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.
"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."