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Chapter 3

  • At breakfast I encountered his ladies—his wife and daughter. They were placed, however, at a distance from me, and it was not until the pensionnaires ha_ispersed, and some of them, according to custom, had come out into th_arden, that he had an opportunity of making me acquainted with them.
  • "Will you allow me to introduce you to my daughter?" he said, moved apparentl_y a paternal inclination to provide this young lady with social diversion.
  • She was standing with her mother, in one of the paths, looking about with n_reat complacency, as I imagined, at the homely characteristics of the place, and old M. Pigeonneau was hovering near, hesitating apparently between th_esire to be urbane and the absence of a pretext. "Mrs. Ruck—Miss Sophy Ruck,"
  • said my friend, leading me up.
  • Mrs. Ruck was a large, plump, light-coloured person, with a smooth fair face, a somnolent eye, and an elaborate coiffure. Miss Sophy was a girl of one-and- twenty, very small and very pretty—what I suppose would have been called _ively brunette. Both of these ladies were attired in black silk dresses, ver_uch trimmed; they had an air of the highest elegance.
  • "Do you think highly of this pension?" inquired Mrs. Ruck, after a fe_reliminaries.
  • "It's a little rough, but it seems to me comfortable," I answered.
  • "Does it take a high rank in Geneva?" Mrs. Ruck pursued.
  • "I imagine it enjoys a very fair fame," I said, smiling.
  • "I should never dream of comparing it to a New York boarding-house," said Mrs.
  • Ruck.
  • "It's quite a different style," her daughter observed.
  • Miss Ruck had folded her arms; she was holding her elbows with a pair of whit_ittle hands, and she was tapping the ground with a pretty little foot.
  • "We hardly expected to come to a pension," said Mrs. Ruck. "But we thought w_ould try; we had heard so much about Swiss pensions. I was saying to Mr. Ruc_hat I wondered whether this was a favourable specimen. I was afraid we migh_ave made a mistake."
  • "We knew some people who had been here; they thought everything of Madam_eaurepas," said Miss Sophy. "They said she was a real friend."
  • "Mr. and Mrs. Parker—perhaps you have heard her speak of them," Mrs. Ruc_ursued.
  • "Madame Beaurepas has had a great many Americans; she is very fond o_mericans," I replied.
  • "Well, I must say I should think she would be, if she compares them with som_thers."
  • "Mother is always comparing," observed Miss Ruck.
  • "Of course I am always comparing," rejoined the elder lady. "I never had _hance till now; I never knew my privileges. Give me an American!" And Mrs.
  • Ruck indulged in a little laugh.
  • "Well, I must say there are some things I like over here," said Miss Sophy, with courage. And indeed I could see that she was a young woman of grea_ecision.
  • "You like the shops—that's what you like," her father affirmed.
  • The young lady addressed herself to me, without heeding this remark. "_uppose you feel quite at home here."
  • "Oh, he likes it; he has got used to the life!" exclaimed Mr. Ruck.
  • "I wish you'd teach Mr. Ruck," said his wife. "It seems as if he couldn't ge_sed to anything."
  • "I'm used to you, my dear," the husband retorted, giving me a humorous look.
  • "He's intensely restless," continued Mrs. Ruck.
  • "That's what made me want to come to a pension. I thought he would settle dow_ore."
  • "I don't think I AM used to you, after all," said her husband.
  • In view of a possible exchange of conjugal repartee I took refuge i_onversation with Miss Ruck, who seemed perfectly able to play her part in an_olloquy. I learned from this young lady that, with her parents, afte_isiting the British Islands, she had been spending a month in Paris, and tha_he thought she should have died when she left that city. "I hung out of th_arriage, when we left the hotel," said Miss Ruck, "I assure you I did. An_other did, too."
  • "Out of the other window, I hope," said I.
  • "Yes, one out of each window," she replied promptly. "Father had hard work, _an tell you. We hadn't half finished; there were ever so many places w_anted to go to."
  • "Your father insisted on coming away?"
  • "Yes; after we had been there about a month he said he had enough. He'_earfully restless; he's very much out of health. Mother and I said to hi_hat if he was restless in Paris he needn't hope for peace anywhere. We don'_ean to leave him alone till he takes us back." There was an air of kee_esolution in Miss Ruck's pretty face, of lucid apprehension of desirabl_nds, which made me, as she pronounced these words, direct a glance of cover_ompassion toward her poor recalcitrant father. He had walked away a littl_ith his wife, and I saw only his back and his stooping, patient-lookin_houlders, whose air of acute resignation was thrown into relief by th_oluminous tranquillity of Mrs. Ruck. "He will have to take us back i_eptember, any way," the young girl pursued; "he will have to take us back t_et some things we have ordered."
  • "Have you ordered a great many things?" I asked jocosely.
  • "Well, I guess we have ordered SOME. Of course we wanted to take advantage o_eing in Paris—ladies always do. We have left the principal things till we g_ack. Of course that is the principal interest, for ladies. Mother said sh_hould feel so shabby if she just passed through. We have promised all th_eople to be back in September, and I never broke a promise yet. So Mr. Ruc_as got to make his plans accordingly."
  • "And what are his plans?"
  • "I don't know; he doesn't seem able to make any. His great idea was to get t_eneva; but now that he has got here he doesn't seem to care. It's the effec_f ill health. He used to be so bright; but now he is quite subdued. It'_bout time he should improve, any way. We went out last night to look at th_ewellers' windows—in that street behind the hotel. I had always heard o_hose jewellers' windows. We saw some lovely things, but it didn't seem t_ouse father. He'll get tired of Geneva sooner than he did of Paris."
  • "Ah," said I, "there are finer things here than the jewellers' windows. We ar_ery near some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe."
  • "I suppose you mean the mountains. Well, we have seen plenty of mountains a_ome. We used to go to the mountains every summer. We are familiar enough wit_he mountains. Aren't we, mother?" the young lady demanded, appealing to Mrs.
  • Ruck, who, with her husband, had drawn near again.
  • "Aren't we what?" inquired the elder lady.
  • "Aren't we familiar with the mountains?"
  • "Well, I hope so," said Mrs. Ruck.
  • Mr. Ruck, with his hands in his pockets, gave me a sociable wink.— "There'_othing much you can tell them!" he said.
  • The two ladies stood face to face a few moments, surveying each other'_arments. "Don't you want to go out?" the young girl at last inquired of he_other.
  • "Well, I think we had better; we have got to go up to that place."
  • "To what place?" asked Mr. Ruck.
  • "To that jeweller's—to that big one."
  • "They all seemed big enough; they were too big!" And Mr. Ruck gave me anothe_ink.
  • "That one where we saw the blue cross," said his daughter.
  • "Oh, come, what do you want of that blue cross?" poor Mr. Ruck demanded.
  • "She wants to hang it on a black velvet ribbon and tie it round her neck,"
  • said his wife.
  • "A black velvet ribbon? No, I thank you!" cried the young lady. "Do yo_uppose I would wear that cross on a black velvet ribbon? On a nice littl_old chain, if you please—a little narrow gold chain, like an old-fashione_atch-chain. That's the proper thing for that blue cross. I know the sort o_hain I mean; I'm going to look for one. When I want a thing," said Miss Ruck, with decision, "I can generally find it."
  • "Look here, Sophy," her father urged, "you don't want that blue cross."
  • "I do want it—I happen to want it." And Sophy glanced at me with a littl_augh.
  • Her laugh, which in itself was pretty, suggested that there were variou_elations in which one might stand to Miss Ruck; but I think I was consciou_f a certain satisfaction in not occupying the paternal one. "Don't worry th_oor child," said her mother.
  • "Come on, mother," said Miss Ruck.
  • "We are going to look about a little," explained the elder lady to me, by wa_f taking leave.
  • "I know what that means," remarked Mr. Ruck, as his companions moved away. H_tood looking at them a moment, while he raised his hand to his head, behind, and stood rubbing it a little, with a movement that displaced his hat. (I ma_emark in parenthesis that I never saw a hat more easily displaced than Mr.
  • Ruck's.) I supposed he was going to say something querulous, but I wa_istaken. Mr. Ruck was unhappy, but he was very good-natured. "Well, they wan_o pick up something," he said. "That's the principal interest, for ladies."