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´╗┐Title: Penelope's English Experiences
Author: Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith, 1856-1923
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Penelope's English Experiences" ***

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PENELOPE'S ENGLISH EXPERIENCES

Being extracts from the commonplace book of Penelope Hamilton

by Kate Douglas Wiggin.



          To my Boston friend Salemina.

          No Anglomaniac, but a true Briton.



Contents.

     Part First--In Town.

     I.     The weekly bill.
     II.    The powdered footman smiles.
     III.   Eggs a la coque.
     IV.    The English sense of humour.
     V.     A Hyde Park Sunday.
     VI.    The English Park Lover.
     VII.   A ducal tea-party.
     VIII.  Tuppenny travels in London.
     IX.    A Table of Kindred and Affinity.
     X.     Apropos of advertisements.
     XI.    The ball on the opposite side.
     XII.   Patricia makes her debut.
     XIII.  A Penelope secret.
     XIV.   Love and lavender.

     Part Second--In the Country.

     XV.    Penelope dreams.
     XVI.   The decay of Romance.
     XVII.  Short stops and long bills.
     XVIII. I meet Mrs. Bobby.
     XIX.   The heart of the artist.
     XX.    A canticle to Jane.
     XXI.   I remember, I remember.
     XXII.  Comfort Cottage.
     XXIII. Tea served here.
     XXIV.  An unlicensed victualler.
     XXV.   Et ego in Arcadia vixit.



Part First--In Town.



Chapter I. The weekly bill.


Smith's Hotel,

10 Dovermarle Street.

Here we are in London again,--Francesca, Salemina, and I. Salemina is
a philanthropist of the Boston philanthropists limited. I am an artist.
Francesca is-- It is very difficult to label Francesca. She is, at her
present stage of development, just a nice girl; that is about all: the
sense of humanity hasn't dawned upon her yet; she is even unaware that
personal responsibility for the universe has come into vogue, and so she
is happy.

Francesca is short of twenty years old, Salemina short of forty, I short
of thirty. Francesca is in love, Salemina never has been in love, I
never shall be in love. Francesca is rich, Salemina is well-to-do, I am
poor. There we are in a nutshell.

We are not only in London again, but we are again in Smith's private
hotel; one of those deliciously comfortable and ensnaring hostelries in
Mayfair which one enters as a solvent human being, and which one leaves
as a bankrupt, no matter what may be the number of ciphers on one's
letter of credit; since the greater one's apparent supply of wealth,
the greater the demand made upon it. I never stop long in London
without determining to give up my art for a private hotel. There must be
millions in it, but I fear I lack some of the essential qualifications
for success. I never could have the heart, for example, to charge a
struggling young genius eight shillings a week for two candles, and
then eight shillings the next week for the same two candles, which the
struggling young genius, by dint of vigorous economy, had managed to
preserve to a decent height. No, I could never do it, not even if I were
certain that she would squander the sixteen shillings in Bond Street
fripperies instead of laying them up against the rainy day.

It is Salemina who always unsnarls the weekly bill. Francesca spends an
evening or two with it, first of all, because, since she is so young,
we think it good mental-training for her, and not that she ever
accomplishes any results worth mentioning. She begins by making three
columns headed respectively F., S., and P. These initials stand for
Francesca, Salemina, and Penelope, but they resemble the signs for
pounds, shillings, and pence so perilously that they introduce an added
distraction.

She then places in each column the items in which we are all equal, such
as rooms, attendance, fires, and lights. Then come the extras, which are
different for each person: more ale for one, more hot baths for another;
more carriages for one, more lemon squashes for another. Francesca's
column is principally filled with carriages and lemon squashes. You
would fancy her whole time was spent in driving and drinking, if you
judged her merely by this weekly statement at the hotel.

When she has reached the point of dividing the whole bill into three
parts, so that each person may know what is her share, she adds the
three together, expecting, not unnaturally, to get the total amount of
the bill. Not at all. She never comes within thirty shillings of the
desired amount, and she is often three or four guineas to the good or to
the bad. One of her difficulties lies in her inability to remember
that in English money it makes a difference where you place a figure,
whether, in the pound, shilling, or pence column. Having been educated
on the theory that a six is a six the world over, she charged me with
sixty shillings' worth of Apollinaris in one week. I pounced on the
error, and found that she had jotted down each pint in the shilling
instead of in the pence column.

After Francesca had broken ground on the bill in this way, Salemina, on
the next leisure evening, draws a large armchair under the lamp and puts
on her eye-glasses. We perch on either arm, and, after identifying our
own extras, we summon the butler to identify his. There are a good
many that belong to him or to the landlady; of that fact we are always
convinced before he proves to the contrary. We can never see (until he
makes us see) why the breakfasts on the 8th should be four shillings
each because we had strawberries, if on the 8th we find strawberries
charged in the luncheon column and also in the column of desserts and
ices. And then there are the peripatetic lemon squashes. Dawson calls
them 'still' lemon squashes because they are made with water, not with
soda or seltzer or vichy, but they are particularly badly named. 'Still'
forsooth! when one of them will leap from place to place, appearing
now in the column of mineral waters and now in the spirits, now in the
suppers, and again in the sundries. We might as well drink Chablis or
Pommery by the time one of these still squashes has ceased wandering,
and charging itself at each station. The force of Dawson's intellect is
such that he makes all this moral turbidity as clear as crystal while
he remains in evidence. His bodily presence has a kind of illuminating
power, and all the errors that we fancy we have found he traces to their
original source, which is always in our suspicious and inexperienced
minds. As he leaves the room he points out some proof of unexampled
magnanimity on the part of the hotel; as, for instance, the fact that
the management has not charged a penny for sending up Miss Monroe's
breakfast trays. Francesca impulsively presses two shillings into his
honest hand and remembers afterwards that only one breakfast was served
in our bedrooms during that particular week, and that it was mine, not
hers.

The Paid Out column is another source of great anxiety. Francesca is a
person who is always buying things unexpectedly and sending them home
C.O.D.; always taking a cab and having it paid at the house; always
sending telegrams and messages by hansom, and notes by the Boots.

I should think, were England on the brink of a war, that the Prime
Minister might expect in his office something of the same hubbub,
uproar, and excitement that Francesca manages to evolve in this private
hotel. Naturally she cannot remember her expenditures, or extravagances,
or complications of movement for a period of seven days; and when she
attacks the Paid Out column she exclaims in a frenzy, 'Just look at
this! On the 11th they say they paid out three shillings in telegrams,
and I was at Maidenhead!' Then because we love her and cannot bear to
see her charming forehead wrinkled, we approach from our respective
corners, and the conversation is something like this:--

Salemina. "You were not at Maidenhead on the 11th, Francesca; it was the
12th."

Francesca. "Oh! so it was; but I sent no telegrams on the 11th."

Penelope. "Wasn't that the day you wired Mr. Drayton that you couldn't
go to the Zoo?"

Francesca. "Oh yes, so I did: and to Mr. Godolphin that I could. I
remember now; but that's only two."

Salemina. "How about the hairdresser whom you stopped coming from
Kensington?"

Francesca. "Yes, she's the third, that's all right then; but what in the
world is this twelve shillings?"

Penelope. "The foolish amber beads you were persuaded into buying in the
Burlington Arcade?"

Francesca. "No, those were seven shillings, and they are splitting
already."

Salemina. "Those soaps and sachets you bought on the way home the day
that you left your purse in the cab?"

Francesca. "No; they were only five shillings. Oh, perhaps they lumped
the two things; if seven and five are twelve, then that is just what
they did. (Here she takes a pencil.) Yes, they are twelve, so that's
right; what a comfort! Now here's two and six on the 13th. That was
yesterday, and I can always remember yesterdays; they are my strong
point. I didn't spend a penny yesterday; oh yes! I did pay half a crown
for a potted plant, but it was not two and six, and it was a half-crown
because it was the first time I had seen one and I took particular
notice. I'll speak to Dawson about it, but it will make no difference.
Nobody but an expert English accountant could find a flaw in one of
these bills and prove his case."

By this time we have agreed that the weekly bill as a whole is
substantially correct, and all that Salemina has to do is to estimate
our several shares in it; so Francesca and I say good night and leave
her toiling like Cicero in his retirement at Tusculum. By midnight she
has generally brought the account to a point where a half-hour's fresh
attention in the early morning will finish it. Not that she makes it
come out right to a penny. She has been treasurer of the Boston Band of
Benevolence, of the Saturday Morning Sloyd Circle, of the Club for the
Reception of Russian Refugees, and of the Society for the Brooding of
Buddhism; but none of these organisations carries on its existence by
means of pounds, shillings, and pence, or Salemina's resignation
would have been requested long ago. However, we are not disposed to be
captious; we are too glad to get rid of the bill. If our united thirds
make four or five shillings in excess, we divide them equally; if it
comes the other way about, we make it up in the same manner; always
meeting the sneers of masculine critics with Dr. Holmes's remark that a
faculty for numbers is a sort of detached-lever arrangement that can be
put into a mighty poor watch.



Chapter II. The powdered footman smiles.



Salemina is so English! I can't think how she manages. She had not been
an hour on British soil before she asked a servant to fetch in some
coals and mend the fire; she followed this Anglicism by a request for
a grilled chop, 'a grilled, chump chop, waiter, please,' and so on from
triumph to triumph. She now discourses of methylated spirits as if she
had never in her life heard of alcohol, and all the English equivalents
for Americanisms are ready for use on the tip of her tongue. She says
'conserv't'ry' and 'observ't'ry'; she calls the chambermaid 'Mairy,'
which is infinitely softer, to be sure, than the American 'Mary,'
with its over-long a; she ejaculates 'Quite so!' in all the pauses of
conversation, and talks of smoke-rooms, and camisoles, and luggage-vans,
and slip-bodies, and trams, and mangling, and goffering. She also eats
jam for breakfast as if she had been reared on it, when every one knows
that the average American has to contract the jam habit by patient and
continuous practice.

This instantaneous assimilation of English customs does not seem to be
affectation on Salemina's part; nor will I wrong her by fancying that
she went through a course of training before she left Boston. From the
moment she landed you could see that her foot was on her native heath.
She inhaled the fog with a sense of intoxication that the east winds of
New England had never given her, and a great throb of patriotism swelled
in her breast when she first met the Princess of Wales in Hyde Park.

As for me, I get on charmingly with the English nobility and
sufficiently well with the gentry, but the upper servants strike terror
to my soul. There is something awe-inspiring to me about an English
butler. If they would only put him in livery, or make him wear a silver
badge; anything, in short, to temper his pride and prevent one from
mistaking him for the master of the house or the bishop within his
gates. When I call upon Lady DeWolfe, I say to myself impressively, as
I go up the steps: 'You are as good as a butler, as well born and well
bred as a butler, even more intelligent than a butler. Now, simply
because he has an unapproachable haughtiness of demeanour, which you can
respectfully admire, but can never hope to imitate, do not cower beneath
the polar light of his eye; assert yourself; be a woman; be an American
citizen!' All in vain. The moment the door opens I ask for Lady DeWolfe
in so timid a tone that I know Parker thinks me the parlour-maid's
sister who has rung the visitors' bell by mistake. If my lady is within,
I follow Parker to the drawing-room, my knees shaking under me at
the prospect of committing some solecism in his sight. Lady DeWolfe's
husband has been noble only four months, and Parker of course knows it,
and perhaps affects even greater hauteur to divert the attention of the
vulgar commoner from the newness of the title.

Dawson, our butler at Smith's private hotel, wields the same blighting
influence on our spirits, accustomed to the soft solicitations of the
negro waiter or the comfortable indifference of the free-born American.
We never indulge in ordinary democratic or frivolous conversation when
Dawson is serving us at dinner. We 'talk up' to him so far as we are
able, and before we utter any remark we inquire mentally whether he is
likely to think it good form. Accordingly, I maintain throughout
dinner a lofty height of aristocratic elegance that impresses even the
impassive Dawson, towards whom it is solely directed. To the amazement
and amusement of Salemina (who always takes my cheerful inanities
at their face value), I give an hypothetical account of my afternoon
engagements, interlarding it so thickly with countesses and
marchionesses and lords and honourables that though Dawson has passed
soup to duchesses, and scarcely ever handed a plate to anything less
than a baroness, he dilutes the customary scorn of his glance, and
makes it two parts condescending approval as it rests on me, Penelope
Hamilton, of the great American working class (unlimited).

Apropos of the servants, it seems to me that the British footman has
relaxed a trifle since we were last here; or is it possible that he
reaches the height of his immobility at the height of the London season,
and as it declines does he decline and become flesh? At all events, I
have twice seen a footman change his weight from one leg to the other,
as he stood at a shop entrance with his lady's mantle over his arm;
twice have I seen one stroke his chin, and several times have I observed
others, during the month of July, conduct themselves in many respects
like animate objects with vital organs. Lest this incendiary statement
be challenged, levelled as it is at an institution whose stability and
order are but feebly represented by the eternal march of the stars in
their courses, I hasten to explain that in none of these cases cited was
it a powdered footman who (to use a Delsartean expression) withdrew will
from his body and devitalised it before the public eye. I have observed
that the powdered personage has much greater control over his muscles
than the ordinary footman with human hair, and is infinitely his
superior in rigidity. Dawson tells me confidentially that if a footman
smiles there is little chance of his rising in the world. He says a
sense of humour is absolutely fatal in that calling, and that he has
discharged many a good footman because of an intelligent and expressive
face.

I tremble to think of what the powdered footman may become when he
unbends in the bosom of the family. When, in the privacy of his own
apartments, the powder is washed off, the canary-seed pads removed from
his aristocratic calves, and his scarlet and buff magnificence exchanged
for a simple neglige, I should think he might be guilty of almost any
indiscretion or violence. I for one would never consent to be the wife
and children of a powdered footman, and receive him in his moments of
reaction.



Chapter III. Eggs a la coque.



Is it to my credit, or to my eternal dishonour that I once made a
powdered footman smile, and that, too, when he was handing a buttered
muffin to an earl's daughter?

It was while we were paying a visit at Marjorimallow Hall, Sir Owen
and Lady Marjorimallow's place in Surrey. This was to be our first
appearance in an English country house, and we made elaborate
preparations. Only our freshest toilettes were packed, and these were
arranged in our trunks with the sole view of impressing the lady's-maid
who should unpack them. We each purchased dressing-cases and new
fittings, Francesca's being of sterling silver, Salemina's of triple
plate, and mine of celluloid, as befitted our several fortunes. Salemina
read up on English politics; Francesca practised a new way of dressing
her hair; and I made up a portfolio of sketches. We counted, therefore,
on representing American letters, beauty, and art to that portion of the
great English public staying at Marjorimallow Hall. (I must interject a
parenthesis here to the effect that matters did not move precisely as we
expected; for at table, where most of our time was passed, Francesca had
for a neighbour a scientist, who asked her plump whether the religion
of the American Indian was or was not a pure theism; Salemina's partner
objected to the word 'politics' in the mouth of a woman; while my
attendant squire adored a good bright-coloured chromo. But this is
anticipating.)

Three days before our departure, I remarked at the breakfast-table,
Dawson being absent: "My dear girls, you are aware that we have ordered
fried eggs, scrambled eggs, buttered eggs, and poached eggs ever since
we came to Dovermarle Street, simply because we do not know how to eat
boiled eggs prettily from the shell, English fashion, and cannot break
them into a cup or a glass, American fashion, on account of the effect
upon Dawson. Now there will certainly be boiled eggs at Marjorimallow
Hall, and we cannot refuse them morning after morning; it will be
cowardly (which is unpleasant), and it will be remarked (which is
worse). Eating them minced in an egg-cup, in a baronial hall, with the
remains of a drawbridge in the grounds, is equally impossible; if we do
that, Lady Marjorimallow will be having our luggage examined, to see
if we carry wigwams and war-whoops about with us. No, it is clearly
necessary that we master the gentle art of eating eggs tidily and
daintily from the shell. I have seen English women--very dull ones,
too--do it without apparent effort; I have even seen an English infant
do it, and that without soiling her apron, or, as Salemina would say,
'messing her pinafore.' I propose, therefore, that we order soft-boiled
eggs daily; that we send Dawson from the room directly breakfast is
served; and that then and there we have a class for opening eggs, lowest
grade, object method. Any person who cuts the shell badly, or permits
the egg to leak over the rim, or allows yellow dabs on the plate, or
upsets the cup, or stains her fingers, shall be fined 'tuppence' and
locked into her bedroom for five minutes."

The first morning we were all in the bedroom together, and, there
being no blameless person to collect fines, the wildest civil disorder
prevailed.

On the second day Salemina and I improved slightly, but Francesca had
passed a sleepless night, and her hand trembled (the love-letter mail
had come in from America). We were obliged to tell her, as we collected
'tuppence' twice on the same egg, that she must either remain at home,
or take an oilcloth pinafore to Marjorimallow Hall.

But 'ease is the lovely result of forgotten toil,' and it is only a
question of time and desire with Americans, we are so clever. Other
nations have to be trained from birth; but as we need only an ounce
of training where they need a pound, we can afford to procrastinate.
Sometimes we procrastinate too long, but that is a trifle. On the third
morning success crowned our efforts. Salemina smiled, and I told an
anecdote, during the operation, although my egg was cracked in the
boiling, and I question if the Queen's favourite maid-of-honour could
have managed it prettily. Accordingly, when eggs were brought to the
breakfast-table at Marjorimallow Hall, we were only slightly nervous.
Francesca was at the far end of the long table, and I do not know how
she fared, but from various Anglicisms that Salemina dropped, as she
chatted with the Queen's Counsel on her left, I could see that her nerve
was steady and circulation free. We exchanged glances (there was the
mistake!), and with an embarrassed laugh she struck her egg a hasty
blow.

Her egg-cup slipped and lurched; a top fraction of the egg flew in
the direction of the Q.C., and the remaining portion oozed, in yellow
confusion, rapidly into her plate. Alas for that past mistress of
elegant dignity, Salemina! If I had been at Her Majesty's table, I
should have smiled, even if I had gone to the Tower the next moment;
but as it was, I became hysterical. My neighbour, a portly member of
Parliament, looked amazed, Salemina grew scarlet, the situation was
charged with danger; and, rapidly viewing the various exits, I chose the
humorous one, and told as picturesquely as possible the whole story of
our school of egg-opening in Dovermarle Street, the highly arduous
and encouraging rehearsals conducted there, and the stupendous failure
incident to our first public appearance. Sir Owen led the good-natured
laughter and applause; lords and ladies, Q.C.'s and M.P.'s joined in
with a will; poor Salemina raised her drooping head, opened and ate a
second egg with the repose of a Vere de Vere--and the footman smiled!



Chapter IV. The English sense of humour.



I do not see why we hear that the Englishman is deficient in a sense of
humour. His jokes may not be a matter of daily food to him, as they are
to the American; he may not love whimsicality with the same passion, nor
inhale the aroma of a witticism with as keen a relish; but he likes fun
whenever he sees it, and he sees it as often as most people. It may
be that we find the Englishman more receptive to our bits of feminine
nonsense just now, simply because this is the day of the American
woman in London, and, having been assured that she is an entertaining
personage, young John Bull is willing to take it for granted so long as
she does not try to marry him, and even this pleasure he will allow her
on occasion,--if well paid for it.

The longer I live, the more I feel it an absurdity to label nations with
national traits, and then endeavour to make individuals conform to the
required standard. It is possible, I suppose, to draw certain broad
distinctions, though even these are subject to change; but the habit of
generalising from one particular, that mainstay of the cheap and obvious
essayist, has rooted many fictions in the public mind. Nothing,
for instance, can blot from my memory the profound, searching, and
exhaustive analysis of a great nation which I learned in my small
geography when I was a child, namely, 'The French are a gay and polite
people, fond of dancing and light wines.'

One young Englishman whom I have met lately errs on the side of
over-appreciation. He laughs before, during, and after every remark
I make, unless it be a simple request for food or drink. This is an
acquaintance of Willie Beresford, the Honourable Arthur Ponsonby,
who was the 'whip' on our coach drive to Dorking,--dear, delightful,
adorable Dorking, of hen celebrity.

Salemina insisted on my taking the box seat, in the hope that the
Honourable Arthur would amuse me. She little knew him! He sapped me
of all my ideas, and gave me none in exchange. Anything so unspeakably
heavy I never encountered. It is very difficult for a woman who doesn't
know a nigh horse from an off one, nor the wheelers from the headers (or
is it the fronters?), to find subjects of conversation with a gentleman
who spends three-fourths of his existence on a coach. It was the more
difficult for me because I could not decide whether Willie Beresford was
cross because I was devoting myself to the whip, or because Francesca
had remained at home with a headache. This state of affairs continued
for about fifteen miles, when it suddenly dawned upon the Honourable
Arthur that, however mistaken my speech and manner, I was trying to be
agreeable. This conception acted on the honest and amiable soul like
magic. I gradually became comprehensible, and finally he gave himself up
to the theory that, though eccentric, I was harmless and amusing, so we
got on famously,--so famously that Willie Beresford grew ridiculously
gloomy, and I decided that it could not be Francesca's headache.

The names of these English streets are a never-failing source of delight
to me. In that one morning we drove past Pie, Pudding, and Petticoat
Lanes, and later on we found ourselves in a 'Prudent Passage,' which
opened, very inappropriately, into 'Huggin Lane.' Willie Beresford said
it was the first time he had ever heard of anything so disagreeable as
prudence terminating in anything so agreeable as huggin'. When he had
been severely reprimanded by his mother for this shocking speech, I said
to the Honourable Arthur:--

"I don't understand your business signs in England,--this 'Company,
Limited,' and that 'Company, Limited.' That one, of course, is quite
plain" (pointing to the front of a building on the village street),
"'Goat's Milk Company, Limited'; I suppose they have but one or two
goats, and necessarily the milk must be Limited."

Salemina says that this was not in the least funny, that it was
absolutely flat; but it had quite the opposite effect upon the
Honourable Arthur. He had no command over himself or his horses for some
minutes; and at intervals during the afternoon the full felicity of
the idea would steal upon him, and the smile of reminiscence would flit
across his ruddy face.

The next day, at the Eton and Harrow games at Lord's cricket-ground, he
presented three flowers of British aristocracy to our party, and asked
me each time to tell the goat-story, which he had previously told
himself, and probably murdered in the telling. Not content with
this arrant flattery, he begged to be allowed to recount some of my
international episodes to a literary friend who writes for Punch. I
demurred decidedly, but Salemina said that perhaps I ought to be
willing to lower myself a trifle for the sake of elevating Punch! This
home-thrust so delighted the Honourable Arthur that it remained his
favourite joke for days, and the overworked goat was permitted to enjoy
that oblivion from which Salemina insists it should never have emerged.



Chapter V. A Hyde Park Sunday.



The Honourable Arthur, Salemina, and I took a stroll in Hyde Park one
Sunday afternoon, not for the purpose of joining the fashionable throng
of 'pretty people' at Stanhope Gate, but to mingle with the common herd
in its special precincts,--precincts not set apart, indeed, by any
legal formula, but by a natural law of classification which seems to be
inherent in the universe. It was a curious and motley crowd--a little
dull, perhaps, but orderly, well-behaved, and self-respecting, with
here and there part of the flotsam and jetsam of a great city, a ragged,
sodden, hopeless wretch wending his way about with the rest, thankful
for any diversion.

Under the trees, each in the centre of his group, large or small
according to his magnetism and eloquence, stood the park 'shouter,'
airing his special grievance, playing his special part, preaching his
special creed, pleading his special cause,--anything, probably, for
the sake of shouting. We were plainly dressed, and did not attract
observation as we joined the outside circle of one of these groups after
another. It was as interesting to watch the listeners as the speakers.
I wished I might paint the sea of faces, eager, anxious, stolid,
attentive, happy, and unhappy: histories written on many of them; others
blank, unmarked by any thought or aspiration. I stole a sidelong look at
the Honourable Arthur. He is an Englishman first, and a man afterwards
(I prefer it the other way), but he does not realise it; he thinks he is
just like all other good fellows, although he is mistaken. He and Willie
Beresford speak the same language, but they are as different as Malay
and Eskimo. He is an extreme type, but he is very likeable and very
well worth looking at, with his long coat, his silk hat, and the white
Malmaison in his buttonhole. He is always so radiantly, fascinatingly
clean, the Honourable Arthur, simple, frank, direct, sensible, and he
bores me almost to tears.

The first orator was edifying his hearers with an explanation of the
drama of The Corsican Brothers, and his eloquence, unlike that of the
other speakers, was largely inspired by the hope of pennies. It was a
novel idea, and his interpretation was rendered very amusing to us
by the wholly original Yorkshire accent which he gave to the French
personages and places in the play.

An Irishman in black clerical garb held the next group together. He was
in some trouble, owing to a pig-headed and quarrelsome Scotchman in the
front rank, who objected to each statement that fell from his lips, thus
interfering seriously with the effect of his peroration. If the Irishman
had been more convincing, I suppose the crowd would have silenced the
scoffer, for these little matters of discipline are always attended to
by the audience; but the Scotchman's points were too well taken; he
was so trenchant, in fact, at times, that a voice would cry, 'Coom up,
Sandy, an' 'ave it all your own w'y, boy!' The discussion continued
as long as we were within hearing distance, for the Irishman, though
amiable and ignorant, was firm, the 'unconquered Scot' was on his native
heath of argument, and the listeners were willing to give them both a
hearing.

Under the next tree a fluent Cockney lad of sixteen or eighteen years
was declaiming his bitter experiences with the Salvation Army. He had
been sheltered in one of its beds which was not to his taste, and it had
found employment for him which he had to walk twenty-two miles to get,
and which was not to his liking when he did get it. A meeting of
the Salvation Army at a little distance rendered his speech more
interesting, as its points were repeated and denied as fast as made.

Of course there were religious groups and temperance groups, and groups
devoted to the tearing down or raising up of most things except the
Government; for on that day there were no Anarchist or Socialist
shouters, as is ordinarily the case.

As we strolled down one of the broad roads under the shade of the noble
trees, we saw the sun setting in a red-gold haze; a glory of vivid
colour made indescribably tender and opalescent by the kind of luminous
mist that veils it; a wholly English sunset, and an altogether lovely
one. And quite away from the other knots of people, there leaned against
a bit of wire fence a poor old man surrounded by half a dozen children
and one tired woman with a nursing baby. He had a tattered book, which
seemed to be the story of the Gospels, and his little flock sat on the
greensward at his feet as he read. It may be that he, too, had been a
shouter in his lustier manhood, and had held a larger audience together
by the power of his belief; but now he was helpless to attract any but
the children. Whether it was the pathos of his white hairs, his garb of
shreds and patches, or the mild benignity of his eye that moved me, I
know not, but among all the Sunday shouters in Hyde Park it seemed to me
that that quavering voice of the past spoke with the truest note.



Chapter VI. The English Park Lover.



The English Park Lover, loving his love on a green bench in Kensington
Gardens or Regent's Park, or indeed in any spot where there is a green
bench, so long as it is within full view of the passer-by,--this English
public lover, male or female, is a most interesting study, for we have
not his exact counterpart in America. He is thoroughly respectable, I
should think, my urban Colin. He does not have the air of a gay deceiver
roving from flower to flower, stealing honey as he goes; he looks, on
the contrary, as if it were his intention to lead Phoebe to the altar
on the next bank holiday; there is a dead calm in his actions which
bespeaks no other course. If Colin were a Don Juan, surely he would be
a trifle more ardent, for there is no tropical fervour in his
matter-of-fact caresses. He does not embrace Phoebe in the park,
apparently, because he adores her to madness; because her smile is
like fire in his veins, melting down all his defences; because the
intoxication of her nearness is irresistible; because, in fine, he
cannot wait until he finds a more secluded spot: nay, verily, he
embraces her because--tell me, infatuated fruiterers, poulterers,
soldiers, haberdashers (limited), what is your reason? For it does not
appear to the casual eye. Stormy weather does not vex the calm of the
Park Lover, for 'the rains of Marly do not wet' when one is in love.
By a clever manipulation of four arms and four hands they can manage
an umbrella and enfold each other at the same time, though a feminine
macintosh is well known to be ill adapted to the purpose, and a
continuous drizzle would dampen almost any other lover in the universe.

The park embrace, as nearly as I can analyse it, seems to be one part
instinct, one part duty, one part custom, and one part reflex action. I
have purposely omitted pleasure (which, in the analysis of the ordinary
embrace, reduces all the other ingredients to an almost invisible
faction), because I fail to find it; but I am willing to believe that
in some rudimentary form it does exist, because man attends to no
purely unpleasant matter with such praiseworthy assiduity. Anything
more fixedly stolid than the Park Lover when he passes his arm round his
chosen one and takes her crimson hand in his, I have never seen; unless,
indeed, it be the fixed stolidity of the chosen one herself. I had not
at first the assurance even to glance at them as I passed by, blushing
myself to the roots of my hair, though the offenders themselves never
changed colour. Many a time have I walked out of my way or lowered my
parasol, for fear of invading their Sunday Eden; but a spirit of inquiry
awoke in me at last, and I began to make psychological investigations,
with a view to finding out at what point embarrassment would appear in
the Park Lover. I experimented (it was a most arduous and unpleasant
task) with upwards of two hundred couples, and it is interesting to
record that self-consciousness was not apparent in a single instance.
It was not merely that they failed to resent my stopping in the path
directly opposite them, or my glaring most offensively at them, nor that
they even allowed me to sit upon their green bench and witness their
chaste salutes, but it was that they did fail to perceive me at
all! There is a kind of superb finish and completeness about their
indifference to the public gaze which removes it from ordinary
immodesty, and gives it a certain scientific value.



Chapter VII. A ducal tea-party.



Among all my English experiences, none occupies so important a place as
my forced meeting with the Duke of Cimicifugas. (There can be no harm in
my telling the incident, so long as I do not give the right names,
which are very well known to fame.) The Duchess of Cimicifugas, who is
charming, unaffected, and lovable, so report says, has among her chosen
friends an untitled woman whom we will call Mrs. Apis Mellifica. I met
her only daughter, Hilda, in America, and we became quite intimate. It
seems that Mrs. Apis Mellifica, who has an income of 20,000 pounds a
year, often exchanges presents with the duchess, and at this time she
had brought with her from the Continent some rare old tapestries with
which to adorn a new morning-room at Cimicifugas House. These tapestries
were to be hung during the absence of the duchess in Homburg, and were
to greet her as a birthday surprise on her return. Hilda Mellifica,
who is one of the most talented amateur artists in London, and who has
exquisite taste in all matters of decoration, was to go down to the
ducal residence to inspect the work, and she obtained permission from
Lady Veratrum (the confidential companion of the duchess) to bring me
with her. I started on this journey to the country with all possible
delight, little surmising the agonies that lay in store for me in the
mercifully hidden future.

The tapestries were perfect, and Lady Veratrum was most amiable and
affable, though the blue blood of the Belladonnas courses in her veins,
and her great-grandfather was the celebrated Earl of Rhus Tox, who
rendered such notable service to his sovereign. We roamed through the
splendid apartments, inspected the superb picture-gallery, where scores
of dead-and-gone Cimicifugases (most of them very plain) were glorified
by the art of Van Dyck, Sir Joshua, or Gainsborough, and admired the
priceless collections of marbles and cameos and bronzes. It was about
four o'clock when we were conducted to a magnificent apartment for a
brief rest, as we were to return to London at half-past six. As Lady
Veratrum left us, she remarked casually, 'His Grace will join us at
tea.'

The door closed, and at the same moment I fell upon the brocaded satin
state bed and tore off my hat and gloves like one distraught.

"Hilda," I gasped, "you brought me here, and you must rescue me, for I
absolutely decline to drink tea with a duke."

"Nonsense, Penelope, don't be absurd," she replied. "I have never
happened to see him myself, and I am a trifle nervous, but it cannot be
very terrible, I should think."

"Not to you, perhaps, but to me impossible," I said. "I thought he was
in Homburg, or I would never have entered this place. It is not that I
fear nobility. I could meet Her Majesty the Queen at the Court of St.
James without the slightest flutter of embarrassment, because I know
I could trust her not to presume on my defencelessness to enter into
conversation with me. But this duke, whose dukedom very likely dates
back to the hour of the Norman Conquest, is a very different person,
and is to be met under very different circumstances. He may ask me my
politics. Of course I can tell him that I am a Mugwump, but what if he
asks me why I am a Mugwump?"

"He will not," Hilda answered. "Englishmen are not wholly devoid of
feeling!"

"And how shall I address him?" I went on. "Does one call him 'your
Grace,' or 'your Royal Highness'? Oh for a thousandth-part of the
unblushing impertinence of that countrywoman of mine who called your
future king 'Tummy'! but she was a beauty, and I am not pretty enough to
be anything but discreetly well-mannered. Shall you sit in his presence,
or stand and grovel alternately? Does one have to curtsy? Very well,
then, make any excuses you like for me, Hilda: say I'm eccentric, say
I'm deranged, say I'm a Nihilist. I will hide under the scullery table,
fling myself in the moat, lock myself in the keep, let the portcullis
fall on me, die any appropriate early English death,--anything rather
than curtsy in a tailor-made gown; I can kneel beautifully, Hilda, if
that will do: you remember my ancestors were brought up on kneeling, and
yours on curtsying, and it makes a great difference in the muscles."

Hilda smiled benignantly as she wound the coil of russet hair round her
shapely head. "He will think whatever you do charming, and whatever you
say brilliant," she said; "that is the advantage in being an American
woman."

Just at this moment Lady Veratrum sent a haughty maid to ask us if we
would meet her under the trees in the park which surrounds the house.
I hailed this as a welcome reprieve to the dreaded function of tea with
the duke, and made up my mind, while descending the marble staircase,
that I would slip away and lose myself accidentally in the grounds,
appearing only in time for the London train. This happy mode of issue
from my difficulties lent a springiness to my step, as we followed a
waxwork footman over the velvet sward to a nook under a group of copper
beeches. But there, to my dismay, stood a charmingly appointed tea-table
glittering with silver and Royal Worcester, with several liveried
servants bringing cakes and muffins and berries to Lady Veratrum, who
sat behind the steaming urn. I started to retreat, when there
appeared, walking towards us, a simple man, with nothing in the least
extraordinary about him.

"That cannot be the Duke of Cimicifugas," thought I, "a man in a
corduroy jacket, without a sign of a suite; probably it is a Banished
Duke come from the Forest of Arden for a buttered muffin."

But it was the Duke of Cimicifugas, and no other. Hilda was presented
first, while I tried to fire my courage by thinking of the Puritan
Fathers, and Plymouth Rock, and the Boston Tea-Party, and the battle of
Bunker Hill. Then my turn came. I murmured some words which might have
been anything, and curtsied in a stiff-necked self-respecting sort of
way. Then we talked,--at least the duke and Lady Veratrum talked. Hilda
said a few blameless words, such as befitted an untitled English virgin
in the presence of the nobility; while I maintained the probationary
silence required by Pythagoras of his first year's pupils. My idea was
to observe this first duke without uttering a word, to talk with the
second (if I should ever meet a second), to chat with the third, and to
secure the fourth for Francesca to take home to America with her.

Of course I know that dukes are very dear, but she could afford any
reasonable sum, if she found one whom she fancied; the principal
obstacle in the path is that tiresome American lawyer with whom
she considers herself in love. I have never gone beyond that first
experience, however, for dukes in England are as rare as snakes in
Ireland. I can't think why they allow them to die out so,--the dukes,
not the snakes. If a country is to have an aristocracy, let there be
enough of it, say I, and make it imposing at the top, where it shows
most, especially since, as I understand it, all that Victoria has to do
is to say, 'Let there be dukes,' and there are dukes.



Chapter VIII. Tuppenny travels in London.



If one really wants to know London, one must live there for years and
years.

This sounds like a reasonable and sensible statement, yet the moment it
is made I retract it, as quite misleading and altogether too general.

We have a charming English friend who has not been to the Tower since
he was a small boy, and begs us to conduct him there on the very next
Saturday. Another has not seen Westminster Abbey for fifteen years,
because he attends church at St. Dunstan's-in-the-East. Another says
that he should like to have us 'read up' London in the red-covered
Baedeker, and then show it to him, properly and systematically. Another,
a flower of the nobility, confesses that he never mounted the top of
an omnibus in the evening for the sake of seeing London after dark, but
that he thinks it would be rather jolly, and that he will join us in
such a democratic journey at any time we like.

We think we get a kind of vague apprehension of what London means from
the top of a 'bus better than anywhere else, and this vague apprehension
is as much as the thoughtful or imaginative observer will ever arrive
at in a lifetime. It is too stupendous to be comprehended. The mind
is dazed by its distances, confused by its contrasts; tossed from
the spectacle of its wealth to the contemplation of its poverty, the
brilliancy of its extravagances to the stolidity of its miseries,
the luxuries that blossom in Mayfair to the brutalities that lurk in
Whitechapel.

We often set out on a fine morning, Salemina and I, and travel twenty
miles in the day, though we have to double our twopenny fee several
times to accomplish that distance.

We never know whither we are going, and indeed it is not a matter of
great moment (I mean to a woman) where everything is new and strange,
and where the driver, if one is fortunate enough to be on a front
seat, tells one everything of interest along the way, and instructs one
regarding a different route back to town.

We have our favourite 'buses, of course; but when one appears, and we
jump on while it is still in motion, as the conductor seems to prefer,
and pull ourselves up the cork-screw stairway,--not a simple matter in
the garments of sophistication,--we have little time to observe more
than the colour of the lumbering vehicle.

We like the Cadbury's Cocoa 'bus very much; it takes you by St.
Mary-le-Strand, Bow-Bells, the Temple, Mansion House, St, Paul's, and
the Bank.

If you want to go and lunch, or dine frugally, at the Cheshire Cheese,
eat black pudding and drink pale ale, sit in Dr. Johnson's old seat,
and put your head against the exact spot on the wall where his
rested,--although the traces of this form of worship are all too
apparent,--then you jump on a Lipton's Tea 'bus, and are deposited
at the very door. All is novel, and all is interesting, whether it be
crowded streets of the East End traversed by the Davies' Pea-Fed Bacon
'buses, or whether you ride to the very outskirts of London, through
green fields and hedgerows, by the Ridge's Food or Nestle's Milk route.

There are trams, too, which take one to delightful places, though the
seats on top extend lengthwise, after the old 'knifeboard pattern,'
and one does not get so good a view of the country as from the 'garden
seats' on the roof of the omnibus; still there is nothing we like better
on a warm morning than a good outing on the Vinolia tram that we pick up
in Shaftesbury Avenue. There is a street running from Shaftesbury Avenue
into Oxford Street, which was once the village of St. Giles, one of the
dozens of hamlets swallowed up by the great maw of London, and it still
looks like a hamlet, although it has been absorbed for many years. We
constantly happen on these absorbed villages, from which, not a century
ago, people drove up to town in their coaches.

If you wish to see another phase of life, go out on a Saturday evening,
from nine o'clock on to eleven, starting on a Beecham's Pill 'bus, and
keep to the poorer districts, alighting occasionally to stand with the
crowd in the narrower thoroughfares.

It is a market night, and the streets will be a moving mass of men and
women buying at the hucksters' stalls. Everything that can be sold at
a stall is there: fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, crockery, tin-ware,
children's clothing, cheap toys, boots, shoes, and sun-bonnets, all in
reckless confusion. The vendors cry their wares in stentorian tones,
vying with one another to produce excitement and induce patronage, while
gas-jets are streaming into the air from the roofs and flaring from the
sides of the stalls; children crying, children dancing to the strains of
an accordion, children quarrelling, children scrambling for the refuse
fruit. In the midst of this spectacle, this din and uproar, the women
are chaffering and bargaining quite calmly, watching the scales to see
that they get their full pennyworth or sixpennyworth of this or that. To
the student of faces, of manners, of voices, of gestures; to the person
who sees unwritten and unwritable stories in all these groups of men,
women, and children, the scene reveals many things: some comedies, many
tragedies, a few plain narratives (thank God!) and now and then--only
now and then--a romance. As to the dark alleys and tenements on the
fringe of this glare and brilliant confusion, this Babel of sound and
ant-bed of moving life, one can only surmise and pity and shudder;
close one's eyes and ears to it a little, or one could never sleep for
thinking of it, yet not too tightly lest one sleep too soundly, and
forget altogether the seamy side of things. One can hardly believe that
there is a seamy side when one descends from his travelling observatory
a little later, and stands on Westminster Bridge, or walks along the
Thames Embankment. The lights of Parliament House gleam from a hundred
windows, and in the dark shadows by the banks thousands of coloured
discs of light twinkle and dance and glow like fairy lamps, and are
reflected in the silver surface of the river. That river, as full of
mystery and contrast in its course as London itself--where is such
another? It has ever been a river of pageants, a river of sighs; a river
into whose placid depths kings and queens, princes and cardinals, have
whispered state secrets, and poets have breathed immortal lines; a
stream of pleasure, bearing daily on its bosom such a freight of youth
and mirth and colour and music as no other river in the world can boast.

Sometimes we sally forth in search of adventures in the thick of a
'London particular,' Mr. Guppy's phrase for a fog. When you are once
ensconced in your garden seat by the driver, you go lumbering through
a world of bobbing shadows, where all is weird, vague, grey, dense; and
where great objects loom up suddenly in the mist and then disappear;
where the sky, heavy and leaden, seems to descend bodily upon your head,
and the air is full of a kind of luminous yellow smoke.

A Lipton's Tea 'bus is the only one we can see plainly in this sort
of weather, and so we always take it. I do not wish, however, to be
followed literally in these modest suggestions for omnibus rides,
because I am well aware that they are not sufficiently specific for the
ordinary tourist who wishes to see London systematically and without any
loss of time. If you care to go to any particular place, or reach that
place by any particular time, you must not, of course, look at the most
conspicuous signs on the tops and ends of the chariots as we do; you
must stand quietly at one of the regular points of departure and try to
decipher, in a narrow horizontal space along the side, certain little
words that show the route and destination of the vehicle. They say
that it can be done, and I do not feel like denying it on my own
responsibility. Old Londoners assert that they are not blinded or
confused by Pears' Soap in letters two feet high, scarlet on a gold
ground, but can see below in fine print, and with the naked eye,
such legends as Tottenham Court Road, Westbourne Grove, St. Pancras,
Paddington, or Victoria. It is certainly reasonable that the omnibuses
should be decorated to suit the inhabitants of the place rather than
foreigners, and it is perhaps better to carry a few hundred stupid souls
to the wrong station daily than to allow them to cleanse their hands
with the wrong soap, or quench their thirst with the wrong (which is to
say the unadvertised) beverage.

The conductors do all in their power to mitigate the lot of unhappy
strangers, and it is only now and again that you hear an absent-minded
or logical one call out, 'Castoria! all the w'y for a penny.'

We claim for our method of travelling, not that it is authoritative, but
that it is simple--suitable to persons whose desires are flexible and
whose plans are not fixed. It has its disadvantages, which may indeed
be said of almost anything. For instance, we had gone for two successive
mornings on a Cadbury's Cocoa 'bus to Francesca's dressmaker in
Kensington. On the third morning, deceived by the ambitious and
unscrupulous Cadbury, we mounted it and journeyed along comfortably
three miles to the east of Kensington before we discovered our mistake.
It was a pleasant and attractive neighbourhood where we found ourselves,
but unfortunately Francesca's dressmaker did not reside there.

If you have determined to take a certain train from a certain station,
and do not care for any other, no matter if it should turn out to be
just as interesting, then never take a Lipton's Tea 'bus, for it is the
most unreliable of all. If it did not sound so learned, and if I did not
feel that it must have been said before, it is so apt, I should quote
Horace, and say, 'Omnibus hoc vitium est.' There is no 'bus unseized by
the Napoleonic Lipton. Do not ascend one of them supposing for a moment
that by paying fourpence and going to the very end of the route you will
come to a neat tea station, where you will be served with the cheering
cup. Never; nor with a draught of Cadbury's cocoa or Nestle's milk,
although you have jostled along for nine weary miles in company with
their blatant recommendations to drink nothing else, and though you may
have passed other 'buses with the same highly-coloured names glaring at
you until they are burned into the grey matter of your brain, to remain
there as long as the copy-book maxims you penned when you were a child.

These pictorial methods doubtless prove a source of great financial
gain; of course it must be so, or they would never be prosecuted; but
although they may allure millions of customers, they will lose two in
our modest persons. When Salemina and I go into a cafe for tea we ask
the young woman if they serve Lipton's, and if they say yes, we take
coffee. This is self-punishment indeed (in London!), yet we feel that
it may have a moral effect; perhaps not commensurate with the physical
effect of the coffee upon us, but these delicate matters can never be
adjusted with absolute exactitude.

Sometimes when we are to travel on a Pears' Soap 'bus we buy beforehand
a bit of pure white Castile, cut from a shrinking, reserved, exclusive
bar with no name upon it, and present it to some poor woman when we
arrive at our journey's end. We do not suppose that so insignificant a
protest does much good, but at least it preserves one's individuality
and self-respect.



Chapter IX. A Table of Kindred and Affinity.



On one of our excursions Hilda Mellifica accompanied us, and we alighted
to see the place where the Smithfield martyrs were executed, and to
visit some of the very old churches in that vicinity. We found hanging
in the vestibule of one of them something quite familiar to Hilda, but
very strange to our American eyes: 'A Table of Kindred and Affinity,
wherein whosoever are related are forbidden in Scripture and our Laws to
Marry Together.'

Salemina was very quiet that afternoon, and we accused her afterwards of
being depressed because she had discovered that, added to the battalions
of men in England who had not thus far urged her to marry them, there
were thirty persons whom she could not legally espouse even if they did
ask her!

I cannot explain it, but it really seemed in some way that our chances
of a 'sweet, safe corner of the household fire' had materially decreased
when we had read the table.

"It only goes to prove what Salemina remarked yesterday," I said: "that
we can go on doing a thing quite properly until we have seen the rule
for it printed in black and white. The moment we read the formula we
fail to see how we could ever have followed it; we are confused by its
complexities, and we do not feel the slightest confidence in our ability
to do consciously the thing we have done all our lives unconsciously."

"Like the centipede," quoted Salemina:--

     "'The centipede was happy quite
       Until the toad, for fun,
       Said, "Pray, which leg goes after which?"
       Which wrought his mind to such a pitch,
       He lay distracted in a ditch
       Considering how to run!'"

"The Table of Kindred and Affinity is all too familiar to me," sighed
Hilda, "because we had a governess who made us learn it as a punishment.
I suppose I could recite it now, although I haven't looked at it for ten
years. We used to chant it in the nursery schoolroom on wet afternoons.
I well remember that the vicar called one day to see us, and the
governess, hearing our voices uplifted in a pious measure, drew him
under the window to listen. This is what he heard--you will see how
admirably it goes! And do not imagine it is wicked: it is merely the
Law, not the Gospel, and we framed our own musical settings, so that we
had no associations with the Prayer Book."

Here Hilda chanted softly, there being no one in the old churchyard:--

"A woman may not marry with her Grandfather. Grandmother's Husband,
Husband's Grandfather.. Father's Brother. Mother's Brother. Father's
Sister's Husband.. Mother's Sister's Husband. Husband's Father's
Brother. Husband's Mother's Brother.. Father. Step-Father. Husband's
Father.. Son. Husband's Son. Daughter's Husband.. Brother. Husband's
Brother. Sister's Husband.. Son's Son. Daughter's Son. Son's Daughter's
Husband.. Daughter's Daughter's Husband. Husband's Son's Son. Husband's
Daughter's Son .. Brother's Son. Sister's Son. Brother's Daughter's
Husband.. Sister's Daughter's Husband. Husband's Brother's Son.
Husband's Sister's Son."

"It seems as if there were nobody left," I said disconsolately, "save
perhaps your Second Cousin's Uncle, or your Enemy's Dearest Friend."

"That's just the effect it has on one," answered Hilda. "We always used
to conclude our chant with the advice:--

"And if there is anybody, after this, in the universe. left to. marry..
marry him as expeditiously. as you. possibly. can.. Because there are
very few husbands omitted from this table of. Kindred and. Affinity..
And it behoveth a maiden to snap them up without any delay. willing or
unwilling. whenever and. wherever found."

"We were also required to learn by heart the form of Prayer with
Thanksgiving to be used Yearly upon the Fifth Day of November for the
happy deliverance of King James I. and the Three Estates of England from
the most traitorous and bloody-intended Massacre by Gunpowder; also the
prayers for Charles the Martyr and the Thanksgiving for having put an
end to the Great Rebellion by the Restitution of the King and Royal
Family after many Years' interruption which unspeakable Mercies were
wonderfully completed upon the 29th of May in the year 1660!"

"1660! We had been forty years in America then," soliloquised Francesca;
"and isn't it odd that the long thanksgivings in our country must all
have been for having successfully run away from the Gunpowder Treason,
King Charles the Martyr, and the Restituted Royal Family; yet here we
are, you and I, the best of friends, talking it all over."

As we jog along, or walk, by turns, we come to Buckingham Street,
and looking up at Alfred Jingle's lodgings say a grateful word of Mr.
Pickwick. We tell each other that much of what we know of London and
England seems to have been learned from Dickens.

Deny him the right to sit among the elect, if you will; talk of his
tendency to farce and caricature; call his humour low comedy, and
his pathos bathos--although you shall say none of these things in my
presence unchallenged; the fact remains that every child, in America
at least, knows more of England--its almshouses, debtors' prisons, and
law-courts, its villages and villagers, its beadles and cheap-jacks and
hostlers and coachmen and boots, its streets and lanes, its lodgings and
inns and landladies and roastbeef and plum-pudding, its ways, manners,
and customs,--knows more of these things and a thousand others from
Dickens's novels than from all the histories, geographies, biographies,
and essays in the language. Where is there another novelist who has so
peopled a great city with his imaginary characters that there is hardly
room for the living population, as one walks along the ways?

O these streets of London! There are other more splendid shades in
them,--shades that have been there for centuries, and will walk beside
us so long as the streets exist. One can never see these shades, save
as one goes on foot, or takes that chariot of the humble, the omnibus. I
should like to make a map of literary London somewhat after Leigh
Hunt's plan, as projected in his essay on the World of Books; for to the
book-lover 'the poet's hand is always on the place, blessing it.' One
can no more separate the association from the particular spot than one
can take away from it any other beauty.

'Fleet Street is always Johnson's Fleet Street' (so Leigh Hunt says);
'the Tower belongs to Julius Caesar, and Blackfriars to Suckling,
Vandyke, and the Dunciad...I can no more pass through Westminster
without thinking of Milton, or the Borough without thinking of Chaucer
and Shakespeare, or Gray's Inn without calling Bacon to mind, or
Bloomsbury Square without Steele and Akenside, than I can prefer
brick and mortar to wit and poetry, or not see a beauty upon it beyond
architecture in the splendour of the recollection.'



Chapter X. Apropos of advertisements.



Francesca wishes to get some old hall-marked silver for her home
tea-tray, and she is absorbed at present in answering advertisements of
people who have second-hand pieces for sale, and who offer to bring them
on approval. The other day, when Willie Beresford and I came in from
Westminster Abbey (where we had been choosing the best locations for
our memorial tablets), we thought Francesca must be giving a 'small and
early'; but it transpired that all the silver-sellers had called at the
same hour, and it took the united strength of Dawson and Mr. Beresford,
together with my diplomacy, to rescue the poor child from their
clutches. She came out alive, but her safety was purchased at the cost
of a George IV. cream-jug, an Elizabethan sugar-bowl, and a Boadicea
tea-caddy, which were, I doubt not, manufactured in Wardour Street
towards the close of the nineteenth century.

Salemina came in just then, cold and tired. (Tower and National Gallery
the same day. It's so much more work to go to the Tower nowadays than
it used to be!) We had intended to take a sail to Richmond on a penny
steamboat, but it was drizzling, so we had a cosy fire instead, slipped
into our tea-gowns, and ordered tea and thin bread-and-butter, a basket
of strawberries with their frills on, and a jug of Devonshire cream.
Willie Beresford asked if he might stay; otherwise, he said, he should
have to sit at a cold marble table on the corner of Bond Street and
Piccadilly, and take his tea in bachelor solitude.

"Yes," I said severely, "we will allow you to stay; though, as you are
coming to dinner, I should think you would have to go away some time,
if only in order that you might get ready to come back. You've been here
since breakfast-time."

"I know," he answered calmly, "and my only error in judgment was that I
didn't take an earlier breakfast, in order to begin my day here sooner.
One has to snatch a moment when he can, nowadays; for these rooms are
so infested with British swells that a base-born American stands very
little chance!"

Now I should like to know if Willie Beresford is in love with Francesca.
What shall I do--that is what shall we do--if he is, when she is in love
with somebody else? To be sure, she may want one lover for foreign and
another for domestic service. He is too old for her, but that is always
the way. When Alcides, having gone through all the fatigues of life,
took a bride in Olympus, he ought to have selected Minerva, but he chose
Hebe.

I wonder why so many people call him 'Willie' Beresford, at his age.
Perhaps it is because his mother sets the example; but from her lips
it does not seem amiss. I suppose when she looks at him she recalls
the past, and is ever seeing the little child in the strong man, mother
fashion. It is very beautiful, that feeling; and when a girl surprises
it in any mother's eyes it makes her heart beat faster, as in the
presence of something sacred, which she can understand only because she
is a woman, and experience is foreshadowed in intuition.

The Honourable Arthur had sent us a dozen London dailies and weeklies,
and we fell into an idle discussion of their contents over the teacups.
I had found an 'exchange column' which was as interesting as it was
novel, and I told Francesca it seemed to me that if we managed wisely we
could rid ourselves of all our useless belongings, and gradually amass
a collection of the English articles we most desired. "Here is an
opportunity, for instance," I said, and I read aloud-"'S.G., of
Kensington, will post 'Woman' three days old regularly for a box of cut
flowers.'"

"Rather young," said Mr. Beresford, "or I'd answer that advertisement
myself."

I wanted to tell him I didn't suppose that he could find anything too
young for his taste, but I didn't dare.

"Salemina adores cats," I went on. "How is this, Sally, dear?--
'A handsome orange male Persian cat, also a tabby, immense coat,
brushes and frills, is offered in exchange for an electro-plated
revolving covered dish or an Allen's Vapour Bath.'"

"I should like the cat, but alas! I have no covered dish," sighed
Salemina.

"Buy one," suggested Mr. Beresford. "Even then you'd be getting a
bargain. Do you understand that you receive the male orange cat for the
dish, and the frilled tabby for the bath, or do you get both in exchange
for either of these articles? Read on, Miss Hamilton."

"Very well, here is one for Francesca-"'A harmonium with seven stops
is offered in exchange for a really good Plymouth cockerel hatched in
May.'"

"I should want to know when the harmonium was hatched," said Francesca
prudently. "Now you cannot usurp the platform entirely, my dear Pen.
Listen to an English marriage notice from the Times. It chances to be
the longest one to-day, but there were others just as remarkable in
yesterday's issue.

"'On the 17th instant, at Emmanuel Church (Countess of Padelford's
connection), Weston-super-Mare, by the Rev. Canon Vernon, B.D., Rector
of St. Edmund the King and Martyr, Suffolk Street, uncle of bride,
assisted by the Rev. Otho Pelham, M.A., Vicar of All Saints, Upper
Norwood, Dr. Philosophial Konrad Rasch, of Koetzsenbroda, Saxony,
to Evelyn Whitaker Rake, widow of the late Richard Balaclava Rake,
Barrister-at-law of the Inner Temple and Bombay, and third surviving
daughter of George Frederic Goldspink, C.B., of Sydenham House, Craig
Hill, Commissioner of Her Majesty's Customs, and formerly of the War
Office.'"

By the time this was finished we were all quite exhausted, but we
revived like magic when Salemina read us her contribution:--

"'A NAME ENSHRINED IN LITERATURE AND RENOWNED IN COMMERCE,--Miss
Willard, Waddington, Essex. Deal with her whenever you possibly can.
When you want to purchase, ask her for anything under the canopy of
heaven, from jewels, bijouterie, and curios to rare books and high-class
articles of utility. When you want to sell, consign only to her, from
choice gems to mundane objects. All transactions embodying the germs
of small profits are welcome. As a sample of her stock please note:
A superlatively exquisite, essentially beautiful, and important lace
flounce for sale, at a reasonable price. Also a bargain of peerlessly
choice character.--Six grandly glittering paste cluster buttons, of
important size, emitting dazzling rays of incomparable splendour and
lustre. Don't readily forget this or her name and address,--Clara (Miss)
Willard (the Lady Trader), Waddington, Essex. Immaculate promptitude and
scrupulous liberality observed: therefore, on these credentials, ye must
deal with her; it is the duty of intellect to be reciprocal.'"

Just here Dawson entered, evidently to lay the dinner-cloth, but, seeing
that we had a visitor, he took the tea-tray and retired discreetly.

"It is five-and-thirty minutes past six, Mr. Beresford," I said. "Do you
think you can get to the Metropole and array yourself and return in less
than an hour? Because, even if you can, remember that we ladies have
elaborate toilets in prospect,--toilets intended for the complete
prostration of the British gentry. Francesca has a yellow gown which
will drive Bertie Godolphin to madness. Salemina has laid out a soft,
dovelike grey and steel combination, directed towards the Church of
England; for you may not know that Sally has a vicar in her train, Mr.
Beresford, and he will probably speak to-night. As for me-"

Before these shocking personalities were finished Salemina and Francesca
had fled to their rooms, and Mr. Beresford took up my broken sentence
and said, "As for you, Miss Hamilton, whatever gown you wear, you are
sure to make one man speak, if you care about it; but, I suppose, you
would not listen to him unless he were English"; and with that shot he
departed.

I really think I shall have to give up the Francesca hypothesis, and,
alas! I am not quite ready to adopt any other.

We discussed international marriages while we were at our toilets,
Salemina and I prinking by the light of one small candle-end, while
Francesca, as the youngest and prettiest, illuminated her charms with
the six sitting-room candles and three filched from the little table in
the hall.

I gave it as my humble opinion that for an American woman an English
husband was at least an experiment; Salemina declared that for that
matter a husband of any nationality was an experiment. Francesca ended
the conversation flippantly by saying that in her judgment no husband at
all was a much more hazardous experiment.



Chapter XI. The ball on the opposite side.



We are all three rather tired this morning,--Salemina, Francesca, and
I,--for we went to one of the smartest balls of the London season last
night, and were robbed of half our customary allowance of sleep in
consequence.

It may be difficult for you to understand our weariness, when I confess
that the ball was not quite of the usual sort; that we did not dance
at all; and, what is worse, that we were not asked, either to tread a
measure, or sit out a polka, or take 'one last turn.'

To begin at the beginning, there is a large vacant house directly
opposite Smith's Private Hotel, and there has been hanging from its
balcony, until very lately, a sign bearing the following notice:--


                THESE COMMANDING PREMISES
                WITH A SUPERFICIAL AREA OF
                   10,000 FT. AND 50 FT.
                 FRONTAGE TO DOVERMARLE ST.
                  WILL BE SOLD BY AUCTION
                 ON TUESDAY, JUNE 28TH, BY
           MESSRS. SKIDDY, YADDLETHORPE AND SKIDDY
                 LAND AGENTS AND SURVEYORS
               27 HASTINGS PLACE, PALL MALL.

A few days ago, just as we were finishing a late breakfast, an elderly
gentleman drove up in a private hansom, and alighted at this vacant
house on the opposite side. Behind him, in a cab, came two men, who
unlocked the front door, went in, came out on the balcony, cut the wires
supporting the sign, took it down, opened all the inside shutters,
and disappeared through some rear entrance. The elderly gentleman went
upstairs for a moment, came down again, and drove away.

"The house has been sold, I suppose," said Salemina; "and for my part I
envy the new owner his bargain. He is close to Piccadilly, has that bit
of side lawn with the superb oak-tree, and the duke's beautiful gardens
so near that they will seem virtually his own when he looks from his
upper windows."

At tea-time the same elderly gentleman drove up in a victoria, with a
very pretty young lady.

"The plot thickens," said Francesca, who was nearest the window. "Do you
suppose she is his bride-elect, and is he showing her their future home,
or is she already his wife? If so, I fear me she married him for his
title and estates, for he is more than a shade too old for her."

"Don't be censorious, child," I remonstrated, taking my cup idly across
the room, to be nearer the scene of action. "Oh, dear! there is a slight
discrepancy, I confess, but I can explain it. This is how it happened:
The girl had never really loved, and did not know what the feeling was.
She did know that the aged suitor was a good and worthy man, and her
mother and nine small brothers and sisters (very much out at the toes)
urged the marriage. The father, too, had speculated heavily in consorts
or consuls, or whatever-you-call-'ems, and besought his child not to
expose his defalcations and losses. She, dutiful girl, did as she was
bid, especially as her youngest sister came to her in tears and said,
'Unless you consent we shall have to sell the cow!' So she went to the
altar with a heart full of palpitating respect, but no love to speak of;
that always comes in time to heroines who sacrifice themselves and spare
the cows."

"It sounds strangely familiar," remarked Mr. Beresford, who was with us,
as usual. "Didn't a fellow turn up in the next chapter, a young nephew
of the old husband, who fell in love with the bride, unconsciously and
against his will? Wasn't she obliged to take him into the conservatory,
at the end of a week, and say, 'G-go! I beseech you! for b-both our
sakes!'? Didn't the noble fellow wring her hand silently, and leave her
looking like a broken lily on the-"

"How can you be so cynical, Mr. Beresford? It isn't like you!" exclaimed
Salemina. "For my part, I don't think the girl is either his bride or
his fiancee. Probably the mother of the family is dead, and the father
is bringing his eldest daughter to look at the house: that's my idea of
it."

This theory being just as plausible as ours, we did not discuss it,
hoping that something would happen to decide the matter in one way or
another.

"She is not married, I am sure," went on Salemina, leaning over the back
of my chair. "You notice that she hasn't given a glance at the kitchen
or the range, although they are the most important features of the
house. I think she may have just put her head inside the dining-room
door, but she certainly didn't give a moment to the butler's pantry or
the china closet. You will find that she won't mount to the fifth floor
to see how the servants are housed,--not she, careless, pretty creature;
she will go straight to the drawing-room."

And so she did; and at the same instant a still younger and prettier
creature drove up in a hansom, and was out of it almost before the
admiring cabby could stop his horse or reach down for his fare. She flew
up the stairway and danced into the drawing-room like a young whirlwind;
flung open doors, pulled up blinds with a jerk, letting in the sunlight
everywhere, and tiptoed to and fro over the dusty floors, holding up her
muslin flounces daintily.

"This must be the daughter of his first marriage," I remarked.

"Who will not get on with the young stepmother," finished Mr. Beresford.

"It is his youngest daughter," corrected Salemina,--"the youngest
daughter of his only wife, and the image of her deceased mother, who
was, in her time, the belle of Dublin."

She might well have been that, we all agreed; for this young beauty was
quite the Irish type, such black hair, grey-blue eyes, and wonderful
lashes, and such a merry, arch, winsome face, that one loved her on the
instant.

She was delighted with the place, and we did not wonder, for the
sunshine, streaming in at the back and side windows, showed us rooms
of noble proportions opening into one another. She admired the balcony,
although we thought it too public to be of any use save for flowering
plants; she was pleased with a huge French mirror over the marble
mantle; she liked the chandeliers, which were in the worst possible
taste; all this we could tell by her expressive gestures; and she
finally seized the old gentleman by the lapels of his coat and danced
him breathlessly from the fireplace to the windows and back again, while
the elder girl clapped her hands and laughed.

"Isn't she lovely?" sighed Francesca, a little covetously, although she
is something of a beauty herself.

"I am sorry that her name is Bridget," said Mr. Beresford.

"For shame!" I cried indignantly. "It is Norah, or Veronica, or
Geraldine, or Patricia; yes, it is Patricia,--I know it as well as if I
had been at the christening.--Dawson, take the tea-things, please; and
do you know the name of the gentleman who has bought the house on the
opposite side?"

"It is Lord Brighton, miss." (You would never believe it, but we find
the name is spelled Brighthelmston.) "He hasn't bought the 'ouse; he has
taken it for a week, and is giving a ball there on the Tuesday evening.
He has four daughters, miss, and two h'orphan nieces that generally
spends the season with 'im. It's the youngest daughter he is bringing
out, that lively one you saw cutting about just now. They 'ave no
ballroom, I expect, in their town 'ouse, which accounts for their
renting one for this occasion. They stopped a month in this 'otel last
year, so I have the honour of m'luds acquaintance."

"Lady Brighthelmston is not living, I should judge," remarked Salemina,
in the tone of one who thinks it hardly worth while to ask.

"Oh, yes, miss, she's alive and 'earty; but the daughters manages
everythink, and what they down't manage the h'orphan nieces does. The
'ouse is run for the young ladies, but m'ludanlady seems to enjoy it."

Dovermarle Street was so interesting during the next few days that we
could scarcely bear to leave it, lest something exciting should happen
in our absence.

"A ball is so confining!" said Francesca, who had come back from the
corner of Piccadilly to watch the unloading of a huge van, and found
that it had no intention of stopping at Number Nine on the opposite
side.

First came a small army of charwomen, who scrubbed the house from top
to bottom. Then came men with canvas for floors, bronzes and jardinieres
and somebody's family portraits from an auction-room, chairs and sofas
and draperies from an upholsterer's.

The night before the event itself I announced my intention of staying in
our own drawing-room the whole of the next day. "I am more interested in
Patricia's debut," I said, "than anything else that can possibly happen
in London. What if it should be wet, and won't it be annoying if it is a
cold night and they draw the heavy curtains close together?"

But it was beautiful day, almost too warm for a ball, and the heavy
curtains were not drawn. The family did not court observation; it was
serenely unconscious of such a thing. As to our side of the street, I
think we may have been the only people at all interested in the affair
now so imminent. The others had something more sensible to do, I fancy,
than patching up romances about their neighbours.

At noon the florists decorated the entrance with palms, covered the
balcony with a gay awning, and hung the railing with brilliant masses
of scarlet and yellow flowers. At two the caterers sent silver, tables,
linen, and dishes, and a Broadwood grand piano was installed; but at
half-past seven, when we sat down to dinner, we were a trifle anxious,
because so many things seemed yet to do before the party could be a
complete success.

Mr. Beresford and his mother were dining with us, and we had sent
invitations to our London friends, the Hon. Arthur Ponsonby and Bertie
Godolphin, to come later in the evening. These read as follows:--

                     Private View
        The pleasure of your company is requested
                at the coming-out party of
            The Hon. Patricia Brighthelmston
                     July ---  189-
             On the opposite side of the street.
     Dancing about 10-30.            9 Dovermarle Street.

At eight o'clock, as we were finishing our fish course, which chanced
to be fried sole, the ball began literally to roll, and it required the
greatest ingenuity on Francesca's part and mine to be always down in our
seats when Dawson entered with the dishes, and always at the window when
he was absent.

An enormous van had appeared, with half a dozen men walking behind it.
In a trice, two of them had stretched a wire trellis across one wall
of the drawing-room, and two more were trailing roses from floor to
ceiling. Others tied the dark wood of the stair railing with tall
Madonna lilies; then they hung garlands of flowers from corner to corner
and, alas! could not refrain from framing the mirror in smilax, nor
from hanging the chandeliers with that same ugly, funereal, and
artificial-looking vine,--this idea being the principal stock-in-trade
of every florist in the universe.

We could not catch even a glimpse of the supper-rooms, but we saw a man
in the fourth story front room filling dozens of little glass vases,
each with its single malmaison, rose, or camellia, and despatching them
by an assistant to another part of the house; so we could imagine from
this the scheme of decoration at the tables.--No, not new, perhaps, but
simple and effective.

By the time we had finished our entree, which happened to be lamb
cutlets and green peas, and had begun our roast, which was chicken and
ham, I remember, they had put wreaths at all the windows, hung Japanese
lanterns on the balcony and in the oak-tree, and transformed the house
into a blossoming bower.

At this exciting juncture Dawson entered unexpectedly with our sweet,
and for the first and only time caught us literally 'red-handed.' Let
British subjects be interested in their neighbours, if they will (and
when they refrain I am convinced that it is as much indifference as good
breeding), but let us never bring our country into disrepute with an
English butler! As there was not a single person at the table when
Dawson came in, we were obliged to say that we had finished dinner,
thank you, and would take coffee; no sweet to-night, thank you.

Willie Beresford was the only one who minded, but he rather likes cherry
tart. It simply chanced to be cherry tart, for our cook at Smith's
Private Hotel is a person of unbridled fancy and endless repertory. She
sometimes, for example, substitutes rhubarb for cherry tart quite out
of her own head; and when balked of both these dainties, and thrown
absolutely on her own boundless resources, will create a dish of stewed
green gooseberries and a companion piece of liquid custard. These
unrelated concoctions, when eaten at the same moment, as is her
intention, always remind me of the lying down together of the lion and
the lamb, and the scheme is well-nigh as dangerous, under any other
circumstances than those of the digestive millennium. I tremble to think
what would ensue if all the rhubarb and gooseberry bushes in England
should be uprooted in a single night. I believe that thousands of cooks,
those not possessed of families or Christian principles, would drown
themselves in the Thames forthwith, but that is neither here nor there,
and the Honourable Arthur denies it. He says, "Why commit suicide? Ain't
there currants?"

I had forgotten to say that we ourselves were all en grande toilette,
down to satin slippers, feeling somehow that it was the only proper
thing to do; and when Dawson had cleared the table and ushered in the
other visitors, we ladies took our coffee and the men their cigarettes
to the three front windows, which were open as usual to our balcony.

We seated ourselves there quite casually, as is our custom, somewhat
hidden by the lace draperies and potted hydrangeas, and whatever we saw
was to be seen by any passer-by, save that we held the key to the whole
story, and had made it our own by right of conquest.

Just at this moment--it was quarter-past nine, although it was still
bright daylight--came a little procession of servants who disappeared
within the doors, and, as they donned caps and aprons, would now and
then reappear at the windows. Presently the supper arrived. We did
not know the number of invited guests (there are some things not even
revealed to the Wise Woman), but although we were a trifle nervous about
the amount of eatables, we were quite certain that there would be no
dearth of liquid refreshment.

Contemporaneously with the supper came a four-wheeler with a man and a
woman in it.

Sal. "I wonder if that is Lord and Lady Brighthelmston?"

Mrs. B. "Nonsense, my dear; look at the woman's dress."

W.B. "It is probably the butler, and I have a premonition that that is
good old Nurse with him. She has been with family ever since the birth
of the first daughter twenty-four years ago. Look at her cap ribbons;
note the fit of the stiff black silk over her comfortable shoulders; you
can almost hear her creak in it!"

B.G. "My eye! but she's one to keep the goody-pot open for the
youngsters! She'll be the belle of the ball so far as I'm concerned."

Fran. "It's impossible to tell whether it's the butler or paterfamilias.
Yes, it's the butler, for he has taken off his coat and is looking at
the flowers with the florist's assistant."

B.G. "And the florist's assistant is getting slated like one o'clock!
The butler doesn't like the rum design over the piano; no more do I.
Whatever is the matter with them now?"

They were standing with their faces towards us, gesticulating wildly
about something on the front wall of the drawing-room; a place quite
hidden from our view. They could not decide the matter, although the
butler intimated that it would quite ruin the ball, while the assistant
mopped his brow and threw all the blame on somebody else. Nurse came in,
and hated whatever it was the moment her eye fell on it. She couldn't
think how anybody could abide it, and was of the opinion that his
ludship would have it down as soon as he arrived.

Our attention was now distracted by the fact that his ludship did
arrive. It was ten o'clock, but barely dark enough yet to make the
lanterns effective, although they had just been lighted.

There were two private carriages and two four-wheelers, from which
paterfamilias and one other gentleman alighted, followed by a small
feminine delegation.

"One young chap to brace up the gov'nor," said Bertie Godolphin. "Then
the eldest daughter is engaged to be married; that's right; only three
daughters and two h'orphan nieces to work off now!"

As the girls scampered in, hidden by their long cloaks, we could
not even discover the two we already knew. While they were divesting
themselves of their wraps in an upper chamber, Nurse hovering over them
with maternal solicitude, we were anxiously awaiting their criticisms of
our preparations.



Chapter XII. Patricia makes her debut.



For three days we had been overseeing the details. Would they approve
the result? Would they think the grand piano in the proper corner? Were
the garlands hung too low? Was the balcony scheme effective? Was our
menu for the supper satisfactory? Were there too many lanterns? Lord and
Lady Brighthelmston had superintended so little, and we so much, that we
felt personally responsible.

Now came musicians with their instruments. The butler sent four
melancholy Spanish students to the balcony, where they began to tune
mandolins and guitars, while an Hungarian band took up its position, we
conjectured, on some extension or balcony in the rear, the existence of
which we had not guessed until we heard the music later. Then the
butler turned on the electric light, and the family came into the
drawing-rooms.

They did admire them as much as we could wish, and we, on our part,
thoroughly approved of the family. We had feared it might prove dull,
plain, dowdy, though wellborn, with only dear Patricia to enliven it;
but it was well-dressed, merry, and had not a thought of glancing at the
windows or pulling down the blinds, bless its simple heart!

The mother entered first, wearing a grey satin gown and a diamond crown
that quite established her position in the great world. Then girls, and
more girls: a rose-pink girl, a pale green, a lavender, a yellow,
and our Patricia, in a cloud of white with a sparkle of silver, and a
diamond arrow in her lustrous hair.

What an English nosegay they made, to be sure, as they stood in the back
of the room while paterfamilias approached, and calling each in turn,
gave her a lovely bouquet from a huge basket held by the butler.

Everybody's flowers matched everybody's frock to perfection; those of
the h'orphan nieces were just as beautiful as those of the daughters,
and it is no wonder that the English nosegay descended upon
paterfamilias, bore him into the passage, and if they did not kiss
him soundly, why did he come back all rosy and crumpled, smoothing his
dishevelled hair, and smiling at Lady Brighthelmston? We speedily named
the girls Rose, Mignonette, Violet, and Celandine, each after the colour
of her frock.

"But there are only five, and there ought to be six," whispered
Salemina, as if she expected to be heard across the street.

"One--two--three--four--five, you are right," said Mr. Beresford. "The
plainest of the lot must be staying in Wales with a maiden aunt who has
a lot of money to leave. The old lady isn't so ill that they can't give
the ball, but just ill enough so that she may make her will wrong if
left alone; poor girl, to be plain, and then to miss such a ball as
this,--hello! the first guest! He is on time to be sure; I hate to be
first, don't you?"

The first guest was a strikingly handsome fellow, irreproachably dressed
and unmistakably nervous.

"He is afraid he is too early!"

"He is afraid that if he waits he'll be too late!"

"He doesn't want the driver to stop directly in front of the door."

"He has something beside him on the seat of the hansom."

"The tissue paper has blown off: it is flowers."

"It is a piece! Jove, this IS a rum ball!"

"What IS the thing? No wonder he doesn't drive up to the door and go in
with it!"

"It is a HARP, as sure as I am alive!"

Then electrically from Francesca, "It is Patricia's Irish lover! I
forget his name."

"Rory!"

"Shamus!"

"Michael!"

"Patrick!"

"Terence!"

"Hush!" she exclaimed at this chorus of Hibernian Christian names, "it
is Patricia's undeclared impecunious lover. He is afraid that she won't
know his gift is a harp, and afraid that the other girls will. He feared
to send it, lest one of the sisters or h'orphan nieces should get it; it
is frightful to love one of six, and the cards are always slipping off,
and the wrong girl is always receiving your love-token or your offer of
marriage."

"And if it is an offer, and the wrong woman gets it, she always accepts,
somehow," said Mr. Beresford; "It's only the right one who declines!"
and here he certainly looked at me pointedly.

"He hoped to arrive before any one else," Francesca went on, "and put
the harp in a nice place, and lead Patricia up to it, and make her
wonder who sent it. Now poor dear (yes, his name is sure to be Terence),
he is too late, and I am sure he will leave it in the hansom, he will be
so embarrassed."

And so he did, but alas! the driver came back with it in an instant,
the butler ran down the long path of crimson carpet that covered the
sidewalk, the first footman assisted, the second footman pursued Terence
and caught him on the staircase, and he descended reluctantly, only
to receive the harp in his arms and send a tip to the cabman, whom of
course he was cursing in his heart.

"I can't think why he should give her a harp," mused Bertie Godolphin.
"Such a rum thing, a harp, isn't it? It's too heavy for her to 'tote,'
as you say in the States."

"Yes, we always say 'tote,' particularly in the North," I replied; "but
perhaps it is Patricia's favourite instrument. Perhaps Terence first
saw her at the harp, and loved her from the moment he heard her sing the
'Minstrel Boy' and the 'Meeting of the Waters.'"

"Perhaps he merely brought it as a sort of symbol," suggested Mr.
Beresford; "a kind of flowery metaphor signifying that all Ireland, in
his person, is at her disposal, only waiting to be played upon."

"If that is what he means, he must be a jolly muff," remarked the
Honourable Arthur. "I should think he'd have to send a guidebook with
the bloomin' thing."

We never knew how Terence arranged about the incubus; we only saw that
he did not enter the drawing room with it in his arms. He was well
received, although there was no special enthusiasm over his arrival; but
the first guest is always at a disadvantage.

He greeted the young ladies as if he were in the habit of meeting them
often, but when he came to Patricia, well, he greeted her as if he could
never meet her often enough; there was a distinct difference, and even
Mrs. Beresford, who had been incredulous, succumbed to our view of the
case.

Patricia took him over to the piano to see the arrangement of some
lilies. He said they were delicious, but looked at her.

She asked him if he did not think the garlands lovely.

He said, "Perfectly charming," but never lifted his eyes higher than her
face.

"Do you like my dress?" her glance seemed to ask.

"Wonderful!" his seemed to reply, as he stealthily put out his hand and
touched a soft fold of its white fluffiness.

I could hear him think, as she leaned into the curve of the Broadwood
and bent over the flowers--

     'Have you seen but a bright lily grow
       Before rude hands have touched it?
      Have you marked but the fall of the snow
       Before the soil hath smutched it?
      Have you felt the wool of beaver?
          Or swan's down ever?
      Or have smelt o' the bud o' the brier?
          Or the nard i' the fire?
      Or have tasted the bag of the bee?
      Oh, so white! oh, so soft! oh, so sweet is she!'

A footman entered, bearing the harp, which he placed on a table in the
corner. He disclaimed all knowledge of it, having probably been well
paid to do so, and the unoccupied girls gathered about it like bees
about a honeysuckle, while Patricia and Terence stayed by the piano.

"To think it may never be a match!" sighed Francesca, "and they are such
an ideal pair! But it is easy to see that the mother will oppose it, and
although Patricia is her father's darling, he cannot allow her to marry
a handsome young pauper like Terence."

"Cheer up!" said Bertie Godolphin reassuringly. "Perhaps some
unrelenting beggar of an uncle will die of old age next and leave him
the title and estates."

"I hope she will accept him to-night, if she loves him, estates or
no estates," said Salemina, who, like many ladies who have elected
to remain single, is distinctly sentimental, and has not an ounce of
worldly wisdom.

"Well, I think a fellow deserves some reward," remarked Mr. Beresford,
"when he has the courage to drive up in a hansom bearing a green harp
with yellow strings in his arms. It shows that his passion has quite
eclipsed his sense of humour. By the way, I am not sure but I should
choose Rose, after all; there's something very attractive about Rose."

"It is the fact that she is promised to another," laughed Francesca
somewhat pertly.

"She would make an admirable wife," Mrs. Beresford
interjected--absent-mindedly; "and so of course Terence will not choose
her, and similarly neither would you, if you had the chance."

At this Mrs. Beresford's son glances up at me with twinkling eyes, and
I can hardly forbear smiling, so unconscious is she that his choice is
already made. However, he replies: "Who ever loved a woman for her solid
virtues, mother? Who ever fell a victim to punctuality, patience,
or frugality? It is other and different qualities which colour the
personality and ensnare the heart; though the stodgy and reliable traits
hold it, I dare say, when once captured. Don't you know Berkeley says,
'D--n it, madam, who falls in love with attributes?'"

Meantime Violet and Celandine have come out on the balcony, and seeing
the tinkling musicians there, have straightway banished them to another
part of the house.

"A good thing, too!" murmured Bertie Godolphin, "making a beastly row in
that 'nailing' little corner, collecting a crowd sooner or later, don't
you know, and putting a dead stop to the jolly little flirtations."

The Honourable Arthur glanced critically at Celandine. "I should make up
to her," he said thoughtfully. "She's the best groomed one of the whole
stud, though why you call her Celandine I can't think."

"It's a flower, and her dress is yellow, can't you see, man? You've got
no sense of colour," said the candid Bertie. "I believe you'd just as
soon be a green parrot with a red head as not."

And now the guests began to arrive; so many of them and so near together
that we hardly had time to label them as they said good evening, and
told dear Lady Brighthelmston how pretty the decorations were, and how
prevalent the influenza had been, and how very sultry the weather, and
how clever it was of her to give her party in a vacant house, and what a
delightful marriage Rose was making, and how well dear Patricia looked.

The sound of the music drifted into the usually quiet street, and by
half-past eleven the ball was in full splendour. Lady Brighthelmston
stood alone now, greeting all the late arrivals; and we could catch a
glimpse now and then of Violet dancing with a beautiful being in a white
uniform, and of Rose followed about by her accepted lover, both of them
content with their lot, but with feet quite on the solid earth.

Celandine was a bit of a flirt, no doubt. She had many partners, walked
in the garden with them impartially, divided her dances, sat on the
stairs. Wherever her yellow draperies moved, nonsense, merriment, and
chatter followed in her wake.

Patricia danced often with Terence. We could see the dark head, darker
and a bit taller than the others, move through the throng, the diamond
arrow gleaming in its lustrous coils. She danced like a flower blown by
the wind. Nothing could have been more graceful, more stately. The bend
of her slender body at the waist, the pose of her head, the line of
her shoulder, the suggestion of dimple in her elbow--all were so many
separate allurements to the kindling eye of love.

Terence certainly added little to the general brilliancy and gaiety of
the occasion, for he stood in a corner and looked at Patricia whenever
he was not dancing with her, 'all eye when one was present, all memory
when one was gone.'



Chapter XIII. A Penelope secret.



Shortly after midnight our own little company broke up, loath to
leave the charming spectacle. The guests departed with the greatest
reluctance, having given Dawson a half-sovereign for waiting up to
lock the door. Mrs. Beresford said that it seemed unendurable to leave
matters in such an unfinished condition, and her son promised to come
very early next morning for the latest bulletins.

"I leave all the romances in your hands," he whispered to me; "do let
them turn out happily, do!"

Salemina also retired to her virtuous couch, remembering that she was to
visit infant schools with a great educational dignitary on the morrow.

Francesca and I turned the gas entirely out, although we had been
sitting all the evening in a kind of twilight, and slipping on our
dressing-gowns sat again at the window for a farewell peep into the
past, present, and future of the 'Brighthelmston set.'

At midnight the dowager duchess arrived. She must at least have been a
dowager duchess, and if there is anything greater, within the bounds of
a reasonable imagination, she was that. Long streamers of black tulle
floated from a diamond soup-tureen which surmounted her hair. Narrow
puffings of white traversed her black velvet gown in all directions,
making her look somewhat like a railway map, and a diamond fan-chain
defined, or attempted to define, what was in its nature neither
definable nor confinable, to wit, her waist, or what had been, in early
youth, her waist.

The entire company was stirred by the arrival of the dowager duchess,
and it undoubtedly added new eclat to what was already a fashionable
event; for we counted three gentlemen who wore orders glittering on
ribbons that crossed the white of their immaculate linen, and there was
an Indian potentate with a jewelled turban who divided attention with
the dowager duchess's diamond soup-tureen.

At twelve-thirty Lord Brighthelmston chided Celandine for flirting too
much.

At twelve-forty Lady Brighthelmston reminded Violet (who was a h'orphan
niece) that the beautiful being in the white uniform was not the eldest
son.

At twelve-fifty there arrived an elderly gentleman, before whom the
servants bowed low. Lord Brighthelmston went to fetch Patricia, who
chanced to be sitting out a dance with Terence. The three came out on
the balcony, which was deserted, in the near prospect of supper, and the
personage--whom we suspected to be Patricia's godfather--took from his
waistcoat pocket a string of pearls, and, clasping it round her white
throat, stooped gently and kissed her forehead.

Then at one o'clock came supper. Francesca and I had secretly provided
for that contingency, and curling up on a sofa we drew toward us a
little table which Dawson had spread with a galantine of chicken, some
cress sandwiches, and a jug of milk.

At one-thirty we were quite overcome with sleep, and retired to our
beds, where of course we speedily grew wakeful.

"It is giving a ball, not going to one, that is so exhausting!" yawned
Francesca. "How many times have I danced all night with half the fatigue
that I am feeling now!"

The sound of music came across the street through the closed door of our
sitting-room. Waltz after waltz, a polka, a galop, then waltzes again,
until our brains reeled with the rhythm. As if this were not enough,
when our windows at the back were opened wide we were quite within reach
of Lady Durden's small dance, where another Hungarian band discoursed
more waltzes and galops.

"Dancing, dancing everywhere, and not a turn for us!" grumbled
Francesca. "I simply cannot sleep, can you?"

"We must make a determined effort," I advised; "don't speak again, and
perhaps drowsiness will overtake us."

It finally did overtake Francesca, but I had too much to think about--my
own problems as well as Patricia's. After what seemed to be hours of
tossing I was helplessly drawn back into the sitting-room, just to see
if anything had happened, and if the affair was ever likely to come to
an end.

It was half-past two, and yes, the ball was decidedly 'thinning out.'

The attendants in the lower hall, when they were not calling carriages,
yawned behind their hands, and stood first on one foot, and then on the
other.

Women in beautiful wraps, their heads flashing with jewels, descended
the staircase, and drove, or even walked, away into the summer night.

Lady Brighthelmston began to look tired, although all the world, as it
said good night, was telling her that it was one of the most delightful
balls of the season.

The English nosegay had lost its white flower, for Patricia was not
in the family group. I looked everywhere for the gleam of her silvery
scarf, everywhere for Terence, while, the waltz music having ceased, the
Spanish students played 'Love's Young Dream.'

I hummed the words as the sweet old tune, strummed by the tinkling
mandolins, vibrated clearly in the maze of other sounds:--

     'Oh! the days have gone when Beauty bright
        My heart's chain wove;
      When my dream of life from morn till night
        Was Love, still Love.
      New hope may bloom and days may come,
        Of milder, calmer beam,
      But there's nothing half so sweet in life
        As Love's Young Dream.'

At last, in a quiet spot under the oak-tree, the lately risen moon found
Patricia's diamond arrow and discovered her to me. The Japanese lanterns
had burned out; she was wrapped like a young nun, in a cloud of white
that made her eyelashes seem darker.

I looked once, because the moonbeam led me into it before I realised;
then I stole away from the window and into my own room, closing the door
softly behind me.

We had so far been looking only at conventionalities, preliminaries,
things that all (who had eyes to see) might see; but this was
different--quite, quite different.

They were as beautiful under the friendly shadow of their urban oak-tree
as were ever Romeo and Juliet on the balcony of the Capulets. I may not
tell you what I saw in my one quickly repented-of glance. That would be
vulgarising something that was already a little profaned by my innocent
participation.

I do not know whether Terence was heir, even ever so far removed, to any
title or estates, and I am sure Patricia did not care: he may have been
vulgarly rich or aristocratically poor. I only know that they loved each
other in the old yet ever new way, without any ifs or ands or buts; that
he worshipped, she honoured; he asked humbly, she gave gladly.

How do I know? Ah! that's a 'Penelope secret,' as Francesca says.

Perhaps you doubt my intuitions altogether. Perhaps you believe in
your heart that it was an ordinary ball, where a lot of stupid people
arrived, danced, supped, and departed. Perhaps you do not think his name
was Terence or hers Patricia, and if you go so far as that in blindness
and incredulity I should not expect you to translate properly what I
saw last night under the oak-tree, the night of the ball on the opposite
side, when Patricia made her debut.



Chapter XIV. Love and lavender.



How well I remember our last evening in Dovermarle Street!

At one of our open windows behind the potted ferns and blossoming
hydrangeas sat Salemina, Bertie Godolphin, Mrs. Beresford, the
Honourable Arthur, and Francesca; at another, as far off as
possible, sat Willie Beresford and I. Mrs. Beresford had sanctioned a
post-prandial cigar, for we were not going out till ten, to see, for the
second time, an act of John Hare's Pair of Spectacles.

They were talking and laughing at the other end of the room; Mr.
Beresford and I were rather quiet. (Why is it that the people with whom
one loves to be silent are also the very ones with whom one loves to
talk?)

The room was dim with the light of a single lamp; the rain had ceased;
the roar of Piccadilly came to us softened by distance. A belated vendor
of lavender came along the sidewalk, and as he stopped under the windows
the pungent fragrance of the flowers was wafted up to us with his song.

     'Who'll buy my pretty lavender?
        Sweet lavender,
      Who'll buy my pretty lavender?
        Sweet bloomin' lavender.'

The tune comes to me laden with odours. Is it not strange that the
fragrances of other days steal in upon the senses together with the
sights and sounds that gave them birth?

Presently a horse and cart drew up before an hotel, a little further
along, on the opposite side of the way. By the light of the street lamp
under which it stopped we could see that it held a piano and two persons
beside the driver. The man was masked, and wore a soft felt hat and a
velvet coat. He seated himself at the piano and played a Chopin waltz
with decided sentiment and brilliancy; then, touching the keys idly for
a moment or two, he struck a few chords of prelude and turned towards
the woman who sat beside him. She rose, and, laying one hand on the
corner of the instrument, began to sing one of the season's favourites,
'The Song that reached my Heart.' She also was masked, and even her
figure was hidden by a long dark cloak the hood of which was drawn over
her head to meet the mask. She sang so beautifully, with such style and
such feeling, it seemed incredible to hear her under circumstances like
these. She followed the ballad with Handel's 'Lascia ch'io pianga,'
which rang out into the quiet street with almost hopeless pathos. When
she descended from the cart to undertake the more prosaic occupation
of passing the hat beneath the windows, I could see that she limped
slightly, and that the hand with which she pushed back the heavy dark
hair under the hood was beautifully moulded. They were all mystery that
couple; not to be confounded for an instant with the common herd of
London street musicians. With what an air of the drawing-room did he
of the velvet coat help the singer into the cart, and with what elegant
abandon and ultra-dilettantism did he light a cigarette, reseat himself
at the piano, and weave Scots ballads into a charming impromptu! I
confess I wrapped my shilling in a bit of paper and dropped it over the
balcony with the wish that I knew the tragedy behind this little street
drama.

Willie Beresford was in a royal mood that night. You know the mood, in
which the heart is so full, so full, it overruns the brim. He bought
the entire stock of the lavender seller, and threw a shilling to
the mysterious singer for every song she sung. He even offered to
give--himself--to me! And oh! I would have taken him as gladly as ever
the lavender boy took the half-crown, had I been quite, quite sure of
myself! A woman with a vocation ought to be still surer than other women
that it is the very jewel of love she is setting in her heart, and not
a sparkling imitation. I gave myself wholly, or believed that I gave
myself wholly, to art, or what I believed to be art. And is there
anything more sacred than art?--Yes, one thing!

It happened something in this wise.

The singing had put us in a gentle mood, and after a long peroration
from Mr. Beresford, which I do not care to repeat, I said very softly
(blessing the Honourable Arthur's vociferous laughter at one of
Salemina's American jokes), "But I thought perhaps it was Francesca. Are
you quite sure?"

He intimated that if there were any fact in his repertory of which he
was particularly and absolutely sure it was this special fact.

"It is too sudden," I objected. "Plants that blossom on shipboard-"

"This plant was rooted in American earth, and you know it, Penelope. If
it chanced to blossom on the ship, it was because it had already budded
on the shore; it has borne transplanting to a foreign soil, and it
grows in beauty and strength every day: so no slurs, please, concerning
ocean-steamer hothouses."

"I cannot say yes, yet I dare not say no; it is too soon. I must go off
into the country quite by myself and think it over."

"But," urged Mr. Beresford, "you cannot think over a matter of this
kind by yourself. You'll continually be needing to refer to me for data,
don't you know, on which to base your conclusions. How can you tell
whether you're in love with me or not if-- (No, I am not shouting at
all; it's your guilty conscience; I'm whispering.) How can you tell
whether you're in love with me, I repeat, unless you keep me under
constant examination?"

"That seems sensible, though I dare say it is full of sophistry; but I
have made up my mind to go into the country and paint while Salemina and
Francesca are on the Continent. One cannot think in this whirl. A winter
season in Washington followed by a summer season in London,--one wants
a breath of fresh air before beginning another winter season somewhere
else. Be a little patient, please. I long for the calm that steals over
me when I am absorbed in my brushes and my oils."

"Work is all very well," said Mr. Beresford with determination, "but I
know your habits. You have a little way of taking your brush, and with
one savage sweep painting out a figure from your canvas. Now if I am
on the canvas of your heart,--I say 'if' tentatively and modestly,
as becomes me,--I've no intention of allowing you to paint me out;
therefore I wish to remain in the foreground, where I can say 'Strike,
but hear me,' if I discover any hostile tendencies in your eye. But I
am thankful for small favours (the 'no' you do not quite dare say, for
instance), and I'll talk it over with you to-morrow, if the British
gentry will give me an opportunity, and if you'll deign to give me a
moment alone in any other place than the Royal Academy."

"I was alone with you to-day for a whole hour at least."

"Yes, first at the London and Westminster Bank, second in Trafalgar
Square, and third on the top of a 'bus, none of them congenial spots to
a man in my humour. Penelope, you are not dull, but you don't seem to
understand that I am head over-"

"What are you two people quarrelling about?" cried Salemina. "Come,
Penelope, get your wrap. Mrs. Beresford, isn't she charming in her new
Liberty gown? If that New York wit had seen her, he couldn't have said,
'If that is Liberty, give me Death!' Yes, Francesca, you must wear
something over your shoulders. Whistle for two four-wheelers, Dawson,
please."



Part Second--In the country.



Chapter XV. Penelope dreams.



                                  West Belvern, Holly House
                                          August 189-.

I am here alone. Salemina has taken her little cloth bag and her
notebook and gone to inspect the educational and industrial methods of
Germany. If she can discover anything that they are not already doing
better in Boston, she will take it back with her, but her state of
mind regarding the outcome of the trip might be described as one of
incredulity tinged with hope. Francesca has accompanied Salemina. Not
that the inspection of systems is much in her line, but she prefers
it to a solitude a deux with me when I am in a working mood, and she
comforts herself with the anticipation that the German army is very
attractive. Willie Beresford has gone with his mother to Aix-les-Bains,
like the dutiful son that he is. They say that a good son makes a good--
But that subject is dismissed to the background for the present, for
we are in a state of armed neutrality. He has agreed to wait until the
autumn for a final answer, and I have promised to furnish one by that
time. Meanwhile, we are to continue our acquaintance by post, which is a
concession I would never have allowed if I had had my wits about me.

After paying my last week's bill in Dovermarle Street, including fees
to several servants whom I knew by sight, and several others whose
acquaintance I made for the first time at the moment of departure,
I glanced at my ebbing letter of credit and felt a season of economy
setting in upon me with unusual severity; accordingly, I made an
experiment of coming third-class to Belvern. I handed the guard a
shilling, and he gave me a seat riding backwards in a carriage with
seven other women, all very frumpish, but highly respectable. As
he could not possibly have done any worse for me, I take it that he
considered the shilling a graceful tribute to his personal charms,
but as having no other bearing whatever. The seven women stared at me
throughout the journey. When one is really of the same blood, and
when one does not open one's lips or wave the stars and stripes in any
possible manner, how do they detect the American? These women looked
at me as if I were a highly interesting anthropoidal ape. It was not
because of my attire, for I was carefully dressed down to a third-class
level; yet when I removed my plain Knox hat and leaned my head
back against my travelling-pillow, an electrical shudder of intense
excitement ran through the entire compartment. When I stooped to tie my
shoe another current was set in motion, and when I took Charles Reade's
White Lies from my portmanteau they glanced at one another as if to say,
'Would that we could see in what language the book is written!' As a
travelling mystery I reached my highest point at Oxford, for there I
purchased a small basket of plums from a boy who handed them in at the
window of the carriage. After eating a few, I offered the rest to a
dowdy elderly woman on my left who was munching dry biscuits from a
paper bag. 'What next?' was the facial expression of the entire company.
My neighbour accepted the plums, but hid them in her bag; plainly
thinking them poisoned, and believing me to be a foreign conspirator,
conspiring against England through the medium of her inoffensive person.
In the course of the four-hours' journey, I could account for the
strange impression I was making only upon the theory that it is unusual
to comport oneself in a first-class manner in a third-class carriage.
All my companions chanced to be third-class by birth as well as by
ticket, and the Englishwoman who is born third-class is sometimes
deficient in imagination.

Upon arriving at Great Belvern (which must be pronounced 'Bevern') I
took a trap, had my luggage put on in front, and start on my quest for
lodgings in West Belvern, five miles distant. Several addresses had been
given me by Hilda Mellifica, who has spent much time in this region, and
who begged me to use her name. I told the driver that I wished to find
a clean, comfortable lodging, with the view mentioned in the guide-book,
and with a purple clematis over the door, if possible. The last point
astounded him to such a degree that he had, I think, a serious idea of
giving me into custody. (I should not be so eccentrically spontaneous
with these people, if they did not feed my sense of humour by their
amazement.)

We visited Holly House, Osborne, St. James, Victoria, and Albert houses,
Tank Villa, Poplar Villa, Rose, Brake, and Thorn Villas, as well as
Hawthorn, Gorse, Fern, Shrubbery, and Providence Cottages. All had
apartments, but many were taken, and many more had rooms either dark
and stuffy or without view. Holly House was my first stopping-place. Why
will a woman voluntarily call her place by a name which she can never
pronounce? It is my landlady's misfortune that she is named 'Obbs, and
mine that I am called 'Amilton, but Mrs. 'Obbs must have rushed with
eyes wide open on 'Olly 'Ouse. I found sitting-room and bedroom at Holly
House for two guineas a week; everything, except roof, extra. This
was more than, in my new spirit of economy I desired to pay, but after
exhausting my list I was obliged to go back rather than sleep in the
highroad. Mrs. Hobbs offered to deduct two shillings a week if I stayed
until Christmas, and said she should not charge me a penny for the
linen. Thanking her with tears of gratitude, I requested dinner. There
was no meat in the house, so I supped frugally off two boiled eggs,
a stodgy household loaf, and a mug of ale, after which I climbed the
stairs, and retired to my feather-bed in a rather depressed frame of
mind.

Visions of Salemina and Francesca driving under the linden-trees in
Berlin flitted across my troubled reveries, with glimpses of Willie
Beresford and his mother at Aix-les-Bains. At this distance, and in the
dead of night, my sacrifice in coming here seemed fruitless. Why did I
not allow myself to drift for ever on that pleasant sea which has been
lapping me in sweet and indolent content these many weeks? Of what use
to labour, to struggle, to deny myself, for an art to which I can never
be more than the humblest handmaiden? I felt like crying out, as did
once a braver woman's soul than mine, 'Let me be weak! I have been
seeming to be strong so many years!' The woman and the artist in me have
always struggled for the mastery. So far the artist has triumphed, and
now all at once the woman is uppermost. I should think the two ought
to be able to live peaceably in the same tenement; they do manage it in
some cases; but it seems a law of my being that I shall either be all
one or all the other.

The question for me to ask myself now is, "Am I in love with loving and
with being loved, or am I in love with Willie Beresford?" How many women
have confounded the two, I wonder?

In this mood I fell asleep, and on a sudden I found myself in a dear New
England garden. The pillow slipped away, and my cheek pressed a fragrant
mound of mignonette, the self-same one on which I hid my tear-stained
face and sobbed my heart out in childish grief and longing for the
mother who would never hold me again. The moon came up over the
Belvern Hills and shone on my half-closed lids; but to me it was a very
different moon, the far-away moon of my childhood, with a river rippling
beneath its silver rays. And the wind that rustled among the poplar
branches outside my window was, in my dream, stirring the pink petals of
a blossoming apple-tree that used to grow beside the bank of mignonette,
wafting down sweet odours and drinking in sweeter ones. And presently
there stole in upon this harmony of enchanting sounds and delicate
fragrances, in which childhood and womanhood, pleasure and pain, memory
and anticipation, seemed strangely intermingled, the faint music of a
voice, growing clearer and clearer as my ear became familiar with its
cadences. And what the dream voice said to me was something like this:--

'If thou wouldst have happiness, choose neither fame, which doth not
long abide, nor power, which stings the hand that wields it, nor gold,
which glitters but never glorifies; but choose thou Love, and hold
it for ever in thy heart of hearts; for Love is the purest and the
mightiest force in the universe, and once it is thine all other gifts
shall be added unto thee. Love that is passionate yet reverent, tender
yet strong, selfish in desiring all yet generous in giving all; love
of man for woman and woman for man, of parent for child and friend for
friend--when this is born in the soul, the desert blossoms as the rose.
Straightway new hopes and wishes, sweet longings and pure ambitions,
spring into being, like green shoots that lift their tender heads in
sunny places; and if the soil be kind, they grow stronger and more
beautiful as each glad day laughs in the rosy skies. And by and by
singing-birds come and build their nests in the branches; and these
are the pleasures of life. And the birds sing not often, because of
a serpent that lurketh in the garden. And the name of the serpent is
Satiety. He maketh the heart to grow weary of what it once danced and
leaped to think upon, and the ear to wax dull to the melody of sounds
that once were sweet, and the eye blind to the beauty that once led
enchantment captive. And sometimes--we know not why, but we shall know
hereafter, for life is not completely happy since it is not heaven, nor
completely unhappy since it is the road thither--sometimes the light of
the sun is withdrawn for a moment, and that which is fairest vanishes
from the place that was enriched by its presence. Yet the garden is
never quite deserted. Modest flowers, whose charms we had not noted
when youth was bright and the world seemed ours, now lift their heads
in sheltered places and whisper peace. The morning song of the birds
is hushed, for the dawn breaks less rosily in the eastern skies, but at
twilight they still come and nestle in the branches that were sunned in
the smile of love and watered with its happy tears. And over the grave
of each buried hope or joy stands an angel with strong comforting hands
and patient smile; and the name of the garden is Life, and the angel is
Memory.'



Chapter XVI. The decay of Romance.



I have changed my Belvern, and there are so many others left to choose
from that I might live in a different Belvern each week. North, South,
East, and West Belvern, New Belvern, Old Belvern, Great Belvern, Little
Belvern, Belvern Link, Belvern Common, and Belvern Wells. They are all
nestled together in the velvet hollows or on the wooded crowns of the
matchless Belvern Hills, from which they look down upon the fairest
plains that ever blessed the eye. One can see from their heights a
score of market towns and villages, three splendid cathedrals, each in a
different county, the queenly Severn winding like a silver thread among
the trees, with soft-flowing Avon and gentle Teme watering the verdant
meadows through which they pass. All these hills and dales were once
the Royal Forest, and afterwards the Royal Chase, of Belvern, covering
nearly seven thousand acres in three counties; and from the lonely
height of the Beacon no less than

     'Twelve fair counties saw the blaze'

of signals, when the country was threatened by a Spanish invasion. As
for me, I mourn the decay of Romance with a great R; we have it still
among us, but we spell it with a smaller letter. It must be so much
more interesting to be threatened with an invasion, especially a Spanish
invasion, than with a strike, for instance. The clashing of swords and
the flashing of spears in the sunshine are so much more dazzling and
inspiring than a line of policemen with clubs! Yes, I wish it were the
age of chivalry again, and that I were looking down from these hills
into the Royal Chase. Of course I know that there were wicked and
selfish tyrants in those days, before the free press, the jury system,
and the folding-bed had wrought their beneficent influences upon the
common mind and heart. Of course they would have sneered at Browning
Societies and improved tenements, and of course they did not care
a penny whether woman had the ballot or not, so long as man had the
bottle; but I would that the other moderns were enjoying the modern
improvements, and that I were gazing into the cool depths of those deep
forests where there were once good lairs for the wolf and wild boar. I
should like to hear the baying of the hounds and the mellow horns of the
huntsman. I should like to see the royal cavalcade emerging from one of
those wooded glades: monarch and baron bold, proud prelate, abbot and
prior, belted knight and ladye fair, sweeping in gorgeous array under
the arcades of the overshadowing trees, silver spurs and jewelled
trappings glittering in the sunlight, princely forms bending low over
the saddles of the court beauties. Why, oh why, is it not possible to
be picturesque and pious in the same epoch? Why may not chivalry and
charity go hand in hand? It amuses me to imagine the amazement of
the barons, bold and belted knights, could they be resuscitated for a
sufficient length of time to gaze upon the hydropathic establishments
which dot their ancient hunting-grounds. It would have been very
difficult to interest the age of chivalry in hydropathy.

Such is the fascination of historic association that I am sure, if
I could drag my beloved but conscientious Salemina from some foreign
soup-kitchen which she is doubtless inspecting, I could make even her
mourn the vanished past with me this morning, on the Beacon's towering
head. For Salemina wearies of the age of charity sometimes, as every one
does who is trying to make it a beautiful possibility.



Chapter XVII. Short stops and long bills.



The manner of my changing from West to North Belvern was this. When I
had been two days at Holly House, I reflected that my sitting-room faced
the wrong way for the view, and that my bedroom was dark and not large
enough to swing a cat in. Not that there was the remotest necessity
of my swinging cats in it, but the figure of speech is always useful.
Neither did I care to occupy myself with the perennial inspection and
purchase of raw edibles, when I wished to live in an ideal world and
paint a great picture. Mrs. Hobbs would come to my bedside in the
morning and ask me if I would like to buy a fowl. When I looked upon the
fowl, limp in death, with its headless neck hanging dejectedly over the
edge of the plate, its giblets and kidneys lying in immodest confusion
on the outside of itself, and its liver 'tucked under its wing, poor
thing,' I never wanted to buy it. But one morning, in taking my walk,
I chanced upon an idyllic spot: the front of the whitewashed cottage
embowered in flowers, bird-cages built into these bowers, a little
notice saying 'Canaries for Sale,' and an English rose of a baby sitting
in the path stringing hollyhock buds. There was no apartment sign, but
I walked in, ostensibly to buy some flowers. I met Mrs. Bobby, loved
her at first sight, the passion was reciprocal, and I wheedled her
into giving me her own sitting-room and the bedroom above it. It only
remained now for me to break my projected change of residence to my
present landlady, and this I distinctly dreaded. Of course Mrs. Hobbs
said, when I timidly mentioned the subject, that she wished she had
known I was leaving an hour before, for she had just refused a lady
and her husband, most desirable persons, who looked as if they would be
permanent. Can it be that lodgers radiate the permanent or transitory
quality, quite unknown to themselves?

I was very much embarrassed, as she threatened to become tearful; and
as I was determined never to give up Mrs. Bobby, I said desperately, "I
must leave you, Mrs. Hobbs, I must indeed; but as you seem to feel so
badly about it, I'll go out and find you another lodger in my place."

The fact is, I had seen, not long before, a lady going in and out of
houses, as I had done on the night of my arrival, and it occurred to
me that I might pursue her, and persuade her to take my place in Holly
House and buy the headless fowl. I walked for nearly an hour before I
was rewarded with a glimpse of my victim's grey dress whisking round the
corner of Pump Street. I approached, and, with a smile that was intended
to be a justification in itself, I explained my somewhat unusual
mission. She was rather unreceptive at first; she thought evidently that
I was to have a percentage on her, if I succeeded in capturing her
alive and delivering her to Mrs. Hobbs; but she was very weary and
discouraged, and finally fell in with my plans. She accompanied me home,
was introduced to Mrs. Hobbs, and engaged my rooms from the following
day. As she had a sister, she promised to be a more lucrative incumbent
than I; she enjoyed ordering food in a raw state, did not care for
views, and thought purple clematis vines only a shelter for insects:
so every one was satisfied, and I most of all when I wrestled with Mrs.
Hobb's itemised bill for two nights and one day. Her weekly account must
be rolled on a cylinder, I should think, like the list of Don Juan's
amours, for the bill of my brief residence beneath her roof was quite
three feet in length, each of the following items being set down every
twenty-four hours:--

     Apartments.
     Ale.
     Bath.
     Kidney beans.
     Candles.
     Vegetable marrow.
     Tea.
     Eggs.
     Butter.
     Bread.
     Cut off joint.
     Plums.
     Potatoes.
     Chops.
     Kipper.
     Rasher.
     Salt.
     Pepper.
     Vinegar.
     Sugar.
     Washing towels.
     Lights.
     Kitchen fire.
     Sitting-room fire.
     Attendance.
     Boots.

The total was seventeen shillings and sixpence, and as Mrs. Hobbs wrote
upon it, in her neat English hand, 'Received payment, with respectful
thanks,' she carefully blotted the wet ink, and remarked casually that
service was not included in 'attendance,' but that she would leave the
amount to me.



Chapter XVIII. I meet Mrs. Bobby.



Mrs. Bobby and I were born for each other, though we have been a long
time in coming together. She is the pink of neatness and cheeriness, and
she has a broad, comfortable bosom on which one might lay a motherless
head, if one felt lonely in a stranger land. I never look at her without
remembering what the poet Samuel Rogers said of Lady Parke: 'She is so
good that when she goes to heaven she will find no difference save that
her ankles will be thinner and her head better dressed.'

No raw fowls visit my bedside here; food comes as I wish it to come when
I am painting, like manna from heaven. Mrs. Bobby brings me three times
a day something to eat, and though it is always whatever she likes, I
always agree in her choice, and send the blue dishes away empty. She
asked me this morning if I enjoyed my 'h'egg,' and remarked that she had
only one fowl, but it laid an egg for me every morning, so I might know
it was 'fresh as fresh.' It is certainly convenient: the fowl lays the
egg from seven to seven-thirty, I eat it from eight to eight-thirty; no
haste, no waste. Never before have I seen such heavenly harmony between
supply and demand. Never before have I been in such visible and unbroken
connection with the source of my food. If I should ever desire two eggs,
or if the fowl should turn sulky or indolent, I suppose Mrs. Bobby would
have to go half a mile to the nearest shop, but as yet everything has
worked to a charm. The cow is milked into my pitcher in the morning, and
the fowl lays her egg almost literally in my egg-cup. One of the little
Bobbies pulls a kidney bean or a tomato or digs a potato for my dinner,
about half an hour before it is served. There is a sheep in the garden,
but I hardly think it supplies the chops; those, at least, are not
raised on the premises.

One grievance I did have at first, but Mrs. Bobby removed the thorn
from the princess' pillow as soon as it was mentioned. Our next-door
neighbour had a kennel of homesick, discontented, and sleepless puppies
of various breeds, that were in the habit of howling all night until
Mrs. Bobby expostulated with Mrs. Gooch in my behalf. She told me that
she found Mrs. Gooch very snorty, very snorty indeed, because the pups
were an 'obby of her 'usbants; whereupon Mrs. Bobby responded that if
Mrs. Gooch's 'usbant 'ad to 'ave an 'obby, it was a shame it 'ad to be
'owling pups to keep h'innocent people awake o' nights. The puppies were
removed, but I almost felt guilty at finding fault with a dog in this
country. It is a matter of constant surprise to me, and it always give
me a warm glow in the region of the heart, to see the supremacy of the
dog in England. He is respected, admired, loved, and considered, as he
deserves to be everywhere, but as he frequently is not. He is admitted
on all excursions; he is taken into the country for his health; he is a
factor in all the master' plans; in short, the English dog is a member
of the family, in good and regular standing.

My interior surroundings are all charming. My little sitting-room, out
of which I turned Mrs. Bobby, is bright with potted ferns and flowering
plants, and on its walls, besides the photographs of a large and
unusually plain family, I have two works of art which inspire me anew
every time I gaze at them: the first a scriptural subject, treated by an
enthusiastic but inexperienced hand, 'Susanne dans le Bain, surprise par
les Deux Vieillards'; the second, 'The White Witch of Worcester on her
Way to the Stake at High Cross.' The unfortunate lady in the latter
picture is attired in a white lawn wrapper with angel sleeves, and is
followed by an abbess with prayer-book, and eight surpliced choir-boys
with candles. I have been long enough in England to understand the
significance of the candles. Doubtless the White Witch had paid four
shillings a week for each of them in her prison lodging, and she
naturally wished to burn them to the end.

One has no need, though, of pictures on the walls here, for the universe
seems unrolled at one's very feet. As I look out of my window the last
thing before I go to sleep, I see the lights of Great Belvern, the
dim shadows of the distant cathedral towers, the quaint priory seven
centuries old, and just the outline of Holly Bush Hill, a sacred seat of
magic science when the Druids investigated the secrets of the stars,
and sought, by auspices and sacrifices, to forecast the future and to
penetrate the designs of the gods.

It makes me feel very new, very undeveloped, to look out of that window.
If I were an Englishwoman, say the fifty-fifth duchess of something, I
could easily glow with pride to think that I was part and parcel of such
antiquity; the fortunate heiress not only of land and titles, but
of historic associations. But as I am an American with a very recent
background, I blow out my candle with the feeling that it is rather
grand to be making history for somebody else to inherit.



Chapter XIX. The heart of the artist.



I am almost too comfortable with Mrs. Bobby. In fact I wished to be
just a little miserable in Belvern, so that I could paint with a frenzy.
Sometimes, when I have been in a state of almost despairing loneliness
and gloom, the colours have glowed on my canvas and the lines have
shaped themselves under my hand independent of my own volition. Now,
tucked away in a corner of my consciousness is the knowledge that I need
never be lonely again unless I choose. When I yield myself fully to the
sweet enchantment of this thought, I feel myself in the mood to paint
sunshine, flowers, and happy children's faces; yet I am sadly lacking
in concentration, all the same. The fact is, I am no artist in the true
sense of the word. My hope flies ever in front of my best success, and
that momentary success does not deceive me in the very least. I know
exactly how much, or rather how little, I am worth; that I lack the
imagination, the industry, the training, the ambition, to achieve any
lasting results. I have the artistic temperament in so far that it is
impossible for me to work merely for money or popularity, or indeed for
anything less than the desire to express the best that is in me without
fear or favour. It would never occur to me to trade on present approval
and dash off unworthy stuff while I have command of the market. I am
quite above all that, but I am distinctly below that other mental and
spiritual level where art is enough; where pleasure does not signify;
where one shuts oneself up and produces from sheer necessity; where one
is compelled by relentless law; where sacrifice does not count; where
ideas throng the brain and plead for release in expression; where effort
is joy, and the prospect of doing something enduring lures the soul on
to new and ever new endeavour: so I shall never be rich or famous.

What shall I paint to-day? Shall it be the bit of garden underneath my
window, with the tangle of pinks and roses, and the cabbages growing
appetisingly beside the sweet-williams, the woodbine climbing over the
brown stone wall, the wicket-gate, and the cherry-tree with its fruit
hanging red against the whitewashed cottage? Ah, if I could only paint
it so truly that you could hear the drowsy hum of the bees among the
thyme, and smell the scented hay-meadows in the distance, and feel that
it is midsummer in England! That would indeed be truth, and that would
be art. Shall I paint the Bobby baby as he stoops to pick the cowslips
and the flax, his head as yellow and his eyes as blue as the flowers
themselves; or that bank opposite the gate, with its gorse bushes in
golden bloom, its mountain-ash hung with scarlet berries, its tufts
of harebells blossoming in the crevices of rock, and the quaint low
clock-tower at the foot? Can I not paint all these in the full glow of
summer-time in my secret heart whenever I open the door a bit and admit
its life-giving warmth and beauty? I think I can, if I can only quit
dreaming.

I wonder how the great artists worked, and under what circumstances
they threw aside the implements of their craft, impatient of all but
the throb of life itself? Could Raphael paint Madonnas the week of his
betrothal? Did Thackeray write a chapter the day his daughter was
born? Did Plato philosophise freely when he was in love? Were there
interruptions in the world's great revolutions, histories, dramas,
reforms, poems, and marbles when their creators fell for a brief moment
under the spell of the little blind tyrant who makes slaves of us all?
It must have been so. Your chronometer heart, on whose pulsations you
can reckon as on the procession of the equinoxes, never gave anything to
the world unless it were a system of diet, or something quite uncoloured
and unglorified by the imagination.



Chapter XX. A canticle to Jane.



There are many donkeys owned in these nooks among the hills, and some
of the thriftier families keep donkey-chairs (or 'cheers,' as they call
them) to let to the casual summer visitor. This vehicle is a regular
Bath chair, into which the donkey is harnessed. Some of them have a tiny
driver's seat, where a small lad sits beating and berating the donkey
for the incumbent, generally a decrepit dowager from London. Other
chairs are minus this absurd coachman's perch, and in this sort I take
my daily drives. I hire the miniature chariot from an old woman who
dwells at the top of Gorse Hill, and who charges one and fourpence the
hour, It is a little more when she fetches the donkey to the door, or
when the weather is wet or the day is very warm, or there is an unusual
breeze blowing, or I wish to go round the hills; but under ordinary
circumstances, which may at any time occur, but which never do, one and
four the hour. It is only a shilling, if you have the boy to drive
you; but, of course, if you drive yourself, you throw the boy out of
employment, and have to pay extra.

It was in this fashion and on these elastic terms that I first met you,
Jane, and this chapter shall be sacred to you! Jane the long-eared, Jane
the iron-jawed, Jane the stubborn, Jane donkeyer than other donkeys,--in
a word, MULIER! It may be that Jane has made her bow to the public
before this. If she has ever come into close relation with man or woman
possessed of the instinct of self-expression, then this is certainly not
her first appearance in print, for no human being could know Jane and
fail to mention her.

Pause, Jane,--this you will do gladly, I am sure, since pausing is
the one accomplishment to which you lend yourself with special
energy,--pause, Jane, while I sing a canticle to your character. Jane
is a tiny--person, I was about to say, for she has so strong an
individuality that I can scarcely think of her as less than human--Jane
is a tiny, solemn creature, looking all docility and decorum, with long
hair of a subdued tan colour, very much worn off in patches, I fear, by
the offending toe of man.

I am a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
and I hope that I am as tender-hearted as most women; nevertheless, I
can understand how a man of weak principle and violent temper, or a man
possessed of a desire to get to a particular spot not favoured by Jane,
or by a wish to reach any spot by a certain hour,--I can understand how
such a man, carried away by helpless wrath, might possibly ruffle Jane's
sad-coloured hair with the toe of his boot.

Jane is small, yet mighty. She is multum in parvo; she is the rock of
Gibraltar in animate form; she is cosmic obstinacy on four legs. When
following out the devices and desires of her own heart, or resisting
the devices and desires of yours, she can put a pressure of five hundred
tons on the bit. She is further fortified by the possession of legs
which have iron rods concealed in them, these iron rods terminating
in stout grip-hooks, with which she takes hold on mother earth with an
expression that seems to say,--

     'This rock shall fly
      From its firm base as soon as I.'

When I start out in the afternoon, Mrs. Bobby frequently asks me where I
am going. I always answer that I have not made up my mind, though what
I really mean to say is that Jane has not made up her mind. She never
makes up her mind until after I have made up mine, lest by some unhappy
accident she might choose the very excursion that I desire myself.



Chapter XXI. I remember, I remember.



For example, I wish to visit St. Bridget's Well, concerning which there
are some quaint old verses in a village history:--

     'Out of thy famous hille,
      There daylie springyeth,
      A water passynge stille,
      That alwayes bringyeth
      Grete comfort to all them
      That are diseased men,
      And makes them well again
          To prayse the Lord.

     'Hast thou a wound to heale,
      The wyche doth greve thee;
      Come thenn unto this welle;
      It will relieve thee;
      Nolie me tangeries,
      And other maladies,
      Have there theyr remedies,
          Prays'd be the Lord.'

St. Bridget's Well is a beautiful spot, and my desire to see it is a
perfectly laudable one. In strict justice, it is really no concern of
Jane whether my wishes are laudable or not; but it only makes the
case more flagrant when she interferes with the reasonable plans of a
reasonable being. Never since the day we first met have I harboured a
thought that I wished to conceal from Jane (would that she could say as
much!); nevertheless she treats me as if I were a monster of caprice. As
I said before, I wish to visit St. Bridget's Well, but Jane absolutely
refuses to take me there. After we pass Belvern churchyard we approach
two roads: the one to the right leads to the Holy Well; the one to the
left leads to Shady Dell Farm, where Jane lived when she was a girl. At
the critical moment I pull the right rein with all my force. In vain:
Jane is always overcome by sentiment when she sees that left-hand road.
She bears to the left like a whirlwind, and nothing can stop her mad
career until she is again amid the scenes so dear to her recollection,
the beloved pastures where the mother still lives at whose feet she
brayed in early youth!

Now this is all very pretty and touching. Her action has, in truth, its
springs in a most commendable sentiment that I should be the last to
underrate. Shady Dell Farm is interesting, too, for once, if one can
swallow one's wrath and dudgeon at being taken there against one's will;
and one feels that Jane's parents and Jane's early surroundings must
be worth a single visit, if they could produce a donkey of such unusual
capacity. Still, she must know, if she knows anything, that a person
does not come from America and pay one and fourpence the hour (or
thereabouts) merely in order to visit the home of her girlhood, which is
neither mentioned in Baedeker nor set down in the local guide-books as a
feature of interest.

Whether, in addition to her affection for Shady Dell Farm, she has an
objection to St. Bridget's Well, and thus is strengthened by a
double motive, I do not know. She may consider it a relic of
popish superstition; she may be a Protestant donkey; she is a
Dissenter,--there's no doubt about that.

But, you ask, have you tried various methods of bringing her to terms
and gaining your own desires? Certainly. I have coaxed, beaten, prodded,
prayed. I have tried leading her past the Shady Dell turn; she walks
all over my feet, and then starts for home, I running behind until I
can catch up with her. I have offered her one and tenpence the hour; she
remained firm. One morning I had a happy inspiration; I determined on
conquering Jane by a subterfuge. I said to myself: "I am going to start
for St. Bridget's Well, as usual; several yards before we reach the two
roads, I shall begin pulling, not the right, but the left rein. Jane
will lift her ears suddenly, and say to herself: 'What! has this girl
fallen in love with my birthplace at last, and does she now prefer it
to St. Bridget's Well? Then she shall not have it!' Whereupon Jane
will race madly down the right-hand road for the first time, I pulling
steadily at the left rein to keep up appearances, and I shall at last
realise my wishes."

This was my inspiration. Would you believe that it failed utterly? It
should have succeeded, and would with an ordinary donkey, but Jane saw
through it. She obeyed my pull on the left rein, and went to Shady Dell
Farm as usual.

Another of Jane's eccentricities is a violent aversion to perambulators.
As Belvern is a fine, healthy, growing country, with steadily increasing
population, the roads are naturally alive with perambulators; or at
least alive with the babies inside the perambulators. These are the more
alarming to the timid eye in that many of them are double-barrelled,
so to speak, and are loaded to the muzzle with babies; for not only
do Belvern babies frequently appear as twins, but there are often two
youngsters of a perambulator age in the same family at the same time.
To weave that donkey and that Bath 'cheer' through the narrow streets
of the various Belverns without putting to death any babies, and without
engendering the outspoken condemnation of the screaming mothers and
nurserymaids, is a task for a Jehu. Of course Jane makes it more
difficult by lunging into one perambulator in avoiding another, but she
prefers even that risk to the degradation of treading the path I wish
her to tread.

I often wish that for one brief moment I might remove the lid of Jane's
brain and examine her mental processes. She would not exasperate me so
deeply if I could be certain of her springs of action. Is she old, is
she rheumatic, is she lazy, is she hungry? Sometimes I think she means
well, and is only ignorant and dull; but this hypothesis grows less and
less tenable as I know her better. Sometimes I conclude that she does
not understand me; that the difference in nationality may trouble her.
If an Englishman cannot understand an American woman all at once,
why should an English donkey? Perhaps it takes an American donkey to
comprehend an American woman. Yet I cannot bring myself to drive any
other donkey; I am always hoping to impress myself on her imagination,
and conquer her will through her fancy. Meanwhile, I like to feel myself
in the grasp of a nature stronger than my own, and so I hold to Jane,
and buy a photograph of St. Bridget's Well!



Chapter XXII. Comfort Cottage.



It was about two o'clock in the afternoon, and I suddenly heard
a strange sound, that of our fowl cackling. Yesterday I heard her
tell-tale note about noon, and the day before just as I was eating my
breakfast. I knew that it would be so! The serpent has entered Eden.
That fowl has laid before eight in the morning for three weeks without
interruption, and she has now entered upon a career of wild and reckless
uncertainty which compels me to eat eggs from twelve to twenty-four
hours old, just as if I were in London.

     Alas for the rarity
     Of regularity
     Under the sun!

A hen, being of the feminine gender, underestimates the majesty of order
and system; she resents any approach to the unimaginative monotony of
the machine. Probably the Confederated Fowl Union has been meddling
with our little paradise where Labour and Capital have dwelt in heavenly
unity until now. Nothing can be done about it, of course; even if it
were possible to communicate with the fowl, she would say, I suppose,
that she would lay when she was ready, and not before; at least, that is
what an American hen would say.

Just as I was brooding over these mysteries and trying to hatch out some
conclusions, Mrs. Bobby knocked at the door, and, coming in, curtsied
very low before saying, "It's about namin' the 'ouse, miss."

"Oh yes. Pray don't stand, Mrs. Bobby; take a chair. I am not very
busy; I am only painting prickles on my gorse bushes, so we will talk it
over."

I shall not attempt to give you Mrs. Bobby's dialect in reporting my
various interviews with her, for the spelling of it is quite beyond my
powers. Pray remove all the h's wherever they occur, and insert
them where they do not; but there will be, over and beyond this, an
intonation quite impossible to render.

Mrs. Bobby bought her place only a few months ago, for she lived in
Cheltenham before Mr. Bobby died. The last incumbent had probably been
of Welsh extraction, for the cottage had been named 'Dan-y-cefn.' Mrs.
Bobby declared, however, that she wouldn't have a heathenish name posted
on her house, and expect her friends to pronounce it when she couldn't
pronounce it herself. She seemed grieved when at first I could not see
the absolute necessity of naming the cottage at all, telling her that in
America we named only grand places. She was struck dumb with amazement
at this piece of information, and failed to conceive of the confusion
that must ensue in villages where streets were scarcely named or houses
numbered. I confess it had never occurred to me that our manner of doing
was highly inconvenient, if not impossible, and I approached the subject
of the name with more interest and more modesty.

"Well, Mrs. Bobby," I began, "it is to be Cottage; we've decided that,
have we not? It is to be Cottage, not House, Lodge, Mansion, or Villa.
We cannot name it after any flower that blows, because they are all
taken. Have all the trees been used?"

"Thank you, miss, yes, miss, all but h'ash-tree, and we 'ave no h'ash."

"Very good, we must follow another plan. Family names seem to be chosen,
such as Gower House, Marston Villa, and the like. 'Bobby Cottage' is not
pretty. What was your maiden name, Mrs. Bobby?"

"Buggins, thank you, miss. 'Elizabeth Buggins, Licensed to sell
Poultry,' was my name and title when I met Mr. Bobby."

"I'm sorry, but 'Buggins Cottage' is still more impossible than 'Bobby
Cottage.' Now here's another idea: where were you born, Mrs. Bobby?"

"In Snitterfield, thank you, miss."

"Dear, dear! how unserviceable!"

"Thank you, miss."

"Where was Mr. Bobby born?"

"He never mentioned, miss."

(Mr. Bobby must have been expansive, for they were married twenty
years.)

"There is always Victoria or Albert," I said tentatively, as I wiped my
brushes.

"Yes, miss, but with all respect to her Majesty, them names give me a
turn when I see them on the gates, I am that sick of them."

"True. Can we call it anything that will suggest its situation? Is there
a Hill Crest?"

"Yes, miss, there is 'Ill Crest, 'Ill Top, 'Ill View, 'Ill Side, 'Ill
End, H'under 'Ill, 'Ill Bank, and 'Ill Terrace."

"I should think that would do for Hill."

"Thank you, miss. 'Ow would 'The 'Edge' do, miss?"

"But we have no hedge." (She shall not have anything with an h in it, if
I can help it.)

"No, miss, but I thought I might set out a bit, if worst come to worst."

"And wait three or four years before people would know why the cottage
was named? Oh no, Mrs. Bobby."

"Thank you, miss."

"We might have something quite out of the common, like 'Providence
Cottage,' down the bank. I don't know why Mrs. Jones calls it Providence
Cottage, unless she thinks it's a providence that she has one at all;
or because, as it's just on the edge of the hill, she thinks it's a
providence that it hasn't blown off. How would you like 'Peace' or
'Rest' Cottage?"

"Begging your pardon, miss, it's neither peace nor rest I gets in it
these days, with a twenty-five pound debt 'anging over me, and three
children to feed and clothe."

"I fear we are not very clever, Mrs. Bobby, or we should hit upon the
right thing with less trouble. I know what I will do: I will go down in
the road and look at the place for a long time from the outside, and try
to think what it suggests to me."

"Thank you, miss; and I'm sure I'm grateful for all the trouble you are
taking with my small affairs."

Down I went, and leaned over the wicket-gate, gazing at the unnamed
cottage. The brick pathway was scrubbed as clean as a penny, and the
stone step and the floor of the little kitchen as well. The garden was
a maze of fragrant bloom, with never a weed in sight. The fowl cackled
cheerily still, adding insult to injury, the pet sheep munched grass
contentedly, and the canaries sang in their cages under the vines.
Mrs. Bobby settled herself on the porch with a pan of peas in her neat
gingham lap, and all at once I cried:--

"'Comfort Cottage'! It is the very essence of comfort, Mrs. Bobby, even
if there is not absolute peace or rest. Let me paint the signboard for
you this very day."

Mrs. Bobby was most complacent over the name. She had the greatest
confidence in my judgment, and the characterisation pleased her
housewifely pride, so much so that she flushed with pleasure as she said
that if she 'ad 'er 'ealth she thought she could keep the place looking
so that the passers-by would easily h'understand the name.



Chapter XXIII. Tea served here.



It was some days after the naming of the cottage that Mrs. Bobby
admitted me into her financial secrets, and explained the difficulties
that threatened her peace of mind. She still has twenty-five pounds
to pay before Comfort Cottage is really her own. With her cow and
her vegetable garden, to say nothing of her procrastinating fowl, she
manages to eke out a frugal existence, now that her eldest son is in a
blacksmith's shop at Worcester, and is sending her part of his weekly
savings. But it has been a poor season for canaries, and a still poorer
one for lodgers; for people in these degenerate days prefer to be nearer
the hotels and the mild gaieties of the larger settlements. It is all
very well so long as I remain with her, and she wishes fervently that
that may be for ever; for never, she says, eloquently, never in all her
Cheltenham and Belvern experience, has she encountered such a jewel of a
lodger as her dear Miss 'Amilton, so little trouble, and always a bit of
praise for her plain cooking, and a pleasant word for the children, to
whom most lodgers object, and such an interest in the cow and the fowl
and the garden and the canaries, and such kindness in painting the
name of the cottage, so that it is the finest thing in the village, and
nobody can get past the 'ouse without stopping to gape at it! But when
her American lodger leaves her, she asks,--and who is she that can
expect to keep a beautiful young lady who will be naming her own cottage
and painting signboards for herself before long, likely?--but when
her American lodger is gone, how is she, Mrs. Bobby, to put by a few
shillings a month towards the debt on the cottage? These are some of the
problems she presents to me. I have turned them over and over in my mind
as I have worked, and even asked Willie Beresford in my weekly letter
what he could suggest. Of course he could not suggest anything: men
never can; although he offered to come there and lodge for a month at
twenty-five pounds a week. All at once, one morning, a happy idea struck
me, and I ran down to Mrs. Bobby, who was weeding the onion-bed in the
back garden.

"Mrs. Bobby," I said, sitting down comfortably on the edge of the
lettuce-frame, "I am sure I know how you can earn many a shilling during
the summer and autumn months, and you must begin the experiment while
I am here to advise you. I want you to serve five-o'clock tea in your
garden."

"But, miss, thanking you kindly, nobody would think of stoppin' 'ere for
a cup of tea once in a twelvemonth."

"You never know what people will do until you try them. People will do
almost anything, Mrs. Bobby, if you only put it into their heads, and
this is the way we shall make our suggestion to the public. I will paint
a second signboard to hang below 'Comfort Cottage.' It will be much more
beautiful than the other, for it shall have a steaming kettle on it,
and a cup and saucer, and the words 'Tea Served Here' underneath, the
letters all intertwined with tea-plants. I don't know how tea-plants
look, but then neither does the public. You will set one round table on
the porch, so that if it threatens rain, as it sometimes does, you know,
in England, people will not be afraid to sit down; and the other
you will put under the yew-tree near the gate. The tables must be
immaculate; no spotted, rumpled cloths and chipped cups at Comfort
Cottage, which is to be a strictly first-class tea station. You will
put vases of flowers on the tables, and you will not mix red, yellow,
purple, and blue ones in the same vase-"

"It's the way the good Lord mixes 'em in the fields," interjected Mrs.
Bobby piously.

"Very likely; but you will permit me to remark that the good Lord can
manage things successfully which we poor humans cannot. You will set out
your cream-jug that was presented to Mrs. Martha Buggins by her friends
and neighbours as a token of respect in 1823, and the bowl that was
presented to Mr. Bobby as a sword and shooting prize in 1860, and all
your pretty little odds and ends. You will get everything ready in the
kitchen, so that customers won't have to wait long; but you will not
prepare much in advance, so that there'll be nothing wasted."

"It sounds beautiful in your mouth, miss, and it surely wouldn't be any
'arm to make a trial of it."

"Of course it won't. There is no inn here where nice people will stop
(who would ever think of asking for tea at the Retired Soldier?), and
the moment they see our sign, in walking or driving past, that moment
they will be consumed with thirst. You do not begin to appreciate
our advantages as a tea station. In the first place, there is a
watering-trough not far from the gate, and drivers very often stop
to water their horses; then we have the lovely garden which everybody
admires; and if everything else fails, there is the baby. Put that faded
pink flannel slip on Jem, showing his tanned arms and legs as usual,
tie up his sleeves with blue bows as you did last Sunday, put my white
tennis-cap on the back of his yellow curls, turn him loose in the
hollyhocks, and await results. Did I not open the gate the moment I saw
him, though there was no apartment sign in the window?"

Mrs. Bobby was overcome by the magic of my arguments, and as there were
positively no attendant risks, we decided on an early opening. The
very next day after the hanging of the second sign, I superintended the
arrangements myself. It was a nice thirsty afternoon, and as I filled
the flower-vases I felt such a desire for custom and such a love of
trade animating me that I was positively ashamed. At three o'clock I
went upstairs and threw myself on the bed for a nap, for I had been
sketching on the hills since early morning. It may have been an hour
later when I heard the sound of voices and the stopping of a heavy
vehicle before the house. I stole to the front window, and, peeping
under the shelter of the vines, saw a char-a-bancs, on the way from
Great Belvern to the Beacon. It held three gentlemen, two ladies, and
four children, and everything had worked precisely as I intended.
The driver had seen the watering-trough, the gentlemen had seen the
tea-sign, the children had seen the flowers and the canaries, and
the ladies had seen the baby. I went to the back window to call an
encouraging word to Mrs. Bobby, but to my horror I saw that worthy woman
disappearing at the extreme end of the lane in full chase of our cow,
that had broken down the fence, and was now at large with some of our
neighbour's turnip-tops hanging from her mouth.



Chapter XXIV. An unlicensed victualler.



Ruin stared us in the face. Were our cherished plans to be frustrated
by a marauding cow, who little realised that she was imperilling her
own means of existence? Were we to turn away three, five, nine thirsty
customers at one fell swoop? Never! None of these people ever saw me
before, nor would ever see me again. What was to prevent my serving them
with tea? I had on a pink cotton gown,--that was well enough; I hastily
buttoned on a clean painting apron, and seizing a freshly laundered
cushion cover lying on the bureau, a square of lace and embroidery, I
pinned it on my hair for a cap while descending the stairs. Everything
was right in the kitchen, for Mrs. Bobby had flown in the midst of her
preparations. The loaf, the bread-knife, the butter, the marmalade, all
stood on the table, and the kettle was boiling. I set the tea to draw,
and then dashed to the door, bowed appetisingly to the visitors, showed
them to the tables with a winning smile (which was to be extra), seated
the children maternally on the steps and laid napkins before them,
dashed back to the kitchen, cut the thin bread-and-butter, and brought
it with the marmalade, asked my customers if they desired cream, and
told them it was extra, went back and brought a tray with tea, boiling
water, milk, and cream. Lowering my voice to an English sweetness, and
dropping a few h's ostentatiously as I answered questions, I poured
five cups of tea, and four mugs for the children, and cut more
bread-and-butter, for they were all eating like wolves. They praised
the butter. I told them it was a specialty of the house. They requested
muffins. With a smile of heavenly sweetness tinged with regret, I
replied that Saturday was our muffin day; Saturday, muffins; Tuesday,
crumpets; Thursday, scones; and Friday, tea-cakes. This inspiration
sprang into being full grown, like Pallas from the brain of Zeus. While
they were regretting that they had come on a plain bread-and-butter day,
I retired to the kitchen and made out a bill for presentation to the
oldest man of the party.

                                  s.  d.
     Nine teas.   .   .   .       3   6
     Cream    .   .   .   .           3
     Bread-and-butter   .   .     1   0
     Marmalade.   .   .   .           6
                                  -----
                                  5   3

Feeling five and threepence to be an absurdly small charge for five
adult and four infant teas, I destroyed this immediately, and made out
another, putting each item fourpence more, and the bread-and-butter
at one-and-six. I also introduced ninepence for extra teas for the
children, who had had two mugs apiece, very weak. This brought the total
to six shillings and tenpence, and I was beset by a horrible temptation
to add a shilling or two for candles; there was one young man among the
three who looked as if he would have understood the joke.

The father of the family looked at the bill, and remarked quizzically,
"Bond Street prices, eh?"

"Bond Street service," said I, curtsying demurely.

He paid it without flinching, and gave me sixpence for myself. I was
very much afraid he would chuck me under the chin; they are always
chucking barmaids under the chin in old English novels, but I have never
seen it done in real life. As they strolled down to the gate, the second
gentleman gave me another sixpence, and the nice young fellow gave me
a shilling; he certainly had read the old English novels and remembered
them, so I kept with the children. One of the ladies then asked if we
sold flowers.

"Certainly," I replied.

"What do you ask for roses?"

"Fourpence apiece for the fine ones," I answered glibly, hoping it was
enough, "thrippence for the small ones; sixpence for a bunch of sweet
peas, tuppence apiece for buttonhole carnations."

Each of the ladies took some roses and mignonette, and the gentlemen,
who did not care for carnations in the least, weakened when I approached
modestly to pin them in their coats, a la barmaid.

At this moment one of the children began to tease for a canary.

"Have you one for sale?" inquired the fond mother.

"Certainly, madam." (I was prepared to sell the cottage by this time.)

"What do you ask for them?"

Rapid calculation on my part, excessively difficult without pencil and
paper. A canary is three to five dollars in America,--that is, from
twelve shilling to a pound; then at a venture, "From ten shillings to a
guinea, madam, according to the quality of the bird."

"Would you like one for your birthday, Margaret, and do you think you
can feed it and take quite good care of it?"

"Oh yes, mamma!"

"Have you a cage?" to me inquiringly.

"Certainly, madam; it is not a new one, but I shall only charge you a
shilling for it." (Impromptu plan: not knowing whether Mrs. Bobby had
any cages, or if so where she kept them, to remove the canary in Mrs.
Bobby's chamber from the small wooden cage it inhabited, close the
windows, and leave it at large in the room; then bring out the cage and
sell it to the lady.)

"Very well, then, please select me a good singer for about twelve
shillings; a very yellow one, please."

I did so. I had no difficulty about the colour; but as the birds all
stopped singing when I put my hand into the cages, I was somewhat at a
loss to choose a really fine performer. I did my best, with the result
that it turned out to be the mother of several fine families, but no
vocalist, and the generous young man brought it back for an exchange
some days afterwards; not only that, but he came three times during the
next week and nearly ruined his nervous system with tea.

The party finally mounted the char-a-bancs, just as I was about to offer
the baby for twenty-five pounds, and dirt cheap at that. Meanwhile I
gave the driver a cup of lukewarm tea, for which I refused absolutely to
accept any remuneration.

I had cleared the tables before Mrs. Bobby returned, flushed and
panting, with the guilty cow. Never shall I forget that good dame's
astonishment, her mild deprecations, her smiles--nay, her tears--as she
inspected my truly English account and received the silver.

                                  s.  d.
     Nine teas.   .   .   .       3   6
     Cream    .   .   .   .           7
     Bread-and-butter   .   .     1   6
     Extra teas.   .   .   .          9
     Marmalade.   .   .   .           6
     Three tips.   .   .   .      2   0
     Four roses and mignonette.   1   8
     Three carnations   .   .         6
     Canary   .   .   .   .      12   0
     Cage     .   .   .   .       1   0
                                 ------
                                 24   0

I told her I regretted deeply putting down the marmalade so low as
sixpence; but as they had not touched it, it did not matter so much, as
the entire outlay for the entertainment had been only about a shilling.
On that modest investment, I considered one pound three shillings a very
fair sum to be earned by an inexperienced 'licensed victualler' like
myself, particularly as I am English only by adoption, and not by birth.



Chapter XXV. Et ego in Arcadia vixit.



I essayed another nap after this exciting episode. I heard the gate open
once or twice, but a single stray customer, after my hungry and generous
horde, did not stir my curiosity, and I sank into a refreshing slumber,
dreaming that Willie Beresford and I kept an English inn, and that I
was the barmaid. This blissful vision had been of all too short duration
when I was awakened by Mrs. Bobby's apologetic voice.

"It is too bad to disturb you, miss, but I've got to go and patch up the
fence, and smooth over the matter of the turnips with Mrs. Gooch, who is
that snorty I don't know 'ow ever I can pacify her. There is nothing for
you to do, miss, only if you'll kindly keep an eye on the customer at
the yew-tree table. He's been here for 'alf an hour, miss, and I think
more than likely he's a foreigner, by his actions, or may be he's not
quite right in his 'ead, though 'armless. He has taken four cups of tea,
miss, and Billy saw him turn two of them into the 'olly'ocks. He has
been feeding bread-and-butter to the dog, and now the baby is on his
knee, playing with his fine gold watch. He gave me a 'alf-a-crown and
refused to take a penny change; but why does he stop so long, miss? I
can't help worriting over the silver cream-jug that was my mother's."

Mrs. Bobby disappeared. I rose lazily, and approached the window to keep
my promised eye on the mysterious customer. I lifted back the purple
clematis to get a better view.

It was Willie Beresford! He looked up at my ejaculation of surprise,
and, dropping the baby as if it had been a parcel, strode under the
window.

I (gasping). "How did you come here?"

He. "By the usual methods, dear."

I. "You shouldn't have come without asking. Where are all your fine
promises? What shall I do with you? Do you know there isn't an hotel
within four miles?"

He. "That is nothing; it was four hundred miles that I couldn't endure.
But give me a less grudging welcome than this, though I am like a
starving dog that will snatch any morsel thrown to him! It is really
autumn, Penelope, or it will be in a few days. Say you are a little glad
to see me."

(The sight of him so near, after my weeks of loneliness, gave me a
feeling so sudden, so sweet, and so vivid that it seemed to smite me
first on the eyes, and then in the heart; and at the first note of his
convincing voice Doubt picked up her trailing skirts and fled for ever.)

I. "Yes, if you must know it, I am glad to see you; so glad, indeed,
that nothing in the world seems to matter so long as you are here."

He (striding a little nearer, and looking about involuntarily for a
ladder). "Penelope, do you know the penalty of saying such sweet things
to me?"

I. "Perhaps it is because I know the penalty that I'm committing the
offence. Besides, I feel safe in saying anything in this second-story
window."

He. "Don't pride yourself on your safety unless you wish to see me
transformed into a nineteenth-century Romeo, to the detriment of Mrs.
Bobby's creepers. I can look at you for ever, dear, in your pink gown
and your purple frame, unless I can do better. Won't you come down?"

I. "I like it very much up here."

He. "You would like it very much down here, after a little. So you
didn't 'paint me out,' after all?"

I. "No; on the contrary, I painted you in, to every twig and flower,
every hill and meadow, every sunrise and every sunset."

He. "You MUST come down! The distance between Belvern and Aix when I
was not sure that you loved me was nothing compared to having you in a
second story when I know that you do. Come down, Pen! Pretty Pen!"

I. "Suppose we compromise. My sitting-room is just below; will you walk
in and look at my sketches until I come? You needn't ring; the bell is
overgrown with honeysuckle and there is no one to answer it; it might
almost be an American hotel, but it is Arcadia!"

He. "It is Paradise; and alas! here comes the serpent!"

I. "It isn't a serpent; it is the kindest landlady in England.--Mrs.
Bobby, this gentleman is a dear friend of mine from America. Mr.
Beresford, this is Mrs. Bobby, the most comfortable hostess in the
world, and the owner of the cottage, the canaries, the tea-tables, and
the baby.--The reason Mr. Beresford was so thirsty, Mrs. Bobby, was that
he has walked here from Great Belvern, so we must give him some supper
before he returns."

Mrs. B. "Certainly, miss, he shall have the best in the 'ouse, you can
depend upon that."

He. "Don't let me interfere with your usual arrangements. I am not
hungry--for food; I shall do very well until I get back to the hotel."

I. "Indeed you will not, sir! Billy shall pull some tomatoes and
lettuce, Tommy shall milk the cow, and Mrs. Bobby shall make you
a savory omelet that Delmonico might envy. Hark! Is that our fowl
cackling? It is,--at half-past six! She heard me mention omelet and she
must be calling, 'Now I lay me down to sleep.'"

         .         .          .         .

But all that is many days ago, and there are no more experiences to
relate at present. We are making history very fast, Willie Beresford and
I, but much of it is sacred history, and so I cannot chronicle it for
any one's amusement.

Mrs. Beresford is here, or at least she is in Great Belvern, a few miles
distant. I am not painting, these latter days. I have turned the artist
side of my nature to the wall just for a bit, and the woman side is
having full play. I do not know what the world will think about it, if
it stops to think at all, but I feel as if I were 'right side out' for
the first time in my life; and when I take up my brushes again, I shall
have a new world within from which to paint,--yes, and a new world
without.

Good-bye, dear Belvern! Autumn and winter may come into my life, but
whenever I think of you it will be summer-time in my heart. I shall hear
the tinkle of the belled sheep on the hillsides; inhale the fragrance
of the flowering vine that climbed in at my cottage window; relive in
memory the days when Love and I first walked together, hand in hand.
Dear days of happy idleness; of dreaming dreams and seeing visions; of
morning walks over the hills; of 'bread-and-cheese and kisses' at noon,
with kind Mrs. Bobby hovering like a plump guardian angel over the
simple feast; afternoon tea under the friendly shades of the yew-tree,
and parting at the wicket-gate. I can see him pass the clock-tower, the
little greengrocer shop, the old stocks, the green pump; then he is at
the turn of the road where the stone wall and the hawthorn hedge will
presently hide him from my view. I fly up to my window, push back the
vines, catch his last wave of the hand. I would call him back, if I
dared; but it would be no easier to let him go the second time, and
there is always to-morrow. Thank God for to-morrow! And if there should
be no to-morrow? Then thank God for to-day! And so good-bye again, dear
Belvern! It was in the lap of your lovely hills that Penelope first knew
das irdische Gluck; that she first loved, first lived; forgot how to be
artist, in remembering how to be woman.





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