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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTheir Silver Wedding Journey - Part 1 - Chapter 4
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Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 1 - Chapter 4 Post by :TrevorReed Category :Long Stories Author :William Dean Howells Date :May 2012 Read :1416

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Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 1 - Chapter 4


From this time their decision to go was none the less explicit because so perfectly tacit.

They began to amass maps and guides. She got a Baedeker for Austria and he got a Bradshaw for the continent, which was never of the least use there, but was for the present a mine of unavailable information. He got a phrase-book, too, and tried to rub up his German. He used to read German, when he was a boy, with a young enthusiasm for its romantic poetry, and now, for the sake of Schiller and Uhland and Heine, he held imaginary conversations with a barber, a bootmaker, and a banker, and tried to taste the joy which he had not known in the language of those poets for a whole generation. He perceived, of course, that unless the barber, the bootmaker, and the banker answered him in terms which the author of the phrase-book directed them to use, he should not get on with them beyond his first question; but he did not allow this to spoil his pleasure in it. In fact, it was with a tender emotion that he realized how little the world, which had changed in everything else so greatly, had changed in its ideal of a phrase-book.

Mrs. March postponed the study of her Baedeker to the time and place for it; and addressed herself to the immediate business of ascertaining the respective merits of the Colmannia and Norumbia. She carried on her researches solely among persons of her own sex; its experiences were alone of that positive character which brings conviction, and she valued them equally at first or second hand. She heard of ladies who would not cross in any boat but the Colmannia, and who waited for months to get a room on her; she talked with ladies who said that nothing would induce them to cross in her. There were ladies who said she had twice the motion that the Norumbia had, and the vibration from her twin screws was frightful; it always was, on those twin-screw boats, and it did not affect their testimony with Mrs. March that the Norumbia was a twin-screw boat too. It was repeated to her in the third or fourth degree of hear-say that the discipline on the Colmannia was as perfect as that on the Cunarders; ladies whose friends had tried every line assured her that the table of the Norumbia was almost as good as the table of the French boats. To the best of the belief of lady witnesses still living who had friends on board, the Colmannia had once got aground, and the Norumbia had once had her bridge carried off by a tidal wave; or it might be the Colmannia; they promised to ask and let her know. Their lightest word availed with her against the most solemn assurances of their husbands, fathers, or brothers, who might be all very well on land, but in navigation were not to be trusted; they would say anything from a reckless and culpable optimism. She obliged March all the same to ask among them, but she recognized their guilty insincerity when he came home saying that one man had told him you could have played croquet on the deck of the Colmannia the whole way over when he crossed, and another that he never saw the racks on in three passages he had made in the Norumbia.

The weight of evidence was, he thought, in favor of the Norumbia, but when they went another Sunday to Hoboken, and saw the ship, Mrs. March liked her so much less than the Colmannia that she could hardly wait for Monday to come; she felt sure all the good rooms on the Colmannia would be gone before they could engage one.

From a consensus of the nerves of all the ladies left in town so late in the season, she knew that the only place on any steamer where your room ought to be was probably just where they could not get it. If you went too high, you felt the rolling terribly, and people tramping up and down on the promenade under your window kept you awake the whole night; if you went too low, you felt the engine thump, thump, thump in your head the whole way over. If you went too far forward, you got the pitching; if you went aft, on the kitchen side, you got the smell of the cooking. The only place, really, was just back of the dining-saloon on the south side of the ship; it was smooth there, and it was quiet, and you had the sun in your window all the way over. He asked her if he must take their room there or nowhere, and she answered that he must do his best, but that she would not be satisfied with any other place.

In his despair he went down to the steamer office, and took a room which one of the clerks said was the best. When he got home, it appeared from reference to the ship's plan that it was the very room his wife had wanted from the beginning, and she praised him as if he had used a wisdom beyond his sex in getting it.

He was in the enjoyment of his unmerited honor when a belated lady came with her husband for an evening call, before going into the country. At sight of the plans of steamers on the Marches' table, she expressed the greatest wonder and delight that they were going to Europe. They had supposed everybody knew it, by this time, but she said she had not heard a word of it; and she went on with some felicitations which March found rather unduly filial. In getting a little past the prime of life he did not like to be used with too great consideration of his years, and he did not think that he and his wife were so old that they need be treated as if they were going on a golden wedding journey, and heaped with all sorts of impertinent prophecies of their enjoying it so much and being so much the better for the little outing! Under his breath, he confounded this lady for her impudence; but he schooled himself to let her rejoice at their going on a Hanseatic boat, because the Germans were always so careful of you. She made her husband agree with her, and it came out that he had crossed several times on both the Colmannia and the Norumbia. He volunteered to say that the Colmannia, was a capital sea-boat; she did not have her nose under water all the time; she was steady as a rock; and the captain and the kitchen were simply out of sight; some people did call her unlucky.

"Unlucky?" Mrs. March echoed, faintly. "Why do they call her unlucky?"

"Oh, I don't know. People will say anything about any boat. You know she broke her shaft, once, and once she got caught in the ice."

Mrs. March joined him in deriding the superstition of people, and she parted gayly with this over-good young couple. As soon as they were gone, March knew that she would say: "You must change that ticket, my dear. We will go in the Norumbia."

"Suppose I can't get as good a room on the Norumbia?"

"Then we must stay."

In the morning after a night so bad that it was worse than no night at all, she said she would go to the steamship office with him and question them up about the Colmannia. The people there had never heard she was called an unlucky boat; they knew of nothing disastrous in her history. They were so frank and so full in their denials, and so kindly patient of Mrs. March's anxieties, that he saw every word was carrying conviction of their insincerity to her. At the end she asked what rooms were left on the Norumbia, and the clerk whom they had fallen to looked through his passenger list with a shaking head. He was afraid there was nothing they would like.

"But we would take anything," she entreated, and March smiled to think of his innocence in supposing for a moment that she had ever dreamed of not going.

"We merely want the best," he put in. "One flight up, no noise or dust, with sun in all the windows, and a place for fire on rainy days."

They must be used to a good deal of American joking which they do not understand, in the foreign steamship offices. The clerk turned unsmilingly to one of his superiors and asked him some question in German which March could not catch, perhaps because it formed no part of a conversation with a barber, a bootmaker or a banker. A brief drama followed, and then the clerk pointed to a room on the plan of the Norumbia and said it had just been given up, and they could have it if they decided to take it at once.

They looked, and it was in the very place of their room on the Colmannia; it was within one of being the same number. It was so providential, if it was providential at all, that they were both humbly silent a moment; even Mrs. March was silent. In this supreme moment she would not prompt her husband by a word, a glance, and it was from his own free will that he said, "We will take it."

He thought it was his free will, but perhaps one's will is never free; and this may have been an instance of pure determinism from all the events before it. No event that followed affected it, though the day after they had taken their passage on the Norumbia he heard that she had once been in the worst sort of storm in the month of August. He felt obliged to impart the fact to his wife, but she said that it proved nothing for or against the ship, and confounded him more by her reason than by all her previous unreason. Reason is what a man is never prepared for in women; perhaps because he finds it so seldom in men.

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Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 1 - Chapter 5 Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 1 - Chapter 5

Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 1 - Chapter 5
PART I CHAPTER VDuring nearly the whole month that now passed before the date of sailing it seemed to March that in some familiar aspects New York had never been so interesting. He had not easily reconciled himself to the place after his many years of Boston; but he had got used to the ugly grandeur, to the noise and the rush, and he had divined more and more the careless good-nature and friendly indifference of the vast, sprawling, ungainly metropolis. There were happy moments when he felt a poetry unintentional and unconscious in it, and he thought there was no

Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 1 - Chapter 3 Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 1 - Chapter 3

Their Silver Wedding Journey - Part 1 - Chapter 3
PART I CHAPTER IIIHe was one of those men who live from the inside outward; he often took a hint for his actions from his fancies; and now because he had fancied some people going to look at steamers on Sundays, he chose the next Sunday himself for their visit to the Hanseatic boat at Hoboken. To be sure it was a leisure day with him, but he might have taken the afternoon of any other day, for that matter, and it was really that invisible thread of association which drew him. The Colmannia had been in long enough to have