« AnkstesnisTęsti »
Having thus, in a barely perceptible point of duration, located him, she gave herself no further anxiety about his home surroundings; and as her suspense was removed, her spirits involuntarily lifted. Walking along the top of the bluff, with the salt breeze blowing her skirts; with a white hand, adorned with a seal ring, turning for her the occasional stiles; with currents of thought and airs of deference playing about her, she felt strangely exhilarated and conspicuous.
Slade at one time feared she might be tired, but she was not at all tired, she thanked him, and it was far beyond the resting-places of strollers whose sentiments. were of older growth that they descended from their high pathway and seated themselves upon a lower ledge. Strange craft went by. Sea-gulls dipped their wings. Long waves broke in spray. Off to the right stood a light-house, which Anne said she had not seen before.
"We might go over some time," said Slade; and the young girl expressed rare delight at the prospect, provided her mother did not object.
"Of course," he replied; we can't do what your mother disapproves."
Anne sat bent forward; the new harmony she had established with nature appearing in a half smile about her lips, and as Slade talked on indifferent matters, she wondered she could ever have thought his appearance harsh. His face made her think of the faces of gentlemen who had reached that point of value that leads them to employ fine artists to paint their life-sized and florid portraits for a grateful posterity. She remembered some such portrait upon the red walls of the Scotch gentleman. It was one of the Scotchman's relatives, and though this relative had left behind him no posterity which he acknowledged, he had at least left his portrait and a glowing reputation, whose warm details had never been poured into Anne's ears. She asked Slade presently if he had ever had his portrait painted, stating the resemblance which she saw, and when he said he had not as yet, recommended an artist then engaged upon her father's.
Of the artists of New York he seemed to know something, at least by name.
"I spent a winter there once," he informed her, "but it was some time ago. I haven't been there much of late years."
"What were you doing there?" she asked, charmed with his knowledge of the artists.
"As near as I can remember, I spent it
chiefly as a diner-out, and as a claquer at the Union Square," and the recollection caused him quietly to smile.
"We don't often go to New York," said Anne, gravely.
"You ought to. It is a great town." "Where did you dine?" she inquired, upon further thought.
At the clubs, and with my friends. Then there was a little down-town place, I remember, full of dinginess and soupy smells. I am not sure but there was sawdust on the floor ;-there was always a good dinner and better company."
Anne shrank a little from the soupy smells, though she took kindly to the clubs and to his friends, accepting the whole as the experience of a man who neither displayed his great friends nor shunned his humble ones.
"Some of the most interesting people I have ever met," he went on, "I have met in New York,—as also some of the least interesting. A great city either sharpens one's wits or blunts them It was those with sharpened wits who used to go to that little down-town place. It has moved up-town since. I confess to a liking for people who have been ground pretty close, and whose blades have got a little worn and thin. I don't know that you have ever met any one who has seen a grindstone, but they are the ones after all who generally cut their way through and come out at the top."
"There are other things beside being sharp," insisted the girl, as in mild selfdefense.
"Particularly in a woman,-yes!" he argued. And she fancied that, though he had already observed in her the absence of that quality, he might have recognized others of a compensatory nature. "Indeed," he said, with further modification, "however effective as a feature of wit, sharpness is a bad element of character, only desirable when confined to the head and restricted in its action by warmth of heart."
Anne assented to the beauties of that combination, her interest in him lost for the moment in her interest in the effect she might be producing; but said that of the two she preferred the latter should predominate.
Again he agreed with her-for domestic purposes, though not perhaps for worldly advancement, nor yet for social events, like suppers at the Café Moretti, which was all he had had in his mind. And having divested his proposition of personal bearing, he spoke in hopeful admiration of men
whose advantages were slight, whose struggles were continuous, but whose grit was supreme, illustrating his views with the lives of several prominent gentlemen, whose success had already obscured their connection with the grindstone class. The chances of such men he thought at least equal to the chances of those born to fortune, and, in the light of the brilliant examples he cited, she thought them better.
They were men of whom she had heard, though not such as she had familiarly met; but their acquaintance harmonized well with the color of Slade's walls, with the liberality of his views, and the ease of his bearing, and through him she enjoyed for the time their society. She enjoyed it, perhaps, the more in that way, as in their actual presence she would have suffered from diffidence.
It was not till half an hour later, as they again approached the hotels, that Anne wished the grounds for her impressions of her companion were themselves a little more distinct. They had passed by that time the bluff, the turnstiles, the rough places where assistance was necessary and small talk easy, and were traveling the beaten road more suggestive of pure reason. Slade, whose eyes wandered over the fronts of the hotels, had less to say; and Anne, whose ears were red with a color that radiated toward her cheek, was slightly tired. Corbin sat watching them from one of the verandas; and upon entering her own gate, she found herself again watched. Then, "If you will come," she said, "I will introduce you to my mother. She is on the piazza."
The gentleman indicated his readiness by resuming the interested manner, which had partially fallen off, and ascending the steps. The introduction this time was a trifle less brief.
"From Baltimore," Anne added; but even this clue did not greatly enlighten Mrs. Rittenhouse, who with raised hand and parted lips had awaited the delayed ceremony, and who looked from one to the other as if a mystery whose solution she postponed were involved in their comradeship.
But Mrs. Rittenhouse was by no means willing to let this association pass as one of the many incidental to a shore where the relations of individuals were light and transient, and failed to excite the comments bestowed upon them in more organized circles.
"Who is he?" she began, coming softly into Anne's room later in the evening. "Who is he that horrid man with so many good manners ?"
And her own, which were also excellent, indicated small hope that the answer would modify the opinion she reserved.
"He is brand new," replied Anne, conscious of its weakness. "Mr. Corbin brought him over. He is from Baltimore."
The lady, who never long remained standing, seated herself with her arms resting in the short, deep space secured by the darts. in her dresses, and by a few skillful questions elicited the meager facts in Anne's possession,-the accident of her ignorance and the circumstances leading to her walk; then lost no time in returning to her own point of view.
"Mr. Corbin would be easily deceived," she said, "by a man who was shrewd."
"Mr. Slade is very shrewd," Anne declared, wishing to defend him.
Two short candles burned in low china candlesticks upon the bureau, shading upward to the face of the girl, who steadily persevered in her minute preparation for the night, conscious of her mother's scrutiny.
"And was that all you knew before starting off with him?" the latter inquired, from the deeper shadows.
"It is pleasant not to know,-to find out," the daughter affirmed.
"The way to find out is to ask somebody. I have already inquired, but there is no one from Baltimore at this hotel. You don't know what you may be doing. He looks to me like a person who wants to get on; probably he has already come a long way."
"This isn't much of a hotel, anyway," observed Anne, and looking in the glass she
added, with half a smile: "The way to do is to get under the biggest tent there is."
"The biggest tent!"
"Where there are the most people, where there is the most going on," she explained. "We might almost as well be at home as to be here."
"Better, perhaps. At home one may at least know whom one meets."
"He knows some people that we do," said Anne, rallying once more in his defense, and she mentioned the names of one or two of those contemporaries whose characters Slade had analyzed.
"Did he say that he knew them ?" "He spoke of them."
"We don't know them, either," Mrs. Rittenhouse returned.
"One might almost think it something serious," cried the girl. "He has only been here once. He may not come back again." "He will, if he is what I think he is," the lady concluded.
But to Anne's chagrin, the next day almost passed without his proving the correctness of her mother's judgment, or giving her an opportunity to corroborate her own.
A wavering system of rotation existed at the pier with regard to the hops, and the one that night was given at the hotel of the Philadelphians. It was almost over. A number of the young guests of other houses had come out of the darkness and passed into it again at an early hour. Mrs. Rittenhouse and her coterie had already retired to rest, and the band was blowing its last bars above the roll of the serious sea, when Anne reluctantly rose. Just how far she would have gone was not determined. In a general way, she had her home in Arch street in view; but, looking again along the piazza, where a few of her robust townswomen still sat, she saw Mr. Slade and his friend, who, as before, seemed inclined to include these festivities among the mild recreations of the day. As they approached, they glanced in the successive windows at the few flitting forms. She had not recovered from the shock the sight gave her, or decided whether to resume her seat or go to her room, when she became aware that she interrupted Slade's path, and that he was bowing before her, hat in hand. His friend passed on, apparently not finding what he sought.
"Is it over?" Slade asked-" the hop?" "I am afraid it is," she answered; "you are late." And something exquisite in this chiding made her repeat: "You are late."
Slade looked once more into the halfdeserted room; then bowed again.
"I am not too late," he said, "unless you are going;" and he arranged two chairs, as on his former visit, and again inquired where her mother was.
"She retires very early when she can," Anne informed him, as she seated herself. "And sleeps in the afternoon?"
"She isn't very strong, and almost everything tires her. She rarely leaves the hotel. She thinks it very restful here,—too restful, I should say."
Slade thought he could understand how she might find the place a trifle heavy; and the glance he permitted to wander to some groups near by seemed to regard them as bodies which might permeate with that essence a large reach of space. The intimation that she was not of that number, but rather a person of lively and original impulses, under temporary suppression, was a compliment which she resolved to deserve as their acquaintance went on. She told him the names of some of the ladies, their standing at home, and the result of a comparison made among them that day as to the relative sizes of their arms above the elbows,-which Slade seemed to find more amusing than she expected.
She then asked if there was any one besides himself at the pier from Baltimore; but there was no one whom he knew.
"I know very little about Baltimore,” said Anne. "I know very little of any one there except the Bonapartes."
"Do you know the Bonapartes?" he inquired.
"Not personally," she replied. "It has always seemed like a foreign city," she reflected.
"You should come abroad and see us." "Somehow the South seems farther off than any other point of the compass," the girl went on. She fancied, however, that Baltimore was a romantic place,—perhaps on account of the Bonaparte family.
They are certainly in one sense romantic," he returned; and he touched upon some of the facts of their later lives with a hand which gently rubbed the tarnish from their glory, then rubbed it back again. He spoke of old Jeromes and young Jeromes, and of the ups and downs of their fortunes;—most of which had passed into newspaper literature, and some of which was embalmed in obituaries. He described their houses, their appearances on the street, their unoccupations, the hours they kept, the horses they
drove, their appearance at the theaters. "It is certainly romantic," he concluded.
"Then there was Lord Baltimore," Anne suggested, "and those sisters who made a sensation in London,-one married Lord Wellesley."
And Slade, it seemed, though apparently still a young man, was also a friend of these. He called them by name and described them in a way that agreed with the account Anne's governess had given. He mentioned also a few other names which she respectfully recognized as historic; and after spending half an hour in these circles, she unconsciously assumed a slight elaboration of manner, such as those ladies might have worn, and such as Slade himself seemed to have caught from the lords.
"There are some of those old people still left," he said. "They have white hair and wear velvet coats, and cut their finger-nails in points. They are very ornamental in their way." There was something in his tone which jarred upon Anne, and she closed the fan she had been aristocratically waving. "They are the foreign ones," she maintained. And though Slade had not the benefit of her line of thought, she next asked, somewhat irrelevantly, if his family were Scotch.
It seemed she was not far wrong geographically; and without hesitation, which might have implied a lack of any great number of ladies and gentlemen in his known ancestry, he mentioned Wales as their original seat.
"So far as I am concerned, however," he added, "I think we are tolerably Americanized. I am afraid that knowing me will detract somewhat from your opinion of our city. I am neither foreign nor romantic. I am a struggling American."
"But I don't know you very well. I know comparatively little about you," she insisted.
"Then I should leave myself to your imagination."
Struggling for what?" she asked. "For the good things of this world. They seem to me to be worth having, and worth having in considerable quantities." "I don't know," reflected the girl. "What are the good things?"
"You certainly would not think of relinquishing them."
"I don't know," she repeated. might."
"What would you consider their equivalents?" he asked.
But she refrained from fixing their values, as he had done from mentioning their denominations.
At that moment young Corbin went by, coming for that purpose across the sideyard from the piazza of a neighboring hotel. Slade's back was toward him, and Anne was too absorbed to see him till he was close to the spot where they were sitting, and, finding her still under the tutelage she had preferred the day before, he again smiled as in illness and passed on.
"Speaking of people who are foreign and romantic," said Slade, taking no notice of him, "I have a friend here whom you ought to meet. He is an Englishman, which doesn't say much for his romantic qualifications. But he is here for romantic purposes. His name is Barney."
"I have seen him."
"He isn't yet Americanized; I am doing what I can for him. The only trouble with him is that he is the victim of his excellent circumstances. He is too rich and indolent to take proper care of himself." "Why do you think I would like a man who was rich and indolent ?" she inquired. "I didn't say you would like him. said you ought to meet him."
"I shouldn't like him. I shouldn't get on with him. He is too much like me." "Ah!" said Slade, "you have but two faults."
"I hope," returned Anne,-and here the activity of her cerebrum culminated,—“ I hope that your charity is large."
"I think it will cover you," he answered, cheerfully.
Meanwhile the music had ceased; the lights in the ball-room had been put out; one by one the ladies in Chuddah shawls had borne themselves away, and the clerk had more than once appeared in the doorway. These signs were lost upon Miss Rittenhouse, but not upon her visitor, who acknowledged them by taking his leave.
It was marvelous to Anne how many things happened while she talked with Slade-how tides came in, and tides went out; how people scudded away, and ate and slept; how proprieties changed to improprieties, and the future supplanted the present; how thousands of things, like sands in an hour-glass, slipped silently through, leaving her still stationary !
Once within her little chamber, she locked the door and stood for a moment by the window, musing in the dark.
One of the peculiar features of her new
acquaintance was that it was so entirely her own. It was as if she had stepped accidentally out of the circle to which she be longed, and suddenly, in the great, motley throng of outsiders, had discovered, unaided, a remarkable person. The exact qualities that made him worthy of remark were not easy to define, but she contrasted the feeling he awakened with the dozing induced by the many counterparts of young Corbin who had formed the mass of her associates. This feeling made her akin to the brilliant and dashing young ladies at whose feet society kneeled, and gave her a taste of the wicked pleasures of encouragement and fascination to which those charming creatures were addicted. There had long existed an impression, even in her own mind, that her conduct in these matters was hampered by principles such as rarely restrain the more socially gifted; but, as she looked out upon the distant light-ships throwing their beacons far and wide, no thought of prudence, principles, or consequences marred her delicious agitation or interfered with her plans for its progress. He would be at the beach in the mornings, at the hops in the evenings, and between these distant periods there might be times when he would seek her at her hotel and draw her farther toward the vortex in which he seemed to live. It was, in effect, the social vortex to which she had looked forward in coming to the sea-shore, though in anticipation it had been formed by a large, gay company, circulating in couples by day, and waltzing in couples by night. The large, gay company, however, did not include her in its giddy whirl, but left her standing on a far and quiet circumference. Neither did it seem to include this intelligent stranger, this struggling American from Baltimore-a fact which to her sense left it poor and weak and slow, and which transferred the real center of interest to that quiet rim where she and Slade hovered.
She lighted her candle, and the young girl shadowed in her glass like a Hallowe'en specter had a smiling mouth, dark, tumbled hair, and eyes without a shadow. The transformation was almost too sudden, and dropping her eyelashes she thoughtfully stuck her pins in her cushion in rows.
She was quite correct in her surmise that he would appear at the beach the next morning at the hour when the summer visitor refreshed its worn body in the surf. She went early and took her seat in front of that section of the bathing-houses set
apart to her hotel, from which post she could review the light procession streaming along the rude, continuous piazza.
The day was clear and fair, with a breeze which seemed to be bringing something. Soon after eleven o'clock it brought Mr. Slade and his inseparable companion, and their light umbrellas seemed to serve as sails urging their deliberate steps. They were concerning themselves with the crowd in the surf and the crowd on the strip of beach rather than with those on the piazza, and they passed the deal chair on which Anne Rittenhouse sat in commotion without seeing her.
They had reached that stage of manhood which frequents least the fashionable shore, and which made them conspicuous among the striplings whose powers were still enveloped in adolescence, and among the fathers of families who had crossed the meridian. As they moved on down the piazza, a little whisper rose from some quarter and followed them, and several heads nodded in their direction.
The strip of beach was dotted with gay awnings, with children digging wells, with nurses in white caps, with pretty women in brilliant toilets, with exquisite youths in white flannel, with bathers in fantastic attire, both dry and wet, crossing and recrossing from the shelter of their rooms to the shelter of the waves; and after the lapse of a quarter of an hour, Anne left her companions and strolled down to the margin where the sand was damp.
Pursuing her slightly conspicuous way with meandering steps, the white fringe of her parasol waving above her, she showed herself a person of original impulses by extending her walk to the stretch of beach beyond the line of bathers. It was the beach which she knew to be full of the song of sandpipers and of ample opportunities of a sentimental nature. It was also full, on this occasion, of a circumambient sunshine and of the soft lapping of spent breakers. Here and there were a few promenaders and persons in bathing costumes who were correcting the chill of the water by running upon the sand; and here and there a pony phaeton trundled along the edge of the foam. It was one of the latter that finally checked Anne's impulse, by trundling up and insisting that she should enter. Its occupants were Philadelphians whom it was impossible to gainsay; and they rolled on between the sand dunes which obscured the beach from view; so