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List Of Contents | Contents of Their Pilgrimage, by Charles Dudley Warner
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contrast with the weather outside.  Thus housed, it was pleasant to hear
the waves dashing against the breakwater.  Just by chance, in the
ballroom, Mr. King found himself seated by Mrs. Benson and a group of
elderly ladies, who had the perfunctory air of liking the mild gayety of
the place.  To one of them Mr. King was presented, Mrs. Stimpson--a stout
woman with a broad red face and fishy eyes, wearing an elaborate head-
dress with purple flowers, and attired as if she were expecting to take a
prize.  Mrs. Stimpson was loftily condescending, and asked Mr. King if
this was his first visit.  She'd been coming here years and years; never
could get through the spring without a few weeks at the Hygeia.  Mr. King
saw a good many people at this hotel who seemed to regard it as a home.

"I hope your daughter, Mrs. Benson, was not tired out with the rather
long voyage today."

"Not a mite.  I guess she enjoyed it.  She don't seem to enjoy most
things.  She's got everything heart can wish at home.  I don't know how
it is.  I was tellin' pa, Mr. Benson, today that girls ain't what they
used to be in my time.  Takes more to satisfy 'em.  Now my daughter, if I
say it as shouldn't, Mr. King, there ain't a better appearin,' nor
smarter, nor more dutiful girl anywhere--well, I just couldn't live
without her; and she's had the best schools in the East and Europe; done
all Europe and Rome and Italy; and after all, somehow, she don't seem
contented in Cyrusville--that's where we live in Ohio--one of the
smartest places in the state; grown right up to be a city since we was
married.  She never says anything, but I can see.  And we haven't spared
anything on our house.  And society--there's a great deal more society
than I ever had."

Mr. King might have been astonished at this outpouring if he had not
observed that it is precisely in hotels and to entire strangers that some
people are apt to talk with less reserve than to intimate friends.

"I've no doubt," he said, "you have a lovely home in Cyrusville."

"Well, I guess it's got all the improvements.  Pa, Mr. Benson, said that
he didn't know of anything that had been left out, and we had a man up
from Cincinnati, who did all the furnishing before Irene came home."

"Perhaps your daughter would have preferred to furnish it herself?"

"Mebbe so.  She said it was splendid, but it looked like somebody else's
house.  She says the queerest things sometimes.  I told Mr. Benson that I
thought it would be a good thing to go away from home a little while and
travel round.  I've never been away much except in New York, where Mr.
Benson has business a good deal.  We've been in Washington this winter."

"Are you going farther south?"

"Yes ; we calculate to go down to the New Orleans Centennial.  Pa wants
to see the Exposition, and Irene wants to see what the South looks like,
and so do I.  I suppose it's perfectly safe now, so long after the war?"

"Oh, I should say so."

"That's what Mr. Benson says.  He says it's all nonsense the talk about
what the South 'll do now the Democrats are in.  He says the South wants
to make money, and wants the country prosperous as much as anybody.  Yes,
we are going to take a regular tour all summer round to the different
places where people go.  Irene calls it a pilgrimage to the holy places
of America.  Pa thinks we'll get enough of it, and he's determined we
shall have enough of it for once.  I suppose we shall.  I like to travel,
but I haven't seen any place better than Cyrusville yet.

As Irene did not make her appearance, Mr. King tore himself away from
this interesting conversation and strolled about the parlors, made
engagements to take early coffee at the fort, to go to church with Mrs.
Cortlandt and her friends, and afterwards to drive over to Hampton and
see the copper and other colored schools, talked a little politics over a
late cigar, and then went to bed, rather curious to see if the eyes that
Mrs. Cortlandt regarded as so dangerous would appear to him in the
darkness.

When he awoke, his first faint impressions were that the Hygeia had
drifted out to sea, and then that a dense fog had drifted in and
enveloped it.  But this illusion was speedily dispelled.  The window-
ledge was piled high with snow.  Snow filled the air, whirled about by a
gale that was banging the window-shutters and raging exactly like a
Northern tempest.

It swirled the snow about in waves and dark masses interspersed with
rifts of light, dark here and luminous there.  The Rip-Raps were lost to
view.  Out at sea black clouds hung in the horizon, heavy reinforcements
for the attacking storm.  The ground was heaped with the still fast-
falling snow--ten inches deep he heard it said when he descended.  The
Baltimore boat had not arrived, and could not get in.  The waves at the
wharf rolled in, black and heavy, with a sullen beat, and the sky shut
down close to the water, except when a sudden stronger gust of wind
cleared a luminous space for an instant.  Stormbound: that is what the
Hygeia was--a winter resort without any doubt.

The hotel was put to a test of its qualities.  There was no getting
abroad in such a storm.  But the Hygeia appeared at its best in this
emergency.  The long glass corridors, where no one could venture in the
arctic temperature, gave, nevertheless, an air of brightness and
cheerfulness to the interior, where big fires blazed, and the company
were exalted into good-fellowship and gayety--a decorous Sunday gayety--
by the elemental war from which they were securely housed.

If the defenders of their country in the fortress mounted guard that
morning, the guests at the Hygeia did not see them, but a good many of
them mounted guard later at the hotel, and offered to the young ladies
there that protection which the brave like to give the fair.
Notwithstanding this, Mr. Stanhope King could not say the day was dull.
After a morning presumably spent over works of a religious character,
some of the young ladies, who had been the life of the excursion the day
before, showed their versatility by devising serious amusements befitting
the day, such as twenty questions on Scriptural subjects, palmistry,
which on another day is an aid to mild flirtation, and an exhibition of
mind-reading, not public--oh, dear, no--but with a favored group in a
private parlor.  In none of these groups, however, did Mr. King find Miss
Benson, and when he encountered her after dinner in the reading-room, she
confessed that she had declined an invitation to assist at the mind-
reading, partly from a lack of interest, and partly from a reluctance to
dabble in such things.

"Surely you are not uninterested in what is now called psychical
research?" he asked.

"That depends," said Irene.  "If I were a physician, I should like to
watch the operation of the minds of 'sensitives' as a pathological study.
But the experiments I have seen are merely exciting and unsettling,
without the least good result, with a haunting notion that you are being
tricked or deluded.  It is as much as I can do to try and know my own
mind, without reading the minds of others."

"But you cannot help the endeavor to read the mind of a person with whom
you are talking."

"Oh, that is different.  That is really an encounter of wits, for you
know that the best part of a conversation is the things not said.  What
they call mindreading is a vulgar business compared to this.  Don't you
think so, Mr. King?"

What Mr. King was actually thinking was that Irene's eyes were the most
unfathomable blue he ever looked into, as they met his with perfect
frankness, and he was wondering if she were reading his present state of
mind; but what he said was, "I think your sort of mind-reading is a good
deal more interesting than the other," and he might have added,
dangerous.  For a man cannot attempt to find out what is in a woman's
heart without a certain disturbance of his own.  He added, "So you think
our society is getting too sensitive and nervous, and inclined to make
dangerous mental excursions?"

"I'm afraid I do not think much about such things," Irene replied,
looking out of the window into the storm.  "I'm content with a very
simple faith, even if it is called ignorance."

Mr. King was thinking, as he watched the clear, spirited profile of the
girl shown against the white tumult in the air, that he should like to
belong to the party of ignorance himself, and he thought so long about it
that the subject dropped, and the conversation fell into ordinary
channels, and Mrs. Benson appeared.  She thought they would move on as
soon as the storm was over.  Mr. King himself was going south in the
morning, if travel were possible.  When he said good-by, Mrs. Benson
expressed the pleasure his acquaintance had given them, and hoped they
should see him in Cyrusville.  Mr. King looked to see if this invitation
was seconded in Irene's eyes; but they made no sign, although she gave
him her hand frankly, and wished him a good journey.

The next morning he crossed to Norfolk, was transported through the snow-
covered streets on a sledge, and took his seat in the cars for the most
monotonous ride in the country, that down the coast-line.

When next Stanhope King saw Fortress Monroe it was in the first days of
June.  The summer which he had left in the interior of the Hygeia was now
out-of-doors.  The winter birds had gone north; the summer birds had not
yet come.  It was the interregnum, for the Hygeia, like Venice, has two
seasons, one for the inhabitants of colder climes, and the other for
natives of the country.  No spot, thought our traveler, could be more
lovely.  Perhaps certain memories gave it a charm, not well defined, but
still gracious.  If the house had been empty, which it was far from
being, it would still have been peopled for him.  Were they all such
agreeable people whom he had seen there in March, or has one girl the
power to throw a charm over a whole watering-place?  At any rate, the
place was full of delightful repose.  There was movement enough upon the
water to satisfy one's lazy longing for life, the waves lapped soothingly

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