Puslapio vaizdai

off more-if they brought their horses, for instance."

Toward the close of the evening, two gentlemen, stanch and well dressed, sauntered in through a window, and after looking about with the observant eyes of outsiders, exchanged a few words and crossed the room toward the corner where the family of Henry Sage Rittenhouse sat. Before they reached it, however, they stopped in front of a young lady brilliantly blooming in rose-colored satin, not quite new, who addressed them respectively by the names of Mr. Barney and Mr. Slade; and the three stood for a little while engaged in conversation, of which the owner of the latter name bore rather the larger share.

[blocks in formation]

"Who is that?" inquired Mrs. Rittenhouse, centering her disaffection.

But Corbin's ignorance was profound. The three Philadelphians observed him narrowly; distinguished yet vulgar, agreeable yet unprepossessing, self-assured yet soliciting nothing of public opinion, not even the attention he received-overreaching respectability, overdoing virtuous mediocrity; easy, shrewd, hybrid; they hesitated to express their puzzled opinions, and Mrs. Rittenhouse resumed once more her soft interchange of thought with some friends of whose standing she felt sure.

He was a man who might have come from any rank in life; from the lowest, through natural evolution, or from the highest, through those froward dispensations which sometimes leave unfavored sons in fastidious households. His nose was large and long, of a shape that in later years" would approximate his chin, and of a hue not looked for, though sometimes found, in the noses of the great. His cloudy complexion had not the tint of refinement; his forehead had not the expanse of scholarship; his dignity was not cumbersome; his manner had not the languor of one wearied of society, nor the awkwardness of one too modest before it; his compact frame was well covered with muscles and unfretted by nerves, and his dress told nothing of his degree; his thin, sandy mustache did not disclose the expression of his lips, which in their turn refrained from personalities, and his eyes, of no discernible color, shed little light upon the inner man.

"That is the fellow we saw on the beach," Corbin asserted.

"It can't be," said Anne, who had known from the first that it was.

"It is the one who drank your health."

"He did not seem to recognize me," she returned.

"Don't you believe it. He knows you as far as he can see you."

As they left the house, they saw him again, making his way toward a small smoking and card room near the entrance. A group about the door parted to make way for him, then closed again.

"His back," said Anne, catching once more that commanding outline, "is better than his face."

"Whose?" asked Mrs. Rittenhouse. Corbin continued at intervals to assist his young townswomen in forming correct and liberal impressions of the vivacious. society about them, and a few days later undertook to retouch some of his former work.

"I'm afraid I was mistaken," he began, about that man we saw hunting. I have met him since. His name is Slade. He was with some young ladies, who introduced me. They had just met him, too, and seemed to want to make it pleasant for him. I spoke of seeing him on the beach, and he said the hunting was very poor. I told him you were rather startled at meeting him in the schooner, and he finally observed that he would like to meet you; he had great respect for your father. I told him I would ask you, but, of course, if you think best, we need never find it convenient. He is from-I don't believe I heard where he was from, but he is here with some NewYorkers or some Western people. He smokes excellent cigars. He asked who you were, though I think he already knew."

"What did you tell him ?"

"That you were Henry Sage Rittenhouse's daughter. It is easy to tell the truth about a thing like that."

"I almost wish it wasn't," she replied, with a slight laugh,

"What would you have me say?" "You might say, 'Oh, you ought to know her; she's quite quite "All right," said Corbin, as she hesitated, "I'll tell him that."


"It would be as much as I know of him," she declared.

"I'll find out more, if you mean it," he offered, with some disappointment at her want of fastidiousness. "The young lady we saw him with is a Miss Markham; she is from New York. I don't think he is a college man, but he seems to have knocked about. There he comes, now."

They were walking on the planks of a cross-street toward some little inland spires, and Slade, coming from that direction, made Corbin a bow, including also his companion. He was taking his morning walk under a sun umbrella made of buff cotton, and Corbin declared that he was only deterred by a still lacking form from bestowing upon Anne the wealth of companionship of which he was seeking to dispose.

They saw him again on their return from the spires.

"He is bound to remind me," said Corbin; and Anne smiled a little at a persecution so amiable and intelligent.

She seemed to stand out for the first time in the light of a certain publicity which gave unheralded strangers a right to desire her acquaintance. In the limited circle at home which she was in the habit of regarding as the solar system, she was no shining star, and she had reason to be gratified by her apparent value in these larger heavens. It was a value upon which, in her heart of hearts, she stoutly insisted, though one which, in the face of certain disadvantages, she could not openly claim.

She was fair and small. Her manner lacked confidence and cordiality, and there was a suggestion of primness in her general appearance which the most expensive modistes were unable to dispel. Like most persons troubled by silence and stiffness, she was self-conscious- self-depreciative. She was conscious of being the daughter of Henry Sage Rittenhouse, of being the prospective owner of many paying stocks, and of knowing more languages than she would. require for use in centuries. There was something almost painful in the number of tongues she had studied compared with the few English words that sufficed for her

| needs; and indeed the general sum of her unavailable resources made all her uses seem pathetic. She had been nominally out two winters, and still as in the beginning seemed far within. She was known to be rich; she was passably pretty; she was invited everywhere; she had smatterings of accomplishments which were the counterfeits of genius; and a number of young men like Corbin sought her favor; yet she failed to extract from all her supplies that deep and fervent delight which is properly each young girl's portion. She was not always even passive and comfortable. She seemed to have a scrap of brain somewhere above her other brains, some little lofty rag-tag of cerebrum which scorned the other stuff within her cranium and compelled her to see herself very much as others saw herwith the exception apparently of this interesting new-comer.

[blocks in formation]

go out this afternoon, and she said she | their visit was untimely, she hastened to couldn't." say that she never slept when she could help it.

"Then we can leave our cards; and it seemed as if a man so ready with that happy expedient might have enjoyed even a superfluity of social privileges.

[ocr errors]

"She can't be far away," Corbin presently said, affected by that view; "you must have passed her as you came in."

And putting his cane behind his back, where he held it locked in his elbows, he urged himself forward to complete the mission already begun.

Anne was still upon the piazza, where she had been sitting with her hands upon her lap, looking blankly out over the waters. If she saw anything, which is doubtful, it was the air of bleakness with the sun upon it, of which even in summer the shore was not divested, and if anything affected her senses it was the odor of the sea-weed exposed to the afternoon rays. But the monotony which was an element of almost every scene from her point of view, was suddenly rent by the appearance of Corbin, followed by Slade.

The stranger was formally presented, but

the name of his residence was not added. "Where shall we sit?" he inquired, and the place being designated, he moved two chairs nearer the railing; while Corbin, with a sense of outstaying his usefulness, drew up one for himself.

When the bustle of taking their seats could not be further prolonged, Anne's hands wandered among the ribbons at her belt. The man of the beach and the ballroom, and the man whose desire to meet her had been so pronounced, had accomplished his purpose, and the responsibility then resting upon her of feeding his interest brought her a realizing sense of how empty were her granaries. He made her think of a man of large appetite sitting down to a small repast, and the meagerness of her provision added to her embarrassment. Everything about him seemed too pronounced, the owl upon his neck-tie, the intelligence in his eye, the smoothness of his address, the ease of his attitude, his expectation of entertainment, and even his desire to make her acquaintance,-but before she had time to note, as well as to feel, these features, he asked after her mother, as if his desire extended also to other members of the Rittenhouse family.

Anne replied that she had gone upstairs, and added that almost every one slept at that hour; then, fearing this hinted that

"I hope this is one of those times," returned Slade; and Miss Rittenhouse soon realized more and more that it was.

He told her how fond he was of the salt air, and that he ran up to breathe,-“ up in de cool," as the darkies said. He persuaded himself that recreation should become a man's business about once a yeara business whose success was the surer the less one's experience. In that regard gentlemen, he thought, had the advantage of young ladies, who were rarely relieved from


Anne did not feel that she was by any means too accustomed to the sort of amusement she was then undergoing, and signified that her capacity for enjoyment had not been impaired by use.

There was nothing, Slade went on, like a couple of weeks' vacation in midsummer. He had brought some malaria (pronounced with the broadest of a's) with him in his system, but was fast throwing it off; it was the sailing. He had been sailing a good deal since he arrived-the fact proclaimed itself in his appearance. And, taking off his hat, he looked into it as if he expected to find his appearance there. It was a gray felt hat, rough and wrinkled; and, before he replaced it, he caressed the folds designed in its manufacture, adding new curves to its brim. It gave him an errant look which his countenance was far from needing, but it gave him, also, the look of a man who accepted his homeliness with artistic understanding.

His manner was quiet and maintained without effort. It was even subdued, as if beneath it there was an unemployed force whose outlay he had checked to suit the requirements of an occasion unexpectedly simple. Even so much of it as he brought into play seemed, at first, almost too liberal an allowance; but in a few moments, as on the former times she had seen him, Anne found her impressions rapidly changing. Instead of deeming his qualities too pronounced, she found them so nicely adjusted that, under their influence, her self-distrust was removed, her thoughts diverted; her stagnant cerebrum became lightly excited; her circulation, though rapid, went on with marvelous smoothness; even her back grew gracefully flexible, and she no longer cared for the texture of her ribbons. She felt like a cold, thin person put in a velvet dress with a soft, thick pile.

He inquired, simply enough, into the merits of the house at which she was staying, and she informed him that it was a small one, that its guests were chiefly Philadelphians, some of them old friends of her mother's, and, as they did not mix much with the guests of the other hotels, it was rather more quiet than she could wish, in which Corbin concurred.

"I know this house," the little fellow put in, looking at it as if it were at a far-vanishing point of perspective. "I know it of old. The same persons have been here for forty years, and it stands to reason they are no longer young. It is awfully respectable, but you don't want to come here to have a good time. As you say, they don't mix. They are too exclusive to mix. They are afraid they will meet some undesirable person; they are afraid they will enjoy something. They didn't get me here. When I go away from Philadelphia, I go away. I don't take it with me, either. This is a gay beach, but you have to go to the right hotel to find it out. You have to pitch in. I tell Miss Rittenhouse she ought to make a change."

"Mother likes it here best," said Anne, and her hearers at once understood that the preferences of that lady were decisive.

"She is too exclusive, too," Corbin frankly avowed, and, for a few moments, while Slade listened, her social habits were discussed.

"She likes people well enough if she knows them," the daughter maintained.

"Or their parents," amended Corbin, "which is better yet."

When this interchange had come to an end, Slade expressed a wish that they had chosen the hotel he had selected for its broader basis.

"Most of the hotels here," he observed, "are like large boarding-houses, and those who have suffered cannot always control their prejudices. They are like so many side-shows without any big tent."

He admitted that he liked to get under a big tent himself, and that he had chosen his hotel only for its promising size.

"At the beaches, however," he said, "one can imagine the canopy of heaven which covers some interesting sights."

"I'd like to know what they are," said Miss Rittenhouse, with slight skepticism.

It was interesting, for one thing, he thought, to see society bringing its baggage and coming down to the sea, where, in the rather grim atmosphere, it resembled the

bathing-suits catching at the air on top of the bath-houses. He was not at that epoch a society man himself, so, like all outsiders, felt called upon to make a few strictures. Miss Rittenhouse, he understood, also made a few, and they might compare deductions. It was pleasant occasionally, of course, for varieties of people to come together on common ground where artificial barriers were more or less leveled; it answered a useful purpose; but society, which, in a fashionable sense, was rather thin in spots, was nowhere thinner than at the summer resorts-which did not prevent the fishing from being pleasanter there than elsewhere. He didn't know but a man preferred his society to be a little thin in warm weather, like his coats; perhaps as good a way as any was to take a quantity of it very thin in summer, and almost none at all in winter: which had been his custom. He had not, however, been so situated of late years that he could have much of it in winter if he had chosen. He had not been in its vicinity. Another thing which he thought interesting was the throng of young people such as was then sauntering along the sidewalk. Where were they all going?


They are on their way to the rocks," said Corbin. "It is the thing to do on Sunday afternoons. Everybody goes." "It is the view," said Anne.

[blocks in formation]

The rocks were a point a half-mile distant, approached by a path leading over a high, bleak portion of the shore; and Anne glanced off in that cool and inviting direction. Two forms, no bigger than nine-pins, were just disappearing over the bluff, and from that distance seemed to be stepping from the horizon plump into the sea; but even with that destiny in view there was a suggestion of content in the diminution of their figures and their final loss to the world.

The daughter of Henry Sage Rittenhouse had found herself assenting almost with feeling to Slade's love for the salt air, for sailing, for big tents, and the canopy of heaven, and she was conscious of a continued unanimity when he proposed to add a stroll to the present entertainment. In some confusion she put up her hands to her braids, her Paris hat, her turquoise locket, and finding nothing at these points to detain her, she looked for objection to Corbin.


Corbin, however, stared at the light-ship, and with the end of his cane corrected the downward tendency of his mustache. Then she glanced at the more homely but sturdier gentleman who had taken her wrap, and the loss in declining seemed greater than the imprudence of accepting.

As they crossed the withered lawn, and while still in the shadow of the house, Slade raised his buff umbrella and holding it over her completed his appropriation of her company; and, thus bereft, the ex-senator's son declined to be of the party, and left them at the entrance to his own hotel. He was a trifle bewildered as he gazed from the steps at the lessening shapes of his former companions. From the moment of the introduction his connection with the affair had plainly ceased, and he had felt himself dropping away till he became the stranger and Slade the friend and guardian of Miss Rittenhouse. He watched that transferred young lady, who, in pursuance of his advice, was pitching in so headlong, till she and the person with whom she had taken up, to his own displacement, were lost from the horizon; then, murmuring something to himself, he went over to Slade's hotel.

Returning an hour later, he repeated an obscure imprecation with a still more obscure smile, and, assuming the air of a saunterer, started off in the direction his former charge had taken; but for all he discovered she might indeed have lain many fathoms deep.

calmness, but in the natural course of things allowed a few of them to escape him. He told her, for one thing, that he had a sister of whom, in a general way, she reminded him.

In the meantime, Slade proved himself abundantly able to fill the part he had assumed. In those manifold ways by which men in the early stages of an acquaintance signify their appreciation of what is precious, he conveyed to her a sense of his respectful care, of his social adaptability, of his varied information on subjects suggested by their immediate surroundings, and even of a personal affinity which precluded her usual constraint. Never had a sense of so many agreeable things been awakened in her at once, and she felt that the elements of his life and character were gradually finding their subtle way into her knowledge-elements more important than the barren facts which she assumed had been deposited with Corbin, and which Slade himself apparently assumed were in her possession. Inquiry on those points would have betrayed the indiscretion of her conduct, and she waited for them to develop with a calm suspense that added to the interest of the hour.

Slade reserved most of them with equal

"Where is she now?" Anne inquired. "At home," he said; "in Baltimore. It was very warm in Baltimore when I left." And Anne's mind closed over this treas

[blocks in formation]

And in the discussion of summer quarters, Slade mentioned that the room he had gladly left had been furnished in red: which deep and satisfactory insight into his private life gave her a certain surety for all the rest. Her mind closed over it, as it had closed over his place of residence. Once, in her younger years, when feeling considerably older than at present, she had spent the early part of a winter evening in the apartments of an indulgent Scotch gentleman. These apartments had walls in Indian red, and many luxurious chairs upholstered in leather of the same hue. A wood fire blazed among curious tiles, and fur rugs slept upon the floor. Strange pictures stood out upon the dark background of the walls, together with some outlandish weapons that had long survived the destruction they had wrought among Scottish clans. In curtained recesses were crowded book-shelves, and on a center-table were pieces of grotesque bric-à-brac. Anne was always spoken of at that time as a quiet little thing; and, sitting bolt upright in one of the luxurious chairs, moving not a finger save to adjust the petticoats which stood out about her like the petals of a many-doubled petunia, she had looked about her with a faithfulness which fixed upon her mind forever the picture of a bachelor's apartments furnished in red. This picture instantly came up at his suggestion, and instead of the Scotchman, who was also plain-featured, she saw Slade, self-possessed and slippered, scribbling at the table among the bric-à-brac.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »