By Charles Dudley Warner
When Irene looked out of her stateroom window early in the morning of the
twentieth of March, there was a softness and luminous quality in the
horizon clouds that prophesied spring. The steamboat, which had left
Baltimore and an arctic temperature the night before, was drawing near
the wharf at Fortress Monroe, and the passengers, most of whom were
seeking a mild climate, were crowding the guards, eagerly scanning the
long facade of the Hygeia Hotel.
"It looks more like a conservatory than a hotel," said Irene to her
father, as she joined him.
"I expect that's about what it is. All those long corridors above and
below enclosed in glass are to protect the hothouse plants of New York
and Boston, who call it a Winter Resort, and I guess there's considerable
winter in it."
"But how charming it is—the soft sea air, the low capes yonder, the
sails in the opening shining in the haze, and the peaceful old fort! I
think it's just enchanting."
"I suppose it is. Get a thousand people crowded into one hotel under
glass, and let 'em buzz around—that seems to be the present notion of
enjoyment. I guess your mother'll like it."
And she did. Mrs. Benson, who appeared at the moment, a little flurried
with her hasty toilet, a stout, matronly person, rather overdressed for
traveling, exclaimed: "What a homelike looking place! I do hope the
Stimpsons are here!"
"No doubt the Stimpsons are on hand," said Mr. Benson. "Catch them not
knowing what's the right thing to do in March! They know just as well as
you do that the Reynoldses and the Van Peagrims are here."
The crowd of passengers, alert to register and secure rooms, hurried up
the windy wharf. The interior of the hotel kept the promise of the
outside for comfort. Behind the glass-defended verandas, in the spacious
office and general lounging-room, sea-coal fires glowed in the wide
grates, tables were heaped with newspapers and the illustrated pamphlets
in which railways and hotels set forth the advantages of leaving home;
luxurious chairs invited the lazy and the tired, and the hotel-bureau,
telegraph-office, railway-office, and post-office showed the new-comer
that even in this resort he was still in the centre of activity and
uneasiness. The Bensons, who had fortunately secured rooms a month in
advance, sat quietly waiting while the crowd filed before the register,
and took its fate from the courteous autocrat behind the counter. "No
room," was the nearly uniform answer, and the travelers had the
satisfaction of writing their names and going their way in search of
entertainment. "We've eight hundred people stowed away," said the clerk,
"and not a spot left for a hen to roost."
At the end of the file Irene noticed a gentleman, clad in a
perfectly-fitting rough traveling suit, with the inevitable crocodile
hand-bag and tightly-rolled umbrella, who made no effort to enroll ahead
of any one else, but having procured some letters from the post-office
clerk, patiently waited till the rest were turned away, and then put down
his name. He might as well have written it in his hat. The deliberation
of the man, who appeared to be an old traveler, though probably not more
than thirty years of age, attracted Irene's attention, and she could not
help hearing the dialogue that followed.
"What can you do for me?"
"Nothing," said the clerk.
"Can't you stow me away anywhere? It is Saturday, and very inconvenient
for me to go any farther."
"Cannot help that. We haven't an inch of room."
"Well, where can I go?"
"You can go to Baltimore. You can go to Washington; or you can go to
Richmond this afternoon. You can go anywhere."
"Couldn't I," said the stranger, with the same deliberation—"wouldn't
you let me go to Charleston?"
"Why," said the clerk, a little surprised, but disposed to accommodate
—"why, yes, you can go to Charleston. If you take at once the boat you
have just left, I guess you can catch the train at Norfolk."
As the traveler turned and called a porter to reship his baggage, he was
met by a lady, who greeted him with the cordiality of an old acquaintance
and a volley of questions.
"Why, Mr. King, this is good luck. When did you come? have you a good
room? What, no, not going?"
Mr. King explained that he had been a resident of Hampton Roads just
fifteen minutes, and that, having had a pretty good view of the place, he
was then making his way out of the door to Charleston, without any
breakfast, because there was no room in the inn.
"Oh, that never'll do. That cannot be permitted," said his engaging
friend, with an air of determination. "Besides, I want you to go with us
on an excursion today up the James and help me chaperon a lot of young
ladies. No, you cannot go away."
And before Mr. Stanhope King—for that was the name the traveler had
inscribed on the register—knew exactly what had happened, by some
mysterious power which women can exercise even in a hotel, when they
choose, he found himself in possession of a room, and was gayly
breakfasting with a merry party at a little round table in the
"He appears to know everybody," was Mrs. Benson's comment to Irene, as
she observed his greeting of one and another as the guests tardily came
down to breakfast. "Anyway, he's a genteel-looking party. I wonder if
he belongs to Sotor, King and Co., of New York?"
"Oh, mother," began Irene, with a quick glance at the people at the next
table; and then, "if he is a genteel party, very likely he's a drummer.
The drummers know everybody."
And Irene confined her attention strictly to her breakfast, and never
looked up, although Mrs. Benson kept prattling away about the young man's
appearance, wondering if his eyes were dark blue or only dark gray, and
why he didn't part his hair exactly in the middle and done with it, and a
full, close beard was becoming, and he had a good, frank face anyway, and
why didn't the Stimpsons come down; and, "Oh, there's the Van Peagrims,"
and Mrs. Benson bowed sweetly and repeatedly to somebody across the room.
To an angel, or even to that approach to an angel in this world, a person
who has satisfied his appetite, the spectacle of a crowd of people
feeding together in a large room must be a little humiliating. The fact
is that no animal appears at its best in this necessary occupation. But
a hotel breakfast-room is not without interest. The very way in which
people enter the room is a revelation of character. Mr. King, who was
put in good humor by falling on his feet, as it were, in such agreeable
company, amused himself by studying the guests as they entered. There
was the portly, florid man, who "swelled" in, patronizing the entire
room, followed by a meek little wife and three timid children. There was
the broad, dowager woman, preceded by a meek, shrinking little man, whose
whole appearance was an apology. There was a modest young couple who
looked exceedingly self-conscious and happy, and another couple, not
quite so young, who were not conscious of anybody, the gentleman giving a
curt order to the waiter, and falling at once to reading a newspaper,
while his wife took a listless attitude, which seemed to have become
second nature. There were two very tall, very graceful, very high-bred
girls in semi-mourning, accompanied by a nice lad in tight clothes, a
model of propriety and slender physical resources, who perfectly
reflected the gracious elevation of his sisters. There was a
preponderance of women, as is apt to be the case in such resorts. A fact
explicable not on the theory that women are more delicate than men, but
that American men are too busy to take this sort of relaxation, and that
the care of an establishment, with the demands of society and the worry
of servants, so draw upon the nervous energy of women that they are glad
to escape occasionally to the irresponsibility of hotel life. Mr. King
noticed that many of the women had the unmistakable air of familiarity
with this sort of life, both in the dining-room and at the office, and
were not nearly so timid as some of the men. And this was very
observable in the case of the girls, who were chaperoning their mothers
—shrinking women who seemed a little confused by the bustle, and a
little awed by the machinery of the great caravansary.
At length Mr. King's eye fell upon the Benson group. Usually it is
unfortunate that a young lady should be observed for the first time at
table. The act of eating is apt to be disenchanting. It needs
considerable infatuation and perhaps true love on the part of a young man
to make him see anything agreeable in this performance. However
attractive a girl may be, the man may be sure that he is not in love if
his admiration cannot stand this test. It is saying a great deal for
Irene that she did stand this test even under the observation of a
stranger, and that she handled her fork, not to put too fine a point upon
it, in a manner to make the fastidious Mr. King desirous to see more of
her. I am aware that this is a very unromantic view to take of one of
the sweetest subjects in life, and I am free to confess that I should
prefer that Mr. King should first have seen Irene leaning on the
balustrade of the gallery, with a rose in her hand, gazing out over the
sea with "that far-away look in her eyes." It would have made it much
easier for all of us. But it is better to tell the truth, and let the
girl appear in the heroic attitude of being superior to her
Presently Mr. King said to his friend, Mrs. Cortlandt, "Who is that
clever-looking, graceful girl over there?"
"That," said Mrs. Cortlandt, looking intently in the direction indicated
—"why, so it is; that's just the thing," and without another word she
darted across the room, and Mr. King saw her in animated conversation
with the young lady. Returning with satisfaction expressed in her face,
she continued, "Yes, she'll join our party—without her mother. How
lucky you saw her!"
"Well! Is it the Princess of Paphlagonia?"
"Oh, I forgot you were not in Washington last winter. That's Miss
Benson; just charming; you'll see. Family came from Ohio somewhere.
You'll see what they are—but Irene! Yes, you needn't ask; they've got
money, made it honestly. Began at the bottom—as if they were in
training for the presidency, you know—the mother hasn't got used to it
as much as the father. You know how it is. But Irene has had every
advantage—the best schools, masters, foreign travel, everything. Poor
girl! I'm sorry for her. Sometimes I wish there wasn't any such thing
as education in this country, except for the educated. She never shows
it; but of course she must see what her relatives are."
The Hotel Hygeia has this advantage, which is appreciated, at least by
the young ladies. The United States fort is close at hand, with its
quota of young officers, who have the leisure in times of peace to
prepare for war, domestic or foreign; and there is a naval station across
the bay, with vessels that need fashionable inspection. Considering the
acknowledged scarcity of young men at watering-places, it is the duty of
a paternal government to place its military and naval stations close to
the fashionable resorts, so that the young women who are studying the
german [(dance) D.W.] and other branches of the life of the period can
have agreeable assistants. It is the charm of Fortress Monroe that its
heroes are kept from ennui by the company assembled there, and that they
can be of service to society.
When Mrs. Cortlandt assembled her party on the steam-tug chartered by her
for the excursion, the army was very well represented. With the
exception of the chaperons and a bronzed veteran, who was inclined to
direct the conversation to his Indian campaigns in the Black Hills, the
company was young, and of the age and temper in which everything seems
fair in love and war, and one that gave Mr. King, if he desired it, an
opportunity of studying the girl of the period—the girl who impresses
the foreigner with her extensive knowledge of life, her fearless freedom
of manner, and about whom he is apt to make the mistake of supposing that
this freedom has not perfectly well-defined limits. It was a delightful
day, such as often comes, even in winter, within the Capes of Virginia;
the sun was genial, the bay was smooth, with only a light breeze that
kept the water sparkling brilliantly, and just enough tonic in the air to
excite the spirits. The little tug, which was pretty well packed with
the merry company, was swift, and danced along in an exhilarating manner.
The bay, as everybody knows, is one of the most commodious in the world,
and would be one of the most beautiful if it had hills to overlook it.
There is, to be sure, a tranquil beauty in its wooded headlands and long
capes, and it is no wonder that the early explorers were charmed with it,
or that they lost their way in its inlets, rivers, and bays. The company
at first made a pretense of trying to understand its geography, and asked
a hundred questions about the batteries, and whence the Merrimac
appeared, and where the Congress was sunk, and from what place the
Monitor darted out upon its big antagonist. But everything was on a
scale so vast that it was difficult to localize these petty incidents
(big as they were in consequences), and the party soon abandoned history
and geography for the enjoyment of the moment. Song began to take the
place of conversation. A couple of banjos were produced, and both the
facility and the repertoire of the young ladies who handled them
astonished Irene. The songs were of love and summer seas, chansons in
French, minor melodies in Spanish, plain declarations of affection in
distinct English, flung abroad with classic abandon, and caught up by the
chorus in lilting strains that partook of the bounding, exhilarating
motion of the little steamer. Why, here is material, thought King, for a
troupe of bacchantes, lighthearted leaders of a summer festival. What
charming girls, quick of wit, dashing in repartee, who can pick the
strings, troll a song, and dance a brando!
"It's like sailing over the Bay of Naples," Irene was saying to Mr. King,
who had found a seat beside her in the little cabin; "the
guitar-strumming and the impassioned songs, only that always seems to me
a manufactured gayety, an attempt to cheat the traveler into the belief
that all life is a holiday. This is spontaneous."
"Yes, and I suppose the ancient Roman gayety, of which the Neapolitan is
an echo, was spontaneous once. I wonder if our society is getting to
dance and frolic along like that of old at Baiae!"
"Oh, Mr. King, this is an excursion. I assure you the American girl is a
serious and practical person most of the time. You've been away so long
that your standards are wrong. She's not nearly so knowing as she seems
The boat was preparing to land at Newport News—a sand bank, with a
railway terminus, a big elevator, and a hotel. The party streamed along
in laughing and chatting groups, through the warehouse and over the
tracks and the sandy hillocks to the hotel. On the way they captured a
novel conveyance, a cart with an ox harnessed in the shafts, the property
of an aged negro, whose white hair and variegated raiment proclaimed him
an ancient Virginian, a survival of the war. The company chartered this
establishment, and swarmed upon it till it looked like a Neapolitan
'calesso', and the procession might have been mistaken for a
harvest-home—the harvest of beauty and fashion. The hotel was captured
without a struggle on the part of the regular occupants, a dance
extemporized in the dining-room, and before the magnitude of the invasion
was realized by the garrison, the dancing feet and the laughing girls
were away again, and the little boat was leaping along in the Elizabeth
River towards the Portsmouth Navy-yard.
It isn't a model war establishment this Portsmouth yard, but it is a
pleasant resort, with its stately barracks and open square and occasional
trees. In nothing does the American woman better show her patriotism
than in her desire to inspect naval vessels and understand dry-docks
under the guidance of naval officers. Besides some old war hulks at the
station, there were a couple of training-ships getting ready for a
cruise, and it made one proud of his country to see the interest shown by
our party in everything on board of them, patiently listening to the
explanation of the breech-loading guns, diving down into the
between-decks, crowded with the schoolboys, where it is impossible for a
man to stand upright and difficult to avoid the stain of paint and tar,
or swarming in the cabin, eager to know the mode of the officers' life at
sea. So these are the little places where they sleep? and here is where
they dine, and here is a library—a haphazard case of books in the
It was in running her eyes over these that a young lady discovered that
the novels of Zola were among the nautical works needed in the navigation
of a ship of war.
On the return—and the twenty miles seemed short enough—lunch was
served, and was the occasion of a good deal of hilarity and innocent
badinage. There were those who still sang, and insisted on sipping the
heel-taps of the morning gayety; but was King mistaken in supposing that
a little seriousness had stolen upon the party—a serious intention,
namely, between one and another couple? The wind had risen, for one
thing, and the little boat was so tossed about by the vigorous waves that
the skipper declared it would be imprudent to attempt to land on the
Rip-Raps. Was it the thought that the day was over, and that underneath
all chaff and hilarity there was the question of settling in life to be
met some time, which subdued a little the high spirits, and gave an air
of protection and of tenderness to a couple here and there? Consciously,
perhaps, this entered into the thought of nobody; but still the old story
will go on, and perhaps all the more rapidly under a mask of raillery and
There was great bustling about, hunting up wraps and lost parasols and
mislaid gloves, and a chorus of agreement on the delight of the day, upon
going ashore, and Mrs. Cortlandt, who looked the youngest and most
animated of the flock, was quite overwhelmed with thanks and
congratulations upon the success of her excursion.
"Yes, it was perfect; you've given us all a great deal of pleasure, Mrs.
Cortlandt," Mr. King was saying, as he stood beside her, watching the
Perhaps Mrs. Cortlandt fancied his eyes were following a particular
figure, for she responded, "And how did you like her?"
"Like her—Miss Benson? Why, I didn't see much of her. I thought she
was very intelligent—seemed very much interested when Lieutenant Green
was explaining to her what made the drydock dry—but they were all that.
Did you say her eyes were gray? I couldn't make out if they were not
rather blue after all—large, changeable sort of eyes, long lashes; eyes
that look at you seriously and steadily, without the least bit of
coquetry or worldliness; eyes expressing simplicity and interest in what
you are saying—not in you, but in what you are saying. So few women
know how to listen; most women appear to be thinking of themselves and
the effect they are producing."
Mrs. Cortlandt laughed. "Ah; I see. And a little 'sadness' in them,
wasn't there? Those are the most dangerous eyes. The sort that follow
you, that you see in the dark at night after the gas is turned off."
"I haven't the faculty of seeing things in the dark, Mrs. Cortlandt. Oh,
there's the mother!" And the shrill voice of Mrs. Benson was heard, "We
was getting uneasy about you. Pa says a storm's coming, and that you'd
be as sick as sick."
The weather was changing. But that evening the spacious hotel,
luxurious, perfectly warmed, and well lighted, crowded with an agreeable
if not a brilliant company—for Mr. King noted the fact that none of the
gentlemen dressed for dinner—seemed all the more pleasant for the
contrast with the weather outside. Thus housed, it was pleasant to hear
the waves dashing against the breakwater. Just by chance, in the
ballroom, Mr. King found himself seated by Mrs. Benson and a group of
elderly ladies, who had the perfunctory air of liking the mild gayety of
the place. To one of them Mr. King was presented, Mrs. Stimpson—a stout
woman with a broad red face and fishy eyes, wearing an elaborate
head-dress with purple flowers, and attired as if she were expecting to
take a prize. Mrs. Stimpson was loftily condescending, and asked Mr.
King if this was his first visit. She'd been coming here years and
years; never could get through the spring without a few weeks at the
Hygeia. Mr. King saw a good many people at this hotel who seemed to
regard it as a home.
"I hope your daughter, Mrs. Benson, was not tired out with the rather
long voyage today."
"Not a mite. I guess she enjoyed it. She don't seem to enjoy most
things. She's got everything heart can wish at home. I don't know how
it is. I was tellin' pa, Mr. Benson, today that girls ain't what they
used to be in my time. Takes more to satisfy 'em. Now my daughter, if I
say it as shouldn't, Mr. King, there ain't a better appearin,' nor
smarter, nor more dutiful girl anywhere—well, I just couldn't live
without her; and she's had the best schools in the East and Europe; done
all Europe and Rome and Italy; and after all, somehow, she don't seem
contented in Cyrusville—that's where we live in Ohio—one of the
smartest places in the state; grown right up to be a city since we was
married. She never says anything, but I can see. And we haven't spared
anything on our house. And society—there's a great deal more society
than I ever had."
Mr. King might have been astonished at this outpouring if he had not
observed that it is precisely in hotels and to entire strangers that some
people are apt to talk with less reserve than to intimate friends.
"I've no doubt," he said, "you have a lovely home in Cyrusville."
"Well, I guess it's got all the improvements. Pa, Mr. Benson, said that
he didn't know of anything that had been left out, and we had a man up
from Cincinnati, who did all the furnishing before Irene came home."
"Perhaps your daughter would have preferred to furnish it herself?"
"Mebbe so. She said it was splendid, but it looked like somebody else's
house. She says the queerest things sometimes. I told Mr. Benson that I
thought it would be a good thing to go away from home a little while and
travel round. I've never been away much except in New York, where Mr.
Benson has business a good deal. We've been in Washington this winter."
"Are you going farther south?"
"Yes; we calculate to go down to the New Orleans Centennial. Pa wants to
see the Exposition, and Irene wants to see what the South looks like, and
so do I. I suppose it's perfectly safe now, so long after the war?"
"Oh, I should say so."
"That's what Mr. Benson says. He says it's all nonsense the talk about
what the South 'll do now the Democrats are in. He says the South wants
to make money, and wants the country prosperous as much as anybody. Yes,
we are going to take a regular tour all summer round to the different
places where people go. Irene calls it a pilgrimage to the holy places
of America. Pa thinks we'll get enough of it, and he's determined we
shall have enough of it for once. I suppose we shall. I like to travel,
but I haven't seen any place better than Cyrusville yet."
As Irene did not make her appearance, Mr. King tore himself away from
this interesting conversation and strolled about the parlors, made
engagements to take early coffee at the fort, to go to church with Mrs.
Cortlandt and her friends, and afterwards to drive over to Hampton and
see the copper and other colored schools, talked a little politics over a
late cigar, and then went to bed, rather curious to see if the eyes that
Mrs. Cortlandt regarded as so dangerous would appear to him in the
When he awoke, his first faint impressions were that the Hygeia had
drifted out to sea, and then that a dense fog had drifted in and
enveloped it. But this illusion was speedily dispelled. The
window-ledge was piled high with snow. Snow filled the air, whirled
about by a gale that was banging the window-shutters and raging exactly
like a Northern tempest.
It swirled the snow about in waves and dark masses interspersed with
rifts of light, dark here and luminous there. The Rip-Raps were lost to
view. Out at sea black clouds hung in the horizon, heavy reinforcements
for the attacking storm. The ground was heaped with the still
fast-falling snow—ten inches deep he heard it said when he descended.
The Baltimore boat had not arrived, and could not get in. The waves at
the wharf rolled in, black and heavy, with a sullen beat, and the sky
shut down close to the water, except when a sudden stronger gust of wind
cleared a luminous space for an instant. Stormbound: that is what the
Hygeia was—a winter resort without any doubt.
The hotel was put to a test of its qualities. There was no getting
abroad in such a storm. But the Hygeia appeared at its best in this
emergency. The long glass corridors, where no one could venture in the
arctic temperature, gave, nevertheless, an air of brightness and
cheerfulness to the interior, where big fires blazed, and the company
were exalted into good-fellowship and gayety—a decorous Sunday gayety
—by the elemental war from which they were securely housed.
If the defenders of their country in the fortress mounted guard that
morning, the guests at the Hygeia did not see them, but a good many of
them mounted guard later at the hotel, and offered to the young ladies
there that protection which the brave like to give the fair.
Notwithstanding this, Mr. Stanhope King could not say the day was dull.
After a morning presumably spent over works of a religious character,
some of the young ladies, who had been the life of the excursion the day
before, showed their versatility by devising serious amusements befitting
the day, such as twenty questions on Scriptural subjects, palmistry,
which on another day is an aid to mild flirtation, and an exhibition of
mind-reading, not public—oh, dear, no—but with a favored group in a
private parlor. In none of these groups, however, did Mr. King find Miss
Benson, and when he encountered her after dinner in the reading-room, she
confessed that she had declined an invitation to assist at the
mind-reading, partly from a lack of interest, and partly from a
reluctance to dabble in such things.
"Surely you are not uninterested in what is now called psychical
research?" he asked.
"That depends," said Irene. "If I were a physician, I should like to
watch the operation of the minds of 'sensitives' as a pathological study.
But the experiments I have seen are merely exciting and unsettling,
without the least good result, with a haunting notion that you are being
tricked or deluded. It is as much as I can do to try and know my own
mind, without reading the minds of others."
"But you cannot help the endeavor to read the mind of a person with whom
you are talking."
"Oh, that is different. That is really an encounter of wits, for you
know that the best part of a conversation is the things not said. What
they call mindreading is a vulgar business compared to this. Don't you
think so, Mr. King?"
What Mr. King was actually thinking was that Irene's eyes were the most
unfathomable blue he ever looked into, as they met his with perfect
frankness, and he was wondering if she were reading his present state of
mind; but what he said was, "I think your sort of mind-reading is a good
deal more interesting than the other," and he might have added,
dangerous. For a man cannot attempt to find out what is in a woman's
heart without a certain disturbance of his own. He added, "So you think
our society is getting too sensitive and nervous, and inclined to make
dangerous mental excursions?"
"I'm afraid I do not think much about such things," Irene replied,
looking out of the window into the storm. "I'm content with a very
simple faith, even if it is called ignorance."
Mr. King was thinking, as he watched the clear, spirited profile of the
girl shown against the white tumult in the air, that he should like to
belong to the party of ignorance himself, and he thought so long about it
that the subject dropped, and the conversation fell into ordinary
channels, and Mrs. Benson appeared. She thought they would move on as
soon as the storm was over. Mr. King himself was going south in the
morning, if travel were possible. When he said good-by, Mrs. Benson
expressed the pleasure his acquaintance had given them, and hoped they
should see him in Cyrusville. Mr. King looked to see if this invitation
was seconded in Irene's eyes; but they made no sign, although she gave
him her hand frankly, and wished him a good journey.
The next morning he crossed to Norfolk, was transported through the
snow-covered streets on a sledge, and took his seat in the cars for the
most monotonous ride in the country, that down the coast-line.
When next Stanhope King saw Fortress Monroe it was in the first days of
June. The summer which he had left in the interior of the Hygeia was now
out-of-doors. The winter birds had gone north; the summer birds had not
yet come. It was the interregnum, for the Hygeia, like Venice, has two
seasons, one for the inhabitants of colder climes, and the other for
natives of the country. No spot, thought our traveler, could be more
lovely. Perhaps certain memories gave it a charm, not well defined, but
still gracious. If the house had been empty, which it was far from
being, it would still have been peopled for him. Were they all such
agreeable people whom he had seen there in March, or has one girl the
power to throw a charm over a whole watering-place? At any rate, the
place was full of delightful repose. There was movement enough upon the
water to satisfy one's lazy longing for life, the waves lapped soothingly
along the shore, and the broad bay, sparkling in the sun, was animated
with boats, which all had a holiday air. Was it not enough to come down
to breakfast and sit at the low, broad windows and watch the shifting
panorama? All about the harbor slanted the white sails; at intervals a
steamer was landing at the wharf or backing away from it; on the wharf
itself there was always a little bustle, but no noise, some pretense of
business, and much actual transaction in the way of idle attitudinizing,
the colored man in castoff clothes, and the colored sister in sun-bonnet
or turban, lending themselves readily to the picturesque; the scene
changed every minute, the sail of a tiny boat was hoisted or lowered
under the window, a dashing cutter with its uniformed crew was pulling
off to the German man-of-war, a puffing little tug dragged along a line
of barges in the distance, and on the horizon a fleet of coasters was
working out between the capes to sea. In the open window came the fresh
morning breeze, and only the softened sounds of the life outside. The
ladies came down in cool muslin dresses, and added the needed grace to
the picture as they sat breakfasting by the windows, their figures in
silhouette against the blue water.
No wonder our traveler lingered there a little! Humanity called him, for
one thing, to drive often with humanely disposed young ladies round the
beautiful shore curve to visit the schools for various colors at Hampton.
Then there was the evening promenading on the broad verandas and out upon
the miniature pier, or at sunset by the water-batteries of the old fort
—such a peaceful old fortress as it is. All the morning there were
"inspections" to be attended, and nowhere could there be seen a more
agreeable mingling of war and love than the spacious, tree-planted
interior of the fort presented on such occasions. The shifting figures
of the troops on parade; the martial and daring manoeuvres of the
regimental band; the groups of ladies seated on benches under the trees,
attended by gallants in uniform, momentarily off duty and full of
information, and by gallants not in uniform and never off duty and
desirous to learn; the ancient guns with French arms and English arms,
reminiscences of Yorktown, on one of which a pretty girl was apt to be
perched in the act of being photographed—all this was enough to inspire
any man to be a countryman and a lover. It is beautiful to see how
fearless the gentle sex is in the presence of actual war; the prettiest
girls occupied the front and most exposed seats; and never flinched when
the determined columns marched down on them with drums beating and colors
flying, nor showed much relief when they suddenly wheeled and marched to
another part of the parade in search of glory. And the officers'
quarters in the casemates—what will not women endure to serve their
country! These quarters are mere tunnels under a dozen feet of earth,
with a door on the parade side and a casement window on the outside—a
damp cellar, said to be cool in the height of summer. The only excuse
for such quarters is that the women and children will be comparatively
safe in case the fortress is bombarded.
The hotel and the fortress at this enchanting season, to say nothing of
other attractions, with laughing eyes and slender figures, might well
have detained Mr. Stanhope King, but he had determined upon a sort of
roving summer among the resorts of fashion and pleasure. After a long
sojourn abroad, it seemed becoming that he should know something of the
floating life of his own country. His determination may have been
strengthened by the confession of Mrs. Benson that her family were
intending an extensive summer tour. It gives a zest to pleasure to have
even an indefinite object, and though the prospect of meeting Irene again
was not definite, it was nevertheless alluring. There was something
about her, he could not tell what, different from the women he had met in
France. Indeed, he went so far as to make a general formula as to the
impression the American women made on him at Fortress Monroe—they all
appeared to be innocent.
CAPE MAY, ATLANTIC CITY
"Of course you will not go to Cape May till the season opens. You might
as well go to a race-track the day there is no race." It was Mrs.
Cortlandt who was speaking, and the remonstrance was addressed to Mr.
Stanhope King, and a young gentleman, Mr. Graham Forbes, who had just
been presented to her as an artist, in the railway station at
Philadelphia, that comfortable home of the tired and bewildered traveler.
Mr. Forbes, with his fresh complexion, closely cropped hair, and London
clothes, did not look at all like the traditional artist, although the
sharp eyes of Mrs. Cortlandt detected a small sketch-book peeping out of
his side pocket.
"On the contrary, that is why we go," said Mr. King. "I've a fancy that
I should like to open a season once myself."
"Besides," added Mr. Forbes, "we want to see nature unadorned. You know,
Mrs. Cortlandt, how people sometimes spoil a place."
"I'm not sure," answered the lady, laughing, "that people have not
spoiled you two and you need a rest. Where else do you go?"
"Well, I thought," replied Mr. King, "from what I heard, that Atlantic
City might appear best with nobody there."
"Oh, there's always some one there. You know, it is a winter resort now.
And, by the way—But there's my train, and the young ladies are beckoning
to me." (Mrs. Cortlandt was never seen anywhere without a party of young
ladies.) "Yes, the Bensons passed through Washington the other day from
the South, and spoke of going to Atlantic City to tone up a little before
the season, and perhaps you know that Mrs. Benson took a great fancy to
you, Mr. King. Good-by, au revoir," and the lady was gone with her bevy
of girls, struggling in the stream that poured towards one of the
"Atlantic City? Why, Stanhope, you don't think of going there also?"
"I didn't think of it, but, hang it all, my dear fellow, duty is duty.
There are some places you must see in order to be well informed. Atlantic
City is an important place; a great many of its inhabitants spend their
winters in Philadelphia."
"And this Mrs. Benson?"
"No, I'm not going down there to see Mrs. Benson."
Expectancy was the word when our travelers stepped out of the car at Cape
May station. Except for some people who seemed to have business there,
they were the only passengers. It was the ninth of June. Everything was
ready—the sea, the sky, the delicious air, the long line of gray-colored
coast, the omnibuses, the array of hotel tooters. As they stood waiting
in irresolution a grave man of middle age and a disinterested manner
sauntered up to the travelers, and slipped into friendly relations with
them. It was impossible not to incline to a person so obliging and well
stocked with local information. Yes, there were several good hotels
open. It didn't make much difference; there was one near at hand, not
pretentious, but probably as comfortable as any. People liked the table;
last summer used to come there from other hotels to get a meal. He was
going that way, and would walk along with them. He did, and conversed
most interestingly on the way. Our travelers felicitated themselves upon
falling into such good hands, but when they reached the hotel designated
it had such a gloomy and in fact boardinghouse air that they hesitated,
and thought they would like to walk on a little farther and see the town
before settling. And their friend appeared to feel rather grieved about
it, not for himself, but for them. He had moreover, the expression of a
fisherman who has lost a fish after he supposed it was securely hooked.
But our young friends had been angled for in a good many waters, and they
told the landlord, for it was the landlord, that while they had no doubt
his was the best hotel in the place, they would like to look at some not
so good. The one that attracted them, though they could not see in what
the attraction lay, was a tall building gay with fresh paint in many
colors, some pretty window balconies, and a portico supported by high
striped columns that rose to the fourth story. They were fond of color,
and were taken by six little geraniums planted in a circle amid the sand
in front of the house, which were waiting for the season to open before
they began to grow. With hesitation they stepped upon the newly
varnished piazza and the newly varnished office floor, for every step
left a footprint. The chairs, disposed in a long line on the piazza,
waiting for guests, were also varnished, as the artist discovered when he
sat in one of them and was held fast. It was all fresh and delightful.
The landlord and the clerks had smiles as wide as the open doors; the
waiters exhibited in their eagerness a good imitation of unselfish
It was very pleasant to be alone in the house, and to be the first-fruits
of such great expectations. The first man of the season is in such a
different position from the last. He is like the King of Bavaria alone
in his royal theatre. The ushers give him the best seat in the house, he
hears the tuning of the instruments, the curtain is about to rise, and
all for him. It is a very cheerful desolation, for it has a future, and
everything quivers with the expectation of life and gayety. Whereas the
last man is like one who stumbles out among the empty benches when the
curtain has fallen and the play is done. Nothing is so melancholy as the
shabbiness of a watering-place at the end of the season, where is left
only the echo of past gayety, the last guests are scurrying away like
leaves before the cold, rising wind, the varnish has worn off, shutters
are put up, booths are dismantled, the shows are packing up their tawdry
ornaments, and the autumn leaves collect in the corners of the gaunt
Could this be the Cape May about which hung so many traditions of summer
romance? Where were those crowds of Southerners, with slaves and
chariots, and the haughtiness of a caste civilization, and the belles
from Baltimore and Philadelphia and Charleston and Richmond, whose smiles
turned the heads of the last generation? Had that gay society danced
itself off into the sea, and left not even a phantom of itself behind? As
he sat upon the veranda, King could not rid himself of the impression
that this must be a mocking dream, this appearance of emptiness and
solitude. Why, yes, he was certainly in a delusion, at least in a
reverie. The place was alive. An omnibus drove to the door (though no
sound of wheels was heard); the waiters rushed out, a fat man descended,
a little girl was lifted down, a pretty woman jumped from the steps with
that little extra bound on the ground which all women confessedly under
forty always give when they alight from a vehicle, a large woman lowered
herself cautiously out, with an anxious look, and a file of men stooped
and emerged, poking their umbrellas and canes in each other's backs. Mr.
King plainly saw the whole party hurry into the office and register their
names, and saw the clerk repeatedly touch a bell and throw back his head
and extend his hand to a servant. Curious to see who the arrivals were,
he went to the register. No names were written there. But there were
other carriages at the door, there was a pile of trunks on the veranda,
which he nearly stumbled over, although his foot struck nothing, and the
chairs were full, and people were strolling up and down the piazza. He
noticed particularly one couple promenading—a slender brunette, with a
brilliant complexion; large dark eyes that made constant play—could it
be the belle of Macon?—and a gentleman of thirty-five, in black
frock-coat, unbuttoned, with a wide-brimmed soft hat-clothes not quite
the latest style—who had a good deal of manner, and walked apart from
the young lady, bending towards her with an air of devotion. Mr. King
stood one side and watched the endless procession up and down, up and
down, the strollers, the mincers, the languid, the nervous steppers;
noted the eye-shots, the flashing or the languishing look that kills, and
never can be called to account for the mischief it does; but not a sound
did he hear of the repartee and the laughter. The place certainly was
thronged. The avenue in front was crowded with vehicles of all sorts;
there were groups strolling on the broad beach-children with their tiny
pails and shovels digging pits close to the advancing tide, nursery-maids
in fast colors, boys in knickerbockers racing on the beach, people lying
on the sand, resolute walkers, whose figures loomed tall in the evening
light, doing their constitutional. People were passing to and fro on the
long iron pier that spider-legged itself out into the sea; the two rooms
midway were filled with sitters taking the evening breeze; and the large
ball and music room at the end, with its spacious outside promenade-yes,
there were dancers there, and the band was playing. Mr. King could see
the fiddlers draw their bows, and the corneters lift up their horns and
get red in the face, and the lean man slide his trombone, and the drummer
flourish his sticks, but not a note of music reached him. It might have
been a performance of ghosts for all the effect at this distance. Mr.
King remarked upon this dumb-show to a gentleman in a blue coat and white
vest and gray hat, leaning against a column near him. The gentleman made
no response. It was most singular. Mr. King stepped back to be out of
the way of some children racing down the piazza, and, half stumbling, sat
down in the lap of a dowager—no, not quite; the chair was empty, and he
sat down in the fresh varnish, to which his clothes stuck fast. Was this
a delusion? No. The tables were filled in the dining-room, the waiters
were scurrying about, there were ladies on the balconies looking dreamily
down upon the animated scene below; all the movements of gayety and
hilarity in the height of a season. Mr. King approached a group who were
standing waiting for a carriage, but they did not see him, and did not
respond to his trumped-up question about the next train. Were these,
then, shadows, or was he a spirit himself? Were these empty omnibuses
and carriages that discharged ghostly passengers? And all this
promenading and flirting and languishing and love-making, would it come
to nothing-nothing more than usual? There was a charm about it all—the
movement, the color, the gray sand, and the rosy blush on the sea—a
lovely place, an enchanted place. Were these throngs the guests that were
to come, or those that had been herein other seasons? Why could not the
former "materialize" as well as the latter? Is it not as easy to make
nothing out of what never yet existed as out of what has ceased to exist?
The landlord, by faith, sees all this array which is prefigured so
strangely to Mr. King; and his comely young wife sees it and is ready for
it; and the fat son at the supper table—a living example of the good
eating to be had here—is serene, and has the air of being polite and
knowing to a houseful. This scrap of a child, with the aplomb of a man of
fifty, wise beyond his fatness, imparts information to the travelers
about the wine, speaks to the waiter with quiet authority, and makes
these mature men feel like boys before the gravity of our perfect flower
of American youth who has known no childhood. This boy at least is no
phantom; the landlord is real, and the waiters, and the food they bring.
"I suppose," said Mr. King to his friend, "that we are opening the
season. Did you see anything outdoors?"
"Yes; a horseshoe-crab about a mile below here on the smooth sand, with a
long dotted trail behind him, a couple of girls in a pony-cart who nearly
drove over me, and a tall young lady with a red parasol, accompanied by a
big black-and-white dog, walking rapidly, close to the edge of the sea,
towards the sunset. It's just lovely, the silvery sweep of coast in this
"It seems a refined sort of place in its outlines, and quietly
respectable. They tell me here that they don't want the excursion crowds
that overrun Atlantic City, but an Atlantic City man, whom I met at the
pier, said that Cape May used to be the boss, but that Atlantic City had
got the bulge on it now—had thousands to the hundreds here. To get the
bulge seems a desirable thing in America, and I think we'd better see
what a place is like that is popular, whether fashion recognizes it or
The place lost nothing in the morning light, and it was a sparkling
morning with a fresh breeze. Nature, with its love of simple, sweeping
lines, and its feeling for atmospheric effect, has done everything for
the place, and bad taste has not quite spoiled it. There is a sloping,
shallow beach, very broad, of fine, hard sand, excellent for driving or
for walking, extending unbroken three miles down to Cape May Point, which
has hotels and cottages of its own, and lifesaving and signal stations.
Off to the west from this point is the long sand line to Cape Henlopen,
fourteen miles away, and the Delaware shore. At Cape May Point there is
a little village of painted wood houses, mostly cottages to let, and a
permanent population of a few hundred inhabitants. From the pier one
sees a mile and a half of hotels and cottages, fronting south, all
flaming, tasteless, carpenter's architecture, gay with paint. The sea
expanse is magnificent, and the sweep of beach is fortunately
unencumbered, and vulgarized by no bath-houses or show-shanties. The
bath-houses are in front of the hotels and in their enclosures; then come
the broad drive, and the sand beach, and the sea. The line is broken
below by the lighthouse and a point of land, whereon stands the elephant.
This elephant is not indigenous, and he stands alone in the sand, a
wooden sham without an explanation. Why the hotel-keeper's mind along
the coast regards this grotesque structure as a summer attraction it is
difficult to see. But when one resort had him, he became a necessity
everywhere. The travelers walked down to this monster, climbed the
stairs in one of his legs, explored the rooms, looked out from the
saddle, and pondered on the problem. This beast was unfinished within
and unpainted without, and already falling into decay. An elephant on
the desert, fronting the Atlantic Ocean, had, after all, a picturesque
aspect, and all the more so because he was a deserted ruin.
The elephant was, however, no emptier than the cottages about which our
friends strolled. But the cottages were all ready, the rows of new
chairs stood on the fresh piazzas, the windows were invitingly open, the
pathetic little patches of flowers in front tried hard to look festive in
the dry sands, and the stout landladies in their rocking-chairs calmly
knitted and endeavored to appear as if they expected nobody, but had
almost a houseful.
Yes, the place was undeniably attractive. The sea had the blue of Nice;
why must we always go to the Mediterranean for an aqua marina, for poetic
lines, for delicate shades? What charming gradations had this
picture-gray sand, blue waves, a line of white sails against the pale
blue sky! By the pier railing is a bevy of little girls grouped about an
ancient colored man, the very ideal old Uncle Ned, in ragged, baggy, and
disreputable clothes, lazy good-nature oozing out of every pore of him,
kneeling by a telescope pointed to a bunch of white sails on the horizon;
a dainty little maiden, in a stiff white skirt and golden hair, leans
against him and tiptoes up to the object-glass, shutting first one eye
and then the other, and making nothing out of it all. "Why, ov co'se you
can't see nuffln, honey," said Uncle Ned, taking a peep, "wid the 'scope
p'inted up in the sky."
In order to pass from Cape May to Atlantic City one takes a long circuit
by rail through the Jersey sands. Jersey is a very prolific State, but
the railway traveler by this route is excellently prepared for Atlantic
City, for he sees little but sand, stunted pines, scrub oaks, small frame
houses, sometimes trying to hide in the clumps of scrub oaks, and the
villages are just collections of the same small frame houses hopelessly
decorated with scroll-work and obtrusively painted, standing in lines on
sandy streets, adorned with lean shade-trees. The handsome Jersey people
were not traveling that day—the two friends had a theory about the
relation of a sandy soil to female beauty—and when the artist got out
his pencil to catch the types of the country, he was well rewarded. There
were the fat old women in holiday market costumes, strong-featured,
positive, who shook their heads at each other and nodded violently and
incessantly, and all talked at once; the old men in rusty suits, thin,
with a deprecatory manner, as if they had heard that clatter for fifty
years, and perky, sharp-faced girls in vegetable hats, all long-nosed and
thin-lipped. And though the day was cool, mosquitoes had the bad taste
to invade the train. At the junction, a small collection of wooden
shanties, where the travelers waited an hour, they heard much of the
glories of Atlantic City from the postmistress, who was waiting for an
excursion some time to go there (the passion for excursions seems to be a
growing one), and they made the acquaintance of a cow tied in the room
next the ticket-office, probably also waiting for a passage to the city
by the sea.
And a city it is. If many houses, endless avenues, sand, paint, make a
city, the artist confessed that this was one. Everything is on a large
scale. It covers a large territory, the streets run at right angles, the
avenues to the ocean take the names of the states. If the town had been
made to order and sawed out by one man, it could not be more beautifully
regular and more satisfactorily monotonous. There is nothing about it to
give the most commonplace mind in the world a throb of disturbance. The
hotels, the cheap shops, the cottages, are all of wood, and, with three
or four exceptions in the thousands, they are all practically alike, all
ornamented with scroll-work, as if cut out by the jig-saw, all vividly
painted, all appealing to a primitive taste just awakening to the
appreciation of the gaudy chromo and the illuminated and consoling
household motto. Most of the hotels are in the town, at considerable
distance from the ocean, and the majestic old sea, which can be
monotonous but never vulgar, is barricaded from the town by five or six
miles of stark-naked plank walk, rows on rows of bath closets, leagues of
flimsy carpentry-work, in the way of cheap-John shops, tin-type booths,
peep-shows, go-rounds, shooting-galleries, pop-beer and cigar shops,
restaurants, barber shops, photograph galleries, summer theatres.
Sometimes the plank walk runs for a mile or two, on its piles, between
rows of these shops and booths, and again it drops off down by the waves.
Here and there is a gayly-painted wooden canopy by the shore, with chairs
where idlers can sit and watch the frolicking in the water, or a space
railed off, where the select of the hotels lie or lounge in the sand
under red umbrellas. The calculating mind wonders how many million feet
of lumber there are in this unpicturesque barricade, and what gigantic
forests have fallen to make this timber front to the sea. But there is
one thing man cannot do. He has made this show to suit himself, he has
pushed out several iron piers into the sea, and erected, of course, a
skating rink on the end of one of them. But the sea itself, untamed,
restless, shining, dancing, raging, rolls in from the southward, tossing
the white sails on its vast expanse, green, blue, leaden, white-capped,
many-colored, never two minutes the same, sounding with its eternal voice
I knew not what rebuke to man.
When Mr. King wrote his and his friend's name in the book at the Mansion
House, he had the curiosity to turn over the leaves, and it was not with
much surprise that he read there the names of A. J. Benson, wife, and
daughter, Cyrusville, Ohio.
"Oh, I see!" said the artist; "you came down here to see Mr. Benson!"
That gentleman was presently discovered tilted back in a chair on the
piazza, gazing vacantly into the vacant street with that air of endurance
that fathers of families put on at such resorts. But he brightened up
when Mr. King made himself known.
"I'm right glad to see you, sir. And my wife and daughter will be. I was
saying to my wife yesterday that I couldn't stand this sort of thing much
"You don't find it lively?"
"Well, the livelier it is the less I shall like it, I reckon. The town
is well enough. It's one of the smartest places on the coast. I should
like to have owned the ground and sold out and retired. This sand is all
gold. They say they sell the lots by the bushel and count every sand.
You can see what it is, boards and paint and sand. Fine houses, too;
miles of them."
"And what do you do?"
"Oh, they say there's plenty to do. You can ride around in the sand; you
can wade in it if you want to, and go down to the beach and walk up and
down the plank walk—walk up and down—walk up and down. They like it.
You can't bathe yet without getting pneumonia. They have gone there now.
Irene goes because she says she can't stand the gayety of the parlor."
From the parlor came the sound of music. A young girl who had the air of
not being afraid of a public parlor was drumming out waltzes on the
piano, more for the entertainment of herself than of the half-dozen
ladies who yawned over their worsted-work. As she brought her piece to
an end with a bang, a pretty, sentimental miss with a novel in her hand,
who may not have seen Mr. King looking in at the door, ran over to the
player and gave her a hug. "That's beautiful! that's perfectly lovely,
Mamie!"—"This," said the player, taking up another sheet, "has not been
played much in New York." Probably not, in that style, thought Mr. King,
as the girl clattered through it.
There was no lack of people on the promenade, tramping the boards, or
hanging about the booths where the carpenters and painters were at work,
and the shop men and women were unpacking the corals and the sea-shells,
and the cheap jewelry, and the Swiss wood-carving, the toys, the tinsel
brooches, and agate ornaments, and arranging the soda fountains, and
putting up the shelves for the permanent pie. The sort of preparation
going on indicated the kind of crowd expected. If everything had a cheap
and vulgar look, our wandering critics remembered that it is never fair
to look behind the scenes of a show, and that things would wear a braver
appearance by and by. And if the women on the promenade were homely and
ill-dressed, even the bonnes in unpicturesque costumes, and all the men
were slouchy and stolid, how could any one tell what an effect of gayety
and enjoyment there might be when there were thousands of such people,
and the sea was full of bathers, and the flags were flying, and the bands
were tooting, and all the theatres were opened, and acrobats and spangled
women and painted red-men offered those attractions which, like
government, are for the good of the greatest number? What will you have?
Shall vulgarity be left just vulgar, and have no apotheosis and
glorification? This is very fine of its kind, and a resort for the
million. The million come here to enjoy themselves. Would you have an
art-gallery here, and high-priced New York and Paris shops lining the
"Look at the town," exclaimed the artist, "and see what money can do, and
satisfy the average taste without the least aid from art. It's just
wonderful. I've tramped round the place, and, taking out a cottage or
two, there isn't a picturesque or pleasing view anywhere. I tell you
people know what they want, and enjoy it when they get it."
"You needn't get excited about it," said Mr. King. "Nobody said it
wasn't commonplace, and glaringly vulgar if you like, and if you like to
consider it representative of a certain stage in national culture, I hope
it is not necessary to remind you that the United States can beat any
other people in any direction they choose to expand themselves. You'll
own it when you've seen watering-places enough."
After this defense of the place, Mr. King owned it might be difficult for
Mr. Forbes to find anything picturesque to sketch. What figures, to be
sure! As if people were obliged to be shapely or picturesque for the
sake of a wandering artist! "I could do a tree," growled Mr. Forbes, "or
a pile of boards; but these shanties!"
When they were well away from the booths and bath-houses, Mr. King saw in
the distance two ladies. There was no mistaking one of them—the easy
carriage, the grace of movement. No such figure had been afield all day.
The artist was quick to see that. Presently they came up with them, and
found them seated on a bench, looking off upon Brigantine Island, a low
sand dune with some houses and a few trees against the sky, the most
pleasing object in view.
Mrs. Benson did not conceal the pleasure she felt in seeing Mr. King
again, and was delighted to know his friend; and, to say the truth, Miss
Irene gave him a very cordial greeting.
"I'm 'most tired to death," said Mrs. Benson, when they were all seated.
"But this air does me good. Don't you like Atlantic City?"
"I like it better than I did at first." If the remark was intended for
Irene, she paid no attention to it, being absorbed in explaining to Mr.
Forbes why she preferred the deserted end of the promenade.
"It's a place that grows on you. I guess it's grown the wrong way on
Irene and father; but I like the air—after the South. They say we ought
to see it in August, when all Philadelphia is here."
"I should think it might be very lively."
"Yes; but the promiscuous bathing. I don't think I should like that. We
are not brought up to that sort of thing in Ohio."
"No? Ohio is more like France, I suppose?"
"Like France!" exclaimed the old lady, looking at him in amazement—"like
France! Why, France is the wickedest place in the world."
"No doubt it is, Mrs. Benson. But at the sea resorts the sexes bathe
"Well, now! I suppose they have to there."
"Yes; the older nations grow, the more self-conscious they become."
"I don't believe, for all you say, Mr. King, the French have any more
conscience than we have."
"Nor do I, Mrs. Benson. I was only trying to say that they pay more
attention to appearances."
"Well, I was brought up to think it's one thing to appear, and another
thing to be," said Mrs. Benson, as dismissing the subject. "So your
friend's an artist? Does he paint? Does he take portraits? There was
an artist at Cyrusville last winter who painted portraits, but Irene
wouldn't let him do hers. I'm glad we've met Mr. Forbes. I've always
wanted to have—"
"Oh, mother," exclaimed Irene, who always appeared to keep one ear for
her mother's conversation, "I was just saying to Mr. Forbes that he ought
to see the art exhibitions down at the other end of the promenade, and
the pictures of the people who come here in August. Are you rested?"
The party moved along, and Mr. King, by a movement that seemed to him
more natural than it did to Mr. Forbes, walked with Irene, and the two
fell to talking about the last spring's trip in the South.
"Yes, we enjoyed the exhibition, but I am not sure but I should have
enjoyed New Orleans more without the exhibition. That took so much time.
There is nothing so wearisome as an exhibition. But New Orleans was
charming. I don't know why, for it's the flattest, dirtiest, dampest
city in the world; but it is charming. Perhaps it's the people, or the
Frenchiness of it, or the tumble-down, picturesque old creole quarter, or
the roses; I didn't suppose there were in the world so many roses; the
town was just wreathed and smothered with them. And you did not see it?"
"No; I have been to exhibitions, and I thought I should prefer to take
New Orleans by itself some other time. You found the people hospitable?"
"Well, they were not simply hospitable; they were that, to be sure, for
father had letters to some of the leading men; but it was the general air
of friendliness and good-nature everywhere, of agreeableness—it went
along with the roses and the easy-going life. You didn't feel all the
time on a strain. I don't suppose they are any better than our people,
and I've no doubt I should miss a good deal there after a while—a
certain tonic and purpose in life. But, do you know, it is pleasant
sometimes to be with people who haven't so many corners as our people
have. But you went south from Fortress Monroe?"
"Yes; I went to Florida."
"Oh, that must be a delightful country!"
"Yes, it's a very delightful land, or will be when it is finished. It
needs advertising now. It needs somebody to call attention to it. The
modest Northerners who have got hold of it, and staked it all out into
city lots, seem to want to keep it all to themselves."
"How do you mean 'finished'?"
"Why, the State is big enough, and a considerable portion of it has a
good foundation. What it wants is building up. There's plenty of water
and sand, and palmetto roots and palmetto trees, and swamps, and a
perfectly wonderful vegetation of vines and plants and flowers. What it
needs is land—at least what the Yankees call land. But it is coming on.
A good deal of the State below Jacksonville is already ten to fifteen
feet above the ocean."
"But it's such a place for invalids!"
"Yes, it is a place for invalids. There are two kinds of people there
—invalids and speculators. Thousands of people in the bleak North, and
especially in the Northwest, cannot live in the winter anywhere else than
in Florida. It's a great blessing to this country to have such a
sanitarium. As I said, all it needs is building up, and then it wouldn't
be so monotonous and malarious."
"But I had such a different idea of it!"
"Well, your idea is probably right. You cannot do justice to a place by
describing it literally. Most people are fascinated by Florida: the fact
is that anything is preferable to our Northern climate from February to
"And you didn't buy an orange plantation, or a town?"
"No; I was discouraged. Almost any one can have a town who will take a
boat and go off somewhere with a surveyor, and make a map."
The truth is—the present writer had it from Major Blifill, who runs a
little steamboat upon one of the inland creeks where the alligator is
still numerous enough to be an entertainment—that Mr. King was no doubt
malarious himself when he sailed over Florida. Blifill says he offended
a whole boatfull one day when they were sailing up the St. John's.
Probably he was tired of water, and swamp and water, and scraggy trees
and water. The captain was on the bow, expatiating to a crowd of
listeners on the fertility of the soil and the salubrity of the climate.
He had himself bought a piece of ground away up there somewhere for two
hundred dollars, cleared it up, and put in orange-trees, and thousands
wouldn't buy it now. And Mr. King, who listened attentively, finally
joined in with the questioners, and said, "Captain, what is the average
price of land down in this part of Florida by the—gallon?"
They had come down to the booths, and Mrs. Benson was showing the artist
the shells, piles of conchs, and other outlandish sea-fabrications in
which it is said the roar of the ocean can be heard when they are
hundreds of miles away from the sea. It was a pretty thought, Mr. Forbes
said, and he admired the open shells that were painted on the inside
—painted in bright blues and greens, with dabs of white sails and a
lighthouse, or a boat with a bare-armed, resolute young woman in it,
sending her bark spinning over waves mountain-high.
"Yes," said the artist, "what cheerfulness those works of art will give to
the little parlors up in the country, when they are set up with other
shells on the what-not in the corner! These shells always used to remind
me of missionaries and the cause of the heathen; but when I see them now
I shall think of Atlantic City."
"But the representative things here," interrupted Irene, "are the
photographs, the tintypes. To see them is just as good as staying here
to see the people when they come."
"Yes," responded Mr. King, "I think art cannot go much further in this
If there were not miles of these show-cases of tintypes, there were at
least acres of them. Occasionally an instantaneous photograph gave a
lively picture of the beach, when the water was full of bathers-men,
women, children, in the most extraordinary costumes for revealing or
deforming the human figure—all tossing about in the surf. But most of
the pictures were taken on dry land, of single persons, couples, and
groups in their bathing suits. Perhaps such an extraordinary collection
of humanity cannot be seen elsewhere in the world, such a uniformity of
one depressing type reduced to its last analysis by the sea-toilet.
Sometimes it was a young man and a maiden, handed down to posterity in
dresses that would have caused their arrest in the street, sentimentally
reclining on a canvas rock. Again it was a maiden with flowing hair,
raised hands clasped, eyes upturned, on top of a crag, at the base of
which the waves were breaking in foam. Or it was the same stalwart
maiden, or another as good, in a boat which stood on end, pulling through
the surf with one oar, and dragging a drowning man (in a bathing suit
also) into the boat with her free hand. The legend was, "Saved." There
never was such heroism exhibited by young women before, with such
raiment, as was shown in these rare works of art.
As they walked back to the hotel through a sandy avenue lined with
jig-saw architecture, Miss Benson pointed out to them some things that
she said had touched her a good deal. In the patches of sand before each
house there was generally an oblong little mound set about with a rim of
stones, or, when something more artistic could be afforded, with shells.
On each of these little graves was a flower, a sickly geranium, or a
humble marigold, or some other floral token of affection.
Mr. Forbes said he never was at a watering-place before where they buried
the summer boarders in the front yard. Mrs. Benson didn't like joking on
such subjects, and Mr. King turned the direction of the conversation by
remarking that these seeming trifles were really of much account in these
days, and he took from his pocket a copy of the city newspaper, 'The
Summer Sea-Song,' and read some of the leading items: "S., our eye is on
you." "The Slopers have come to their cottage on Q Street, and come to
stay." "Mr. E. P. Borum has painted his front steps." "Mr.
Diffendorfer's marigold is on the blow." And so on, and so on. This was
probably the marigold mentioned that they were looking at.
The most vivid impression, however, made upon the visitor in this walk
was that of paint. It seemed unreal that there could be so much paint in
the world and so many swearing colors. But it ceased to be a dream, and
they were taken back into the hard, practical world, when, as they turned
the corner, Irene pointed out her favorite sign:
Silas Lapham, mineral paint.
The artist said, a couple of days after this morning, that he had enough
of it. "Of course," he added, "it is a great pleasure to me to sit and
talk with Mrs. Benson, while you and that pretty girl walk up and down
the piazza all the evening; but I'm easily satisfied, and two evenings
did for me."
So that, much as Mr. King was charmed with Atlantic City, and much as he
regretted not awaiting the arrival of the originals of the tintypes, he
gave in to the restlessness of the artist for other scenes; but not
before he had impressed Mrs. Benson with a notion of the delights of
Newport in July.
The view of the Catskills from a certain hospitable mansion on the east
side of the Hudson is better than any mew from those delectable hills.
The artist said so one morning late in June, and Mr. King agreed with
him, as a matter of fact, but would have no philosophizing about it, as
that anticipation is always better than realization; and when Mr. Forbes
went on to say that climbing a mountain was a good deal like marriage
—the world was likely to look a little flat once that cerulean height
was attained—Mr. King only remarked that that was a low view to take of
the subject, but he would confess that it was unreasonable to expect that
any rational object could fulfill, or even approach, the promise held out
by such an exquisite prospect as that before them.
The friends were standing where the Catskill hills lay before them in
echelon towards the river, the ridges lapping over each other and
receding in the distance, a gradation of lines most artistically drawn,
still further refined by shades of violet, which always have the effect
upon the contemplative mind of either religious exaltation or the
kindling of a sentiment which is in the young akin to the emotion of
love. While the artist was making some memoranda of these outlines, and
Mr. King was drawing I know not what auguries of hope from these purple
heights, a young lady seated upon a rock near by—a young lady just
stepping over the border-line of womanhood—had her eyes also fixed upon
those dreamy distances, with that look we all know so well, betraying
that shy expectancy of life which is unconfessed, that tendency to
maidenly reverie which it were cruel to interpret literally. At the
moment she is more interesting than the Catskills—the brown hair, the
large eyes unconscious of anything but the most natural emotion, the
shapely waist just beginning to respond to the call of the future—it is
a pity that we shall never see her again, and that she has nothing
whatever to do with our journey. She also will have her romance; fate
will meet her in the way some day, and set her pure heart wildly beating,
and she will know what those purple distances mean. Happiness, tragedy,
anguish—who can tell what is in store for her? I cannot but feel
profound sadness at meeting her in this casual way and never seeing her
again. Who says that the world is not full of romance and pathos and
regret as we go our daily way in it? You meet her at a railway station;
there is the flutter of a veil, the gleam of a scarlet bird, the lifting
of a pair of eyes—she is gone; she is entering a drawing-room, and stops
a moment and turns away; she is looking from a window as you pass—it is
only a glance out of eternity; she stands for a second upon a rock
looking seaward; she passes you at the church door—is that all? It is
discovered that instantaneous photographs can be taken. They are taken
all the time; some of them are never developed, but I suppose these
impressions are all there on the sensitive plate, and that the plate is
permanently affected by the impressions. The pity of it is that the
world is so full of these undeveloped knowledges of people worth knowing
and friendships worth making.
The comfort of leaving same things to the imagination was impressed upon
our travelers when they left the narrow-gauge railway at the mountain
station, and identified themselves with other tourists by entering a
two-horse wagon to be dragged wearily up the hill through the woods. The
ascent would be more tolerable if any vistas were cut in the forest to
give views by the way; as it was, the monotony of the pull upward was
only relieved by the society of the passengers. There were two bright
little girls off for a holiday with their Western uncle, a big,
good-natured man with a diamond breast-pin, and his voluble son, a lad
about the age of his little cousins, whom he constantly pestered by his
rude and dominating behavior. The boy was a product which it is the
despair of all Europe to produce, and our travelers had great delight in
him as an epitome of American "smartness." He led all the conversation,
had confident opinions about everything, easily put down his deferential
papa, and pleased the other passengers by his self-sufficient,
know-it-all air. To a boy who had traveled in California and seen the
Alps it was not to be expected that this humble mountain could afford
much entertainment, and he did not attempt to conceal his contempt for
it. When the stage reached the Rip Van Winkle House, half-way, the shy
schoolgirls were for indulging a little sentiment over the old legend,
but the boy, who concealed his ignorance of the Irving romance until his
cousins had prattled the outlines of it, was not to be taken in by any
such chaff, and though he was a little staggered by Rip's own cottage,
and by the sight of the cave above it which is labeled as the very spot
where the vagabond took his long nap, he attempted to bully the attendant
and drink-mixer in the hut, and openly flaunted his incredulity until the
bar-tender showed him a long bunch of Rip's hair, which hung like a scalp
on a nail, and the rusty barrel and stock of the musket. The cabin is,
indeed, full of old guns, pistols, locks of hair, buttons,
cartridge-boxes, bullets, knives, and other undoubted relics of Rip and
the Revolution. This cabin, with its facilities for slaking thirst on a
hot day, which Rip would have appreciated, over a hundred years old
according to information to be obtained on the spot, is really of unknown
antiquity, the old boards and timber of which it is constructed having
been brought down from the Mountain House some forty years ago.
The old Mountain House, standing upon its ledge of rock, from which one
looks down upon a map of a considerable portion of New York and New
England, with the lake in the rear, and heights on each side that offer
charming walks to those who have in contemplation views of nature or of
matrimony, has somewhat lost its importance since the vast Catskill
region has come to the knowledge of the world. A generation ago it was
the centre of attraction, and it was understood that going to the
Catskills was going there. Generations of searchers after immortality
have chiseled their names in the rock platform, and one who sits there
now falls to musing on the vanity of human nature and the transitoriness
of fashion. Now New York has found that it has very convenient to it a
great mountain pleasure-ground; railways and excellent roads have pierced
it, the varied beauties of rocks, ravines, and charming retreats are
revealed, excellent hotels capable of entertaining a thousand guests are
planted on heights and slopes commanding mountain as well as lowland
prospects, great and small boarding-houses cluster in the high valleys
and on the hillsides, and cottages more thickly every year dot the wild
region. Year by year these accommodations will increase, new roads
around the gorges will open more enchanting views, and it is not
improbable that the species of American known as the "summer boarder"
will have his highest development and apotheosis in these mountains.
Nevertheless Mr. King was not uninterested in renewing his memories of
the old house. He could recall without difficulty, and also without
emotion now, a scene on this upper veranda and a moonlight night long
ago, and he had no doubt he could find her name carved on a beech-tree in
the wood near by; but it was useless to look for it, for her name had
been changed. The place was, indeed, full of memories, but all chastened
and subdued by the indoor atmosphere, which impressed him as that of a
faded Sunday. He was very careful not to disturb the decorum by any
frivolity of demeanor, and he cautioned the artist on this point; but Mr.
Forbes declared that the dining-room fare kept his spirits at a proper
level. There was an old-time satisfaction in wandering into the parlor,
and resting on the haircloth sofa, and looking at the hair-cloth chairs,
and pensively imagining a meeting there, with songs out of the Moody and
Sankey book; and he did not tire of dropping into the reposeful
reception-room, where he never by any chance met anybody, and sitting
with the melodeon and big Bible Society edition of the Scriptures, and a
chance copy of the Christian at Play. These amusements were varied by
sympathetic listening to the complaints of the proprietor about the
vandalism of visitors who wrote with diamonds on the window-panes, so
that the glass had to be renewed, or scratched their names on the pillars
of the piazza, so that the whole front had to be repainted, or broke off
the azalea blossoms, or in other ways desecrated the premises. In order
to fit himself for a sojourn here, Mr. King tried to commit to memory a
placard that was neatly framed and hung on the veranda, wherein it was
stated that the owner cheerfully submits to all necessary use of the
premises, "but will not permit any unnecessary use, or the exercise of a
depraved taste or vandalism." There were not as yet many guests, and
those who were there seemed to have conned this placard to their
improvement, for there was not much exercise of any sort of taste. Of
course there were two or three brides, and there was the inevitable
English nice middle-class tourist with his wife, the latter ram-roddy and
uncompromising, in big boots and botanical, who, in response to a
gentleman who was giving her information about travel, constantly
ejaculated, in broad English, "Yas, yas; ow, ow, ow, really!"
And there was the young bride from Kankazoo, who frightened Mr. King back
into his chamber one morning when he opened his door and beheld the
vision of a woman going towards the breakfast-room in what he took to be
a robe de nuit, but which turned out to be one of the "Mother-Hubbards"
which have had a certain celebrity as street dresses in some parts of the
West. But these gayeties palled after a time, and one afternoon our
travelers, with their vandalism all subdued, walked a mile over the rocks
to the Kaaterskill House, and took up their abode there to watch the
opening of the season. Naturally they expected some difficulty in
transferring their two trunks round by the road, where there had been
nothing but a wilderness forty years ago; but their change of base was
facilitated by the obliging hotelkeeper in the most friendly manner, and
when he insisted on charging only four dollars for moving the trunks, the
two friends said that, considering the wear and tear of the mountain
involved, they did not see how he could afford to do it for such a sum,
and they went away, as they said, well pleased.
It happened to be at the Kaaterskill House—it might have been at the
Grand, or the Overlook—that the young gentlemen in search of information
saw the Catskill season get under way. The phase of American life is
much the same at all these great caravansaries. It seems to the writer,
who has the greatest admiration for the military genius that can feed and
fight an army in the field, that not enough account is made of the
greater genius that can organize and carry on a great American hotel,
with a thousand or fifteen hundred guests, in a short, sharp, and
decisive campaign of two months, at the end of which the substantial
fruits of victory are in the hands of the landlord, and the guests are
allowed to depart with only their personal baggage and side-arms, but so
well pleased that they are inclined to renew the contest next year. This
is a triumph of mind over mind. It is not merely the organization and
the management of the army under the immediate command of the landlord,
the accumulation and distribution of supplies upon this mountain-top, in
the uncertainty whether the garrison on a given day will be one hundred
or one thousand, not merely the lodging, rationing and amusing of this
shifting host, but the satisfying of as many whims and prejudices as
there are people who leave home on purpose to grumble and enjoy
themselves in the exercise of a criticism they dare not indulge in their
own houses. Our friends had an opportunity of seeing the machinery set
in motion in one of these great establishments. Here was a vast balloon
structure, founded on a rock, but built in the air, and anchored with
cables, with towers and a high pillared veranda, capable, with its annex,
of lodging fifteen hundred people. The army of waiters and
chamber-maids, of bellboys, and scullions and porters and laundry-folk,
was arriving; the stalwart scrubbers were at work, the store-rooms were
filled, the big kitchen shone with its burnished coppers, and an array of
white-capped and aproned cooks stood in line under their chef; the
telegraph operator was waiting at her desk, the drug clerk was arranging
his bottles, the newspaper stand was furnished, the post-office was open
for letters. It needed but the arrival of a guest to set the machinery
in motion. And as soon as the guest came the band would be there to
launch him into the maddening gayety of the season. It would welcome his
arrival in triumphant strains; it would pursue him at dinner, and drown
his conversation; it will fill his siesta with martial dreams, and it
would seize his legs in the evening, and entreat him to caper in the
parlor. Everything was ready. And this was what happened. It was the
evening of the opening day. The train wagons might be expected any
moment. The electric lights were blazing. All the clerks stood
expectant, the porters were by the door, the trim, uniformed bell-boys
were all in waiting line, the register clerk stood fingering the leaves
of the register with a gracious air. A noise is heard outside, the big
door opens, there is a rush forward, and four people flock in a man in a
linen duster, a stout woman, a lad of ten, a smartly dressed young lady,
and a dog. Movement, welcome, ringing of bells, tramping of feet—the
whole machinery has started. It was adjusted to crack an egg-shell or
smash an iron-bound trunk. The few drops presaged a shower. The next
day there were a hundred on the register; the day after, two hundred; and
the day following, an excursion.
With increasing arrivals opportunity was offered for the study of
character. Away from his occupation, away from the cares of the
household and the demands of society, what is the self-sustaining
capacity of the ordinary American man or woman? It was interesting to
note the enthusiasm of the first arrival, the delight in the view—Round
Top, the deep gorges, the charming vista of the lowlands, a world and
wilderness of beauty; the inspiration of the air, the alertness to
explore in all directions, to see the lake, the falls, the mountain
paths. But is a mountain sooner found out than a valley, or is there a
want of internal resources, away from business, that the men presently
become rather listless, take perfunctory walks for exercise, and are so
eager for meal-time and mail-time? Why do they depend so much upon the
newspapers, when they all despise the newspapers? Mr. King used to
listen of an evening to the commonplace talk about the fire, all of which
was a dilution of what they had just got out of the newspapers, but what
a lively assent there was to a glib talker who wound up his remarks with
a denunciation of the newspapers! The man was no doubt quite right, but
did he reflect on the public loss of his valuable conversation the next
night if his newspaper should chance to fail? And the women, after their
first feeling of relief, did they fall presently into petty gossip,
complaints about the table, criticisms of each other's dress, small
discontents with nearly everything? Not all of them.
An excursion is always resented by the regular occupants of a summer
resort, who look down upon the excursionists, while they condescend to be
amused by them. It is perhaps only the common attitude of the wholesale
to the retail dealer, although it is undeniable that a person seems
temporarily to change his nature when he becomes part of an excursion;
whether it is from the elation at the purchase of a day of gayety below
the market price, or the escape from personal responsibility under a
conductor, or the love of being conspicuous as a part of a sort of
organization, the excursionist is not on his ordinary behavior.
An excursion numbering several hundreds, gathered along the river towns
by the benevolent enterprise of railway officials, came up to the
mountain one day. The officials seemed to have run a drag-net through
factories, workshops, Sunday-schools, and churches, and scooped in the
weary workers at homes and in shops unaccustomed to a holiday. Our
friends formed a part of a group on the hotel piazza who watched the
straggling arrival of this band of pleasure. For by this time our two
friends had found a circle of acquaintances, with the facility of
watering-place life, which in its way represented certain phases of
American life as well as the excursion. A great many writers have sought
to classify and label and put into a paragraph a description of the
American girl. She is not to be disposed of by any such easy process.
Undoubtedly she has some common marks of nationality that distinguish her
from the English girl, but in variety she is practically infinite, and
likely to assume almost any form, and the characteristics of a dozen
nationalities. No one type represents her. What, indeed, would one say
of this little group on the hotel piazza, making its comments upon the
excursionists? Here is a young lady of, say, twenty-three years,
inclining already to stoutness, domestic, placid, with matron written on
every line of her unselfish face, capable of being, if necessity were, a
notable housekeeper, learned in preserves and jellies and cordials, sure
to have her closets in order, and a place for every remnant, piece of
twine, and all odds and ends. Not a person to read Browning with, but to
call on if one needed a nurse, or a good dinner, or a charitable deed.
Beside her, in an invalid's chair, a young girl, scarcely eighteen, of
quite another sort, pale, slight, delicate, with a lovely face and large
sentimental eyes, all nerves, the product, perhaps, of a fashionable
school, who in one season in New York, her first, had utterly broken down
into what is called nervous prostration. In striking contrast was Miss
Nettie Sumner, perhaps twenty-one, who corresponded more nearly to what
the internationalists call the American type; had evidently taken school
education as a duck takes water, and danced along in society into
apparent robustness of person and knowledge of the world. A handsome
girl, she would be a comely woman, good-natured, quick at repartee,
confining her knowledge of books to popular novels, too natural and frank
to be a flirt, an adept in all the nice slang current in fashionable
life, caught up from collegians and brokers, accustomed to meet men in
public life, in hotels, a very "jolly" companion, with a fund of good
sense that made her entirely capable of managing her own affairs. Mr.
King was at the moment conversing with still another young lady, who had
more years than the last-named-short, compact figure, round girlish face,
good, strong, dark eyes, modest in bearing, self-possessed in manner,
sensible-who made ready and incisive comments, and seemed to have thought
deeply on a large range of topics, but had a sort of downright
practicality and cool independence, with all her femininity of bearing,
that rather, puzzled her interlocutor. It occurred to Mr. King to guess
that Miss Selina Morton might be from Boston, which she was not, but it
was with a sort of shock of surprise that he learned later that this
young girl, moving about in society in the innocent panoply of girlhood,
was a young doctor, who had no doubt looked through and through him with
her keen eyes, studied him in the light of heredity, constitutional
tendencies, habits, and environment, as a possible patient. It almost
made him ill to think of it. Here were types enough for one morning; but
there was still another.
The artist had seated himself on a rock a little distance from the house,
and was trying to catch some of the figures as they appeared up the path,
and a young girl was looking over his shoulder with an amused face, just
as he was getting an elderly man in a long flowing duster, straggling
gray hair, hat on the back of his head, large iron-rimmed spectacles,
with a baggy umbrella, who stopped breathless at the summit, with a wild
glare of astonishment at the view. This young girl, whom the careless
observer might pass without a second glance, was discovered on better
acquaintance to express in her face and the lines of her figure some
subtle intellectual quality not easily interpreted. Marion Lamont, let
us say at once, was of Southern origin, born in London during the
temporary residence of her parents there, and while very young deprived
by death of her natural protectors. She had a small, low voice, fine
hair of a light color, which contrasted with dark eyes, waved back from
her forehead, delicate, sensitive features—indeed, her face, especially
in conversation with any one, almost always had a wistful, appealing
look; in figure short and very slight, lithe and graceful, full of
unconscious artistic poses, fearless and sure-footed as a gazelle in
climbing about the rocks, leaping from stone to stone, and even making
her way up a tree that had convenient branches, if the whim took her,
using her hands and arms like a gymnast, and performing whatever feat of.
daring or dexterity as if the exquisitely molded form was all instinct
with her indomitable will, and obeyed it, and always with an air of
refinement and spirited breeding. A child of nature in seeming, but yet
a woman who was not to be fathomed by a chance acquaintance.
The old man with the spectacles was presently overtaken by a stout,
elderly woman, who landed in the exhausted condition of a porpoise that
has come ashore, and stood regardless of everything but her own weight,
while member after member of the party straggled up. No sooner did this
group espy the artist than they moved in his direction. "There's a
painter." "I wonder what he's painting." "Maybe he'll paint us." "Let's
see what he's doing." "I should like to see a man paint." And the crowd
flowed on, getting in front of the sketcher, and creeping round behind
him for a peep over his shoulder. The artist closed his sketch-book and
retreated, and the stout woman, balked of that prey, turned round a
moment to the view, exclaimed, "Ain't that elegant!" and then waddled off
to the hotel.
"I wonder," Mr. King was saying, "if these excursionists are
representative of general American life?"
"If they are," said the artist, "there's little here for my purpose. A
good many of them seem to be foreigners, or of foreign origin. Just as
soon as these people get naturalized, they lose the picturesqueness they
"Did it never occur to your highness that they may prefer to be
comfortable rather than picturesque, and that they may be ignorant that
they were born for artistic purposes?" It was the low voice of Miss
Lamont, and that demure person looked up as if she really wanted
"I doubt about the comfort," the artist began to reply.
"And so do I," said Miss Sumner. "What on earth do you suppose made
those girls come up here in white dresses, blowing about in the wind, and
already drabbled? Did you ever see such a lot of cheap millinery? I
haven't seen a woman yet with the least bit of style."
"Poor things, they look as if they'd never had a holiday before in their
lives, and didn't exactly know what to do with it," apologized Miss
"Don't you believe it. They've been to more church and Sunday-school
picnics than you ever attended. Look over there!"
It was a group seated about their lunch-baskets. A young gentleman, the
comedian of the patty, the life of the church sociable, had put on the
hat of one of the girls, and was making himself so irresistibly funny in
it that all the girls tittered, and their mothers looked a little
shamefaced and pleased.
"Well," said Mr. King, "that's the only festive sign I've seen. It's more
like a funeral procession than a pleasure excursion. What impresses me is
the extreme gravity of these people—no fun, no hilarity, no letting
themselves loose for a good time, as they say. Probably they like it, but
they seem to have no capacity for enjoying themselves; they have no
vivacity, no gayety—what a contrast to a party in France or Germany off
for a day's pleasure—no devices, no resources."
"Yes, it's all sad, respectable, confoundedly uninteresting. What does
the doctor say?" asked the artist.
"I know what the doctor will say," put in Miss Summer, "but I tell you
that what this crowd needs is missionary dressmakers and tailors. If I
were dressed that way I should feel and act just as they do. Well,
"It's pretty melancholy. The trouble is constant grinding work and bad
food. I've been studying these people. The women are all—"
"Ugly," suggested the artist.
"Well, ill-favored, scrimped; that means ill-nurtured simply. Out of the
three hundred there are not half a dozen well-conditioned, filled out
physically in comfortable proportions. Most of the women look as if they
had been dragged out with indoor work and little intellectual life, but
the real cause of physical degeneration is bad cooking. If they lived
more out-of-doors, as women do in Italy, the food might not make so much
difference, but in our climate it is the prime thing. This poor physical
state accounts for the want of gayety and the lack of beauty. The men,
on the whole, are better than the women, that is, the young men. I don't
know as these people are overworked, as the world goes. I dare say,
Nettie, there's not a girl in this crowd who could dance with you through
a season. They need to be better fed, and to have more elevating
recreations-something to educate their taste."
"I've been educating the taste of one excursionist this morning, a
good-faced workman, who was prying about everywhere with a curious air,
and said he never'd been on an excursion before. He came up to me in the
office, deferentially asked me if I would go into the parlor with him,
and, pointing to something hanging on the wall, asked, 'What is that?'
'That,' I said, 'is a view from Sunset Rock, and a very good one.' 'Yes,'
he continued, walking close up to it, 'but what is it?' 'Why, it's a
painting.' 'Oh, it isn't the place?' 'No, no; it's a painting in oil,
done with a brush on a piece of canvas—don't you see—,made to look like
the view over there from the rock, colors and all.' 'Yes, I thought,
perhaps—you can see a good ways in it. It's pooty.' 'There's another
one,' I said—'falls, water coming down, and trees.' 'Well, I declare,
so it is! And that's jest a make-believe? I s'pose I can go round and
look?' 'Certainly.' And the old fellow tiptoed round the parlor,
peering at all the pictures in a confused state of mind, and with a
guilty look of enjoyment. It seems incredible that a person should
attain his age with such freshness of mind. But I think he is the only
one of the party who even looked at the paintings."
"I think it's just pathetic," said Miss Lamont. "Don't you, Mr. Forbes?"
"No; I think it's encouraging. It's a sign of an art appreciation in
this country. That man will know a painting next time he sees one, and
then he won't rest till he has bought a chromo, and so he will go on."
"And if he lives long enough, he will buy one of Mr. Forbes's paintings."
"But not the one that Miss Lamont is going to sit for."
When Mr. King met the party at the dinner-table, the places of Miss
Lamont and Mr. Forbes were still vacant. The other ladies looked
significantly at them, and one of them said, "Don't you think there's
something in it? don't you think they are interested in each other?" Mr.
King put down his soup-spoon, too much amazed to reply. Do women never
think of anything but mating people who happen to be thrown together?
Here were this young lady and his friend, who had known each other for
three days, perhaps, in the most casual way, and her friends had her
already as good as married to him and off on a wedding journey. All that
Mr. King said, after apparent deep cogitation, was, "I suppose if it were
here it would have to be in a traveling-dress," which the women thought
Yet it was undeniable that the artist and Marion had a common taste for
hunting out picturesque places in the wood-paths, among the rocks, and on
the edges of precipices, and they dragged the rest of the party many a
mile through wildernesses of beauty. Sketching was the object of all
these expeditions, but it always happened—there seemed a fatality in it
that whenever they halted anywhere for a rest or a view, the Lamont girl
was sure to take an artistic pose, which the artist couldn't resist, and
his whole occupation seemed to be drawing her, with the Catskills for a
background. "There," he would say, "stay just as you are; yes, leaning a
little so"—it was wonderful how the lithe figure adapted itself to any
background—"and turn your head this way, looking at me." The artist
began to draw, and every time he gave a quick glance upwards from his
book, there were the wistful face and those eyes. "Confound it! I beg
your pardon-the light. Will you please turn your eyes a little off, that
way-so." There was no reason why the artist should be nervous, the face
was perfectly demure; but the fact is that art will have only one
mistress. So the drawing limped on from day to day, and the excursions
became a matter of course. Sometimes the party drove, extending their
explorations miles among the hills, exhilarated by the sparkling air,
excited by the succession of lovely changing prospects, bestowing their
compassion upon the summer boarders in the smartly painted
boarding-houses, and comparing the other big hotels with their own. They
couldn't help looking down on the summer boarders, any more than
cottagers at other places can help a feeling of superiority to people in
hotels. It is a natural desire to make an aristocratic line somewhere.
Of course they saw the Kaaterskill Falls, and bought twenty-five cents'
worth of water to pour over them, and they came very near seeing the
Haines Falls, but were a little too late.
"Have the falls been taken in today?" asked Marion, seriously.
"I'm real sorry, miss," said the proprietor, "but there's just been a
party here and taken the water. But you can go down and look if you want
to, and it won't cost you a cent."
They went down, and saw where the falls ought to be. The artist said it
was a sort of dry-plate process, to be developed in the mind afterwards;
Mr. King likened it to a dry smoke without lighting the cigar; and the
doctor said it certainly had the sanitary advantage of not being damp.
The party even penetrated the Platerskill Cove, and were well rewarded by
its exceeding beauty, as is every one who goes there. There are sketches
of all these lovely places in a certain artist's book, all looking,
however, very much alike, and consisting principally of a graceful figure
in a great variety of unstudied attitudes.
"Isn't this a nervous sort of a place?" the artist asked his friend, as
they sat in his chamber overlooking the world.
"Perhaps it is. I have a fancy that some people are born to enjoy the
valley, and some the mountains."
"I think it makes a person nervous to live on a high place. This feeling
of constant elevation tires one; it gives a fellow no such sense of
bodily repose as he has in a valley. And the wind, it's constantly
nagging, rattling the windows and banging the doors. I can't escape the
unrest of it." The artist was turning the leaves and contemplating the
poverty of his sketch-book. "The fact is, I get better subjects on the
"Probably the sea would suit us better. By the way, did I tell you that
Miss Lamont's uncle came last night from Richmond? Mr. De Long, uncle on
the mother's side. I thought there was French blood in her."
"What is he like?"
"Oh, a comfortable bachelor, past middle age; business man; Southern;
just a little touch of the 'cyar' for 'car.' Said he was going to take
his niece to Newport next week. Has Miss Lamont said anything about
"Well, she did mention it the other day."
The house was filling up, and, King thought, losing its family aspect. He
had taken quite a liking for the society of the pretty invalid girl, and
was fond of sitting by her, seeing the delicate color come back to her
cheeks, and listening to her shrewd little society comments. He thought
she took pleasure in having him push her wheel-chair up and down the
piazza at least she rewarded him by grateful looks, and complimented him
by asking his advice about reading and about being useful to others. Like
most young girls whose career of gayety is arrested as hers was, she felt
an inclination to coquet a little with the serious side of life. All this
had been pleasant to Mr. King, but now that so many more guests had come,
he found himself most of the time out of business. The girl's chariot
was always surrounded by admirers and sympathizers. All the young men
were anxious to wheel her up and down by the hour; there was always a
strife for this sweet office; and at night, when the vehicle had been
lifted up the first flight, it was beautiful to see the eagerness of
sacrifice exhibited by these young fellows to wheel her down the long
corridor to her chamber. After all, it is a kindly, unselfish world,
full of tenderness for women, and especially for invalid women who are
pretty. There was all day long a competition of dudes and elderly
widowers and bachelors to wait on her. One thought she needed a little
more wheeling; another volunteered to bring her a glass of water; there
was always some one to pick up her fan, to recover her handkerchief (why
is it that the fans and handkerchiefs of ugly women seldom go astray?),
to fetch her shawl—was there anything they could do? The charming
little heiress accepted all the attentions with most engaging sweetness.
Say what you will, men have good hearts.
Yes, they were going to Newport. King and Forbes, who had not had a
Fourth of July for some time, wanted to see what it was like at Newport.
Mr. De Long would like their company. But before they went the artist
must make one more trial at a sketch-must get the local color. It was a
large party that went one morning to see it done under the famous ledge
of rocks on the Red Path. It is a fascinating spot, with its coolness,
sense of seclusion, mosses, wild flowers, and ferns. In a small grotto
under the frowning wall of the precipice is said to be a spring, but it
is difficult to find, and lovers need to go a great many times in search
of it. People not in love can sometimes find a damp place in the sand.
The question was where Miss Lamont should pose. Should she nestle under
the great ledge, or sit on a projecting rock with her figure against the
sky? The artist could not satisfy himself, and the girl, always
adventurous, kept shifting her position, climbing about on the jutting
ledge, until she stood at last on the top of the precipice, which was
some thirty or forty feet high. Against the top leaned a dead balsam,
just as some tempest had cast it, its dead branches bleached and scraggy.
Down this impossible ladder the girl announced her intention of coming.
"No, no," shouted a chorus of voices; "go round; it's unsafe; the limbs
will break; you can't get through them; you'll break your neck." The
girl stood calculating the possibility. The more difficult the feat
seemed, the more she longed to try it.
"For Heaven's sake don't try it, Miss Lamont," cried the artist.
"But I want to. I think I must. You can sketch me in the act. It will
be something new."
And before any one could interpose, the resolute girl caught hold of the
balsam and swung off. A boy or a squirrel would have made nothing of the
feat. But for a young lady in long skirts to make her way down that
balsam, squirming about and through the stubs and dead limbs, testing
each one before she trusted her weight to it, was another affair. It
needed a very cool head and the skill of a gymnast. To transfer her hold
from one limb to another, and work downward, keeping her skirts neatly
gathered about her feet, was an achievement that the spectators could
appreciate; the presence of spectators made it much more difficult. And
the lookers-on were a good deal more excited than the girl. The artist
had his book ready, and when the little figure was half-way down,
clinging in a position at once artistic and painful, he began. "Work
fast," said the girl. "It's hard hanging on." But the pencil wouldn't
work. The artist made a lot of wild marks. He would have given the
world to sketch in that exquisite figure, but every time he cast his eye
upward the peril was so evident that his hand shook. It was no use. The
danger increased as she descended, and with it the excitement of the
spectators. All the young gentlemen declared they would catch her if she
fell, and some of them seemed to hope she might drop into their arms.
Swing off she certainly must when the lowest limb was reached. But that
was ten feet above the ground and the alighting-place was sharp rock and
broken bowlders. The artist kept up a pretense of drawing. He felt
every movement of her supple figure and the strain upon the slender arms,
but this could not be transferred to the book. It was nervous work. The
girl was evidently getting weary, but not losing her pluck. The young
fellows were very anxious that the artist should keep at his work; they
would catch her. There was a pause; the girl had come to the last limb;
she was warily meditating a slide or a leap; the young men were quite
ready to sacrifice themselves; but somehow, no one could tell exactly
how, the girl swung low, held herself suspended by her hands for an
instant, and then dropped into the right place—trust a woman for that;
and the artist, his face flushed, set her down upon the nearest flat
rock. Chorus from the party, "She is saved!"
"And my sketch is gone up again."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Forbes." The girl looked full of innocent regret. "But
when I was up there I had to come down that tree. I couldn't help it,
On the Fourth of July, at five o'clock in the morning, the porters called
the sleepers out of their berths at Wickford Junction. Modern
civilization offers no such test to the temper and to personal appearance
as this early preparation to meet the inspection of society after a night
in the stuffy and luxuriously upholstered tombs of a sleeping-car. To get
into them at night one must sacrifice dignity; to get out of them in the
morning, clad for the day, gives the proprietors a hard rub. It is
wonderful, however, considering the twisting and scrambling in the berth
and the miscellaneous and ludicrous presentation of humanity in the
washroom at the end of the car, how presentable people make themselves in
a short space of time. One realizes the debt of the ordinary man to
clothes, and how fortunate it is for society that commonly people do not
see each other in the morning until art has done its best for them. To
meet the public eye, cross and tousled and disarranged, requires either
indifference or courage. It is disenchanting to some of our cherished
ideals. Even the trig, irreproachable commercial drummer actually looks
banged-up, and nothing of a man; but after a few moments, boot-blacked
and paper-collared, he comes out as fresh as a daisy, and all ready to
Our travelers came out quite as well as could be expected, the artist
sleepy and a trifle disorganized, Mr. King in a sort of facetious humor
that is more dangerous than grumbling, Mr. De Long yawning and stretching
and declaring that he had not slept a wink, while Marion alighted upon
the platform unruffled in plumage, greeting the morning like a bird.
There were the usual early loafers at the station, hands deep in pockets,
ruminant, listlessly observant. No matter at what hour of day or night a
train may arrive or depart at a country station in America, the loafers
are so invariably there in waiting that they seem to be a part of our
railway system. There is something in the life and movement that seems
to satisfy all the desire for activity they have.
Even the most sleepy tourist could not fail to be impressed with the
exquisite beauty of the scene at Wickford Harbor, where the boat was
taken for Newport. The slow awaking of morning life scarcely disturbed
its tranquillity. Sky and sea and land blended in a tone of refined
gray. The shores were silvery, a silvery light came out of the east,
streamed through the entrance of the harbor, and lay molten and glowing
on the water. The steamer's deck and chairs and benches were wet with
dew, the noises in transferring the baggage and getting the boat under
way were all muffled and echoed in the surrounding silence. The
sail-boats that lay at anchor on the still silver surface sent down long
shadows, and the slim masts seemed driven down into the water to hold the
boats in place. The little village was still asleep. It was such a
contrast; the artist was saying to Marion, as they leaned over the
taffrail, to the new raw villages in the Catskills. The houses were
large, and looked solid and respectable, many of them were shingled on
the sides, a spire peeped out over the green trees, and the hamlet was at
once homelike and picturesque. Refinement is the note of the landscape.
Even the old warehouses dropping into the water, and the decaying piles
of the wharves, have a certain grace. How graciously the water makes
into the land, following the indentations, and flowing in little streams,
going in and withdrawing gently and regretfully, and how the shore puts
itself out in low points, wooing the embrace of the sea—a lovely union.
There is no haze, but all outlines are softened in the silver light. It
is like a dream, and there is no disturbance of the repose when a family
party, a woman, a child, and a man come down to the shore, slip into a
boat, and scull away out by the lighthouse and the rocky entrance of the
harbor, off, perhaps, for a day's pleasure. The artist has whipped out
his sketch-book to take some outlines of the view, and his comrade,
looking that way, thinks this group a pleasing part of the scene, and
notes how the salt, dewy morning air has brought the color into the
sensitive face of the girl. There are not many such hours in a lifetime,
he is also thinking, when nature can be seen in such a charming mood, and
for the moment it compensates for the night ride.
The party indulged this feeling when they landed, still early, at the
Newport wharf, and decided to walk through the old town up to the hotel,
perfectly well aware that after this no money would hire them to leave
their beds and enjoy this novel sensation at such an hour. They had the
street to themselves, and the promenade was one of discovery, and had
much the interest of a landing in a foreign city.
"It is so English," said the artist.
"It is so colonial," said Mr. King, "though I've no doubt that any one of
the sleeping occupants of these houses would be wide-awake instantly, and
come out and ask you to breakfast, if they heard you say it is so
"If they were not restrained," Marion suggested, "by the feeling that
that would not be English. How fine the shade trees, and what brilliant
banks of flowers!"
"And such lawns! We cannot make this turf in Virginia," was the
reflection of Mr. De Long.
"Well, colonial if you like," the artist replied to Mr. King. "What is
best is in the colonial style; but you notice that all the new houses are
built to look old, and that they have had Queen Anne pretty bad, though
the colors are good."
"That's the way with some towns. Queen Anne seems to strike them all of
a sudden, and become epidemic. The only way to prevent it is to
vaccinate, so to speak, with two or three houses, and wait; then it is
not so likely to spread."
Laughing and criticising and admiring, the party strolled along the
shaded avenue to the Ocean House. There were as yet no signs of life at
the Club, or the Library, or the Casino; but the shops were getting open,
and the richness and elegance of the goods displayed in the windows were
the best evidence of the wealth and refinement of the expected customers
—culture and taste always show themselves in the shops of a town. The
long gray-brown front of the Casino, with its shingled sides and hooded
balconies and galleries, added to the already strong foreign impression
of the place. But the artist was dissatisfied. It was not at all his
idea of Independence Day; it was like Sunday, and Sunday without any
foreign gayety. He had expected firing of cannon and ringing of
bells—there was not even a flag out anywhere; the celebration of the
Fourth seemed to have shrunk into a dull and decorous avoidance of all
excitement. "Perhaps," suggested Miss Lamont, "if the New-Englanders
keep the Fourth of July like Sunday, they will by and by keep Sunday like
the Fourth of July. I hear it is the day for excursions on this coast."
Mr. King was perfectly well aware that in going to a hotel in Newport he
was putting himself out of the pale of the best society; but he had a
fancy for viewing this society from the outside, having often enough seen
it from the inside. And perhaps he had other reasons for this eccentric
conduct. He had, at any rate, declined the invitation of his cousin,
Mrs. Bartlett Glow, to her cottage on the Point of Rocks. It was not
without regret that he did this, for his cousin was a very charming
woman, and devoted exclusively to the most exclusive social life. Her
husband had been something in the oil line in New York, and King had
watched with interest his evolution from the business man into the
full-blown existence of a man of fashion. The process is perfectly
charted. Success in business, membership in a good club, tandem in the
Park, introduction to a good house, marriage to a pretty girl of family
and not much money, a yacht, a four-in-hand, a Newport villa. His name
had undergone a like evolution. It used to be written on his business
card, Jacob B. Glow. It was entered at the club as J. Bartlett Glow. On
the wedding invitations it was Mr. Bartlett Glow, and the dashing pair
were always spoken of at Newport as the Bartlett-Glows.
When Mr. King descended from his room at the Ocean House, although it was
not yet eight o'clock, he was not surprised to see Mr. Benson tilted back
in one of the chairs on the long piazza, out of the way of the scrubbers,
with his air of patient waiting and observation. Irene used to say that
her father ought to write a book—"Life as Seen from Hotel Piazzas." His
only idea of recreation when away from business seemed to be sitting
about on them.
"The women-folks," he explained to Mr. King, who took a chair beside him,
"won't be down for an hour yet. I like, myself, to see the show open."
"Are there many people here?"
"I guess the house is full enough. But I can't find out that anybody is
actually stopping here, except ourselves and a lot of schoolmarms come to
attend a convention. They seem to enjoy it. The rest, those I've talked
with, just happen to be here for a day or so, never have been to a hotel
in Newport before, always stayed in a cottage, merely put up here now to
visit friends in cottages. You'll see that none of them act like they
belonged to the hotel. Folks are queer."
At a place we were last summer all the summer boarders, in
boarding-houses round, tried to act like they were staying at the big
hotel, and the hotel people swelled about on the fact of being at a
hotel. Here you're nobody. I hired a carriage by the week, driver in
buttons, and all that. It don't make any difference. I'll bet a gold
dollar every cottager knows it's hired, and probably they think by the
"It's rather stupid, then, for you and the ladies."
"Not a bit of it. It's the nicest place in America: such grass, such
horses, such women, and the drive round the island—there's nothing like
it in the country. We take it every day. Yes, it would be a little
lonesome but for the ocean. It's a good deal like a funeral procession,
nobody ever recognizes you, not even the hotel people who are in hired
hacks. If I were to come again, Mr. King, I'd come in a yacht, drive up
from it in a box on two wheels, with a man clinging on behind with his
back to me, and have a cottage with an English gardener. That would
fetch 'em. Money won't do it, not at a hotel. But I'm not sure but I
like this way best. It's an occupation for a man to keep up a cottage."
"And so you do not find it dull?"
"No. When we aren't out riding, she and Irene go on to the cliffs, and I
sit here and talk real estate. It's about all there is to talk of."
There was an awkward moment or two when the two parties met in the lobby
and were introduced before going in to breakfast. There was a little
putting up of guards on the part of the ladies. Between Irene and Marion
passed that rapid glance of inspection, that one glance which includes a
study and the passing of judgment upon family, manners, and dress, down
to the least detail. It seemed to be satisfactory, for after a few words
of civility the two girls walked in together, Irene a little dignified,
to be sure, and Marion with her wistful, half-inquisitive expression. Mr.
King could not be mistaken in thinking Irene's manner a little
constrained and distant to him, and less cordial than it was to Mr.
Forbes, but the mother righted the family balance.
"I'm right glad you've come, Mr. King. It's like seeing somebody from
home. I told Irene that when you came I guess we should know somebody.
It's an awful fashionable place."
"And you have no acquaintances here?"
"No, not really. There's Mrs. Peabody has a cottage here, what they call
a cottage, but there no such house in Cyrusville. We drove past it. Her
daughter was to school with Irene. We've met 'em out riding several
times, and Sally (Miss Peabody) bowed to Irene, and pa and I bowed to
everybody, but they haven't called. Pa says it's because we are at a
hotel, but I guess it's been company or something. They were real good
friends at school."
Mr. King laughed. "Oh, Mrs. Benson, the Peabodys were nobodys only a few
years ago. I remember when they used to stay at one of the smaller
"Well, they seem nice, stylish people, and I'm sorry on Irene's account."
At breakfast the party had topics enough in common to make conversation
lively. The artist was sure he should be delighted with the beauty and
finish of Newport. Miss Lamont doubted if she should enjoy it as much as
the freedom and freshness of the Catskills. Mr. King amused himself with
drawing out Miss Benson on the contrast with Atlantic City. The
dining-room was full of members of the Institute, in attendance upon the
annual meeting, graybearded, long-faced educators, devotees of theories
and systems, known at a glance by a certain earnestness of manner and
intensity of expression, middle-aged women of a resolute, intellectual
countenance, and a great crowd of youthful schoolmistresses, just on the
dividing line between domestic life and self-sacrifice, still full of
sentiment, and still leaning perhaps more to Tennyson and Lowell than to
mathematics and Old English.
"They have a curious, mingled air of primness and gayety, as if gayety
were not quite proper," the artist began. "Some of them look downright
interesting, and I've no doubt they are all excellent women."
"I've no doubt they are all good as gold," put in Mr. King. "These women
are the salt of New England." (Irene looked up quickly and
appreciatively at the speaker.) "No fashionable nonsense about them.
What's in you, Forbes, to shy so at a good woman?"
"I don't shy at a good woman—but three hundred of them! I don't want
all my salt in one place. And see here—I appeal to you, Miss Lamont
—why didn't these girls dress simply, as they do at home, and not
attempt a sort of ill-fitting finery that is in greater contrast to
Newport than simplicity would be?"
"If you were a woman," said Marion, looking demurely, not at Mr. Forbes,
but at Irene, "I could explain it to you. You don't allow anything for
sentiment and the natural desire to please, and it ought to be just
pathetic to you that these girls, obeying a natural instinct, missed the
expression of it a little."
"Men are such critics," and Irene addressed the remark to Marion, "they
pretend to like intellectual women, but they can pardon anything better
than an ill-fitting gown. Better be frivolous than badly dressed."
"Well," stoutly insisted Forbes, "I'll take my chance with the
well-dressed ones always; I don't believe the frumpy are the most
"No; but you make out a prima facie case against a woman for want of
taste in dress, just as you jump at the conclusion that because a woman
dresses in such a way as to show she gives her mind to it she is of the
right sort. I think it's a relief to see a convention of women devoted
to other things who are not thinking of their clothes."
"Pardon me; the point I made was that they are thinking of their clothes,
and thinking erroneously."
"Why don't you ask leave to read a paper, Forbes, on the relation of
dress to education?" asked Mr. King.
They rose from the table just as Mrs. Benson was saying that for her part
she liked these girls, they were so homelike; she loved to hear them sing
college songs and hymns in the parlor. To sing the songs of the students
is a wild, reckless dissipation for girls in the country.
When Mr. King and Irene walked up and down the corridor after breakfast
the girl's constraint seemed to have vanished, and she let it be seen
that she had sincere pleasure in renewing the acquaintance. King himself
began to realize how large a place the girl's image had occupied in his
mind. He was not in love—that would be absurd on such short
acquaintance—but a thought dropped into the mind ripens without
consciousness, and he found that he had anticipated seeing Irene again
with decided interest. He remembered exactly how she looked at Fortress
Monroe, especially one day when she entered the parlor, bowing right and
left to persons she knew, stopping to chat with one and another, tall,
slender waist swelling upwards in symmetrical lines, brown hair,
dark-gray eyes—he recalled every detail, the high-bred air (which was
certainly not inherited), the unconscious perfect carriage, and his
thinking in a vague way that such ease and grace meant good living and
leisure and a sound body. This, at any rate, was the image in his mind
—a sufficiently distracting thing for a young man to carry about with
him; and now as he walked beside her he was conscious that there was
something much finer in her than the image he had carried with him, that
there was a charm of speech and voice and expression that made her
different from any other woman he had ever seen. Who can define this
charm, this difference? Some women have it for the universal man—they
are desired of every man who sees them; their way to marriage (which is
commonly unfortunate) is over a causeway of prostrate forms, if not of
cracked hearts; a few such women light up and make the romance of
history. The majority of women fortunately have it for one man only, and
sometimes he never appears on the scene at all! Yet every man thinks his
choice belongs to the first class; even King began to wonder that all
Newport was not raving over Irene's beauty. The present writer saw her
one day as she alighted from a carriage at the Ocean House, her face
flushed with the sea air, and he remembers that he thought her a fine
girl. "By George, that's a fine woman!" exclaimed a New York bachelor,
who prided himself on knowing horses and women and all that; but the
country is full of fine women—this to him was only one of a thousand.
What were this couple talking about as they promenaded, basking in each
other's presence? It does not matter. They were getting to know each
other, quite as much by what they did not say as by what they did say, by
the thousand little exchanges of feeling and sentiment which are
all-important, and never appear even in a stenographer's report of a
conversation. Only one thing is certain about it, that the girl could
recall every word that Mr. King said, even his accent and look, long
after he had forgotten even the theme of the talk. One thing, however,
he did carry away with him, which set him thinking. The girl had been
reading the "Life of Carlyle," and she took up the cudgels for the old
curmudgeon, as King called him, and declared that, when all was said,
Mrs. Carlyle was happier with him than she would have been with any other
man in England. "What woman of spirit wouldn't rather mate with an
eagle, and quarrel half the time, than with a humdrum barn-yard fowl?"
And Mr. Stanhope King, when he went away, reflected that he who had
fitted himself for the bar, and traveled extensively, and had a moderate
competence, hadn't settled down to any sort of career. He had always an
intention of doing something in a vague way; but now the thought that he
was idle made him for the first time decidedly uneasy, for he had an
indistinct notion that Irene couldn't approve of such a life.
This feeling haunted him as he was making a round of calls that day. He
did not return to lunch or dinner—if he had done so he would have found
that lunch was dinner and that dinner was supper—another vital
distinction between the hotel and the cottage. The rest of the party had
gone to the cliffs with the artist, the girls on a pretense of learning
to sketch from nature. Mr. King dined with his cousin.
"You are a bad boy, Stanhope," was the greeting of Mrs. Bartlett Glow,
"not to come to me. Why did you go to the hotel?"
"Oh, I thought I'd see life; I had an unaccountable feeling of
independence. Besides, I've a friend with me, a very clever artist, who
is re-seeing his country after an absence of some years. And there are
some other people."
"Oh, yes. What is her name?"
"Why, there is quite a party. We met them at different places. There's
a very bright New York girl, Miss Lamont, and her uncle from Richmond."
("Never heard of her," interpolated Mrs. Glow.) "And a Mr. and Mrs.
Benson and their daughter, from Ohio. Mr. Benson has made money; Mrs.
Benson, good-hearted old lady, rather plain and—"
"Yes, I know the sort; had a falling-out with Lindley Murray in her youth
and never made it up. But what I want to know is about the girl. What
makes you beat about the bush so? What's her name?"
"Irene. She is an uncommonly clever girl; educated; been abroad a good
deal, studying in Germany; had all advantages; and she has cultivated
tastes; and the fact is that out in Cyrusville—that is where they live
—You know how it is here in America when the girl is educated and the
old people are not—"
"The long and short of it is, you want me to invite them here. I suppose
the girl is plain, too—takes after her mother?"
"Not exactly. Mr. Forbes—that's my friend—says she's a beauty. But if
you don't mind, Penelope, I was going to ask you to be a little civil to
"Well, I'll admit she is handsome—a very striking-looking girl. I've
seen them driving on the Avenue day after day. Now, Stanhope, I don't
mind asking them here to a five o'clock; I suppose the mother will have
to come. If she was staying with somebody here it would be easier. Yes,
I'll do it to oblige you, if you will make yourself useful while you are
here. There are some girls I want you to know, and mind, my young
friend, that you don't go and fall in love with a country girl whom
nobody knows, out of the set. It won't be comfortable."
"You are always giving me good advice, Penelope, and I should be a
different man if I had profited by it."
"Don't be satirical, because you've coaxed me to do you a favor."
Late in the evening the gentlemen of the hotel party looked in at the
skating-rink, a great American institution that has for a large class
taken the place of the ball, the social circle, the evening meeting. It
seemed a little incongruous to find a great rink at Newport, but an
epidemic is stronger than fashion, and even the most exclusive summer
resort must have its rink. Roller-skating is said to be fine exercise,
but the benefit of it as exercise would cease to be apparent if there
were a separate rink for each sex. There is a certain exhilaration in
the lights and music and the lively crowd, and always an attraction in
the freedom of intercourse offered. The rink has its world as the opera
has, its romances and its heroes. The frequenters of the rink know the
young women and the young men who have a national reputation as adepts,
and their exhibitions are advertised and talked about as are the
appearances of celebrated 'prime donne' and 'tenori' at the opera. The
visitors had an opportunity to see one of these exhibitions. After a
weary watching of the monotonous and clattering round and round of the
swinging couples or the stumbling single skaters, the floor was cleared,
and the darling of the rink glided upon the scene. He was a slender,
handsome fellow, graceful and expert to the nicest perfection in his
profession. He seemed not so much to skate as to float about the floor,
with no effort except volition. His rhythmic movements were followed
with pleasure, but it was his feats of dexterity, which were more
wonderful than graceful, that brought down the house. It was evident
that he was a hero to the female part of the spectators, and no doubt his
charming image continued to float round and round in the brain of many a
girl when she put her, head on the pillow that night. It is said that a
good many matches which are not projected or registered in heaven are
made at the rink.
At the breakfast-table it appeared that the sketching-party had been a
great success—for everybody except the artist, who had only some rough
memoranda, like notes for a speech, to show. The amateurs had made
Miss Benson had done some rocks, and had got their hardness very well.
Miss Lamont's effort was more ambitious; her picture took in no less than
miles of coast, as much sea as there was room for on the paper, a navy of
sail-boats, and all the rocks and figures that were in the foreground,
and it was done with a great deal of naivete and conscientiousness. When
it was passed round the table, the comments were very flattering.
"It looks just like it," said Mr. Benson.
"It's very comprehensive," remarked Mr. Forbes.
"What I like, Marion," said Mr. De Long, holding it out at arm's-length,
"is the perspective; it isn't an easy thing to put ships up in the sky."
"Of course," explained Irene, "it was a kind of hazy day."
"But I think Miss Lamont deserves credit for keeping the haze out of it."
King was critically examining it, turning his head from side to side. "I
like it; but I tell you what I think it lacks: it lacks atmosphere. Why
don't you cut a hole in it, Miss Lamont, and let the air in?"
"Mr. King," replied Miss Lamont, quite seriously, "you are a real friend,
I can only repay you by taking you to church this morning."
"You didn't make much that time, King," said Forbes, as he lounged out of
After church King accepted a seat in the Benson carriage for a drive on
the Ocean Road. He who takes this drive for the first time is enchanted
with the scene, and it has so much variety, deliciousness in curve and
winding, such graciousness in the union of sea and shore, such charm of
color, that increased acquaintance only makes one more in love with it. A
good part of its attraction lies in the fickleness of its aspect. Its
serene and soft appearance might pall if it were not now and then, and
often suddenly, and with little warning, transformed into a wild coast,
swept by a tearing wind, enveloped in a thick fog, roaring with the noise
of the angry sea slapping the rocks and breaking in foam on the fragments
its rage has cast down. This elementary mystery and terror is always
present, with one familiar with the coast, to qualify the gentleness of
its lovelier aspects. It has all moods. Perhaps the most exhilarating
is that on a brilliant day, when shore and sea sparkle in the sun, and
the waves leap high above the cliffs, and fall in diamond showers.
This Sunday the shore was in its most gracious mood, the landscape as if
newly created. There was a light, luminous fog, which revealed just
enough to excite the imagination, and refined every outline and softened
every color. Mr. King and Irene left the carriage to follow the road,
and wandered along the sea path. What softness and tenderness of color
in the gray rocks, with the browns and reds of the vines and lichens!
They went out on the iron fishing-stands, and looked down at the shallow
water. The rocks under water took on the most exquisite shades—purple
and malachite and brown; the barnacles clung to them; the long sea-weeds,
in half a dozen varieties, some in vivid colors, swept over them, flowing
with the restless tide, like the long locks of a drowned woman's hair.
King, who had dabbled a little in natural history, took great delight in
pointing out to Irene this varied and beautiful life of the sea; and the
girl felt a new interest in science, for it was all pure science, and she
opened her heart to it, not knowing that love can go in by the door of
science as well as by any other opening. Was Irene really enraptured by
the dear little barnacles and the exquisite sea-weeds? I have seen a
girl all of a flutter with pleasure in a laboratory when a young chemist
was showing her the retorts and the crooked tubes and the glass wool and
the freaks of color which the alkalies played with the acids. God has
made them so, these women, and let us be thankful for it.
What a charm there was about everything! Occasionally the mist became so
thin that a long line of coast and a great breadth of sea were visible,
with the white sails drifting.
"There's nothing like it," said King—"there's nothing like this island.
It seems as if the Creator had determined to show man, once for all, a
landscape perfectly refined, you might almost say with the beauty of
high-breeding, refined in outline, color, everything softened into
loveliness, and yet touched with the wild quality of picturesqueness."
"It's just a dream at this moment," murmured Irene. They were standing
on a promontory of rock. "See those figures of people there through the
mist—silhouettes only. And look at that vessel—there—no—it has
As she was speaking, a sail-vessel began to loom up large in the
mysterious haze. But was it not the ghost of a ship? For an instant it
was coming, coming; it was distinct; and when it was plainly in sight it
faded away, like a dissolving view, and was gone. The appearance was
unreal. What made it more spectral was the bell on the reefs, swinging
in its triangle, always sounding, and the momentary scream of the
fog-whistle. It was like an enchanted coast. Regaining the carriage,
they drove out to the end, Agassiz's Point, where, when the mist lifted,
they saw the sea all round dotted with sails, the irregular coasts and
islands with headlands and lighthouses, all the picture still, land and
water in a summer swoon.
Late that afternoon all the party were out upon the cliff path in front
of the cottages. There is no more lovely sea stroll in the world, the
way winding over the cliff edge by the turquoise sea, where the turf,
close cut and green as Erin, set with flower beds and dotted with noble
trees, slopes down, a broad pleasure park, from the stately and
picturesque villas. But it was a social mistake to go there on Sunday.
Perhaps it is not the height of good form to walk there any day, but Mr.
King did not know that the fashion had changed, and that on Sunday this
lovely promenade belongs to the butlers and the upper maids, especially
to the butlers, who make it resplendent on Sunday afternoons when the
weather is good. As the weather had thickened in the late afternoon, our
party walked in a dumb-show, listening to the soft swish of the waves on
the rocks below, and watching the figures of other promenaders, who were
good enough ladies and gentlemen in this friendly mist.
The next day Mr. King made a worse mistake. He remembered that at high
noon everybody went down to the first beach, a charming sheltered place
at the bottom of the bay, where the rollers tumble in finely from the
south, to bathe or see others bathe. The beach used to be lined with
carriages at that hour, and the surf, for a quarter of a mile, presented
the appearance of a line of picturesquely clad skirmishers going out to
battle with the surf. Today there were not half a dozen carriages and
omnibuses altogether, and the bathers were few-nursery maids, fragments
of a day-excursion, and some of the fair conventionists. Newport was not
there. Mr. King had led his party into another social blunder. It has
ceased to be fashionable to bathe at Newport.
Strangers and servants may do so, but the cottagers have withdrawn their
support from the ocean. Saltwater may be carried to the house and used
without loss of caste, but bathing in the surf is vulgar. A gentleman
may go down and take a dip alone—it had better be at an early hour—and
the ladies of the house may be heard to apologize for his eccentricity,
as if his fondness for the water were abnormal and quite out of
experience. And the observer is obliged to admit that promiscuous
bathing is vulgar, as it is plain enough to be seen when it becomes
unfashionable. It is charitable to think also that the cottagers have
made it unfashionable because it is vulgar, and not because it is a cheap
and refreshing pleasure accessible to everybody.
Nevertheless, Mr. King's ideas of Newport were upset. "It's a little off
color to walk much on the cliffs; you lose caste if you bathe in the
surf. What can you do?"
"Oh," explained Miss Lamont, "you can make calls; go to teas and
receptions and dinners; belong to the Casino, but not appear there much;
and you must drive on the Ocean Road, and look as English as you can.
Didn't you notice that Redfern has an establishment on the Avenue? Well,
the London girls wear what Redfern tells them to wear-much to the
improvement of their appearance—and so it has become possible for a
New-Yorker to become partially English without sacrificing her native
Before lunch Mrs. Bartlett Glow called on the Bensons, and invited them
to a five-o'clock tea, and Miss Lamont, who happened to be in the parlor,
was included in the invitation. Mrs. Glow was as gracious as possible,
and especially attentive to the old lady, who purred with pleasure, and
beamed and expanded into familiarity under the encouragement of the woman
of the world. In less than ten minutes Mrs. Glow had learned the chief
points in the family history, the state of health and habits of pa (Mr.
Benson), and all about Cyrusville and its wonderful growth. In all this
Mrs. Glow manifested a deep interest, and learned, by observing out of
the corner of her eye, that Irene was in an agony of apprehension, which
she tried to conceal under an increasing coolness of civility. "A nice
lady," was Mrs. Benson's comment when Mrs. Glow had taken herself away
with her charmingly-scented air of frank cordiality—"a real nice lady.
She seemed just like our, folks."
Irene heaved a deep sigh. "I suppose we shall have to go."
"Have to go, child? I should think you'd like to go. I never saw such a
girl—never. Pa and me are just studying all the time to please you, and
it seems as if—" And the old lady's voice broke down.
"Why, mother dear"—and the girl, with tears in her eyes, leaned over her
and kissed her fondly, and stroked her hair—"you are just as good and
sweet as you can be; and don't mind me; you know I get in moods
The old lady pulled her down and kissed her, and looked in her face with
"What an old frump the mother is!" was Mrs. Glow's comment to Stanhope,
when she next met him; "but she is immensely amusing."
"She is a kind-hearted, motherly woman," replied King, a little sharply.
"Oh, motherly! Has it come to that? I do believe you are more than half
gone. The girl is pretty; she has a beautiful figure; but my gracious!
her parents are impossible—just impossible. And don't you think she's a
little too intellectual for society? I don't mean too intellectual, of
course, but too mental, don't you know—shows that first. You know what
"But, Penelope, I thought it was the fashion now to be intellectual—go
in for reading, and literary clubs, Dante and Shakespeare, and political
economy, and all that."
"Yes, I belong to three clubs. I'm going to one tomorrow morning. We are
going to take up the 'Disestablishment of the English Church.' That's
different; we make it fit into social life somehow, and it doesn't
interfere. I'll tell you what, Stanhope, I'll take Miss Benson to the
Town and County Club next Saturday."
"That will be too intellectual for Miss Benson. I suppose the topic will
"No; we have had that. Professor Spor, of Cambridge, is going to lecture
on Bacteria—if that's the way you pronounce it—those mites that get
"I should think it would be very improving. I'll tell Miss Benson that
if she stays in Newport she must improve her mind,
"You can make yourself as disagreeable as you like to me, but mind you
are on your good behavior at dinner tonight, for the Misses Pelham will
The five-o'clock at Mrs. Bartlett Glow's was probably an event to nobody
in Newport except Mrs. Benson. To most it was only an incident in the
afternoon round and drive, but everybody liked to go there, for it is one
of the most charming of the moderate-sized villas. The lawn is planted
in exquisite taste, and the gardener has set in the open spaces of green
the most ingenious devices of flowers and foliage plants, and nothing
could be more enchanting than the view from the wide veranda on the sea
side. In theory, the occupants lounge there, read, embroider, and swing
in hammocks; in point of fact, the breeze is usually so strong that these
occupations are carried on indoors.
The rooms were well filled with a moving, chattering crowd when the
Bensons arrived, but it could not be said that their entrance was
unnoticed, for Mr. Benson was conspicuous, as Irene had in vain hinted to
her father that he would be, in his evening suit, and Mrs. Benson's
beaming, extra-gracious manner sent a little shiver of amusement through
the polite civility of the room.
"I was afraid we should be too late," was Mrs. Benson's response to the
smiling greeting of the hostess, with a most friendly look towards the
rest of the company. "Mr. Benson is always behindhand in getting dressed
for a party, and he said he guessed the party could wait, and—"
Before the sentence was finished Mrs. Benson found herself passed on and
in charge of a certain general, who was charged by the hostess to get her
a cup of tea. Her talk went right on, however, and Irene, who was still
standing by the host, noticed that wherever her mother went there was a
lull in the general conversation, a slight pause as if to catch what this
motherly old person might be saying, and such phrases as, "It doesn't
agree with me, general; I can't eat it," "Yes, I got the rheumatiz in
New Orleans, and he did too," floated over the hum of talk.
In the introduction and movement that followed Irene became one of a
group of young ladies and gentlemen who, after the first exchange of
civilities, went on talking about matters of which she knew nothing,
leaving her wholly out of the conversation. The matters seemed to be
very important, and the conversation was animated: it was about so-and-so
who was expected, or was or was not engaged, or the last evening at the
Casino, or the new trap on the Avenue—the delightful little chit-chat by
means of which those who are in society exchange good understandings, but
which excludes one not in the circle. The young gentleman next to Irene
threw in an explanation now and then, but she was becoming thoroughly
uncomfortable. She could not be unconscious, either, that she was the
object of polite transient scrutiny by the ladies, and of glances of
interest from gentlemen who did not approach her. She began to be
annoyed by the staring (the sort of stare that a woman recognizes as
impudent admiration) of a young fellow who leaned against the mantel—a
youth in English clothes who had caught very successfully the air of an
English groom. Two girls near her, to whom she had been talking, began
speaking in lowered voices in French, but she could not help overhearing
them, and her face flushed hotly when she found that her mother and her
appearance were the subject of their foreign remarks.
Luckily at the moment Mr. King approached, and Irene extended her hand
and said, with a laugh, "Ah, monsieur," speaking in a very pretty Paris
accent, and perhaps with unnecessary distinctness, "you were quite right:
the society here is very different from Cyrusville; there they all talk
about each other."
Mr. King, who saw that something had occurred, was quick-witted enough to
reply jestingly in French, as they moved away, but he asked, as soon as
they were out of ear-shot, "What is it?"
"Nothing," said the girl, recovering her usual serenity. "I only said
something for the sake of saying something; I didn't mean to speak so
disrespectfully of my own town. But isn't it singular how local and
provincial society talk is everywhere? I must look up mother, and then I
want you to take me on the veranda for some air. What a delightful house
this is of your cousin's!"
The two young ladies who had dropped into French looked at each other for
a moment after Irene moved away, and one of them spoke for both when she
exclaimed: "Did you ever see such rudeness in a drawing-room! Who could
have dreamed that she understood?" Mrs. Benson had been established very
comfortably in a corner with Professor Slem, who was listening with great
apparent interest to her accounts of the early life in Ohio. Irene
seemed relieved to get away into the open air, but she was in a mood that
Mr. King could not account for. Upon the veranda they encountered Miss
Lamont and the artist, whose natural enjoyment of the scene somewhat
restored her equanimity. Could there be anything more refined and
charming in the world than this landscape, this hospitable, smiling
house, with the throng of easy-mannered, pleasant-speaking guests,
leisurely flowing along in the conventional stream of social comity. One
must be a churl not to enjoy it. But Irene was not sorry when,
presently, it was time to go, though she tried to extract some comfort
from her mother's enjoyment of the occasion. It was beautiful. Mr.
Benson was in a calculating mood. He thought it needed a great deal of
money to make things run so smoothly.
Why should one inquire in such a paradise if things do run smoothly?
Cannot one enjoy a rose without pulling it up by the roots? I have no
patience with those people who are always looking on the seamy side. I
agree with the commercial traveler who says that it will only be in the
millennium that all goods will be alike on both sides. Mr. King made the
acquaintance in Newport of the great but somewhat philosophical Mr.
Snodgrass, who is writing a work on "The Discomforts of the Rich," taking
a view of life which he says has been wholly overlooked. He declares that
their annoyances, sufferings, mortifications, envies, jealousies,
disappointments, dissatisfactions (and so on through the dictionary of
disagreeable emotions), are a great deal more than those of the poor, and
that they are more worthy of sympathy. Their troubles are real and
unbearable, because they are largely of the mind. All these are set
forth with so much powerful language and variety of illustration that
King said no one could read the book without tears for the rich of
Newport, and he asked Mr. Snodgrass why he did not organize a society for
their relief. But the latter declared that it was not a matter for
levity. The misery is real. An imaginary case would illustrate his
meaning. Suppose two persons quarrel about a purchase of land, and one
builds a stable on his lot so as to shut out his neighbor's view of the
sea. Would not the one suffer because he could not see the ocean, and
the other by reason of the revengeful state of his mind? He went on to
argue that the owner of a splendid villa might have, for reasons he gave,
less content in it than another person in a tiny cottage so small that it
had no spare room for his mother-in-law even, and that in fact his
satisfaction in his own place might be spoiled by the more showy place of
his neighbor. Mr. Snodgrass attempts in his book a philosophical
explanation of this. He says that if every man designed his own cottage,
or had it designed as an expression of his own ideas, and developed his
grounds and landscape according to his own tastes, working it out
himself, with the help of specialists, he would be satisfied. But when
owners have no ideas about architecture or about gardening, and their
places are the creation of some experimenting architect and a foreign
gardener, and the whole effort is not to express a person's individual
taste and character, but to make a show, then discontent as to his own
will arise whenever some new and more showy villa is built. Mr. Benson,
who was poking about a good deal, strolling along the lanes and getting
into the rears of the houses, said, when this book was discussed, that
his impression was that the real object of these fine places was to
support a lot of English gardeners, grooms, and stable-boys. They are a
kind of aristocracy. They have really made Newport (that is the summer,
transient Newport, for it is largely a transient Newport). "I've been
inquiring," continued Mr. Benson, "and you'd be surprised to know the
number of people who come here, buy or build expensive villas, splurge
out for a year or two, then fail or get tired of it, and disappear."
Mr. Snodgrass devotes a chapter to the parvenues at Newport. By the
parvenu—his definition may not be scientific—he seems to mean a person
who is vulgar, but has money, and tries to get into society on the
strength of his money alone. He is more to be pitied than any other sort
of rich man. For he not only works hard and suffers humiliation in
getting his place in society, but after he is in he works just as hard,
and with bitterness in his heart, to keep out other parvenues like
himself. And this is misery.
But our visitors did not care for the philosophizing of Mr. Snodgrass
—you can spoil almost anything by turning it wrong side out. They
thought Newport the most beautiful and finished watering-place in
America. Nature was in the loveliest mood when it was created, and art
has generally followed her suggestions of beauty and refinement. They
did not agree with the cynic who said that Newport ought to be walled in,
and have a gate with an inscription, "None but Millionaires allowed
here." It is very easy to get out of the artificial Newport and to come
into scenery that Nature has made after artistic designs which artists
are satisfied with. A favorite drive of our friends was to the Second
Beach and the Purgatory Rocks overlooking it. The photographers and the
water-color artists have exaggerated the Purgatory chasm into a Colorado
canon, but anybody can find it by help of a guide. The rock of this
locality is a curious study. It is an agglomerate made of pebbles and
cement, the pebbles being elongated as if by pressure. The rock is
sometimes found in detached fragments having the form of tree trunks.
Whenever it is fractured, the fracture is a clean cut, as if made by a
saw, and through both pebbles and cement, and the ends present the
appearance of a composite cake filled with almonds and cut with a knife.
The landscape is beautiful.
"All the lines are so simple," the artist explained. "The shore, the
sea, the gray rocks, with here and there the roof of a quaint cottage to
enliven the effect, and few trees, only just enough for contrast with the
long, sweeping lines."
"You don't like trees?" asked Miss Lamont.
"Yes, in themselves. But trees are apt to be in the way. There are too
many trees in America. It is not often you can get a broad, simple
effect like this."
It happened to be a day when the blue of the sea was that of the
Mediterranean, and the sky and sea melted into each other, so that a
distant sail-boat seemed to be climbing into the heavens. The waves
rolled in blue on the white sand beach, and broke in silver. Three young
girls on horseback galloping in a race along the hard beach at the moment
gave the needed animation to a very pretty picture.
North of this the land comes down to the sea in knolls of rock breaking
off suddenly-rocks gray with lichen, and shaded with a touch of other
vegetation. Between these knifeback ledges are plots of sea-green grass
and sedge, with little ponds, black, and mirroring the sky. Leaving this
wild bit of nature, which has got the name of Paradise (perhaps because
few people go there), the road back to town sweeps through sweet farm
land; the smell of hay is in the air, loads of hay encumber the roads,
flowers in profusion half smother the farm cottages, and the trees of the
apple-orchards are gnarled and picturesque as olives.
The younger members of the party climbed up into this paradise one day,
leaving the elders in their carriages. They came into a new world, as
unlike Newport as if they had been a thousand miles away. The spot was
wilder than it looked from a distance. The high ridges of rock lay
parallel, with bosky valleys and ponds between, and the sea shining in
the south—all in miniature. On the way to the ridges they passed clean
pasture fields, bowlders, gray rocks, aged cedars with flat tops like the
stone-pines of Italy. It was all wild but exquisite, a refined wildness
recalling the pictures of Rousseau.
Irene and Mr. King strolled along one of the ridges, and sat down on a
rock looking off upon the peaceful expanse, the silver lines of the
curving shores, and the blue sea dotted with white sails.
"Ah," said the girl, with an inspiration, "this is the sort of
five-o'clock I like."
"And I'm sure I'd rather be here with you than at the Blims' reception,
from which we ran away."
"I thought," said Irene, not looking at him, and jabbing the point of her
parasol into the ground, "I thought you liked Newport."
"So I do, or did. I thought you would like it. But, pardon me, you seem
somehow different from what you were at Fortress Monroe, or even at
lovely Atlantic City," this with a rather forced laugh.
"Do I? Well, I suppose I am; that is, different from what you thought
me. I should hate this place in a week more, beautiful as it is."
"Your mother is pleased here?"
The girl looked up quickly. "I forgot to tell you how much she thanked
you for the invitation to your cousin's. She was delighted there."
"And you were not?"
"I didn't say so; you were very kind."
"Oh, kind; I didn't mean to be kind. I was purely selfish in wanting you
to go. Cannot you believe, Miss Benson, that I had some pride in having
my friends see you and know you?"
"Well, I will be as frank as you are, Mr. King. I don't like being shown
off. There, don't look displeased. I didn't mean anything
"But I hoped you understood my motives better by this time."
"I did not think about motives, but the fact is" (another jab of the
parasol), "I was made desperately uncomfortable, and always shall be
under such circumstances, and, my friend—I should like to believe you
are my friend—you may as well expect I always will be."
"I cannot do that. You under—"
"I just see things as they are," Irene went on, hastily. "You think I am
different here. Well, I don't mind saying that when I made your
acquaintance I thought you different from any man I had met." But now it
was out, she did mind saying it; and stopped, confused, as if she had
confessed something. But she continued, almost immediately: "I mean I
liked your manner to women; you didn't appear to flatter, and you didn't
talk complimentary nonsense."
"And now I do?"
"No. Not that. But everything is somehow changed here. Don't let's
talk of it. There's the carriage."
Irene arose, a little flushed, and walked towards the point. Mr. King,
picking his way along behind her over the rocks, said, with an attempt at
lightening the situation, "Well, Miss Benson, I'm going to be just as
different as ever a man was."
NARRAGANSETT PIER AND NEWPORT AGAIN; MARTHA'S VINEYARD AND PLYMOUTH
We have heard it said that one of the charms, of Narragansett Pier is
that you can see Newport from it. The summer dwellers at the Pier talk a
good deal about liking it better than Newport; it is less artificial and
more restful. The Newporters never say anything about the Pier. The
Pier people say that it is not fair to judge it when you come direct from
Newport, but the longer you stay there the better you like it; and if any
too frank person admits that he would not stay in Narragansett a day if
he could afford to live in Newport, he is suspected of aristocratic
In a calm summer morning, such as our party of pilgrims chose for an
excursion to the Pier, there is no prettier sail in the world than that
out of the harbor, by Conanicut Island and Beaver-tail Light. It is a
holiday harbor, all these seas are holiday seas—the yachts, the sail
vessels, the puffing steamers, moving swiftly from one headland to
another, or loafing about the blue, smiling sea, are all on pleasure
bent. The vagrant vessels that are idly watched from the rocks at the
Pier may be coasters and freight schooners engaged seriously in trade,
but they do not seem so. They are a part of the picture, always to be
seen slowly dipping along in the horizon, and the impression is that they
are manoeuvred for show, arranged for picturesque effect, and that they
are all taken in at night.
The visitors confessed when they landed that the Pier was a contrast to
Newport. The shore below the landing is a line of broken, ragged, slimy
rocks, as if they had been dumped there for a riprap wall. Fronting this
unkempt shore is a line of barrack-like hotels, with a few cottages of
the cheap sort. At the end of this row of hotels is a fine granite
Casino, spacious, solid, with wide verandas, and a tennis-court—such a
building as even Newport might envy. Then come more hotels, a cluster of
cheap shops, and a long line of bath-houses facing a lovely curving
beach. Bathing is the fashion at the Pier, and everybody goes to the
beach at noon. The spectators occupy chairs on the platform in front of
the bath-houses, or sit under tents erected on the smooth sand. At high
noon the scene is very lively, and even picturesque, for the ladies here
dress for bathing with an intention of pleasing. It is generally
supposed that the angels in heaven are not edified by this promiscuous
bathing, and by the spectacle of a crowd of women tossing about in the
surf, but an impartial angel would admit that many of the costumes here
are becoming, and that the effect of the red and yellow caps, making a
color line in the flashing rollers, is charming. It is true that there
are odd figures in the shifting melee—one solitary old gentleman, who
had contrived to get his bathing-suit on hind-side before, wandered along
the ocean margin like a lost Ulysses; and that fat woman and fat man were
never intended for this sort of exhibition; but taken altogether, with
its colors, and the silver flash of the breaking waves, the scene was
exceedingly pretty. Not the least pretty part of it was the fringe of
children tumbling on the beach, following the retreating waves, and
flying from the incoming rollers with screams of delight. Children,
indeed, are a characteristic of Narragansett Pier—children and mothers.
It might be said to be a family place; it is a good deal so on Sundays,
and occasionally when the "business men" come down from the cities to see
how their wives and children get on at the hotels.
After the bathing it is the fashion to meet again at the Casino and take
lunch—sometimes through a straw—and after dinner everybody goes for a
stroll on the cliffs. This is a noble sea-promenade; with its handsome
villas and magnificent rocks, a fair rival to Newport. The walk, as
usually taken, is two or three miles along the bold, rocky shore, but an
ambitious pedestrian may continue it to the light on Point Judith.
Nowhere on this coast are the rocks more imposing, and nowhere do they
offer so many studies in color. The visitor's curiosity is excited by a
massive granite tower which rises out of a mass of tangled woods planted
on the crest of the hill, and his curiosity is not satisfied on nearer
inspection, when he makes his way into this thick and gloomy forest, and
finds a granite cottage near the tower, and the signs of neglect and
wildness that might mark the home of a recluse. What is the object of
this noble tower? If it was intended to adorn the landscape, why was it
ruined by piercing it irregularly with square windows like those of a
One has to hold himself back from being drawn into the history and
romance of this Narragansett shore. Down below the bathing beach is the
pretentious wooden pile called Canonchet, that already wears the air of
tragedy. And here, at this end, is the mysterious tower, and an ugly
unfinished dwelling-house of granite, with the legend "Druid's Dream"
carved over the entrance door; and farther inland, in a sandy and shrubby
landscape, is Kendall Green, a private cemetery, with its granite
monument, surrounded by heavy granite posts, every other one of which is
hollowed in the top as a receptacle for food for birds. And one reads
there these inscriptions: "Whatever their mode of faith, or creed, who
feed the wandering birds, will themselves be fed." "Who helps the
helpless, Heaven will help." This inland region, now apparently deserted
and neglected, was once the seat of colonial aristocracy, who exercised a
princely hospitality on their great plantations, exchanged visits and ran
horses with the planters of Virginia and the Carolinas, and were known as
far as Kentucky, and perhaps best known for their breed of Narragansett
pacers. But let us get back to the shore.
In wandering along the cliff path in the afternoon, Irene and Mr. King
were separated from the others, and unconsciously extended their stroll,
looking for a comfortable seat in the rocks. The day was perfect. The
sky had only a few fleecy, high-sailing clouds, and the great expanse of
sea sparkled under the hectoring of a light breeze. The atmosphere was
not too clear on the horizon for dreamy effects; all the headlands were
softened and tinged with opalescent colors. As the light struck them,
the sails which enlivened the scene were either dark spots or shining
silver sheets on the delicate blue. At one spot on this shore rises a
vast mass of detached rock, separated at low tide from the shore by
irregular bowlders and a tiny thread of water. In search of a seat the
two strollers made their way across this rivulet over the broken rocks,
passed over the summit of the giant mass, and established themselves in a
cavernous place close to the sea. Here was a natural seat, and the bulk
of the seamed and colored ledge, rising above their heads and curving
around them, shut them out of sight of the land, and left them alone with
the dashing sea, and the gulls that circled and dipped their silver wings
in their eager pursuit of prey. For a time neither spoke. Irene was
looking seaward, and Mr. King, who had a lower seat, attentively watched
the waves lapping the rocks at their feet, and the fine profile and trim
figure of the girl against the sky. He thought he had never seen her
looking more lovely, and yet he had a sense that she never was so remote
from him. Here was an opportunity, to be sure, if he had anything to
say, but some fine feeling of propriety restrained him from taking
advantage of it. It might not be quite fair, in a place so secluded and
remote, and with such sentimental influences, shut in as they were to the
sea and the sky.
"It seems like a world by itself," she began, as in continuation of her
thought. "They say you can see Gay Head Light from here."
"Yes. And Newport to the left there, with its towers and trees rising
out of the sea. It is quite like the Venice Lagoon in this light."
"I think I like Newport better at this distance. It is very poetical. I
don't think I like what is called the world much, when I am close to it."
The remark seemed to ask for sympathy, and Mr. King ventured: "Are you
willing to tell me, Miss Benson, why you have not seemed as happy at
Newport as elsewhere? Pardon me; it is not an idle question." Irene,
who seemed to be looking away beyond Gay Head, did not reply. "I should
like to know if I have been in any way the cause of it. We agreed to be
friends, and I think I have a friend's right to know." Still no
response. "You must see—you must know," he went on, hurriedly, "that it
cannot be a matter of indifference to me."
"It had better be," she said, as if speaking deliberately to herself, and
still looking away. But suddenly she turned towards him, and the tears
sprang to her eyes, and the words rushed out fiercely, "I wish I had
never left Cyrusville. I wish I had never been abroad. I wish I had
never been educated. It is all a wretched mistake."
King was unprepared for such a passionate outburst. It was like a rift
in a cloud, through which he had a glimpse of her real life. Words of
eager protest sprang to his lips, but, before they could be uttered,
either her mood had changed or pride had come to the rescue, for she
said: "How silly I am! Everybody has discontented days. Mr. King,
please don't ask me such questions. If you want to be a friend, you will
let me be unhappy now and then, and not say anything about it."
"But, Miss Benson—Irene—"
"There—'Miss Benson' will do very well."
"Well, Miss—Irene, then, there was something I wanted to say to you the
other day in Paradise—"
"Look, Mr. King. Did you see that wave? I'm sure it is nearer our feet
than when we sat down here."
"Oh, that's just an extra lift by the wind. I want to tell you. I must
tell you that life—has all changed since I met you—Irene, I—"
"There! There's no mistake-about that. The last wave came a foot higher
than the other!"
King sprang up. "Perhaps it is the tide. I'll go and see." He ran up
the rock, leaped across the fissures, and looked over on the side they
had ascended. Sure enough, the tide was coming in. The stones on which
they had stepped were covered, and a deep stream of water, rising with
every pulsation of the sea, now, where there was only a rivulet before.
He hastened back. "There is not a moment to lose. We are caught by the
tide, and if we are not off in five minutes we shall be prisoners here
till the turn."
He helped her up the slope and over the chasm. The way was very plain
when they came on, but now he could not find it. At the end of every
attempt was a precipice. And the water was rising. A little girl on the
shore shouted to them to follow along a ledge she pointed out, then
descend between two bowlders to the ford. Precious minutes were lost in
accomplishing this circuitous descent, and then they found the
stepping-stones under water, and the sea-weed swishing about the slippery
rocks with the incoming tide. It was a ridiculous position for lovers,
or even "friends"—ridiculous because it had no element of danger except
the ignominy of getting wet. If there was any heroism in seizing Irene
before she could protest, stumbling with his burden among the slimy
rocks, and depositing her, with only wet shoes, on the shore, Mr. King
shared it, and gained the title of "Life-preserver." The adventure ended
with a laugh.
The day after the discovery and exploration of Narragansett, Mr. King
spent the morning with his cousin at the Casino. It was so pleasant that
he wondered he had not gone there oftener, and that so few people
frequented it. Was it that the cottagers were too strong for the Casino
also, which was built for the recreation of the cottagers, and that they
found when it came to the test that they could not with comfort come into
any sort of contact with popular life? It is not large, but no summer
resort in Europe has a prettier place for lounging and reunion. None
have such an air of refinement and exclusiveness. Indeed, one of the
chief attractions and entertainments in the foreign casinos and
conversation-halls is the mingling there of all sorts of peoples, and the
animation arising from diversity of conditions. This popular commingling
in pleasure resorts is safe enough in aristocratic countries, but it will
not answer in a republic.
The Newport Casino is in the nature of a club of the best society. The
building and grounds express the most refined taste. Exteriorly the
house is a long, low Queen Anne cottage, with brilliant shops on the
ground-floor, and above, behind the wooded balconies, is the clubroom.
The tint of the shingled front is brown, and all the colors are low and
blended. Within, the court is a mediaeval surprise. It is a miniature
castle, such as might serve for an opera scene. An extension of the
galleries, an ombre, completes the circle around the plot of
close-clipped green turf. The house itself is all balconies, galleries,
odd windows half overgrown and hidden by ivy, and a large gilt clock-face
adds a touch of piquancy to the antique charm of the facade. Beyond the
first court is a more spacious and less artificial lawn, set with fine
trees, and at the bottom of it is the brown building containing ballroom
and theatre, bowling-alley and closed tennis-court, and at an angle with
the second lawn is a pretty field for lawn-tennis. Here the tournaments
are held, and on these occasions, and on ball nights, the Casino is
If the Casino is then so exclusive, why is it not more used as a
rendezvous and lounging-place? Alas! it must be admitted that it is not
exclusive. By an astonishing concession in the organization any person
can gain admittance by paying the sum of fifty cents. This tax is
sufficient to exclude the deserving poor, but it is only an inducement to
the vulgar rich, and it is even broken down by the prodigal excursionist,
who commonly sets out from home with the intention of being reckless for
one day. It is easy to see, therefore, why the charm of this delightful
place is tarnished.
The band was playing this morning—not rink music—when Mrs. Glow and
King entered and took chairs on the ombre. It was a very pretty scene;
more people were present than usual of a morning. Groups of half a dozen
had drawn chairs together here and there, and were chatting and laughing;
two or three exceedingly well-preserved old bachelors, in the smart rough
morning suits of the period, were entertaining their lady friends with
club and horse talk; several old gentlemen were reading newspapers; and
there were some dowager-looking mammas, and seated by them their cold,
beautiful, high-bred daughters, who wore their visible exclusiveness like
a garment, and contrasted with some other young ladies who were
promenading with English-looking young men in flannel suits, who might be
described as lawn-tennis young ladies conscious of being in the mode, but
wanting the indescribable atmosphere of high-breeding. Doubtless the
most interesting persons to the student of human life were the young
fellows in lawn-tennis suits. They had the languid air which is so
attractive at their age, of having found out life, and decided that it is
a bore. Nothing is worth making an exertion about, not even pleasure.
They had come, one could see, to a just appreciation of their value in
life, and understood quite well the social manners of the mammas and
girls in whose company they condescended to dawdle and make, languidly,
cynical observations. They had, in truth, the manner of playing at
fashion and elegance as in a stage comedy. King could not help thinking
there was something theatrical about them altogether, and he fancied that
when he saw them in their "traps" on the Avenue they were going through
the motions for show and not for enjoyment. Probably King was mistaken
in all this, having been abroad so long that he did not understand the
evolution of the American gilded youth.
In a pause of the music Mrs. Bartlett Glow and Mr. King were standing
with a group near the steps that led down to the inner lawn. Among them
were the Postlethwaite girls, whose beauty and audacity made such a
sensation in Washington last winter. They were bantering Mr. King about
his Narragansett excursion, his cousin having maliciously given the party
a hint of his encounter with the tide at the Pier. . . Just at this
moment, happening to glance across the lawn, he saw the Bensons coming
towards the steps, Mrs. Benson waddling over the grass and beaming
towards the group, Mr. Benson carrying her shawl and looking as if he had
been hired by the day, and Irene listlessly following. Mrs. Glow saw
them at the same moment, but gave no other sign of her knowledge than by
striking into the banter with more animation. Mr. King intended at once
to detach himself and advance to meet the Bensons. But he could not
rudely break away from the unfinished sentence of the younger
Postlethwaite girl, and the instant that was concluded, as luck would
have it, an elderly lady joined the group, and Mrs. Glow went through the
formal ceremony of introducing King to her. He hardly knew how it
happened, only that he made a hasty bow to the Bensons as he was shaking
hands with the ceremonious old lady, and they had gone to the door of
exit. He gave a little start as if to follow them, which Mrs. Glow
noticed with a laugh and the remark, "You can catch them if you run," and
then he weakly submitted to his fate. After all, it was only an accident
which would hardly need a word of explanation. But what Irene saw was
this: a distant nod from Mrs. Glow, a cool survey and stare from the
Postlethwaite girls, and the failure of Mr. King to recognize his friends
any further than by an indifferent bow as he turned to speak to another
lady. In the raw state of her sensitiveness she felt all this as a
terrible and perhaps intended humiliation.
King did not return to the hotel till evening, and then he sent up his
card to the Bensons. Word came back that the ladies were packing, and
must be excused. He stood at the office desk and wrote a hasty note to
Irene, attempting an explanation of what might seem to her a rudeness,
and asked that he might see her a moment. And then he paced the corridor
waiting for a reply. In his impatience the fifteen minutes that he
waited seemed an hour. Then a bell-boy handed him this note:
"MY DEAR MR. KING,—No explanation whatever was needed. We never
shall forget your kindness. Good-by.
He folded the note carefully and put it in his breast pocket, took it out
and reread it, lingering over the fine and dainty signature, put it back
again, and walked out upon the piazza. It was a divine night, soft and
sweet-scented, and all the rustling trees were luminous in the electric
light. From a window opening upon a balcony overhead came the clear
notes of a barytone voice enunciating the oldfashioned words of an
English ballad, the refrain of which expressed hopeless separation.
The eastern coast, with its ragged outline of bays, headlands,
indentations, islands, capes, and sand-spits, from Watch Hill, a favorite
breezy resort, to Mount Desert, presents an almost continual chain of
hotels and summer cottages. In fact, the same may be said of the whole
Atlantic front from Mount Desert down to Cape May. It is to the traveler
an amazing spectacle. The American people can no longer be reproached
for not taking any summer recreation. The amount of money invested to
meet the requirements of this vacation idleness is enormous. When one is
on the coast in July or August it seems as if the whole fifty millions of
people had come down to lie on the rocks, wade in the sand, and dip into
the sea. But this is not the case. These crowds are only a fringe of
the pleasure-seeking population. In all the mountain regions from North
Carolina to the Adirondacks and the White Hills, along the St. Lawrence
and the lakes away up to the Northwest, in every elevated village, on
every mountain-side, about every pond, lake, and clear stream, in the
wilderness and the secluded farmhouse, one encounters the traveler, the
summer boarder, the vacation idler, one is scarcely out of sight of the
American flag flying over a summer resort. In no other nation, probably,
is there such a general summer hejira, no other offers on such a vast
scale such a variety of entertainment, and it is needless to say that
history presents no parallel to this general movement of a people for a
summer outing. Yet it is no doubt true that statistics, which always
upset a broad generous statement such as I have made, would show that the
majority of people stay at home in the summer, and it is undeniable that
the vexing question for everybody is where to go in July and August.
But there are resorts suited to all tastes, and to the economical as well
as to the extravagant. Perhaps the strongest impression one has in
visiting the various watering-places in the summer-time, is that the
multitudes of every-day folk are abroad in search of enjoyment. On the
New Bedford boat for Martha's Vineyard our little party of tourists
sailed quite away from Newport life—Stanhope with mingled depression and
relief, the artist with some shrinking from contact with anything common,
while Marion stood upon the bow beside her uncle, inhaling the salt
breeze, regarding the lovely fleeting shores, her cheeks glowing and her
eyes sparkling with enjoyment. The passengers and scene, Stanhope was
thinking, were typically New England, until the boat made a landing at
Naushon Island, when he was reminded somehow of Scotland, as much perhaps
by the wild furzy appearance of the island as by the "gentle-folks" who
The boat lingered for the further disembarkation of a number of horses
and carriages, with a piano and a cow. There was a farmer's lodge at the
landing, and over the rocks and amid the trees the picturesque roof of
the villa of the sole proprietor of the island appeared, and gave a
feudal aspect to the domain. The sweet grass affords good picking for
sheep, and besides the sheep the owner raises deer, which are destined to
be chased and shot in the autumn.
The artist noted that there were several distinct types of women on
board, besides the common, straight-waisted, flat-chested variety. One
girl who was alone, with a city air, a neat, firm figure, in a traveling
suit of elegant simplicity, was fond of taking attitudes about the rails,
and watching the effect produced on the spectators. There was a
blue-eyed, sharp-faced, rather loose-jointed young girl, who had the
manner of being familiar with the boat, and talked readily and freely
with anybody, keeping an eye occasionally on her sister of eight years, a
child with a serious little face in a poke-bonnet, who used the language
of a young lady of sixteen, and seemed also abundantly able to take care
of herself. What this mite of a child wants of all things, she
confesses, is a pug-faced dog. Presently she sees one come on board in
the arms of a young lady at Wood's Holl. "No," she says, "I won't ask
her for it; the lady wouldn't give it to me, and I wouldn't waste my
breath;" but she draws near to the dog, and regards it with rapt
attention. The owner of the dog is a very pretty black-eyed girl with
banged hair, who prattles about herself and her dog with perfect freedom.
She is staying at Cottage City, lives at Worcester, has been up to Boston
to meet and bring down her dog, without which she couldn't live another
minute. "Perhaps," she says, "you know Dr. Ridgerton, in Worcester; he's
my brother. Don't you know him? He's a chiropodist."
These girls are all types of the skating-rink—an institution which is
beginning to express itself in American manners.
The band was playing on the pier when the steamer landed at Cottage City
(or Oak Bluff, as it was formerly called), and the pier and the gallery
leading to it were crowded with spectators, mostly women a pleasing
mingling of the skating-rink and sewing-circle varieties—and gayety was
apparently about setting in with the dusk. The rink and the, ground
opposite the hotel were in full tilt. After supper King and Forbes took
a cursory view of this strange encampment, walking through the streets of
fantastic tiny cottages among the scrub oaks, and saw something of family
life in the painted little boxes, whose wide-open front doors gave to
view the whole domestic economy, including the bed, centre-table, and
melodeon. They strolled also on the elevated plank promenade by the
beach, encountering now and then a couple enjoying the lovely night.
Music abounded. The circus-pumping strains burst out of the rink,
calling to a gay and perhaps dissolute life. The band in the nearly
empty hotel parlor, in a mournful mood, was wooing the guests who did not
come to a soothing tune, something like China—"Why do we mourn departed
friends?" A procession of lasses coming up the broad walk, advancing out
of the shadows of night, was heard afar off as the stalwart singers
strode on, chanting in high nasal voices that lovely hymn, which seems to
suit the rink as well as the night promenade and the campmeeting:
"We shall me—um um—we shall me-eet, me-eet—um um
—we shall meet,
In the sweet by-am-by, by-am-by-um um-by-am-by.
On the bu-u-u-u—on the bu-u-u-u—on the bu-te-ful shore."
In the morning this fairy-like settlement, with its flimsy and eccentric
architecture, took on more the appearance of reality. The season was
late, as usual, and the hotels were still waiting for the crowds that
seem to prefer to be late and make a rushing carnival of August, but the
tiny cottages were nearly all occupied. At 10 A.M. the band was playing
in the three-story pagoda sort of tower at the bathing-place, and the
three stories were crowded with female spectators. Below, under the
bank, is a long array of bath-houses, and the shallow water was alive
with floundering and screaming bathers. Anchored a little out was a
raft, from which men and boys and a few venturesome girls were diving,
displaying the human form in graceful curves. The crowd was an immensely
good-humored one, and enjoyed itself. The sexes mingled together in the
water, and nothing thought of it, as old Pepys would have said, although
many of the tightly-fitting costumes left less to the imagination than
would have been desired by a poet describing the scene as a phase of the
'comedie humaine.' The band, having played out its hour, trudged back to
the hotel pier to toot while the noon steamboat landed its passengers, in
order to impress the new arrivals with the mad joyousness of the place.
The crowd gathered on the high gallery at the end of the pier added to
this effect of reckless holiday enjoyment. Miss Lamont was infected with
this gayety, and took a great deal of interest in this peripatetic band,
which was playing again on the hotel piazza before dinner, with a sort of
mechanical hilariousness. The rink band opposite kept up a lively
competition, grinding out go-round music, imparting, if one may say so, a
glamour to existence. The band is on hand at the pier at four o'clock to
toot again, and presently off, tramping to some other hotel to satisfy
the serious pleasure of this people.
While Mr. King could not help wondering how all this curious life would
strike Irene—he put his lonesomeness and longing in this way—and what
she would say about it, he endeavored to divert his mind by a study of
the conditions, and by some philosophizing on the change that had come
over American summer life within a few years. In his investigations he
was assisted by Mr. De Long, to whom this social life was absolutely new,
and who was disposed to regard it as peculiarly Yankee—the staid
dissipation of a serious-minded people. King, looking at it more
broadly, found this pasteboard city by the sea one of the most
interesting developments of American life. The original nucleus was the
Methodist camp-meeting, which, in the season, brought here twenty
thousand to thirty thousand people at a time, who camped and picnicked in
a somewhat primitive style. Gradually the people who came here
ostensibly for religious exercises made a longer and more permanent
occupation, and, without losing its ephemeral character, the place grew
and demanded more substantial accommodations. The spot is very
attractive. Although the shore looks to the east, and does not get the
prevailing southern breeze, and the beach has little surf, both water and
air are mild, the bathing is safe and agreeable, and the view of the
illimitable sea dotted with sails and fishing-boats is always pleasing. A
crowd begets a crowd, and soon the world's people made a city larger than
the original one, and still more fantastic, by the aid of paint and the
jigsaw. The tent, however, is the type of all the dwelling-houses. The
hotels, restaurants, and shops follow the usual order of flamboyant
seaside architecture. After a time the Baptists established a camp,
ground on the bluffs on the opposite side of the inlet. The world's
people brought in the commercial element in the way of fancy shops for
the sale of all manner of cheap and bizarre "notions," and introduced the
common amusements. And so, although the camp-meetings do not begin till
late in August, this city of play-houses is occupied the summer long. The
shops and shows represent the taste of the million, and although there is
a similarity in all these popular coast watering-places, each has a
characteristic of its own. The foreigner has a considerable opportunity
of studying family life, whether he lounges through the narrow, sometimes
circular, streets by night, when it appears like a fairy encampment, or
by daylight, when there is no illusion. It seems to be a point of
etiquette to show as much of the interiors as possible, and one can learn
something of cooking and bed-making and mending, and the art of doing up
the back hair. The photographer revels here in pictorial opportunities.
The pictures of these bizarre cottages, with the family and friends
seated in front, show very serious groups. One of the Tabernacle—a vast
iron hood or dome erected over rows of benches that will seat two or
three thousand people—represents the building when it is packed with an
audience intent upon the preacher. Most of the faces are of a grave,
severe type, plain and good, of the sort of people ready to die for a
notion. The impression of these photographs is that these people abandon
themselves soberly to the pleasures of the sea and of this packed,
gregarious life, and get solid enjoyment out of their recreation.
Here, as elsewhere on the coast, the greater part of the population
consists of women and children, and the young ladies complain of the
absence of men—and, indeed, something is desirable in society besides
the superannuated and the boys in round-abouts.
The artist and Miss Lamont, in search of the picturesque, had the
courage, although the thermometer was in the humor to climb up to ninety
degrees, to explore the Baptist encampment. They were not rewarded by
anything new except at the landing, where, behind the bath-houses, the
bathing suits were hung out to dry, and presented a comical spectacle,
the humor of which seemed to be lost upon all except themselves. It was
such a caricature of humanity! The suits hanging upon the line and
distended by the wind presented the appearance of headless, bloated
forms, fat men and fat women kicking in the breeze, and vainly trying to
climb over the line. It was probably merely fancy, but they declared
that these images seemed larger, more bloated, and much livelier than
those displayed on the Cottage City side. When travelers can be
entertained by trifles of this kind it shows that there is an absence of
more serious amusement. And, indeed, although people were not wanting,
and music was in the air, and the bicycle and tricycle stable was well
patronized by men and women, and the noon bathing was well attended, it
was evident that the life of Cottage City was not in full swing by the
middle of July.
The morning on which our tourists took the steamer for Wood's Holl the
sea lay shimmering in the heat, only stirred a little by the land breeze,
and it needed all the invigoration of the short ocean voyage to brace
them up for the intolerably hot and dusty ride in the cars through the
sandy part of Massachusetts. So long as the train kept by the indented
shore the route was fairly picturesque; all along Buzzard Bay and Onset
Bay and Monument Beach little cottages, gay with paint and fantastic
saw-work explained, in a measure, the design of Providence in permitting
this part of the world to be discovered; but the sandy interior had to be
reconciled to the deeper divine intention by a trial of patience and the
cultivation of the heroic virtues evoked by a struggle for existence, of
fitting men and women for a better country. The travelers were
confirmed, however, in their theory of the effect of a sandy country upon
the human figure. This is not a juicy land, if the expression can be
tolerated, any more than the sandy parts of New Jersey, and its
unsympathetic dryness is favorable to the production—one can hardly say
development of the lean, enduring, flat-chested, and angular style of
In order to reach Plymouth a wait of a couple of hours was necessary at
one of the sleepy but historic villages. There was here no tavern, no
restaurant, and nobody appeared to have any license to sell anything for
the refreshment of the travelers. But at some distance from the station,
in a two-roomed dwelling-house, a good woman was found who was willing to
cook a meal of victuals, as she explained, and a sign on her front door
attested, she had a right to do. What was at the bottom of the local
prejudice against letting the wayfaring man have anything to eat and
drink, the party could not ascertain, but the defiant air of the woman
revealed the fact that there was such a prejudice. She was a noble,
robust, gigantic specimen of her sex, well formed, strong as an ox, with
a resolute jaw, and she talked, through tightly-closed teeth, in an
aggressive manner. Dinner was ordered, and the party strolled about the
village pending its preparation; but it was not ready when they returned.
"I ain't goin' to cook no victuals," the woman explained, not
ungraciously, "till I know folks is goin' to eat it." Knowledge of the
world had made her justly cautious. She intended to set out a good meal,
and she had the true housewife's desire that it should be eaten, that
there should be enough of it, and that the guests should like it. When
she waited on the table she displayed a pair of arms that would
discourage any approach to familiarity, and disincline a timid person to
ask twice for pie; but in point of fact, as soon as the party became her
bona-fide guests, she was royally hospitable, and only displayed anxiety
lest they should not eat enough.
"I like folks to be up and down and square," she began saying, as she
vigilantly watched the effect of her culinary skill upon the awed little
party. "Yes, I've got a regular hotel license; you bet I have. There's
been folks lawed in this town for sellin' a meal of victuals and not
having one. I ain't goin' to be taken in by anybody. I warn't raised in
New Hampshire to be scared by these Massachusetts folks. No, I hain't
got a girl now. I had one a spell, but I'd rather do my own work. You
never knew what a girl was doin' or would do. After she'd left I found a
broken plate tucked into the ash-barrel. Sho! you can't depend on a
girl. Yes, I've got a husband. It's easier to manage him. Well, I tell
you a husband is better than a girl. When you tell him to do anything,
you know it's going to be done. He's always about, never loafin' round;
he can take right hold and wash dishes, and fetch water, and anything."
King went into the kitchen after dinner and saw this model husband, who
had the faculty of making himself generally useful, holding a baby on one
arm, and stirring something in a pot on the stove with the other. He
looked hot but resigned. There has been so much said about the position
of men in Massachusetts that the travelers were glad of this evidence
that husbands are beginning to be appreciated. Under proper training
they are acknowledged to be "better than girls."
It was late afternoon when they reached the quiet haven of Plymouth—a
place where it is apparently always afternoon, a place of memory and
reminiscences, where the whole effort of the population is to hear and to
tell some old thing. As the railway ends there, there is no danger of
being carried beyond, and the train slowly ceases motion, and stands
still in the midst of a great and welcome silence. Peace fell upon the
travelers like a garment, and although they had as much difficulty in
landing their baggage as the early Pilgrims had in getting theirs ashore,
the circumstance was not able to disquiet them much. It seemed natural
that their trunks should go astray on some of the inextricably
interlocked and branching railways, and they had no doubt that when they
had made the tour of the State they would be discharged, as they finally
were, into this cul-de-sac.
The Pilgrims have made so much noise in the world, and so powerfully
affected the continent, that our tourists were surprised to find they had
landed in such a quiet place, and that the spirit they have left behind
them is one of such tranquillity. The village has a charm all its own.
Many of the houses are old-fashioned and square, some with colonial doors
and porches, irregularly aligned on the main street, which is arched by
ancient and stately elms. In the spacious door-yards the lindens have
had room and time to expand, and in the beds of bloom the flowers, if not
the very ones that our grandmothers planted, are the sorts that they
loved. Showing that the town has grown in sympathy with human needs and
eccentricities, and is not the work of a surveyor, the streets are
irregular, forming picturesque angles and open spaces.
Nothing could be imagined in greater contrast to a Western town, and a
good part of the satisfaction our tourists experienced was in the absence
of anything Western or "Queen Anne" in the architecture.
In the Pilgrim Hall—a stone structure with an incongruous
wooden-pillared front—they came into the very presence of the early
worthies, saw their portraits on the walls, sat in their chairs, admired
the solidity of their shoes, and imbued themselves with the spirit of the
relics of their heroic, uncomfortable lives. In the town there was
nothing to disturb the serenity of mind acquired by this communion. The
Puritan interdict of unseemly excitement still prevailed, and the streets
were silent; the artist, who could compare it with the placidity of
Holland towns, declared that he never walked in a village so silent;
there was no loud talking; and even the children played without noise,
like little Pilgrims. . . God bless such children, and increase their
numbers! It might have been the approach of Sunday—if Sunday is still
regarded in eastern Massachusetts—that caused this hush, for it was now
towards sunset on Saturday, and the inhabitants were washing the fronts
of the houses with the hose, showing how cleanliness is next to silence.
Possessed with the spirit of peace, our tourists, whose souls had been
vexed with the passions of many watering-places, walked down Leyden
Street (the first that was laid out), saw the site of the first house,
and turned round Carver Street, walking lingeringly, so as not to break
the spell, out upon the hill-Cole's Hill—where the dead during the first
fearful winter were buried. This has been converted into a beautiful
esplanade, grassed and graveled and furnished with seats, and overlooks
the old wharves, some coal schooners, and shabby buildings, on one of
which is a sign informing the reckless that they can obtain there
clam-chowder and ice-cream, and the ugly, heavy granite canopy erected
over the "Rock." No reverent person can see this rock for the first time
without a thrill of excitement. It has the date of 1620 cut in it, and
it is a good deal cracked and patched up, as if it had been much landed
on, but there it is, and there it will remain a witness to a great
historic event, unless somebody takes a notion to cart it off uptown
again. It is said to rest on another rock, of which it formed a part
before its unfortunate journey, and that lower rock as everybody knows,
rests upon the immutable principle of self-government. The stone lies
too far from the water to enable anybody to land on it now, and it is
protected from vandalism by an iron grating. The sentiment of the hour
was disturbed by the advent of the members of a baseball nine, who
wondered why the Pilgrims did not land on the wharf, and, while thrusting
their feet through the grating in a commendable desire to touch the
sacred rock, expressed a doubt whether the feet of the Pilgrims were
small enough to slip through the grating and land on the stone. It seems
that there is nothing safe from the irreverence of American youth.
Has any other coast town besides Plymouth had the good sense and taste to
utilize such an elevation by the water-side as an esplanade? It is a
most charming feature of the village, and gives it what we call a foreign
air. It was very lovely in the afterglow and at moonrise. Staid
citizens with their families occupied the benches, groups were chatting
under the spreading linden-tree at the north entrance, and young maidens
in white muslin promenaded, looking seaward, as was the wont of Puritan
maidens, watching a receding or coming Mayflower. But there was no loud
talking, no laughter, no outbursts of merriment from the children, all
ready to be transplanted to the Puritan heaven! It was high tide, and
all the bay was silvery with a tinge of color from the glowing sky. The
long, curved sand-spit-which was heavily wooded when the Pilgrims
landed-was silvery also, and upon its northern tip glowed the white
sparkle in the lighthouse like the evening-star. To the north, over the
smooth pink water speckled with white sails, rose Captain Hill, in
Duxbury, bearing the monument to Miles Standish. Clarke's Island (where
the Pilgrims heard a sermon on the first Sunday), Saguish Point, and
Gurnett Headland (showing now twin white lights) appear like a long
island intersected by thin lines of blue water. The effect of these
ribbons of alternate sand and water, of the lights and the ocean (or
Great Bay) beyond, was exquisite.
Even the unobtrusive tavern at the rear of the esplanade, ancient, feebly
lighted, and inviting, added something to the picturesqueness of the
scene. The old tree by the gate—an English linden—illuminated by the
street lamps and the moon, had a mysterious appearance, and the tourists
were not surprised to learn that it has a romantic history. The story is
that the twig or sapling from which it grew was brought over from England
by a lover as a present to his mistress, that the lovers quarreled almost
immediately, that the girl in a pet threw it out of the window when she
sent her lover out of the door, and that another man picked it up and
planted it where it now grows. The legend provokes a good many
questions. One would like to know whether this was the first case of
female rebellion in Massachusetts against the common-law right of a man
to correct a woman with a stick not thicker than his little finger—a
rebellion which has resulted in the position of man as the tourists saw
him where the New Hampshire Amazon gave them a meal of victuals; and
whether the girl married the man who planted the twig, and, if so,
whether he did not regret that he had not kept it by him.
This is a world of illusions. By daylight, when the tide was out, the
pretty silver bay of the night before was a mud flat, and the tourists,
looking over it from Monument Hill, lost some of their respect for the
Pilgrim sagacity in selecting a landing-place. They had ascended the
hill for a nearer view of the monument, King with a reverent wish to read
the name of his Mayflower ancestor on the tablet, the others in a spirit
of cold, New York criticism, for they thought the structure, which is
still unfinished, would look uglier near at hand than at a distance. And
it does. It is a pile of granite masonry surmounted by symbolic figures.
"It is such an unsympathetic, tasteless-looking thing!" said Miss Lamont.
"Do you think it is the worst in the country?"
"I wouldn't like to say that," replied the artist, "when the competition
in this direction is so lively. But just look at the drawing" (holding
up his pencil with which he had intended to sketch it). "If it were
quaint, now, or rude, or archaic, it might be in keeping, but bad drawing
is just vulgar. I should think it had been designed by a carpenter, and
executed by a stone-mason."
"Yes," said the little Lamont, who always fell in with the most
abominable opinions the artist expressed; "it ought to have been made of
wood, and painted and sanded."
"You will please remember," mildly suggested King, who had found the name
he was in search of, "that you are trampling on my ancestral
sensibilities, as might be expected of those who have no ancestors who
ever landed or ever were buried anywhere in particular. I look at the
commemorative spirit rather than the execution of the monument."
"So do I," retorted the girl; "and if the Pilgrims landed in such a
vulgar, ostentatious spirit as this, I'm glad my name is not on the
The party were in a better mood when they had climbed up Burial Hill,
back of the meeting-house, and sat down on one of the convenient benches
amid the ancient gravestones, and looked upon the wide and magnificent
prospect. A soft summer wind waved a little the long gray grass of the
ancient resting-place, and seemed to whisper peace to the weary
generation that lay there. What struggles, what heroisms, the names on
the stones recalled! Here had stood the first fort of 1620, and here the
watchtower of 1642, from the top of which the warder espied the lurking
savage, or hailed the expected ship from England. How much of history
this view recalled, and what pathos of human life these graves made real.
Read the names of those buried a couple of centuries ago—captains,
elders, ministers, governors, wives well beloved, children a span long,
maidens in the blush of womanhood—half the tender inscriptions are
illegible; the stones are broken, sunk, slanting to fall. What a pitiful
attempt to keep the world mindful of the departed!
MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, ISLES OF SHOALS
Mr. Stanhope King was not in very good spirits. Even Boston did not make
him cheerful. He was half annoyed to see the artist and Miss Lamont
drifting along in such laughing good-humor with the world, as if a summer
holiday was just a holiday without any consequences or responsibilities.
It was to him a serious affair ever since that unsatisfactory note from
Miss Benson; somehow the summer had lost its sparkle. And yet was it not
preposterous that a girl, just a single girl, should have the power to
change for a man the aspect of a whole coast-by her presence to make it
iridescent with beauty, and by her absence to take all the life out of
it? And a simple girl from Ohio! She was not by any means the prettiest
girl in the Newport Casino that morning, but it was her figure that he
remembered, and it was the look of hurt sensibility in her eyes that
stayed with him. He resented the attitude of the Casino towards her, and
he hated himself for his share in it. He would write to her….. He
composed letter after letter in his mind, which he did not put on paper.
How many millions of letters are composed in this way! It is a favorite
occupation of imaginative people; and as they say that no thoughts or
mental impressions are ever lost, but are all registered—made, as it
were, on a "dry-plate," to be developed hereafter—what a vast
correspondence must be lying in the next world, in the Dead-letter Office
there, waiting for the persons to whom it is addressed, who will all
receive it and read it some day! How unpleasant and absurd it will be to
read, much of it! I intend to be careful, for my part, about composing
letters of this sort hereafter. Irene, I dare say, will find a great
many of them from Mr. King, thought out in those days. But he mailed
none of them to her. What should he say? Should he tell her that he
didn't mind if her parents were what Mrs. Bartlett Glow called
"impossible"? If he attempted any explanation, would it not involve the
offensive supposition that his social rank was different from hers? Even
if he convinced her that he recognized no caste in American society, what
could remove from her mind the somewhat morbid impression that her
education had put her in a false position? His love probably could not
shield her from mortification in a society which, though indefinable in
its limits and code, is an entity more vividly felt than the government
of the United States.
"Don't you think the whole social atmosphere has changed," Miss Lamont
suddenly asked, as they were running along in the train towards
Manchester-by-the-Sea, "since we got north of Boston? I seem to find it
so. Don't you think it's more refined, and, don't you know, sort of
cultivated, and subdued, and Boston? You notice the gentlemen who get
out at all these stations, to go to their country-houses, how highly
civilized they look, and ineffably respectable and intellectual, all of
them presidents of colleges, and substantial bank directors, and possible
ambassadors, and of a social cult (isn't that the word?) uniting brains
and gentle manners."
"You must have been reading the Boston newspapers; you have hit the idea
prevalent in these parts, at any rate. I was, however, reminded myself
of an afternoon train out of London, say into Surrey, on which you are
apt to encounter about as high a type of civilized men as anywhere."
"And you think this is different from a train out of New York?" asked the
"Yes. New York is more mixed. No one train has this kind of tone. You
see there more of the broker type and politician type, smarter apparel
and nervous manners, but, dear me, not this high moral and intellectual
"Well," said the artist, "I'm changing my mind about this country. I
didn't expect so much variety. I thought that all the watering-places
would be pretty much alike, and that we should see the same people
everywhere. But the people are quite as varied as the scenery."
"There you touch a deep question—the refining or the vulgarizing
influence of man upon nature, and the opposite. Now, did the summer
Bostonians make this coast refined, or did this coast refine the
Bostonians who summer here?"
"Well, this is primarily an artistic coast; I feel the influence of it;
there is a refined beauty in all the lines, and residents have not
vulgarized it much. But I wonder what Boston could have done for the
In the midst of this high and useless conversation they came to the
Masconomo House, a sort of concession, in this region of noble villas and
private parks, to the popular desire to get to the sea. It is a long,
low house, with very broad passages below and above, which give lightness
and cheerfulness to the interior, and each of the four corners of the
entrance hall has a fireplace. The pillars of the front and back piazzas
are pine stems stained, with the natural branches cut in unequal lengths,
and look like the stumps for the bears to climb in the pit at Berne. Set
up originally with the bark on, the worms worked underneath it in secret,
at a novel sort of decoration, until the bark came off and exposed the
stems most beautifully vermiculated, giving the effect of fine carving.
Back of the house a meadow slopes down to a little beach in a curved bay
that has rocky headlands, and is defended in part by islands of rock.
The whole aspect of the place is peaceful. The hotel does not assert
itself very loudly, and if occasionally transient guests appear with
flash manners, they do not affect the general tone of the region.
One finds, indeed, nature and social life happily blended, the
exclusiveness being rather protective than offensive. The special charm
of this piece of coast is that it is bold, much broken and indented,
precipices fronting the waves, promontories jutting out, high rocky
points commanding extensive views, wild and picturesque, and yet softened
by color and graceful shore lines, and the forest comes down to the edge
of the sea. And the occupants have heightened rather than lessened this
picturesqueness by adapting their villas to a certain extent to the rocks
and inequalities in color and form, and by means of roads, allies, and
vistas transforming the region into a lovely park.
Here, as at Newport, is cottage life, but the contrast of the two places
is immense. There is here no attempt at any assembly or congregated
gayety or display. One would hesitate to say that the drives here have
more beauty, but they have more variety. They seem endless, through
odorous pine woods and shady lanes, by private roads among beautiful
villas and exquisite grounds, with evidences everywhere of wealth to be
sure, but of individual taste and refinement. How sweet and cool are
these winding ways in the wonderful woods, overrun with vegetation, the
bayberry, the sweet-fern, the wild roses, wood-lilies, and ferns! and it
is ever a fresh surprise at a turn to find one's self so near the sea,
and to open out an entrancing coast view, to emerge upon a promontory and
a sight of summer isles, of lighthouses, cottages, villages—Marblehead,
Salem, Beverly. What a lovely coast! and how wealth and culture have set
their seal on it.
It possesses essentially the same character to the north, although the
shore is occasionally higher and bolder, as at the picturesque promontory
of Magnolia, and Cape Ann exhibits more of the hotel and popular life.
But to live in one's own cottage, to choose his calling and dining
acquaintances, to make the long season contribute something to
cultivation in literature, art, music—to live, in short, rather more for
one's self than for society—seems the increasing tendency of the men of
fortune who can afford to pay as much for an acre of rock and sand at
Manchester as would build a decent house elsewhere. The tourist does not
complain of this, and is grateful that individuality has expressed itself
in the great variety of lovely homes, in cottages very different from
those on the Jersey coast, showing more invention, and good in form and
There are New-Yorkers at Manchester, and Bostonians at Newport; but who
was it that said New York expresses itself at Newport, and Boston at
Manchester and kindred coast settlements? This may be only fancy. Where
intellectual life keeps pace with the accumulation of wealth, society is
likely to be more natural, simpler, less tied to artificial rules, than
where wealth runs ahead. It happens that the quiet social life of
Beverly, Manchester, and that region is delightful, although it is a home
rather than a public life. Nowhere else at dinner and at the chance
evening musicale is the foreigner more likely to meet sensible men who
are good talkers, brilliant and witty women who have the gift of being
entertaining, and to have the events of the day and the social and
political problems more cleverly discussed. What is the good of wealth
if it does not bring one back to freedom, and the ability to live
naturally and to indulge the finer tastes in vacation-time?
After all, King reflected, as the party were on their way to the Isles of
Shoals, what was it that had most impressed him at Manchester? Was it
not an evening spent in a cottage amid the rocks, close by the water, in
the company of charming people? To be sure, there were the magical
reflection of the moonlight and the bay, the points of light from the
cottages on the rocky shore, the hum and swell of the sea, and all the
mystery of the shadowy headlands; but this was only a congenial setting
for the music, the witty talk, the free play of intellectual badinage,
and seriousness, and the simple human cordiality that were worth all the
What a kaleidoscope it is, this summer travel, and what an entertainment,
if the tourist can only keep his "impression plates" fresh to take the
new scenes, and not sink into the state of chronic grumbling at hotels
and minor discomforts! An interview at a ticket-office, a whirl of an
hour on the rails, and to Portsmouth, anchored yet to the colonial times
by a few old houses, and resisting with its respectable provincialism the
encroachments of modern smartness, and the sleepy wharf in the sleepy
harbor, where the little steamer is obligingly waiting for the last
passenger, for the very last woman, running with a bandbox in one hand,
and dragging a jerked, fretting child by the other hand, to make the
hour's voyage to the Isles of Shoals.
(The shrewd reader objects to the bandbox as an anachronism: it is no
longer used. If I were writing a novel, instead of a veracious
chronicle, I should not have introduced it, for it is an anachronism. But
I was powerless, as a mere narrator, to prevent the woman coming aboard
with her bandbox. No one but a trained novelist can make a
long-striding, resolute, down-East woman conform to his notions of
conduct and fashion.)
If a young gentleman were in love, and the object of his adoration were
beside him, he could not have chosen a lovelier day nor a prettier scene
than this in which to indulge his happiness; and if he were in love, and
the object absent, he could scarcely find a situation fitter to nurse his
tender sentiment. Doubtless there is a stage in love when scenery of the
very best quality becomes inoperative. There was a couple on board
seated in front of the pilot-house, who let the steamer float along the
pretty, long, landlocked harbor, past the Kittery Navy-yard, and out upon
the blue sea, without taking the least notice of anything but each other.
They were on a voyage of their own, Heaven help them! probably without
any chart, a voyage of discovery, just as fresh and surprising as if they
were the first who ever took it. It made no difference to them that
there was a personally conducted excursion party on board, going, they
said, to the Oceanic House on Star Island, who had out their maps and
guide-books and opera-glasses, and wrung the last drop of the cost of
their tickets out of every foot of the scenery. Perhaps it was to King a
more sentimental journey than to anybody else, because he invoked his
memory and his imagination, and as the lovely shores opened or fell away
behind the steamer in ever-shifting forms of beauty, the scene was in
harmony with both his hope and his longing. As to Marion and the artist,
they freely appropriated and enjoyed it. So that mediaeval structure,
all tower, growing out of the rock, is Stedman's Castle—just like him,
to let his art spring out of nature in that way. And that is the famous
"What do they do there, uncle?" asked the girl, after scanning the place
in search of dry-docks and vessels and the usual accompaniments of a
"Oh, they make 'repairs,' principally just before an election. It is
very busy then."
"What sort of repairs?"
"Why, political repairs; they call them naval in the department. They
are always getting appropriations for them. I suppose that this country
is better off for naval repairs than any other country in the world."
"And they are done here?"
"No; they are done in the department. Here is where the voters are. You
see, we have a political navy. It costs about as much as those navies
that have ships and guns, but it is more in accord with the peaceful
spirit of the age. Did you never hear of the leading case of 'repairs'
of a government vessel here at Kittery? The 'repairs' were all done
here, at Portsmouth, New Hampshire; the vessel lay all the time at
Portsmouth, Virginia. How should the department know that there were two
places of the same name? It usually intends to have 'repairs' and the
vessel in the same navy-yard."
The steamer was gliding along over smooth water towards the seven blessed
isles, which lay there in the sun, masses of rock set in a sea sparkling
with diamond points. There were two pretty girls in the pilot-house, and
the artist thought their presence there accounted for the serene voyage,
for the masts of a wrecked schooner rising out of the shallows to the
north reminded him that this is a dangerous coast. But he said the
passengers would have a greater sense of security if the usual placard
(for the benefit of the captain) was put up: "No flirting with the girl
at the wheel."
At a distance nothing could be more barren than these islands, which
Captain John Smith and their native poet have enveloped in a halo of
romance, and it was not until the steamer was close to it that any
landing-place was visible on Appledore, the largest of the group.
The boat turned into a pretty little harbor among the rocks, and the
settlement was discovered: a long, low, old-fashioned hotel with piazzas,
and a few cottages, perched on the ledges, the door-yards of which were
perfectly ablaze with patches of flowers, masses of red, yellow,
purple-poppies, marigolds, nasturtiums, bachelor's-buttons, lovely
splashes of color against the gray lichen-covered rock. At the landing
is an interior miniature harbor, walled in, and safe for children to
paddle about and sail on in tiny boats. The islands offer scarcely any
other opportunity for bathing, unless one dare take a plunge off the
Talk of the kaleidoscope! At a turn of the wrist, as it were, the
elements of society had taken a perfectly novel shape here. Was it only
a matter of grouping and setting, or were these people different from all
others the tourists had seen? There was a lively scene in the hotel
corridor, the spacious office with its long counters and post-office,
when the noon mail was opened and the letters called out. So many pretty
girls, with pet dogs of all degrees of ugliness (dear little objects of
affection overflowing and otherwise running to waste—one of the most
pathetic sights in this sad world), jaunty suits with a nautical cut, for
boating and rock-climbing, family groups, so much animation and
excitement over the receipt of letters, so much well-bred chaffing and
friendliness, such an air of refinement and "style," but withal so
homelike. These people were "guests" of the proprietors, who
nevertheless felt a sort of proprietorship themselves in the little
island, and were very much like a company together at sea. For living on
this island is not unlike being on shipboard at sea, except that this
rock does not heave about in a nauseous way.
Mr. King discovered by the register that the Bensons had been here (of
all places in the world, he thought this would be the ideal one for a few
days with her), and Miss Lamont had a letter from Irene, which she did
not offer to read.
"They didn't stay long," she said, as Mr. King seemed to expect some
information out of the letter, "and they have gone on to Bar Harbor. I
should like to stop here a week; wouldn't you?"
"Ye-e-s," trying to recall the mood he was in before he looked at the
register; "but—but" (thinking of the words "gone on to Bar Harbor") "it
is a place, after all, that you can see in a short time—go all over it
in half a day."
"But you want to sit about on the rocks, and look at the sea, and dream."
"I can't dream on an island-not on a small island. It's too cooped up;
you get a feeling of being a prisoner."
"I suppose you wish 'that little isle had wings, and you and I within its
"There's one thing I will not stand, Miss Lamont, and that's Moore."
"Come, let's go to Star Island."
The party went in the tug Pinafore, which led a restless, fussy life,
puffing about among these islands, making the circuit of Appledore at
fixed hours, and acting commonly as a ferry. Star Island is smaller than
Appledore and more barren, but it has the big hotel (and a different
class of guests from those on Appledore), and several monuments of
romantic interest. There is the ancient stone church, rebuilt some time
in this century; there are some gravestones; there is a monument to
Captain John Smith, the only one existing anywhere to that interesting
adventurer—a triangular shaft, with a long inscription that could not
have been more eulogistic if he had composed it himself. There is
something pathetic in this lonely monument when we recall Smith's own
touching allusion to this naked rock, on which he probably landed when he
once coasted along this part of New England, as being his sole possession
in the world at the end of his adventurous career:
"No lot for me but Smith's Isles, which are an array of barren
rocks, the most overgrown with shrubs and sharpe whins you can
hardly pass them; without either grasse or wood, but three or foure
short shrubby old cedars."
Every tourist goes to the south end of Star Island, and climbs down on
the face of the precipice to the "Chair," a niche where a school-teacher
used to sit as long ago as 1848. She was sitting there one day when a
wave came up and washed her away into the ocean. She disappeared. But
she who loses her life shall save it. That one thoughtless act of hers
did more for her reputation than years of faithful teaching, than all her
beauty, grace, and attractions. Her "Chair" is a point of pilgrimage.
The tourist looks at it, guesses at its height above the water, regards
the hungry sea with aversion, re-enacts the drama in his imagination,
sits in the chair, has his wife sit in it, has his boy and girl sit in it
together, wonders what the teacher's name was, stops at the hotel and
asks the photograph girl, who does not know, and the proprietor, who says
it's in a book somewhere, and finally learns that it was Underhill, and
straightway forgets it when he leaves the island.
What a delicious place it is, this Appledore, when the elements favor!
The party were lodged in a little cottage, whence they overlooked the
hotel and the little harbor, and could see all the life of the place,
looking over the bank of flowers that draped the rocks of the door-yard.
How charming was the miniature pond, with the children sailing round and
round, and the girls in pretty costumes bathing, and sunlight lying so
warm upon the greenish-gray rocks! But the night, following the glorious
after-glow, the red sky, all the level sea, and the little harbor
burnished gold, the rocks purple—oh! the night, when the moon came! Oh,
Irene! Great heavens! why will this world fall into such a sentimental
fit, when all the sweetness and the light of it are away at Bar Harbor!
Love and moonlight, and the soft lapse of the waves and singing? Yes,
there are girls down by the landing with a banjo, and young men singing
the songs of love, the modern songs of love dashed with college slang.
The banjo suggests a little fastness; and this new generation carries off
its sentiment with some bravado and a mocking tone. Presently the tug
Pinafore glides up to the landing, the engineer flings open the furnace
door, and the glowing fire illumines the interior, brings out forms and
faces, and deepens the heavy shadows outside. It is like a cavern scene
in the opera. A party of ladies in white come down to cross to Star.
Some of these insist upon climbing up to the narrow deck, to sit on the
roof and enjoy the moonlight and the cinders. Girls like to do these
things, which are more unconventional than hazardous, at watering-places.
What a wonderful effect it is, the masses of rock, water, sky, the night,
all details lost in simple lines and forms! On the piazza of the cottage
is a group of ladies and gentlemen in poses more or less graceful; one
lady is in a hammock; on one side is the moonlight, on the other come
gleams from the curtained windows touching here and there a white
shoulder, or lighting a lovely head; the vines running up on strings and
half enclosing the piazza make an exquisite tracery against the sky, and
cast delicate shadow patterns on the floor; all the time music within,
the piano, the violin, and the sweet waves of a woman's voice singing the
songs of Schubert, floating out upon the night. A soft wind blows out of
The northern part of Appledore Island is an interesting place to wander.
There are no trees, but the plateau is far from barren. The gray rocks
crop out among bayberry and huckleberry bushes, and the wild rose, very
large and brilliant in color, fairly illuminates the landscape, massing
its great bushes. Amid the chaotic desert of broken rocks farther south
are little valleys of deep green grass, gay with roses. On the savage
precipices at the end one may sit in view of an extensive sweep of coast
with a few hills, and of other rocky islands, sails, and ocean-going
steamers. Here are many nooks and hidden corners to dream in and make
love in, the soft sea air being favorable to that soft-hearted
One could easily get attached to the place, if duty and Irene did not
call elsewhere. Those who dwell here the year round find most
satisfaction when the summer guests have gone and they are alone with
freaky nature. "Yes," said the woman in charge of one of the cottages,"
I've lived here the year round for sixteen years, and I like it. After
we get fixed up comfortable for winter, kill a critter, have pigs, and
make my own sassengers, then there ain't any neighbors comin' in, and
that's what I like."
The attraction of Bar Harbor is in the union of mountain and sea; the
mountains rise in granite majesty right out of the ocean. The traveler
expects to find a repetition of Mount Athos rising six thousand feet out
of the AEgean.
The Bar-Harborers made a mistake in killing—if they did kill—the
stranger who arrived at this resort from the mainland, and said it would
be an excellent sea-and-mountain place if there were any mountains or any
sea in sight. Instead, if they had taken him in a row-boat and pulled
him out through the islands, far enough, he would have had a glimpse of
the ocean, and if then he had been taken by the cog-railway seventeen
hundred feet to the top of Green Mountain, he would not only have found
himself on firm, rising ground, but he would have been obliged to confess
that, with his feet upon a solid mountain of granite, he saw innumerable
islands and, at a distance, a considerable quantity of ocean. He would
have repented his hasty speech. In two days he would have been a
partisan of the place, and in a week he would have been an owner of real
There is undeniably a public opinion in Bar Harbor in favor of it, and
the visitor would better coincide with it. He is anxiously asked at
every turn how he likes it, and if he does not like it he is an object of
compassion. Countless numbers of people who do not own a foot of land
there are devotees of the place. Any number of certificates to its
qualities could be obtained, as to a patent medicine, and they would all
read pretty much alike, after the well-known formula: "The first bottle I
took did, me no good, after the second I was worse, after the third I
improved, after the twelfth I walked fifty miles in one day; and now I
never do without it, I take never less than fifty bottles a year." So it
would be: "At first I felt just as you do, shut-in place, foggy, stayed
only two days. Only came back again to accompany friends, stayed a week,
foggy, didn't like it. Can't tell how I happened to come back again,
stayed a month, and I tell you, there is no place like it in America.
Spend all my summers here."
The genesis of Bar Harbor is curious and instructive. For many years,
like other settlements on Mount Desert Island; it had been frequented by
people who have more fondness for nature than they have money, and who
were willing to put up with wretched accommodations, and enjoyed a mild
sort of "roughing it." But some society people in New York, who have the
reputation of setting the mode, chanced to go there; they declared in
favor of it; and instantly, by an occult law which governs fashionable
life, Bar Harbor became the fashion. Everybody could see its preeminent
attractions. The word was passed along by the Boudoir Telephone from
Boston to New Orleans, and soon it was a matter of necessity for a
debutante, or a woman of fashion, or a man of the world, or a blase boy,
to show themselves there during the season. It became the scene of
summer romances; the student of manners went there to study the "American
girl." The notion spread that it was the finest sanitarium on the
continent for flirtations; and as trade is said to follow the flag, so in
this case real-estate speculation rioted in the wake of beauty and
There is no doubt that the "American girl" is there, as she is at divers
other sea-and-land resorts; but the present peculiarity of this
watering-place is that the American young man is there also. Some
philosophers have tried to account for this coincidence by assuming that
the American girl is the attraction to the young man. But this seems to
me a misunderstanding of the spirit of this generation. Why are young
men quoted as "scarce" in other resorts swarming with sweet girls,
maidens who have learned the art of being agreeable, and interesting
widows in the vanishing shades of an attractive and consolable grief?
No. Is it not rather the cold, luminous truth that the American girl
found out that Bar Harbor, without her presence, was for certain reasons,
such as unconventionality, a bracing air, opportunity for boating, etc.,
agreeable to the young man? But why do elderly people go there? This
question must have been suggested by a foreigner, who is ignorant that in
a republic it is the young ones who know what is best for the elders.
Our tourists passed a weary, hot day on the coast railway of Maine.
Notwithstanding the high temperature, the country seemed cheerless, the
sunlight to fall less genially than in more fertile regions to the south,
upon a landscape stripped of its forests, naked, and unpicturesque. Why
should the little white houses of the prosperous little villages on the
line of the rail seem cold and suggest winter, and the land seem scrimped
and without an atmosphere? It chanced so, for everybody knows that it is
a lovely coast. The artist said it was the Maine Law. But that could not
be, for the only drunken man encountered on their tour they saw at the
Bangor Station, where beer was furtively sold.
They were plunged into a cold bath on the steamer in the half-hour's sail
from the end of the rail to Bar Harbor. The wind was fresh, white-caps
enlivened the scene, the spray dashed over the huge pile of baggage on
the bow, the passengers shivered, and could little enjoy the islands and
the picturesque shore, but fixed eyes of hope upon the electric lights
which showed above the headlands, and marked the site of the hotels and
the town in the hidden harbor. Spits of rain dashed in their faces, and
in some discomfort they came to the wharf, which was alive with vehicles
and tooters for the hotels. In short, with its lights and noise, it had
every appearance of being an important place, and when our party, holding
on to their seats in a buckboard, were whirled at a gallop up to
Rodick's, and ushered into a spacious office swarming with people, they
realized that they were entering upon a lively if somewhat haphazard
life. The first confused impression was of a bewildering number of slim,
pretty girls, nonchalant young fellows in lawn-tennis suits, and
indefinite opportunities in the halls and parlors and wide piazzas for
promenade and flirtations.
Rodick's is a sort of big boarding-house, hesitating whether to be a
hotel or not, no bells in the rooms, no bills of fare (or rarely one), no
wine-list, a go-as-you-please, help-yourself sort of place, which is
popular because it has its own character, and everybody drifts into it
first or last. Some say it is an acquired taste; that people do not take
to it at first. The big office is a sort of assembly-room, where new
arrivals are scanned and discovered, and it is unblushingly called the
"fish-pond" by the young ladies who daily angle there. Of the
unconventional ways of the establishment Mr. King had an illustration
when he attempted to get some washing done. Having read a notice that
the hotel had no laundry, he was told, on applying at the office, that if
he would bring his things down there they would try to send them out for
him. Not being accustomed to carrying about soiled clothes, he declined
this proposal, and consulted a chambermaid. She told him that ladies
came to the house every day for the washing, and that she would speak to
one of them. No result following this, after a day King consulted the
proprietor, and asked him point blank, as a friend, what course he would
pursue if he were under the necessity of having washing done in that
region. The proprietor said that Mr. King's wants should be attended to
at once. Another day passed without action, when the chambermaid was
again applied to. "There's a lady just come in to the hall I guess will
"Is she trustworthy?"
"Don't know, she washes for the woman in the room next to you." And the
lady was at last secured.
Somebody said that those who were accustomed to luxury at home liked
Rodick's, and that those who were not grumbled. And it was true that
fashion for the moment elected to be pleased with unconventionality,
finding a great zest in freedom, and making a joke of every
inconvenience. Society will make its own rules, and although there are
several other large hotels, and good houses as watering-place hotels go,
and cottage-life here as elsewhere is drawing away its skirts from hotel
life, society understood why a person might elect to stay at Rodick's.
Bar Harbor has one of the most dainty and refined little hotels in the
world-the Malvern. Any one can stay there who is worth two millions of
dollars, or can produce a certificate from the Recorder of New York that
he is a direct descendant of Hendrick Hudson or Diedrich Knickerbocker.
It is needless to say that it was built by a Philadelphian—that is to
say one born with a genius for hotel-keeping. But though a guest at the
Malvern might not eat with a friend at Rodick's, he will meet him as a
man of the world on friendly terms.
Bar Harbor was indeed an interesting society study. Except in some of
the cottages, it might be said that society was on a lark. With all the
manners of the world and the freemasonry of fashionable life, it had
elected to be unconventional. The young ladies liked to appear in
nautical and lawn-tennis toilet, carried so far that one might refer to
the "cut of their jib," and their minds were not much given to any
elaborate dressing for evening. As to the young gentlemen, if there were
any dress-coats on the island, they took pains not to display them, but
delighted in appearing in the evening promenade, and even in the
ballroom, in the nondescript suits that made them so conspicuous in the
morning, the favorite being a dress of stripes, with striped jockey cap
to match, that did not suggest the penitentiary uniform, because in
state-prisons the stripes run round. This neglige costume was adhered to
even in the ballroom. To be sure, the ballroom was little frequented,
only an adventurous couple now and then gliding over the floor, and
affording scant amusement to the throng gathered on the piazza and about
the open windows. Mrs. Montrose, a stately dame of the old school, whose
standard was the court in the days of Calhoun, Clay, and Webster,
disapproved of this laxity, and when a couple of young fellows in striped
array one evening whirled round the room together, with brier-wood pipes
in their mouths, she was scandalized. If the young ladies shared her
sentiments they made no resolute protests, remembering perhaps the
scarcity of young men elsewhere, and thinking that it is better to be
loved by a lawn-tennis suit than not to be loved at all. The daughters
of Mrs. Montrose thought they should draw the line on the brier-wood
Dancing, however, is not the leading occupation at Bar Harbor, it is
rather neglected. A cynic said that the chief occupation was to wait at
the "fishpond" for new arrivals—the young ladies angling while their
mothers and chaperons—how shall we say it to complete the figure?—held
the bait. It is true that they did talk in fisherman's lingo about this,
asked each other if they had a nibble or a bite, or boasted that they had
hauled one in, or complained that it was a poor day for fishing. But
this was all chaff, born of youthful spirits and the air of the place. If
the young men took airs upon themselves under the impression they were in
much demand, they might have had their combs cut if they had heard how
they were weighed and dissected and imitated, and taken off as to their
peculiarities, and known, most of them, by sobriquets characteristic of
their appearance or pretentions. There was one young man from the West,
who would have been flattered with the appellation of "dude," so
attractive in the fit of his clothes, the manner in which he walked and
used his cane and his eyeglass, that Mr. King wanted very much to get him
and bring him away in a cage. He had no doubt that he was a favorite
with every circle and wanted in every group, and the young ladies did
seem to get a great deal of entertainment out of him. He was not like
the young man in the Scriptures except that he was credited with having
No, the principal occupation at Bar Harbor was not fishing in the house.
It was outdoor exercise, incessant activity in driving, walking, boating,
rowing and sailing—bowling, tennis, and flirtation. There was always an
excursion somewhere, by land or sea, watermelon parties, races in the
harbor in which the girls took part, drives in buckboards which they
organized—indeed, the canoe and the buckboard were in constant demand.
In all this there was a pleasing freedom—of course under proper
chaperonage. And such delightful chaperons as they were, their business
being to promote and not to hinder the intercourse of the sexes!
This activity, this desire to row and walk and drive and to become
acquainted, was all due to the air. It has a peculiar quality. Even the
skeptic has to admit this. It composes his nerves to sleep, it
stimulates to unwonted exertion. The fanatics of the place declare that
the fogs are not damp as at other resorts on the coast. Fashion can make
even a fog dry. But the air is delicious. In this latitude, and by
reason of the hills, the atmosphere is pure and elastic and stimulating,
and it is softened by the presence of the sea. This union gives a
charming effect. It is better than the Maine Law. The air being like
wine, one does not need stimulants. If one is addicted to them and is
afraid to trust the air, he is put to the trouble of sneaking into masked
places, and becoming a party to petty subterfuges for evading the law.
And the wretched man adds to the misdemeanor of this evasion the moral
crime of consuming bad liquor.
"Everybody" was at Bar Harbor, or would be there in course of the season.
Mrs. Cortlandt was there, and Mrs. Pendragon of New Orleans, one of the
most brilliant, amiable, and charming of women. I remember her as far
back as the seventies. A young man like Mr. King, if he could be called
young, could not have a safer and more sympathetic social adviser. Why
are not all handsome women cordial, good-tempered, and well-bred! And
there were the Ashleys—clever mother and three daughters, au-fait girls,
racy and witty talkers; I forget whether they were last from Paris,
Washington, or San Francisco. Family motto: "Don't be dull." All the Van
Dams from New York, and the Sleiderheifers and Mulligrubs of New Jersey,
were there for the season, some of them in cottages. These families are
intimate, even connected by marriage, with the Bayardiers of South
Carolina and the Lontoons of Louisiana. The girls are handsome, dashing
women, without much information, but rattling talkers, and so exclusive!
and the young men, with a Piccadilly air, fancy that they belong to the
"Prince of Wales set," you know. There is a good deal of monarchical
simplicity in our heterogeneous society.
Mrs. Cortlandt was quite in her element here as director-general of
expeditions and promoter of social activity. "I have been expecting
you," she was kind enough to say to Mr. King the morning after his
arrival. "Kitty Van Sanford spied you last night, and exclaimed, 'There,
now, is a real reinforcement!" You see that you are mortgaged already."
"It's very kind of you to expect me. Is there anybody else here I know?"
"Several hundreds, I should say. If you cannot find friends here, you
are a subject for an orphan-asylum. And you have not seen anybody?"
"Well, I was late at breakfast."
"And you have not looked on the register?"
"Yes, I did run my eye over the register."
"And you are standing right before me and trying to look as if you did
not know that Irene Benson is in the house. I didn't think, Mr. King, it
had gone that far-indeed I didn't. You know I'm in a manner responsible
for it. And I heard all about you at Newport. She's a heart of gold,
"Did she—did Miss Benson say anything about Newport?"
"Oh, I didn't know but she might have mentioned how she liked it."
"I don't think she liked it as much as her mother did. Mrs. Benson talks
of nothing else. Irene said nothing special to me. I don't know what
she may have said to Mr. Meigs," this wily woman added, in the most
"Who is Mr. Meigs?"
"Mr. Alfred Meigs, Boston. He is a rich widower, about forty—the most
fascinating age for a widower, you know. I think he is conceited, but he
is really a most entertaining man; has traveled all over the world
—Egypt, Persia—lived in Japan, prides himself a little on never having
been in Colorado or Florida."
"What does he do?"
"Do? He drives Miss Benson to Otter Cliffs, and out on the Cornice Road,
about seven days in the week, and gets up sailing-parties and all that in
"I mean his occupation."
"Isn't that occupation enough? Well, he has a library and a little
archaeological museum, and prints monographs on art now and then. If he
were a New-Yorker, you know, he would have a yacht instead of a library.
There they are now."
A carriage with a pair of spirited horses stood at the bottom of the
steps on the entrance side. Mrs. Cortlandt and King turned the corner of
the piazza and walked that way. On the back seat were Mrs. Benson and
Mrs. Simpkins. The gentleman holding the reins was just helping Irene to
the high seat in front. Mr. King was running down the long flight of
steps. Mrs. Benson saw him, bowed most cordially, and called his name.
Irene, turning quickly, also bowed—he thought there was a flush on her
face. The gentleman, in the act of starting the horses, raised his hat.
King was delighted to notice that he was bald. He had a round head,
snugly-trimmed beard slightly dashed with gray, was short and a trifle
stout—King thought dumpy. "I suppose women like that kind of man," he
said to Mrs. Cortlandt when the carriage was out of sight.
Why not? He has perfect manners; he knows the world—that is a great
point, I can tell you, in the imagination of a girl; he is rich; and he
is no end obliging."
"How long has he been here?"
"Several days. They happened to come up from the Isles of Shoals
together. He is somehow related to the Simpkinses. There! I've wasted
time enough on you. I must go and see Mrs. Pendragon about a watermelon
party to Jordan Pond. You'll see, I'll arrange something."
King had no idea what a watermelon party was, but he was pleased to think
that it was just the sort of thing that Mr. Meigs would shine in. He
said to himself that he hated dilettante snobs. His bitter reflections
were interrupted by the appearance of Miss Lamont and the artist, and
with them Mr. Benson. The men shook hands with downright heartiness.
Here is a genuine man, King was thinking.
"Yes. We are still at it," he said, with his humorous air of
resignation. "I tell my wife that I'm beginning to understand how old
Christian felt going through Vanity Fair. We ought to be pretty near the
Heavenly Gates by this time. I reckoned she thought they opened into
Newport. She said I ought to be ashamed to ridicule the Bible. I had to
have my joke. It's queer how different the world looks to women."
"And how does it look to men?" asked Miss Lamont.
"Well, my dear young lady, it looks like a good deal of fuss, and
tolerably large bills."
"But what does it matter about the bills if you enjoy yourself?"
"That's just it. Folks work harder to enjoy themselves than at anything
else I know. Half of them spend more money than they can afford to, and
keep under the harrow all the time, just because they see others spend
"I saw your wife and daughter driving away just now," said King, shifting
the conversation to a more interesting topic.
"Yes. They have gone to take a ride over what they call here the
Cornneechy. It's a pretty enough road along the bay, but Irene says it's
about as much like the road in Europe they name it from as Green Mountain
is like Mount Blanck. Our folks seem possessed to stick a foreign name
on to everything. And the road round through the scrub to Eagle Lake
they call Norway. If Norway is like that, it's pretty short of timber.
If there hadn't been so much lumbering here, I should like it better.
There is hardly a decent pine-tree left. Mr. Meigs—they have gone
riding with Mr. Meigs—says the Maine government ought to have a Maine
law that amounts to something—one that will protect the forests, and
start up some trees on the coast."
"Is Mr. Meigs in the lumber business?" asked King.
"Only for scenery, I guess. He is great on scenery. He's a Boston man.
I tell the women that he is what I call a bric-er-brac man. But you come
to set right down with him, away from women, and he talks just as
sensible as anybody. He is shrewd enough. It beats all how men are with
men and with women."
Mr. Benson was capable of going on in this way all day. But the artist
proposed a walk up to Newport, and Mr. King getting Mrs. Pendragon to
accompany them, the party set out. It is a very agreeable climb up
Newport, and not difficult; but if the sun is out, one feels, after
scrambling over the rocks and walking home by the dusty road, like taking
a long pull at a cup of shandygaff. The mountain is a solid mass of
granite, bare on top, and commands a noble view of islands and ocean, of
the gorge separating it from Green Mountain, and of that respectable
hill. For this reason, because it is some two or three hundred feet
lower than Green Mountain, and includes that scarred eminence in its
view, it is the most picturesque and pleasing elevation on the island. It
also has the recommendation of being nearer to the sea than its sister
mountain. On the south side, by a long slope, it comes nearly to the
water, and the longing that the visitor to Bar Harbor has to see the
ocean is moderately gratified. The prospect is at once noble and poetic.
Mrs. Pendragon informed Mr. King that he and Miss Lamont and Mr. Forbes
were included in the watermelon party that was to start that afternoon at
five o'clock. The plan was for the party to go in buckboards to Eagle
Lake, cross that in the steamer, scramble on foot over the "carry" to
Jordan Pond, take row-boats to the foot of that, and find at a farmhouse
there the watermelons and other refreshments, which would be sent by the
shorter road, and then all return by moonlight in the buckboards.
This plan was carried out. Mrs. Cortlandt, Mrs. Pendragon, and Mrs.
Simpkins were to go as chaperons, and Mr. Meigs had been invited by Mrs.
Cortlandt, King learned to his disgust, also to act as a chaperon. All
the proprieties are observed at Bar Harbor. Half a dozen long buckboards
were loaded with their merry freight. At the last Mrs. Pendragon pleaded
a headache, and could not go. Mr. King was wandering about among the
buckboards to find an eligible seat. He was not put in good humor by
finding that Mr. Meigs had ensconced himself beside Irene, and he was
about crowding in with the Ashley girls—not a bad fate—when word was
passed down the line from Mrs. Cortlandt, who was the autocrat of the
expedition, that Mr. Meigs was to come back and take a seat with Mrs.
Simpkins in the buckboard with the watermelons. She could not walk
around the "carry"; she must go by the direct road, and of course she
couldn't go alone. There was no help for it, and Mr. Meigs, looking as
cheerful as an undertaker in a healthy season, got down from his seat and
trudged back. Thus two chaperons were disposed of at a stroke, and the
young men all said that they hated to assume so much responsibility. Mr.
King didn't need prompting in this emergency; the wagons were already
moving, and before Irene knew exactly what had happened, Mr. King was
begging her pardon for the change, and seating himself beside her. And
he was thinking, "What a confoundedly clever woman Mrs. Cortlandt is!"
There is an informality about a buckboard that communicates itself at
once to conduct. The exhilaration of the long spring-board, the
necessity of holding on to something or somebody to prevent being tossed
overboard, put occupants in a larkish mood that they might never attain
in an ordinary vehicle. All this was favorable to King, and it relieved
Irene from an embarrassment she might have felt in meeting him under
ordinary circumstances. And King had the tact to treat himself and their
meeting merely as accidents.
"The American youth seem to have invented a novel way of disposing of
chaperons," he said. "To send them in one direction and the party
chaperoned in another is certainly original."
"I'm not sure the chaperons like it. And I doubt if it is proper to pack
them off by themselves, especially when one is a widow and the other is a
"It's a case of chaperon eat chaperon. I hope your friend didn't mind
it. I had nearly despaired of finding a seat."
"Mr. Meigs? He did not say he liked it, but he is the most obliging of
"I suppose you have pretty well seen the island?"
"We have driven about a good deal. We have seen Southwest Harbor, and
Somes's Sound and Schooner Head, and the Ovens and Otter Cliffs—there's
no end of things to see; it needs a month. I suppose you have been up
"No. I sent Mr. Forbes."
"You ought to go. It saves buying a map. Yes, I like the place
immensely. You mustn't judge of the variety here by the table at
Rodick's. I don't suppose there's a place on the coast that compares
with it in interest; I mean variety of effects and natural beauty. If the
writers wouldn't exaggerate so, talk about 'the sublimity of the
mountains challenging the eternal grandeur of the sea'!"
"Don't use such strong language there on the back seat," cried Miss
Lamont. "This is a pleasure party. Mr. Van Dusen wants to know why Maud
S. is like a salamander?"
"He is not to be gratified, Marion. If it is conundrums, I shall get out
Before the conundrum was guessed, the volatile Van Dusen broke out into,
"Here's a how d'e do!" One of the Ashley girls in the next wagon caught
up the word with, "Here's a state of things!" and the two buckboards went
rattling down the hill to Eagle Lake in a "Mikado" chorus.
"The Mikado troupe seems to have got over here in advance of Sullivan,"
said Mr. King to Irene. "I happened to see the first representation."
"Oh, half these people were in London last spring. They give you the
impression that they just run over to the States occasionally. Mr. Van
Dusen says he keeps his apartments in whatever street it is off
Piccadilly, it's so much more convenient."
On the steamer crossing the lake, King hoped for an opportunity to make
an explanation to Irene. But when the opportunity came he found it very
difficult to tell what it was he wanted to explain, and so blundered on
"You like Bar Harbor so well," he said, "that I suppose your father will
be buying a cottage here?"
"Hardly. Mr. Meigs" (King thought there was too much Meigs in the
conversation) "said that he had once thought of doing so, but he likes
the place too well for that. He prefers to come here voluntarily. The
trouble about owning a cottage at a watering-place is that it makes a
duty of a pleasure. You can always rent, father says. He has noticed
that usually when a person gets comfortably established in a summer
cottage he wants to rent it."
"And you like it better than Newport?"
"On some accounts—the air, you know, and—"
"I want to tell you," he said breaking in most illogically—"I want to
tell you, Miss Benson, that it was all a wretched mistake at Newport that
morning. I don't suppose you care, but I'm afraid you are not quite just
"I don't think I was unjust." The girl's voice was low, and she spoke
slowly. "You couldn't help it. We can't any of us help it. We cannot
make the world over, you know." And she looked up at him with a faint
"But you didn't understand. I didn't care for any of those people. It
was just an accident. Won't you believe me? I do not ask much. But I
cannot have you think I'm a coward."
"I never did, Mr. King. Perhaps you do not see what society is as I do.
People think they can face it when they cannot. I can't say what I mean,
and I think we'd better not talk about it."
The boat was landing; and the party streamed up into the woods, and with
jest and laughter and feigned anxiety about danger and assistance, picked
its way over the rough, stony path. It was such a scramble as young
ladies enjoy, especially if they are city bred, for it seems to them an
achievement of more magnitude than to the country lasses who see nothing
uncommon or heroic in following a cow-path. And the young men like it
because it brings out the trusting, dependent, clinging nature of girls.
King wished it had been five miles long instead of a mile and a half. It
gave him an opportunity to show his helpful, considerate spirit. It was
necessary to take her hand to help her over the bad spots, and either the
bad spots increased as they went on, or Irene was deceived about it. What
makes a path of this sort so perilous to a woman's heart? Is it because
it is an excuse for doing what she longs to do? Taking her hand recalled
the day on the rocks at Narragansett, and the nervous clutch of her
little fingers, when the footing failed, sent a delicious thrill through
her lover. King thought himself quite in love with Forbes—there was the
warmest affection between the two—but when he hauled the artist up a
Catskill cliff there wasn't the least of this sort of a thrill in the
grip of hands. Perhaps if women had the ballot in their hands all this
nervous fluid would disappear out of the world.
At Jordan Pond boats were waiting. It is a pretty fresh-water pond
between high sloping hills, and twin peaks at the north end give it even
picturesqueness. There are a good many trout in it—at least that is the
supposition, for the visitors very seldom get them out. When the boats
with their chattering passengers had pushed out into the lake and
accomplished a third of the voyage, they were met by a skiff containing
the faithful chaperons Mrs. Simpkins and Mr. Meigs. They hailed, but Mr.
King, who was rowing his boat, did not slacken speed. "Are you much
tired, Miss Benson?" shouted Mr. Meigs. King didn't like this assumption
of protection. "I've brought you a shawl."
"Hang his paternal impudence!" growled King, under his breath, as he
threw himself back with a jerk on the oars that nearly sent Irene over
the stern of the boat.
Evidently the boat-load, of which the Ashley girls and Mr. Van Dusen were
a part, had taken the sense of this little comedy, for immediately they
"For he is going to marry Yum-Yum—
For he is going to marry Yum-Yum—
This pleasantry passed entirely over the head of Irene, who had not heard
the "Mikado," but King accepted it as a good omen, and forgave its
impudence. It set Mr. Meigs thinking that he had a rival.
At the landing, however, Mr. Meigs was on hand to help Irene out, and a
presentation of Mr. King followed. Mr. Meigs was polite even to
cordiality, and thanked him for taking such good care of her. Men will
make such blunders sometimes.
"Oh, we are old friends," she said carelessly.
Mr. Meigs tried to mend matters by saying that he had promised Mrs.
Benson, you know, to look after her. There was that in Irene's manner
that said she was not to be appropriated without leave. But the
consciousness that her look betrayed this softened her at once towards
Mr. Meigs, and decidedly improved his chances for the evening. The
philosopher says that women are cruelest when they set out to be kind.
The supper was an 'al fresco' affair, the party being seated about on
rocks and logs and shawls spread upon the grass near the farmer's house.
The scene was a very pretty one, at least the artist thought so, and Miss
Lamont said it was lovely, and the Ashley girls declared it was just
divine. There was no reason why King should not enjoy the chaff and
merriment and the sunset light which touched the group, except that the
one woman he cared to serve was enveloped in the attentions of Mr. Meigs.
The drive home in the moonlight was the best part of the excursion, or it
would have been if there had not been a general change of seats ordered,
altogether, as Mr. King thought, for the accommodation of the Boston man.
It nettled him that Irene let herself fall to the escort of Mr. Meigs,
for women can always arrange these things if they choose, and he had only
a melancholy satisfaction in the college songs and conundrums that
enlivened the festive buckboard in which he was a passenger. Not that he
did not join in the hilarity, but it seemed only a poor imitation of
pleasure. Alas, that the tone of one woman's voice, the touch of her
hand, the glance of her eye, should outweigh the world!
Somehow, with all the opportunities, the suit of our friend did not
advance beyond a certain point. Irene was always cordial, always
friendly, but he tried in vain to ascertain whether the middle-aged man
from Boston had touched her imagination. There was a boating party the
next evening in Frenchman's Bay, and King had the pleasure of pulling
Miss Benson and Miss Lamont out seaward under the dark, frowning cliffs
until they felt the ocean swell, and then of making the circuit of
Porcupine Island. It was an enchanting night, full of mystery. The rock
face of the Porcupine glistened white in the moonlight as if it were
encrusted with salt, the waves beat in a continuous roar against its
base, which is honeycombed by the action of the water, and when the boat
glided into its shadow it loomed up vast and wonderful. Seaward were the
harbor lights, the phosphorescent glisten of the waves, the dim forms of
other islands; all about in the bay row-boats darted in and out of the
moonlight, voices were heard calling from boat to boat, songs floated
over the water, and the huge Portland steamer came plunging in out of the
night, a blazing, trembling monster. Not much was said in the boat, but
the impression of such a night goes far in the romance of real life.
Perhaps it was this impression that made her assent readily to a walk
next morning with Mr. King along the bay. The shore is nearly all
occupied by private cottages, with little lawns running down to the
granite edge of the water. It is a favorite place for strolling; couples
establish themselves with books and umbrellas on the rocks, children are
dabbling in the coves, sails enliven the bay, row-boats dart about, the
cawing of crows is heard in the still air. Irene declared that the scene
was idyllic. The girl was in a most gracious humor, and opened her life
more to King than she had ever done before. By such confidences usually
women invite avowals, and as the two paced along, King felt the moment
approach when there would be the most natural chance in the world for him
to tell this woman what she was to him; at the next turn in the shore, by
that rock, surely the moment would come. What is this airy nothing by
which women protect themselves in such emergencies, by a question, by a
tone, an invisible strong barrier that the most impetuous dare not
attempt to break?
King felt the subtle restraint which he could not define or explain. And
before he could speak she said: "We are going away tomorrow." "We? And
who are we?" "Oh, the Simpkinses and our whole family, and Mr. Meigs."
"Mr. Meigs has persuaded mother into the wildest scheme. It is nothing
less than to leap from, here across all the intervening States to the
White Sulphur Springs in Virginia. Father falls into the notion because
he wants to see more of the Southerners, Mrs. Simpkins and her daughter
are crazy to go, and Mr. Meigs says he has been trying to get there all
his life, and in August the season is at its height. It was all arranged
before I was consulted, but I confess I rather like it. It will be a
"Yes, I should think it would be delightful," King replied, rather
absent-mindedly. "It's a long journey, a very long journey. I should
think it would be too long a journey for Mr. Meigs—at his time of life."
It was not a fortunate remark, and still it might be; for who could tell
whether Irene would not be flattered by this declaration of his jealousy
of Mr. Meigs. But she passed it over as not serious, with the remark
that the going did not seem to be beyond the strength of her father.
The introduction of Mr. Meigs in the guise of an accepted family friend
and traveling companion chilled King and cast a gloom over the landscape.
Afterwards he knew that he ought to have dashed in and scattered this
encompassing network of Meigs, disregarded the girl's fence of reserve,
and avowed his love. More women are won by a single charge at the right
moment than by a whole campaign of strategy.
On the way back to the hotel he was absorbed in thought, and he burst
into the room where Forbes was touching up one of his sketches, with a
fully-formed plan. "Old fellow, what do you say to going to Virginia?"
Forbes put in a few deliberate touches, moving his head from side to
side, and with aggravating slowness said, "What do you want to go to
"Why White Sulphur, of course; the most characteristic watering-place in
America. See the whole Southern life there in August; and there's the
"I've seen pictures of the Natural Bridge. I don't know as I care much"
(still contemplating the sketch from different points of view, and softly
whistling) "for the whole of Southern life."
"See here, Forbes, you must have some deep design to make you take that
"Deep design!" replied Forbes, facing round. "I'll be hanged if I see
what you are driving at. I thought it was Saratoga and Richfield, and
mild things of that sort."
"And the little Lamont. I know we talked of going there with her and her
uncle; but we can go there afterwards. I tell you what I'll do: I'll go
to Richfield, and stay till snow comes, if you will take a dip with me
down into Virginia first. You ought to do it for your art. It's
something new, picturesque—negroes, Southern belles, old-time manners.
You cannot afford to neglect it."
"I don't see the fun of being yanked all over the United States in the
middle of August."
"You want shaking up. You've been drawing seashores with one figure in
them till your pictures all look like—well, like Lamont and water."
"That's better," Forbes retorted, "than Benson and gruel."
And the two got into a huff. The artist took his sketch-book and went
outdoors, and King went to his room to study the guide-books and the map
of Virginia. The result was that when the friends met for dinner, King
"I thought you might do it for me, old boy."
And Forbes replied: "Why didn't you say so? I don't care a rap where I
go. But it's Richfield afterwards."
NATURAL BRIDGE, WHITE SULFUR
What occurred at the parting between the artist and the little Lamont at
Bar Harbor I never knew. There was that good comradeship between the
two, that frank enjoyment of each other's society, without any
sentimental nonsense, so often seen between two young people in America,
which may end in a friendship of a summer, or extend to the cordial
esteem of a lifetime, or result in marriage. I always liked the girl;
she had such a sunny temper, such a flow of originality in her mental
attitude towards people and things without being a wit or a critic, and
so much piquancy in all her little ways. She would take to matrimony, I
should say, like a duck to water, with unruffled plumage, but as a wife
she would never be commonplace, or anything but engaging, and, as the
saying is, she could make almost any man happy. And, if unmarried, what
a delightful sister-in-law she would be, especially a deceased wife's
I never imagined that she was capable of a great passion, as was Irene
Benson, who under a serene exterior was moved by tides of deep feeling,
subject to moods, and full of aspirations and longings which she herself
only dimly knew the meaning of. With Irene marriage would be either
supreme happiness or extreme wretchedness, no half-way acceptance of a
conventional life. With such a woman life is a failure, either tragic or
pathetic, without a great passion given and returned. It is fortunate,
considering the chances that make unions in society, that for most men
and women the "grand passion" is neither necessary nor possible. I did
not share King's prejudice against Mr. Meigs. He seemed to me, as the
world goes, a 'bon parti,' cultivated by travel and reading, well-bred,
entertaining, amiable, possessed of an ample fortune, the ideal husband
in the eyes of a prudent mother. But I used to think that if Irene,
attracted by his many admirable qualities, should become his wife, and
that if afterwards the Prince should appear and waken the slumbering
woman's heart in her, what a tragedy would ensue. I can imagine their
placid existence if the Prince should not appear, and I can well believe
that Irene and Stanhope would have many a tumultuous passage in the
passionate symphony of their lives. But, great heavens, is the ideal
marriage a Holland!
If Marion had shed any tears overnight, say on account of a little
lonesomeness because her friend was speeding away from her southward,
there were no traces of them when she met her uncle at the
breakfast-table, as bright and chatty as usual, and in as high spirits as
one can maintain with the Rodick coffee.
What a world of shifting scenes it is! Forbes had picked up his traps
and gone off with his unreasonable companion like a soldier. The day
after, when he looked out of the window of his sleeping-compartment at
half-past four, he saw the red sky of morning, and against it the spires
At ten o'clock the two friends were breakfasting comfortably in the car,
and running along down the Cumberland Valley. What a contrast was this
rich country, warm with color and suggestive of abundance, to the pale
and scrimped coast land of Maine denuded of its trees! By afternoon they
were far down the east valley of the Shenandoah, between the Blue Ridge
and the Massanutten range, in a country broken, picturesque, fertile, so
attractive that they wondered there were so few villages on the route,
and only now and then a cheap shanty in sight; and crossing the divide to
the waters of the James, at sundown, in the midst of a splendid effect of
mountains and clouds in a thunderstorm, they came to Natural Bridge
station, where a coach awaited them.
This was old ground to King, who had been telling the artist that the two
natural objects east of the Rocky Mountains that he thought entitled to
the epithet "sublime" were Niagara Falls and the Natural Bridge; and as
for scenery, he did not know of any more noble and refined than this
region of the Blue Ridge. Take away the Bridge altogether, which is a
mere freak, and the place would still possess, he said, a charm unique.
Since the enlargement of hotel facilities and the conversion of this
princely domain into a grand park, it has become a favorite summer
resort. The gorge of the Bridge is a botanical storehouse, greater
variety of evergreens cannot be found together anywhere else in the
country, and the hills are still clad with stately forests. In opening
drives, and cutting roads and vistas to give views, the proprietor has
shown a skill and taste in dealing with natural resources, both in regard
to form and the development of contrasts of color in foliage, which are
rare in landscape gardening on this side of the Atlantic. Here is the
highest part of the Blue Ridge, and from the gentle summit of Mount
Jefferson the spectator has in view a hundred miles of this remarkable
range, this ribbed mountain structure, which always wears a mantle of
beauty, changeable purple and violet.
After supper there was an illumination of the cascade, and the ancient
gnarled arbor-vita: trees that lean over it-perhaps the largest known
specimens of this species-of the gorge and the Bridge. Nature is apt to
be belittled by this sort of display, but the noble dignity of the vast
arch of stone was superior to this trifling, and even had a sort of
mystery added to its imposing grandeur. It is true that the flaming
bonfires and the colored lights and the tiny figures of men and women
standing in the gorge within the depth of the arch made the scene
theatrical, but it was strange and weird and awful, like the fantasy of a
Walpurgis' Night or a midnight revel in Faust.
The presence of the colored brother in force distinguished this from
provincial resorts at the North, even those that employ this color as
servants. The flavor of Old Virginia is unmistakable, and life drops
into an easy-going pace under this influence. What fine manners, to be
sure! The waiters in the diningroom, in white ties and dress-coats, move
on springs, starting even to walk with a complicated use of all the
muscles of the body, as if in response to the twang of a banjo; they do
nothing without excessive motion and flourish. The gestures and
good-humored vitality expended in changing plates would become the leader
of an orchestra. Many of them, besides, have the expression of
class-leaders—of a worldly sort. There were the aristocratic
chambermaid and porter, who had the air of never having waited on any but
the first families. And what clever flatterers and readers of human
nature! They can tell in a moment whether a man will be complimented by
the remark, "I tuk you for a Richmond gemman, never shod have know'd you
was from de Norf," or whether it is best to say, "We depen's on de gemmen
frum de Norf; folks down hyer never gives noflin; is too pore." But to a
Richmond man it is always, "The Yankee is mighty keerful of his money; we
depen's on the old sort, marse." A fine specimen of the "Richmond
darkey" of the old school-polite, flattering, with a venerable head of
gray wool, was the bartender, who mixed his juleps with a flourish as if
keeping time to music. "Haven't I waited on you befo', sah? At Capon
Springs? Sorry, sah, but tho't I knowed you when you come in. Sorry,
but glad to know you now, sah. If that julep don't suit you, sah, throw
it in my face."
A friendly, restful, family sort of place, with music, a little mild
dancing, mostly performed by children, in the pavilion, driving and
riding-in short, peace in the midst of noble scenery. No display of
fashion, the artist soon discovered, and he said he longed to give the
pretty girls some instruction in the art of dress. Forbes was a
missionary of "style." It hurt his sense of the fitness of things to see
women without it. He used to say that an ill-dressed woman would spoil
the finest landscape. For such a man, with an artistic feeling so
sensitive, the White Sulphur Springs is a natural goal. And he and his
friend hastened thither with as much speed as the Virginia railways,
whose time-tables are carefully adjusted to miss all connections, permit.
"What do you think of a place," he wrote Miss Lamont—the girl read me a
portion of his lively letter that summer at Saratoga—"into which you
come by a belated train at half-past eleven at night, find friends
waiting up for you in evening costume, are taken to a champagne supper at
twelve, get to your quarters at one, and have your baggage delivered to
you at two o'clock in the morning?" The friends were lodged in "Paradise
Row"—a whimsical name given to one of the quarters assigned to single
gentlemen. Put into these single-room barracks, which were neat but
exceedingly primitive in their accommodations, by hilarious negro
attendants who appeared to regard life as one prolonged lark, and who
avowed that there was no time of day or night when a mint-julep or any
other necessary of life would not be forthcoming at a moment's warning,
the beginning of their sojourn at "The White" took on an air of
adventure, and the two strangers had the impression of having dropped
into a garrison somewhere on the frontier. But when King stepped out
upon the gallery, in the fresh summer morning, the scene that met his
eyes was one of such peaceful dignity, and so different from any in his
experience, that he was aware that he had come upon an original
development of watering-place life.
The White Sulphur has been for the better part of a century, as everybody
knows, the typical Southern resort, the rendezvous of all that was most
characteristic in the society of the whole South, the meeting-place of
its politicians, the haunt of its belles, the arena of gayety, intrigue,
and fashion. If tradition is to be believed, here in years gone by were
concocted the measures that were subsequently deployed for the government
of the country at Washington, here historic matches were made, here
beauty had triumphs that were the talk of a generation, here hearts were
broken at a ball and mended in Lovers' Walk, and here fortunes were
nightly lost and won. It must have been in its material conditions a
primitive place in the days of its greatest fame. Visitors came to it in
their carriages and unwieldy four-horse chariots, attended by troops of
servants, making slow but most enjoyable pilgrimages over the mountain
roads, journeys that lasted a week or a fortnight, and were every day
enlivened by jovial adventure. They came for the season. They were all
of one social order, and needed no introduction; those from Virginia were
all related to each other, and though life there was somewhat in the
nature of a picnic, it had its very well-defined and ceremonious code of
etiquette. In the memory of its old habitues it was at once the freest
and the most aristocratic assembly in the world. The hotel was small and
its arrangements primitive; a good many of the visitors had their own
cottages, and the rows of these cheap structures took their names from
their occupants. The Southern presidents, the senators, and statesmen,
the rich planters, lived in cottages which still have an historic
interest in their memory. But cottage life was never the exclusive
affair that it is elsewhere; the society was one body, and the hotel was
Time has greatly changed the White Sulphur; doubtless in its physical
aspect it never was so beautiful and attractive as it is today, but all
the modern improvements have not destroyed the character of the resort,
which possesses a great many of its primitive and old-time peculiarities.
Briefly the White is an elevated and charming mountain region, so cool,
in fact, especially at night, that the "season" is practically limited to
July and August, although I am not sure but a quiet person, who likes
invigorating air, and has no daughters to marry off, would find it
equally attractive in September and October, when the autumn foliage is
in its glory. In a green rolling interval, planted with noble trees and
flanked by moderate hills, stands the vast white caravansary, having wide
galleries and big pillars running round three sides. The front and two
sides are elevated, the galleries being reached by flights of steps, and
affording room underneath for the large billiard and bar-rooms. From the
hotel the ground slopes down to the spring, which is surmounted by a
round canopy on white columns, and below is an opening across the stream
to the race-track, the servants' quarters, and a fine view of receding
hills. Three sides of this charming park are enclosed by the cottages
and cabins, which back against the hills, and are more or less embowered
in trees. Most of these cottages are built in blocks and rows, some
single rooms, others large enough to accommodate a family, but all
reached by flights of steps, all with verandas, and most of them
connected by galleries. Occasionally the forest trees have been left,
and the galleries built around them. Included in the premises are two
churches, a gambling-house, a couple of country stores, and a
post-office. There are none of the shops common at watering-places for
the sale of fancy articles, and, strange to say, flowers are not
systematically cultivated, and very few are ever to be had. The hotel
has a vast dining-room, besides the minor eating-rooms for children and
nurses, a large ballroom, and a drawing-room of imposing dimensions.
Hotel and cottages together, it is said, can lodge fifteen hundred
The natural beauty of the place is very great, and fortunately there is
not much smart and fantastic architecture to interfere with it. I cannot
say whether the knowledge that Irene was in one of the cottages affected
King's judgment, but that morning, when he strolled to the upper part of
the grounds before breakfast, he thought he had never beheld a scene of
more beauty and dignity, as he looked over the mass of hotel buildings,
upon the park set with a wonderful variety of dark green foliage, upon
the elevated rows of galleried cottages marked by colonial simplicity,
and the soft contour of the hills, which satisfy the eye in their
delicate blending of every shade of green and brown. And after an
acquaintance of a couple of weeks the place seemed to him ravishingly
King was always raving about the White Sulphur after he came North, and
one never could tell how much his judgment was colored by his peculiar
experiences there. It was my impression that if he had spent those two
weeks on a barren rock in the ocean, with only one fair spirit for his
minister, he would have sworn that it was the most lovely spot on the
face of the earth. He always declared that it was the most friendly,
cordial society at this resort in the country. At breakfast he knew
scarcely any one in the vast dining-room, except the New Orleans and
Richmond friends with whom he had a seat at table. But their
acquaintance sufficed to establish his position. Before dinner-time he
knew half a hundred; in the evening his introductions had run up into the
hundreds, and he felt that he had potential friends in every Southern
city; and before the week was over there was not one of the thousand
guests he did not know or might not know. At his table he heard Irene
spoken of and her beauty commented on. Two or three days had been enough
to give her a reputation in a society that is exceedingly sensitive to
beauty. The men were all ready to do her homage, and the women took her
into favor as soon as they saw that Mr. Meigs, whose social position was
perfectly well known, was of her party. The society of the White Sulphur
seems perfectly easy of access, but the ineligible will find that it is
able, like that of Washington, to protect itself. It was not without a
little shock that King heard the good points, the style, the physical
perfections, of Irene so fully commented on, and not without some alarm
that he heard predicted for her a very successful career as a belle.
Coming out from breakfast, the Benson party were encountered on the
gallery, and introductions followed. It was a trying five minutes for
King, who felt as guilty, as if the White Sulphur were private property
into which he had intruded without an invitation. There was in the
civility of Mr. Meigs no sign of an invitation. Mrs. Benson said she was
never so surprised in her life, and the surprise seemed not exactly an
agreeable one, but Mr. Benson looked a great deal more pleased than
astonished. The slight flush in Irene's face as she greeted him might
have been wholly due to the unexpectedness of the meeting. Some of the
gentlemen lounged off to the office region for politics and cigars, the
elderly ladies took seats upon the gallery, and the rest of the party
strolled down to the benches under the trees.
"So Miss Benson was expecting you!" said Mrs. Farquhar, who was walking
with King. It is enough to mention Mrs. Farquhar's name to an habitue of
the Springs. It is not so many years ago since she was a reigning belle,
and as noted for her wit and sparkling raillery as for her beauty. She
was still a very handsome woman, whose original cleverness had been
cultivated by a considerable experience of social life in this country as
well as in London and Paris.
"Was she? I'm sure I never told her I was coming here."
"No, simple man. You were with her at Bar Harbor, and I suppose she
never mentioned to you that she was coming here?"
"But why did you think she expected me?"
"You men are too aggravatingly stupid. I never saw astonishment better
feigned. I dare say it imposed upon that other admirer of hers also.
Well, I like her, and I'm going to be good to her." This meant a good
deal. Mrs. Farquhar was related to everybody in Virginia—that is,
everybody who was anybody before the war—and she could count at that
moment seventy-five cousins, some of them first and some of them
double-first cousins, at the White Sulphur. Mrs. Farquhar's remark meant
that all these cousins and all their friends the South over would stand
by Miss Benson socially from that moment.
The morning german had just begun in the ballroom. The gallery was
thronged with spectators, clustering like bees about the large windows,
and the notes of the band came floating out over the lawn, bringing to
the groups there the lulling impression that life is all a summer
"And they say she is from Ohio. It is right odd, isn't it? but two or
three of the prettiest women here are from that State. There is Mrs.
Martin, sweet as a jacqueminot. I'd introduce you if her husband were
here. Ohio! Well, we get used to it. I should have known the father
and mother were corn-fed. I suppose you prefer the corn-feds to the
Confeds. But there's homespun and homespun. You see those under the
trees yonder? Georgia homespun! Perhaps you don't see the difference. I
"I suppose you mean provincial."
"Oh, dear, no. I'm provincial. It is the most difficult thing to be in
these leveling days. But I am not going to interest you in myself. I am
too unselfish. Your Miss Benson is a fine girl, and it does not matter
about her parents. Since you Yankees upset everything by the war, it is
really of no importance who one's mother is. But, mind, this is not my
opinion. I'm trying to adjust myself. You have no idea how
reconstructed I am."
And with this Mrs. Farquhar went over to Miss Benson, and chatted for a
few moments, making herself particularly agreeable to Mr. Meigs, and
actually carried that gentleman off to the spring, and then as an escort
to her cottage, shaking her fan as she went away at Mr. King and Irene,
and saying, "It is a waste of time for you youngsters not to be in the
The german was just ended, and the participants were grouping themselves
on the gallery to be photographed, the usual custom for perpetuating the
memory of these exercises, which only take place every other morning. And
since something must be done, as there are only six nights for dancing in
the week, on the off mornings there are champagne and fruit parties on
It was not about the german, however, that King was thinking. He was
once more beside the woman he loved, and all the influences of summer and
the very spirit of this resort were in his favor. If I cannot win her
here, he was saying to himself, the Meigs is in it. They talked about
the journey, about Luray, where she had been, and about the Bridge, and
the abnormal gayety of the Springs.
"The people are all so friendly," she said, "and strive so much to put
the stranger at his ease, and putting themselves out lest time hang heavy
on one's hands. They seem somehow responsible."
"Yes," said King, "the place is unique in that respect. I suppose it is
partly owing to the concentration of the company in and around the
"But the sole object appears to me to be agreeable, and make a real
social life. At other like places nobody seems to care what becomes of
"Doubtless the cordiality and good feeling are spontaneous, though
something is due to manner, and a habit of expressing the feeling that
arises. Still, I do not expect to find any watering-place a paradise.
This must be vastly different from any other if it is not full of cliques
and gossip and envy underneath. But we do not go to a summer resort to
philosophize. A market is a market, you know."
"I don't know anything about markets, and this cordiality may all be on
the surface, but it makes life very agreeable, and I wish our Northerners
would catch the Southern habit of showing sympathy where it exists."
"Well, I'm free to say that I like the place, and all its easy-going
ways, and I have to thank you for a new experience."
"Me? Why so?"
"Oh, I wouldn't have come if it had not been for your suggestion—I mean
for your—your saying that you were coming here reminded me that it was a
place I ought to see."
"I'm glad to have served you as a guide-book."
"And I hope you are not sorry that I—"
At this moment Mrs. Benson and Mr. Meigs came down with the announcement
of the dinner hour, and the latter marched off with the ladies with a
The party did not meet again till evening in the great drawing-room. The
business at the White Sulphur is pleasure. And this is about the order
of proceedings: A few conscientious people take an early glass at the
spring, and later patronize the baths, and there is a crowd at the
post-office; a late breakfast; lounging and gossip on the galleries and
in the parlor; politics and old-fogy talk in the reading-room and in the
piazza corners; flirtation on the lawn; a german every other morning at
eleven; wine-parties under the trees; morning calls at the cottages;
servants running hither and thither with cooling drinks; the bar-room not
absolutely deserted and cheerless at any hour, day or night; dinner from
two to four; occasionally a riding-party; some driving; though there were
charming drives in every direction, few private carriages, and no display
of turn-outs; strolls in Lovers' Walk and in the pretty hill paths;
supper at eight, and then the full-dress assembly in the drawing-room,
and a "walk around" while the children have their hour in the ballroom;
the nightly dance, witnessed by a crowd on the veranda, followed
frequently by a private german and a supper given by some lover of his
kind, lasting till all hours in the morning; and while the majority of
the vast encampment reposes in slumber, some resolute spirits are
fighting the tiger, and a light gleaming from one cottage and another
shows where devotees of science are backing their opinion of the relative
value of chance bits of pasteboard, in certain combinations, with a
liberality and faith for which the world gives them no credit. And lest
their life should become monotonous, the enterprising young men are
continually organizing entertainments, mock races, comical games. The
idea seems to prevail that a summer resort ought to be a place of
The White Sulphur is the only watering-place remaining in the United
States where there is what may be called an "assembly," such as might
formerly be seen at Saratoga or at Ballston Spa in Irving's young days.
Everybody is in the drawing-room in the evening, and although, in the
freedom of the place, full dress is not exacted, the habit of parade in
full toilet prevails. When King entered the room the scene might well be
called brilliant, and even bewildering, so that in the maze of beauty and
the babble of talk he was glad to obtain the services of Mrs. Farquhar as
cicerone. Between the rim of people near the walls and the elliptical
centre was an open space for promenading, and in this beauty and its
attendant cavalier went round and round in unending show. This is called
the "tread-mill." But for the seriousness of this frank display, and the
unflagging interest of the spectators, there would have been an element
of high comedy in it. It was an education to join a wall group and hear
the free and critical comments on the style, the dress, the physical
perfection, of the charming procession. When Mrs. Farquhar and King had
taken a turn or two, they stood on one side to enjoy the scene.
"Did you ever see so many pretty girls together before? If you did,
don't you dare say so."
"But at the North the pretty women are scattered in a thousand places.
You have here the whole South to draw on. Are they elected as
representatives from the various districts, Mrs. Farquhar?"
"Certainly. By an election that your clumsy device of the ballot is not
equal to. Why shouldn't beauty have a reputation? You see that old lady
in the corner? Well, forty years ago the Springs just raved over her;
everybody in the South knew her; I suppose she had an average of seven
proposals a week; the young men went wild about her, followed her,
toasted her, and fought duels for her possession—you don't like duels?
—why, she was engaged to three men at one time, and after all she went
off with a worthless fellow."
"That seems to me rather a melancholy history."
"Well, she is a most charming old lady; just as entertaining! I must
introduce you. But this is history. Now look! There's the belle of
Mobile, that tall, stately brunette. And that superb figure, you
wouldn't guess she is the belle of Selma. There is a fascinating girl.
What a mixture of languor and vivacity! Creole, you know; full blood.
She is the belle of New Orleans—or one of them. Oh! do you see that
Paris dress? I must look at it again when it comes around; she carries
it well, too—belle of Richmond. And, see there; there's one of the
prettiest girls in the South—belle of Macon. And that handsome woman
—Nashville?—Louisville? See, that's the new-comer from Ohio." And so
the procession went on, and the enumeration—belle of Montgomery, belle
of Augusta, belle of Charleston, belle of Savannah, belle of Atlanta
—always the belle of some place.
"No, I don't expect you to say that these are prettier than Northern
women; but just between friends, Mr. King, don't you think the North
might make a little more of their beautiful women? Yes, you are right;
she is handsome" (King was bowing to Irene, who was on the arm of Mr.
Meigs), "and has something besides beauty. I see what you mean" (King
had not intimated that he meant anything), "but don't you dare to say
"Oh, I'm quite subdued."
"I wouldn't trust you. I suppose you Yankees cannot help your critical
"Critical? Why, I've heard more criticism in the last half-hour from
these spectators than in a year before. And—I wonder if you will let me
"Seems to me that the chief topic here is physical beauty—about the
shape, the style, the dress, of women, and whether this or that one is
well made and handsome."
"Well, suppose beauty is worshiped in the South—we worship what we have;
we haven't much money now, you know. Would you mind my saying that Mr.
Meigs is a very presentable man?"
"You may say what you like about Mr. Meigs."
"That's the reason I took him away this morning."
"He is full of information, and so unobtrusive—"
"I hadn't noticed that."
"And I think he ought to be encouraged. I'll tell you what you ought to
do, Mr. King: you ought to give a german. If you do not, I shall put Mr.
Meigs up to it—it is the thing to do here."
"Mr. Meigs give a german!"—[Dance, cotillion—always lively. D.W.]
"Why not? You see that old beau there, the one smiling and bending
towards her as he walks with the belle of Macon? He does not look any
older than Mr. Meigs. He has been coming here for fifty years; he owns
up to sixty-five and the Mexican war; it's my firm belief that he was out
in 1812. Well, he has led the german here for years. You will find
Colonel Fane in the ballroom every night. Yes, I shall speak to Mr.
The room was thinning out. King found himself in front of a row of
dowagers, whose tongues were still going about the departing beauties.
"No mercy there," he heard a lady say to her companion; "that's a jury
for conviction every time." What confidential communication Mrs.
Farquhar made to Mr. Meigs, King never knew, but he took advantage of the
diversion in his favor to lead Miss Benson off to the ballroom.
OLD SWEET AND WHITE SULFUR
The days went by at the White Sulphur on the wings of incessant gayety.
Literally the nights were filled with music, and the only cares that
infested the day appeared in the anxious faces of the mothers as the
campaign became more intricate and uncertain. King watched this with the
double interest of spectator and player. The artist threw himself into
the melee with abandon, and pacified his conscience by an occasional
letter to Miss Lamont, in which he confessed just as many of his
conquests and defeats as he thought it would be good for her to know.
The colored people, who are a conspicuous part of the establishment, are
a source of never-failing interest and amusement. Every morning the
mammies and nurses with their charges were seated in a long, shining row
on a part of the veranda where there was most passing and repassing,
holding a sort of baby show, the social consequence of each one depending
upon the rank of the family who employed her, and the dress of the
children in her charge. High-toned conversation on these topics occupied
these dignified and faithful mammies, upon whom seemed to rest to a
considerable extent the maintenance of the aristocratic social
traditions. Forbes had heard that while the colored people of the South
had suspended several of the ten commandments, the eighth was especially
regarded as nonapplicable in the present state of society. But he was
compelled to revise this opinion as to the White Sulphur. Nobody ever
locked a door or closed a window. Cottages most remote were left for
hours open and without guard, miscellaneous articles of the toilet were
left about, trunks were not locked, waiters, chambermaids, porters,
washerwomen, were constantly coming and going, having access to the rooms
at all hours, and yet no guest ever lost so much as a hairpin or a cigar.
This fashion of trust and of honesty so impressed the artist that he said
he should make an attempt to have it introduced elsewhere. This sort of
esprit de corps among the colored people was unexpected, and he wondered
if they are not generally misunderstood by writers who attribute to them
qualities of various kinds that they do not possess. The negro is not
witty or consciously humorous, or epigrammatic. The humor of his actions
and sayings lies very much in a certain primitive simplicity. Forbes
couldn't tell, for instance, why he was amused at a remark he heard one
morning in the store. A colored girl sauntered in, looking about
vacantly. "You ain't got no cotton, is you?" "Why, of course we have
cotton." "Well" (the girl only wanted an excuse to say something), "I
only ast, is you?"
Sports of a colonial and old English flavor that have fallen into disuse
elsewhere varied the life at the White. One day the gentlemen rode in a
mule-race, the slowest mule to win, and this feat was followed by an
exhibition of negro agility in climbing the greased pole and catching the
greased pig; another day the cavaliers contended on the green field
surrounded by a brilliant array of beauty and costume, as two Amazon
baseball nines, the one nine arrayed in yellow cambric frocks and
sun-bonnets, and the other in bright red gowns—the whiskers and big
boots and trousers adding nothing whatever to the illusion of the female
The two tables, King's and the Benson's, united in an expedition to the
Old Sweet, a drive of eighteen miles. Mrs. Farquhar arranged the affair,
and assigned the seats in the carriages. It is a very picturesque drive,
as are all the drives in this region, and if King did not enjoy it, it
was not because Mrs. Farquhar was not even more entertaining than usual.
The truth is that a young man in love is poor company for himself and for
everybody else. Even the object of his passion could not tolerate him
unless she returned it. Irene and Mr. Meigs rode in the carriage in
advance of his, and King thought the scenery about the tamest he had ever
seen, the roads bad, the horses slow. His ill-humor, however, was
concentrated on one spot; that was Mr. Meigs's back; he thought he had
never seen a more disagreeable back, a more conceited back. It ought to
have been a delightful day; in his imagination it was to be an eventful
day. Indeed, why shouldn't the opportunity come at the Old Sweet, at the
end of the drive?—there was something promising in the name. Mrs.
Farquhar was in a mocking mood all the way. She liked to go to the Old
Sweet, she said, because it was so intolerably dull; it was a sensation.
She thought, too, that it might please Miss Benson, there was such a
fitness in the thing—the old sweet to the Old Sweet. "And he is not so
very old either," she added; "just the age young girls like. I should
think Miss Benson in danger—seriously, now—if she were three or four
The Old Sweet is, in fact, a delightful old-fashioned resort, respectable
and dull, with a pretty park, and a crystal pond that stimulates the
bather like a glass of champagne, and perhaps has the property of
restoring youth. King tried the spring, which he heard Mrs. Farquhar
soberly commending to Mr. Meigs; and after dinner he manoeuvred for a
half-hour alone with Irene. But the fates and the women were against
him. He had the mortification to see her stroll away with Mr. Meigs to a
distant part of the grounds, where they remained in confidential
discourse until it was time to return.
In the rearrangement of seats Mrs. Farquhar exchanged with Irene. Mrs.
Farquhar said that it was very much like going to a funeral each way. As
for Irene, she was in high, even feverish spirits, and rattled away in a
manner that convinced King that she was almost too happy to contain
Notwithstanding the general chaff, the singing, and the gayety of Irene,
the drive seemed to him intolerably long. At the half-way house, where
in the moonlight the horses drank from a shallow stream, Mr. Meigs came
forward to the carriage and inquired if Miss Benson was sufficiently
protected against the chilliness of the night. King had an impulse to
offer to change seats with him; but no, he would not surrender in the
face of the enemy. It would be more dignified to quietly leave the
Springs the next day.
It was late at night when the party returned. The carriage drove to the
Benson cottage; King helped Irene to alight, coolly bade her good-night,
and went to his barracks. But it was not a good night to sleep. He
tossed about, he counted every step of the late night birds on his
gallery; he got up and lighted a cigar, and tried dispassionately to
think the matter over. But thinking was of no use. He took pen and
paper; he would write a chill letter of farewell; he would write a manly
avowal of his passion; he would make such an appeal that no woman could
resist it. She must know, she did know—what was the use of writing? He
sat staring at the blank prospect. Great heavens! what would become of
his life if he lost the only woman in the world? Probably the world
would go on much the same. Why, listen to it! The band was playing on
the lawn at four o'clock in the morning. A party was breaking up after a
night of german and a supper, and the revelers were dispersing. The
lively tunes of "Dixie," "Marching through Georgia," and "Home, Sweet
Home," awoke the echoes in all the galleries and corridors, and filled
the whole encampment with a sad gayety. Dawn was approaching.
Good-nights and farewells and laughter were heard, and the voice of a
wanderer explaining to the trees, with more or less broken melody, his
fixed purpose not to go home till morning.
Stanhope King might have had a better though still a sleepless night if
he had known that Mr. Meigs was packing his trunks at that hour to the
tune of "Home, Sweet Home," and if he had been aware of the scene at the
Benson cottage after he bade Irene good-night. Mrs. Benson had a light
burning, and the noise of the carriage awakened her. Irene entered the
room, saw that her mother was awake, shut the door carefully, sat down on
the foot of the bed, said, "It's all over, mother," and burst into the
tears of a long-repressed nervous excitement.
"What's over, child?" cried Mrs. Benson, sitting bolt-upright in bed.
"Mr. Meigs. I had to tell him that it couldn't be. And he is one of the
best men I ever knew."
"You don't tell me you've gone and refused him, Irene?"
"Please don't scold me. It was no use. He ought to have seen that I did
not care for him, except as a friend. I'm so sorry!"
"You are the strangest girl I ever saw." And Mrs. Benson dropped back on
the pillow again, crying herself now, and muttering, "I'm sure I don't
know what you do want."
When King came out to breakfast he encountered Mr. Benson, who told him
that their friend Mr. Meigs had gone off that morning—had a sudden
business call to Boston. Mr. Benson did not seem to be depressed about
it. Irene did not appear, and King idled away the hours with his equally
industrious companion under the trees. There was no german that morning,
and the hotel band was going through its repertoire for the benefit of a
champagne party on the lawn. There was nothing melancholy about this
party; and King couldn't help saying to Mrs. Farquhar that it hardly
represented his idea of the destitution and depression resulting from the
war; but she replied that they must do something to keep up their
"And I think," said the artist, who had been watching, from the little
distance at which they sat, the table of the revelers, "that they will
succeed. Twenty-six bottles of champagne, and not many more guests! What
a happy people, to be able to enjoy champagne before twelve o'clock!"
"Oh, you never will understand us!" said Mrs. Farquhar; "there is nothing
spontaneous in you."
"We do not begin to be spontaneous till after dinner," said King.
"And then it is all calculated. Think of Mr. Forbes counting the
bottles! Such a dreadfully mercenary spirit! Oh, I have been North.
Because you are not so open as we are, you set up for being more
"And you mean," said King, "that frankness and impulse cover a multitude
"I don't mean anything of the sort. I just mean that conventionality
isn't virtue. You yourself confessed that you like the Southern openness
right much, and you like to come here, and you like the Southern people
as they are at home."
"And now will you tell me, Mr. Prim, why it is that almost all Northern
people who come South to live become more Southern than the Southerners
themselves; and that almost all Southern people who go North to live
remain just as Southern as ever?"
"No. Nor do I understand any more than Dr. Johnson did why the Scotch,
who couldn't scratch a living at home, and came up to London, always kept
on bragging about their native land and abused the metropolis."
This sort of sparring went on daily, with the result of increasing
friendship between the representatives of the two geographical sections,
and commonly ended with the declaration on Mrs. Farquhar's part that she
should never know that King was not born in the South except for his
accent; and on his part that if Mrs. Farquhar would conceal her
delightful Virginia inflection she would pass everywhere at the North for
a Northern woman.
"I hear," she said, later, as they sat alone, "that Mr. Meigs has beat a
retreat, saving nothing but his personal baggage. I think Miss Benson is
a great goose. Such a chance for an establishment and a position! You
didn't half appreciate him."
"I'm afraid I did not."
"Well, it is none of my business; but I hope you understand the
responsibility of the situation. If you do not, I want to warn you about
one thing: don't go strolling off before sunset in the Lovers' Walk. It
is the most dangerous place. It is a fatal place. I suppose every turn
in it, every tree that has a knoll at the foot where two persons can sit,
has witnessed a tragedy, or, what is worse, a comedy. There are legends
enough about it to fill a book. Maybe there is not a Southern woman
living who has not been engaged there once at least. I'll tell you a
little story for a warning. Some years ago there was a famous belle here
who had the Springs at her feet, and half a dozen determined suitors.
One of them, who had been unable to make the least impression on her
heart, resolved to win her by a stratagem. Walking one evening on the
hill with her, the two stopped just at a turn in the walk—I can show you
the exact spot, with a chaperon—and he fell into earnest discourse with
her. She was as cool and repellant as usual. Just then he heard a party
approaching; his chance had come. The moment the party came in sight he
suddenly kissed her. Everybody saw it. The witnesses discreetly turned
back. The girl was indignant. But the deed was done. In half an hour
the whole Springs would know it. She was compromised. No explanations
could do away with the fact that she had been kissed in Lovers' Walk.
But the girl was game, and that evening the engagement was announced in
the drawing-room. Isn't that a pretty story?"
However much Stanhope might have been alarmed at this recital, he
betrayed nothing of his fear that evening when, after walking to the
spring with Irene, the two sauntered along and unconsciously, as it
seemed, turned up the hill into that winding path which has been trodden
by generations of lovers with loitering steps—steps easy to take and so
hard to retrace! It is a delightful forest, the walk winding about on
the edge of the hill, and giving charming prospects of intervales,
stream, and mountains. To one in the mood for a quiet hour with nature,
no scene could be more attractive.
The couple walked on, attempting little conversation, both apparently
prepossessed and constrained. The sunset was spoken of, and when Irene
at length suggested turning back, that was declared to be King's object
in ascending the hill to a particular point; but whether either of them
saw the sunset, or would have known it from a sunrise, I cannot say. The
drive to the Old Sweet was pleasant. Yes, but rather tiresome. Mr. Meigs
had gone away suddenly. Yes; Irene was sorry his business should have
called him away. Was she very sorry? She wouldn't lie awake at night
over it, but he was a good friend. The time passed very quickly here.
Yes; one couldn't tell how it went; the days just melted away; the two
weeks seemed like a day. They were going away the next day. King said
he was going also.
"And," he added, as if with an effort, "when the season is over, Miss
Benson, I am going to settle down to work."
"I'm glad of that," she said, turning upon him a face glowing with
"Yes, I have arranged to go on with practice in my uncle's office. I
remember what you said about a dilettante life."
"Why, I never said anything of the kind."
"But you looked it. It is all the same."
They had come to the crown of the hill, and stood looking over the
intervales to the purple mountains. Irene was deeply occupied in tying
up with grass a bunch of wild flowers. Suddenly he seized her hand.
"No, no," she cried, turning away. The flowers dropped from her hand.
"You must listen, Irene. I love you—I love you."
She turned her face towards him; her lips trembled; her eyes were full of
tears; there was a great look of wonder and tenderness in her face.
"Is it all true?"
She was in his arms. He kissed her hair, her eyes—ah me! it is the old
story. It had always been true. He loved her from the first, at
Fortress Monroe, every minute since. And she—well, perhaps she could
learn to love him in time, if he was very good; yes, maybe she had loved
him a little at Fortress Monroe. How could he? what was there in her to
attract him? What a wonder it was that she could tolerate him! What
could she see in him?
So this impossible thing, this miracle, was explained? No, indeed! It
had to be inquired into and explained over and over again, this
absolutely new experience of two people loving each other.
She could speak now of herself, of her doubt that he could know his own
heart and be stronger than the social traditions, and would not mind, as
she thought he did at Newport—just a little bit—the opinions of other
people. I do not by any means imply that she said all this bluntly, or
that she took at all the tone of apology; but she contrived, as a woman
can without saying much, to let him see why she had distrusted, not the
sincerity, but the perseverance of his love. There would never be any
more doubt now. What a wonder it all is.
The two parted—alas! alas! till supper-time!
I don't know why scoffers make so light of these partings—at the foot of
the main stairs of the hotel gallery, just as Mrs. Farquhar was
descending. Irene's face was radiant as she ran away from Mrs. Farquhar.
"Bless you, my children! I see my warning was in vain, Mr. King. It is
a fatal walk. It always was in our family. Oh, youth! youth!" A shade
of melancholy came over her charming face as she turned alone towards the
LONG BRANCH, OCEAN GROVE
Mrs. Farquhar, Colonel Fane, and a great many of their first and second
cousins were at the station the morning the Bensons and King and Forbes
departed for the North. The gallant colonel was foremost in his
expressions of regret, and if he had been the proprietor of Virginia, and
of the entire South added thereto, and had been anxious to close out the
whole lot on favorable terms to the purchaser, he would not have
exhibited greater solicitude as to the impression the visitors had
received. This solicitude was, however, wholly in his manner—and it is
the traditional-manner that has nearly passed away—for underneath all
this humility it was plain to be seen that the South had conferred a
great favor, sir, upon these persons by a recognition of their merits.
"I am not come to give you good-by, but au revoir," said Mrs. Farquhar to
Stanhope and Irene, who were standing apart. "I hate to go North in the
summer, it is so hot and crowded and snobbish, but I dare say I shall
meet you somewhere, for I confess I don't like to lose sight of so much
happiness. No, no, Miss Benson, you need not thank me, even with a
blush; I am not responsible for this state of things. I did all I could
to warn you, and I tell you now that my sympathy is with Mr. Meigs, who
never did either of you any harm, and I think has been very badly
"I don't know any one, Mrs. Farquhar, who is so capable of repairing his
injuries as yourself," said King.
"Thank you; I'm not used to such delicate elephantine compliments. It is
just like a man, Miss Benson, to try to kill two birds with one stone
—get rid of a rival by sacrificing a useless friend. All the same, au
"We shall be glad to see you," replied Irene, "you know that, wherever we
are; and we will try to make the North tolerable for you."
"Oh, I shall hide my pride and go. If you were not all so rich up there!
Not that I object to wealth; I enjoy it. I think I shall take to that
old prayer: 'May my lot be with the rich in this world, and with the
South in the next!'"
I suppose there never was such a journey as that from the White Sulphur
to New York. If the Virginia scenery had seemed to King beautiful when
he came down, it was now transcendently lovely. He raved about it, when
I saw him afterwards—the Blue Ridge, the wheat valleys, the commercial
advantages, the mineral resources of the State, the grand old traditional
Heaven knows what of the Old Dominion; as to details he was obscure, and
when I pinned him down, he was not certain which route they took. It is
my opinion that the most costly scenery in the world is thrown away upon
a pair of newly plighted lovers.
The rest of the party were in good spirits. Even Mrs. Benson, who was at
first a little bewildered at the failure of her admirably planned
campaign, accepted the situation with serenity.
"So you are engaged!" she said, when Irene went to her with the story of
the little affair in Lovers' Walk. "I suppose he'll like it. He always
took a fancy to Mr. King. No, I haven't any objections, Irene, and I
hope you'll be happy. Mr. King was always very polite to me—only he
didn't never seem exactly like our folks. We only want you to be happy."
And the old lady declared with a shaky voice, and tears streaming down
her cheeks, that she was perfectly happy if Irene was.
Mr. Meigs, the refined, the fastidious, the man of the world, who had
known how to adapt himself perfectly to Mrs. Benson, might nevertheless
have been surprised at her implication that he was "like our folks."
At the station in Jersey City—a place suggestive of love and romance and
full of tender associations—the party separated for a few days, the
Bensons going to Saratoga, and King accompanying Forbes to Long Branch,
in pursuance of an agreement which, not being in writing, he was unable
to break. As the two friends went in the early morning down to the coast
over the level salt meadows, cut by bayous and intersected by canals,
they were curiously reminded both of the Venice lagoons and the plains of
the Teche; and the artist went into raptures over the colors of the
landscape, which he declared was Oriental in softness and blending.
Patriotic as we are, we still turn to foreign lands for our comparisons.
Long Branch and its adjuncts were planned for New York excursionists who
are content with the ocean and the salt air, and do not care much for the
picturesque. It can be described in a phrase: a straight line of sandy
coast with a high bank, parallel to it a driveway, and an endless row of
hotels and cottages. Knowing what the American seaside cottage and hotel
are, it is unnecessary to go to Long Branch to have an accurate picture
of it in the mind. Seen from the end of the pier, the coast appears to
be all built up—a thin, straggling city by the sea. The line of
buildings is continuous for two miles, from Long Branch to Elberon;
midway is the West End, where our tourists were advised to go as the best
post of observation, a medium point of respectability between the
excursion medley of one extremity and the cottage refinement of the
other, and equally convenient to the races, which attract crowds of
metropolitan betting men and betting women. The fine toilets of these
children of fortune are not less admired than their fashionable
race-course manners. The satirist who said that Atlantic City is typical
of Philadelphia, said also that Long Branch is typical of New York. What
Mr. King said was that the satirist was not acquainted with the good
society of either place.
All the summer resorts get somehow a certain character, but it is not
easy always to say how it is produced. The Long Branch region was the
resort of politicians, and of persons of some fortune who connect
politics with speculation. Society, which in America does not identify
itself with politics as it does in England, was not specially attracted
by the newspaper notoriety of the place, although, fashion to some extent
declared in favor of Elberon.
In the morning the artist went up to the pier at the bathing hour.
Thousands of men, women, and children were tossing about in the lively
surf promiscuously, revealing to the spectators such forms as Nature had
given them, with a modest confidence in her handiwork. It seemed to the
artist, who was a student of the human figure, that many of these people
would not have bathed in public if Nature had made them self-conscious.
All down the shore were pavilions and bath-houses, and the scene at a
distance was not unlike that when the water is occupied by schools of
leaping mackerel. An excursion steamer from New York landed at the pier.
The passengers were not of any recognized American type, but mixed
foreign races a crowd of respectable people who take their rare holidays
rather seriously, and offer little of interest to an artist. The boats
that arrive at night are said to bring a less respectable cargo.
It is a pleasant walk or drive down to Elberon when there is a
sea-breeze, especially if there happen to be a dozen yachts in the
offing. Such elegance as this watering-place has lies in this direction;
the Elberon is a refined sort of hotel, and has near it a group of pretty
cottages, not too fantastic for holiday residences, and even the
"greeny-yellowy" ones do not much offend, for eccentricities of color are
toned down by the sea atmosphere. These cottages have excellent lawns
set with brilliant beds of flowers; and the turf rivals that of Newport;
but without a tree or shrub anywhere along the shore the aspect is too
unrelieved and photographically distinct. Here as elsewhere the cottage
life is taking the place of hotel life.
There were few handsome turn-outs on the main drive, and perhaps the
popular character of the place was indicated by the use of omnibuses
instead of carriages. For, notwithstanding Elberon and such fashion as
is there gathered, Long Branch lacks "style." After the White Sulphur,
it did not seem to King alive with gayety, nor has it any society. In the
hotel parlors there is music in the evenings, but little dancing except
by children. Large women, offensively dressed, sit about the veranda,
and give a heavy and "company" air to the drawing-rooms. No, the place
is not gay. The people come here to eat, to bathe, to take the air; and
these are reasons enough for being here. Upon the artist, alert for
social peculiarities, the scene made little impression, for to an artist
there is a limit to the interest of a crowd showily dressed, though they
blaze with diamonds.
It was in search of something different from this that King and Forbes
took the train and traveled six miles to Asbury Park and Ocean Grove.
These great summer settlements are separated by a sheet of fresh water
three-quarters of a mile long; its sloping banks are studded with pretty
cottages, its surface is alive with boats gay with awnings of red and
blue and green, and seats of motley color, and is altogether a fairy
spectacle. Asbury Park is the worldly correlative of Ocean Grove, and
esteems itself a notch above it in social tone. Each is a city of small
houses, and each is teeming with life, but Ocean Grove, whose centre is
the camp-meeting tabernacle, lodges its devotees in tents as well as
cottages, and copies the architecture of Oak Bluffs. The inhabitants of
the two cities meet on the two-mile-long plank promenade by the sea.
Perhaps there is no place on the coast that would more astonish the
foreigner than Ocean Grove, and if he should describe it faithfully he
would be unpopular with its inhabitants. He would be astonished at the
crowds at the station, the throngs in the streets, the shops and stores
for supplying the wants of the religious pilgrims, and used as he might
be to the promiscuous bathing along our coast, he would inevitably
comment upon the freedom existing here. He would see women in their
bathing dresses, wet and clinging, walking in the streets of the town,
and he would read notices posted up by the camp-meeting authorities
forbidding women so clad to come upon the tabernacle ground. He would
also read placards along the beach explaining the reason why decency in
bathing suits is desirable, and he would wonder why such notices should
be necessary. If, however, he walked along the shore at bathing times he
might be enlightened, and he would see besides a certain simplicity of
social life which sophisticated Europe has no parallel for. A peculiar
custom here is sand-burrowing. To lie in the warm sand, which
accommodates itself to any position of the body, and listen to the dash
of the waves, is a dreamy and delightful way of spending a summer day.
The beach for miles is strewn with these sand-burrowers in groups of two
or three or half a dozen, or single figures laid out like the effigies of
Crusaders. One encounters these groups sprawling in all attitudes, and
frequently asleep in their promiscuous beds. The foreigner is forced to
see all this, because it is a public exhibition. A couple in bathing
suits take a dip together in the sea, and then lie down in the sand. The
artist proposed to make a sketch of one of these primitive couples, but
it was impossible to do so, because they lay in a trench which they had
scooped in the sand two feet deep, and had hoisted an umbrella over their
heads. The position was novel and artistic, but beyond the reach of the
artist. It was a great pity, because art is never more agreeable than
when it concerns itself with domestic life.
While this charming spectacle was exhibited at the beach, afternoon
service was going on in the tabernacle, and King sought that in
preference. The vast audience under the canopy directed its eyes to a
man on the platform, who was violently gesticulating and shouting at the
top of his voice. King, fresh from the scenes of the beach, listened a
long time, expecting to hear some close counsel on the conduct of life,
but he heard nothing except the vaguest emotional exhortation. By this
the audience were apparently unmoved, for it was only when the preacher
paused to get his breath on some word on which he could dwell by reason
of its vowels, like w-o-r-l-d or a-n-d, that he awoke any response from
his hearers. The spiritual exercise of prayer which followed was even
more of a physical demonstration, and it aroused more response. The
officiating minister, kneeling at the desk, gesticulated furiously,
doubled up his fists and shook them on high, stretched out both arms, and
pounded the pulpit. Among people of his own race King had never before
seen anything like this, and he went away a sadder if not a wiser man,
having at least learned one lesson of charity—never again to speak
lightly of a negro religious meeting.
This vast city of the sea has many charms, and is the resort of thousands
of people, who find here health and repose. But King, who was immensely
interested in it all as one phase of American summer life, was glad that
Irene was not at Ocean Grove.
It was the 22d of August, and the height of the season at Saratoga.
Familiar as King had been with these Springs, accustomed as the artist
was to foreign Spas, the scene was a surprise to both. They had been
told that fashion had ceased to patronize it, and that its old-time
character was gone. But Saratoga is too strong for the whims of fashion;
its existence does not depend upon its decrees; it has reached the point
where it cannot be killed by the inroads of Jew or Gentile. In ceasing
to be a society centre, it has become in a manner metropolitan; for the
season it is no longer a provincial village, but the meeting-place of as
mixed and heterogeneous a throng as flows into New York from all the
Union in the autumn shopping period.
It was race week, but the sporting men did not give Saratoga their
complexion. It was convention time, but except in the hotel corridors
politicians were not the feature of the place. One of the great hotels
was almost exclusively occupied by the descendants of Abraham, but the
town did not at all resemble Jerusalem. Innumerable boarding-houses
swarmed with city and country clergymen, who have a well-founded
impression that the waters of the springs have a beneficent relation to
the bilious secretions of the year, but the resort had not an oppressive
air of sanctity. Nearly every prominent politician in the State and a
good many from other States registered at the hotels, but no one seemed
to think that the country was in danger. Hundreds of men and women were
there because they had been there every year for thirty or forty years
back, and they have no doubt that their health absolutely requires a week
at Saratoga; yet the village has not the aspect of a sanitarium. The
hotel dining-rooms and galleries were thronged with large, overdressed
women who glittered with diamonds and looked uncomfortable in silks and
velvets, and Broadway was gay with elegant equipages, but nobody would go
to Saratoga to study the fashions. Perhaps the most impressive spectacle
in this lowly world was the row of millionaires sunning themselves every
morning on the piazza of the States, solemn men in black broadcloth and
white hats, who said little, but looked rich; visitors used to pass that
way casually, and the townspeople regarded them with a kind of awe, as if
they were the king-pins of the whole social fabric; but even these
magnates were only pleasing incidents in the kaleidoscopic show.
The first person King encountered on the piazza of the Grand Union was
not the one he most wished to see, although it could never be otherwise
than agreeable to meet his fair cousin, Mrs. Bartlett Glow. She was in a
fresh morning toilet, dainty, comme il faut, radiant, with that
unobtrusive manner of "society" which made the present surroundings,
appear a trifle vulgar to King, and to his self-disgust forced upon him
the image of Mrs. Benson.
"You here?" was his abrupt and involuntary exclamation.
"Yes—why not?" And then she added, as if from the Newport point of view
some explanation were necessary: "My husband thinks he must come here for
a week every year to take the waters; it's an old habit, and I find it
amusing for a few days. Of course there is nobody here. Will you take
me to the spring? Yes, Congress. I'm too old to change. If I believed
the pamphlets the proprietors write about each other's springs I should
never go to either of them."
Mrs. Bartlett Glow was not alone in saying that nobody was there. There
were scores of ladies at each hotel who said the same thing, and who
accounted for their own presence there in the way she did. And they were
not there at all in the same way they would be later at Lenox. Mrs.
Pendragon, of New Orleans, who was at the United States, would have said
the same thing, remembering the time when the Southern colony made a very
distinct impression upon the social life of the place; and the Ashleys,
who had put up at the Congress Hall in company with an old friend, a
returned foreign minister, who stuck to the old traditions—even the
Ashleys said they were only lookers-on at the pageant.
Paying their entrance, and passing through the turnstile in the pretty
pavilion gate, they stood in the Congress Spring Park. The band was
playing in the kiosk; the dew still lay on the flowers and the green
turf; the miniature lake sparkled in the sun. It is one of the most
pleasing artificial scenes in the world; to be sure, nature set the great
pine-trees on the hills, and made the graceful little valley, but art and
exquisite taste have increased the apparent size of the small plot of
ground, and filled it with beauty. It is a gem of a place with a
character of its own, although its prettiness suggests some foreign Spa.
Groups of people, having taken the water, were strolling about the
graveled paths, sitting on the slopes overlooking the pond, or wandering
up the glen to the tiny deer park.
"So you have been at the White Sulphur?" said Mrs. Glow. "How did you
"Immensely. It's the only place left where there is a congregate social
"You mean provincial life. Everybody knows everybody else."
"Well," King retorted, with some spirit, "it is not a place where people
pretend not to know each other, as if their salvation depended on it."
"Oh, I see; hospitable, frank, cordial-all that. Stanhope, do you know,
I think you are a little demoralized this summer. Did you fall in love
with a Southern belle? Who was there?"
"Well, all the South, pretty much. I didn't fall in love with all the
belles; we were there only two weeks. Oh! there was a Mrs. Farquhar
"Georgiana Randolph! Georgie! How did she look? We were at Madame
Sequin's together, and a couple of seasons in Paris. Georgie! She was
the handsomest, the wittiest, the most fascinating woman I ever saw. I
hope she didn't give you a turn?"
"Oh, no. But we were very good friends. She is a very handsome woman
—perhaps you would expect me to say handsome still; but that seems a
sort of treason to her mature beauty."
"And who else?"
"Oh, the Storbes from New Orleans, the Slifers from Mobile—no end of
people—some from Philadelphia—and Ohio."
"Ohio? Those Bensons!" said she, turning sharply on him.
"Yes, those Bensons, Penelope. Why not?"
"Oh, nothing. It's a free country. I hope, Stanhope, you didn't
encourage her. You might make her very unhappy."
"I trust not," said King stoutly. "We are engaged."
"Engaged!" repeated Mrs. Glow, in a tone that implied a whole world of
astonishment and improbability.
"Yes, and you are just in time to congratulate us. There they are!" Mr.
Benson, Mrs. Benson, and Irene were coming down the walk from the deer
park. King turned to meet them, but Mrs. Glow was close at his side, and
apparently as pleased at seeing them again as the lover. Nothing could be
more charming than the grace and welcome she threw into her salutations.
She shook hands with Mr. Benson; she was delighted to meet Mrs. Benson
again, and gave her both her little hands; she almost embraced Irene,
placed a hand on each shoulder, kissed her on the cheek, and said
something in a low voice that brought the blood to the girl's face and
suffused her eyes with tenderness.
When the party returned to the hotel the two women were walking lovingly
arm in arm, and King was following after, in the more prosaic atmosphere
of Cyrusville, Ohio. The good old lady began at once to treat King as
one of the family; she took his arm, and leaned heavily on it, as they
walked, and confided to him all her complaints. The White Sulphur
waters, she said, had not done her a mite of good; she didn't know but
she'd oughter see a doctor, but he said that it warn't nothing but
indigestion. Now the White Sulphur agreed with Irene better than any
other place, and I guess that I know the reason why, Mr. King, she said,
with a faintly facetious smile. Meantime Mrs. Glow was talking to Irene
on the one topic that a maiden is never weary of, her lover; and so
adroitly mingled praises of him with flattery of herself that the girl's
heart went out to her in entire trust.
"She is a charming girl," said Mrs. Glow to King, later. "She needs a
little forming, but that will be easy when she is separated from her
family. Don't interrupt me. I like her. I don't say I like it. But if
you will go out of your set, you might do a great deal worse. Have you
written to your uncle and to your aunt?"
"No; I don't know why, in a matter wholly personal to myself, I should
call a family council. You represent the family completely, Penelope."
"Yes. Thanks to my happening to be here. Well, I wouldn't write to them
if I were you. It's no use to disturb the whole connection now. By the
way, Imogene Cypher was at Newport after you left; she is more beautiful
than ever—just lovely; no other girl there had half the attention."
"I am glad to hear it," said King, who did not fancy the drift their
conversation was taking. "I hope she will make a good match. Brains are
not necessary, you know."
"Stanhope, I never said that—never. I might have said she wasn't a bas
bleu. No more is she. But she has beauty, and a good temper, and money.
It isn't the cleverest women who make the best wives, sir."
"Well, I'm not objecting to her being a wife. Only it does not follow
that, because my uncle and aunts are in love with her, I should want to
"I said nothing about marriage, my touchy friend. I am not advising you
to be engaged to two women at the same time. And I like Irene
It was evident that she had taken a great fancy to the girl. They were
always together; it seemed to happen so, and King could hardly admit to
himself that Mrs. Glow was de trop as a third. Mr. Bartlett Glow was
very polite to King and his friend, and forever had one excuse and
another for taking them off with him—the races or a lounge about town.
He showed them one night, I am sorry to say, the inside of the Temple of
Chance and its decorous society, its splendid buffet, the quiet tables of
rouge et noir, and the highly respectable attendants—aged men,
whitehaired, in evening costume, devout and almost godly in appearance,
with faces chastened to resignation and patience with a wicked world,
sedate and venerable as the deacons in a Presbyterian church. He was
lonesome and wanted company, and, besides, the women liked to be by
One might be amused at the Saratoga show without taking an active part in
it, and indeed nobody did seem to take a very active part in it.
Everybody was looking on. People drove, visited the springs—in a vain
expectation that excessive drinking of the medicated waters would
counteract the effect of excessive gormandizing at the hotels—sat about
in the endless rows of armchairs on the piazzas, crowded the heavily
upholstered parlors, promenaded in the corridors, listened to the music
in the morning, and again in the afternoon, and thronged the stairways
and passages, and blocked up the entrance to the ballrooms. Balls? Yes,
with dress de rigueur, many beautiful women in wonderful toilets, a few
debutantes, a scarcity of young men, and a delicious band—much better
music than at the White Sulphur.
And yet no society. But a wonderful agglomeration, the artist was
saying. It is a robust sort of place. If Newport is the queen of the
watering-places, this is the king. See how well fed and fat the people
are, men and women large and expansive, richly dressed, prosperous
—looking! What a contrast to the family sort of life at the White
Sulphur! Here nobody, apparently, cares for anybody else—not much; it
is not to be expected that people should know each other in such a
heterogeneous concern; you see how comparatively few greetings there are
on the piazzas and in the parlors. You notice, too, that the types are
not so distinctively American as at the Southern resort—full faces,
thick necks—more like Germans than Americans. And then the everlasting
white hats. And I suppose it is not certain that every man in a tall
white hat is a politician, or a railway magnate, or a sporting man.
These big hotels are an epitome of expansive, gorgeous American life. At
the Grand Union, King was No. 1710, and it seemed to him that he walked
the length of the town to get to his room after ascending four stories.
He might as well, so far as exercise was concerned, have taken an
apartment outside. And the dining-room. Standing at the door, he had a
vista of an eighth of a mile of small tables, sparkling with brilliant
service of glass and porcelain, chandeliers and frescoed ceiling. What
perfect appointments! what well-trained waiters!—perhaps they were not
waiters, for he was passed from one "officer" to another "officer" down
to his place. At the tables silent couples and restrained family
parties, no hilarity, little talking; and what a contrast this was to the
happy-go-lucky service and jollity of the White Sulphur! Then the
interior parks of the United States and the Grand Union, with corridors
and cottages, close-clipped turf, banks of flowers, forest trees,
fountains, and at night, when the band filled all the air with seductive
strains, the electric and the colored lights, gleaming through the
foliage and dancing on fountains and greensward, made a scene of
enchantment. Each hotel was a village in itself, and the thousands of
guests had no more in common than the frequenters of New York hotels and
theatres. But what a paradise for lovers!
"It would be lonesome enough but for you, Irene," Stanhope said, as they
sat one night on the inner piazza of the Grand Union, surrendering
themselves to all the charms of the scene.
"I love it all," she said, in the full tide of her happiness.
On another evening they were at the illumination of the Congress Spring
Park. The scene seemed the creation of magic. By a skillful arrangement
of the colored globes an illusion of vastness was created, and the little
enclosure, with its glowing lights, was like the starry heavens for
extent. In the mass of white globes and colored lanterns of paper the
eye was deceived as to distances. The allies stretched away
interminably, the pines seemed enormous, and the green hillsides
mountainous. Nor were charming single effects wanting. Down the winding
walk from the hill, touched by a distant electric light, the loitering
people, in couples and in groups, seemed no more in real life than the
supernumeraries in a scene at the opera. Above, in the illuminated
foliage, were doubtless a castle and a broad terrace, with a row of
statues, and these gay promenaders were ladies and cavaliers in an
old-time masquerade. The gilded kiosk on the island in the centre of the
miniature lake and the fairy bridge that leads to it were outlined by
colored globes; and the lake, itself set about with brilliants, reflected
kiosk and bridge and lights, repeating a hundredfold the fantastic scene,
while from their island retreat the band sent out through the illumined
night strains of sentiment and gayety and sadness. In the intervals of
the music there was silence, as if the great throng were too deeply
enjoying this feast of the senses to speak. Perhaps a foreigner would
have been impressed with the decorous respectability of the assembly; he
would have remarked that there were no little tables scattered about the
ground, no boys running about with foaming mugs of beer, no noise, no
loud talking; and how restful to all the senses!
Mrs. Bartlett Glow had the whim to devote herself to Mrs. Benson, and was
repaid by the acquisition of a great deal of information concerning the
social and domestic, life in Cyrusville, Ohio, and the maternal ambition
for Irene. Stanhope and Irene sat a little apart from the others, and
gave themselves up to the witchery of the hour. It would not be easy to
reproduce in type all that they said; and what was most important to
them, and would be most interesting to the reader, are the things they
did not say—the half exclamations, the delightful silences, the tones,
the looks that are the sign language of lovers. It was Irene who first
broke the spell of this delightful mode of communication, and in a pause
of the music said, "Your cousin has been telling me of your relatives in
New York, and she told me more of yourself than you ever did."
"Very likely. Trust your friends for that. I hope she gave me a good
"Oh, she has the greatest admiration for you, and she said the family
have the highest expectations of your career. Why didn't you tell me you
were the child of such hopes? It half frightened me."
"It must be appalling. What did she say of my uncle and aunts?"
"Oh, I cannot tell you, except that she raised an image in my mind of an
awful vision of ancient family and exclusiveness, the most fastidious,
delightful, conventional people, she said, very old family, looked down
upon Washington Irving, don't you know, because he wrote. I suppose she
wanted to impress me with the value of the prize I've drawn, dear. But I
should like you just as well if your connections had not looked down on
Irving. Are they so very high and mighty?"
"Oh, dear, no. Much like other people. My aunts are the dearest old
ladies, just a little nearsighted, you know, about seeing people that are
not—well, of course, they live in a rather small world. My uncle is a
bachelor, rather particular, not what you would call a genial old man;
been abroad a good deal, and moved mostly in our set; sometimes I think
he cares more for his descent than for his position at the bar, which is
a very respectable one, by the way. You know what an old bachelor is who
never has had anybody to shake him out of his contemplation of his
"Do you think," said Irene, a little anxiously, letting her hand rest a
moment upon Stanhope's, "that they will like poor little me? I believe I
am more afraid of the aunts than of the uncle. I don't believe they will
be as nice as your cousin."
"Of course they will like you. Everybody likes you. The aunts are just
a little old-fashioned, that is all. Habit has made them draw a social
circle with a small radius. Some have one kind of circle, some another.
Of course my aunts are sorry for any one who is not descended from the
Van Schlovenhovens—the old Van Schlovenhoven had the first brewery of
the colony in the time of Peter Stuyvesant. In New York it's a family
matter, in Philadelphia it's geographical. There it's a question whether
you live within the lines of Chestnut Street and Spruce Street—outside
of these in the city you are socially impossible: Mrs. Cortlandt told me
that two Philadelphia ladies who had become great friends at a summer
resort—one lived within and the other without the charmed lines—went
back to town together in the autumn. At the station when they parted,
the 'inside' lady said to the other: 'Good-by. It has been such a
pleasure to know you! I suppose I shall see you sometimes at
Moneymaker's!' Moneymaker's is the Bon Marche of Philadelphia."
The music ceased; the band were hurrying away; the people all over the
grounds were rising to go, lingering a little, reluctant to leave the
enchanting scene. Irene wished, with a sigh, that it might never end;
unreal as it was, it was more native to her spirit than that future which
her talk with Stanhope had opened to her contemplation. An ill-defined
apprehension possessed her in spite of the reassuring presence of her
lover and her perfect confidence in the sincerity of his passion; and
this feeling was somehow increased by the appearance of Mrs. Glow with
her mother; she could not shake off the uneasy suggestion of the
At the hour when the ladies went to their rooms the day was just
beginning for a certain class of the habitues. The parlors were nearly
deserted, and few chairs were occupied on the piazzas, but the ghosts of
another generation seemed to linger, especially in the offices and
barroom. Flitting about were to be seen the social heroes who had a
notoriety thirty and forty years ago in the newspapers. This dried-up
old man in a bronze wig, scuffling along in list slippers, was a famous
criminal lawyer in his day; this gentleman, who still wears an air of
gallantry, and is addressed as General, had once a reputation for
successes in the drawing-room as well as on the field of Mars; here is a
genuine old beau, with the unmistakable self-consciousness of one who has
been a favorite of the sex, but who has slowly decayed in the midst of
his cosmetics; here saunter along a couple of actors with the air of
being on the stage. These people all have the "nightcap" habit, and
drift along towards the bar-room—the last brilliant scene in the drama
of the idle day, the necessary portal to the realm of silence and sleep.
This is a large apartment, brightly lighted, with a bar extending across
one end of it. Modern taste is conspicuous here, nothing is gaudy,
colors are subdued, and its decorations are simple even the bar itself is
refined, substantial, decorous, wanting entirely the meretricious glitter
and barbarous ornamentation of the old structures of this sort, and the
attendants have wholly laid aside the smart antics of the former
bartender, and the customers are swiftly and silently served by the
deferential waiters. This is one of the most striking changes that King
noticed in American life.
There is a certain sort of life-whether it is worth seeing is a question
that we can see nowhere else, and for an hour Mr. Glow and King and
Forbes, sipping their raspberry shrub in a retired corner of the
bar-room, were interested spectators of the scene. Through the padded
swinging doors entered, as in a play, character after character. Each
actor as he entered stopped for a moment and stared about him, and in
this act revealed his character-his conceit, his slyness, his bravado,
his self-importance. There was great variety, but practically one
prevailing type, and that the New York politician. Most of them were
from the city, though the country politician apes the city politician as
much as possible, but he lacks the exact air, notwithstanding the black
broadcloth and the white hat. The city men are of two varieties—the
smart, perky-nosed, vulgar young ward worker, and the heavy-featured,
gross, fat old fellow. One after another they glide in, with an always
conscious air, swagger off to the bar, strike attitudes in groups, one
with his legs spread, another with a foot behind on tiptoe, another
leaning against the counter, and so pose, and drink "My respects"—all
rather solemn and stiff, impressed perhaps by the decorousness of the
place, and conscious of their good clothes. Enter together three stout
men, a yard across the shoulders, each with an enormous development in
front, waddle up to the bar, attempt to form a triangular group for
conversation, but find themselves too far apart to talk in that position,
and so arrange themselves side by side—a most distinguished-looking
party, like a portion of a swell-front street in Boston. To them
swaggers up a young sport, like one of Thackeray's figures in the "Irish
Sketch-Book"—short, in a white hat, poor face, impudent manner, poses
before the swell fronts, and tosses off his glass. About a little table
in one corner are three excessively "ugly mugs," leering at each other
and pouring down champagne. These men are all dressed as nearly like
gentlemen as the tailor can make them, but even he cannot change their
hard, brutal faces. It is not their fault that money and clothes do not
make a gentleman; they are well fed and vulgarly prosperous, and if you
inquire you will find that their women are in silks and laces. This is a
good place to study the rulers of New York; and impressive as they are in
appearance, it is a relief to notice that they unbend to each other, and
hail one another familiarly as "Billy" and "Tommy." Do they not ape what
is most prosperous and successful in American life? There is one who in
make-up, form, and air, even to the cut of his side-whiskers, is an exact
counterpart of the great railway king. Here is a heavy-faced young
fellow in evening dress, perhaps endeavoring to act the part of a
gentleman, who has come from an evening party unfortunately a little
"slewed," but who does not know how to sustain the character, for
presently he becomes very familiar and confidential with the dignified
colored waiter at the buffet, who requires all his native politeness to
maintain the character of a gentleman for two.
If these men had millions, could they get any more enjoyment out of life?
To have fine clothes, drink champagne, and pose in a fashionable bar-room
in the height of the season—is not this the apotheosis of the "heeler"
and the ward "worker"? The scene had a fascination for the artist, who
declared that he never tired watching the evolutions of the foreign
element into the full bloom of American citizenship.
LAKE GEORGE, AND SARATOGA AGAIN
The intimacy between Mrs. Bartlett Glow and Irene increased as the days
went by. The woman of society was always devising plans for Irene's
entertainment, and winning her confidence by a thousand evidences of
interest and affection. Pleased as King was with this at first, he began
to be annoyed at a devotion to which he could have no objection except
that it often came between him and the enjoyment of the girl's society
alone; and latterly he had noticed that her manner was more grave when
they were together, and that a little something of reserve mingled with
They made an excursion one day to Lake George—a poetical pilgrimage that
recalled to some of the party (which included some New Orleans friends)
the romance of early days. To the Bensons and the artist it was all new,
and to King it was seen for the first time in the transforming atmosphere
of love. To men of sentiment its beauties will never be exhausted; but
to the elderly and perhaps rheumatic tourist the draughty steamboats do
not always bring back the remembered delight of youth. There is no
pleasanter place in the North for a summer residence, but there is a
certain element of monotony and weariness inseparable from an excursion:
travelers have been known to yawn even on the Rhine. It was a gray day,
the country began to show the approach of autumn, and the view from the
landing at Caldwell's, the head of the lake, was never more pleasing. In
the marshes the cat-tails and the faint flush of color on the alders and
soft maples gave a character to the low shore, and the gentle rise of the
hills from the water's edge combined to make a sweet and peaceful
The tourists find the steamer waiting for them at the end of the rail,
and if they are indifferent to the war romances of the place, as most of
them are, they hurry on without a glance at the sites of the famous old
forts St. George and William Henry. Yet the head of the lake might well
detain them a few hours though they do not care for the scalping Indians
and their sometime allies the French or the English. On the east side
the lake is wooded to the shore, and the jutting points and charming bays
make a pleasant outline to the eye. Crosbyside is the ideal of a summer
retreat, nestled in foliage on a pretty point, with its great trees on a
sloping lawn, boathouses and innumerable row and sail boats, and a lovely
view, over the blue waters, of a fine range of hills. Caldwell itself,
on the west side, is a pretty tree-planted village in a break in the
hills, and a point above it shaded with great pines is a favorite
rendezvous for pleasure parties, who leave the ground strewn with
egg-shells and newspapers. The Fort William Henry Hotel was formerly the
chief resort on the lake. It is a long, handsome structure, with broad
piazzas, and low evergreens and flowers planted in front. The view from
it, under the great pines, of the lake and the northern purple hills, is
lovely. But the tide of travel passes it by, and the few people who were
there seemed lonesome. It is always so. Fashion demands novelty; one
class of summer boarders and tourists drives out another, and the people
who want to be sentimental at this end of the lake now pass it with a
call, perhaps a sigh for the past, and go on to fresh pastures where
their own society is encamped.
Lake George has changed very much within ten years; hotels and great
boarding-houses line the shores; but the marked difference is in the
increase of cottage life. As our tourists sailed down the lake they were
surprised by the number of pretty villas with red roofs peeping out from
the trees, and the occupation of every island and headland by gay and
often fantastic summer residences. King had heard this lake compared
with Como and Maggiore, and as a patriot he endeavored to think that its
wild and sylvan loveliness was more pleasing than the romantic beauty of
the Italian lakes. But the effort failed. In this climate it is
impossible that Horicon should ever be like Como. Pretty hills and
forests and temporary summer structures cannot have the poetic or the
substantial interest of the ancient villages and towns clinging to the
hills, the old stone houses, the vines, the ruins, the atmosphere of a
long civilization. They do the lovely Horicon no service who provoke
The lake has a character of its own. As the traveler sails north and
approaches the middle of the lake, the gems of green islands multiply,
the mountains rise higher, and shouldering up in the sky seem to bar a
further advance; toward sunset the hills, which are stately but lovely, a
silent assembly of round and sharp peaks, with long, graceful slopes,
take on exquisite colors, violet, bronze, and green, and now and again a
bold rocky bluff shines like a ruby in the ruddy light. Just at dusk the
steamer landed midway in the lake at Green Island, where the scenery is
the boldest and most romantic; from the landing a park-like lawn, planted
with big trees, slopes up to a picturesque hotel. Lights twinkled from
many a cottage window and from boats in the bay, and strains of music
saluted the travelers. It was an enchanting scene.
The genius of Philadelphia again claims the gratitude of the tourist, for
the Sagamore Hotel is one of the most delightful hostelries in the world.
A peculiar, interesting building, rambling up the slope on different
levels, so contrived that all the rooms are outside, and having a
delightful irregularity, as if the house had been a growth. Naturally a
hotel so dainty in its service and furniture, and so refined, was crowded
to its utmost capacity. The artist could find nothing to complain of in
the morning except that the incandescent electric light in his chamber
went out suddenly at midnight and left him in blank darkness in the most
exciting crisis of a novel. Green Island is perhaps a mile long. A
bridge connects it with the mainland, and besides the hotel it has a
couple of picturesque stone and timber cottages. At the north end are
the remains of the English intrenchments of 1755—signs of war and hate
which kindly nature has almost obliterated with sturdy trees. With the
natural beauty of the island art has little interfered; near the hotel is
the most stately grove of white birches anywhere to be seen, and their
silvery sheen, with occasional patches of sedge, and the tender sort of
foliage that Corot liked to paint, gives an exceptional refinement to the
landscape. One needs, indeed, to be toned up by the glimpses, under the
trees, over the blue water, of the wooded craggy hills, with their
shelf-like ledges, which are full of strength and character. The charm
of the place is due to this combination of loveliness and granitic
Irene long remembered the sail of that morning, seated in the bow of the
steamer with King, through scenes of ever-changing beauty, as the boat
wound about the headlands and made its calls, now on one side and now on
the other, at the pretty landings and decorated hotels. On every hand
was the gayety of summer life—a striped tent on a rocky point with a
platform erected for dancing, a miniature bark but on an island, and a
rustic arched bridge to the mainland, gaudy little hotels with winding
paths along the shore, and at all the landings groups of pretty girls and
college lads in boating costume. It was wonderful how much these holiday
makers were willing to do for the entertainment of the passing travelers.
A favorite pastime in this peaceful region was the broom drill, and its
execution gave an operatic character to the voyage. When the steamer
approaches, a band of young ladies in military ranks, clad in light
marching costume, each with a broom in place of a musket, descend to the
landing and delight the spectators with their warlike manoeuvres. The
march in the broom-drill is two steps forward and one step back, a mode
of progression that conveys the notion of a pleasing indecision of
purpose, which is foreign to the character of these handsome Amazons, who
are quite able to hold the wharf against all comers. This act of war in
fancy, dress, with its two steps forward and one back, and the singing of
a song, is one of the most fatal to the masculine peace of mind in the
whole history of carnage.
Mrs. Bartlett Glow, to be sure, thought it would be out of place at the
Casino; but even she had to admit that the American girl who would
bewitch the foreigner with her one, two, and one, and her flourish of
broom on Lake George, was capable of freezing his ardor by her cool
good-breeding at Newport.
There was not much more to be done at Saratoga. Mrs. Benson had tried
every spring in the valley, and thus anticipated a remedy, as Mr. Benson
said, for any possible "complaint" that might visit her in the future.
Mr. Benson himself said that he thought it was time for him to move to a
new piazza, as he had worn out half the chairs at the Grand Union. The
Bartlett-Glows were already due at Richfield; in fact, Penelope was
impatient to go, now that she had persuaded the Bensons to accompany her;
and the artist, who had been for some time grumbling that there was
nothing left in Saratoga to draw except corks, reminded King of his
agreement at Bar Harbor, and the necessity he felt for rural retirement
after having been dragged all over the continent.
On the last day Mr. Glow took King and Forbes off to the races, and
Penelope and the Bensons drove to the lake. King never could tell why he
consented to this arrangement, but he knew in a vague way that it is
useless to attempt to resist feminine power, that shapes our destiny in
spite of all our rough-hewing of its outlines. He had become very uneasy
at the friendship between Irene and Penelope, but he could give no reason
for his suspicion, for it was the most natural thing in the world for his
cousin to be interested in the girl who was about to come into the
family. It seemed also natural that Penelope should be attracted by her
nobility of nature. He did not know till afterwards that it was this
very nobility and unselfishness which Penelope saw could be turned to
account for her own purposes. Mrs. Bartlett Glow herself would have said
that she was very much attached to Irene, and this would have been true;
she would have said also that she pitied her, and this would have been
true; but she was a woman whose world was bounded by her own social
order, and she had no doubt in her own mind that she was loyal to the
best prospects of her cousin, and, what was of more importance, that she
was protecting her little world from a misalliance when she preferred
Imogene Cypher to Irene Benson. In fact, the Bensons in her set were
simply an unthinkable element. It disturbed the established order of
things. If any one thinks meanly of Penelope for counting upon the
heroism of Irene to effect her unhappiness, let him reflect of how little
consequence is the temporary happiness of one or two individuals compared
with the peace and comfort of a whole social order. And she might also
well make herself believe that she was consulting the best interests of
Irene in keeping her out of a position where she might be subject to so
many humiliations. She was capable of crying over the social adventures
of the heroine of a love story, and taking sides with her against the
world, but as to the actual world itself, her practical philosophy taught
her that it was much better always, even at the cost of a little
heartache in youth, to go with the stream than against it.
The lake at Saratoga is the most picturesque feature of the region, and
would alone make the fortune of any other watering-place. It is always a
surprise to the stranger, who has bowled along the broad drive of five
miles through a pleasing but not striking landscape, to come suddenly,
when he alights at the hotel, upon what seems to be a "fault," a sunken
valley, and to look down a precipitous, grassy, tree-planted slope upon a
lake sparkling at the bottom and reflecting the enclosing steep shores.
It is like an aqua-marine gem countersunk in the green landscape. Many
an hour had Irene and Stanhope passed in dreamy contemplation of it. They
had sailed down the lake in the little steamer, they had whimsically
speculated about this and that couple who took their ices or juleps under
the trees or on the piazza of the hotel, and the spot had for them a
thousand tender associations. It was here that Stanhope had told her
very fully the uneventful story of his life, and it was here that she had
grown into full sympathy with his aspirations for the future.
It was of all this that Irene thought as she sat talking that day with
Penelope on a bench at the foot of the hill by the steamboat landing. It
was this very future that the woman of the world was using to raise in
the mind of Irene a morbid sense of her duty. Skillfully with this was
insinuated the notion of the false and contemptible social pride and
exclusiveness of Stanhope's relations, which Mrs. Bartlett Glow
represented as implacable while she condemned it as absurd. There was
not a word of opposition to the union of Irene and Stanhope: Penelope was
not such a bungler as to make that mistake. It was not her cue to
definitely suggest a sacrifice for the welfare of her cousin. If she let
Irene perceive that she admired the courage in her that could face all
these adverse social conditions that were conjured up before her, Irene
could never say that Penelope had expressed anything of the sort. Her
manner was affectionate, almost caressing; she declared that she felt a
sisterly interest in her. This was genuine enough. I am not sure that
Mrs. Bartlett Glow did not sometimes waver in her purpose when she was in
the immediate influence of the girl's genuine charm, and felt how sincere
she was. She even went so far as to wish to herself that Irene had been
born in her own world.
It was not at all unnatural that Irene should have been charmed by
Penelope, and that the latter should gradually have established an
influence over her. She was certainly kind-hearted, amiable, bright,
engaging. I think all those who have known her at Newport, or in her New
York home, regard her as one of the most charming women in the world. Nor
is she artificial, except as society requires her to be, and if she
regards the conventions of her own set as the most important things in
life, therein she does not differ from hosts of excellent wives and
mothers. Irene, being utterly candid herself, never suspected that
Penelope had at all exaggerated the family and social obstacles, nor did
it occur to her to doubt Penelope's affection for her. But she was not
blind. Being a woman, she comprehended perfectly the indirection of a
woman's approaches, and knew well enough by this time that Penelope,
whatever her personal leanings, must feel with her family in regard to
this engagement. And that she, who was apparently her friend, and who
had Stanhope's welfare so much at heart, did so feel was an added reason
why Irene was drifting towards a purpose of self-sacrifice. When she was
with Stanhope such a sacrifice seemed as impossible as it would be cruel,
but when she was with Mrs. Bartlett Glow, or alone, the subject took
another aspect. There is nothing more attractive to a noble woman of
tender heart than a duty the performance of which will make her suffer. A
false notion of duty has to account for much of the misery in life.
It was under this impression that Irene passed the last evening at
Saratoga with Stanhope on the piazza of the hotel—an evening that the
latter long remembered as giving him the sweetest and the most
contradictory and perplexing glimpses of a woman's heart.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS, COOPERSTOWN
After weeks of the din of Strauss and Gungl, the soothing strains of the
Pastoral Symphony. Now no more the kettle-drum and the ceaseless
promenade in showy corridors, but the oaten pipe under the spreading
maples, the sheep feeding on the gentle hills of Otsego, the carnival of
the hop-pickers. It is time to be rural, to adore the country, to speak
about the dew on the upland pasture, and the exquisite view from Sunset
Hill. It is quite English, is it not? this passion for quiet, refined
country life, which attacks all the summer revelers at certain periods in
the season, and sends them in troops to Richfield or Lenox or some other
peaceful retreat, with their simple apparel bestowed in modest fourstory
trunks. Come, gentle shepherdesses, come, sweet youths in white flannel,
let us tread a measure on the greensward, let us wander down the lane,
let us pass under the festoons of the hop-vines, let us saunter in the
paths of sentiment, that lead to love in a cottage and a house in town.
Every watering-place has a character of its own, and those who have given
little thought to this are surprised at the endless variety in the
American resorts. But what is even more surprising is the influence that
these places have upon the people that frequent them, who appear to
change their characters with their surroundings. One woman in her season
plays many parts, dashing in one place, reserved in another, now gay and
active, now listless and sentimental, not at all the same woman at
Newport that she is in the Adirondack camps, one thing at Bar Harbor and
quite another at Saratoga or at Richfield. Different tastes, to be sure,
are suited at different resorts, but fashion sends a steady procession of
the same people on the round of all.
The charm of Richfield Springs is in the character of the landscape. It
is a limestone region of gentle slopes and fine lines; and although it is
elevated, the general character is refined rather than bold, the fertile
valleys in pleasing irregularity falling away from rounded wooded hills
in a manner to produce the impression of peace and repose. The lay of
the land is such that an elevation of a few hundred feet gives a most
extensive prospect, a view of meadows and upland pastures, of lakes and
ponds, of forests hanging in dark masses on the limestone summits, of
fields of wheat and hops, and of distant mountain ranges. It is scenery
that one grows to love, and that responds to one's every mood in variety
and beauty. In a whole summer the pedestrian will not exhaust the
inspiring views, and the drives through the gracious land, over hills,
round the lakes, by woods and farms, increase in interest as one knows
them better. The habitues of the place, year after year, are at a loss
for words to convey their peaceful satisfaction.
In this smiling country lies the pretty village of Richfield, the rural
character of which is not entirely lost by reason of the hotels,
cottages, and boardinghouses which line the broad principal street. The
centre of the town is the old Spring House and grounds. When our
travelers alighted in the evening at this mansion, they were reminded of
an English inn, though it is not at all like an inn in England except in
its atmosphere of comfort. The building has rather a colonial character,
with its long corridors and pillared piazzas; built at different times,
and without any particular plans except to remain old-fashioned, it is
now a big, rambling white mass of buildings in the midst of maple-trees,
with so many stairs and passages on different levels, and so many nooks
and corners, that the stranger is always getting lost in it—turning up
in the luxurious smoking-room when he wants to dine, and opening a door
that lets him out into the park when he is trying to go to bed. But
there are few hotels in the country where the guests are so well taken
This was the unbought testimony of Miss Lamont, who, with her uncle, had
been there long enough to acquire the common anxiety of sojourners that
the newcomers should be pleased, and who superfluously explained the
attractions of the place to the artist, as if in his eyes, that rested on
her, more than one attraction was needed. It was very pleasant to see
the good comradeship that existed between these two, and the frank
expression of their delight in meeting again. Here was a friendship
without any reserve, or any rueful misunderstandings, or necessity for
explanations. Irene's eyes followed them with a wistful look as they
went off together round the piazza and through the parlors, the girl
playing the part of the hostess, and inducting him into the mild gayeties
of the place.
The height of the season was over, she said; there had been tableaux and
charades, and broom-drills, and readings and charity concerts. Now the
season was on the sentimental wane; every night the rooms were full of
whist-players, and the days were occupied in quiet strolling over the
hills, and excursions to Cooperstown and Cherry Valley and "points of
view," and visits to the fields to see the hop-pickers at work. If there
were a little larking about the piazzas in the evening, and a group here
and there pretending to be merry over tall glasses with ice and straws in
them, and lingering good-nights at the stairways, why should the aged and
rheumatic make a note of it? Did they not also once prefer the dance to
hobbling to the spring, and the taste of ginger to sulphur?
Of course the raison d'etre of being here is the sulphur spring. There
is no doubt of its efficacy. I suppose it is as unpleasant as any in the
country. Everybody smells it, and a great many drink it. The artist
said that after using it a week the blind walk, the lame see, and the
dumb swear. It renews youth, and although the analyzer does not say that
it is a "love philter," the statistics kept by the colored autocrat who
ladles out the fluid show that there are made as many engagements at
Richfield as at any other summer fair in the country.
There is not much to chronicle in the peaceful flow of domestic life,
and, truth to say, the charm of Richfield is largely in its restfulness.
Those who go there year after year converse a great deal about their
liking for it, and think the time well spent in persuading new arrivals
to take certain walks and drives. It was impressed upon King that he
must upon no account omit a visit to Rum Hill, from the summit of which
is had a noble prospect, including the Adirondack Mountains. He tried
this with a walking party, was driven back when near the summit by a
thunder, storm, which offered a series of grand pictures in the sky and
on the hills, and took refuge in a farmhouse which was occupied by a band
of hop-pickers. These adventurers are mostly young girls and young men
from the cities and factory villages, to whom this is the only holiday of
the year. Many of the pickers, however, are veterans. At this season
one meets them on all the roads, driving from farm to farm in lumber
wagons, carrying into the dull rural life their slang, and "Captain
Jinks" songs, and shocking free manners. At the great hop fields they
lodge all together in big barracks, and they make lively for the time
whatever farmhouse they occupy. They are a "rough lot," and need very
much the attention of the poet and the novelist, who might (if they shut
their eyes) make this season as romantic as vintage-time on the Rhine, or
"moonshining" on the Southern mountains. The hop field itself, with its
tall poles draped in graceful vines which reach from pole to pole, and
hang their yellowing fruit in pretty festoons and arbors, is much more
picturesque than the vine-clad hills.
Mrs. Bartlett Glow found many acquaintances here from New York and
Philadelphia and Newport, and, to do her justice, she introduced Irene to
them and presently involved her in so many pleasure parties and
excursions that she and King were scarcely ever alone together. When
opportunity offered for a stroll a deux, the girl's manner was so
constrained that King was compelled to ask the reason of it. He got very
little satisfaction, and the puzzle of her conduct was increased by her
confession that she loved him just the same, and always should.
"But something has come between us," he said. "I think I have the right
to be treated with perfect frankness."
"So you have," she replied. "There is nothing—nothing at least that
changes my feeling towards you."
"But you think that mine is changed for you?"
"No, not that, either, never that;" and her voice showed excitement as
she turned away her head. "But don't you know, Stanhope, you have not
known me very long, and perhaps you have been a little hasty, and—how
shall I say it?—if you had more time to reflect, when you go back to
your associates and your active life, it might somehow look differently
to you, and your prospects—"
"Why, Irene, I have no prospects without you. I love you; you are my
life. I don't understand. I am just yours, and nothing you can do will
ever make it any different for me; but if you want to be free—"
"No, no," cried the girl, trying in vain to restrain her agitation and
her tears, "not that. I don't want to be free. But you will not
understand. Circumstances are so cruel, and if, Stanhope, you ever
should regret when it is too late! It would kill me. I want you to be
happy. And, Stanhope, promise me that, whatever happens, you will not
think ill of me."
Of course he promised, he declared that nothing could happen, he vowed,
and he protested against this ridiculous phantom in her mind. To a man,
used to straightforward cuts in love as in any other object of his
desire, this feminine exaggeration of conscientiousness is wholly
incomprehensible. How under heavens a woman could get a kink of duty in
her mind which involved the sacrifice of herself and her lover was past
The morning after this conversation, the most of which the reader has
been spared, there was an excursion to Cooperstown. The early start of
the tally-ho coaches for this trip is one of the chief sensations of the
quiet village. The bustle to collect the laggards, the importance of the
conductors and drivers, the scramble up the ladders, the ruses to get
congenial seat-neighbors, the fine spirits of everybody evoked by the
fresh morning air, and the elevation on top of the coaches, give the
start an air of jolly adventure. Away they go, the big red-and-yellow
arks, swinging over the hills and along the well-watered valleys, past
the twin lakes to Otsego, over which hangs the romance of Cooper's tales,
where a steamer waits. This is one of the most charming of the little
lakes that dot the interior of New York; without bold shores or anything
sensational in its scenery, it is a poetic element in a refined and
lovely landscape. There are a few fishing-lodges and summer cottages on
its banks (one of them distinguished as "Sinners' Rest"), and a hotel or
two famous for dinners; but the traveler would be repaid if there were
nothing except the lovely village of Cooperstown embowered in maples at
the foot. The town rises gently from the lake, and is very picturesque
with its church spires and trees and handsome mansions; and nothing could
be prettier than the foreground, the gardens, the allees of willows, the
long boat wharves with hundreds of rowboats and sail-boats, and the exit
of the Susquehanna River, which here swirls away under drooping foliage,
and begins its long journey to the sea. The whole village has an air of
leisure and refinement. For our tourists the place was pervaded by the
spirit of the necromancer who has woven about it a spell of romance; but
to the ordinary inhabitants the long residence of the novelist here was
not half so important as that of the very distinguished citizen who had
made a great fortune out of some patent, built here a fine house, and
adorned his native town. It is not so very many years since Cooper died,
and yet the boatmen and loungers about the lake had only the faintest
impression of the man-there was a writer by that name, one of them said,
and some of his family lived near the house of the great man already
referred to. The magician who created Cooperstown sleeps in the old
English-looking church-yard of the Episcopal church, in the midst of the
graves of his relations, and there is a well-worn path to his head-stone.
Whatever the common people of the town may think, it is that grave that
draws most pilgrims to the village. Where the hillside cemetery now is,
on the bank of the lake, was his farm, which he visited always once and
sometimes twice a day. He commonly wrote only from ten to twelve in the
morning, giving the rest of the time to his farm and the society of his
family. During the period of his libel suits, when the newspapers
represented him as morose and sullen in his retirement, he was, on the
contrary, in the highest spirits and the most genial mood. "Deer-slayer"
was written while this contest was at its height. Driving one day from
his farm with his daughter, he stopped and looked long over his favorite
prospect on the lake, and said, "I must write one more story, dear, about
our little lake." At that moment the "Deerslayer" was born. He was
silent the rest of the way home, and went immediately to his library and
began the story.
The party returned in a moralizing vein. How vague already in the
village which his genius has made known over the civilized world is the
fame of Cooper! To our tourists the place was saturated with his
presence, but the new generation cares more for its smart prosperity than
for all his romance. Many of the passengers on the boat had stopped at a
lakeside tavern to dine, preferring a good dinner to the associations
which drew our sentimentalists to the spots that were hallowed by the
necromancer's imagination. And why not? One cannot live in the past
forever. The people on the boat who dwelt in Cooperstown were not
talking about Cooper, perhaps had not thought of him for a year. The
ladies, seated in the bow of the boat, were comparing notes about their
rheumatism and the measles of their children; one of them had been to the
funeral of a young girl who was to have been married in the autumn, poor
thing, and she told her companion who were at the funeral, and how they
were dressed, and how little feeling Nancy seemed to show, and how
shiftless it was not to have more flowers, and how the bridegroom bore
up-well, perhaps it's an escape, she was so weakly.
The day lent a certain pensiveness to all this; the season was visibly
waning; the soft maples showed color, the orchards were heavy with fruit,
the mountain-ash hung out its red signals, the hop-vines were yellowing,
and in all the fence corners the golden-rod flamed and made the meanest
high-road a way of glory. On Irene fell a spell of sadness that affected
her lover. Even Mrs. Bartlett-Glow seemed touched by some regret for the
fleeting of the gay season, and the top of the coach would have been
melancholy enough but for the high spirits of Marion and the artist,
whose gayety expanded in the abundance of the harvest season. Happy
natures, unrestrained by the subtle melancholy of a decaying year!
The summer was really going. On Sunday the weather broke in a violent
storm of wind and rain, and at sunset, when it abated, there were
portentous gleams on the hills, and threatening clouds lurking about the
sky. It was time to go. Few people have the courage to abide the
breaking of the serenity of summer, and remain in the country for the
more glorious autumn days that are to follow. The Glows must hurry back
to Newport. The Bensons would not be persuaded out of their fixed plan
to "take in," as Mr. Benson expressed it, the White Mountains. The
others were going to Niagara and the Thousand Islands; and when King told
Irene that he would much rather change his route and accompany her, he
saw by the girl's manner that it was best not to press the subject. He
dreaded to push an explanation, and, foolish as lovers are, he was wise
for once in trusting to time. But he had a miserable evening. He let
himself be irritated by the lightheartedness of Forbes. He objected to
the latter's whistling as he went about his room packing up his traps. He
hated a fellow that was always in high spirits. "Why, what has come over
you, old man?" queried the artist, stopping to take a critical look at
his comrade. "Do you want to get out of it? It's my impression that you
haven't taken sulphur water enough."
On Monday morning there was a general clearing out. The platform at the
station was crowded. The palace-cars for New York, for Niagara, for
Albany, for the West, were overflowing. There was a pile of trunks as
big as a city dwelling-house. Baby-carriages cumbered the way; dogs were
under foot, yelping and rending the tender hearts of their owners; the
porters staggered about under their loads, and shouted till they were
hoarse; farewells were said; rendezvous made—alas! how many
half-fledged hopes came to an end on that platform! The artist thought
he had never seen so many pretty girls together in his life before, and
each one had in her belt a bunch of goldenrod. Summer was over, sure
At Utica the train was broken up, and its cars despatched in various
directions. King remembered that it was at Utica that the younger Cato
sacrificed himself. In the presence of all the world Irene bade him
good-by. "It will not be for long," said King, with an attempt at
gayety. "Nothing is for long," she said with the same manner. And then
added in a low tone, as she slipped a note into his hand, "Do not think
ill of me."
King opened the note as soon as he found his seat in the car, and this
was what he read as the train rushed westward towards the Great Fall:
"MY DEAR FRIEND,—How can I ever say it? It is best that we
separate. I have thought and thought; I have struggled with myself.
I think that I know it is best for you. I have been happy—ah me!
Dear, we must look at the world as it is. We cannot change it—if
we break our hearts, we cannot. Don't blame your cousin. It is
nothing that she has done. She has been as sweet and kind to me as
possible, but I have seen through her what I feared, just how it is.
Don't reproach me. It is hard now. I know it. But I believe that
you will come to see it as I do. If it was any sacrifice that I
could make, that would be easy. But to think that I had sacrificed
you, and that you should some day become aware of it! You are free.
I am not silly. It is the future I am thinking of. You must take
your place in the world where your lot is cast. Don't think I have
a foolish pride. Perhaps it is pride that tells me not to put
myself in a false position; perhaps it is something else. Never
think it is want of heart in.
As King finished this he looked out of the window.
The landscape was black.
In the car for Niagara was an Englishman of the receptive, guileless,
thin type, inquisitive and overflowing with approval of everything
American—a type which has now become one of the common features of
travel in this country. He had light hair, sandy side-whiskers, a face
that looked as if it had been scrubbed with soap and sandpaper, and he
wore a sickly yellow traveling-suit. He was accompanied by his wife, a
stout, resolute matron, in heavy boots, a sensible stuff gown, with a lot
of cotton lace fudged about her neck, and a broad brimmed hat with a
vegetable garden on top. The little man was always in pursuit of
information, in his guide-book or from his fellow-passengers, and
whenever he obtained any he invariably repeated it to his wife, who said
"Fancy!" and "Now, really!" in a rising inflection that expressed
surprise and expectation.
The conceited American, who commonly draws himself into a shell when he
travels, and affects indifference, and seems to be losing all natural
curiosity, receptivity, and the power of observation, is pretty certain
to undervalue the intelligence of this class of English travelers, and
get amusement out of their peculiarities instead of learning from them
how to make everyday of life interesting. Even King, who, besides his
national crust of exclusiveness, was today wrapped in the gloom of
Irene's letter, was gradually drawn to these simple, unpretending people.
He took for granted their ignorance of America—ignorance of America
being one of the branches taught in the English schools—and he soon
discovered that they were citizens of the world. They not only knew the
Continent very well, but they had spent a winter in Egypt, lived a year
in India, and seen something of China and much of Japan. Although they
had been scarcely a fortnight in the United States, King doubted if there
were ten women in the State of New York, not professional teachers, who
knew as much of the flora of the country as this plain-featured,
rich-voiced woman. They called King's attention to a great many features
of the landscape he had never noticed before, and asked him a great many
questions about farming and stock and wages that he could not answer. It
appeared that Mr. Stanley Stubbs, Stoke-Cruden—for that was the name and
address of the present discoverers of America—had a herd of short-horns,
and that Mrs. Stubbs was even more familiar with the herd-book than her
husband. But before the fact had enabled King to settle the position of
his new acquaintance satisfactorily to himself, Mrs. Stubbs upset his
estimate by quoting Tennyson.
"Your great English poet is very much read here," King said, by way of
"So we have heard," replied Mrs. Stubbs. "Mr. Stubbs reads Tennyson
beautifully. He has thought of giving some readings while we are here.
We have been told that the Americans are very fond of readings."
"Yes," said King, "they are devoted to them, especially readings by
Englishmen in their native tongue. There is a great rage now for
everything English; at Newport hardly anything else is spoken."
Mrs. Stubbs looked for a moment as if this might be an American joke; but
there was no smile upon King's face, and she only said, "Fancy! You must
make a note of Newport, dear. That is one of the places we must see. Of
course Mr. Stubbs has never read in public, you know. But I suppose that
would make no difference, the Americans are so kind and so appreciative."
"Not the least difference," replied King. "They are used to it."
"It is a wonderful country," said Mr. Stubbs.
"Most interesting," chimed in Mrs. Stubbs; "and so odd!
"You know, Mr. King, we find some of the Americans so clever. We have
been surprised, really. It makes us feel quite at home. At the hotels
and everywhere, most obliging."
"Do you make a long stay?"
"Oh, no. We just want to study the people and the government, and see
the principal places. We were told that Albany is the capital, instead
of New York; it's so odd, you know. And Washington is another capital.
And there is Boston. It must be very confusing." King began to suspect
that he must be talking with the editor of the Saturday Review. Mr.
Stubbs continued: "They told us in New York that we ought to go to
Paterson on the Island of Jersey, I believe. I suppose it is as
interesting as Niagara. We shall visit it on our return. But we came
over more to see Niagara than anything else. And from there we shall run
over to Chicago and the Yosemite. Now we are here, we could not think of
going back without a look at the Yosemite."
King said that thus far he had existed without seeing the Yosemite, but
he believed that next to Chicago it was the most attractive place in the
It was dark when they came into the station at Niagara—dark and silent.
Our American tourists, who were accustomed to the clamor of the hackmen
here, and expected to be assaulted by a horde of wild Comanches in plain
clothes, and torn limb from baggage, if not limb from limb, were unable
to account for this silence, and the absence of the common highwaymen,
until they remembered that the State had bought the Falls, and the agents
of the government had suppressed many of the old nuisances. It was
possible now to hear the roar of the cataract.
This unaccustomed human stillness was ominous to King. He would have
welcomed a Niagara of importunity and imprecations; he was bursting with
impatience to express himself; it seemed as if he would die if he were
silent an hour longer under that letter. Of course the usual American
relief of irritability and impatience suggested itself. He would
telegraph; only electricity was quick enough and fiery enough for his
mood. But what should he telegraph? The telegraph was not invented for
love-making, and is not adapted to it. It is ridiculous to make love by
wire. How was it possible to frame a message that should be commercial
on its face, and yet convey the deepest agony and devotion of the
sender's heart? King stood at the little telegraph window, looking at
the despatcher who was to send it, and thought of this. Depressed and
intent as he was, the whimsicality of the situation struck him. What
could he say? It illustrates our sheeplike habit of expressing ourselves
in the familiar phrase or popular slang of the day that at the instant
the only thing King could think of to send was this: "Hold the fort, for
I am coming." The incongruity of this made him smile, and he did not
write it. Finally he composed this message, which seemed to him to have
a businesslike and innocent aspect: "Too late. Impossible for me to
change. Have invested everything. Expect letter." Mechanically he
counted the words when he had written this. On the fair presumption that
the company would send "everything" as one word, there were still two
more than the conventional ten, and, from force of habit, he struck out
the words "for me." But he had no sooner done this than he felt a sense
of shame. It was contemptible for a man in love to count his words, and
it was intolerable to be haggling with himself at such a crisis over the
expense of a despatch. He got cold over the thought that Irene might
also count them, and see that the cost of this message of passion had
been calculated. And with recklessness he added: "We reach the Profile
House next week, and I am sure I can convince you I am right."
King found Niagara pitched to the key of his lacerated and tumultuous
feelings. There were few people at the Cataract House, and either the
bridal season had not set in, or in America a bride has been evolved who
does not show any consciousness of her new position. In his present mood
the place seemed deserted, the figures of the few visitors gliding about
as in a dream, as if they too had been subdued by the recent commission
which had silenced the drivers, and stopped the mills, and made the park
free, and was tearing down the presumptuous structures along the bank. In
this silence, which emphasized the quaking of the earth and air, there
was a sense of unknown, impending disaster. It was not to be borne
indoors, and the two friends went out into the night.
On the edge of the rapids, above the hotel, the old bath-house was in
process of demolition, its shaking piazza almost overhanging the flood.
Not much could be seen from it, but it was in the midst of an elemental
uproar. Some electric lamps shining through the trees made high lights
on the crests of the rapids, while the others near were in shadow and
dark. The black mass of Goat Island appeared under the lightning flashes
in the northwest sky, and whenever these quick gleams pierced the gloom
the frail bridge to the island was outlined for a moment, and then
vanished as if it had been swept away, and there could only be seen
sparks of light in the houses on the Canadian shore, which seemed very
near. In this unknown, which was rather felt than seen, there was a
sense of power and of mystery which overcame the mind; and in the black
night the roar, the cruel haste of the rapids, tossing white gleams and
hurrying to the fatal plunge, begat a sort of terror in the spectators.
It was a power implacable, vengeful, not to be measured. They strolled
down to Prospect Park. The gate was closed; it had been the scene of an
awful tragedy but a few minutes before. They did not know it, but they
knew that the air shuddered, and as they skirted the grounds along the
way to the foot-bridge the roar grew in their stunned ears. There,
projected out into the night, were the cables of steel holding the frail
platform over the abyss of night and terror. Beyond was Canada. There
was light enough in the sky to reveal, but not to dissipate, the
appalling insecurity. What an impious thing it seemed to them, this
trembling structure across the chasm! They advanced upon it. There were
gleams on the mill cascades below, and on the mass of the American Fall.
Below, down in the gloom, were patches of foam, slowly circling around in
the eddy—no haste now, just sullen and black satisfaction in the awful
tragedy of the fall. The whole was vague, fearful. Always the roar, the
shuddering of the air. I think that a man placed on this bridge at
night, and ignorant of the cause of the aerial agitation and the wild
uproar, could almost lose his reason in the panic of the scene. They
walked on; they set foot on Her Majesty's dominions; they entered the
Clifton House—quite American, you know, with its new bar and office. A
subdued air about everybody here also, and the same quaking, shivering,
and impending sense of irresponsible force. Even "two fingers," said the
artist, standing at the bar, had little effect in allaying the impression
of the terror out there. When they returned the moon was coming up,
rising and struggling and making its way slowly through ragged masses of
colored clouds. The river could be plainly seen now, smooth, deep,
treacherous; the falls on the American side showed fitfully like patches
of light and foam; the Horseshoe, mostly hidden by a cold silver mist,
occasionally loomed up a white and ghostly mass. They stood for a long
time looking down at the foot of the American Fall, the moon now showing
clearly the plunge of the heavy column—a column as stiff as if it were
melted silver-hushed and frightened by the weird and appalling scene.
They did not know at that moment that there where their eyes were
riveted, there at the base of the fall, a man's body was churning about,
plunged down and cast up, and beaten and whirled, imprisoned in the
refluent eddy. But a body was there. In the morning a man's overcoat
was found on the parapet at the angle of the fall. Someone then
remembered that in the evening, just before the park gate closed, he had
seen a man approach the angle of the wall where the overcoat was found.
The man was never seen after that. Night first, and then the hungry
water, swallowed him. One pictures the fearful leap into the dark, the
midway repentance, perhaps, the despair of the plunge. A body cast in
here is likely to tarry for days, eddying round and round, and tossed in
that terrible maelstrom, before a chance current ejects it, and sends it
down the fierce rapids below. King went back to the hotel in a terror of
the place, which did not leave him so long as he remained. His room
quivered, the roar filled all the air. Is not life real and terrible
enough, he asked himself, but that brides must cast this experience also
into their honeymoon?
The morning light did not efface the impressions of the night, the
dominating presence of a gigantic, pitiless force, a blind passion of
nature, uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Shut the windows and lock the
door, you could not shut out the terror of it. The town did not seem
safe; the bridges, the buildings on the edge of the precipices with their
shaking casements, the islands, might at any moment be engulfed and
disappear. It was a thing to flee from.
I suspect King was in a very sensitive mood; the world seemed for the
moment devoid of human sympathy, and the savageness and turmoil played
upon his bare nerves. The artist himself shrank from contact with this
overpowering display, and said that he could not endure more than a day
or two of it. It needed all the sunshine in the face of Miss Lamont and
the serenity of her cheerful nature to make the situation tolerable, and
even her sprightliness was somewhat subdued. It was a day of big,
broken, high-sailing clouds, with a deep blue sky and strong sunlight.
The slight bridge to Goat Island appeared more presumptuous by daylight,
and the sharp slope of the rapids above it gave a new sense of the
impetuosity of the torrent. As they walked slowly on, past the now
abandoned paper-mills and the other human impertinences, the elemental
turmoil increased, and they seemed entering a world the foundations of
which were broken up. This must have been a good deal a matter of
impression, for other parties of sightseers were coming and going,
apparently unawed, and intent simply on visiting every point spoken of in
the guide-book, and probably unconscious of the all-pervading terror. But
King could not escape it, even in the throng descending and ascending the
stairway to Luna Island. Standing upon the platform at the top, he
realized for the first time the immense might of the downpour of the
American Fall, and noted the pale green color, with here and there a
violet tone, and the white cloud mass spurting out from the solid color.
On the foam-crested river lay a rainbow forming nearly a complete circle.
The little steamer Maid of the Mist was coming up, riding the waves,
dashed here and there by conflicting currents, but resolutely steaming
on—such is the audacity of man—and poking her venturesome nose into the
boiling foam under the Horseshoe. On the deck are pigmy passengers in
oil-skin suits, clumsy figures, like arctic explorers. The boat tosses
about like a chip, it hesitates and quivers, and then, slowly swinging,
darts away down the current, fleeing from the wrath of the waters, and
pursued by the angry roar.
Surely it is an island of magic, unsubstantial, liable to go adrift and
plunge into the canon. Even in the forest path, where the great tree
trunks assure one of stability and long immunity, this feeling cannot be
shaken off. Our party descended the winding staircase in the tower, and
walked on the shelf under the mighty ledge to the entrance of the Cave of
the Winds. The curtain of water covering this entrance was blown back
and forth by the wind, now leaving the platform dry and now deluging it.
A woman in the pathway was beckoning frantically and calling to a man who
stood on the platform, entirely unconscious of danger, looking up to the
green curtain and down into the boiling mist. It was Mrs. Stubbs; but
she was shouting against Niagara, and her husband mistook her pantomime
for gestures of wonder and admiration. Some moments passed, and then the
curtain swung in, and tons of water drenched the Englishman, and for an
instant hid him from sight. Then, as the curtain swung back, he was seen
clinging to the handrail, sputtering and astonished at such treatment. He
came up the bank dripping, and declaring that it was extraordinary, most
extraordinary, but he wouldn't have missed it for the world. From this
platform one looks down the narrow, slippery stairs that are lost in the
boiling mist, and wonders at the daring that built these steps down into
that hell, and carried the frail walk of planks over the bowlders outside
the fall. A party in oil-skins, making their way there, looked like lost
men and women in a Dante Inferno. The turbulent waters dashed all about
them; the mist occasionally wrapped them from sight; they clung to the
rails, they tried to speak to each other; their gestures seemed motions
of despair. Could that be Eurydice whom the rough guide was tenderly
dragging out of the hell of waters, up the stony path, that singular
figure in oil-skin trousers, who disclosed a pretty face inside her hood
as she emerged? One might venture into the infernal regions to rescue
such a woman; but why take her there? The group of adventurers stopped a
moment on the platform, with the opening into the misty cavern for a
background, and the artist said that the picture was, beyond all power of
the pencil, strange and fantastic. There is nothing, after all, that the
human race will not dare for a new sensation.
The walk around Goat Island is probably unsurpassed in the world for
wonder and beauty. The Americans have every reason to be satisfied with
their share of the fall; they get nowhere one single grand view like that
from the Canada side, but infinitely the deepest impression of majesty
and power is obtained on Goat Island. There the spectator is in the
midst of the war of nature. From the point over the Horseshoe Fall our
friends, speaking not much, but more and more deeply moved, strolled
along in the lovely forest, in a rural solemnity, in a local calm, almost
a seclusion, except for the ever-present shuddering roar in the air. On
the shore above the Horseshoe they first comprehended the breadth, the
great sweep, of the rapids. The white crests of the waves in the west
were coming out from under a black, lowering sky; all the foreground was
in bright sunlight, dancing, sparkling, leaping, hurrying on, converging
to the angle where the water becomes a deep emerald at the break and
plunge. The rapids above are a series of shelves, bristling with jutting
rocks and lodged trunks of trees, and the wildness of the scene is
intensified by the ragged fringe of evergreens on the opposite shore.
Over the whole island the mist, rising from the caldron, drifts in spray
when the wind is rable; but on this day the forest was bright and
cheerful, and as the strollers went farther away from the Great Fall; the
beauty of the scene began to steal away its terror. The roar was still
dominant, but far off and softened, and did not crush the ear. The
triple islands, the Three Sisters, in their picturesque wildness appeared
like playful freaks of nature in a momentary relaxation of the savage
mood. Here is the finest view of the river; to one standing on the
outermost island the great flood seems tumbling out of the sky. They
continued along the bank of the river. The shallow stream races by
headlong, but close to the edge are numerous eddies, and places where one
might step in and not be swept away. At length they reached the point
where the river divides, and the water stands for an instant almost
still, hesitating whether to take the Canadian or American plunge. Out a
little way from the shore the waves leap and tumble, and the two currents
are like race-horses parted on two ways to the goal. Just at this point
the water swirls and lingers; having lost all its fierceness and haste,
and spreads itself out placidly, dimpling in the sun. It may be a
treacherous pause, this water may be as cruel as that which rages below
and exults in catching a boat or a man and bounding with the victim over
the cataract; but the calm was very grateful to the stunned and buffeted
visitors; upon their jarred nerves it was like the peace of God.
"The preacher might moralize here," said King. "Here is the parting of
the ways for the young man; here is a moment of calm in which he can
decide which course he will take. See, with my hand I can turn the water
to Canada or to America! So momentous is the easy decision of the
"Yes," said the artist, "your figure is perfect. Whichever side the
young man takes, he goes to destruction."
"Or," continued King, appealing to Miss Lamont against this illogical
construction, "this is the maiden at the crucial instant of choosing
between two impetuous suitors."
"You mean she will be sorry, whichever she chooses?"
"You two practical people would spoil any illustration in the world. You
would divest the impressive drop of water on the mountain summit, which
might go to the Atlantic or to the Pacific, of all moral character by
saying that it makes no difference which ocean it falls into."
The relief from the dread of Niagara felt at this point of peace was only
temporary. The dread returned when the party approached again the
turmoil of the American Fall, and fell again under the influence of the
merciless haste of the flood. And there every islet, every rock, every
point, has its legend of terror; here a boat lodged with a man in it, and
after a day and night of vain attempts to rescue him, thousands of people
saw him take the frightful leap, throwing up his arms as he went over;
here a young woman slipped, and was instantly whirled away out of life;
and from that point more than one dazed or frantic visitor had taken the
suicidal leap. Death was so near here and so easy!
One seems in less personal peril on the Canadian side, and has more the
feeling of a spectator and less that of a participant in the wild uproar.
Perhaps there is more sense of force, but the majesty of the scene is
relieved by a hundred shifting effects of light and color. In the
afternoon, under a broken sky, the rapids above the Horseshoe reminded
one of the seashore on a very stormy day. Impeded by the rocks, the
flood hesitated and even ran back, as if reluctant to take the final
plunge! The sienna color of the water on the table contrasted sharply
with the emerald at the break of the fall. A rainbow springing out of
the centre of the caldron arched clear over the American cataract, and
was one moment bright and the next dimly seen through the mist, which
boiled up out of the foam of waters and swayed in the wind. Through this
veil darted adventurous birds, flashing their wings in the prismatic
colors, and circling about as if fascinated by the awful rush and
thunder. With the shifting wind and the passing clouds the scene was in
perpetual change; now the American Fall was creamy white, and the mist
below dark, and again the heavy mass was gray and sullen, and the mist
like silver spray. Perhaps nowhere else in the world is the force of
nature so overpowering to the mind, and as the eye wanders from the chaos
of the fall to the far horizon, where the vast rivers of rapids are
poured out of the sky, one feels that this force is inexhaustible and
If our travelers expected to escape the impression they were under by
driving down to the rapids and whirlpool below, they were mistaken.
Nowhere is the river so terrible as where it rushes, as if maddened by
its narrow bondage, through the canon. Flung down the precipice and
forced into this contracted space, it fumes and tosses and rages with
vindictive fury, driving on in a passion that has almost a human quality
in it. Restrained by the walls of stone from being destructive, it seems
to rave at its own impotence, and when it reaches the whirlpool it is
like a hungry animal, returning and licking the shore for the prey it has
missed. But it has not always wanted a prey. Now and again it has a
wreck or a dead body to toss and fling about. Although it does not need
the human element of disaster to make this canon grewsome, the keepers of
the show places make the most of the late Captain Webb. So vivid were
their narratives that our sympathetic party felt his presence
continually, saw the strong swimmer tossed like a chip, saw him throw up
his hands, saw the agony in his face at the spot where he was last seen.
There are several places where he disappeared, each vouched for by
credible witnesses, so that the horror of the scene is multiplied for the
tourist. The late afternoon had turned gray and cold, and dashes of rain
fell as our party descended to the whirlpool. As they looked over the
heaped-up and foaming waters in this eddy they almost expected to see
Captain Webb or the suicide of the night before circling round in the
maelstrom. They came up out of the gorge silent, and drove back to the
hotel full of nervous apprehension.
King found no telegram from Irene, and the place seemed to him
intolerable. The artist was quite ready to go on in the morning; indeed,
the whole party, although they said it was unreasonable, confessed that
they were almost afraid to stay longer; the roar, the trembling, the
pervading sense of a blind force and rage, inspired a nameless dread. The
artist said, the next morning at the station, that he understood the
feelings of Lot.
THE THOUSAND ISLES
The occupation of being a red man, a merchant of baskets and beadwork, is
taken up by so many traders with a brogue and a twang at our
watering-places that it is difficult for the traveler to keep alive any
sentiment about this race. But at a station beyond Lewiston our tourists
were reminded of it, and of its capacity for adopting our civilization in
its most efflorescent development. The train was invaded by a band of
Indians, or, to speak correctly, by an Indian band. There is nothing in
the world like a brass band in a country town; it probably gives more
pleasure to the performers than any other sort of labor. Yet the delight
it imparts to the listeners is apt to be tempered by a certain sense of
incongruity between the peaceful citizens who compose it and the
bellicose din they produce. There is a note of barbarism in the brassy
jar and clamor of the instruments, enhanced by the bewildering ambition
of each player to force through his piece the most noise and jangle,
which is not always covered and subdued into a harmonious whole by the
whang of the bass drum.
There was nothing of this incongruity between this band of Tuscaroras and
their occupation. Unaccustomed to associate the North American Indian
with music, the traveler at once sees the natural relation of the Indians
with the brass band. These Tuscaroras were stalwart fellows,
broad-faced, big-limbed, serious, and they carried themselves with a
clumsy but impressive dignity. There was no uniformity in their apparel,
yet each one wore some portion of a martial and resplendent dress—an
ornamented kepi, or a scarlet sash, or big golden epaulets, or a military
coat braided with yellow. The leader, who was a giant, and carried the
smallest instrument, outshone all the others in his incongruous splendor.
No sooner had they found seats at one end of the car than they
unlimbered, and began through their various reluctant instruments to
deploy a tune. Although the tune did not get well into line, the effect
was marvelous. The car was instantly filled to bursting. Miss Lamont,
who was reading at the other end of the car, gave a nervous start, and
looked up in alarm. King and Forbes promptly opened windows, but this
gave little relief. The trombone pumped and growled, the trumpet blared,
the big brass instrument with a calyx like the monstrous tropical
water-lily quivered and howled, and the drum, banging into the discord,
smashed every tympanum in the car. The Indians looked pleased. No
sooner had they broken one tune into fragments than they took up another,
and the car roared and rattled and jarred all the way to the lonely
station where the band debarked, and was last seen convoying a straggling
Odd-Fellows' picnic down a country road.
The incident, trivial in itself, gave rise to serious reflections
touching the capacity and use of the red man in modern life. Here is a
peaceful outlet for all his wild instincts. Let the government turn all
the hostiles on the frontier into brass bands, and we shall hear no more
of the Indian question.
The railway along the shore of Lake Ontario is for the most part
monotonous. After leaving the picturesque highlands about Lewiston, the
country is flat, and although the view over the lovely sheet of blue
water is always pleasing, there is something bleak even in summer in this
vast level expanse from which the timber has been cut away. It may have
been mere fancy, but to the tourists the air seemed thin, and the scene,
artistically speaking, was cold and colorless. With every desire to do
justice to the pretty town of Oswego, which lies on a gentle slope by the
lake, it had to them an out-of-doors, unprotected, remote aspect. Seen
from the station, it did not appear what it is, the handsomest city on
Lake Ontario, with the largest starch factory in the world.
It was towards evening when the train reached Cape Vincent, where the
steamer waited to transport passengers down the St. Lawrence. The
weather had turned cool; the broad river, the low shores, the long
islands which here divide its lake-like expanse, wanted atmospheric
warmth, and the tourists could not escape the feeling of lonesomeness, as
if they were on the other side of civilization, rather than in one of the
great streams of summer frolic and gayety. It was therefore a very
agreeable surprise to them when a traveling party alighted from one of
the cars, which had come from Rome, among whom they recognized Mrs.
"I knew my education never could be complete," said that lady as she
shook hands, "and you never would consider me perfectly in the Union
until I had seen the Thousand Islands; and here I am, after many Yankee
"And why didn't you come by Niagara?" asked Miss Lamont.
"My dear, perhaps your uncle could tell you that I saw enough of Niagara
when I was a young lady, during the war. The cruelest thing you Yankees
did was to force us, who couldn't fight, to go over there for sympathy.
The only bearable thing about the fall of Richmond was that it relieved
me from that Fall. But where," she added, turning to King, "are the rest
of your party?"
"If you mean the Bensons," said he, with a rather rueful countenance, "I
believe they have gone to the White Mountains."
"Oh, not lost, but gone before. You believe? If you knew the nights I
have lain awake thinking about you two, or you three! I fear you have
not been wide-awake enough yourself."
"I knew I could depend on you, Mrs. Farquhar, for that."
The steamer was moving off, taking a wide sweep to follow the channel.
The passengers were all engaged in ascertaining the names of the islands
and of the owners of the cottages and club-houses. "It is a kind of
information I have learned to dispense with," said Mrs. Farquhar. And
the tourists, except three or four resolutely inquisitive, soon tired of
it. The islands multiplied; the boat wound in and out among them in
narrow straits. To sail thus amid rocky islets, hirsute with firs,
promised to be an unfailing pleasure. It might have been, if darkness
had not speedily fallen. But it is notable how soon passengers on a
steamer become indifferent and listless in any sort of scenery. Where
the scenery is monotonous and repeats itself mile after mile and hour
after hour, an intolerable weariness falls upon the company. The
enterprising group who have taken all the best seats in the bow, with the
intention of gormandizing the views, exhibit little staying power; either
the monotony or the wind drives them into the cabin. And passengers in
the cabin occupying chairs and sofas, surrounded by their baggage, always
look bored and melancholy.
"I always think," said Mrs. Farquhar, "that I am going to enjoy a ride on
a steamer, but I never do. It is impossible to get out of a draught, and
the progress is so slow that variety enough is not presented to the eye
to keep one from ennui." Nevertheless, Mrs. Farquhar and King remained
on deck, in such shelter as they could find, during the three hours'
sail, braced up by the consciousness that they were doing their duty in
regard to the enterprise that has transformed this lovely stream into a
highway of display and enjoyment. Miss Lamont and the artist went below,
frankly confessing that they could see all that interested them from the
cabin windows. And they had their reward; for in this little cabin,
where supper was served, a drama was going on between the cook and the
two waiting-maids and the cabin boy, a drama of love and coquetry and
jealousy and hope deferred, quite as important to those concerned as any
of the watering-place comedies, and played with entire unconsciousness of
The evening was dark, and the navigation in the tortuous channels
sometimes difficult, and might have been dangerous but for the
lighthouses. The steamer crept along in the shadows of the low islands,
making frequent landings, and never long out of sight of the
illuminations of hotels and cottages. Possibly by reason of these
illuminations this passage has more variety by night than by day. There
was certainly a fascination about this alternating brilliancy and gloom.
On nearly every island there was at least a cottage, and on the larger
islands were great hotels, camp-meeting establishments, and houses and
tents for the entertainment of thousands of people. Late as it was in
the season, most of the temporary villages and solitary lodges were
illuminated; colored lamps were set about the grounds, Chinese lanterns
hung in the evergreens, and on half a dozen lines radiating from the
belfry of the hotel to the ground, while all the windows blazed and
scintillated. Occasionally as the steamer passed these places of
irrepressible gayety rockets were let off, Bengal-lights were burned, and
once a cannon attempted to speak the joy of the sojourners. It was like
a continued Fourth of July, and King's heart burned within him with
national pride. Even Mrs. Farquhar had to admit that it was a fairy
spectacle. During the months of July and August this broad river, with
its fantastic islands, is at night simply a highway of glory. The
worldlings and the camp-meeting gatherings vie with each other in the
display of colored lights and fireworks. And such places as the Thousand
Islands Park, Wellesley and Wesley parks, and so on, twinkling with lamps
and rosy with pyrotechnics, like sections of the sky dropped upon the
earth, create in the mind of the steamer pilgrim an indescribable earthly
and heavenly excitement. He does not look upon these displays as
advertisements of rival resorts, but as generous contributions to the
hilarity of the world.
It is, indeed, a marvelous spectacle, this view for thirty or forty
miles, and the simple traveler begins to realize what American enterprise
is when it lays itself out for pleasure. These miles and miles of
cottages, hotels, parks, and camp-meetings are the creation of only a few
years, and probably can scarcely be paralleled elsewhere in the world for
rapidity of growth. But the strongest impression the traveler has is of
the public spirit of these summer sojourners, speculators, and religious
enthusiasts. No man lives to himself alone, or builds his cottage for
his selfish gratification. He makes fantastic carpentry, and paints and
decorates and illuminates and shows fireworks, for the genuine sake of
display. One marvels that a person should come here for rest and
pleasure in a spirit of such devotion to the public weal, and devote
himself night after night for months to illuminating his house and
lighting up his island, and tearing open the sky with rockets and shaking
the air with powder explosions, in order that the river may be
continually en fete.
At half-past eight the steamer rounded into view of the hotels and
cottages at Alexandria Bay, and the enchanting scene drew all the
passengers to the deck.
The Thousand Islands Hotel, and the Crossman House, where our party found
excellent accommodations, were blazing and sparkling like the spectacular
palaces in an opera scene. Rows of colored lamps were set thickly along
the shore, and disposed everywhere among the rocks on which the Crossman
House stands; lights glistened from all the islands, from a thousand
row-boats, and in all the windows. It was very like Venice, seen from
the lagoon, when the Italians make a gala-night.
If Alexandria Bay was less enchanting as a spectacle by daylight, it was
still exceedingly lovely and picturesque; islands and bays and winding
waterways could not be better combined for beauty, and the structures
that taste or ambition has raised on the islands or rocky points are well
enough in keeping with the general holiday aspect. One of the prettiest
of these cottages is the Bonnicastle of the late Dr. Holland, whose
spirit more or less pervades this region. It is charmingly situated on a
projecting point of gray rocks veined with color, enlivened by touches of
scarlet bushes and brilliant flowers planted in little spots of soil,
contrasting with the evergreen shrubs. It commands a varied and
delicious prospect, and has an air of repose and peace.
I am sorry to say that while Forbes and Miss Lamont floated, so to speak,
in all this beauty, like the light-hearted revelers they were, King was
scarcely in a mood to enjoy it. It seemed to him fictitious and a little
forced. There was no message for him at the Crossman House. His
restlessness and absentmindedness could not escape the observation of
Mrs. Farquhar, and as the poor fellow sadly needed a confidante, she was
soon in possession of his story.
"I hate slang," she said, when he had painted the situation black enough
to suit Mrs. Bartlett Glow even, "and I will not give my sex away, but I
know something of feminine doubtings and subterfuges, and I give you my
judgment that Irene is just fretting herself to death, and praying that
you may have the spirit to ride rough-shod over her scruples. Yes, it is
just as true in this prosaic time as it ever was, that women like to be
carried off by violence. In their secret hearts, whatever they may say,
they like to see a knight batter down the tower and put all the garrison
except themselves to the sword. I know that I ought to be on Mrs. Glow's
side. It is the sensible side, the prudent side; but I do admire
recklessness in love. Probably you'll be uncomfortable, perhaps unhappy
—you are certain to be if you marry to please society and not yourself
—but better a thousand times one wild rush of real passion, of
self-forgetting love, than an age of stupid, conventional affection
approved by your aunt. Oh, these calculating young people!" Mrs.
Farquhar's voice trembled and her eyes flashed. "I tell you, my friend,
life is not worth living in a conventional stagnation. You see in
society how nature revenges itself when its instincts are repressed."
Mrs. Farquhar turned away, and King saw that her eyes were full of tears.
She stood a moment looking away over the sparkling water to the soft
islands on the hazy horizon. Was she thinking of her own marriage? Death
had years ago dissolved it, and were these tears, not those of mourning,
but for the great experience possible in life, so seldom realized, missed
forever? Before King could frame, in the tumult of his own thoughts, any
reply, she turned towards him again, with her usual smile, half of
badinage and half of tenderness, and said:
"Come, this is enough of tragedy for one day; let us go on the Island
Wanderer, with the other excursionists, among the isles of the blest."
The little steamer had already its load, and presently was under way,
puffing and coughing, on its usual afternoon trip among the islands. The
passengers were silent, and appeared to take the matter seriously—a
sort of linen-duster congregation, of the class who figure in the homely
dialect poems of the Northern bards, Mrs. Farquhar said. They were
chiefly interested in knowing the names of the successful people who had
built these fantastic dwellings, and who lived on illuminations. Their
curiosity was easily gratified, for in most cases the owners had painted
their names, and sometimes their places of residence, in staring white
letters on conspicuous rocks. There was also exhibited, for the benefit
of invalids, by means of the same white paint, here and there the name of
a medicine that is a household word in this patent-right generation. So
the little steamer sailed, comforted by these remedies, through the
strait of Safe Nervine, round the bluff of Safe Tonic, into the open bay
of Safe Liver Cure. It was a healing voyage, and one in which enterprise
was so allied with beauty that no utilitarian philosopher could raise a
question as to the market value of the latter.
The voyage continued as far as Gananoque, in Canada, where the passengers
went ashore, and wandered about in a disconsolate way to see nothing.
King said, however, that he was more interested in the place than in any
other he had seen, because there was nothing interesting in it; it was
absolutely without character, or a single peculiarity either of Canada or
of the United States. Indeed, this north shore seemed to all the party
rather bleak even in summertime, and the quality of the sunshine thin.
It was, of course, a delightful sail, abounding in charming views, up
"lost channels," through vistas of gleaming water overdrooped by tender
foliage, and now and then great stretches of sea, and always islands,
"Too many islands too much alike," at length exclaimed Mrs. Farquhar,
"and too many tasteless cottages and temporary camping structures."
The performance is, indeed, better than the prospectus. For there are
not merely the poetical Thousand Islands; by actual count there are
sixteen hundred and ninety-two. The artist and Miss Lamont were trying
to sing a fine song they discovered in the Traveler's Guide, inspired
perhaps by that sentimental ditty, "The Isles of Greece, the Isles of
"O Thousand Isles! O Thousand Isles!"
It seemed to King that a poem might be constructed more in accordance
with the facts and with the scientific spirit of the age. Something like
"O Sixteen Hundred Ninety-two Isles!
O Islands 1692!
Where the fisher spreads his wiles,
And the muskallonge goes through!
Forever the cottager gilds the same
With nightly pyrotechnic flame;
And it's O the Isles!
Aside from the pyrotechnics, the chief occupations of this place are
boating and fishing. Boats abound—row-boats, sail-boats, and
steam-launches for excursion parties. The river consequently presents an
animated appearance in the season, and the prettiest effects are produced
by the white sails dipping about among the green islands. The favorite
boat is a canoe with a small sail stepped forward, which is steered
without centre-board or rudder, merely by a change of position in the
boat of the man who holds the sheet. While the fishermen are here, it
would seem that the long, snaky pickerel is the chief game pursued and
caught. But this is not the case when the fishermen return home, for
then it appears that they have been dealing mainly with muskallonge, and
with bass by the way. No other part of the country originates so many
excellent fish stories as the Sixteen Hundred and Ninety-two Islands, and
King had heard so many of them that he suspected there must be fish in
these waters. That afternoon, when they returned from Gananoque he
accosted an old fisherman who sat in his boat at the wharf awaiting a
"I suppose there is fishing here in the season?"
The man glanced up, but deigned no reply to such impertinence.
"Could you take us where we would be likely to get any muskallonge?"
"Likely?" asked the man. "What do you suppose I am here for?"
"I beg your pardon. I'm a stranger here. I'd like to try my hand at a
muskallonge. About how do they run here as to size?"
"Well," said the fisherman, relenting a little, "that depends upon who
takes you out. If you want a little sport, I can take you to it. They
are running pretty well this season, or were a week ago."
"Is it too late?"
"Well, they are scarcer than they were, unless you know where to go. I
call forty pounds light for a muskallonge; fifty to seventy is about my
figure. If you ain't used to this kind of fishing, and go with me, you'd
better tie yourself in the boat. They are a powerful fish. You see that
little island yonder? A muskallonge dragged me in this boat four times
round that island one day, and just as I thought I was tiring him out he
jumped clean over the island, and I had to cut the line."
King thought he had heard something like this before, and he engaged the
man for the next day. That evening was the last of the grand
illuminations for the season, and our party went out in the Crossman
steam-launch to see it. Although some of the cottages were vacated, and
the display was not so extensive as in August, it was still marvelously
beautiful, and the night voyage around the illuminated islands was
something long to be remembered.
There were endless devices of colored lamps and lanterns, figures of
crosses, crowns, the Seal of Solomon, and the most strange effects
produced on foliage and in the water by red and green and purple fires.
It was a night of enchantment, and the hotel and its grounds on the dark
background of the night were like the stately pleasure-house in "Kubla
But the season was drawing to an end. The hotels, which could not find
room for the throngs on Saturday night, say, were nearly empty on Monday,
so easy are pleasure-seekers frightened away by a touch of cold,
forgetting that in such a resort the most enjoyable part of the year
comes with the mellow autumn days. That night at ten o'clock the band
was scraping away in the deserted parlor, with not another person in
attendance, without a single listener. Miss Lamont happened to peep
through the window-blinds from the piazza and discover this residuum of
gayety. The band itself was half asleep, but by sheer force of habit it
kept on, the fiddlers drawing the perfunctory bows, and the melancholy
clarionet men breathing their expressive sighs. It was a dismal sight.
The next morning the band had vanished.
The morning was lowering, and a steady rain soon set in for the day. No
fishing, no boating; nothing but drop, drop, and the reminiscence of past
pleasure. Mist enveloped the islands and shut out the view. Even the
spirits of Mrs. Farquhar were not proof against this, and she tried to
amuse herself by reconstructing the season out of the specimens of guests
who remained, who were for the most part young ladies who had duty
written on their faces, and were addicted to spectacles.
"It could not have been," she thought, "ultrafashionable or madly gay. I
think the good people come here; those who are willing to illuminate."
"Oh, there is a fast enough life at some of the hotels in the summer,"
said the artist.
"Very likely. Still, if I were recruiting for schoolmarms, I should come
here. I like it thoroughly, and mean to be here earlier next year. The
scenery is enchanting, and I quite enjoy being with 'Proverbial
Late in the gloomy afternoon King went down to the office, and the clerk
handed him a letter. He took it eagerly, but his countenance fell when
he saw that it bore a New York postmark, and had been forwarded from
Richfield. It was not from Irene. He put it in his pocket and went
moodily to his room. He was in no mood to read a homily from his uncle.
Ten minutes after, he burst into Forbes's room with the open letter in
"See here, old fellow, I'm off to the Profile House. Can you get ready?"
"Get ready? Why, you can't go anywhere tonight."
"Yes I can. The proprietor says he will send us across to Redwood to
catch the night train for Ogdensburg."
"But how about the Lachine Rapids? You have been talking about those
rapids for two months. I thought that was what we came here for."
"Do you want to run right into the smallpox at Montreal?"
"Oh, I don't mind. I never take anything of that sort."
"But don't you see that it isn't safe for the Lamonts and Mrs. Farquhar
to go there?"
"I suppose not; I never thought of that. You have dragged me all over
the continent, and I didn't suppose there was any way of escaping the
rapids. But what is the row now? Has Irene telegraphed you that she has
got over her chill?"
"Read that letter."
Forbes took the sheet and read:
"NEW YORK, September 2, 1885.
"MY DEAR STANHOPE,—We came back to town yesterday, and I find a
considerable arrears of business demanding my attention. A suit has been
brought against the Lavalle Iron Company, of which I have been the
attorney for some years, for the possession of an important part of its
territory, and I must send somebody to Georgia before the end of this
month to look up witnesses and get ready for the defense. If you are
through your junketing by that time, it will be an admirable opportunity
for you to learn the practical details of the business . . . . Perhaps
it may quicken your ardor in the matter if I communicate to you another
fact. Penelope wrote me from Richfield, in a sort of panic, that she
feared you had compromised your whole future by a rash engagement with a
young lady from Cyrusville, Ohio—a Miss Benson-and she asked me to use
my influence with you. I replied to her that I thought that, in the
language of the street, you had compromised your future, if that were
true, for about a hundred cents on the dollar. I have had business
relations with Mr. Benson for twenty years. He is the principal owner in
the Lavalle Iron Mine, and he is one of the most sensible, sound, and
upright men of my acquaintance. He comes of a good old New England
stock, and if his daughter has the qualities of her father and I hear
that she has been exceedingly well educated besides she is not a bad
match even for a Knickerbocker.
"Hoping that you will be able to report at the office before the end of
"I am affectionately yours,
"Well, that's all right," said the artist, after a pause. "I suppose the
world might go on if you spend another night in this hotel. But if you
must go, I'll bring on the women and the baggage when navigation opens in
WHITE MOUNTAINS, LENNOX
The White Mountains are as high as ever, as fine in sharp outline against
the sky, as savage, as tawny; no other mountains in the world of their
height so well keep, on acquaintance, the respect of mankind. There is a
quality of refinement in their granite robustness; their desolate, bare
heights and sky-scraping ridges are rosy in the dawn and violet at
sunset, and their profound green gulfs are still mysterious. Powerful as
man is, and pushing, he cannot wholly vulgarize them. He can reduce the
valleys and the show "freaks" of nature to his own moral level, but the
vast bulks and the summits remain for the most part haughty and pure.
Yet undeniably something of the romance of adventure in a visit to the
White Hills is wanting, now that the railways penetrate every valley, and
all the physical obstacles of the journey are removed. One can never
again feel the thrill that he experienced when, after a weary all-day
jolting in the stage-coach, or plodding hour after hour on foot, he
suddenly came in view of a majestic granite peak. Never again by the new
rail can he have the sensation that he enjoyed in the ascent of Mount
Washington by the old bridlepath from Crawford's, when, climbing out of
the woods and advancing upon that marvelous backbone of rock, the whole
world opened upon his awed vision, and the pyramid of the summit stood up
in majesty against the sky. Nothing, indeed, is valuable that is easily
obtained. This modern experiment of putting us through the world—the
world of literature, experience, and travel—at excursion rates is of
I cannot but think that the White Mountains are cheapened a little by the
facilities of travel and the multiplication of excellent places of
entertainment. If scenery were a sentient thing, it might feel indignant
at being vulgarly stared at, overrun and trampled on, by a horde of
tourists who chiefly value luxurious hotels and easy conveyance. It
would be mortified to hear the talk of the excursionists, which is more
about the quality of the tables and the beds, and the rapidity with which
the "whole thing can be done," than about the beauty and the sublimity of
nature. The mountain, however, was made for man, and not man for the
mountain; and if the majority of travelers only get out of these hills
what they are capable of receiving, it may be some satisfaction to the
hills that they still reserve their glories for the eyes that can
appreciate them. Perhaps nature is not sensitive about being run after
for its freaks and eccentricities. If it were, we could account for the
catastrophe, a few years ago, in the Franconia Notch flume. Everybody
went there to see a bowlder which hung suspended over the stream in the
narrow canon. This curiosity attracted annually thousands of people, who
apparently cared more for this toy than for anything else in the region.
And one day, as if tired of this misdirected adoration, nature organized
a dam on the side of Mount Lafayette, filled it with water, and then
suddenly let loose a flood which tore open the canon, carried the bowlder
away, and spread ruin far and wide. It said as plainly as possible, you
must look at me, and not at my trivial accidents. But man is an
ingenious creature, and nature is no match for him. He now goes, in
increasing number, to see where the bowlder once hung, and spends his
time in hunting for it in the acres of wreck and debris. And in order to
satisfy reasonable human curiosity, the proprietors of the flume have
been obliged to select a bowlder and label it as the one that was
formerly the shrine of pilgrimage.
In his college days King had more than once tramped all over this region,
knapsack on back, lodging at chance farmhouses and second-class hotels,
living on viands that would kill any but a robust climber, and enjoying
the life with a keen zest only felt by those who are abroad at all hours,
and enabled to surprise Nature in all her varied moods. It is the chance
encounters that are most satisfactory; Nature is apt to be whimsical to
him who approaches her of set purpose at fixed hours. He remembered also
the jolting stage-coaches, the scramble for places, the exhilaration of
the drive, the excitement of the arrival at the hotels, the sociability
engendered by this juxtaposition and jostle of travel. It was therefore
with a sense of personal injury that, when he reached Bethlehem junction,
he found a railway to the Profile House, and another to Bethlehem. In
the interval of waiting for his train he visited Bethlehem Street, with
its mile of caravansaries, big boarding-houses, shops, and city veneer,
and although he was delighted, as an American, with the "improvements"
and with the air of refinement, he felt that if he wanted retirement and
rural life, he might as well be with the hordes in the depths of the
Adirondack wilderness. But in his impatience to reach his destination he
was not sorry to avail himself of the railway to the Profile House. And
he admired the ingenuity which had carried this road through nine miles
of shabby firs and balsams, in a way absolutely devoid of interest, in
order to heighten the effect of the surprise at the end in the sudden
arrival at the Franconia Notch. From whichever way this vast white hotel
establishment is approached, it is always a surprise. Midway between
Echo Lake and Profile Lake, standing in the very jaws of the Notch,
overhung on the one side by Cannon Mountain and on the other by a bold
spur of Lafayette, it makes a contrast between the elegance and order of
civilization and the untouched ruggedness and sublimity of nature
scarcely anywhere else to be seen.
The hotel was still full, and when King entered the great lobby and
office in the evening a very animated scene met his eye. A big fire of
logs was blazing in the ample chimney-place; groups were seated about at
ease, chatting, reading, smoking; couples promenaded up and down; and
from the distant parlor, through the long passage, came the sound of the
band. It was easy to see at a glance that the place had a distinct
character, freedom from conventionality, and an air of reposeful
enjoyment. A large proportion of the assembly being residents for the
summer, there was so much of the family content that the transient
tourists could little disturb it by the introduction of their element of
worry and haste.
King found here many acquaintances, for fashion follows a certain
routine, and there is a hidden law by which the White Mountains break the
transition from the sea-coast to Lenox. He was therefore not surprised
to be greeted by Mrs. Cortlandt, who had arrived the day before with her
"At the end of the season," she said, "and alone?"
"I expect to meet friends here."
"So did I; but they have gone, or some of them have."
"But mine are coming tomorrow. Who has gone?"
"Mrs. Pendragon and the Bensons. But I didn't suppose I could tell you
any news about the Bensons."
"I have been out of the way of the newspapers lately. Did you happen to
hear where they have gone?"
"Somewhere around the mountains. You need not look so indifferent; they
are coming back here again. They are doing what I must do; and I wish
you would tell me what to see. I have studied the guide-books till my
mind is a blank. Where shall I go?"
"That depends. If you simply want to enjoy yourselves, stay at this
hotel—there is no better place—sit on the piazza, look at the
mountains, and watch the world as it comes round. If you want the best
panoramic view of the mountains, the Washington and Lafayette ranges
together, go up to the Waumbec House. If you are after the best single
limited view in the mountains, drive up to the top of Mount Willard, near
the Crawford House—a delightful place to stay in a region full of
associations, Willey House, avalanche, and all that. If you would like
to take a walk you will remember forever, go by the carriage road from
the top of Mount Washington to the Glen House, and look into the great
gulfs, and study the tawny sides of the mountains. I don't know anything
more impressive hereabouts than that. Close to, those granite ranges
have the color of the hide of the rhinoceros; when you look up to them
from the Glen House, shouldering up into the sky, and rising to the
cloud-clapped summit of Washington, it is like a purple highway into the
infinite heaven. No, you must not miss either Crawford's or the Glen
House; and as to Mount Washington, that is a duty."
"You might personally conduct us and expound by the way."
King said he would like nothing better. Inquiry failed to give him any
more information of the whereabouts of the Bensons; but the clerk said
they were certain to return to the Profile House. The next day the party
which had been left behind at Alexandria Bay appeared, in high spirits,
and ready for any adventure. Mrs. Farquhar declared at once that she had
no scruples about going up Washington, commonplace as the trip was, for
her sympathies were now all with the common people. Of course Mount
Washington was of no special importance, now that the Black Mountains
were in the Union, but she hadn't a bit of prejudice.
King praised her courage and her patriotism. But perhaps she did not
know how much she risked. He had been talking with some habitue's of the
Profile, who had been coming here for years, and had just now for the
first time been up Mount Washington, and they said that while the trip
was pleasant enough, it did not pay for the exertion. Perhaps Mrs.
Farquhar did not know that mountain-climbing was disapproved of here as
sea-bathing was at Newport. It was hardly the thing one would like to
do, except, of course, as a mere lark, and, don't you know, with a party.
Mrs. Farquhar said that was just the reason she wanted to go. She was
willing to make any sacrifice; she considered herself just a missionary
of provincialism up North, where people had become so cosmopolitan that
they dared not enjoy anything. She was an enemy of the Boston
philosophy. What is the Boston philosophy? Why, it is not to care about
anything you do care about.
The party that was arranged for this trip included Mrs. Cortlandt and her
bevy of beauty and audacity, Miss Lamont and her uncle, Mrs. Farquhar,
the artist, and the desperate pilgrim of love. Mrs. Farquhar vowed to
Forbes that she had dragged King along at the request of the proprietor
of the hotel, who did not like to send a guest away, but he couldn't have
all the trees at Profile Lake disfigured with his cutting and carving.
People were running to him all the while to know what it meant with "I.
B.," " I. B.," " I. B.," everywhere, like a grove of Baal.
From the junction to Fabyan's they rode in an observation car, all open,
and furnished with movable chairs, where they sat as in a balcony. It
was a picturesque load of passengers. There were the young ladies in
trim traveling-suits, in what is called compact fighting trim; ladies in
mourning; ladies in winter wraps; ladies in Scotch wraps; young men with
shawl-straps and opera-glasses, standing, legs astride, consulting maps
and imparting information; the usual sweet pale girl with a bundle of
cat-tails and a decorative intention; and the nonchalant young man in a
striped English boating cap, who nevertheless spoke American when he said
As they were swinging slowly along the engine suddenly fell into a panic,
puffing and sending up shrill shrieks of fear in rapid succession. There
was a sedate cow on the track. The engine was agitated, it shrieked more
shrilly, and began backing in visible terror. Everybody jumped and stood
up, and the women clung to the men, all frightened. It was a beautiful
exhibition of the sweet dependence of the sex in the hour of danger. The
cow was more terrible than a lion on the track. The passengers all
trembled like the engine. In fact, the only calm being was the cow,
which, after satisfying her curiosity, walked slowly off, wondering what
it was all about.
The cog-wheel railway is able to transport a large number of
excursionists to the top of the mountain in the course of the morning.
The tourists usually arrive there about the time the mist has crept up
from the valleys and enveloped everything. Our party had the common
experience. The Summit House, the Signal Station, the old Tip-top House,
which is lashed down with cables, and rises ten feet higher than the
highest crag, were all in the clouds. Nothing was to be seen except the
dim outline of these buildings.
"I wonder," said Mrs. Farquhar, as they stumbled along over the slippery
stones, "what people come here for."
"Just what we came for," answered Forbes, "to say they have been on top
of the mountain."
They took refuge in the hotel, but that also was invaded by the damp,
chill atmosphere, wrapped in and pervaded by the clouds. From the
windows nothing more was to be seen than is visible in a Russian steam
bath. But the tourists did not mind. They addressed themselves to the
business in hand. This was registering their names. A daily newspaper
called Among the Clouds is published here, and every person who gets his
name on the register in time can see it in print before the train goes.
When the train descends, every passenger has one of these two-cent
certificates of his exploit. When our party entered, there was a great
run on the register, especially by women, who have a repugnance, as is
well known, to seeing their names in print. In the room was a hot stove,
which was more attractive than the cold clouds, but unable to compete in
interest with the register. The artist, who seemed to be in a sardonic
mood, and could get no chance to enter his name, watched the scene, while
his friends enjoyed the view of the stove. After registering, the
visitors all bought note-paper with a chromo heading, "Among the Clouds,"
and a natural wild-flower stuck on the corner, and then rushed to the
writing-room in order to indite an epistle "from the summit." This is
After that they were ready for the Signal Station. This is a great
attraction. The sergeant in charge looked bored to death, and in the
mood to predict the worst kind of weather. He is all day beset with a
crowd craning their necks to look at him, and bothered with ten thousand
questions. He told King that the tourists made his life miserable; they
were a great deal worse than the blizzards in the winter. And the
government, he said, does not take this into account in his salary.
Occasionally there was an alarm that the mist was getting thin, that the
clouds were about to break, and a rush was made out-of-doors, and the
tourists dispersed about on the rocks. They were all on the qui vine to
see the hotel or the boarding-house they had left in the early morning.
Excursionists continually swarmed in by rail or by carriage road. The
artist, who had one of his moods for wanting to see nature, said there
were too many women; he wanted to know why there were always so many
women on excursions. "You can see nothing but excursionists; whichever
way you look, you see their backs." These backs, looming out of the
mist, or discovered in a rift, seemed to enrage him.
At length something actually happened. The curtain of cloud slowly
lifted, exactly as in a theatre; for a moment there was a magnificent
view of peaks, forests, valleys, a burst of sunshine on the lost world,
and then the curtain dropped, amid a storm of "Ohs!" and "Ahs!" and
intense excitement. Three or four times, as if in response to the call
of the spectators, this was repeated, the curtain lifting every time on a
different scene, and then it was all over, and the heavy mist shut down
on the registered and the unregistered alike. But everybody declared
that they preferred it this way; it was so much better to have these
wonderful glimpses than a full view. They would go down and brag over
The excursionists by-and-by went away out of the clouds, gliding
breathlessly down the rails. When snow covers this track, descent is
sometimes made on a toboggan, but it is such a dangerous venture that all
except the operatives are now forbidden to try it. The velocity attained
of three and a half miles in three minutes may seem nothing to a
locomotive engineer who is making up time; it might seem slow to a lover
whose sweetheart was at the foot of the slide; to ordinary mortals a mile
a minute is quite enough on such an incline.
Our party, who would have been much surprised if any one had called them
an excursion, went away on foot down the carriage road to the Glen House.
A descent of a few rods took them into the world of light and sun, and
they were soon beyond the little piles of stones which mark the spots
where tourists have sunk down bewildered in the mist and died of
exhaustion and cold. These little mounds help to give Mount Washington
its savage and implacable character. It is not subdued by all the roads
and rails and scientific forces. For days it may lie basking and smiling
in the sun, but at any hour it is liable to become inhospitable and
pitiless, and for a good part of the year the summit is the area of
How delightful it was to saunter down the winding road into a region of
peace and calm; to see from the safe highway the great giants in all
their majesty; to come to vegetation, to the company of familiar trees,
and the haunts of men! As they reached the Glen House all the line of
rugged mountain-peaks was violet in the reflected rays. There were
people on the porch who were looking at this spectacle. Among them the
eager eyes of King recognized Irene.
"Yes, there she is," cried Mrs. Farquhar; "and there—oh, what a
treacherous North——is Mr. Meigs also."
It was true. There was Mr. Meigs, apparently domiciled with the Benson
family. There might have been a scene, but fortunately the porch was
full of loungers looking at the sunset, and other pedestrians in couples
and groups were returning from afternoon strolls. It might be the crisis
of two lives, but to the spectator nothing more was seen than the
everyday meeting of friends and acquaintances. A couple say good-night
at the door of a drawing-room. Nothing has happened—nothing except a
look, nothing except the want of pressure of the hand. The man lounges
off to the smoking-room, cool and indifferent; the woman, in her chamber,
falls into a passion of tears, and at the end of a wakeful night comes
into a new world, hard and cold and uninteresting. Or the reverse
happens. It is the girl who tosses the thing off with a smile, perhaps
with a sigh, as the incident of a season, while the man, wounded and
bitter, loses a degree of respect for woman, and pitches his life
henceforth on a lower plane.
In the space of ten steps King passed through an age of emotions, but the
strongest one steadied him. There was a general movement, exclamations,
greetings, introductions. King was detained a moment by Mr. and Mrs.
Benson; he even shook hands with Mr. Meigs, who had the tact to turn
immediately from the group and talk with somebody else; while Mrs.
Farquhar and Miss Lamont and Mrs. Cortlandt precipitated themselves upon
Irene in a little tempest of cries and caresses and delightful feminine
fluttering. Truth to say, Irene was so overcome by these greetings that
she had not the strength to take a step forward when King at length
approached her. She stood with one hand grasping the back of the chair.
She knew that that moment would decide her life. Nothing is more
admirable in woman, nothing so shows her strength, as her ability to face
in public such a moment. It was the critical moment for King—how
critical the instant was, luckily, he did not then know. If there had
been in his eyes any doubt, any wavering, any timidity, his cause would
have been lost. But there was not. There was infinite love and
tenderness, but there was also resolution, confidence, possession,
mastery. There was that that would neither be denied nor turned aside,
nor accept any subterfuge. If King had ridden up on a fiery steed,
felled Meigs with his "mailed hand," and borne away the fainting girl on
his saddle pommel, there could have been no more doubt of his resolute
intention. In that look all the mists of doubt that her judgment had
raised in Irene's mind to obscure love vanished. Her heart within her
gave a great leap of exultation that her lover was a man strong enough to
compel, strong enough to defend. At that instant she knew that she could
trust him against the world. In that moment, while he still held her
hand, she experienced the greatest joy that woman ever knows—the bliss
of absolute surrender.
"I have come," he said, "in answer to your letter. And this is my
She had it in his presence, and read it in his eyes. With the delicious
sense thrilling her that she was no longer her own master there came a
new timidity. She had imagined that if ever she should meet Mr. King
again, she should defend her course, and perhaps appear in his eyes in a
very heroic attitude. Now she only said, falteringly, and looking down,
"I—I hoped you would come."
That evening there was a little dinner given in a private parlor by Mr.
Benson in honor of the engagement of his daughter. It was great larks
for the young ladies whom Mrs. Cortlandt was chaperoning, who behaved
with an elaboration of restraint and propriety that kept Irene in a
flutter of uneasiness. Mr. Benson, in mentioning the reason for the
"little spread," told the story of Abraham Lincoln's sole response to
Lord Lyons, the bachelor minister of her majesty, when he came officially
to announce the marriage of the Prince of Wales—"Lord Lyons, go thou and
do likewise;" and he looked at Forbes when he told it, which made Miss
Lamont blush, and appear what the artist had described her to King—the
sweetest thing in life. Mrs. Benson beamed with motherly content, and
was quite as tearful as ungrammatical, but her mind was practical and
forecasting. "There'll have to be," she confided to Miss Lamont, "more
curtains in the parlor, and I don't know but new paper." Mr. Meigs was
not present. Mrs. Farquhar noticed this, and Mrs. Benson remembered that
he had said something about going down to North Conway, which gave King
an opportunity to say to Mrs. Farquhar that she ought not to despair, for
Mr. Meigs evidently moved in a circle, and was certain to cross her path
again. "I trust so," she replied. "I've been his only friend through
all this miserable business." The dinner was not a great success. There
was too much self-consciousness all round, and nobody was witty and
The next morning King took Irene to the Crystal Cascade. When he used to
frequent this pretty spot as a college boy, it had seemed to him the
ideal place for a love scene-much better than the steps of a hotel. He
said as much when they were seated at the foot of the fall. It is a
charming cascade fed by the water that comes down Tuckerman's Ravine. But
more beautiful than the fall is the stream itself, foaming down through
the bowlders, or lying in deep limpid pools which reflect the sky and the
forest. The water is as cold as ice and as clear as cut glass; few
mountain streams in the world, probably, are so absolutely without color.
"I followed it up once," King was saying, by way of filling in the pauses
with personal revelations, "to the source. The woods on the side are
dense and impenetrable, and the only way was to keep in the stream and
climb over the bowlders. There are innumerable slides and cascades and
pretty falls, and a thousand beauties and surprises. I finally came to a
marsh, a thicket of alders, and around this the mountain closed in an
amphitheatre of naked perpendicular rock a thousand feet high. I made my
way along the stream through the thicket till I came to a great bank and
arch of snow—it was the last of July—from under which the stream
flowed. Water dripped in many little rivulets down the face of the
precipices—after a rain there are said to be a thousand cascades there.
I determined to climb to the summit, and go back by the Tip-top House.
It does not look so from a little distance, but there is a rough, zigzag
sort of path on one side of the amphitheatre, and I found this, and
scrambled up. When I reached the top the sun was shining, and although
there was nothing around me but piles of granite rocks, without any sign
of a path, I knew that I had my bearings so that I could either reach the
house or a path leading to it. I stretched myself out to rest a few
moments, and suddenly the scene was completely shut in by a fog. [Irene
put out her hand and touched King's.] I couldn't tell where the sun was,
or in what direction the hut lay, and the danger was that I would wander
off on a spur, as the lost usually do. But I knew where the ravine was,
for I was still on the edge of it."
"Why," asked Irene, trembling at the thought of that danger so long ago
—"why didn't you go back down the ravine?"
"Because," and King took up the willing little hand and pressed it to his
lips, and looked steadily in her eyes—"because that is not my way. It
was nothing. I made what I thought was a very safe calculation, starting
from the ravine as a base, to strike the Crawford bridle-path at least a
quarter of a mile west of the house. I hit it—but it shows how little
one can tell of his course in a fog—I struck it within a rod of the
house! It was lucky for me that I did not go two rods further east."
Ah me! how real and still present the peril seemed to the girl! "You
will solemnly promise me, solemnly, will you not, Stanhope, never to go
there again—never—without me?"
The promise was given. "I have a note," said King, after the promise was
recorded and sealed, "to show you. It came this morning. It is from
Mrs. Bartlett Glow."
"Perhaps I'd rather not see it," said Irene, a little stiffly.
"Oh, there is a message to you. I'll read it."
It was dated at Newport.
"MY DEAR STANHOPE,—The weather has changed. I hope it is more
congenial where you are. It is horrid here. I am in a bad humor,
chiefly about the cook. Don't think I'm going to inflict a letter
on you. You don't deserve it besides. But I should like to know
Miss Benson's address. We shall be at home in October, late, and I
want her to come and make me a little visit. If you happen to see
her, give her my love, and believe me your affectionate cousin,
The next day they explored the wonders of the Notch, and the next were
back in the serene atmosphere of the Profile House. How lovely it all
was; how idyllic; what a bloom there was on the hills; how amiable
everybody seemed; how easy it was to be kind and considerate! King
wished he could meet a beggar at every turn. I know he made a great
impression on some elderly maiden ladies at the hotel, who thought him
the most gentlemanly and good young man they had ever seen. Ah! if one
could always be in love and always young!
They went one day by invitation, Irene and Marion and King and the
artist—as if it made any difference where they went—to Lonesome Lake, a
private pond and fishing-lodge on the mountain-top, under the ledge of
Cannon. There, set in a rim of forest and crags, lies a charming little
lake—which the mountain holds like a mirror for the sky and the clouds
and the sailing hawks—full of speckled trout, which have had to be
educated by skillful sportsmen to take the fly. From this lake one sees
the whole upper range of Lafayette, gray and purple against the sky. On
the bank is a log cabin touched with color, with great chimneys, and as
luxuriously comfortable as it is picturesque.
While dinner was preparing, the whole party were on the lake in boats,
equipped with fishing apparatus, and if the trout had been in half as
willing humor as the fisher, it would have been a bad day for them. But
perhaps they apprehended that it was merely a bridal party, and they were
leaping all over the lake, flipping their tails in the sun, and scorning
all the visible wiles. Fish, they seemed to say, are not so easily
caught as men.
There appeared to be a good deal of excitement in the boat that carried
the artist and Miss Lamont. It was fly-fishing under extreme
difficulties. The artist, who kept his flies a good deal of the time out
of the boat, frankly confessed that he would prefer an honest worm and
hook, or a net, or even a grappling-iron. Miss Lamont, with a great deal
of energy, kept her line whirling about, and at length, on a successful
cast, landed the artist's hat among the water-lilies. There was nothing
discouraging in this, and they both resumed operations with cheerfulness
and enthusiasm. But the result of every other cast was entanglement of
each other's lines, and King noticed that they spent most of their time
together in the middle of the boat, getting out of snarls. And at last,
drifting away down to the outlet, they seemed to have given up fishing
for the more interesting occupation. The clouds drifted on; the fish
leaped; the butcher-bird called from the shore; the sun was purpling
Lafayette. There were kinks in the leader that would not come out, the
lines were inextricably tangled. The cook made the signals for dinner,
and sent his voice echoing over the lake time and again before these
devoted anglers heard or heeded. At last they turned the prow to the
landing, Forbes rowing, and Marion dragging her hand in the water, and
looking as if she had never cast a line. King was ready to pull the boat
on to the float, and Irene stood by the landing expectant. In the bottom
of the boat was one poor little trout, his tail curled up and his spots
"Whose trout is that?" asked Irene.
"It belongs to both of us," said Forbes, who seemed to have some
difficulty in adjusting his oars.
"But who caught it?"
"Both of us," said Marion, stepping out of the boat; "we really did."
There was a heightened color in her face and a little excitement in her
manner as she put her arm round Irene's waist and they walked up to the
cabin. "Yes, it is true, but you are not to say anything about it yet,
dear, for Mr. Forbes has to make his way, you know."
When they walked down the mountain the sun was setting. Half-way down,
at a sharp turn in the path, the trees are cut away just enough to make a
frame, in which Lafayette appears like an idealized picture of a
mountain. The sun was still on the heights, which were calm, strong,
peaceful. They stood gazing at this heavenly vision till the rose had
deepened into violet, and then with slow steps descended through the
In October no region in the North has a monopoly of beauty, but there is
a certain refinement, or it may be a repose, in the Berkshire Hills which
is in a manner typical of a distinct phase of American fashion. There is
here a note of country life, of retirement, suggestive of the
old-fashioned "country-seat." It is differentiated from the caravansary
or the cottage life in the great watering-places. Perhaps it expresses
in a sincerer way an innate love of rural existence. Perhaps it is only
a whim of fashion. Whatever it may be, there is here a moment of pause,
a pensive air of the closing scene. The estates are ample, farms in
fact, with a sort of villa and park character, woods, pastures, meadows.
When the leaves turn crimson and brown and yellow, and the frequent lakes
reflect the tender sky and the glory of the autumn foliage, there is much
driving over the hills from country place to country place; there are
lawn-tennis parties on the high lawns, whence the players in the pauses
of the game can look over vast areas of lovely country; there are
open-air fetes, chance meetings at the clubhouse, chats on the highway,
walking excursions, leisurely dinners. In this atmosphere one is on the
lookout for an engagement, and a wedding here has a certain eclat. When
one speaks of Great Barrington or Stockbridge or Lenox in the autumn, a
certain idea of social position is conveyed.
Did Their Pilgrimage end on these autumn heights? To one of them, I
know, the colored landscape, the dreamy atmosphere, the unique glory that
comes in October days, were only ecstatic suggestions of the life that
opened before her. Love is victorious over any mood of nature, even when
exquisite beauty is used to heighten the pathos of decay. Irene raved
about the scenery. There is no place in the world beautiful enough to
have justified her enthusiasm, and there is none ugly enough to have
I do not say that Irene's letters to Mr. King were entirely taken up with
descriptions of the beauty of Lenox. That young gentleman had gone on
business to Georgia. Mr. and Mrs. Benson were in Cyrusville. Irene was
staying with Mrs. Farquhar at the house of a friend. These letters had a
great deal of Lovers' Latin in them—enough to have admitted the writer
into Yale College if this were a qualification. The letters she received
were equally learned, and the fragments Mrs. Farquhar was permitted to
hear were so interrupted by these cabalistic expressions that she finally
begged to be excused. She said she did not doubt that to be in love was
a liberal education, but pedantry was uninteresting. Latin might be
convenient at this stage; but later on, for little tiffs and
reconciliations, French would be much more useful.
One of these letters southward described a wedding. The principals in it
were unknown to King, but in the minute detail of the letter there was a
personal flavor which charmed him. He would have been still more charmed
could he have seen the girl's radiant face as she dashed it off. Mrs.
Farquhar watched her with a pensive interest awhile, went behind her
chair, and, leaning over, kissed her forehead, and then with slow step
and sad eyes passed out to the piazza, and stood with her face to the
valley and the purple hills. But it was a faded landscape she saw.