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The Patagonia

The Patagonia

Henry James

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1

  • 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.