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Wired love


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Title:WiredLoveARomanceofDotsandDashes
Author:EllaCheeverThayer

ReleaseDate:January18,2008[eBook#24353][Lastupdated:August4,2013]
[Lastupdated:August12,2013]
Language:English
Charactersetencoding:ISO-646-US(US-ASCII)
***STARTOFTHEPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKWIREDLOVE***
Thisbookwastranscribedfromthe1880editionbyAndrewKatz.

WIREDLOVE:
AROMANCE
OF
DOTSANDDASHES



BY
ELLACHEEVERTHAYER.

"Theold,oldstory,"—inanew,newway.

DEDICATION.
DEDICATEDTOTHEMEMORYOFADEARFRIENDBUTFORWHOMTHISLITTLEWORK
HADNEVERBEEN

[Transcriber'sNote.ThededicationwasprintedinAmericanRailroaddialectof
Morse.ItcannoteasilyberepresentedinASCIIasitrequiresdashesofdifferent
lengths]
TABLEOFCONTENTS
I.SoundsfromaDistant"C."
II.AttheHotelNorman
III.VisibleandInvisibleFriends
IV.NeighborlyCalls
V.QuimbyBurstsForthinEloquence
VI.CollapseoftheRomance
VII."Good-By"
VIII.TheFeast
IX.UnexpectedVisitors
X.TheBrokenCircuitReunited
XI.MissKlingTelegraphicallyBaffled
XII.CrossesontheLine
XIII.TheWrongWoman
XIV.QuimbyAcceptstheSituation
XV.OneSummerDay
XVI.O.K.


WIREDLOVE.


CHAPTERI.
SOUNDSFROMADISTANT"C."
-…—.-..-.
Justanoise,thatisall.


ButaverysignificantnoisetoMissNathalieRogers,orNattie,asshewas
usuallyabbreviated;anoisethatcausedhertolayasideherbook,andjumpup
hastily,exclaiming,withagestureofimpatience:—
"Somebodyalways'calls'meinthemiddleofeveryentertainingchapter!"
Forthatnoise,thatlittleclatter,like,andyettooirregulartobethetickingofa
clock,expressedtoNattiethesefourmysticletters:—
"Bm—Xn;"
whichsamefourmysticletters,interpreted,meantthatthename,or,tousethe
technicalword,"call,"ofthetelegraphofficeoverwhichshewaspresentsole
presidinggenius,was"Bm,"andthat"Bm"waswantedbyanotherofficeon
thewire,designatedas"Xn."
Alittle,out-of-the-way,countryoffice,somefiftymilesdowntheline,was"X
n,"and,asNattiesignaledinreplytothe"call"herreadinesstoreceiveany
communicationstherefrom,shewasconsciousofholdinginsomeslight
contemptthepossibleabilitiesofthehumanportionofitsmachinery.
Forwhobutanoperatorverygreenintheprofessionwouldstaythere?
Consequently,shewasquiteunpreparedforthevelocitywithwhichthe


telegraphalphabetofsoundsindotsanddashesrattledovertheinstrument,
appropriatelytermeda"sounder,"uponwhichmessagesarereceived,andfound
herselfwhollyunabletowritedownthewordsasfastastheycame.
"Dearme!"shethought,rathernervously,"thecountryiscertainlyaheadofthe
citythistime!Iwonderifthissmartoperatorisaladyorgentleman!"
And,notwithstandingallherefforts,shewascompelledto"break"—thatis,
openher"key,"therebybreakingthecircuit,andinterrupting"Xn"withthe
request,
"Pleaserepeat."
"Xn"tooktheinterruptionverygood-naturedly—itwasafterdinner—and
obeyedwithoutexpressinganyimpatience.
But,alas!Nattiewasevennowunabletokeepupwiththistooexpertindividual
ofuncertainsex,andwasobligedagainto"break,"withthehumiliatingpetition,
"Pleasesendslower!"
"Oh!"responded"Xn."
Forasmallone,"Oh!"isaveryexpressiveword.Butwhetherthisparticularone
signifiedimpatience,or,asNattiesensitivelyfeared,contemptforherabilities,
shecouldnottell.Butcertainitwasthat"Xn"sentalongthelettersnow,insuch
aslow,funerealprocessionthatshewasdrivenhalffranticwithnervousnessin
theattempttopiecethemtogetherintowords.Theyhadnotproceededfar,
however,beforeasmall,thinvoicefellupontheearsoftheagitatedNattie.
"Areyoutakingamessagenow?"itasked.
Nattieglancedoverhershoulder,andsawasharp,inquisitivenose,agreenveil,
apairofeye-glasses,andastrainedsmile,stickingthroughherlittlewindow.
Noddingahastyanswertothequestion,shewrotedownanotherwordofthe
message,thatshehadbeenabletocatch,notwithstandingtheinterruption.As
shedidsothevoiceagainqueried,
"Doyoutakethementirelybysound?"


Withadeterminedendeavornotto"break,"Nattierepliedonlywithafrown.But
fatewasevidentlyagainstherestablishingareputationforbeingagoodoperator
with"Xn."
"Here,pleaseattendtothisquick!"exclaimedanewvoice,andatallgentleman
poundedimpatientlyontheshelfoutsidethelittlewindowwithonehand,and
withtheotherheldforthamessage.
Withdespairinherheart,oncemoreNattieinterrupted"Xn,"tooktheimpatient
gentleman'smessage,studiedoutitsillegiblecharacters,andchangedabill,the
ownerofthenoselookingonattentivelymeanwhile;thisdone,shebadethe
reallymuch-abused"Xn"toproceed,orintelegraphicterms,to
"G.A.—the."
"G.A."beingthetelegraphicabbreviationfor"goahead,"and"the"thelast
wordshehadreceivedofthemessage.
Andthistimenoteventhefactofitsbeingafterdinnerrestrained"Xn's"
feelings,and"Xn"madethesarcasticinquiry,
"Hadyounotbettergohomeandsenddownsomeonewhoiscapableof
receivingthismessage?"
Nowitwouldseemasiftwopersonssixtyorseventymilesapartmightseverally
flyintoarageandnursetheirwrathcomfortablywithoutparticularlyannoying
eachotheratthemoment.Butnotunderpresentconditions;andNattieturned
redandbithernailsexcitedlyunderthedispleasureofthedistantpersonof
unknownsex,at"Xn."Butnoinstrumenthadyetbeeninventedbywhichshe
couldseetheexpressiononthefaceofthisoperatorat"Xn,"assheretorted,and
herfingersformedthelettersverysharply;
"Doyouthinkitwillhelpthematteratallforyoutomakeadisplayofyour
charmingdisposition?G.A.—the—."
"Iamhappytobeabletoreturnthecomplimentimplied!"was"Xn's"prefaceto
thecontinuationofthemessage.
AndnowindeedNattiemighthaverecoveredsomeofherfallenglories,being
angryenoughtobefiercelydetermined,hadnottheownerofthenoseagain


madeherpresencemanifestbythesuddenquestion:
"Doyouhaveadifferentsoundforeveryword,orsyllable,orwhat?"
And,turningquicklyaroundtoscowlthisperseveringquestionerintosilence,
Nattie'selbowhitandknockedovertheinkstand,itscontentspouringoverher
hands,dress,thedeskandfloor,andprovingbeyondadoubt,asitdescended,
thetruthofitslabel—
"SuperiorBlackInk!"
Andthen,savefortheclatterofthe"sounder,"therewassilence.
ForamomentNattiegazedblanklyatherbesmearedhandsandruineddress,at
the"sounder,"andattheownerofthenose,whoreturnedherlookwiththat
expressionofsereneamusementoftennoticeableinthosewhocontemplatefrom
afarthemishapsoftheirfellowbeings;thenwiththecourageofdespair,shefor
thefourthtime"broke""Xn,"saying,withinkyimpressionontheinstrument,
"Excuseme,butyouwillhavetowait!Iamallink,andIambeingcrossexamined!"
Havingthusdeliveredherself,sheturnedadeliberatelydeafearto"Xn's"
response,which,judgingfromthewaythemovableportionofthe"sounder"
danced,wasemphatic.
"Alittlenewmilkwilltakethatout!"complacentlysaidtheownerofthenose,
watchingNattie'seffortstoremovetheinkfromherdresswithblotting-paper.
"UnfortunatelyIdonotkeepacowhere!"Nattiereplied,tartly.
NotquitepoliteinNattie,this.Butdonotthecircumstancespleadstronglyin
herexcuse?For,remember,shewasnotoneofthoseimpossible,angelicyoung
ladiesofwhomweread,butoneoftheordinaryhumanbeingswemeetevery
day.
Theownerofthenose,however,wasnotcharitable,anddrewherselfuploftily,
asshesaidinimperativeaccents,
"Youdidnotanswermyquestion!Doyouhavetolearnthesoundofeachletter


soastodistinguishthemfromeachother?"
Nattieconstrainedherselftoreply,veryshortly,
"Yes!"
"Canyoutakeamessageandtalktomeatthesametime?"pursuedthe
investigator.
"No!"wasNattie'semphaticanswer,asshelookedruefullyatherdress.
"Butyourinstrumentthereisgoingitnow.Ain'ttheysendingyouamessage?"
wentontherelentlessownerofthenose.
AtthisNattieturnedherattentionamomenttowhatwasbeingdone"onthe
wire,"andbreathedasighofrelief.For"Xn"hadgivenplacetoanotheroffice
andshereplied,
"No!Someofficeonthewireissendingtosomeotheroffice."
Thenoseelevateditselfinsurprise.
"Canyouheareverythingthatissentfromeveryotheroffice?"
"Yes,"wasthewearyreply,asNattierubbedherdress.
"What!"exclaimedtheownerofthenose,inaccentsofincredulouswonder."All
overtheworld?"
"Certainlynot!onlytheofficesonthiswire;thereareabouttwenty,"wasthe
impatientreply.
"Ah!"evidentlyrelieved."But,"considering,"supposingyoudonotcatchallthe
sounds,whatdoyoudothen?"
"Break."
"Break!Breakwhat?Theinstruments?"queriedtheownerofthenose,
perplexedly,andlookingasifthatmustbeaveryexpensivehabit.
"Breakthecircuit—theconnection,—openthekeyandaskthesendingofficeto


repeatfromthelastwordIhavebeenabletocatch!"
Thenseeingunmistakableevidenceofmorequestionsinthenose,Nattiethrew
theink-soakedblotting-paperandherlastremnantofpatienceintothewaste
basket,andadded,
"Butyoumustexcuseme,Iamtoobusytobeannoy—interruptedlonger,and
therearebooksthatwillgiveyoualltheinformationthatyourequire!"
Sosaying,Nattieturnedherback,andtheownerofthenosewithdrewit,itstip
glisteningwithindignationasshewalkedaway.Asitvanished,Nattiegavea
sighofrelief,andsatdowntomournherruineddress.Whatevermayhavebeen
herpreviousopinion,shewaspositivenowthatthiswastheprettiest,themost
becomingdressshehadeverpossessed,ormighteverpossess!Onlytheold,old
story!Weprizemostwhatisgoneforever!
"Andallthatdreadfulman's—orwoman's—faultatXn!"criedNattie,savagely.
Unjustlytoo,forifanyonewasresponsiblefortheaccident,itwastheownerof
thenose.
ButnotlongdidNattiedaregivewaytohermisery.Thatfatalmessagewasnot
yetreceived.
Glancingoverthefewwordsshehadofit,sheread;"Sendthehearse,"andthen
shebegananxiously"calling""Xn."
"Hearse,"lookedtooseriousfortrifling.Buteither"Xn's"attentionwasnow
occupiedinsomeotherdirection,orelsehe—orshe—wastoomuchoutof
humortoreply,foritwasfulltwentyminutesbeforecametheanswering,
"Xn."
AtwhichNattiesaidasfiercelyasfingerscould,"Ihavebeenafteryounearly
halfanhour!"
"Haveyou?"camecoollybackfrom"Xn.""Well,you'renotalone,manyare
afterme—mylandlordamongothers—nottomentionawasherwomanortwo!"
Thenfollowedthefigure"4,"whichmeans,"WhenshallIgoahead?"


"Waxingjocose,areyou?"Nattiemurmuredtoherself,asshereplied:
"G.A.—hearse—"
"G.A.—what?"
"Hearse,"repeatedNattie,infirm,clearcharacters.
Tohersurpriseanddispleasure"Xn"laughed—thecircumstancebeing
conveyedtoherunderstandingintheusualway,bythetwoletters"Ha!"
"Whatareyoulaughingat?"sheasked.
"Atyourgravemistake!"was"Xn's"answer,accompaniedbyanother"Ha!
Toconvertahorseintoahearseisreallyanideathatmeritsasmile!"
Astheconsciousnessofherblunderdawneduponher,Nattiewouldgladlyhave
sankintooblivion.Butasthatwasimpossible,shetookafreshblank,andvery
meeklysaid,
"G.A.—horse—!"
Withanotherlaugh,"Xn"complied,andNattienowsucceededinreceivingthe
messagewithoutfurthermishap.
"Whatdidyousign?"sheasked,asshethankfullywrotethelastword.Every
operatorisobligedtosignhisownprivate"call,"aswellastheoffice"call,"and
"O.K."atthecloseofeachmessage.
"C."wasrepliedtoNattie'squestion.
"O.K.N.Bm,"shethensaid,andadded,perhapstryingtodrownthememory
ofherludicrouserrorinpoliteness,"IhopeanothertimeIshallnotcauseyouso
muchtrouble."
"C"at"Xn"wasevidentlynottobeexceededinlittlespeechesofthiskind,for
he—orshe—respondedimmediately,
"Onthecontrary,itwasIwhogaveyoutrouble.IknowImustcertainlyhave
doneso,oryounevercouldhaveeffectedsuchatransformationasyoudid.


Imaginethefeelingsofthesenderofthatmessage,hadhefoundahearse
awaitinghisarrivalinsteadofahorse!"
Bitingherlipwithsecretmortification,butdeterminedtomakethebestofthe
matteroutwardly,Nattiereplied,
"IsupposeInevershallhearthelastofthathearse!Butatalleventsittookthe
surlinessoutofyou."
"Yes,whenpeoplecometoahearsetheyarenotapttohaveanymorekinksin
theirdisposition!Iconfess,though,""C"wentonfrankly,"Iwasunpardonably
cross;notsurly,thatisoutofmyline,butcross.Intruth,Iwasalloutofsorts.
WillyouforgivemeifIwillneverdosoagain?"
"Certainly,"Nattierepliedreadily."Iamsurewearefarenoughaparttogeton
withoutquarreling,if,astheysay,distancelendsenchantment!"
"ParticularlywhenIpridemyselfuponmysweetdisposition!"said"C."
AtwhichNattiesmiledtoherself,tothesurpriseofapassinggentleman,on
whomherunconsciousgazerested,andwhothought,ofcourse,thatshewas
smilingathim.
Appearancesaredeceitful!
"IfearyouwillhavetoproveyoursweetnessbeforeIshallbelieveinit,"Nattie
respondedto"C,"allunawareofwhatshehaddone,orthatthestrangeyoung
gentlemanwentonhiswaywiththefirmresolvetopassbythatofficeagainand
obtainanothersmile!
"Itshallbemysoleaimhereafter,""C"replied;andthenasked,"Haveyoua
pleasantofficethere?"
"Iregrettosayno."Thenlookingaround,anddescribingwhatshesaw—"a
long,darklittleroom,intowhichthesunnevershines,acrazyandawooden
chair,ahighstool,desk,instruments—thatisall—Oh!Andme!"
"Lastbutnotleast,"said"C;""butwhatacontrasttomyoffice!Mineisall
windows,andincolddayslikethisthewindwhistlesinuntilmyverybones
rattle!Theoutwardviewisfine.AsIsitIseeastable,acarpenter'sshop,the


roofofthenewTownHallthathasruinedthetown,and—"
"Excuseme,"—someoneatanotherofficeonthelineherebrokein—andwith
morepolitenessthanissometimesshownininterruptingconversationsonthe
wire—"Ihaveamessagetosend,"andforthwithbegancalling.
AtthisNattieresumedherinterruptedoccupationofbewailingherspoileddress,
butatthesametimeshehadafeelingofpleasedsurpriseattheaffabilityof"C"
at"Xn."
"Iwonder,"shethought,asshetookupherbookagain,andtriedtoburythe
remembranceofheraccidenttherein,"Idowonderifthis'C'isheorshe!"
Soon,however,sheheard"Xn""call"oncemore,andthistimeshelaidher
bookasideveryreadily.
"Youdidnotdescribetheprincipalpartofyouroffice—yourself!""C"said,
whensheansweredthe"call."
"HowcanIdescribemyself?"repliedNattie."Howcananyone—properly?One
seesthatsameoldfaceintheglassdayafterday,andbecomessousedtoitthat
itisalmostimpossibletonoticeeventhechangesinit;soIamsureIdonotsee
howonecantellhowitreallydoeslook—unlessone'snoseisbroken—orone's
eyescrossed—andminearenot—oroneshouldnotseealooking-glassfora
year!IcanonlysayIamveryinkyjustnow!"
"Oh!thatistoobad!""C"said;then,withalaugh,"Ithasalwaysbeenasource
ofgreatwondertomehowcertainveryplainpeopleofmyacquaintancecould
possiblythinkthemselveshandsome.ButIseeitallnow!Canyounot,however,
leavethebeautyout,andgivemesomesortofanidea-aboutyourselfformy
imaginationtoworkupon?"
"Certainly!"repliedNattie,withamischievoustwinkleinhereyethat
"C"knewnotof."Imagine,ifyouplease,atallyoungman,with—"
"C""broke"quickly,saying,
"Oh,no!Youcannotdeceivemeinthatway!UnderprotestIaccepttheheight,
butspurnthesex!"


"Why,youdonotsupposeIamalady,doyou?"queriedNattie.
"Iamquitepositiveyouare.Thereisacertaindifferenceinthe'sending,'ofa
ladyandgentleman,thatIhavelearnedtodistinguish.CanyoutrulysayIam
wrong?"
Nattieevadedadirectreply,bysaying,
"Peoplewhothinktheyknowsomuchareoftendeceived;nowImakeno
surmisesaboutyou,butask,fairlyandsquarely,shallIcallyouMr.,Miss,or
Mrs.'C'?"
"Callmeneither.Callmeplain'C',orpicture,ifyoulike,inplaceofyour
sounder,ablonde,fairy-likegirltalkingtoyou,withpensivecheeksandsunny
—"
"Don'tyoubelieveawordofit!"—someoneonthewireherebrokein,wishing,
probably,tohaveafingerinthepie;"pictureahippopotamus,anelephant,but
picturenofairy!"
"Judgenotothersbyyourself,andlearntospeakwhenspokento!""C"replied
totheunknown;then"ToN.—Youknowthemoremysterythereisabout
anything,themoreinterestingitbecomes.Therefore,ifIenvelopmyselfinall
themysterypossible,Iwillcherishhopesthatyoumaydreamofme!"
"ButIamquitesureyoucan,withproprietybecalledMr.'C'—plain,asyousay,
Idoubtnot,"repliedNattie."Now,asitistimeformetogohome,Ishallhaveto
saygood-night."
"Tobecontinuedinournext?"queried"C."
"Ifyouarenotinacrossmood,"repliedNattie.
"Nowthatisaveryunkindsuggestion,aftermyabjectapology.But,although
ouracquaintancehadagravere-hearse-al,Itrustitwillhaveahappyending!"
Nattiefrowned.
"Ifyouwillpromisenevertosay'grave,''hearse,'oranythingintheundertaking
line,Iwillagreenevertosay'cross!'"shesaid.


"Theundertakingwillnotbedifficult;withallmyheart!""C"answered,and
withthismutualunderstandingtheybadeeachother"good-night."
"Therecertainlyissomethingromanticintalkingtoamysteriousperson,unseen,
andmilesaway!"thoughtNattie,assheputonherhat."ButIwouldreallylike
toknowwhethermynewfriendemploysatailororadressmaker!".
WasNattieconsciousofafeelingthatitwouldaddtothezestoftheromantic
acquaintanceshouldthedistant"C"beentitledtotheuseofthemasculine
pronoun?
Perhapsso!ForNattiewashuman,andwasonlynineteen!


CHAPTERII.
ATTHEHOTELNORMAN.
MissNattieRogers,telegraphoperator,lived,asitwere,intwoworlds.Theone
heroffice,dingyandcurtailedastoproportions,butfromwhenceshecould
wanderawaythroughthemediumofthatslendertelegraphwire,onasortof
electricwings,todistantcitiesandtowns;where,althoughaloneallday,shedid
notlacksocialintercourse,andwhereshecouldamuseherselfifshechose,by
listeningtoandspeculatinguponthemanymessagesofjoyorofsorrow,of
businessandofpleasure,constantlygoingoverthewire.Buttheotherworldin
whichMissRogerslivedwasverydifferent;theworldboundedbythefourwalls
ofabackroomatMissBetseyKling's.Itmustbeconfessedthattherearemore
pleasingviewsthanshedsingreaterorlessdegreesofdilapidation,asickly
grape-vine,alineofflappingsheets,anoverflowingashbarrel;sweetersounds
thanthedulcetnotesofoldrag-men,theserenadesofmusicalcats,orthestrains
ofacornetplayeduponatintervalsfromnineP.M.totwelve,withtheevident
purposeofexhaustingsuperfluousairintheperformer'slungs.Perhaps,too,
therewasmoreagreeablecompanypossiblethanMissBetseyKling.
Therefore,intheevening,Sundayandholiday,ifnotinthetelegraphicworldof
MissRogers,loneliness,andtheunpleasantsensationknownas"blues"arenot
uncommon.
MissBetseyKling,who,althoughinreducedcircumstances,boastedofcertain
"blueblood,"inheritedfromdeadandgoneancestors—whoperhapswouldhave
beensurprisedcouldtheyhaveknownatthislatedayhowverygenteelthey
wereinlife,—rentedaflatinHotelNorman,onthesecondfloor,ofwhichshe
letoneroom;notonaccountoftheweeklyemolumentreceivedtherefrom,ah,
no!but"forthesakeofhavingsomeoneforcompany."Inthisrespectshewas
trulyacontrasttoMrs.Simonson,ahundredandseventy-fivepoundwidow,


wholivedintheremainingsuiteofthatfloor,andwholeteveryroomshe
possiblycould,inorder,asshefranklyconfessed,to"makebothendsmeet."For
aconstantstrugglewiththe"waysandmeans"wherebytolivehadquite
annihilatedanysuperfluousgentilityMrs.Simonsonmighthavehad,excepting
onlyonelingeringremnant,thatwouldneverallowhertohanginthewindow
oneofthosecheaplyconspicuousplacards,announcing:
"RoomstoLet."
MissBetseyKlingwasaspinster—notbecauseshelikedit,butonaccountof
circumstancesoverwhichshehadnocontrol,—andherprincipalobjectinlife,
outsideofthenever-expressed,butmuchthought-ofoneoffindingherother
self,likeher,astray,wastokeepwatchandwardovertheaffairsofthe
occupantsofneighboringflats,andseethattheyconductedthemselveswiththe
proprietybecomingtheneighborsofsoverygenteelandunexceptionablea
personasMissBetseyKling.Inpursuitofthisoccupationshewasaddictedto
suddenandsilentappearances,muchafterthemannerofmaterializedspirits,at
windowsopeningintothehall,anddoorscarelesslyleftajar.Shewas,however,
afflictedwithachroniccold,thatsomewhatinterferedwithherabilitytobecome
afirst-classlistener,onaccountofitsproducinganincessantsniffleandspasms
ofviolentsneezing.
MissRogersgoinghometothatbackroomofhers,foundherselfstillpondering
upontheprobablesexof"C."Rathertoherownchagrin,whenshecaughther
thoughtsthusstraying,too;forshehadacertainscornofanythingpertainingto
trivialsentiment.Alittlescornofherselfshealsohadsome-times.Infact,her
desiresreachedbeyondtheobtainingoftheevery-daycommonplaceswith
whichsomanyarecontenttofilltheirlives,andshepossessedanambitiontoo
dominanttoallowhertobecontentwiththedeadleveloflife.Thereforeitwas
thatanyhappyhoursofforgetfulnessofallbutthepresent,thatsometimescame
inherway,wereoftenfollowedbyothersofunrestanddissatisfaction.There
werecertaindreamssheindulgedinofthefuture,nowhopefully,nowutterly
disheartened,thatshewassofarawayfromtheirrealization.Thesedreamswere
offame,offameasanauthoress.Whetheritwasthetruegeniusstirringwithin
her,orthatmostunfortunateofallthings,anunconquerabledesirewithoutthe
talenttoriseabovemediocrity,timealonecouldtell.
Compelledbythefailureandsubsequentdeathofherfathertosupportherself,
orbecomeaburdenuponhermother,whosenowscantymeansbarelysufficed


forherselfandtwoyoungerchildren,Nattiechosethemoreindependent,but
hardercourse.Forshewasnotthekindofgirltositdownandwaitforsomeone
tocomealongandmarryher,andrelieveheroftheburdenofself-support.So,
fromatelegraphofficeinthecountry,whereshelearnedtheprofession,she
driftedtoherpresentoneinthecity.
Toher,asyet,therewasacertainfascinationabouttelegraphy.Butshehada
presentimentthatintimethecharmwouldgiveplacetomonotony,more
especiallyas,beyondacertainpoint,therewaspositivelynoadvancementinthe
profession.Althoughknowingshecouldnotbecontenttoalwaysbemerelya
telegraphoperator,sheresolvedtolikeitaswellandaslongasshecould,since
itwasthebestforthepresent.
Asshelightedthegasinherroom,shethoughtnotofthesethingsthatwereso
ofteninhermind,butof"C,"andthenscoldedherselfforcaringwhetherthat
distantindividualwasmanorwoman.Whatmatteredittoayoungladywhofelt
herselfaboveflirtations?
Sotherewasalittlescowlonherfaceassheturnedaround,thatdidnotlessen
whenshebeheldMissKlingstandinginherdoor-way.ForMissRogersdidnot,
tospeakcandidly,findherlandladyacongenialspirit,andonlyremainedupon
herpremisesbecausebeingtherewasalesserevilthanlivinginthatmost
unhomelikeofallplaces,aboarding-house.
"IthoughtIwouldmakeyouacall,"theunwelcomevisitorremarked,rubbing
hernose,thatfromconstantfrictionhadbecomeredandshining;"Ihavebeen
lonesometo-day.IusuallyrunintoMrs.Simonson'sintheafternoon,butshehas
beenoutsincetwelveo'clock.Ican'tmakeout—"musingly,"whereshecan
havegone!notthatsheisjustthecompanyIdesire.Shehasneverbeenusedto
anythingabovethecommon,poorsoul,andwillsay'themrooms,'butsheis
betterthannoone,andatleastcanappreciateinothersthecultureandstanding
shehasneverattained,"andMissKlingsneezed,andglancedatNattiewithan
expressionthatplainlysaidherlodgerwoulddowelltoimitate,inthislast
respect,theladyinquestion.
"IamverylittleacquaintedwithMrs.Simonson,"Nattiereplied,withatingeof
scorncurlingherlip,for,intruth,shehadlittlereverenceforMissKling'sblue
blood."Herlodgerslikeherverymuch,Ibelieve;atleast,Quimbyspeaksofher
inthehighestterms."


"Quimby!"repeatedMissKling,withasniffleofcontempt."Ablundering,
awkwardcreature,whoisalwaysdoingorsayingsomeshockingthing!"
"Iknowthatheisneitherelegantnortalented,andisoftenveryawkward,buthe
ishonestandkind-hearted,andoneiswillingtooverlookotherdeficienciesfor
suchrarequalities,"Nattiereplied,alittlewarmly,"andsoMrs.Simonsonfeels,
Iamconfident."
MissKlingeyedhersharply.
"Notatall!Allowme,MissRogers,toknow!Mrs.Simonsonendureshis
blunders,because,asshesays,hecanliveontheinterestofhismoney,'ona
pinch,'andshethinkssuchalodgersomethingofwhichtoboast.Onapinch,
indeed!"addedMissKling,withasneeze,andgivingtheprincipalfeatureinher
facesomethingveryliketheexclamation,"averytightpinchitwouldbe,Iam
thinking!"Thensomewhatspitefullyshecontinued,"ButIwasnotaware,Miss
Rogers,thatyouandthisQuimbyweresointimate!Theadmirationismutual,I
suppose?"
"Thereisnoadmiration,"repliedNattie,withaflashofhergrayeyes,inwardly
indignantthatanyoneshouldinsinuatesheadmiredQuimby—honest,
blunderingQuimby,whomnooneeverallowedahandletohisname,andwho
wassoclever,butlikeallcleverpeople,suchadreadfulbore."Ihaveonlymet
himtwoorthreetimessincethateveningyouintroducedusinthehall,sothere
hashardlybeenanopportunityforanythingofthatkind."
"Youspokesowarmly!"MissKlingremarked."However,"conciliatingly,"I
don'tsupposebyanymeansthatyouareinlovewithQuimby!Youaremuchtoo
sensibleayoungladyforsuchfolly!"
Nattieshruggedhershoulders,asiftiredofthesubject,andafteraspasmof
sneezing,MissKlingcontinued:
"Asyouintimate,hemeansallright,poorfellow!andthatismorethanIshould
bewillingtoacknowledgeregardingMrs.Simonson'sotherlodger,thatMr.
Norton,whocallshimselfanartist.IamsureIneversawanyoneexcepta
convictwearsuchshorthair!"andMissKlingshookherheadinsinuatingly.
Fromthisbeginning,toNattie'sdismay,MissKlingproceededtothedissection
oftheirneighborswholivedinthesuiteabove,CelesteFishblateandherfather.


Theformer,MissKlingdeclared,wassettinghercapforQuimby.Mr.Fishblate
beinganunquestionablydisagreeablespecimenofthegenushomo,witha
somewhatstartlinghabitofexplodinginshort,butexpressivesentences—never
usingmorethanthreeconsecutivewords—Nattienaturallyexpectedtohearhim
evenmoreseverelyanathematizedthananyoneelse.Buttohersurprise,the
ladyconductingtheconversationdeclaredhima"finesensibleman!"Atwhich
Nattiefirststared,andthensmiled,asitoccurredtoherthatMr.Fishblatewasa
widower,andmightitnotbethatMissKlingcontemplatedthepossibilityofhis
becomingthatotherselfnotyetattained?
FortunatelyMissKlingdidnotobserveherlodger'slooks,sointentwasshein
admirationofMr.Fishblate'sfinepoints,andsoontookherleave.
Afterherdeparture,Nattiechangedherinkydress,andputonherhattogoout
forsomethingforgottenuntilnow.Asshesteppedintothehall,atallyoungman,
withextremelylongarmsandlegs,andmouth,that,althoughshadedbyafaint
outlineofamustache,invariablysuggestedanalligator,openedthedoorofMrs.
Simonson'srooms,opposite,andseeingNattie,startedbackinasortofnervous
bashfulness.Recoveringhimself,hethendartedoutwithsuchimpetuositythat
hisfootcaughtinarug,hefell,andwentheadlongdownstairs,draggingwith
himafire-bucket,atwhichheclutchedinavainefforttosavehimself,thetwo
jointlymakinganoisethatechoedthroughthesilenthalls,andbroughtoutthe
inhabitantsoftheroomsinalarm.
"Whatisit?Isanyonekilled?"shriekedfromabove,avoice,recognizableas
thatofCelesteFishblate—twonamesthatcouldneverbyanypossibilitysound
harmonious.
"Whatisthematternow?"screamedMissKling,appearingatherdoorwiththe
query.
"Haveyouhurtyourself?"Nattieasked,asshewentdowntowheretheheroof
thecatastrophesatonthebottomstair,ruefullyrubbinghiselbow,butwhonow
pickeduphishatandthefire-bucket,androsetoexplain.
"It'snothing—nothingatall,youknow!"hesaid,lookingupward,andbowingto
thevoices;"Icaughtmyfootintherug,and—"
"Didyouteartherug?"hereanxiouslyinterruptedthelisteningMrs.Simonson,
suddenlyappearingatthebanisters;notthatshefeltforherlodgerless,butfor


therugmore,adistinctionarisingfromthatconstantstrugglewiththe"waysand
means."
"Oh,no!Iassureyou,therewasnodamagedonetotherug—orfire-bucket,"the
victimresponded,reassuringly,andinperfectgoodfaith."Ormyself,"headded
modestly,asifthelatterwasscarceworthspeakingof."I—Iamusedtoit,you
know,"revertingtohisusualexpressioninaccidentsofalldescriptions.
"IdeclareIdon'tknowwhatyouwilldonext!"mutteredMrs.Simonson,
retreatingtoexaminetherug.
"Ithinkyoumustbeinlove,Quimby!"giggledCeleste;anassertionthatcaused
MissKlingtogiveventtoacontemptuous"Humph"andawakenedinitssubject
themostexcruciatingembarrassment.ThepoorfellowglancedatNattie,
blushed,perspired,andfranticallyclutchingatthefire-bucket,stammereda
protest,—
"Nowreally—I—now!—youaremistaken,youknow!"
"Butpeoplewhoareinlovearealwaysabsent-minded,"persisted
Celeste,withanothergiggle."Soitisuselessto—"
Butexactlywhatwasuselessdidnotappear,asatthispointastentorianvoice,
thevoiceofMissKling's"fine,sensibleman,"roared,
"Enough!"
Atwhich,toQuimby'srelief,Celeste,alwaysinmortalfearofherfather,hastily
withdrew.NotsoMissKling.ShesilentlywaitedtoseeifNattieandQuimby
wouldgoouttogether,andwasrewardedbyhearingthelatterask,asNattie
madeamovementtowardsthedoor,—
"MayI—mightIbesoboldasto—astoasktobeyourescort?"
"Ishouldbepleased,"Nattieanswered,addingwithamischievousglance,butin
alowtone,awareofthelisteningearsabove,—
"Thatis,ifyouwillconsenttodispensewiththefire-bucket!"
Quimbystarted,anddroppingthearticleinquestion,asifithadsuddenlyturned


red-hot,ejaculated,—
"Blessmysoul!reallyI—Ibegpardon,Iamsure!"thenbashfullyofferinghis
arm,theywentout,whileMissKlingbalefullyshookherhead.
"So,Celestewillinsistuponitthatyouareinlove,becauseyoutrippedandfell
downstairs!"Nattiesaid,bywayofopeningaconversationastheywalked
along—aremarkthatdidnottendtolessenhisevidentdisquietude.Andhaving
nownofire-bucket,heclutchedathisnecktie,twirlingitallawry,notatallto
theimprovementofhispersonalappearance,ashereplied,—
"Oh!really,youknow!itsnomatter!I—Iamusedtoit,youknow!"
"Usedtofallinginlove?"queriedNattie,withraisedeyebrows.
"No—no—theother,youknow,thatis—"gaspedQuimby,hopelesslylostfora
substantive."Imean,it'samistake,youknow"thenwithadesperaterushaway
fromtheembarrassingsubject,"Didyouknowwe—thatis,Mrs.Simonson,was
goingtohaveanewlodger?"
"No,isshe?"askedNattie.
"Yes,ayoungladycomingto-morrow,a—asortofanactress—no,aprima
donna,youknow.AMissArcher.Ifyouandsheshouldhappentolikeeach
other,itwouldbepleasantforyou,nowwouldn'tit?"askedQuimbyeagerly,
withadevouthopethatsuchmightbe,forthenshouldhenotbeagainerby
seeingmoreoftentheyoungladybyhisside,whosegrayeyeshadalreadymade
havocinhishonestandsusceptibleheart.
"Itwouldbepleasant,"acquiescedNattie,inutterunconsciousnessofQuimby's
selfishhiddenthought;"forIamlonelysometimes.MissKlingisnot—not—"
"Oh,certainly!ofcoursenot!"Quimbyrespondedsympatheticallyand
understandingly,asNattiehesitatedforawordthatwouldexpresshermeaning.
"Theyneverareveryadaptable—oldmaids,youknow!"
"Butitisn'tbecausetheyareunmarried,"saidNattie,perhapsfeelingcalledupon
todefendherfutureself,"butbecausetheywerebornso!"
"Exactly,youknow,that'swhynofellowevermarriesthem!"said


Quimby,withaglanceofbashfuladmirationathiscompanion.
Nattielaughed.
"AndthisMissArcher.Didyousayshewasaprimadonna?"shequestioned.
"Yes—thatis,asortofakindofaone,orgoingtobe,orsomewaymusicalor
theatrical,youknow,"wasQuimby'slucidreply."I'llmakeitapointto—to
introduceyouifyouwillallowmethatpleasure?"
"Certainly,"respondedNattie,andadded,"Ishallbequiterich,forme,in
acquaintancessoon,ifIcontinueasIhavebegun.Imadeanewoneonthewire
to-day."
"Onthe—Ibegpardon—onthewhat?"askedQuimby,withvisionsoftightropesflashingthroughhismind.
"Onthewire,"repeatedNattie,towhomthephrasewassocommon,thatitnever
occurredtoherasneedinganyexplanation.
"Oh!"saidthepuzzledQuimby,notatallcomprehending,butunwillingto
confesshisignorance.
"Theworstofitis,Idon'tknowthesexofmynewfriend,whichmakesitalittle
awkward,"continuedNattie.
Quimbystared.
"Don't—Ibegpardon—don'tknowher—his—sex?"herepeated,withwideopeneyes.
"No,itwasonthewire,youknow!"againexplainedNattie,privatelythinking
himunusuallystupid;"aboutseventymilesaway.Wefirstquarreledandthen
hadapleasanttalk."
"Talk—seventymiles—"falteredtheperplexedQuimby;thenbrightening,
"Oh!Isee!atelephone,youknow!"
"Noindeed!"repliedNattie,laughingathisincomprehensibility."Wedon'tneed
telephones.Wecantalkwithout—didyounotknowthat?Andwhatisbetter,no


onebutthosewhounderstandourlanguagecanknowwhatwesay!"
"Exactly!"answeredQuimby,relapsingagainintowonder."Exactly—onthe
wire!"
"Yes,wetalkinalanguageofdotsanddashes,thatevenMissKlingmightlisten
toinvain.Anddoyouknow,"shewentonconfidentially,"somehow,Iamvery
muchinterestedinmynewfriend.IwishIknew—itssoawkward,asIsaid—but
Ireallythinkit'sagentleman!"
"Exactly—exactlyso!"respondedQuimby,somewhatdejectedly.Andduringthe
remainderoftheirwalkhewasverymuchharassedinhismindoverthisinterest
Nattieconfessedinhernewfriend—"onthewire,"—whowouldappearasa
tight-ropeperformertohisperturbedimagination.Andhefeltinhisinmostheart
thatitwouldbeagreatrelieftohismindifthismysteriouspersonshouldprove
alady,eventhough,ifagentleman,hewasmanymilesaway.ForQuimby,with
allhisobtusity,hadaninklingofthepowerofmystery,andwasalreadyfar
enoughontheroadtolovetobejealous.
OfthesethoughtsNattiewasofcoursewhollyunaware,andchattedgayly,now
ofthedistant"C"andnowofthecomingMissArcher,tohersomewhat
abstracted,butalwaysdevotedcompanion.


CHAPTERIII.
VISIBLEANDINVISIBLEFRIENDS.
Withperhapsoneortwolessfrownsthanusualatthedestinythatcompelledher
toforegoanymorningnaps,andbeupandstirringattheearlyhourofsix
o'clock,Nattiearosenextmorning,awareofamorethanaccustomedwillingness
togototheoffice.Andimmediatelyonherarrivalthere,sheopenedthekey,and
said,withoutcalling,justtoascertainifherfar-awayacquaintancewouldnotice
it,—
"G.M.(goodmorning)C!"
Apparently"C"hadhisorherearsonthealert,forimmediatelycamethe
response,
"G.M.,mydear!"
Aformofexpressionratherfamiliarforsoshortanacquaintance,thatis,
supposing"C"tobeagentleman."Butthen,peopletalkforthesakeoftalking,
andneversaywhattheymeanonthewire,"thoughtNattie.Besides,didnotthe
distanceinanycaseannulthefamiliarity?Therefore,withouttakingoffense,
evenwithoutcomment,sheasked:
"Arewetogetalongto-daywithoutquarreling?"
"Oh!itisyou,isit,'N'?"responded"C,""Ithoughtso,butwasn'tquitesure.
Yes,you,may'break'ateveryword,andIwillstillbeamiable."
"Ishouldbeafraidtoputyoutothetest,"repliedNattie,withalaugh.
"Doyouthenthinkmesuchahopelesslyill-naturedfellow?"inquired


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