List Of Contents | Contents of Their Pilgrimage, by Charles Dudley Warner
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >


"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 sensible."

"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

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: