The houses were dark in the August night and the perspective of Beacon Street, with its double chain of lamps, was a foreshortened desert. The club on th_ill alone, from its semi-cylindrical front, projected a glow upon the dusk_agueness of the Common, and as I passed it I heard in the hot stillness th_lick of a pair of billiard-balls. As "every one" was out of town perhaps th_ervants, in the extravagance of their leisure, were profaning the tables. Th_eat was insufferable and I thought with joy of the morrow, of the deck of th_teamer, the freshening breeze, the sense of getting out to sea. I was eve_lad of what I had learned in the afternoon at the office of the company—tha_t the eleventh hour an old ship with a lower standard of speed had been pu_n in place of the vessel in which I had taken my passage. America wa_oasting, England might very well be stuffy, and a slow passage (which at tha_eason of the year would probably also be a fine one) was a guarantee of te_r twelve days of fresh air.
I strolled down the hill without meeting a creature, though I could se_hrough the palings of the Common that that recreative expanse was people_ith dim forms. I remembered Mrs. Nettlepoint's house— she lived in those days (they are not so distant, but there have been changes) on the water-side, _ittle way beyond the spot at which the Public Garden terminates; and _eflected that like myself she would be spending the night in Boston if i_ere true that, as had been mentioned to me a few days before at Mount Desert, she was to embark on the morrow for Liverpool. I presently saw this appearanc_onfirmed by a light above her door and in two or three of her windows, and _etermined to ask for her, having nothing to do till bedtime. I had come ou_imply to pass an hour, leaving my hotel to the blaze of its gas and th_erspiration of its porters; but it occurred to me that my old friend migh_ery WELL not know of the substitution of the Patagonia for the Scandinavia, so that I should be doing her a service to prepare her mind. Besides, I coul_ffer to help her, to look after her in the morning: lone women are gratefu_or support in taking ship for far countries.
It came to me indeed as I stood on her door-step that as she had a son sh_ight not after all be so lone; yet I remembered at the same time that Jaspe_ettlepoint was not quite a young man to lean upon, having—as I at leas_upposed—a life of his own and tastes and habits which had long since diverte_im from the maternal side. If he did happen just now to be at home m_olicitude would of course seem officious; for in his many wanderings—_elieved he had roamed all over the globe—he would certainly have learned ho_o manage. None the less, in fine, I was very glad to show Mrs. Nettlepoint _hought of her. With my long absence I had lost sight of her; but I had like_er of old, she had been a good friend to my sisters, and I had in regard t_er that sense which is pleasant to those who in general have gone astray o_ot detached, the sense that she at least knew all about me. I could trust he_t any time to tell people I was respectable. Perhaps I was conscious of ho_ittle I deserved this indulgence when it came over me that I hadn't been nea_er for ages. The measure of that neglect was given by my vagueness of min_bout Jasper. However, I really belonged nowadays to a different generation; _as more the mother's contemporary than the son's.
Mrs. Nettlepoint was at home: I found her in her back drawing-room, where th_ide windows opened to the water. The room was dusky—it was too hot fo_amps—and she sat slowly moving her fan and looking out on the little arm o_he sea which is so pretty at night, reflecting the lights of Cambridgepor_nd Charlestown. I supposed she was musing on the loved ones she was to leav_ehind, her married daughters, her grandchildren; but she struck a note mor_pecifically Bostonian as she said to me, pointing with her fan to the Bac_ay: "I shall see nothing more charming than that over there, you know!" Sh_ade me very welcome, but her son had told her about the Patagonia, for whic_he was sorry, as this would mean a longer voyage. She was a poor creature i_ny boat and mainly confined to her cabin even in weather extravagantly terme_ine—as if any weather could be fine at sea.
"Ah then your son's going with you?" I asked.
"Here he comes, he'll tell you for himself much better than I can pretend to."
Jasper Nettlepoint at that moment joined us, dressed in white flannel an_arrying a large fan. "Well, my dear, have you decided?" his mother continue_ith no scant irony. "He hasn't yet made up his mind, and we sail at te_'clock!"
"What does it matter when my things are put up?" the young man said. "There'_o crowd at this moment; there will be cabins to spare. I'm waiting for _elegram—that will settle it. I just walked up to the club to see if it wa_ome—they'll send it there because they suppose this house unoccupied. No_et, but I shall go back in twenty minutes."
"Mercy, how you rush about in this temperature!" the poor lady exclaimed whil_ reflected that it was perhaps HIS billiard-balls I had heard ten minute_efore. I was sure he was fond of billiards.
"Rush? not in the least. I take it uncommon easy."
"Ah I'm bound to say you do!" Mrs. Nettlepoint returned with inconsequence. _uessed at a certain tension between the pair and a want of consideration o_he young man's part, arising perhaps from selfishness. His mother wa_ervous, in suspense, wanting to be at rest as to whether she should have hi_ompany on the voyage or be obliged to struggle alone. But as he stood ther_miling and slowly moving his fan he struck me somehow as a person on who_his fact wouldn't sit too heavily. He was of the type of those whom othe_eople worry about, not of those who worry about other people. Tall an_trong, he had a handsome face, with a round head and close- curling hair; th_hites of his eyes and the enamel of his teeth, under his brown moustache, gleamed vaguely in the lights of the Back Bay. I made out that he wa_unburnt, as if he lived much in the open air, and that he looked intelligen_ut also slightly brutal, though not in a morose way. His brutality, if he ha_ny, was bright and finished. I had to tell him who I was, but even then I sa_ow little he placed me and that my explanations gave me in his mind no grea_dentity or at any rate no great importance. I foresaw that he would i_ntercourse make me feel sometimes very young and sometimes very old, carin_imself but little which. He mentioned, as if to show our companion that h_ight safely be left to his own devices, that he had once started from Londo_o Bombay at three quarters of an hour's notice.
"Yes, and it must have been pleasant for the people you were with!"
"Oh the people I was with—!" he returned; and his tone appeared to signif_hat such people would always have to come off as they could. He asked i_here were no cold drinks in the house, no lemonade, no iced syrups; in suc_eather something of that sort ought always to be kept going. When his mothe_emarked that surely at the club they WERE kept going he went on: "Oh yes, _ad various things there; but you know I've walked down the hill since. On_hould have something at either end. May I ring and see?" He rang while Mrs.
Nettlepoint observed that with the people they had in the house, a_stablishment reduced naturally at such a moment to its simples_xpression—they were burning up candle-ends and there were no luxuries—sh_ouldn't answer for the service. The matter ended in her leaving the room i_uest of cordials with the female domestic who had arrived in response to th_ell and in whom Jasper's appeal aroused no visible intelligence.
She remained away some time and I talked with her son, who was sociable bu_esultory and kept moving over the place, always with his fan, as if he wer_roperly impatient. Sometimes he seated himself an instant on the window-sill, and then I made him out in fact thoroughly good-looking—a fine brown clea_oung athlete. He failed to tell me on what special contingency his decisio_epended; he only alluded familiarly to an expected telegram, and I saw he wa_robably fond at no time of the trouble of explanations. His mother's absenc_as a sign that when it might be a question of gratifying him she had grow_sed to spare no pains, and I fancied her rummaging in some close storeroom, among old preserve-pots, while the dull maid-servant held the candle awry. _on't know whether this same vision was in his own eyes; at all events i_idn't prevent his saying suddenly, as he looked at his watch, that I mus_xcuse him—he should have to go back to the club. He would return in half a_our—or in less. He walked away and I sat there alone, conscious, on the dar_ismantled simplified scene, in the deep silence that rests on American town_uring the hot season—there was now and then a far cry or a plash in th_ater, and at intervals the tinkle of the bells of the horse-cars on the lon_ridge, slow in the suffocating night—of the strange influence, half-sweet, half-sad, that abides in houses uninhabited or about to become so, in place_uffled and bereaved, where the unheeded sofas and patient belittered table_eem (like the disconcerted dogs, to whom everything is alike sinister) t_ecognise the eve of a journey.
After a while I heard the sound of voices, of steps, the rustle of dresses, and I looked round, supposing these things to denote the return of Mrs.
Nettlepoint and her handmaiden with the refection prepared for her son. What _aw however was two other female forms, visitors apparently just admitted, an_ow ushered into the room. They were not announced—the servant turned her bac_n them and rambled off to our hostess. They advanced in a wavering tentativ_nintroduced way—partly, I could see, because the place was dark and partl_ecause their visit was in its nature experimental, a flight of imagination o_ stretch of confidence. One of the ladies was stout and the other slim, and _ade sure in a moment that one was talkative and the other reserved. It wa_urther to be discerned that one was elderly and the other young, as well a_hat the fact of their unlikeness didn't prevent their being mother an_aughter. Mrs. Nettlepoint reappeared in a very few minutes, but the interva_ad sufficed to establish a communication—really copious for th_ccasion—between the strangers and the unknown gentleman whom they found i_ossession, hat and stick in hand. This was not my doing— for what had I to g_pon?—and still less was it the doing of the younger and the more indifferent, or less courageous, lady. She spoke but once—when her companion informed m_hat she was going out to Europe the next day to be married. Then sh_rotested "Oh mother!" in a tone that struck me in the darkness as doubly odd, exciting my curiosity to see her face.
It had taken the elder woman but a moment to come to that, and to variou_ther things, after I had explained that I myself was waiting for Mrs.
Nettlepoint, who would doubtless soon come back.
"Well, she won't know me—I guess she hasn't ever heard much about me," th_ood lady said; "but I've come from Mrs. Allen and I guess that will make i_ll right. I presume you know Mrs. Allen?"
I was unacquainted with this influential personage, but I assented vaguely t_he proposition. Mrs. Allen's emissary was good-humoured and familiar, bu_ather appealing than insistent (she remarked that if her friend HAD foun_ime to come in the afternoon—she had so much to do, being just up for th_ay, that she couldn't be sure—it would be all right); and somehow even befor_he mentioned Merrimac Avenue (they had come all the way from there) m_magination had associated her with that indefinite social limbo known to th_roperly-constituted Boston mind as the South End—a nebulous region whic_ondenses here and there into a pretty face, in which the daughters are an
"improvement" on the mothers and are sometimes acquainted with gentlemen mor_loriously domiciled, gentlemen whose wives and sisters are in turn no_cquainted with them.
When at last Mrs. Nettlepoint came in, accompanied by candles and by a tra_aden with glasses of coloured fluid which emitted a cool tinkling, I was in _osition to officiate as master of the ceremonies, to introduce Mrs. Mavis an_iss Grace Mavis, to represent that Mrs. Allen had recommended them—nay, ha_rged them— just to come that way, informally and without fear; Mrs. Allen wh_ad been prevented only by the pressure of occupations so characteristic o_er (especially when up from Mattapoisett for a few hours' desperate shopping) from herself calling in the course of the day to explain who they were an_hat was the favour they had to ask of her benevolent friend. Good-nature_omen understand each other even when so divided as to sit residentially abov_nd below the salt, as who should say; by which token our hostess had quickl_astered the main facts: Mrs. Allen's visit that morning in Merrimac Avenue t_alk of Mrs. Amber's great idea, the classes at the public schools in vacation (she was interested with an equal charity to that of Mrs. Mavis—even in suc_eather!—in those of the South End) for games and exercises and music, to kee_he poor unoccupied children out of the streets; then the revelation that i_ad suddenly been settled almost from one hour to the other that Grace shoul_ail for Liverpool, Mr. Porterfield at last being ready. He was taking _ittle holiday; his mother was with him, they had come over from Paris to se_ome of the celebrated old buildings in England, and he had telegraphed to sa_hat if Grace would start right off they would just finish it up and b_arried. It often happened that when things had dragged on that way for year_hey were all huddled up at the end. Of course in such a case she, Mrs. Mavis, had had to fly round. Her daughter's passage was taken, but it seemed to_readful she should make her journey all alone, the first time she had eve_een at sea, without any companion or escort. SHE couldn't go—Mr. Mavis wa_oo sick: she hadn't even been able to get him off to the seaside.
"Well, Mrs. Nettlepoint's going in that ship," Mrs. Allen had said; and sh_ad represented that nothing was simpler than to give her the girl in charge.
When Mrs. Mavis had replied that this was all very well but that she didn'_now the lady, Mrs. Allen had declared that that didn't make a speck o_ifference, for Mrs. Nettlepoint was kind enough for anything. It was eas_nough to KNOW her, if that was all the trouble! All Mrs. Mavis would have t_o would be to go right up to her next morning, when she took her daughter t_he ship (she would see her there on the deck with her party) and tell he_air and square what she wanted. Mrs. Nettlepoint had daughters herself an_ould easily understand. Very likely she'd even look after Grace a little o_he other side, in such a queer situation, going out alone to the gentlema_he was engaged to: she'd just help her, like a good Samaritan, to turn roun_efore she was married. Mr. Porterfield seemed to think they wouldn't wai_ong, once she was there: they would have it right over at the America_onsul's. Mrs. Allen had said it would perhaps be better still to go and se_rs. Nettlepoint beforehand, that day, to tell her what they wanted: then the_ouldn't seem to spring it on her just as she was leaving. She herself (Mrs.
Allen) would call and say a word for them if she could save ten minutes befor_atching her train. If she hadn't come it was because she hadn't saved her te_inutes but she had made them feel that they must come all the same. Mrs.
Mavis liked that better, because on the ship in the morning there would b_uch a confusion. She didn't think her daughter would be an_rouble—conscientiously she didn't. It was just to have some one to speak t_er and not sally forth like a servant-girl going to a situation.
"I see, I'm to act as a sort of bridesmaid and to give her away," Mrs.
Nettlepoint obligingly said. Kind enough in fact for anything, she showed o_his occasion that it was easy enough to know her. There is notoriousl_othing less desirable than an imposed aggravation of effort at sea, but sh_ccepted without betrayed dismay the burden of the young lady's dependence an_llowed her, as Mrs. Mavis said, to hook herself on. She evidently had th_abit of patience, and her reception of her visitors' story reminded m_fresh—I was reminded of it whenever I returned to my native land— that m_ear compatriots are the people in the world who most freely take mutua_ccommodation for granted. They have always had to help themselves, and hav_ather magnanimously failed to learn just where helping others i_istinguishable from that. In no country are there fewer forms and mor_eciprocities.
It was doubtless not singular that the ladies from Merrimac Avenue shouldn'_eel they were importunate: what was striking was that Mrs. Nettlepoint didn'_ppear to suspect it. However, she would in any case have thought it inhuma_o show this—though I could see that under the surface she was amused a_verything the more expressive of the pilgrims from the South End took fo_ranted. I scarce know whether the attitude of the younger visitor added o_ot to the merit of her good nature. Mr. Porterfield's intended took no par_n the demonstration, scarcely spoke, sat looking at the Back Bay and th_ights on the long bridge. She declined the lemonade and the other mixture_hich, at Mrs. Nettlepoint's request, I offered her, while her mother partoo_reely of everything and I reflected— for I as freely drained a glass or tw_n which the ice tinkled—that Mr. Jasper had better hurry back if he wished t_njoy these luxuries.
Was the effect of the young woman's reserve meanwhile ungracious, or was i_nly natural that in her particular situation she shouldn't have a flow o_ompliment at her command? I noticed that Mrs. Nettlepoint looked at he_ften, and certainly though she was undemonstrative Miss Mavis wa_nteresting. The candlelight enabled me to see that though not in the ver_irst flower of her youth she was still fresh and handsome. Her eyes and hai_ere dark, her face was pale, and she held up her head as if, with its thic_raids and everything else involved in it, it were an appurtenance she wasn'_shamed of. If her mother was excellent and common she was not common—not a_east flagrantly so—and perhaps also not excellent. At all events she wouldn'_e, in appearance at least, a dreary appendage; which in the case of a person
"hooking on" was always something gained. Was it because something of _omantic or pathetic interest usually attaches to a good creature who has bee_he victim of a "long engagement" that this young lady made an impression o_e from the first—favoured as I had been so quickly with this glimpse of he_istory? I could charge her certainly with no positive appeal; she only hel_er tongue and smiled, and her smile corrected whatever suggestion might hav_orced itself upon me that the spirit within her was dead—the spirit of tha_romise of which she found herself doomed to carry out the letter.
What corrected it less, I must add, was an odd recollection which gathere_ividness as I listened to it—a mental association evoked by the name of Mr.
Porterfield. Surely I had a personal impression, over-smeared and confused, o_he gentleman who was waiting at Liverpool, or who presently would be, fo_rs. Nettlepoint's protegee. I had met him, known him, some time, somewhere, somehow, on the other side. Wasn't he studying something, very hard, somewhere—probably in Paris—ten years before, and didn't he mak_xtraordinarily neat drawings, linear and architectural? Didn't he go to _able d'hote, at two francs twenty-five, in the Rue Bonaparte, which I the_requented, and didn't he wear spectacles and a Scotch plaid arranged in _anner which seemed to say "I've trustworthy information that that's the wa_hey do it in the Highlands"? Wasn't he exemplary to positive irritation, an_ery poor, poor to positive oppression, so that I supposed he had no overcoa_nd his tartan would be what he slept under at night? Wasn't he working ver_ard still, and wouldn't he be, in the natural course, not yet satisfied tha_e had found his feet or knew enough to launch out? He would be a man of lon_reparations—Miss Mavis's white face seemed to speak to one of that. It struc_e that if I had been in love with her I shouldn't have needed to lay such _rain for the closer approach. Architecture was his line and he was a pupil o_he Ecole des Beaux Arts. This reminiscence grew so much more vivid with m_hat at the end of ten minutes I had an odd sense of knowing—by implication—_ood deal about the young lady.
Even after it was settled that Mrs. Nettlepoint would do everything possibl_or her the other visitor sat sipping our iced liquid and telling how "low"
Mr. Mavis had been. At this period the girl's silence struck me as still mor_onscious, partly perhaps because she deprecated her mother's free flow—sh_as enough of an "improvement" to measure that—and partly because she was to_istressed by the idea of leaving her infirm, her perhaps dying father. I_asn't indistinguishable that they were poor and that she would take out _ery small purse for her trousseau. For Mr. Porterfield to make up the sum hi_wn case would have had moreover greatly to change. If he had enriched himsel_y the successful practice of his profession I had encountered no edifice h_ad reared—his reputation hadn't come to my ears.
Mrs. Nettlepoint notified her new friends that she was a very inactive perso_t sea: she was prepared to suffer to the full with Miss Mavis, but no_repared to pace the deck with her, to struggle with her, to accompany her t_eals. To this the girl replied that she would trouble her little, she wa_ure: she was convinced she should prove a wretched sailor and spend th_oyage on her back. Her mother scoffed at this picture, prophesying perfec_eather and a lovely time, and I interposed to the effect that if I might b_rusted, as a tame bachelor fairly sea-seasoned, I should be delighted to giv_he new member of our party an arm or any other countenance whenever sh_hould require it. Both the ladies thanked me for this—taking my profession_ith no sort of abatement—and the elder one declared that we were evidentl_oing to be such a sociable group that it was too bad to have to stay at home.
She asked Mrs. Nettlepoint if there were any one else in our party, and whe_ur hostess mentioned her son—there was a chance of his embarking but (wasn'_t absurd?) he hadn't decided yet—she returned with extraordinary candour: "O_ear, I do hope he'll go: that would be so lovely for Grace."
Somehow the words made me think of poor Mr. Porterfield's tartan, especiall_s Jasper Nettlepoint strolled in again at that moment. His mother at onc_hallenged him: it was ten o'clock; had he by chance made up his great mind?
Apparently he failed to hear her, being in the first place surprised at th_trange ladies and then struck with the fact that one of them wasn't strange.
The young man, after a slight hesitation, greeted Miss Mavis with a handshak_nd a "Oh good-evening, how do you do?" He didn't utter her name—which I coul_ee he must have forgotten; but she immediately pronounced his, availin_erself of the American girl's discretion to "present" him to her mother.
"Well, you might have told me you knew him all this time!" that lady joviall_ried. Then she had an equal confidence for Mrs. Nettlepoint. "It would hav_aved me a worry—an acquaintance already begun."
"Ah my son's acquaintances!" our hostess murmured.
"Yes, and my daughter's too!" Mrs. Mavis gaily echoed. "Mrs. Allen didn't tel_s YOU were going," she continued to the young man.
"She'd have been clever if she had been able to!" Mrs. Nettlepoint sighed.
"Dear mother, I have my telegram," Jasper remarked, looking at Grace Mavis.
"I know you very little," the girl said, returning his observation.
"I've danced with you at some ball—for some sufferers by something or other."
"I think it was an inundation or a big fire," she a little languidly smiled.
"But it was a long time ago—and I haven't seen you since."
"I've been in far countries—to my loss. I should have said it was a big fire."
"It was at the Horticultural Hall. I didn't remember your name," said Grac_avis.
"That's very unkind of you, when I recall vividly that you had a pink dress."
"Oh I remember that dress—your strawberry tarletan: you looked lovely in it!"
Mrs. Mavis broke out. "You must get another just like it—on the other side."
"Yes, your daughter looked charming in it," said Jasper Nettlepoint. Then h_dded to the girl: "Yet you mentioned my name to your mother."
"It came back to me—seeing you here. I had no idea this was your home."
"Well, I confess it isn't, much. Oh there are some drinks!"—he approached th_ray and its glasses.
"Indeed there are and quite delicious"—Mrs. Mavis largely wiped her mouth.
"Won't you have another then?—a pink one, like your daughter's gown."
"With pleasure, sir. Oh do see them over," Mrs. Mavis continued, acceptin_rom the young man's hand a third tumbler.
"My mother and that gentleman? Surely they can take care of themselves," h_reely pleaded.
"Then my daughter—she has a claim as an old friend."
But his mother had by this time interposed. "Jasper, what does your telegra_ay?"
He paid her no heed: he stood there with his glass in his hand, looking fro_rs. Mavis to Miss Grace.
"Ah leave her to me, madam; I'm quite competent," I said to Mrs. Mavis.
Then the young man gave me his attention. The next minute he asked of th_irl: "Do you mean you're going to Europe?"
"Yes, tomorrow. In the same ship as your mother."
"That's what we've come here for, to see all about it," said Mrs. Mavis.
"My son, take pity on me and tell me what light your telegram throws," Mrs.
Nettlepoint went on.
"I will, dearest, when I've quenched my thirst." And he slowly drained hi_lass.
"Well, I declare you're worse than Gracie," Mrs. Mavis commented. "She wa_irst one thing and then the other—but only about up to three o'cloc_esterday."
"Excuse me—won't you take something?" Jasper inquired of Gracie; who howeve_till declined, as if to make up for her mother's copious consommation. _ound myself quite aware that the two ladies would do well to take leave, th_uestion of Mrs. Nettlepoint's good will being so satisfactorily settled an_he meeting of the morrow at the ship so near at hand and I went so far as t_udge that their protracted stay, with their hostess visibly in a fidget, gav_he last proof of their want of breeding. Miss Grace after all then was no_uch an improvement on her mother, for she easily might have taken th_nitiative of departure, in spite of Mrs. Mavis's evident "game" of making he_wn absorption of refreshment last as long as possible. I watched the gir_ith increasing interest; I couldn't help asking myself a question or tw_bout her and even perceiving already (in a dim and general way) that rathe_arked embarrassment, or at least anxiety attended her. Wasn't it complicatin_hat she should have needed, by remaining long enough, to assuage a certai_uspense, to learn whether or no Jasper were going to sail? Hadn't somethin_articular passed between them on the occasion or at the period to which w_ad caught their allusion, and didn't she really not know her mother wa_ringing her to HIS mother's, though she apparently had thought it well not t_etray knowledge? Such things were symptomatic—though indeed one scarce kne_f what—on the part of a young lady betrothed to that curious cross-barre_hantom of a Mr. Porterfield. But I am bound to add that she gave me n_urther warrant for wonder than was conveyed in her all tacitly and covertl_ncouraging her mother to linger. Somehow I had a sense that SHE was consciou_f the indecency of this. I got up myself to go, but Mrs. Nettlepoint detaine_e after seeing that my movement wouldn't be taken as a hint, and I felt sh_ished me not to leave my fellow visitors on her hands. Jasper complained o_he closeness of the room, said that it was not a night to sit in a room—on_ught to be out in the air, under the sky. He denounced the windows tha_verlooked the water for not opening upon a balcony or a terrace, until hi_other, whom he hadn't yet satisfied about his telegram, reminded him tha_here was a beautiful balcony in front, with room for a dozen people. Sh_ssured him we would go and sit there if it would please him.
"It will be nice and cool tomorrow, when we steam into the great ocean," sai_iss Mavis, expressing with more vivacity than she had yet thrown into any o_er utterances my own thought of half an hour before. Mrs. Nettlepoint replie_hat it would probably be freezing cold, and her son murmured that he would g_nd try the drawing-room balcony and report upon it. Just as he was turnin_way he said, smiling, to Miss Mavis: "Won't you come with me and see if it'_leasant?"
"Oh well, we had better not stay all night!" her mother exclaimed, but stil_ithout moving. The girl moved, after a moment's hesitation;—she rose an_ccompanied Jasper to the other room. I saw how her slim tallness showed t_dvantage as she walked, and that she looked well as she passed, with her hea_hrown back, into the darkness of the other part of the house. There wa_omething rather marked, rather surprising—I scarcely knew why, for the act i_tself was simple enough—in her acceptance of such a plea, and perhaps it wa_ur sense of this that held the rest of us somewhat stiffly silent as sh_emained away. I was waiting for Mrs. Mavis to go, so that I myself might go; and Mrs. Nettlepoint was waiting for her to go so that I mightn't. Thi_oubtless made the young lady's absence appear to us longer than it reall_as—it was probably very brief. Her mother moreover, I think, had now a vagu_apse from ease. Jasper Nettlepoint presently returned to the back drawing- room to serve his companion with our lucent syrup, and he took occasion t_emark that it was lovely on the balcony: one really got some air, the breez_eing from that quarter. I remembered, as he went away with his tinklin_umbler, that from MY hand, a few minutes before, Miss Mavis had not bee_illing to accept this innocent offering. A little later Mrs. Nettlepoin_aid: "Well, if it's so pleasant there we had better go ourselves." So w_assed to the front and in the other room met the two young people coming i_rom the balcony. I was to wonder, in the light of later things, exactly ho_ong they had occupied together a couple of the set of cane chairs garnishin_he place in summer. If it had been but five minutes that only made subsequen_vents more curious. "We must go, mother," Miss Mavis immediately said; and _oment after, with a little renewal of chatter as to our general meeting o_he ship, the visitors had taken leave. Jasper went down with them to the doo_nd as soon as they had got off Mrs. Nettlepoint quite richly exhaled he_mpression. "Ah but'll she be a bore—she'll be a bore of bores!"
"Not through talking too much, surely."
"An affectation of silence is as bad. I hate that particular pose; it's comin_p very much now; an imitation of the English, like everything else. A gir_ho tries to be statuesque at sea—that will act on one's nerves!"
"I don't know what she tries to be, but she succeeds in being very handsome."
"So much the better for you. I'll leave her to you, for I shall be shut up. _ike her being placed under my 'care'!" my friend cried.
"She'll be under Jasper's," I remarked.
"Ah he won't go," she wailed—"I want it too much!"
"But I didn't see it that way. I have an idea he'll go."
"Why didn't he tell me so then—when he came in?"
"He was diverted by that young woman—a beautiful unexpected girl sittin_here."
"Diverted from his mother and her fond hope?—his mother trembling for hi_ecision?"
"Well"—I pieced it together—"she's an old friend, older than we know. It was _eeting after a long separation."
"Yes, such a lot of them as he does know!" Mrs. Nettlepoint sighed.
"Such a lot of them?"
"He has so many female friends—in the most varied circles."
"Well, we can close round her then," I returned; "for I on my side know, o_sed to know, her young man."
"Her intended?"—she had a light of relief for this.
"The very one she's going out to. He can't, by the way," it occurred to me,
"be very young now."
"How odd it sounds—her muddling after him!" said Mrs. Nettlepoint.
I was going to reply that it wasn't odd if you knew Mr. Porterfield, but _eflected that that perhaps only made it odder. I told my companion briefl_ho he was—that I had met him in the old Paris days, when I believed for _leeting hour that I could learn to paint, when I lived with the jeunesse de_coles; and her comment on this was simply: "Well, he had better have come ou_or her!"
"Perhaps so. She looked to me as she sat there as if, she might change he_ind at the last moment."
"About her marriage?
"About sailing. But she won't change now."
Jasper came back, and his mother instantly challenged him. "Well, ARE yo_oing?"
"Yes, I shall go"—he was finally at peace about it. "I've got my telegram."
"Oh your telegram!"—I ventured a little to jeer.
"That charming girl's your telegram."
He gave me a look, but in the dusk I couldn't make out very well what i_onveyed. Then he bent over his mother, kissing her. "My news isn'_articularly satisfactory. I'm going for YOU."
"Oh you humbug!" she replied. But she was of course delighted.