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

It nettled him that Irene let herself fall to the escort of Mr. Meigs,
for women can always arrange these things if they choose, and he had only
a melancholy satisfaction in the college songs and conundrums that
enlivened the festive buckboard in which he was a passenger.  Not that he
did not join in the hilarity, but it seemed only a poor imitation of
pleasure.  Alas, that the tone of one woman's voice, the touch of her
hand, the glance of her eye, should outweigh the world!

Somehow, with all the opportunities, the suit of our friend did not
advance beyond a certain point.  Irene was always cordial, always
friendly, but he tried in vain to ascertain whether the middle-aged man
from Boston had touched her imagination.  There was a boating party the
next evening in Frenchman's Bay, and King had the pleasure of pulling
Miss Benson and Miss Lamont out seaward under the dark, frowning cliffs
until they felt the ocean swell, and then of making the circuit of
Porcupine Island.  It was an enchanting night, full of mystery.  The rock
face of the Porcupine glistened white in the moonlight as if it were
encrusted with salt, the waves beat in a continuous roar against its
base, which is honeycombed by the action of the water, and when the boat
glided into its shadow it loomed up vast and wonderful.  Seaward were the
harbor lights, the phosphorescent glisten of the waves, the dim forms of
other islands; all about in the bay row-boats darted in and out of the
moonlight, voices were heard calling from boat to boat, songs floated
over the water, and the huge Portland steamer came plunging in out of the
night, a blazing, trembling monster.  Not much was said in the boat, but
the impression of such a night goes far in the romance of real life.

Perhaps it was this impression that made her assent readily to a walk
next morning with Mr. King along the bay.  The shore is nearly all
occupied by private cottages, with little lawns running down to the
granite edge of the water.  It is a favorite place for strolling; couples
establish themselves with books and umbrellas on the rocks, children are
dabbling in the coves, sails enliven the bay, row-boats dart about, the
cawing of crows is heard in the still air.  Irene declared that the scene
was idyllic.  The girl was in a most gracious humor, and opened her life
more to King than she had ever done before.  By such confidences usually
women invite avowals, and as the two paced along, King felt the moment
approach when there would be the most natural chance in the world for him
to tell this woman what she was to him; at the next turn in the shore, by
that rock, surely the moment would come.  What is this airy nothing by
which women protect themselves in such emergencies, by a question, by a
tone, an invisible strong barrier that the most impetuous dare not
attempt to break?

King felt the subtle restraint which he could not define or explain.
And before he could speak she said: "We are going away tomorrow."
"We?   And who are we?"  "Oh, the Simpkinses and our whole family, and
Mr. Meigs."  "And where?"

"Mr. Meigs has persuaded mother into the wildest scheme.  It is nothing
less than to leap from, here across all the intervening States to the
White Sulphur Springs in Virginia.  Father falls into the notion because
he wants to see more of the Southerners, Mrs. Simpkins and her daughter
are crazy to go, and Mr. Meigs says he has been trying to get there all
his life, and in August the season is at its height.  It was all arranged
before I was consulted, but I confess I rather like it.  It will be a

"Yes, I should think it would be delightful," King replied, rather
absent-mindedly.  "It's a long journey, a very long journey.  I should
think it would be too long a journey for Mr. Meigs--at his time of life."

It was not a fortunate remark, and still it might be; for who could tell
whether Irene would not be flattered by this declaration of his jealousy
of Mr. Meigs.  But she passed it over as not serious, with the remark
that the going did not seem to be beyond the strength of her father.

The introduction of Mr. Meigs in the guise of an accepted family friend
and traveling companion chilled King and cast a gloom over the landscape.
Afterwards he knew that he ought to have dashed in and scattered this
encompassing network of Meigs, disregarded the girl's fence of reserve,
and avowed his love.  More women are won by a single charge at the right
moment than by a whole campaign of strategy.

On the way back to the hotel he was absorbed in thought, and he burst
into the room where Forbes was touching up one of his sketches, with a
fully-formed plan.  "Old fellow, what do you say to going to Virginia?"

Forbes put in a few deliberate touches, moving his head from side to
side, and with aggravating slowness said, "What do you want to go to
Virginia for?"

"Why White Sulphur, of course; the most characteristic watering-place in
America.  See the whole Southern life there in August; and there's the
Natural Bridge."

"I've seen pictures of the Natural Bridge.  I don't know as I care much"
(still contemplating the sketch from different points of view, and softly
whistling) "for the whole of Southern life."

"See here, Forbes, you must have some deep design to make you take that

"Deep design!" replied Forbes, facing round.  "I'll be hanged if I see
what you are driving at.  I thought it was Saratoga and Richfield, and
mild things of that sort."

"And the little Lamont.  I know we talked of going there with her and her
uncle; but we can go there afterwards.  I tell you what I'll do: I'll go
to Richfield, and stay till snow comes, if you will take a dip with me
down into Virginia first.  You ought to do it for your art.  It's
something new, picturesque--negroes, Southern belles, old-time manners.
You cannot afford to neglect it."

"I don't see the fun of being yanked all over the United States in the
middle of August."

"You want shaking up.  You've been drawing seashores with one figure in
them till your pictures all look like--well, like Lamont and water."

"That's better," Forbes retorted, "than Benson and gruel."

And the two got into a huff.  The artist took his sketch-book and went
outdoors, and King went to his room to study the guide-books and the map
of Virginia.  The result was that when the friends met for dinner, King

"I thought you might do it for me, old boy."

And Forbes replied: "Why didn't you say so?  I don't care a rap where I
go.  But it's Richfield afterwards."



What occurred at the parting between the artist and the little Lamont at
Bar Harbor I never knew.  There was that good comradeship between the
two, that frank enjoyment of each other's society, without any
sentimental nonsense, so often seen between two young people in America,
which may end in a friendship of a summer, or extend to the cordial
esteem of a lifetime, or result in marriage.  I always liked the girl;
she had such a sunny temper, such a flow of originality in her mental
attitude towards people and things without being a wit or a critic, and
so much piquancy in all her little ways.  She would take to matrimony,
I should say, like a duck to water, with unruffled plumage, but as a wife
she would never be commonplace, or anything but engaging, and, as the
saying is, she could make almost any man happy.  And, if unmarried, what
a delightful sister-in-law she would be, especially a deceased wife's

I never imagined that she was capable of a great passion, as was Irene
Benson, who under a serene exterior was moved by tides of deep feeling,
subject to moods, and full of aspirations and longings which she herself
only dimly knew the meaning of.  With Irene marriage would be either
supreme happiness or extreme wretchedness, no half-way acceptance of a
conventional life.  With such a woman life is a failure, either tragic or
pathetic, without a great passion given and returned.  It is fortunate,
considering the chances that make unions in society, that for most men
and women the "grand passion" is neither necessary nor possible.  I did
not share King's prejudice against Mr. Meigs.  He seemed to me, as the
world goes, a 'bon parti,' cultivated by travel and reading, well-bred,
entertaining, amiable, possessed of an ample fortune, the ideal husband
in the eyes of a prudent mother.  But I used to think that if Irene,
attracted by his many admirable qualities, should become his wife, and
that if afterwards the Prince should appear and waken the slumbering
woman's heart in her, what a tragedy would ensue.  I can imagine their
placid existence if the Prince should not appear, and I can well believe
that Irene and Stanhope would have many a tumultuous passage in the
passionate symphony of their lives.  But, great heavens, is the ideal
marriage a Holland!

If Marion had shed any tears overnight, say on account of a little
lonesomeness because her friend was speeding away from her southward,
there were no traces of them when she met her uncle at the breakfast-
table, as bright and chatty as usual, and in as high spirits as one can
maintain with the Rodick coffee.

What a world of shifting scenes it is!  Forbes had picked up his traps
and gone off with his unreasonable companion like a soldier.  The day
after, when he looked out of the window of his sleeping-compartment at
half-past four, he saw the red sky of morning, and against it the spires
of Philadelphia.

At ten o'clock the two friends were breakfasting comfortably in the car,
and running along down the Cumberland Valley.  What a contrast was this
rich country, warm with color and suggestive of abundance, to the pale
and scrimped coast land of Maine denuded of its trees!  By afternoon they
were far down the east valley of the Shenandoah, between the Blue Ridge
and the Massanutten range, in a country broken, picturesque, fertile,
so attractive that they wondered there were so few villages on the route,
and only now and then a cheap shanty in sight; and crossing the divide to

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: