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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesApril Hopes - Chapter 49
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April Hopes - Chapter 49 Post by :DerekGehl Category :Long Stories Author :William Dean Howells Date :May 2012 Read :2938

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April Hopes - Chapter 49


In New York Dan found that Lafflin had gone to Washington to look up something in connection with his patent. In his eagerness to get away from home, Dan had supposed that his father meant to make a holiday for him, and he learned with a little surprise that he was quite in earnest about getting hold of the invention he wrote home of Lafflin's absence; and he got a telegram in reply ordering him to follow on to Washington.

The sun was shining warm on the asphalt when he stepped out of the Pennsylvania Depot with his bag in his hand, and put it into the hansom that drove up for him. The sky overhead was of an intense blue that made him remember the Boston sky as pale and grey; when the hansom tilted out into the Avenue he had a joyous glimpse of the White House; of the Capitol swimming like a balloon in the cloudless air. A keen March breeze swept the dust before him, and through its veil the classic Treasury Building showed like one edifice standing perfect amid ruin represented by the jag-tooth irregularities of the business architecture along the wide street.

He had never been in Washington before, and he had a confused sense of having got back to Rome, which he remembered from his boyish visit. Throughout his stay he seemed to be coming up against the facade of the Temple of Neptune; but it was the Patent Office, or the Treasury Building, or the White House, and under the gay Southern sky this reversion to the sensations of a happier time began at once, and made itself a lasting relief. He felt a lift in his spirits from the first. They gave him a room at Wormley's, where the chairs comported themselves as self-respectfully upon two or three legs as they would have done at Boston upon four; the cooking was excellent, and a mercenary welcome glittered from all the kind black faces around him. After the quiet of Ponkwasset and the rush of New York, the lazy ease of the hotel pleased him; the clack of boots over its pavements, the clouds of tobacco smoke, the Southern and Western accents, the spectacle of people unexpectedly encountering and recognising each other in the office and the dining-room, all helped to restore him to a hopefuller mood. Without asking his heart too curiously why, he found it lighter; he felt that he was still young.

In the weather he had struck a cold wave, and the wind was bitter in the streets, but they were full of sun; he found the grass green in sheltered places, and in one of the Circles he plucked a blossomed spray from an adventurous forceythia. This happened when he was walking from Wormley's to the Arlington by a roundabout way of his own involuntary invention, and he had the flowers in his button-hole when Lafflin was pointed out to him in the reading room there, and he introduced himself. Lafflin had put his hat far back on his head, and was intensely chewing a toothpick, with an air of rapture from everything about him. He seemed a very simple soul to Dan's inexperience of men, and the young fellow had no difficulty in committing him to a fair conditional arrangement. He was going to stay some days in Washington, and he promised other interviews, so that Dan thought it best to stay too. He used a sheet of the Arlington letter-paper in writing his father of what he had done; and then, as Lafflin had left him, he posted his letter at the clerk's desk, and wandered out through a corridor different from that which he had come in by. It led by the door of the ladies parlour, and at the sound of women's voices Dan halted. For no other reason than that such voices always irresistibly allured him, he went in, putting on an air of having come to look for some one. There were two or three groups of ladies receiving friends in different parts of the room. At the window a girl's figure silhouetted itself against the keen light, and as he advanced into the room, peering about, it turned with a certain vividness that seemed familiar. This young lady, whoever she was, had the advantage of Dan in seeing him with the light on his face, and he was still in the dark about her, when she advanced swiftly upon him, holding out her hand.

"You don't seem to know your old friends, Mr. Mavering," and the manly tones left him no doubt.

He felt a rush of gladness, and he clasped her hand and clung to it as if he were not going to let it go again, bubbling out incoherencies of pleasure at meeting her. "Why, Miss Anderson! You here? What a piece of luck! Of course I couldn't see you against the window--make you out! But something looked familiar--and the way you turned! And when you started toward me! I'm awfully glad! When--where are you--that is--"

Miss Anderson kept laughing with him, and bubbled back that she was very glad too, and she was staying with her aunt in that hotel, and they had been there a month, and didn't he think Washington was charming? But it was too bad he had just got there with that blizzard. The weather had been perfectly divine till the day before yesterday.

He took the spray of forceythia out of his buttonhole. "I can believe it. I found this in one, of the squares, and I think it belongs to you." He. offered it with a bow and a laugh, and she took it in the same humour.

"What is the language of forceythia?" she asked.

"It has none--only expressive silence, you know."

A middle-aged lady came in, and Miss Anderson said, "My aunt, Mr. Mavering."

"Mr. Mavering will hardly remember me," said the lady, giving him her hand. He protested that he should indeed, but she had really made but a vague impression upon him at Campobello. He knew that she was there with Miss Anderson; he had been polite to her as he was to all women; but he had not noticed her much, and in his heart he had a slight for her, as compared with the Boston people he was more naturally thrown with; he certainly had not remembered that she was a little hard of hearing.

Miss Van Hook was in a steel-grey effect of dress, and, she had carried this up into her hair, of which she worn two short vertical curls on each temple.

She did not sit down, and Dan perceived that the ladies were going out. In her tailor-made suit of close-fitting serge and her Paris bonnet, carried like a crest on her pretty little head, Miss Anderson was charming. She had a short veil that came across the base of her lively nose, and left her mouth and chin to make the most of themselves, unprejudiced by its irregularity.

Dan felt it a hardship to part with them, but he prepared to take himself off. Miss Anderson asked him how long he was to be in Washington, and said he must come to see them; they meant to stay two weeks yet, and then they were going to Old Point Comfort; they had their rooms engaged.

He walked down to their carriage with the ladies and put them into it, and Miss Anderson still kept him talking there.

Her aunt said: "Why shouldn't you come with us, Mr. Mavering? We're going to Mrs. Secretary Miller's reception."

Dan gave himself a glance. "I don't know--if you want me?"

"We want you," said Miss Anderson. "Very well, then, I'll go."

He got in, and they began rolling over that smooth Washington asphalt which makes talk in a carriage as easy as in a drawing-room. Dan kept saying to himself, "Now she's going to bring up Campobello;" but Miss Anderson never recurred to their former meeting, and except for the sense of old acquaintance which was manifest in her treatment of him he might have thought that they had never met before. She talked of Washington and its informal delights; and of those plans which her aunt had made, like every one who spends a month in Washington, to spend all the remaining winters of her life there.

It seemed to Dan that Miss Anderson was avoiding Campobello on his account; he knew from what Alice had told him that there had been much surmise about their affair after he had left the island, and he suspected that Miss Anderson thought the subject was painful to him. He wished to reassure her. He asked at the first break in the talk about Washington, "How are the Trevors?"

"Oh, quite well," she said, promptly availing herself of the opening. "Have you seen any of our Campobello friends lately in Boston?"

"No; I've been at home for the last month--in the country." He scanned her face to see if she knew anything of his engagement. But she seemed honestly ignorant of everything since Campobello; she was not just the kind of New York girl who would visit in Boston, or have friends living there; probably she had never heard of his engagement. Somehow this seemed to simplify matters for Dan. She did not ask specifically after the Pasmers; but that might have been because of the sort of break in her friendship with Alice after that night at the Trevors'; she did not ask specifically after Mrs. Brinkley or any of the others.

At Mrs. Secretary Miller's door there was a rapid arrival and departure of carriages, of coupes, of hansoms, and of herdics, all managed by a man in plain livery, who opened and shut the doors, and sent the drivers off without the intervention of a policeman; it is the genius of Washington, which distinguishes it from every other capital, from every other city, to make no show of formality, of any manner of constraint anywhere. People were swarming in and out; coming and going on foot as well as by carriage. The blandest of coloured uncles received their cards in the hall and put them into a vast tray heaped up with pasteboard, smiling affectionately upon them as if they had done him a favour.

"Don't you like them?" asked Dan of Miss Anderson; he meant the Southern negroes.

"I adoye them," she responded, with equal fervour. "You must study some new types here for next summer," she added.

Dan laughed and winced too. "Yes!" Then he said solemnly, "I am not going to Campobello next summer."

They felt into a stream of people tending toward an archway between the drawing-rooms, where Mrs. Secretary Miller stood with two lady friends who were helping her receive. They smiled wearily but kindly upon the crowd, for whom the Secretary's wife had a look of impartial hospitality. She could not have known more than one in fifty; and she met them all with this look at first, breaking into incredulous recognition when she found a friend. "Don't go away yet," she said cordially, to Miss Van Hook and her niece, and she held their hands for a moment with a gentle look of relief and appeal which included Dan. "Let me introduce you to Mrs. Tolliver and to Miss Dixon."

These ladies said that it was not necessary in regard to Miss Anderson and Miss Van Hook; and as the crowd pushed them on, Dan felt that they had been received with distinction.

The crowd expressed the national variety of rich and poor, plain and fashionable, urbane and rustic; they elbowed and shouldered each other upon a perfect equality in a place where all were as free to come as to the White House, and they jostled quaint groups of almond-eyed legations in the yellows and purples of the East, who looked dreamily on as if puzzled past all surmise by the scene. Certain young gentlemen with the unmistakable air of being European or South American attaches found their way about on their little feet, which the stalwart boots of the republican masses must have imperilled; and smiled with a faint diplomatic superiority, not visibly admitted, but all the same indisputable. Several of these seemed to know Miss Anderson, and took her presentation of Mavering with exaggerated effusion.

"I want to introduce you to my cousin over yonder," she said, getting rid of a minute Brazilian under-secretary, and putting her hand on Dan's arm to direct him: "Mrs. Justice Averill."

Miss Van Hook, keeping her look of severe vigilance, really followed her energetic niece, who took the lead, as a young lady must whenever she and her chaperon meet on equal terms.

Mrs. Justice Averill, who was from the far West somewhere, received Dan with the ease of the far East, and was talking London and Paris to him before the end of the third minute. It gave Dan a sense of liberation, of expansion; he filled his lungs with the cosmopolitan air in a sort of intoxication; without formulating it, he felt, with the astonishment which must always attend the Bostonian's perception of the fact, that there is a great social life in America outside of Boston. At Campobello he had thought Miss Anderson a very jolly girl, bright, and up to all sorts of things; but in the presence of the portable Boston there he could not help regarding her with a sort of tolerance which he now blushed for; he thought he had been a great ass. She seemed to know all sorts of nice people, and she strove with generous hospitality to make him have a good time. She said it was Cabinet Day, and that all the secretaries' wives were receiving, and she told him he had better make the rounds with them. He assented very willingly, and at six o'clock he was already so much in the spirit of this free and simple society, so much opener and therefore so much wiser than any other, that he professed a profound disappointment with the two or three Cabinet ladies whose failure to receive brought his pleasure to a premature close.

"But I suppose you're going to Mrs. Whittington's to-night!" Miss Anderson said to him, as they drove up to Wormley's, where she set him down. Miss Van Hook had long ceased to say anything; Dan thought her a perfect duenna. "You know you can go late there," she added.

"No, I can't go at all," said Dan. "I don't know them."

"They're New England people," urged Miss Anderson; as if to make him try to think that he was asked to Mrs. Whittington's.

"I don't know more than half the population of New England," said Dan, with apparent levity, but real forlornness.

"If you'd like to go--if you're sure you've no other engagement--"

"Oh, I'm certain of that?"

"--we would come for you."


"At half-past ten, then."

Miss Anderson explained to her aunt, who cordially confirmed her invitation, and they both shook hands with him upon it, and he backed out of the carriage with a grin of happiness on his face; it remained there while he wrote out the order for his dinner, which they require at Wormley's in holograph. The waiter reflected his smile with ethnical warm-heartedness. For a moment Dan tried to think what it was he had forgotten; he thought it was some other dish; then he remembered that it was his broken heart. He tried to subdue himself; but there was something in the air of the place, the climate, perhaps, or a pleasant sense of its facile social life, that kept him buoyant in spite of himself. He went out after dinner, and saw part of a poor play, and returned in time to dress for his appointment with Miss Anderson. Her aunt was with her, of course; she seemed to Dan more indefatigable than she was by day. He could not think her superfluous; and she was very good-natured. She made little remarks full of conventional wisdom, and appealed to his judgment on several points as they drove along. When they came to a street lamp where she could see him, he nodded and said yes, or no, respectfully. Between times he talked with Miss Anderson, who lectured him upon Washington society, and prepared him for the difference he was to find between Mrs. Whittington's evening of invited guests and the Cabinet ladies' afternoon of volunteer guests.

"Volunteer guests is good," he laughed. "Do you mean that anybody can go?"

"Anybody that is able to be about. This is Cabinet Day. There's a Supreme Court Day and a Senators' Day, and a Representatives' Day. Do you mean to say you weren't going to call upon your Senator?"

"I didn't know I had any."

"Neither did I till I came here. But you've got two; everybody's got two. And the President's wife receives three times a week, and the President has two or three days. They say the public days at the White House are great fun. I've been to some of the invited, or semi-invited or official evenings."

He could not see that difference from the great public receptions which Miss Anderson had promised him at Mrs. Whittington's, though he pretended afterward that he had done so. The people were more uniformly well dressed, there were not so many of them, and the hostess was sure of knowing her acquaintances at first glance; but there was the same ease, the same unconstraint, the same absence of provincial anxiety which makes a Washington a lighter and friendlier London. There were rather more sallow attaches; in their low-cut white waistcoats, with small brass buttons, they moved more consciously about, and looked weightier personages than several foreign ministers who were present.

Dan was soon lost from the side of Miss Anderson, who more and more seemed to him important socially. She seemed, in her present leadership; to know more of life, than he; to be maturer. But she did not abuse her superiority; she kept an effect of her last summer's friendliness for him throughout. Several times, finding herself near him; she introduced him to people.

Guests kept arriving till midnight. Among the latest, when Dan had lost himself far from Boston in talk with a young lady from Richmond, who spoke with a slur of her vowels that fascinated him, came Mr. and Mrs. Brinkley. He felt himself grow pale and inattentive to his pretty Virginian. That accent of Mrs. Brinkley's recalled him to his history. He hoped that she would not see him; but in another moment he was greeting her with a warmth which Bostonians seldom show in meeting at Boston.

"When did you come to Washington?" she asked, trying to keep her consciousness out of her eyes, which she let dwell kindly upon him.

"Day before yesterday--no, yesterday. It seems a month, I've seen and done so much," he said, with his laugh. "Miss Anderson's been showing me the whole of Washington society. Have you been here long?"

"Since morning," said Mrs. Brinkley. And she added, "Miss Anderson?"

"Yes--Campobello, don't you know?"

"Oh yes. Is she here to-night?"

"I came with her and her aunt."

"Oh yes."

"How is all Boston?" asked Dan boldly.

"I don't know; I'm just going down to Old Point Comfort to ask. Every other house on the Back Bay has been abandoned for the Hygeia." Mrs. Brinkley stopped, and then she asked. "Are you just up from there?"

"No; but I don't know but I shall go."

"Hello, Mavering!" said Mr. Brinkley, coming up and taking his hand into his fat grasp. "On your way to Fortress Monroe? Better come with us. Why; Munt!"

He turned to greet this other Bostonian, who had hardly expressed his joy at meeting with his fellow-townsmen when the hostess rustled softly up, and said, with the irony more or less friendly, which everybody uses in speaking of Boston, or recognising the intellectual pre-eminence of its people, "I'm not going to let you keep this feast of reason all to your selves. I want you to leaven the whole lump," and she began to disperse them, and to introduce them about right and left.

Dan tried to find his Virginian again, but she was gone. He found Miss Anderson; she was with her aunt. "Shall we be tearing you away?" she asked.

"Oh no. I'm quite ready to go."

His nerves were in a tremble. Those Boston faces and voices had brought it all back again; it seemed as if he had met Alice. He was silent and incoherent as they drove home, but Miss Anderson apparently did not want to talk much, and apparently did not notice his reticence.

He fell asleep with the pang in his heart which had been there so often.

When Dan came down to breakfast he found the Brinkleys at a pleasant place by one of the windows, and after they had exchanged a pleased surprise with him that they should all happen to be in the same hotel, they asked him to sit at their table.

There was a bright sun shining, and the ache was gone out of Dan's heart. He began to chatter gaily with Mrs. Brinkley about Washington.

"Oh, better come on to Fortress Monroe," said her husband. "Better come on with us."

"No, I can't just yet," said Dan. "I've got some business here that will keep me for awhile. Perhaps I may run down there a little later."

"Miss Anderson seems to have a good deal of business in Washington too," observed Brinkley, with some hazy notion of saying a pleasant rallying thing to the young man. He wondered at the glare his wife gave him. With those panned oysters before him he had forgotten all about Dan's love affair with Miss Pasmer.

Mrs. Brinkley hastened to make the mention of Miss Anderson as impersonal as possible.

"It was so nice to meet her again. She is such an honest, wholesome creature, and so bright and full of sense. She always made me think of the broad daylight. I always liked that girl."

"Yes; isn't she jolly?" said Dan joyously. "She seems to know everybody here. It's a great piece of luck for me. They're going to take a house in Washington next winter."

"Yes; I know that stage," said Mrs. Brinkley. "Her aunt's an amusingly New-York respectability. I don't think you'd find just such Miss Mitford curls as hers in all Boston."

"Yes, they are like the portraits, aren't they?" said Dan; delighted. "She's very nice, don't you think?"

"Very. But Miss Anderson is more than that. I was disposed to be critical of her at Campobello for a while, but she wore extremely well. All at once you found yourself admiring her uncommon common-sense.

"Yes. That's just it," cried Dan. "She is so sensible!"

"I think she's very pretty," said Mrs. Brinkley.

"Well, her nose," suggested Dan. "It seems a little capricious."

"It's a trifle bizarre, I suppose. But what beautiful eyes! And her figure! I declare that girl's carriage is something superb."

"Yes, she has a magnificent walk."

"Walks with her carriage," mused Brinkley aloud.

His wife did not regard him. "I don't know what Miss Anderson's principles are, but her practices are perfect. I never knew her do an unkind or shabby thing. She seems very good and very wise. And that deep voice of hers has such a charm. It's so restful. You feel as if you could repose upon it for a thousand years. Well! You will get down before we leave?"

"Yes, I will," said Dan. "I'm here after a man who's after a patent, and as soon as I can finish up my business with him I believe I will run down to Fortress Monroe."

"This eleven-o'clock train will get you there at six," said Brinkley. "Better telegraph for your rooms."

"Or, let us know," said Mrs. Brinkley, "and we'll secure them for you."

"Oh, thank you," said Dan.

He went away, feeling that Mrs. Brinkley was the pleasantest woman he ever met. He knew that she had talked Miss Anderson so fully in order to take away the implication of her husband's joke, and he admired her tact. He thought of this as he loitered along the street from Wormley's to the Arlington, where he was going to find Miss Anderson, by an appointment of the night before, and take a walk with her; and thinking of tact made him think of Mrs. Pasmer. Mrs. Pasmer was full of tact; and how kind she had always been to him! She had really been like a mother to him; he was sure she had understood him; he believed she had defended him; with a futility of which he felt the pathos, he made her defend him now to Alice. Alice was very hard and cold, as when he saw her last; her mother's words fell upon her as upon a stone; even Mrs. Pasmer's tears, which Dan made her shed, had no effect upon the haughty girl. Not that he cared now.

The blizzard of the previous days had whirled away; the sunshine lay still, with a warm glisten and sparkle, on the asphalt which seemed to bask in it, and which it softened to the foot. He loitered by the gate of the little park or plantation where the statue of General Jackson is riding a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, and looked over at the French-Italian classicism of the White House architecture with a pensive joy at finding pleasure in it, and then he went on to the Arlington.

Miss Anderson was waiting for him in the parlour, and they went a long walk up the avenues and across half the alphabet in the streets, and through the pretty squares and circles, where the statues were sometimes beautiful and always picturesque; and the sparrows made a vernal chirping in the naked trees and on the green grass. In two or three they sat down on the iron benches and rested.

They talked and talked--about the people they knew, and of whom they found that they thought surprisingly alike, and about themselves, whom they found surprisingly alike in a great many things, and then surprisingly unlike. Dan brought forward some points of identity which he, and Alice had found in themselves; it was just the same with Miss Anderson. She found herself rather warm with the seal-skin sacque she had put on; she let him carry it on his arm while they walked, and then lay it over her shoulders when they sat down. He felt a pang of self-reproach, as if he had been inconstant to Alice. This was an old habit of feeling, formed during the months of their engagement, when, at her inspiration, he was always bringing himself to book about something. He replied to her bitterly, in the colloquy which began to hold itself in his mind, and told her that she had no claim upon him now; that if his thoughts wandered from her it was her fault, not his; that she herself had set them free. But in fact he was like all young men, with a thousand, potentialities of loving. There was no aspect of beauty that did not tenderly move him; he could not help a soft thrill at the sight of any pretty shape, the sound of any piquant voice; and Alice had merely been the synthesis of all that was most charming to this fancy. This is a truth which it is the convention of the poets and the novelists to deny; but it is also true that she might have remained the sum of all that was loveliest if she would; or if she could.

It was chiefly because she would not or could not that his glance recognised the charm of Miss Anderson's back hair, both in its straying gossamer and in the loose mass in which it was caught up under her hat, when he laid her sacque on her shoulders. They met that afternoon at a Senator's, and in the house of a distinguished citizen, to whose wife Dan had been presented at Mrs. Whittington's, and who had somehow got his address, and sent him a card for her evening. They encountered here with a jocose old friendliness, and a profession of being tired of always meeting Miss Anderson and Mr. Mavering. He brought her salad and ice, and they made an appointment for another walk in the morning, if it was fine.

He carried her some flowers. A succession of fine days followed, and they walked every morning. Sometimes Dan was late, and explained that it was his patent-right man had kept him. She was interested in the patent-right man, whom Dan began to find not quite so simple as at first, but she was not exacting with him about his want of punctuality; she was very easy-going; she was not always ready herself. When he began to beat about the bush, to talk insincerities, and to lose himself in intentionless plausibilities, she waited with serene patience for him to have done, and met him on their habitual ground of frankness and reality as if he had not left it. He got to telling her all his steps with his patent-right man, who seemed to be growing mote and more slippery, and who presently developed a demand for funds. Then she gave him some very shrewd, practical advice, and told him to go right into the hotel office and telegraph to his father while she was putting on her bonnet.

"Yes," he said, "that's what I thought of doing." But he admired her for advising him; he said to himself that Miss Anderson was the kind of girl his father would admire. She was good, and she was of the world too; that was what his father meant. He imagined himself arriving home and saying, "Well father, you know that despatch I sent you, about Lafflin's wanting money?" and telling him about Miss Anderson. Then he fancied her acquainted with his sisters and visiting them, and his father more and more fond of her, and perhaps in declining health, and eager to see his son settled in life; and he pictured himself telling her that he had done with love for ever, but if she could accept respect, fidelity, gratitude, he was ready to devote his life to her. She refused him, but they always remained good friends and comrades; she married another, perhaps Boardman, while Dan was writing out his telegram, and he broke into whispered maledictions on his folly, which attracted the notice of the operator.

One morning when he sent up his name to Miss Anderson, whom he did not find in the hotel parlour, the servant came back with word that Miss Van Hook would like to have him come up to their rooms. But it was Miss Anderson who met him at the door.

"It seemed rather formal to send you word that Miss Van Hook was indisposed, and Miss Anderson would be unable to walk this morning, and I thought perhaps you'd rather come up and get my regrets in person. And I wanted you to see our view."

She led the way to the window for it, but they did not look at it, though they sat down there apparently for the purpose. Dan put his hat beside his chair, and observed some inattentive civilities in inquiring after Miss Van Hook's health, and in hearing that it was merely a bad headache, one of a sort in which her niece hated to leave her to serve herself with the wet compresses which Miss Van Hook always bore on her forehead for it.

"One thing: it's decided us to be off for Fortress Monroe at last. We shall go by the boat to-morrow, if my aunt's better."

"To-morrow?" said Dan. "What's to become of me when you're gone?"

"Oh, we shall not take the whole population with us," suggested Miss Anderson.

"I wish you would take me. I told Mrs. Brinkley I would come while she was there, but I'm afraid I can't get off. Lafflin is developing into all sorts of strange propositions."

"I think you'd better look out for that man," said Miss Anderson.

"Oh, I do nothing without consulting my father. But I shall miss you."

"Thank you," said the girl gravely.

"I don't mean in a business capacity only."

They both laughed, and Dan looked about the room, which he found was a private hotel parlour, softened to a more domestic effect by the signs of its prolonged occupation by two refined women. On a table stood a leather photograph envelope with three cabinet pictures in it. Along the top lay a spray of withered forceythia. Dan's wandering eyes rested on it. Miss Anderson went and softly closed the door opening into the next room.

"I was afraid our talking might disturb my aunt," she said, and on her way back to him she picked up the photograph case and brought it to the light. "These are my father and mother. We live at Yonkers; but I'm with my aunt a good deal of the time in town--even when I'm at home." She laughed at her own contradictory statement, and put the case back without explaining the third figure--a figure in uniform. Dan conjectured a military brother, or from her indifference perhaps a militia brother, and then forgot about him. But the partial Yonkers residence accounted for traits of unconventionality in Miss Anderson which he had not been able to reconcile with the notion of an exclusively New York breeding. He felt the relief, the sympathy, the certainty of intelligence which every person whose life has been partly spent in the country feels at finding that a suspected cockney has also had the outlook into nature and simplicity.

On the Yonkers basis they became more intimate, more personal, and Dan told her about Ponkwasset Falls and his mother and sisters; he told her about his father, and she said she should like to see his father; she thought he must be like her father.

All at once, and for no reason that he could think of afterward, except, perhaps, the desire to see the case with her eyes, he began to tell her of his affair with Alice, and how and why it was broken off; he told the whole truth in regard to that, and did not spare himself.

She listened without once speaking, but without apparent surprise at the confidence, though she may have felt surprised. At times she looked as if her thoughts were away from what he was saying.

He ended with, "I'm sure I don't know why I've told you all this. But I wanted you to know about me. The worst."

Miss Anderson said, looking down, "I always thought she was a very conscientious giyl." Then after a pause, in which she seemed to be overcoming an embarrassment in being obliged to speak of another in such a conviction, "I think she was very moybid. She was like ever so many New England giyls that I've met. They seem to want some excuse for suffering; and they must suffer even if it's through somebody else. I don't know; they're romantic, New England giyls are; they have too many ideals."

Dan felt a balm in this; he too had noticed a superfluity of ideals in Alice, he had borne the burden of realising some of them; they all seemed to relate in objectionable degree to his perfectionation. So he said gloomily, "She was very good. And I was to blame."

"Oh yes!" said Miss Anderson, catching her breath in a queer way; "she seyved you right."

She rose abruptly, as if she heard her aunt speak, and Dan perceived that he had been making a long call.

He went away dazed and dissatisfied; he knew now that he ought not to have told Miss Anderson about his affair, unless he meant more by his confidence than he really did--unless he meant to follow it up.

He took leave of her, and asked her to make his adieux to her aunt; but the next day he came down to the boat to see them off. It seemed to him that their interview had ended too hastily; he felt sore and restless over it; he hoped that something more conclusive might happen. But at the boat Miss Anderson and her aunt were inseparable. Miss Van Hook said she hoped they should soon see him at the Hygeia, and he replied that he was not sure that he should be able to come after all.

Miss Anderson called something after him as he turned from them to go ashore. He ran back eagerly to know what it was. "Better lookout for that Mr. Lafflin of yours," she repeated.

"Oh! oh yes," he said, indefinitely disappointed. "I shall keep a sharp eye on him." He was disappointed, but he could not have said what he had hoped or expected her to say. He was humbled before himself for having told Miss Anderson about his affair with Alice, and had wished she would say something that he might scramble back to his self-esteem upon. He had told her all that partly from mere weakness, from his longing for the sympathy which he was always so ready to give, and partly from the willingness to pose before her as a broken heart, to dazzle her by the irony and persiflage with which he could treat such a tragical matter; but he could not feel that he had succeeded. The sum of her comment had been that Alice had served him right. He did not know whether she really believed that or merely said it to punish him for some reason; but he could never let it be the last word. He tingled as he turned to wave his handkerchief to her on the boat, with the suspicion that she was laughing at him; and he could not console himself with any hero of a novel who had got himself into just such a box. There were always circumstances, incidents, mitigations, that kept the hero still a hero, and ennobled the box into an unjust prison cell.

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Home As Found - Chapter 2 Home As Found - Chapter 2

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