one of those who can give themselves an agreeable pang with the unhappiness of their fellow-creatures. I'm not satisfied to study them; I want to relieve them.>>

She went on to praise herself to my disadvantage, as I notice wives will with their husbands, and I did not attempt to deny her this source of consolation. But when she ended by saying, "I believe I shall send you alone, and explained that she had promised Mrs. Deering we would come to their hotel for them after tea, and go with them to hear the music at the United States and the Grand Union, I protested. I said that I always felt too sneaking when I was prowling round those hotels listening to their proprietary concerts, and I was aware of looking so sneaking that I expected every moment to be ordered off their piazzas. As for convoying a party of three strangers about alone, I should certainly not do it.

Not if I 've a headache?»
Not if you 've a headache.»
Oh, very well, then!»>

"What are you two quarreling about?» cried a gay voice behind us, and we looked round into the laughing eyes of Miss Dale.

She was the one cottager we knew in Saratoga, but when we were with her we felt that we knew everybody, so hospitable was the sense of world which her kindness exhaled. «It was Mrs. March who was quarreling,» I said. I was only trying to convince her that she was wrong, and of course one has to lift one's voice. I hope I had n't the effect of holloing.»>

« Well, I merely heard you above the steam harmonicon at the switchback,» said Miss Dale. «I don't know whether you call that holloing.»>

«Oh, Miss Dale,» said my wife, «we are in such a fatal->

« Pickle, I suggested, and she instantly adopted the word in her extremity.

<<< Pickle with some people that Providence has thrown in our way, and that we want to do something for»; and in a labyrinth of parentheses that no man could have found his way into or out of, she possessed Miss Dale of the whole romantic fact. «It was Mr. March, of course, who first discovered them,» she concluded, in plaintive accusation.

«Poor Mr. March!» cried Miss Dale. «Well, it is a pathetic case, but it is n't the only one, if that 's any comfort. Saratoga is reeking with just such forlornities the whole summer long; but I can quite understand how you feel about it, Mrs. March.» We came to a corner, and she said abruptly: «Excuse my interrupting your quarrel! Not quite so loud, Mr. March!» and she flashed back a mocking look at me as she skurried off down the street with astonishing rapidity.

«How perfectly heartless!» cried my wife. «I certainly thought she would suggest something-offer to do something.»

«I relied upon her, too,» I said; «but now I have my doubts whether she was really going down that street till she saw that it was the best way to escape. We're certainly in trouble, my dear, if people avoid us in this manner.»

[blocks in formation]

DRAWN BY MALCOM FRASER.

222

THE VILLAGE OF EL DORADO.

FROM A PHOTOGRAPH.

GLIMPSES OF VENEZUELA AND GUIANA.

[graphic]

Venezuelan Harp.

LEGEN

EGENDS of the golden city of Manoa» and of the « white lake,» in the tropical wilderness between the basins of the Orinoco and the Essequibo, lured to Guiana, as early as the sixteenth century, adventurers from all climes; Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and English have struggled for supremacy over it. Sir Walter Raleigh coveted the fabled treasures in the valley of the Orinoco, and led more than one expedition in search of the mythical «El Dorado.» In vain he attempted to persuade Queen Elizabeth that it was her manifest duty to tame the savages of Guiana. «The name of the august virgin,» he wrote, "who knows how to conquer empires should reach as far as the warlike women of the Orinoco and Amazon.» Failing to achieve his ends by flattery, under the cloak of defense from external enemies, he suggested that a garrison of four thousand English soldiers should be stationed in the town of the Incas, for which privilege the prince would be granted the honor of paying a tribute of three hundred thousand pounds annually. The distinguished Britisher concluded his report with the following words: «All the vast countries

of South America will one day belong to the English nation.>>

To comprehend fully what the control of a vast waterway threading the richest part of Guiana would mean to America and American interests, one must study carefully the map of South America. Geographers divide the southern continent into three great basins, those of the Amazon, the Orinoco, and the Plata. To dominate the mouth of any one of these great arteries of commerce would be to become the master of one third of South America. The Orinoco is navigable for vessels of the deepest draft to Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela's eastern metropolis. Within this distance of four hundred miles, twenty other navigable rivers swell the mighty current of the Orinoco, while, still farther into the interior, the eastern bank receives the waters of ninety-one large rivers, and the west those of thirty. Two of the former are navigable to the affluents of the Amazon, and many of the latter to the remote interior of the neighboring republics of Venezuela and Colombia. If she were to gain control of the Orinoco, England would possess the key to the entire eastern part of South America. This view has been advanced by ex-President Guzman Blanco in a recent publication. He attaches to the possession of Punta Barima the ability to dominate the Orinoco and the entire water-system which empties into it. Punta Barima is on the southeastern bank of the Orinoco, at its juncture with the sea, and is described as

« AnkstesnisTęsti »