Tải bản đầy đủ

Quaint courtships


TheProjectGutenbergEBookofQuaintCourtships,byHowells&Alden,
Editors
Copyrightlawsarechangingallovertheworld.Besuretocheckthecopyright
lawsforyourcountrybeforedownloadingorredistributingthisoranyother
ProjectGutenbergeBook.
ThisheadershouldbethefirstthingseenwhenviewingthisProjectGutenberg
file.Pleasedonotremoveit.Donotchangeoredittheheaderwithoutwritten
permission.
Pleasereadthe“legalsmallprint,”andotherinformationabouttheeBookand
ProjectGutenbergatthebottomofthisfile.Includedisimportantinformation
aboutyourspecificrightsandrestrictionsinhowthefilemaybeused.Youcan
alsofindoutabouthowtomakeadonationtoProjectGutenberg,andhowtoget
involved.

**WelcomeToTheWorldofFreePlainVanillaElectronicTexts**
**eBooksReadableByBothHumansandByComputers,Since1971**
*****TheseeBooksWerePreparedByThousandsofVolunteers!*****

Title:QuaintCourtships
Author:Howells&Alden,Editors

ReleaseDate:December,2005[EBook#9490][Yes,wearemorethanoneyear
aheadofschedule][ThisfilewasfirstpostedonOctober5,2003]
Edition:10
Language:English
Charactersetencoding:ISO-8859-1


***STARTOFTHEPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKQUAINT
COURTSHIPS***

ProducedbyStanGoodmanandtheDistributedProofreaders


QUAINTCOURTSHIPS
Harper’sNovelettes

EDITEDBYWILLIAMDEANHOWELLSANDHENRYMILLSALDEN

1906


MARGARETDELAND
ANENCORE


NORMANDUNCAN
AROMANCEOFWHOOPINGHARBOR
MARYE.WILKINSFREEMAN


HYACINTHUS
SEWELLFORD
JANE’SGRAYEYES


HERMANWHITAKER
ASTIFFCONDITION


MAYHARRIS


INTHEINTERESTSOFCHRISTOPHER


FRANCISWILLINGWHARTON
THEWRONGDOOR


WILLIAMDEANHOWELLS
BRAYBRIDGE’SOFFER

ELIAW.PEATTIE


THERUBAIYATANDTHELINER
ANNIEHAMILTONDONNELL


THEMINISTER
Introduction
Totheperverseallcourtshipsprobablyarequaint;butifeverhumannaturemay
beallowedthefullrangeoforiginality,itmayverywellbeintheexcitingand
verypersonalmomentsofmakinglove.Ourownpeculiarsocialstructure,in
whichthesexeshavesomuchinnocentfreedom,andyouthisleftalmost
entirelytoitsowndevicesinthearrangementofdoublehappiness,isso
favorabletotheexpressionofcharacteratthesesuprememoments,thatitis
wonderfulthereissolittlewhichisidiosyncraticinourwooings.Theytend
rathertoatype,verysimple,verynormal,andmostpeoplegetmarriedforthe
reasonthattheyareinlove,asifitwerethemostmatter-of-courseaffairoflife.
Theyfindthefactofbeinginlovesoentirelysatisfyingtotheideal,thatthey
seeknothingadventitiousfromcircumstancetoheightentheirtremendous
consciousness.
Yet,hereandtherepeople,evenAmericanpeople,aresoplacedthattheytake
fromthesituationacolorofeccentricity,iftheyimpartnonetoit,andtheold,
oldstory,whichweallwishtohaveendwell,zigzagstoafortunateclosepast
jutsandanglesofindividualitywhichtheheroesandheroineshavenotwillingly
orwittinglythrownout.Theywouldhavechosentoarrivesmoothlyand
uneventfullyatthegoal,asbyfarthegreatermajoritydo;andprobablyifthey
areawareoflookingquainttoothersintheirprogress,theydonotlikeit.Butit
isthispeculiardifferencewhichrenderstheminterestingandcharmingtothe
spectator.Ifwealllovealover,asEmersonsays,itisnotbecauseofhisselfish
happiness,butbecauseoftheoddandunexpectedchanceswhichforthetime
exalthimaboveourexperience,andendearhimtooureagersympathies.Inlife
onecannotperhapshavetoolittleromanceinaffairsoftheheart,orinliterature
toomuch;andineitheronemaybeasquaintasonepleasesinsuchaffairs
withoutbeingridiculous.
W.D.H.


ANENCORE
BYMARGARETDELAND
AccordingtoOldChester,toberomanticwasjustoneshadelessreprehensible
thantoputonairs.CaptainAlfredPrice,inallhisseventyyears,hadneverbeen
guiltyofairs,butcertainlyhehadsomethingtoanswerforinthewayof
romance.
However,inthedayswhenwechildrenusedtoseehimpoundingupthestreet
fromthepost-office,reading,ashewalked,anewspaperheldatarm’slengthin
frontofhim,hewasfarenoughfromromance.Hewasseventyyearsold,he
weighedovertwohundredpounds,hisbigheadwascoveredwithashockof
grizzledredhair;hispleasuresconsistedinpolishinghisoldsextantandplaying
onasmallmouth-harmonicon.Astohisvices,itwasnosecretthathekeptafat
blackbottleinthechimney-closetinhisownroom;addedtothis,heswore
strangeoathsabouthisgrandmother’snightcap.“Heusedtoblaspheme,”his
daughter-in-lawsaid,“butIsaid,‘Notinmypresence,ifyouplease!’Sonowhe
justsaysthisfoolishthingaboutanightcap.”Mrs.Draytonsaidthatthisreform
wouldbeoneofthejewelsinMrs.CyrusPrice’scrown;andaddedthatshe
prayedthatsomedaytheCaptainwouldgiveuptobaccoandrum.“Iamapoor,
feeblecreature,”saidMrs.Drayton;“Icannotdomuchformyfellowmenin
activemission-work.ButIgivemyprayers.”However,neitherMrs.Drayton’s
prayersnorMrs.Cyrus’sactivemission-workhaddonemorethanmitigatethe
blasphemy;the“rum”(whichwasgoodMonongahelawhiskey)wasstillon
hand;andasfortobacco,exceptwhensleeping,eating,playingonhis
harmonicon,ordozingthroughoneofDr.Lavendar’ssermons,theCaptain
smokedeverymoment,theashesofhispipeorcigarfallingunheededonavast
andwrinkledexpanseofwaistcoat.
No;hewasnotaromanticobject.Butwegirls,watchinghimstumppastthe
schoolroomwindowtothepost-office,usedtowhispertoeachother,“Just
think!heeloped.”
Therewasromanceforyou!
Tobesure,theelopementhadnotquitecomeoff,but,exceptfortheveryend,it


wasallasperfectasastory.Indeed,thefailureattheendmadeitallthebetter:
angryparents,brokenhearts,—only,theworstofitwas,theheartsdidnotstay
broken!Hewentandmarriedsomebodyelse;andsodidshe.Youwouldhave
supposedshewouldhavedied.Iamsure,inherplace,anyoneofuswouldhave
died.Andyet,asLydiaWrightsaid,“Howcouldayoungladydieforayoung
gentlemanwithashesalloverhiswaistcoat?”
However,whenAlfredPricefellinlovewithMissLettyMorris,hewasnot
indifferenttohiswaistcoat,nordidheweightwohundredpounds.Hewas
slenderandruddy-cheeked,withtossingred-browncurls.Ifheswore,itwasnot
byhisgrandmothernorhernightcap;ifhedrank,itwashardcider(whichcan
oftenaccomplishasmuchas“rum”);ifhesmoked,itwasinsecret,behindthe
stable.Heworeastock,and(onSunday)aruffledshirt;ahigh-waistedcoatwith
twobrassbuttonsbehind,andverytightpantaloons.Atthattimeheattendedthe
SeminaryforYouthsinUpperChester.UpperChesterwasthen,asinourtime,
theseatoflearninginthetownship,theFemaleAcademybeingthere,too.Both
wereboarding-schools,buttheyoungpeoplecamehometospendSunday;and
theirweeklyreturns,alltogetherinthestage,wereresponsibleformorethanone
OldChestermatch….
“Theair,”saysMiss,sniffinggenteellyasthecoachjoltspasttheblossoming
Mayorchards,“ismostagreeablyperfumed.Andhowfairistheprospectfrom
thishilltop!”
“Fairindeed!”respondedhercompanion,staringboldly.
Missbridlesandbitesherlip.
“Iwasnotobservingthelandscape,”theotherexplains,carefully.
Inthosedays(MissLettywasbornin1804,andwaseighteenwhensheandthe
ruddyAlfredsatonthebackseatofthecoach)—inthosedaystheconversation
ofOldChesteryouthwasmoreelegantthaninourtime.We,whowenttoMiss
Bailey’sschool,weresaddegeneratesinthewayofmannersandlanguage;at
leastsoourelderstoldus.WhenLydiaWrightsaid,“Ohmy,whatanawful
snow-storm!”dearMissEllenwasdispleased.“Lydia,”saidshe,“isthere
anything‘awe’-inspiringinthisdisplayoftheelements?”
“No,‘m,”falteredpoorLydia.


“Then,”saidMissBailey,gravely,“yourstatementthatthestormis‘awful’isa
falsehood.Idonotsuppose,mydear,thatyouintentionallytoldanuntruth;it
wasanexaggeration.Butanexaggeration,thoughnotperhapsafalsehood,is
unladylike,andshouldbeavoidedbypersonsofrefinement.”Justherethe
questionarises:whatwouldMissEllen(nowinheaven)sayifshecouldhear
Lydia’sLydia,justhomefromcollege,remark—Butno:MissEllen’sprecepts
shallprotectthesepages.
ButinthedayswhenLettyMorrislookedoutofthecoachwindow,andyoung
Alfredmurmuredthattheprospectwasfairindeed,conversationwasperfectly
correct.Anditwasstilldecorousevenwhenitgotbeyondthecoachperiodand
reachedapointwhereOldChesterbegantotakenotice.Atfirstitwasyoung
OldChesterwhichgiggled.LateroldOldChestermadesomecomments;itwas
thenthatAlfred’smothermentionedthemattertoAlfred’sfather.“Heisyoung,
and,ofcourse,foolish,”Mrs.Priceexplained.AndMr.Pricesaidthatthough
follywasincidentaltoAlfred’syears,itmustbechecked.
“Justcheckit,”saidMr.Price.
ThenMissLetty’smotherawoketothesituation,andsaid,“Fy,fy,Letitia.”
Soitwasthatthesetwoyoungpersonswereplungedingrief.Oh,gloriousgrief
ofthwartedlove!Whentheymetnow,theydidnottalkofthelandscape.Their
conversation,thoughnodoubtasgenteelasbefore,wasallofbrokenhearts.But
againLetty’smotherfoundout,andwentinwrathtocallonAlfred’sfamily.It
wasdecidedbetweenthemthattheyoungmanshouldbesentawayfromhome.
“Tosavehim,”saysthefather.“Toprotectmydaughter,”saysMrs.Morris.
ButAlfredandLettyhadsomethingtosay….ItwasinDecember;therewasa
snow-storm—astormwhichLydiaWrightwouldcertainlyhavecalled“awful”;
butitdidnotinterferewithtruelove;thesetwochildrenmetinthegraveyardto
swearundyingconstancy.Alfred’slanterncametwinklingthroughtheflakes,as
hethreadedhiswayacrossthehillsideamongthetombstones,andfoundLetty
justinsidetheentrance,standingwithherblackserving-womanunderatuliptree.Thenegress,chatteringwithcoldandfright,keptpluckingatthegirl’s
pelisse;butonceAlfredwasatherside,Lettywasindifferenttostormand
ghosts.AsforAlfred,hewastoocastdowntothinkofthem.
“Letty,theywillpartus.”


“No,mydearAlfred,no!”
“Yes.Yes,theywill.Oh,ifyouwereonlymine!”
MissLettysighed.
“Willyoubetruetome,Letty?Iamtogoonasailing-vesseltoChina,tobe
gonetwoyears.Willyouwaitforme?”
Lettygavealittlecry;twoyears!Herblackwomantwitchedhersleeve.
“MissLet,it’sgittin’cole,honey.”
“(Don’t,Flora.)—Alfred,twoyears!Oh,Alfred,thatisaneternity.Why,I
shouldbe—Ishouldbetwenty!”
Thelantern,setonatombstonebesidethem,blinkedinasnowygust.Alfred
coveredhisfacewithhishands,hewasshakentohissoul;thelittle,gaycreature
besidehimthrilledatasoundfrombehindthosehands.
“Alfred,”—shesaid,faintly;thenshehidherfaceagainsthisarm;“mydear
Alfred,Iwill,ifyoudesireit—flywithyou!”
Alfred,withagasp,liftedhisheadandstaredather.Hisslowermindhadseen
nothingbutseparationanddespair;butthemomentthewordwassaidhewas
aflame.What!Wouldshe?Couldshe?Adorablecreature!
“MissLet,myfeetdonegetcole—”
(“Flora,bestill!)—Yes,Alfred,yes.Iamthine.”
Theboycaughtherinhisarms.“ButIamtobesentawayonMonday!My
angel,couldyou—fly,to-morrow?”
AndLetty,herfacestillhiddenagainsthisshoulder,nodded.
Then,whiletheshiveringFlorastamped,andbeatherarms,andthelantern
flaredandsizzled,Alfredmadetheirplans,whichweresimpletothepointof
childishness.“Myown!”hesaid,whenitwasallarranged;thenheheldthe
lanternupandlookedintoherface,blushinganddetermined,withsnowflakes


gleamingonthecurlsthatpushedoutfromunderherbighood.“Youwillmeet
meattheminister’s?”hesaid,passionately.“Youwillnotfailme?”
“Iwillnotfailyou!”shesaid;andlaughedjoyously;buttheyoungman’sface
waswhite.
Shekeptherword;andwiththeassistanceofFlora,romanticagainwhenher
feetwerewarm,allwentastheyplanned.Clotheswerepacked,savings-banks
opened,andachaiseabstractedfromthePricestable.
“Itismyintention,”saidtheyouth,“toreturntomyfatherthevalueofthe
vehicleandnag,assoonasIcansecureapositionwhichwillenablemeto
supportmyLeftyincomfortandfashion.”
Onthenightoftheelopementthetwochildrenmetattheminister’shouse.(Yes,
theveryoldRectorytowhichweOldChesterchildrenwenteverySaturday
afternoontoDr.Lavendar’sCollectclass.ButofcoursetherewasnoDr.
Lavendarthereinthosedays.)
Well;Alfredrequestedthisministertopronouncethemmanandwife;buthe
coughedandpokedthefire.“Iamofage,”Alfredinsisted;“Iamtwenty-two.”
ThenMr.Smithsaidhemustgoandputonhisbandsandsurplicefirst;and
Alfredsaid,“Ifyouplease,sir.”AndoffwentMr.Smith—_andsentanoteto
Alfred’sfatherandLetty’smother!_
Wegirlsusedtowonderwhattheloverstalkedaboutwhiletheywaitedforthe
traitor.EllenDalealwayssaidtheywerefoolishtowait.“Whydidn’ttheygo
rightoff?”saidEllen.“IfIweregoingtoelope,Ishouldn’tbothertogetmarried.
But,oh,thinkofhowtheyfeltwheninwalkedthosecruelparents!”
Thestorywasthattheyweretornweepingfromeachother’sarms;thatLetty
wassenttobedfortwodaysonbreadandwater;thatAlfredwaspackedoffto
Philadelphiatheverynextmorning,andsailedinlessthanaweek.Theydidnot
seeeachotheragain.
Buttheendofthestorywasnotromanticatall.Letty,althoughshecreptabout
forawhileindeepdisgrace,andbroodedupondeath—thatinteresting
impossibility,sodeartoyouth,—_married_,ifyouplease!whenshewastwenty,
andwentawaytolive.WhenAlfredcameback,sevenyearslater,hegot
married,too.HemarriedaMissBarkley.Heusedtogoawayonlongvoyages,


soperhapshewasn’treallyfondofher.Wetriedtothinkso,forweliked
CaptainPrice.
InourdayCaptainPricewasawidower.Hehadgivenupthesea,andsettled
downtoliveinOldChester;hisson,Cyrus,livedwithhim,andhislanguid
daughter-in-law—ayoungladyofdominantfeebleness,whoruledthetwomen
withthatmostpowerfuldomesticrod—foolishweakness.Thiscombinationina
womanwillcauseamountain(amasculinemountain)toflyfromitsfirmbase;
whilekindness,justice,andgoodsenseleaveituponunshakenfoundationsof
selfishness.Mrs.CyruswasaGoliathofsilliness;whenbillowingblackclouds
heapedthemselvesinthewestonahotafternoon,sheturnedpalewith
apprehension,andtheCaptainandCyrusranforfourtumblers,intowhichthey
putthelegsofherbed,where,coweringamongthefeathers,shelaycoldwith
fearandperspiration.EverynighttheCaptainscreweddownallthewindowson
thelowerfloor;inthemorningCyruspulledthescrewsout.Cyrushadapretty
tasteinhorseflesh,butGussiecriedsowhenheonceboughtatrotterthathehad
longagoresignedhimselftoafriendlybeastoftwenty-sevenyears,whocould
notgomuchoutofawalkbecausehehadstring-haltinbothhindlegs.
ButonemustnotbetoohardonMrs.Cyrus.Inthefirstplace,shewasnotborn
inOldChester.But,addedtothat,justthinkofhername!Theeffectofnames
uponcharacterisnotconsideredasitshouldbe.IfoneiscalledGussieforthirty
years,itisalmostimpossiblenottobecomegussieafterawhile.Mrs.Cyrus
couldnotbeAugusta;fewwomencan;butitwaseasytobegussie—
irresponsible,silly,selfish.Shehadavague,flatlaugh,sheateagreatdealof
candy,andshewasafraidof—ButonecannotcatalogueMrs.Cyrus’sfears.
Theywereasthesandsoftheseafornumber.Andthesetwomenweregoverned
bythem.Onlywhenthesecretsofallheartsshallberevealedwillitbe
understoodwhyamanlovesafool;butwhyheobeysherisobviousenough:
Fearisthegreatestpowerintheworld;Gussiewasafraidofthunder-storms,or
whatnot;buttheCaptainandCyruswereafraidofGussie!Ahintoftearsinher
paleeyes,andherhusbandwouldsighwithanxietyandCaptainPricesliphis
pipeinhispocketandsneakoutoftheroom.DoubtlessCyruswouldoftenhave
beengladtofollowhim,buttheoldgentlemanglaredwhenhissonshoweda
desireforhiscompany.
“Wanttocomeandsmokewithme?‘YourgrannywasMurray!’—you’re
sojering.You’refirstmate;youbelongonthebridgeinstorms.I’mbeforethe
mast.Tendtoyourbusiness!”


Itwasforty-eightyearsbeforeLettyandAlfredsaweachotheragain—orat
leastbeforepersonscallingthemselvesbythoseoldnamessaweachother.Were
theyLettyandAlfred—thistousled,tangled,good-humoredoldman,ruddyand
cowed,andthissmall,bright-eyedoldlady,ledaboutbyadevoteddaughter?
Certainlythesetwopersonsborenoresemblancetotheboyandgirltornfrom
eachother’sarmsthatcoldDecembernight.Alfredhadbeenmildandslow;
CaptainPrice(exceptwhenhisdaughter-in-lawraisedherfinger)wasapleasant
oldroaringlion.Lettyhadbeenagay,high-spiritedlittlecreature,notasretiring,
perhaps,asayoungfemaleshouldbe,andcertainlyself-willed;Mrs.Northwas
completelyunderthethumbofherdaughterMary.Notthat“underthethumb”
meansunhappiness;MaryNorthdesiredonlyhermother’swelfare,andlived
fiercelyforthatsinglepurpose.Frommorninguntilnight(and,indeed,until
morningagain,forsheroseoftenfromherbedtoseethattherewasnodraught
fromthecrackoftheopenwindow),allthroughthetwenty-fourhoursshewas
onduty.
WhenthisexcellentdaughterappearedinOldChesterandsaidshewasgoingto
hireahouse,andbringhermotherbacktoendherdaysinthehomeofher
girlhood,OldChesterdisplayedafriendlyinterest;whenshedecidedupona
houseonMainStreet,directlyoppositeCaptainPrice’s,itbegantorecallthe
romanceofthatthwartedelopement.
“DoyousupposesheknowsthatstoryaboutoldAlfredPriceandhermother?”
saidOldChester;anditlookedsidewiseatMissNorthwithpolitecuriosity.This
wasnotaltogetherbecauseofhermother’sromanticpast,butbecauseofher
ownmannersandclothes.Withpainfulexactness,MissNorthendeavoredto
followthefashion;butshelookedasifarticlesofclothinghadbeenthrownat
herandsomehadstuck.Astohermanners,OldChesterwasdivided.Mrs.
Barkleysaidshehadn’tany.Dr.Lavendarsaidshewasshy.But,asMrs.
Draytonsaid,thatwasjustlikeDr.Lavendar,alwaysmakingexcusesforwrongdoing!—“Which,”saidMrs.Drayton,“isastrangethingforaministertodo.For
mypart,IcannotunderstandimpolitenessinaChristianfemale.Butwemust
notjudge,”Mrs.Draytonended,withwhatWillyKingcalledher“holylook.”
Withoutwishingto“judge,”itmaybesaidthat,inthematterofmanners,Miss
MaryNorth,palpitatinglyanxioustobepolite,toldthetruth.Shesaidthingsthat
otherpeopleonlythought.WhenMrs.WillyKingremarkedthat,thoughshedid
notpretendtobeagoodhousekeeper,shehadthebacksofherpicturesdusted
everyotherday,MissNorth,herchintremblingwithshyness,said,witha
pantingsmile:


“That’snotgoodforhousekeeping;it’sfoolishwasteoftime.”Whichwasvery
rude,ofcourse—thoughOldChesterwasnotasdispleasedasyoumighthave
supposed.
WhileMissNorth,timorousandtruthful(anddeterminedtobepolite),was
puttingthehouseinorderbeforesendingforhermother,OldChesterinvitedher
totea,andaskedhermanyquestionsaboutLettyandthelateMr.North.But
nobodyaskedwhethersheknewthatheroppositeneighbor,CaptainPrice,might
havebeenherfather;—atleastthatwasthewayMissEllen’sgirlsexpressedit.
CaptainPricehimselfdidnotenlightenthedaughterhedidnothave;buthewent
rollingacrossthestreet,andpullingoffhisbigshabbyfelthat,stoodatthefoot
ofthesteps,androaredout:“Morning!AnythingIcandoforyou?”MissNorth,
indoors,hangingwindow-curtains,hermouthfulloftacks,shookherhead.Then
sheremovedthetacksandcametothefrontdoor.
“Doyousmoke,sir?”
CaptainPriceremovedhispipefromhismouthandlookedatit.“Why!Ibelieve
Ido,sometimes,”hesaid.
“Iinquired,”saidMissNorth,smilingtremulously,herhandsgrippedhard
together,“because,ifyoudo,Iwillaskyoutodesistwhenpassingour
windows.”
CaptainPricewassodumbfoundedthatforamomentwordsfailedhim.Thenhe
said,meekly,“Doesyourmotherobjecttotobaccosmoke,ma’am?”
“Itisinjurioustoallladies’throats,”saidMissNorth,hervoicequiveringand
determined.
“Doesyourmotherresembleyou,madam?”saidCaptainPrice,slowly.
“Ohno!mymotherispretty.Shehasmyeyes,butthat’sall.”
“Ididn’tmeaninlooks,”saidtheoldman;“shedidnotlookintheleastlike
you;notintheleast!Imeaninherviews?”
“Herviews?Idon’tthinkmymotherhasanyparticularviews,”MissNorth
answered,hesitatingly;“Ispareherallthought,”sheended,andherthinface
bloomedsuddenlywithlove.


OldChesterrockedwiththeCaptain’sreportofhiscall;andMrs.Cyrustoldher
husbandthatsheonlywishedthisladywouldstophisfather’ssmoking.
“Justlookathisashes,”saidGussie;“Iputsaucersroundeverywheretocatch
‘em,butheshakes‘emoffanywhere—rightonthecarpet!Andifyousay
anything,hejustsays,‘Oh,they’llkeepthemothsaway!’Iworrysoforfear
he’llsetthehouseonfire.”
Mrs.CyruswassomovedbyMissNorth’sactivemission-workthatthevery
nextdayshewanderedacrossthestreettocall.“IhopeI’mnotinterrupting
you,”shebegan,“butIthoughtI’djust—”
“Yes;youare,”saidMissNorth;“butnevermind;stay,ifyouwantto.”Shetried
tosmile,butshelookedatthedusterwhichshehadputdownuponMrs.Cyrus’s
entrance.
Gussiewaveredastowhethertotakeoffence,butdecidednotto;—atleastnot
untilshecouldmaketheremarkwhichwasbuzzinginhersmallmind.Itseemed
strange,shesaid,thatMrs.Northshouldcome,notonlytoOldChester,butright
acrossthestreetfromCaptainPrice!
“Why?”saidMaryNorth,briefly.
“Why?”saidMrs.Cyrus,withfaintanimation.“Why,don’tyouknowabout
yourmotherandmyfather-in-law?”
“Yourfather-in-law?—mymother?”
“Why,youknow,”saidMrs.Cyrus,withherlightcackle,“yourmotherwasa
littleromanticwhenshewasyoung.Nodoubtshehasconquereditnow.Butshe
triedtoelopewithmyfather-in-law.”
“What!”
“Oh,bygonesshouldbebygones,”Mrs.Cyrussaid,soothingly;“forgiveand
forget,youknow.Ifthere’sanythingIcandotoassistyou,ma’am,I’llsendmy
husbandover;”andthensheloungedaway,leavingpoorMaryNorthsilentwith
indignation.ButthatnightatteaGussiesaidthatshethoughtstrong-minded
ladieswereveryunladylike;“theysayshe’sstrong-minded,”sheadded,
languidly.


“Lady!”saidtheCaptain.“She’saman-o’-war’smaninpetticoats.”
Gussiegiggled.
“She’sasthinasalath,”theCaptaindeclared;“ifithadn’tbeenforherface,I
wouldn’thaveknownwhethershewascomingboworsternon.”
“Ithink,”saidMrs.Cyrus,“thatthatwomanhassomemotiveinbringingher
motherbackhere;andrightacrossthestreet,too!”
“Whatmotive?”saidCyrus.
ButAugustawaitedforconjugalprivacytoexplainherself:“Cyrus,Iworryso,
becauseI’msurethatwomanthinksshecancatchyourfatheragain.—Oh,just
listentothatharmonicondownstairs!Itsetsmyteethonedge!”
ThenCyrus,thesilent,servilefirstmate,brokeout:“Gussie,you’reafool!”
AndAugustacriedallnight,andshowedherselfatthebreakfast-tablelanternjawedandsunken-eyed;andherfather-in-lawjudgeditwisetosprinklehiscigar
ashesbehindthestable.
ThedaythatMrs.NortharrivedinOldChester,Mrs.Cyruscommandedthe
situation;shesawthedaughtergetoutofthestage,andhurryintothehousefor
achairsothatthemothermightdescendmoreeasily.Shealsosawalittle,whitehairedoldladytakethatopportunitytoleapnimbly,andquiteunaided,fromthe
swingingstep.
“Now,mother!”expostulatedMaryNorth,chairinhand,andbreathless,“you
mighthavebrokenyourlimb!Here,takemyarm.”
Meekly,afterhermomentoffreedom,thelittleladyputherhandonthatgaunt
arm,andtrippedupthepathandintothehouse,where,alas!AugustaPricelost
sightofthem.Yetevenshe,withallherdisapprovalofstrong-mindedladies,
musthaveadmiredthetendernessoftheman-o’-war’sman.MissNorthputher
motherintoabigchair,andhurriedtobringadishofcurds.
“I’mnothungry,”protestedMrs.North.
“Nevermind.Itwilldoyougood.”


Withasighthelittleoldladyatethecurds,lookingaboutherwithcuriouseyes.
“Why,we’rerightacrossthestreetfromtheoldPricehouse!”shesaid.
“Didyouknowthem,mother?”demandedMissNorth.
“Dearme,yes,”saidMrs.North,twinkling;“why,I’dforgottenallaboutit,but
theeldestboy—Now,whatwashisname?Al—something.Alfred,—Albert;no,
Alfred.Hewasabeauofmine.”
“Mother!Idon’tthinkit’srefinedtousesuchaword.”
“Well,hewantedmetoelopewithhim,”Mrs.Northsaid,gayly;“ifthatisn’t
beingabeau,Idon’tknowwhatis.Ihaven’tthoughtofitforyears.”
“Ifyou’vefinishedyourcurdsyoumustliedown,”saidMissNorth.
“Oh,I’lljustlookabout—”
“No;youaretired.Youmustliedown.”
“WhoisthatstoutoldgentlemangoingintothePricehouse?”Mrs.Northsaid,
lingeringatthewindow.
“Oh,that’syourAlfredPrice,”herdaughteranswered;andaddedthatshehoped
hermotherwouldbepleasedwiththehouse.“Wehaveboardedsolong,Ithink
you’llenjoyahomeofyourown.”
“IndeedIshall!”criedMrs.North,hereyessnappingwithdelight.“Mary,I’ll
washthebreakfastdishes,asmymotherusedtodo!”
“Ohno,”MaryNorthprotested;“itwouldtireyou.Imeantotakeeverycare
fromyourmind.”
“But,”Mrs.Northpleaded,“youhavesomuchtodo;and—”
“Nevermindaboutme,”saidthedaughter,earnestly;“youaremyfirst
consideration.”
“Iknowit,mydear,”saidMrs.North,meekly.AndwhenOldChestercameto
makeitscall,oneofthefirstthingsshesaidwasthatherMarywassuchagood


daughter.MissNorth,heranxiousfaceredwithdetermination,boreoutthe
assertionbyconstantlyinterruptingtheconversationtobringafootstool,orshut
awindow,orputashawloverhermother’sknees.“Mymother’slimbtroubles
her,”sheexplainedtovisitors(inpointofmodesty,MaryNorthdidnotleaveher
motheralegtostandon);thensheadded,breathlessly,withhertremuloussmile,
thatshewishedtheywouldpleasenottalktoomuch.“Conversationtiresher,”
sheexplained.Atwhichthelittle,prettyoldladyopenedandclosedherhands,
andprotestedthatshewasnottiredatall.Butthecallersdeparted.Asthedoor
closedbehindthem,Mrs.Northwasreadytocry.
“Now,Mary,really!”shebegan.
“Mother,Idon’tcare!Idon’tliketosaythingslikethat,thoughI’msureI
alwaystrytosaythempolitely.ButtosaveyouIwouldsayanything!”
“ButIenjoyseeingpeople,and—”
“Itisbadforyoutobetired,”Marysaid,herthinfacequiveringstillwiththe
effortshehadmade;“andtheysha’n’ttireyouwhileIamheretoprotectyou.”
Andherprotectionneverflagged.WhenCaptainPricecalled,sheaskedhimto
pleaseconverseinalowtone,asnoisewasbadforhermother.“Hehadbeen
hereagoodwhilebeforeIcamein,”shedefendedherselftoMrs.North,
afterwards;“andI’msureIspokepolitely.”
Thefactwas,thedaytheCaptaincame,MissNorthwasout.Hermotherhad
seenhimpoundingupthestreet,andhurryingtothedoor,calledout,gayly,in
herlittle,old,pipingvoice,“Alfred—AlfredPrice!”
TheCaptainturnedandlookedather.Therewasjustonemoment’spause;
perhapsbetriedtobridgetheyears,andtobelievethatitwasLettywhospoketo
him—Letty,whomhehadlastseenthatwintrynight,paleandweeping,inthe
slendergreensheathofafur-trimmedpelisse.Ifso,hegaveitup;thisplump,
white-haired,bright-eyedoldlady,inawide-spreading,rustlingblacksilkdress,
wasnotLetty.ItwasMrs.North.
TheCaptaincameacrossthestreet,wavinghisnewspaper,andsaying,“So
you’vecastanchorintheoldport,ma’am?”
“Mydaughterisnotathome;docomein,”shesaid,smilingandnodding.
CaptainPricehesitated;thenheputhispipeinhispocketandfollowedherinto


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×