"She has demanded a new lamp; I told you she would!" This communication wa_ade me by Madame Beaurepas a couple of days later. "And she has asked for _ew tapis de lit, and she has requested me to provide Celestine with a pair o_ight shoes. I told her that, as a general thing, cooks are not shod wit_atin. That poor Celestine!"
"Mrs. Church may be exacting," I said, "but she is a clever little woman."
"A lady who pays but five francs and a half shouldn't be too clever. C'es_eplace. I don't like the type."
"What type do you call Mrs. Church's?"
"Mon Dieu," said Madame Beaurepas, "c'est une de ces mamans comme vous e_vez, qui promenent leur fille."
"She is trying to marry her daughter? I don't think she's of that sort."
But Madame Beaurepas shrewdly held to her idea. "She is trying it in her ow_ay; she does it very quietly. She doesn't want an American; she wants _oreigner. And she wants a mari serieux. But she is travelling over Europe i_earch of one. She would like a magistrate."
"A gros bonnet of some kind; a professor or a deputy."
"I am very sorry for the poor girl," I said, laughing.
"You needn't pity her too much; she's a sly thing."
"Ah, for that, no!" I exclaimed. "She's a charming girl."
Madame Beaurepas gave an elderly grin. "She has hooked you, eh? But the mothe_on't have you."
I developed my idea, without heeding this insinuation. "She's a charming girl, but she is a little odd. It's a necessity of her position. She is les_ubmissive to her mother than she has to pretend to be. That's in self- defence; it's to make her life possible."
"She wishes to get away from her mother," continued Madame Beaurepas. "Sh_ishes to courir les champs."
"She wishes to go to America, her native country."
"Precisely. And she will certainly go."
"I hope so!" I rejoined.
"Some fine morning—or evening—she will go off with a young man; probably wit_ young American."
"Allons donc!" said I, with disgust.
"That will be quite America enough," pursued my cynical hostess. "I have kep_ boarding-house for forty years. I have seen that type."
"Have such things as that happened chez vous?" I asked.
"Everything has happened chez moi. But nothing has happened more than once.
Therefore this won't happen here. It will be at the next place they go to, o_he next. Besides, here there is no young American pour la partie—none excep_ou, Monsieur. You are susceptible, but you are too reasonable."
"It's lucky for you I am reasonable," I answered. "It's thanks to that fac_hat you escape a scolding!"
One morning, about this time, instead of coming back to breakfast at th_ension, after my lectures at the Academy, I went to partake of this meal wit_ fellow-student, at an ancient eating-house in the collegiate quarter. O_eparating from my friend, I took my way along that charming public walk know_n Geneva as the Treille, a shady terrace, of immense elevation, overhanging _ortion of the lower town. There are spreading trees and well-worn benches, and over the tiles and chimneys of the ville basse there is a view of th_now-crested Alps. On the other side, as you turn your back to the view, th_romenade is overlooked by a row of tall, sober-faced hotels, the dwellings o_he local aristocracy. I was very fond of the place, and often resorted to i_o stimulate my sense of the picturesque. Presently, as I lingered there o_his occasion, I became aware that a gentleman was seated not far from where _tood, with his back to the Alpine chain, which this morning was brilliant an_istinct, and a newspaper, unfolded, in his lap. He was not reading, however; he was staring before him in gloomy contemplation. I don't know whether _ecognised first the newspaper or its proprietor; one, in either case, woul_ave helped me to identify the other. One was the New York Herald; the other, of course, was Mr. Ruck. As I drew nearer, he transferred his eyes from th_tony, high-featured masks of the gray old houses on the other side of th_errace, and I knew by the expression of his face just how he had been feelin_bout these distinguished abodes. He had made up his mind that thei_roprietors were a dusky, narrow-minded, unsociable company; plunging thei_oots into a superfluous past. I endeavoured, therefore, as I sat down besid_im, to suggest something more impersonal.
"That's a beautiful view of the Alps," I observed.
"Yes," said Mr. Ruck, without moving, "I've examined it. Fine thing, in it_ay—fine thing. Beauties of nature—that sort of thing. We came up on purpos_o look at it."
"Your ladies, then, have been with you?"
"Yes; they are just walking round. They're awfully restless. They keep sayin_'m restless, but I'm as quiet as a sleeping child to them. It takes," h_dded in a moment, drily, "the form of shopping."
"Are they shopping now?"
"Well, if they ain't, they're trying to. They told me to sit here a while, an_hey'd just walk round. I generally know what that means. But that's th_rincipal interest for ladies," he added, retracting his irony. "We though_e'd come up here and see the cathedral; Mrs. Church seemed to think it a dea_oss that we shouldn't see the cathedral, especially as we hadn't seen man_et. And I had to come up to the banker's any way. Well, we certainly saw th_athedral. I don't know as we are any the better for it, and I don't know as _hould know it again. But we saw it, any way. I don't know as I should want t_o there regularly; but I suppose it will give us, in conversation, a kind o_old on Mrs. Church, eh? I guess we want something of that kind. Well," Mr.
Ruck continued, "I stepped in at the banker's to see if there wasn'_omething, and they handed me out a Herald."
"I hope the Herald is full of good news," I said.
"Can't say it is. D-d bad news."
"Political," I inquired, "or commercial?"
"Oh, hang politics! It's business, sir. There ain't any business. It's al_one to,"—and Mr. Ruck became profane. "Nine failures in one day. What do yo_ay-to that?"
"I hope they haven't injured you," I said.
"Well, they haven't helped me much. So many houses on fire, that's all. I_hey happen to take place in your own street, they don't increase the value o_our property. When mine catches, I suppose they'll write and tell me—one o_hese days, when they've got nothing else to do. I didn't get a blessed lette_his morning; I suppose they think I'm having such a good time over here it'_ pity to disturb me. If I could attend to business for about half an hour, I'd find out something. But I can't, and it's no use talking. The state of m_ealth was never so unsatisfactory as it was about five o'clock this morning."
"I am very sorry to hear that," I said, "and I recommend you strongly not t_hink of business."
"I don't," Mr. Ruck replied. "I'm thinking of cathedrals; I'm thinking of th_eauties of nature. Come," he went on, turning round on the bench and leanin_is elbow on the parapet, "I'll think of those mountains over there; they AR_retty, certainly. Can't you get over there?"
"Over to those hills. Don't they run a train right up?"
"You can go to Chamouni," I said. "You can go to Grindelwald and Zermatt an_ifty other places. You can't go by rail, but you can drive."
"All right, we'll drive—and not in a one-horse concern, either. Yes, Chamoun_s one of the places we put down. I hope there are a few nice shops i_hamouni." Mr. Ruck spoke with a certain quickened emphasis, and in a ton_ore explicitly humorous than he commonly employed. I thought he was excited, and yet he had not the appearance of excitement. He looked like a man who ha_imply taken, in the face of disaster, a sudden, somewhat imaginative, resolution not to "worry." He presently twisted himself about on his benc_gain and began to watch for his companions. "Well, they ARE walking round,"
he resumed; "I guess they've hit on something, somewhere. And they've got _arriage waiting outside of that archway too. They seem to do a big busines_n archways here, don't they. They like to have a carriage to carry home th_hings—those ladies of mine. Then they're sure they've got them." The ladies, after this, to do them justice, were not very long in appearing. They cam_oward us, from under the archway to which Mr. Ruck had somewhat invidiousl_lluded, slowly and with a rather exhausted step and expression. My companio_ooked at them a moment, as they advanced. "They're tired," he said softly.
"When they're tired, like that, it's very expensive."
"Well," said Mrs. Ruck, "I'm glad you've had some company." Her husband looke_t her, in silence, through narrowed eyelids, and I suspected that thi_racious observation on the lady's part was prompted by a restless conscience.
Miss Sophy glanced at me with her little straightforward air of defiance. "I_ould have been more proper if WE had had the company. Why didn't you com_fter us, instead of sitting there?" she asked of Mr. Ruck's companion.
"I was told by your father," I explained, "that you were engaged in sacre_ites." Miss Ruck was not gracious, though I doubt whether it was because he_onscience was better than her mother's.
"Well, for a gentleman there is nothing so sacred as ladies' society," replie_iss Ruck, in the manner of a person accustomed to giving neat retorts.
"I suppose you refer to the Cathedral," said her mother. "Well, I must say, w_idn't go back there. I don't know what it may be of a Sunday, but it gave m_ chill."
"We discovered the loveliest little lace-shop," observed the young girl, wit_ serenity that was superior to bravado.
Her father looked at her a while; then turned about again, leaning on th_arapet, and gazed away at the "hills."
"Well, it was certainly cheap," said Mrs. Ruck, also contemplating the Alps.
"We are going to Chamouni," said her husband. "You haven't any occasion fo_ace at Chamouni."
"Well, I'm glad to hear you have decided to go somewhere," rejoined his wife.
"I don't want to be a fixture at a boarding-house."
"You can wear lace anywhere," said Miss Ruck, "if you pat it on right. That'_he great thing, with lace. I don't think they know how to wear lace i_urope. I know how I mean to wear mine; but I mean to keep it till I ge_ome."
Her father transferred his melancholy gaze to her elaborately- appointe_ittle person; there was a great deal of very new-looking detail in Mis_uck's appearance. Then, in a tone of voice quite out of consonance with hi_acial despondency, "Have you purchased a great deal?" he inquired.
"I have purchased enough for you to make a fuss about."
"He can't make a fuss about that," said Mrs. Ruck.
"Well, you'll see!" declared the young girl with a little sharp laugh.
But her father went on, in the same tone: "Have you got it in your pocket? Wh_on't you put it on—why don't you hang it round you?"
"I'll hang it round YOU, if you don't look out!" cried Miss Sophy.
"Don't you want to show it to this gentleman?" Mr. Ruck continued.
"Mercy, how you do talk about that lace!" said his wife.
"Well, I want to be lively. There's every reason for it; we're going t_hamouni."
"You're restless; that's what's the matter with you." And Mrs. Ruck got up.
"No, I ain't," said her husband. "I never felt so quiet; I feel as peaceful a_ little child."
Mrs. Ruck, who had no sense whatever of humour, looked at her daughter and a_e. "Well, I hope you'll improve," she said.
"Send in the bills," Mr. Ruck went on, rising to his feet. "Don't hesitate, Sophy. I don't care what you do now. In for a penny, in for a pound."
Miss Ruck joined her mother, with a little toss of her head, and we followe_he ladies to the carriage. "In your place," said Miss Sophy to her father, "_ouldn't talk so much about pennies and pounds before strangers."
Poor Mr. Ruck appeared to feel the force of this observation, which, in th_onsciousness of a man who had never been "mean," could hardly fail to strik_ responsive chord. He coloured a little, and he was silent; his companion_ot into their vehicle, the front seat of which was adorned with a larg_arcel. Mr. Ruck gave the parcel a little poke with his umbrella, and then, turning to me with a rather grimly penitential smile, "After all," he said,