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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Kentons - Chapter 21
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The Kentons - Chapter 21 Post by :tallerdecine Category :Long Stories Author :William Dean Howells Date :May 2012 Read :3157

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The Kentons - Chapter 21


In his exile from his kindred, for it came practically to that, Boyne was able to add a fine gloom to the state which he commonly observed with himself when he was not giving way to his morbid fancies or his morbid fears, and breaking down in helpless subjection to the nearest member of his household. Lottie was so taken up with her student that she scarcely quarrelled with him any more, and they had no longer those moments of union in which they stood together against the world. His mother had cast him off, as he felt, very heartlessly, though it was really because she could not give his absurdities due thought in view of the hopeful seriousness of Ellen's affair, and Boyne was aware that his father at the best of times was ignorant of him when he was not impatient of him. These were not the best of times with Judge Kenton, and Boyne was not the first object of his impatience. In the last analysis he was living until he could get home, and so largely in the hope of this that his wife at times could scarcely keep him from taking some step that would decide the matter between Ellen and Breckon at once. They were tacitly agreed that they were waiting for nothing else, and, without making their agreement explicit, she was able to quell him by asking what he expected to do in case there was nothing between them? Was he going to take the child back to Tuskingum, which was the same as taking her back to Bittridge? it hurt her to confront him with this question, and she tried other devices for staying and appeasing him. She begged him now, seeing Boyne so forlorn, and hanging about the hotel alone, or moping over those ridiculous books of his, to go off with the boy somewhere and see the interesting places within such easy reach, like Leyden and Delft if he cared nothing for the place where William the Silent was shot, he ought to see the place that the Pilgrims started from. She had counted upon doing those places herself, with her husband, and it was in a sacrifice of her ideal that she now urged him to go with Boyne. But her preoccupation with Ellen's affair forbade her self-abandon to those high historical interests to which she urged his devotion. She might have gone with him and Boyne, but then she must have left the larger half of her divided mind with Ellen, not to speak of Lottie, who refused to be a party to any such excursion. Mrs. Kenton felt the disappointment and grieved at it, but not without hope of repairing it later, and she did not cease from entreating the judge to do what he could at once towards fulfilling the desires she postponed. Once she prevailed with him, and really got him and Boyne off for a day, but they came back early, with signs of having bored each other intolerably, and after that it was Boyne, as much as his father, who relucted from joint expeditions. Boyne did not so much object to going alone, and his father said it was best to let him, though his mother had her fears for her youngest. He spent a good deal of his time on the trams between Scheveningen and The Hague, and he was understood to have explored the capital pretty thoroughly. In fact, he did go about with a valet de place, whom he got at a cheap rate, and with whom he conversed upon the state of the country and its political affairs. The valet said that the only enemy that Holland could fear was Germany, but an invasion from that quarter could be easily repulsed by cutting the dikes and drowning the invaders. The sea, he taught Boyne, was the great defence of Holland, and it was a waste of money to keep such an army as the Dutch had; but neither the sea nor the sword could drive out the Germans if once they insidiously married a Prussian prince to the Dutch Queen.

There seemed to be no getting away from the Queen, for Boyne. The valet not only talked about her, as the pleasantest subject which he could find, but he insisted upon showing Boyne all her palaces. He took him into the Parliament house, and showed him where she sat while the queen-mother read the address from the throne. He introduced him at a bazar where the shop-girl who spoke English better than Boyne, or at least without the central Ohio accent, wanted to sell him a miniature of the Queen on porcelain. She said the Queen was such a nice girl, and she was herself such a nice girl that Boyne blushed a little in looking at her. He bought the miniature, and then he did not know what to do with it; if any of the family, if Lottie, found out that he had it, or that Trannel, he should have no peace any more. He put it in his pocket, provisionally, and when he came giddily out of the shop he felt himself taken by the elbow and placed against the wall by the valet, who said the queens were coming. They drove down slowly through the crowded, narrow street, bowing right and left to the people flattened against the shops, and again Boyne saw her so near that he could have reached out his hand and almost touched hers.

The consciousness of this was so strong in him that he wondered whether he had not tried to do so. If he had he would have been arrested--he knew that; and so he knew that he had not done it. He knew that he imagined doing so because it would be so awful to have done it, and he imagined being in love with her because it would be so frantic. At the same time he dramatized an event in which he died for her, and she became aware of his hopeless passion at the last moment, while the anarchist from whom he had saved her confessed that the bomb had been meant for her. Perhaps it was a pistol.

He escaped from the valet as soon as he could, and went back to Scheveningen limp from this experience, but the queens were before him. They had driven down to visit the studio of a famous Dutch painter there, and again the doom was on Boyne to press forward with the other spectators and wait for the queens to appear and get into their carriage. The young Queen's looks were stamped in Boyne's consciousness, so that he saw her wherever he turned, like the sun when one has gazed at it. He thought how that Trannel had said he ought to hand her into her carriage, and he shrank away for fear he should try to do so, but he could not leave the place till she had come out with the queen--mother and driven off. Then he went slowly and breathlessly into the hotel, feeling the Queen's miniature in his pocket. It made his heart stand still, and then bound forward. He wondered again what he should do with it. If he kept it, Lottie would be sure to find it, and he could not bring himself to the sacrilege of destroying it. He thought he would walk out on the breakwater as far as he could and throw it into the sea, but when he got to the end of the mole he could not do so. He decided that he would give it to Ellen to keep for him, and not let Lottie see it; or perhaps he might pretend he had bought it for her. He could not do that, though, for it would not be true, and if he did he could not ask her to keep it from Lottie.

At dinner Mr. Trannel told him he ought to have been there to see the Queen; that she had asked especially for him, and wanted to know if they had not sent up her card to him. Boyne meditated an apt answer through all the courses, but he had not thought of one when they had come to the 'corbeille de fruits', and he was forced to go to bed without having avenged himself.

In taking rooms for her family at the hotel, Lottie had arranged for her emancipation from the thraldom of rooming with Ellen. She said that had gone on long enough; if she was grown up at all, she was grown up enough to have a room of her own, and her mother had yielded to reasoning which began and ended with this position. She would have interfered so far as to put Lottie into the room next her, but Lottie said that if Boyne was the baby he ought to be next his mother; Ellen might come next him, but she was going to have the room that was furthest from any implication of the dependence in which she had languished; and her mother submitted again. Boyne was not sorry; there had always been hours of the night when he felt the need of getting at his mother for reassurance as to forebodings which his fancy conjured up to trouble him in the wakeful dark. It was understood that he might freely do this, and though the judge inwardly fretted, he could not deny the boy the comfort of his mother's encouraging love. Boyne's visits woke him, but he slept the better for indulging in the young nerves that tremor from impressions against which the old nerves are proof. But now, in the strange fatality which seemed to involve him, Boyne could not go to his mother. It was too weirdly intimate, even for her; besides, when he had already tried to seek her counsel she had ignorantly repelled him.

The night after his day in The Hague, when he could bear it no longer, he put on his dressing-gown and softly opened Ellen's door, "awake, Ellen?" he whispered.

"Yes, What is it, Boyne" her gentle voice asked.

"He came and sat down by her bed and stole his hand into hers, which she put out to him. The watery moonlight dripped into the room at the edges of the shades, and the long wash of the sea made itself regularly heard on the sands.

"Can't you sleep?" Ellen asked again. "Are you homesick?"

"Not exactly that. But it does seem rather strange for us to be off here so far, doesn't it?"

"Yes, I don't see how I can forgive myself for making you come," said Ellen, but her voice did not sound as if she were very unhappy.

"You couldn't help it," said Boyne, and the words suggested a question to him. "Do you believe that such things are ordered, Ellen?"

"Everything is ordered, isn't it?"

"I suppose so. And if they are, we're not, to blame for what happens."

"Not if we try to do right."

"Of course. The Kentons always do that," said Boyne, with the faith in his family that did not fail him in the darkest hour. "But what I mean is that if anything comes on you that you can't foresee and you can't get out of--" The next step was not clear, and Boyne paused. He asked,

"Do you think that we can control our feelings, Ellen?"

"About what?"

"Well, about persons that we like." He added, for safety, "Or dislike."

"I'm afraid not," said Ellen, sadly, "We ought to like persons and dislike them for some good reason, but we don't."

"Yes, that's what I mean," said Borne, with a long breath. "Sometimes it seems like a kind of possession, doesn't it?"

"It seems more like that when we like them," Ellen said.

"Yes, that's what I mean. If a person was to take a fancy to some one that was above him, that was richer, or older, he wouldn't be to blame for it, would he?"

"Was that what you wanted to ask me about?"

Borne hesitated. "Yes" he said. He was in for it now.

Ellen had not noticed Boyne's absorption with Miss Rasmith on the ship, but she vaguely remembered hearing Lottie tease him about her, and she said now, "He wouldn't be to blame for it if he couldn't help it, but if the person was much older it would be a pity!"

"Uh, she isn't so very much older," said Borne, more cheerfully than he had spoken before.

"Is it somebody that you have taken a fancy to Borne?"

"I don't know, Ellen. That's what makes it so kind of awful. I can't tell whether it's a real fancy, or I only think it is. Sometimes I think it is, and sometimes I think that I think so because I am afraid to believe it. Do you under Ellen?"

"It seems to me that I do. But you oughtn't to let your fancy run away with you, Boyne. What a queer boy!"

"It's a kind of fascination, I suppose. But whether it's a real fancy or an unreal one, I can't get away from it."

"Poor boy!" said his sister.

"Perhaps it's those books. Sometimes I think it is, and I laugh at the whole idea; and then again it's so strong that I can't get away from it. Ellen!"

"Well, Boyne?"

"I could tell you who it is, if you think that would do any good--if you think it would help me to see it in the true light, or you could help me more by knowing who it is than you can now."

"I hope it isn't anybody that you can't respect, Boyne?"

"No, indeed! It's somebody you would never dream of."

"Well?" Ellen was waiting for him to speak, but he could not get the words out, even to her.

"I guess I'll tell you some other time. Maybe I can get over it myself."

"It would be the best way if you could."

He rose and left her bedside, and then he came back. "Ellen, I've got something that I wish you would keep for me."

"What is it? Of course I will."

"Well, it's--something I don't want you to let Lottie know I've got. She tells that Mr. Trannel everything, and then he wants to make fun. Do you think he's so very witty?"

"I can't help laughing at some things he says."

"I suppose he is," Boyne ruefully admitted. "But that doesn't make you like him any better. Well, if you won't tell Lottie, I'll give it to you now."

"I won't tell anything that you don't want me to, Boyne."

"It's nothing. It's just-a picture of the Queen on porcelain, that I got in The Hague. The guide took me into the store, and I thought I ought to get something."

"Oh, that's very nice, Boyne. I do like the Queen so much. She's so sweet!"

"Yes, isn't she?" said Boyne, glad of Ellen's approval. So far, at least, he was not wrong. "Here it is now."

He put the miniature in Ellen's hand. She lifted herself on her elbow. "Light the candle and let me see it."

"No, no!" he entreated. "It might wake Lottie, and--and--Good-night, Ellen."

"Can you go to sleep now, Boyne?"

"Oh yes. I'm all right. Good-night."

"Good-night, then."

Borne stooped over and kissed her, and went to the door. He came back and asked, "You don't think it was silly, or anything, for me to get it?"

"No, indeed! It's just what you will like to have when you get home. We've all seen her so often. I'll put it in my trunk, and nobody shall know about it till we're safely back in Tuskingum."

Boyne sighed deeply. "Yes, that's what I meant. Good-night."

"Good-night, Boyne."

"I hope I haven't waked you up too much?"

"Oh no. I can get to sleep easily again."

"Well, good-night." Boyne sighed again, but not so deeply, and this time he went out.

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CHAPTER XXIIMrs. Kenton woke with the clear vision which is sometimes vouchsafed to people whose eyes are holden at other hours of the day. She had heard Boyne opening and shutting Ellen's door, and her heart smote her that he should have gone to his sister with whatever trouble he was in rather than come to his mother. It was natural that she should put the blame on her husband, and "Now, Mr. Kenton," she began, with an austerity of voice which he recognized before he was well awake, "if you won't take Boyne off somewhere to-day, I will. I think

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The Kentons - Chapter 20
CHAPTER XXFrom the easy conquest of the men who looked at her Lottie proceeded to the subjection of the women. It would have been more difficult to put these down, if the process had not been so largely, so almost entirely subjective. As it was, Lottie exchanged snubs with many ladies of the continental nationalities who were never aware of having offered or received offence. In some cases, when they fearlessly ventured to speak with her, they behaved very amiable, and seemed to find her conduct sufficiently gracious in return. In fact, she was approachable enough, and had no shame, before