Puslapio vaizdai


By H, H. Boyesen.

[ocr errors]


“Oh! yes, I sympathize; but I wash my

hands afterward.”
0,20 OU will observe,” Mr. Nichols looked up reproachfully,

said the Rev. Al- but could not forbear to smile.
bion Nichols, of “You are a cynic,” he said ; "a scoffer.”
Boston, to Mr. Not at all,” replied his neighbor ; "I
Mortimer Brooks, am a guileless optimist."
of New York, "that Mr. Nichols smiled again, this time
the young girls incredulously, and drank more ice-wa-
who wait upon the ter.

table here are la- “Whatever you, with your supercildies. Some of them are school-teachers. ious foreign notions, may think,” he said, If you should address them, they would wiping his mouth with his napkin, " the answer you in English fit to be printed.” New England girl is the flower of cre

“These potatoes are not done," ob- ation." served Mr. Brooks experimentally to “Yes, but too flat-chested," contended the first girl who approached him. Brooks.

“ Them is the donedest there be,” an- “Fiddle-sticks ! Now look at that swered the girl.

girl there. Charity, I think, is her Mr. Brooks turned rather a supercil- name. She is book-keeper, secretary and ious smile on his loquacious neighbor what not to Mrs. Morgan, who, by the and fell to dissecting his beefsteak. way, is not strong in arithmetic and chi

“ You selected that girl with malice rography. Did you ever see a sweeter aforethought,” persisted the undaunt- face than that girl has? How shy and ed clergyman. “Our dear New Eng“Our dear New Eng- demure and maidenly!

demure and maidenly! Why, girls of land

that type, sir, when once the primness “Has become New Ireland, or is fast and the cool virginal reserve is conbecoming it," finished Mr. Brooks. quered, make the loveliest wives and

“ Unhappily, yes. But there is still mothers in the world. They are the remuch of the old Puritan leaven left. sults of generations of-of" Here in Poltucket, for instance, the “Pork and beans," suggested Brooks ; Yankee is yet to be found unadulter- and pie for breakfast.” ated. Here is yet a little Goschen of No, sir ; they are the results of genundefiled

erations of high thinking and right live Consumption and nasal twang, " ing, of fear of God, cleanliness, virtue, Brooks interrupted, while Mr. Nichols and prayer." took a long draught of ice-water.

The girl who furnished the text for “Yes, perhaps—unhappily," the con- these remarks had entered very opporciliatory clergyman admitted ; “but

“but tunely, by the door leading from the ofwhat I mean to say is that here you

have fice, and seated herself in the vacant a feeling that you are in America among chair next to Brooks. His friend's decAmericans. Here the spirit of our fa- lamation had naturally aroused his inthers is still alive, though much weak- terest in her ; and in order to have a ened by the lapse of time. That's the chance to observe more closely this epitreason I return here year after year. ome of all New England's virtues, he When my coal-man, without the faintest asked her kindly to pass him the casters perception of the difference in our sta- which were standing in front of her. She tions, comes up and shakes hands with was just complying with this request me, I make a point of returning his when suddenly he flashed upon her a grasp cordially. But I presume you do gaze of deep and serious scrutiny. He not sympathize with this spirit.” was the possessor of a pair of large and


extraordinarily expressive eyes; and the dragged him about from Rome to Wiesabruptness and solemn intensity of their baden and from Wiesbaden to Paris and glance frightened the girl. She gave a then back again to Rome, interrupting start so violent that she dropped the his schooling whenever it suited her casters into her soup-plate, whence they whim. An unquenchable thirst for excitefell with a crash upon the floor. The ment impelled her to change continuunhappy creature, seeing the havoc she ally her place of residence; but like the had wrought, rose precipitately and ran man who moved from house to house to out of the room. There was a chorus get rid of the Brownie, she always carried of startled exclamations from the lady her Brownie with her. Her Brownie boarders; the landlady apologized for was named Discontent. She had been the awkwardness of the girl, and de- born with poor blood ; and was blasé clared that she would tolerate her no from the very cradle. Toward her son more in her house. But when the first she was by turns plaintive and irritable excitement had subsided, Brooks found -perhaps because she felt herself in the the attention of the whole table concen wrong before him and suspected in him trated upon him. What had he done to a silent accuser. She had subordinated Charity to make her behave so shock- his life to hers, persuading herself alingly? There was no one who uttered ways that whatever she liked to do was this query, but it was written upon all the best for him. the curious, amused, or indignant faces After fifteen years of this migratory that were turned toward the gentleman existence, during which no permanent from New York.

relations had been formed and no ties, “Those New York men,” an elderly either local or personal, Mortimer found Boston spinster was heard to remark, himself impelled to explore the land of sotto voce, “they are shockingly-well

, his birth. His father was then dead; I won't say what I mean.”

and the uncle to whom he was referred She had no idea that the New York for funds and counsel gave him such a man in question rather enjoyed the sen- cool reception that he felt disinclined to sation he was making. He made him- make advances. He was dimly aware self as broad as he could, looked up that his alienism, which he deplored but from his plate now and then with his could not help, was mistaken by his kinscontemptuous smile, and ate on with a man for affectation; and he was too kind of insolent appetite and impertur- proud to disabuse him. At Harvard, bable defiance. Before the meal was where he sojourned for two years, his at an end, he had managed, somehow, reserve and foreign appearance gained without opening his mouth, to make all him much admiration but no friends. the ladies at the table his enemies. And it was friends he yearned for-close

human relations, freedom from restraint,

and communion of souls. It was in pure II.

self-defence that he appeared haughty ;

because, being driven by his temperaIt was not the first time in the life of ment to extremes, he was too strong to Mortimer Brooks that he made an un- be humble. He could not sue for confifavorable impression. He was a tall, dence and good-will; even though he well-grown man with a handsome face, ardently desired them; and the only aland yet the majority of people disliked ternative was to appear to despise them. him. From his earliest childhood he The gift to unlock hearts had somehow had met with antagonism and hostility, been denied him; and he would gladly and he was utterly at a loss to explain have given all advantages he possessed why. He had somehow entered the in exchange for this one gift. He reworld with the wrong foot foremost. membered having once envied a Roman There had been some difficulty between gamin whose mother slapped him in the his father and mother which had clouded street and afterwards hugged him with his earliest years; and he had a vague repentant tears to her bosom. The imimpression that the latter was more to pulsive naturalness of both acts lay so blame. She had during his boyhood far beyond the sphere in which his lot

was cast, that, by contrast, they ap- During the long eventless afternoons, peared admirable. He hungered at this scandalous occurrence was vehetimes for censure almost as much as he mently debated on all the piazzas in the hungered for praise ; but both were re- town, and a Brooks and an anti-Brooks fused him. He moved about in a shadow party were soon distinguishable among world, where all seemed unreal, except Mrs. Morgan's boarders. The former his own acute sense of his unsatis- consisted chiefly of Miss Anastasia Herfied desires. People loved, wooed, and komer, a rather plain young lady from mourned round about him; and only he Vassar, who declared that she could see seemed to be cut off from all these sweet no reason why a man should not look at experiences of common, every-day mor- a girl as much as he liked, and step on tality. He was scarcely himself aware her foot, too, if it amused him, provided that, as he brooded over the exceptional he granted her the privilege to step on character of his lot, there grew a certain his in return. She took it into her head vague satisfaction within him which to admire Brooks prodigiously (also by tempered his regret, a subtile pride in way of diversion), and felt flattered and the very fact that he was exceptional. exhilarated by the teasing comments and But this was a bitter-sweet feeling, after railleries which were aimed at her by her all, and far removed from contentment. fellow-boarders. She got up quite a

After having gotten into collision with Hamlet,” not only in the absence of the college authorities about a question the Prince, but without his knowledge. of discipline, Mortimer left the academic As for the girl who had been the inhalls, and drifted about for some years, nocent cause of all this disturbance, she in search of a vocation. He was con- had been in some manner spirited away. scious of great powers, that seemed Mrs. Morgan professed to be ignorant of available for almost anything; but the her whereabouts, and declined to enterparticular task which presented itself tain the proposition to take her back. was always more or less distasteful. He A great deal of hysterical philanthropy had money enough to support existence which was stirred up in her behalf ran in a modest way, without working, but absolutely to waste. Even & purse that could imagine nothing more contempt- was made up by the lady boarders who ible than such impotent resignation. resented her dismissal failed to reach He would have taken to literature if he her through the Post Office, and it was had not felt confident that the first note on that occasion that Miss Anastasia he struck would be a strident discord. scandalized the company on the piazza He had written some things, to be sure; by recommending that it be intrusted to but had received them back from the Mr. Brooks, who probably had a better magazines with the consoling assurance knowledge of the topography of the that "non-acceptance did not necessarily island than the Postmaster. The Rev. imply lack of merit.” His private con- Mr. Nichols, who kindly acted as agentviction was that in his case it implied in-chief for the ladies' indignation comtoo much merit; but, of course, it was mittee, had, in the meanwhile, become useless to argue the thing, and he was possessed of some scraps of the girl's too clever not to see that the magazine history, which he communicated with point of view was commercially right. slight dramatic embellishments to the In the meanwhile, feeling the need of committee. Her name, as they already doing something to put the editors in knew, was Charity Howland. She was the wrong, he retired to the remote the daughter of a once prosperous lawisland of Poltucket, where the conditions yer, long since deceased; her mother was for such an enterprise were said to be a Miss Tuthill and was said to have had favorable.

He engaged comfortable some of the best blood in New England lodgings at Mrs. Morgan's boarding- in her veins. The daughter had lived, house on the Bluff, and had just pre- since her mother's death, in the houses pared himself to establish amicable rela- of various remote relatives, and had been tions with all the spinsters on the back badly treated by some of them. She piazza, when the incident with the book- had been an omnivorous reader and had keeper spoiled all his beautiful plans. acquired a sort of fragmentary education.


She was as shy as a plover, and when ning out at a high speed. The sun had you chanced to look at her, started like set, and the wind was blowing a gale à bird about to take flight. The fact from the north. The spray beat over the was, although she was born and bred on stones every moment, and flew in hissing the island, nobody seemed to know much showers through the air. It was getabout her, one way or the other, except ting decidedly unpleasant, and Brooks that she was a “poor orphaned critter,” determined to tempt fortune no longer, that, as an old sea-captain remarked, she but betake himself back to the security of

sorter shet-up-tight, like a quore- the solid earth and Mrs. Morgan's hostile hog," and "that it warn't no easy job to piazza. He had just wound his line on get a shot at her.” Mr. Nichols was the rod, and was about to turn his back about to inquire why anybody should on Boreas, when he discovered the figure want to shoot at her ; but caught him- of a solitary woman in a dory, some self in time to discover that the remark twenty feet beyond the end of the jetty. was metaphorical

She was making great exertions to pull up her anchor, but apparently did not

succeed. INI.

Brooks watched her for a

minute or two, then shouted to her, but The great scenic feature of Poltucket received no reply. The wind drowned is a jagged mole or jetty, made of enor- his voice. He could not make up his mous stones, running three quarters of a mind whether she was in danger or not ; mile out into the water. It has sagged and therefore feared to appear importua little in places and is there overrun nate with his offer of help. The tide, in at high tide ; but when the tide is below the meanwhile, which at that very point the flood-mark, it is dotted all over with ran with the greatest vehemence, was bright-colored sun-umbrellas, under each tossing the dory up and down and of which will be found, on investigation, drenching its occupant with spurts of a young lady, a novel, and occasionally flying spray. Sudden squalls swept, with also a young man. In the latter case, it smoke and blackening water in their sometimes happens that the novel floats track, across the harbor; and a few bein to the town with the rising tide. Morti- lated catboats which had been out bluemer Brooks found this jetty attractive, fishing camescudding along with doublenot so much on account of the vacancies reefed sails, careening heavily, and under the sun-umbrellas, as on account of burying their noses with a great splash the facilities it offered for fishing. Here in the white-crested waves. The

young was an opportunity for catching lobster, girl in the dory was casting anxious scup, and even plaice-fish, without re- glances toward the dark-blue horizon, in sorting to oars.

the pauses between her futile struggles It was on a blustery afternoon in July, with the anchor-chain. Brooks had by about two weeks after the disappearance this time made up his mind that he would of Charity Howland, that Brooks, in rather risk offending her than see her fashionable sportsman's attire, was seen perish before his eyes. Having fastened looming up against the horizon, with a his rod between the stones, he started fishing-spear and a rod on his shoulder. forward, with the spear, leaping from He passed successfully the various pit- rock to rock, and in ten or fifteen minutes falls, marked by blue and scarlet para- reached the end of the jetty. The girl sols, and after a stiff climb over the rough was then seated with averted face in an stones reached the part of the jetty attitude of resignation, watching the where eel and plaice-fish were said to motions of the gulls that circled screamabound. He stood there for fully three ing over her head. Two fishing-lines hours, and had fair luck, though the exas- were hanging over the gunwale; but perating little wharf-fish amused them- she did not heed them. "Do


need selves stealing his bait and, by their su- help ?” shouted Brooks. perior agility, snatching the hook before She started at the sound of his voice the very noses of their larger and more as if she had been shot; glanced shyly desirable neighbors. The tide had, in toward him, and then looked again at the meanwhile, changed, and was run- the horizon.

[ocr errors]

“Do you need help?” he repeated, If

you don't come,” he broke forth, bellowing with all his might against “I shall be carried out to sea with the the wind. She writhed for a moment tide. I can't keep my footing much with bashful self-consciousness; then longer.” rose and seemed to struggle with a de- That appeal she could not withstand; sire to leap into the water. At last, but she looked the picture of misery, as when she had no alternative but to face with flaming cheeks and a wildly palpihim, she turned slowly about, and he tating heart she obeyed his summons. saw that she was none other than Char. He put his arms about her in a prompt ity Howland, the vanished book-keeper. and business-like fashion, which ought It was rather an unexpected denoue- to have been reassuring. But, for all ment, and to him, with his European that, she could not control an inclinanotions, rather an absurd one. He


tion to shiver. peared to himself in anything but a he- Lean to the left; put your arms roic light. However, when fate plays a about my neck," he said in the tone of a prank upon you, there is no use in re- drill sergeant who commands: "Forbelling Brooks promptly smothered ward, march.” the snobbish feeling that threatened to The girl obeyed bashfully because she assert itself; and determined to play did not dare to disobey. But suddenly knight-errant to the book-keeper with a thrill of joy, of exultation, of inefamiability and good grace.

fable well-being tingled through her. Can't you pull your anchor up ?” he The blood gushed in warm streams from cried.

her heart and danced through her veins. “No, it is caught between two stones," Her humility, her bashfulness, her s! answered, with a look of imploring trembling confusion dropped from her timidity that went straight to his heart. like a garment. She sat enthroned

“ Try another pull ; jerk sideways!”. upon his arm, with the wide horizon “It is no use.

I've tried every way.” about her, proud and happy as a queen. A spirit of enterprise and adventure She felt that he was wholly preoccupied invaded the young man's soul. Steady- with her rescue, oblivious of herself

. ing himself with the lobster-spear, he But she had suddenly become quite unstalked calmly out over the submerged concerned about herself, and absorbed part of the jetty, planting his feet firmly in him. She was not afraid that he on the slippery, kelp-covered stones. would stumble, though she saw him The tide whirled and eddied about his strain every nerve to keep his footing, knees—six or eight steps more and he and anxiously fumble his way with his stood waist-deep in the surging water. feet over the slippery rock-weed that It was hard work to keep his footing streamed like green hair over the there ; and he knew he could not do it stones. The brilliant star-fishes clung long. He could now barely reach the to the rocks and stared up at her, and dory with the spear; and he managed somehow they had never before seemed to fasten its hook in the prow and to so bright and beautiful. The gulls pull it slowly toward him. The girl was grew clamorous about her, and with crouching in the bottom of the boat, shrill bad-weather screams swept past with shy glances and little timid move- her, so close that she felt the wind of ments, as if she were wishing to apolo- their wings on her cheeks. But her gize for having the hardihood to exist at heart sung within her, and made light of all.

their ominous voices. The gale tossed “Come here,” he commanded, as he her hair wildly about her head ; and she laid hold of the boat with his hands. felt as if a new soul had been abruptly She stared at him in helpless bewilder- awakened within her—a soul sympament, but did not stir.

thetic with all that was beautiful and "Come, I say, quick,” he repeated, bold and free. There were showers with a touch of impatience.

pouring in black-blue slanting lines The girl arose, trembling with confu- from sky to sea, on the Western horizon, sion, and looked as if she were again con- and they came sweeping eastward with templating a plunge into the water. splendid uproar and lashed waters and

« AnkstesnisTęsti »