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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTheir Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 72
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Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 72 Post by :jlassociates Category :Long Stories Author :William Dean Howells Date :May 2012 Read :2040

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Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 72

PART III CHAPTER LXXII

In the morning March came home from his bankers gay with the day's provisional sunshine in his heart, and joyously expectant of his wife's pleasure in the letters he was bringing. There was one from each of their children, and there was one from Fulkerson, which March opened and read on the street, so as to intercept any unpleasant news there might be in them; there were two letters for Mrs. March which he knew without opening were from Miss Triscoe and Mrs. Adding respectively; Mrs. Adding's, from the postmarks, seemed to have been following them about for some time.

"They're all right at home," he said. "Do see what those people have been doing."

"I believe," she said, taking a knife from the breakfast tray beside her bed to cut the envelopes, "that you've really cared more about them all along than I have."

"No, I've only been anxious to be done with them."

She got the letters open, and holding one of them up in each hand she read them impartially and simultaneously; then she flung them both down, and turned her face into her pillow with an impulse of her inalienable girlishness. "Well, it is too silly."

March felt authorized to take them up and read them consecutively; when he had done, so he did not differ from his wife. In one case, Agatha had written to her dear Mrs. March that she and Burnamy had just that evening become engaged; Mrs. Adding, on her part owned a farther step, and announced her marriage to Mr. Kenby. Following immemorial usage in such matters Kenby had added a postscript affirming his happiness in unsparing terms, and in Agatha's letter there was an avowal of like effect from Burnamy. Agatha hinted her belief that her father would soon come to regard Burnamy as she did; and Mrs. Adding professed a certain humiliation in having realized that, after all her misgiving about him, Rose seemed rather relieved than otherwise, as if he were glad to have her off his hands.

"Well," said March, "with these troublesome affairs settled, I don't see what there is to keep us in Europe any longer, unless it's the consensus of opinion in Tom, Bella, and Fulkerson, that we ought to stay the winter."

"Stay the winter!" Mrs. March rose from her pillow, and clutched the home letters to her from the abeyance in which they had fallen on the coverlet while she was dealing with the others. "What do you mean?"

"It seems to have been prompted by a hint you let drop, which Tom has passed to Bella and Fulkerson."

"Oh, but that was before we left Carlsbad!" she protested, while she devoured the letters with her eyes, and continued to denounce the absurdity of the writers. Her son and daughter both urged that now their father and mother were over there, they had better stay as long as they enjoyed it, and that they certainly ought not to come home without going to Italy, where they had first met, and revisiting the places which they had seen together when they were young engaged people: without that their silver wedding journey would not be complete. Her son said that everything was going well with 'Every Other Week', and both himself and Mr. Fulkerson thought his father ought to spend the winter in Italy, and get a thorough rest. "Make a job of it, March," Fulkerson wrote, "and have a Sabbatical year while you're at it. You may not get another."

"Well, I can tell them," said Mrs. March indignantly, "we shall not do anything of the kind."

"Then you didn't mean it?"

"Mean it!" She stopped herself with a look at her husband, and asked gently, "Do you want to stay?"

"Well, I don't know," he answered vaguely. The fact was, he was sick of travel and of leisure; he was longing to be at home and at work again. But if there was to be any self-sacrifice which could be had, as it were, at a bargain; which could be fairly divided between them, and leave him the self and her the sacrifice, he was too experienced a husband not to see the advantage of it, or to refuse the merit. "I thought you wished to stay."

"Yes," she sighed, "I did. It has been very, very pleasant, and, if anything, I have over-enjoyed myself. We have gone romping through it like two young people, haven't we?"

"You have," he assented. "I have always felt the weight of my years in getting the baggage registered; they have made the baggage weigh more every time."

"And I've forgotten mine. Yes, I have. But the years haven't forgotten me, Basil, and now I remember them. I'm tired. It doesn't seem as if I could ever get up. But I dare say it's only a mood; it may be only a cold; and if you wish to stay, why--we will think it over."

"No, we won't, my dear," he said, with a generous shame for his hypocrisy if not with a pure generosity. "I've got all the good out of it that there was in it, for me, and I shouldn't go home any better six months hence than I should now. Italy will keep for another time, and so, for the matter of that, will Holland."

"No, no!" she interposed. "We won't give up Holland, whatever we do. I couldn't go home feeling that I had kept you out of your after-cure; and when we get there, no doubt the sea air will bring me up so that I shall want to go to Italy, too, again. Though it seems so far off, now! But go and see when the afternoon train for the Hague leaves, and I shall be ready. My mind's quite made up on that point."

"What a bundle of energy!" said her husband laughing down at her.

He went and asked about the train to the Hague, but only to satisfy a superficial conscience; for now he knew that they were both of one mind about going home. He also looked up the trains for London, and found that they could get there by way of Ostend in fourteen hours. Then he went back to the banker's, and with the help of the Paris-New York Chronicle which he found there, he got the sailings of the first steamers home. After that he strolled about the streets for a last impression of Dusseldorf, but it was rather blurred by the constantly recurring pull of his thoughts toward America, and he ended by turning abruptly at a certain corner, and going to his hotel.

He found his wife dressed, but fallen again on her bed, beside which her breakfast stood still untasted; her smile responded wanly to his brightness. "I'm not well, my dear," she said. "I don't believe I could get off to the Hague this afternoon."

"Could you to Liverpool?" he returned.

"To Liverpool?" she gasped. "What do you mean?"

"Merely that the Cupania is sailing on the twentieth, and I've telegraphed to know if we can get a room. I'm afraid it won't be a good one, but she's the first boat out, and--"

"No, indeed, we won't go to Liverpool, and we will never go home till you've had your after-cure in Holland." She was very firm in this, but she added, "We will stay another night, here, and go to the Hague tomorrow. Sit down, and let us talk it over. Where were we?"

She lay down on the sofa, and he put a shawl over her. "We were just starting for Liverpool."

"No, no we weren't! Don't say such things, dearest! I want you to help me sum it all, up. You think it's been a success, don't you?"

"As a cure?"

"No, as a silver wedding journey?"

"Perfectly howling."

"I do think we've had a good time. I never expected to enjoy myself so much again in the world. I didn't suppose I should ever take so much interest in anything. It shows that when we choose to get out of our rut we shall always find life as fresh and delightful as ever. There is nothing to prevent our coming any year, now that Tom's shown himself so capable, and having another silver wedding journey. I don't like to think of it's being confined to Germany quite."

"Oh, I don't know. We can always talk of it as our German-Silver Wedding Journey."

"That's true. But nobody would understand nowadays what you meant by German-silver; it's perfectly gone out. How ugly it was! A sort of greasy yellowish stuff, always getting worn through; I believe it was made worn through. Aunt Mary had a castor of it, that I can remember when I was a child; it went into the kitchen long before I grew up. Would a joke like that console you for the loss of Italy?"

"It would go far to do it. And as a German-Silver Wedding Journey, it's certainly been very complete."

"What do you mean?"

"It's given us a representative variety of German cities. First we had Hamburg, you know, a great modern commercial centre."

"Yes! Go on!"

"Then we had Leipsic, the academic."

"Yes!"

"Then Carlsbad, the supreme type of a German health resort; then Nuremberg, the mediaeval; then Anspach, the extinct princely capital; then Wurzburg, the ecclesiastical rococo; then Weimar, for the literature of a great epoch; then imperial Berlin; then Frankfort, the memory of the old free city; then Dusseldorf, the centre of the most poignant personal interest in the world--I don't see how we could have done better, if we'd planned it all, and not acted from successive impulses."

"It's been grand; it's been perfect! As German-Silver Wedding Journey it's perfect--it seems as if it had been ordered! But I will never let you give up Holland! No, we will go this afternoon, and when I get to Schevleningen, I'll go to bed, and stay there, till you've completed your after-cure."

"Do you think that will be wildly gay for the convalescent?"

She suddenly began to cry. "Oh, dearest, what shall we do? I feel perfectly broken down. I'm afraid I'm going to be sick--and away from home! How could you ever let me overdo, so?" She put her handkerchief to her eyes, and turned her face into the sofa pillow.

This was rather hard upon him, whom her vivid energy and inextinguishable interest had not permitted a moment's respite from pleasure since they left Carlsbad. But he had been married, too long not to understand that her blame of him was only a form of self-reproach for her own self-forgetfulness. She had not remembered that she was no longer young till she had come to what he saw was a nervous collapse. The fact had its pathos and its poetry which no one could have felt more keenly than he. If it also had its inconvenience and its danger he realized these too.

"Isabel," he said, "we are going home."

"Very well, then it will be your doing."

"Quite. Do you think you could stand it as far as Cologne? We get the sleeping-car there, and you can lie down the rest of the way to Ostend."

"This afternoon? Why I'm perfectly strong; it's merely my nerves that are gone." She sat up, and wiped her eyes. "But Basil! If you're doing this for me--"

"I'm doing it for myself," said March, as he went out of the room.

She stood the journey perfectly well, and in the passage to Dover she suffered so little from the rough weather that she was an example to many robust matrons who filled the ladies' cabin with the noise of their anguish during the night. She would have insisted upon taking the first train up to London, if March had not represented that this would not expedite the sailing of the Cupania, and that she might as well stay the forenoon at the convenient railway hotel, and rest. It was not quite his ideal of repose that the first people they saw in the coffee-room when they went to breakfast should be Kenby and Rose Adding, who were having their tea and toast and eggs together in the greatest apparent good-fellowship. He saw his wife shrink back involuntarily from the encounter, but this was only to gather force for it; and the next moment she was upon them in all the joy of the surprise. Then March allowed himself to be as glad as the others both seemed, and he shook hands with Kenby while his wife kissed Rose; and they all talked at once. In the confusion of tongues it was presently intelligible that Mrs. Kenby was going to be down in a few minutes; and Kenby took March into his confidence with a smile which was, almost a wink in explaining that he knew how it was with the ladies. He said that Rose and he usually got down to breakfast first, and when he had listened inattentively to Mrs. March's apology for being on her way home, he told her that she was lucky not to have gone to Schevleningen, where she and March would have frozen to death. He said that they were going to spend September at a little place on the English coast, near by, where he had been the day before with Rose to look at lodgings, and where you could bathe all through the month. He was not surprised that the Marches were going home, and said, Well, that was their original plan, wasn't it?

Mrs. Kenby, appearing upon this, pretended to know better, after the outburst of joyful greeting with the Marches; and intelligently reminded Kenby that he knew the Marches had intended to pass the winter in Paris. She was looking extremely pretty, but she wished only to make them see how well Rose was looking, and she put her arm round his shoulders as she spoke, Schevleningen had done wonders for him, but it was fearfully cold there, and now they were expecting everything from Westgate, where she advised March to come, too, for his after-cure: she recollected in time to say, She forgot they were on their way home. She added that she did not know when she should return; she was merely a passenger, now; she left everything to the men of the family. She had, in fact, the air of having thrown off every responsibility, but in supremacy, not submission. She was always ordering Kenby about; she sent him for her handkerchief, and her rings which she had left either in the tray of her trunk, or on the pin-cushion, or on the wash-stand or somewhere, and forbade him to come back without them. He asked for her keys, and then with a joyful scream she owned that she had left the door-key in the door and the whole bunch of trunk-keys in her trunk; and Kenby treated it all as the greatest joke; Rose, too, seemed to think that Kenby would make everything come right, and he had lost that look of anxiety which he used to have; at the most he showed a friendly sympathy for Kenby, for whose sake he seemed mortified at her. He was unable to regard his mother as the delightful joke which she appeared to Kenby, but that was merely temperamental; and he was never distressed except when she behaved with unreasonable caprice at Kenby's cost.

As for Kenby himself he betrayed no dissatisfaction with his fate to March. He perhaps no longer regarded his wife as that strong character which he had sometimes wearied March by celebrating; but she was still the most brilliant intelligence, and her charm seemed only to have grown with his perception of its wilful limitations. He did not want to talk about her so much; he wanted rather to talk about Rose, his health, his education, his nature, and what was best to do for him. The two were on terms of a confidence and affection which perpetually amused Mrs. Kenby, but which left the sympathetic witness nothing to desire in their relation.

They all came to the train when the Marches started up to London, and stood waving to them as they pulled out of the station. "Well, I can't see but that's all right," he said as he sank back in his seat with a sigh of relief. "I never supposed we should get out of their marriage half so well, and I don't feel that you quite made the match either, my dear."

She was forced to agree with him that the Kenbys seemed happy together, and that there was nothing to fear for Rose in their happiness. He would be as tenderly cared for by Kenby as he could have been by his mother, and far more judiciously. She owned that she had trembled for him till she had seen them all together; and now she should never tremble again.

"Well?" March prompted, at a certain inconclusiveness in her tone rather than her words.

"Well, you can see that it, isn't ideal."

"Why isn't it ideal? I suppose you think that the marriage of Burnamy and Agatha Triscoe will be ideal, with their ignorances and inexperiences and illusions."

"Yes! It's the illusions: no marriage can be perfect without them, and at their age the Kenbys can't have them."

"Kenby is a solid mass of illusion. And I believe that people can go and get as many new illusions as they want, whenever they've lost their old ones."

"Yes, but the new illusions won't wear so well; and in marriage you want illusions that will last. No; you needn't talk to me. It's all very well, but it isn't ideal."

March laughed. "Ideal! What is ideal?"

"Going home!" she said with such passion that he had not the heart to point out that they were merely returning to their old duties, cares and pains, with the worn-out illusion that these would be altogether different when they took them up again.

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Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 73 Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 73

Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 3 - Chapter 73
PART III CHAPTER LXXIIIIn fulfilment of another ideal Mrs. March took straightway to her berth when she got on board the Cupania, and to her husband's admiration she remained there till the day before they reached New York. Her theory was that the complete rest would do more than anything else to calm her shaken nerves; and she did not admit into her calculations the chances of adverse weather which March would not suggest as probable in the last week in September. The event justified her unconscious faith. The ship's run was of unparalled swiftness, even for the Cupania, and of
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PART III CHAPTER LXXIThe morning was raw, but it was something not to have it rainy; and the clouds that hung upon the hills and hid their tops were at least as fine as the long board signs advertising chocolate on the river banks. The smoke rising from the chimneys of the manufactories of Mayence was not so bad, either, when one got them in the distance a little; and March liked the way the river swam to the stems of the trees on the low grassy shores. It was like the Mississippi between St. Louis and Cairo in that, and
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