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

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
saloon.

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
merriment.

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
exodus.

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

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