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List Of Contents | Contents of Their Pilgrimage, by Charles Dudley Warner
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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
sometimes."

The old lady pulled her down and kissed her, and looked in her face with
beseeching eyes.

"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
I mean."

"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
be Transcendentalism?"

"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
into everything."

"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
be here."

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

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