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Title: An American Girl in London
Author: Duncan, Sara Jeannette
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "An American Girl in London" ***

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AN AMERICAN GIRL IN LONDON

By Sara Jeannette Duncan

Illustrated by F. H. Townsend

[Illustration: 0005]

[Illustration: 0006]

New York D. Appleton And Company

1891



PREFACE

FOR THE OTHER AMERICANS.

I have written this account only secondarily and at the instigation of
publishers, for Americans. Primarily, I wrote it for the English people.
I composed it in their country; it was suggested by their institutions,
and it is addressed to them. You will see, if you read it, that I had
reasons for doing this. The reasons are in the first chapter, at the
very beginning. As you have not far to look for them, therefore, and as
it is quite unnecessary to print a thing twice in the same book, I will
not go over them again. The object of this preface is chiefly to
draw your attention to the fact that I am not talking to you, dear
compatriot, so that you will understand that there is no personal ground
for any annoyance you may feel at what I say.

Notwithstanding this, one of the Miss Wastgoggles, of Boston, has
already taken the trouble to send me a rather severely reproachful
letter about my impressions and experiences, in which she says that she
would have written hers, if it had ever occurred to her to do so, very
differently. I have no doubt that this is true. She also begs me
to remember that there are a great many different kinds of girls in
America, numbers of whom are brought up "quite as they are in England."
It is this remark of hers that makes me quote Miss Wastgoggles. I wish
to say in connection with it that, while it is unreasonable to apologize
for being only one kind of American girl, I do not pretend to represent
the ideas of any more.

Mamie Wick.

No. 4000 Prairie Avenue, Chicago, Illinois,

November 20, 1890.

AN AMERICAN GIRL IN LONDON



I

[Illustration: 9014]

AM an American Girl. Therefore, perhaps, you will not be surprised at
anything further I may have to say for myself. I have observed, since
I came to England, that this statement, made by a third person in
connection with any question of my own conduct, is always broadly
explanatory. And as my own conduct will naturally enter more or less
into this volume, I may as well make it in the beginning, to save
complications.

It may be necessary at this point to explain further. I know that in
England an unmarried person, of my age, is not expected to talk
much, especially about herself. This was a little difficult for me to
understand at first, as I have always talked a great deal, and, one
might say, been encouraged to do it; but I have at length been brought
to understand it, and lately I have spoken with becoming infrequency,
and chiefly about the Zoo. I find the Zoo to be a subject which is
almost certain to be received with approval; and in animal nature there
is, fortunately, a good deal of variety. I do not intend, however, in
this book, to talk about the Zoo, or anything connected with it, but
about the general impressions and experiences I have received in your
country; and one of my reasons for departing from approved models
of discussion for young ladies and striking out, as it were, into
subject-matter on my own account, is that I think you may find it more
or less interesting. I have noticed that you are pleased, over here, to
bestow rather more attention upon the American Girl than upon any other
kind of American that we produce. You have taken the trouble to form
opinions about her--I have heard quantities of them. Her behaviour
and her bringing-up, her idioms and her 'accent'--above all her
'accent'--have made themes for you, and you have been good enough to
discuss them--Mr. James, in your midst, correcting and modifying your
impressions--with a good deal of animation, for you. I observe that
she is almost the only frivolous subject that ever gets into your
newspapers. I have become accustomed to meeting her there, usually at
the breakfast-table, dressed in green satin and diamonds. The encounter
had quite a shock of novelty for me at first, but that wore off in time;
the green satin and diamonds were so invariable.

Being an American girl myself, I do not, naturally, quite see the reason
of this, and it is a matter I feel a delicacy about inquiring into, on
personal grounds. Privately, I should think that the number of us that
come over here every summer to see the Tower of London and the National
Gallery, and visit Stratford-upon-Avon, to say nothing of those who
marry and stay in England, would have made you familiar with the kind
of young women we are long ago; and to me it is very curious that you
should go on talking about us. I can't say that we object very much,
because, while you criticise us considerably as a class, you are very
polite to us individually, and nobody minds being criticised as a noun
of multitude. But it has occurred to me that, since so much is to be
said about the American Girl, it might be permissible for her to say
some of it herself.

[Illustration: 8016]

I have learned that in England you like to know a great deal about
people who are introduced to you--who their fathers and mothers are,
their grandfathers and grandmothers, and even further back than that.

So I will gratify you at once on this point, so far as I am able. My
father is Mr. Joshua P. Wick, of Chicago, Ill.--you may have seen his
name in connection with the baking-powder interest in that city. That is
how he made his fortune--in baking-powder; as he has often said, it is
to baking-powder that we owe everything. He began by putting it up
in small quantities, but it is an article that is so much used in the
United States, and ours was such a very good kind, that the demand for
it increased like anything; and though we have not become so rich as a
great many people in America, it is years since poppa gave his personal
superintendence to the business. You will excuse my spelling it 'poppa';
I have called him that all my life, and 'papa' doesn't seem to mean
anything to me.

Lately he has devoted himself to politics; he is in Congress now, and
at the next election momma particularly wishes him to run for senator.
There is a great deal of compliance about poppa, and I think he will
run.

[Illustration: 0017]

Momma was a Miss Wastgaggle, of Boston, and she was teaching school in
Chicago when poppa met her. Her grandfather, who educated her, was a
manufacturer of glass eyes. There are Wastgaggles in Boston now, but
they spell the name with one 'g,' and lately they have been wanting
momma to write hers 'Mrs. Wastgagle-Wick?; but momma says that since she
never liked the name well enough to give it to any of her children, she
is certainly not going to take it again herself. These Wastgagles speak
of our great-grandfather as a well-known oculist, and I suppose, in a
sense, he was one.

[Illustration: 0018]

My father's father lived in England, and was also a manufacturer, poppa
says, always adding, 'in a plain way;' so I suppose whatever he made
he made himself. It may have been boots, or umbrellas, or pastry--poppa
never states; though I should be disposed to think, from his taking up
the baking-powder idea, that it was pastry.

I am sorry that I am not able to give you fuller satisfaction about my
antecedents. I know that I must have had more than I have mentioned, but
my efforts to discover them--and I have made efforts since I decided
to introduce myself to you--have been entirely futile. I am inclined to
think that they were not people who achieved any great distinction in
life; but I have never held anything against them on that account, for I
have no reason to believe that they would not have been distinguished
if they could. I cannot think that it has ever been in the nature of the
Wicks, or the Wastgaggles either, to let the opportunity for distinction
pass through any criminal negligence on their part. I am perfectly
willing to excuse them on this ground, therefore; and if I, who am most
intimately concerned in the matter, can afford to do this, perhaps it is
not unreasonable to expect it of you.

In connections we do better. A grand-aunt of some early Wastgaggles was
burned as a witch in Salem, Mass.--a thing very few families can point
back to, even in England, I should think; and a second cousin of
momma's was the first wife of one of our Presidents. He was a Democratic
President, though, and as poppa always votes the Republican ticket,
we don't think much of that. Besides, as we are careful to point out
whenever we mention the subject, she was in the cemetery years before
he was in the White House. And there is Mrs. Portheris, of Half-Moon
Street, Hyde Park, who is poppa's aunt by her first marriage.

We were all coming at first, poppa, and momma, and I--the others are
still in school--and it had appeared among the 'City Personals' of the
'Chicago Tribune' that 'Colonel and Mrs. Joshua P. Wick, accompanied
by Miss Mamie Wick'--I forgot to say that poppa was in the Civil
War--'would have a look at monarchical institutions this summer.' Our
newspapers do get hold of things so. But just a week before we were
to sail something arose--I think it was a political complication--to
prevent poppa's going, and momma is far too much of an invalid to
undertake such a journey without him. I must say that both my parents
are devoted to me, and when I said I thought I'd prefer going alone to
giving up the trip, neither of them opposed it. Momma said she thought
I ought to have the experience, because, though I'd been a good deal in
society in Chicago, she didn't consider that that in itself was enough.
Poppa said that the journey was really nothing nowadays, and he could
easily get me a letter of introduction to the captain. Besides, in a
shipful of two or three hundred there would be sure to be some pleasant
people I could get acquainted with on the voyage. Mrs. Von Stuvdidyl,
who lives next door to us, and has been to Europe several times,
suggested that I should take a maid, and momma rather liked the idea,
but I persuaded her out of it. I couldn't possibly have undertaken the
care of a maid.

And then we all thought of Mrs. Portheris.

None of us had ever seen her, and there had been very little
correspondence; in fact, we had not had a letter from her since several
years ago, when she wrote a long one to poppa, something about some
depressed California mining stock, I believe, which she thought poppa,
as her nephew and an American, ought to take off her hands before it
fell any lower. And I remember that poppa obliged her: whether as an
American or as her nephew I don't know. After that she sent us every
year a Christmas card, with an angel or a bunch of forget-me-nots on it,
inscribed, 'To my nephew and niece, Joshua Peter and Mary Wick, and all
their dear ones.' Her latest offering was lying in the card-basket on
the table then, and I am afraid we looked at it with more interest than
we had ever done before.

[Illustration: 0021]

The 'dear ones' read so sympathetically that momma said she knew we
could depend upon Mrs. Portheris to take me round and make me enjoy
myself, and she wanted to cable that I was coming. But poppa said No,
his aunt must be getting up in years now, and an elderly English lady
might easily be frightened into apoplexy by a cablegram. It was a pity
there was no time to write, but I must just go and see her immediately,
and say that I was the daughter of Joshua P. Wick, of Chicago, and she
would be certain to make me feel at home at once. But, as I said, none
of us knew Mrs. Portheris.



II

|I AM not much acquainted in New York, so I had only poppa and Mr.
Winterhazel to see me off. Mr. Winterhazel lives there, and does
business in Wall Street, where he operates very successfully, I've been
told, for such a young man. We had been the greatest friends and regular
correspondents for three or four years--our tastes in literature and art
were almost exactly the same, and it was a mutual pleasure to keep it
up--but poppa had never met him before. They were very happy to make
each other's acquaintance, though, and became quite intimate at once;
they had heard so much about each other, they said. We had allowed two
days before the steamer sailed, so that I could make some purchases--New
York styles are so different from Chicago ones; and, as poppa said
afterwards, it was very fortunate that Mr. Winterhazel was there.
Otherwise, I should have been obliged to go round to the stores alone;
for poppa himself was so busy seeing people about political matters that
he hadn't the thirtieth part of a second for me, except at meal-times,
and then there was almost always somebody there. London is nothing to
New York for confusion and hurry, and until you get accustomed to it the
Elevated is apt to be very trying to your nerves. But Mr. Winterhazel
was extremely kind, and gave up his whole time to me; and as he knew all
the best stores, this put me under the greatest obligation to him.
After dinner the first evening he took me to hear a gentleman who
was lecturing on the London of Charles Dickens, with a stereopticon,
thinking that, as I was going to London, it would probably be of
interest to me--and it was. I anticipated your city more than ever
afterwards. Poppa was as disappointed as could be that he wasn't able to
go with us to the lecture; but he said that politics were politics, and
I suppose they are.

Next day I sailed from North River Docks, Pier No. 2, a fresh wind
blowing all the harbour into short blue waves, with the sun on them,
and poppa and Mr. Winterhazel taking off their hats and waving their
handkerchiefs as long as I could see them. I suppose I started for Great
Britain with about as many comforts as most people have--poppa and Mr.
Winterhazel had almost filled my state-room with flowers, and I found
four pounds of caramels under the lower berth--but I confess, as we
steamed out past Staten Island, and I saw the statue of Liberty getting
smaller and smaller, and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean getting bigger
and bigger, I felt very much by myself indeed, and began to depend a
good deal upon Mrs. Portheris.

As to the caramels, in the next three hours I gave the whole of them to
the first stewardess, who was kind enough to oblige me with a lemon.

Before leaving home I had promised everybody that I would keep a diary,
and most of the time I did; but I find nothing at all of interest in it
about the first three days of the voyage to London. The reason was that
I had no opportunity whatever of making observations. But on the morning
of the fourth day I was obliged to go on deck. The stewardess said
she couldn't put up with it any longer, and I would never recover if I
didn't; and I was very glad afterwards that I gave in. She was a real
kind-hearted stewardess, I may say, though her manner was a little
peremptory.

I didn't find as much sociability on deck as I expected. I should have
thought everybody would have been more or less acquainted by that time,
but, with the exception of a few gentlemen, people were standing or
sitting round in the same little knots they came on board in. And yet
it was very smooth. I was so perfectly delighted to be well again that
I felt I must talk to somebody, so I spoke to one of a party of ladies
from Boston who I thought might know the Wastgagles there. I was very
polite, and she did not seem at all sea-sick, but I found it difficult
to open up a conversation with her. I knew that the Bostonians thought
a good deal of themselves--all the Wastgagles do--and her manner somehow
made me think of a story I once heard of a Massachusetts milestone,
marked '1 m. from Boston,' which somebody thought was a wayside tablet
with the simple pathetic epitaph, 'I'm from Boston,' on it; and just to
enliven her I told her the story. 'Indeed!' she said. 'Well, we _are_
from Boston.'

I didn't quite know what to do after that, for the only other lady near
me was English, I knew by her boots. Beside the boots she had grey hair
and pink cheeks, and rather sharp grey eyes, and a large old-fashioned
muff, and a red cloud. Only an Englishwoman would be wearing a muff and
a cloud like that in public--nobody else would dare to do it. She was
rather portly, and she sat very firmly and comfortably in her chair
with her feet crossed, done up in a big Scotch rug, and being an English
woman I knew that she would not expect anybody to speak to her who had
not been introduced. She would probably, I thought, give me a haughty
stare, as they do in novels, and say, with cold repression, 'You have
the advantage of me, miss!'--and then what would my feelings be? So I
made no more advances to anybody, but walked off my high spirits on the
hurricane-deck, thinking about the exclusiveness of those Bostonians,
and wondering whether, as a nation, we could be catching it from
England.

You may imagine my feelings--or rather, as you are probably English,
you can't--when the head steward gave me my place at the dinner-table
immediately opposite the Bostonians, and between this lady and an
unknown gentleman. 'I shall not make a single travelling acquaintance!'
I said to myself as I sat down--and I must say I was disappointed. I
began to realise how greatly we had all unconsciously depended upon my
forming nice travelling acquaintances, as people always do in books, to
make the trip pleasant, and I thought that in considering another voyage
I should divorce myself from that idea beforehand. However, I said
nothing, of course, and found a certain amount of comfort in my soup.

I remember the courses of that dinner very well, and if they were
calculated to make interesting literary matter I could write them out.
The Bostonians ostentatiously occupied themselves with one another. One
of them took up a position several miles behind her spectacles, looked
at me through them, and then said something to her neighbour about
'Daisy Miller,' which the neighbour agreed to. I know what they meant
now. The gentleman, when he was not attending to his dinner, stared at
the salt-cellar most of the time, in a blank, abstracted way; and the
English lady, who looked much nicer unshelled than she did on deck, kept
her head carefully turned in the other direction, and made occasional
remarks to an elderly person next her who was very deaf. If I had not
been hungry, I don't know how I should have felt. But I maintained an
absolute silence and ate my dinner.

Gradually--perhaps because the elderly person was so extremely deaf, and
my own behaviour comparatively unaggressive--the lady of England began
to assume a less uncomfortable position. A certain repellent air went
out of her right shoulder. Presently she sat quite parallel with the
table. By the advent of the pudding--it was cabinet pudding--I had
become conscious that she had looked at me casually three times. When
the Gorgonzola appeared I refused it. In America ladies eat very little
Gorgonzola.

'Don't you _like_ cheese?' she said, suddenly, a little as if I had
offended her. I was so startled that I equivocated somewhat.

'No'm, not to day, I think--thank you!' I said. The fact is, I never
touch it.

'Oh!' she responded. 'But then, this is your first appearance, I
suppose? In that case, you wouldn't like it.' And I felt forgiven.

She said nothing more until dessert, and then she startled me again.
'Have you been bad?' she inquired.

I didn't know quite what to say, it seemed such an extraordinary
question, but it flashed upon me that perhaps the lady was some kind
of missionary, in which case it was my duty to be respectful. So I said
that I hoped not--that at least I hadn't been told so since I was a
very little girl. 'But then,' I said, 'The Episcopalian Prayer-book
says we're all miserable sinners, doesn't it?' The lady looked at me in
astonishment.

'What has the Prayer-book to do with your being ill?' she exclaimed.
'Oh, I see!' and she laughed very heartily. 'You thought I meant
naughty! Cross-questions and crooked answers! Mr. Mafferton, you will
appreciate this!' Mr. Mafferton was the gentleman whom I have mentioned
in connection with the salt-cellars; and my other neighbour seemed to
know him, which, as they both came from England, did not surprise me
then, although now I should be inclined to consider that the most likely
reason of all why they shouldn't be acquainted. I didn't see anything so
very humorous in it, but the lady explained our misunderstanding to Mr.
Mafferton as if it were the greatest joke imaginable, and she had made
it herself. 'Really,' she said, 'it's good enough for "Punch!'" I was
unfamiliar with that paper then, and couldn't say; but now I think it
was myself.

Mr. Mafferton coloured dreadfully--I omitted to say that he was a
youngish gentleman--and listened with a sort of strained smile, which
debouched into a hesitating and uncomfortable remark about 'curious
differences in idioms.' I thought he intended it to be polite, and he
said it in the most agreeable man's voice I had ever heard; but I could
not imagine what there was to flurry him so, and I felt quite sorry for
him. And he had hardly time to get safely back to the salt-cellar before
we all got up.

Next morning at breakfast I got on beautifully with the English lady,
who hardly talked to the elderly deaf person at all, but was kind enough
to be very much interested in what I expected to see in London. 'Your
friends will have their hands full,' she remarked, with a sort of kind
acerbity, 'if they undertake to show you all that!' I thought of
poor old Mrs. Portheris, who was probably a martyr to rheumatism and
neuralgia, with some compunction. 'Oh!' I said, 'I shouldn't think of
asking them to; I'll read it all up, and then I can go round beautifully
by myself!'

'By _yourself!_' she exclaimed. 'You! This is an independent American
young lady--the very person I went especially to the United States to
see, and spent a whole season in New York, going everywhere, without
coming across a single specimen! You must excuse my staring at you. But
you'll have to get over that idea. Your friends will never in the world
allow it--I suppose you _have_ friends?'

'No,' I said; 'only a relation.'

The lady laughed. 'Do you intend that for a joke?' she asked. 'Well,
they do mean different things sometimes. But we'll see what the relation
will have to say to it.'

Mr. Mafferton occasionally removed his eyes from the salt-cellar during
this meal, and even ventured a remark or two. The remarks were not
striking in any way--there was no food for thought in them whatever; yet
they were very agreeable. Whether it was Mr. Mafferton's voice, or his
manner, or his almost apologetic way of speaking, as if he knew that he
was not properly acquainted, and ought not to do it, I don't know, but
I liked hearing him make them. It was not, however, until later in the
day, when I was sitting on deck talking with the lady from England about
New York, where she didn't seem to like anything but the air and the
melons, that I felt the least bit acquainted with Mr. Mafferton. I had
found out her name, by the way. She asked me mine, and when I told her
she said: 'But you're old enough now to have a Christian name--weren't
you christened Mary?' She went on to say that she believed in the
good old-fashioned names, like Nancy and Betsy, that couldn't be
babified--and I am not sure whether she told me, or it was by intuition,
that I learned that hers was Hephzibah. It seems to me now that it never
could have been anything else. But I am quite certain she added that her
husband was Hector Torquilin, and that he had been dead fifteen years.
'A distinguished man in his time, my dear, as you would know if you had
been brought up in an English schoolroom.' And just then, while I was
wondering what would be the most appropriate thing to say to a lady
who told you that her husband had been dead fifteen years, and was a
distinguished man in his time, and wishing that I had been brought up
in an English schoolroom, so that I could be polite about him, Mr.
Mafferton came up. He had one of Mr. W. D. Howells' novels in his
hand, and at once we glided into the subject of American literature. I
remember I was surprised to find an Englishman so good-natured in his
admiration of some of our authors, and so willing to concede an American
standard which might be a high one, and yet have nothing to do with
Dickens, and so appreciative generally of the conditions which have
brought about our ways of thinking and writing. We had a most delightful
conversation--I had no idea there was so much in Mr. Mafferton--and Mrs.
Torquilin only interrupted once. That was to ask us if either of us had
ever read the works of Fennimore Cooper, who was about the only author
America had ever produced. Neither of us had, and I said I thought there
were some others. 'Well,' she said, 'he is the only one we ever hear of
in England.' But I don't think Mrs. Torquilin was quite correct in this
statement, because since I have been in England I have met three or
four people, beside Mr. Mafferton, who knew, or at least had heard of,
several American writers. Then Mrs. Torquilin went to sleep, and when
she woke up it was five o'clock, and her maid was just arriving with
her tea. Mr. Mafferton asked me if he might get me some, but I said. No,
thanks; I thought I would take a brisk walk instead, if Mrs. Torquilin
would excuse me.

'Certainly,' she said; 'go and take some exercise, both of you. It's
much better for young people than tea-drinking. And see here, my dear! I
thought you were very sensible not to dress for dinner last night, like
those silly young fools opposite. Silly young fools I call them. Now,
take my advice, and don't let them persuade you to do it. An Atlantic
steamer is no place for bare arms. Now run away, and have your walk, and
Mr. Mafferton will see that you're not blown overboard.'

Mr. Mafferton hesitated a moment. 'Are you quite sure, he said, 'that
you wouldn't prefer the tea?'

'Oh yes, sir!' I said; 'we always have tea at half-past six at home, and
I don't care about it so early as this. I'd much rather walk. But don't
trouble to come with me if _you_ would like some tea.'

'I'll come,' he said, 'if you won't call me "sir."' Here he frowned a
little and coloured. 'It makes one feel seventy, you know. May I ask why
you do it?'

I explained that in Chicago it was considered polite to say 'ma'am' or
'sir' to a lady or gentleman of any age with whom you did not happen to
be very well acquainted, and I had heard it all my life; still, if he
objected to it, I would not use it in his case.

He said he thought he did object to it--from a lady; it had other
associations in his ears.

So I stopped calling Mr. Mifferton 'sir'; and since then, except to
very old gentlemen, I have got out of the way of using the expression.
I asked him if there was anything else that struck him as odd in my
conversation kindly to tell me, as of course I did not wish to be an
unnecessary shock to my relation in Half-Moon Street. He did not say he
would, but we seemed to get on together even more agreeably after that.

[Illustration: 0031]

Mr. Mafferton appeared to know nobody on board but Mrs. Torquilin; and
I made acquaintance with hardly anybody else, so that we naturally saw a
good deal of each other, usually in the afternoons, walking up and down
the deck. He lent me all his books, and I lent him all mine, and we
exchanged opinions on a great variety of subjects. When we argued, he
was always very polite and considerate; but I noticed one curious thing
about him--I never could bring him round to my point of view. He did not
seem to see the necessity of coming, although I often went round to
his. This was a new experience to me in arguing with a gentleman. And
he always talked very impersonally. At first this struck me as a little
cold and uninterested, but afterwards I liked it. It was like drinking
a very nice kind of pure cold water--after the different flavours of
personality I had always been accustomed to. Mr. Mafferton only made
one exception to this rule that I remember, and that was the afternoon
before we landed. Then he told me particularly about his father and
mother, and their tastes and occupation, also the names and ages of his
brothers and sisters, and their tastes and occupations, and where he
lived. But I cannot say I found him as interesting that afternoon as
usual.

I need not describe the bustle and confusion of landing at Liverpool
Docks in the middle of a wet April afternoon. Mrs. Torquilin had told me
at breakfast not on any account to let my relations take me away before
she had given me her address; but when the time came I guess--if you
will allow me--she must have forgotten, because the last time I saw her
she was standing under a very big umbrella, which the maid held over
her, a good deal excited, and giving a great many orders about her
luggage to a nervous-looking man in livery.

I easily identified mine, and got off by train for London without any
trouble to speak of. We arrived rather late, though, and it was still
pouring.

'What has become of your people?' asked somebody at my elbow. I turned
and saw Mr. Mafferton, who must have come down by the same train.

'I didn't expect my relation to meet me,' said; 'she doesn't expect
_me_!'

'Oh!' said Mr. Mafferton; 'you did not write to her before you sailed?'

'No,' I said. 'There wasn't time.'

'Upon my word!' said Mr. Mafferton. Then, as I suppose I looked rather
surprised, he added, hastily: ''I only mean that it seems so--so
uncommonly extraordinary, you know! But I would advise you, in that
case, to give the bulk of your luggage into the hands of the forwarding
agents, with instructions to send it early to-morrow to your friends
address. It is all you can do tonight,' said Mr. Mafferton, 'really. Of
course, you will go there immediately yourself.'

'No,' I responded, firmly; 'I think not, Mr. Mafferton. My relation is
very elderly, and probably in bad health. For all I know, she may have
gone to bed. I must not disturb her so late. All the people I have
ever known have stayed at the Métropole in London. I will go to the
Métropole for to-night, and have my things sent there. To-morrow I will
go and see my relation, and if she asks me to visit her I can easily
telephone up for them. Thank you very much.'

Mr. Mafferton looked as sober as possible, if not a little annoyed.
Then he went and got the agent's young man, and asked me to point out my
things to him, which I did, and got receipts. Then he told a porter to
call a cab, and put my smaller valises into it. 'I will put you in,' he
said, and he gave me his arm and his umbrella, through the wettest
rain I have ever experienced, to the hansom. I thanked him again very
cordially, and before he said good-bye he very kindly gave me his card
and address, and begged me to let him know if there was anything he
could do for me.

Then I rattled away through the blurred lights of your interminable
twisted streets to the Métropole, fancying I saw Westminster Abbey or
St. Paul's through the rain at every turn.

When we stopped at last before the hotel, another hansom behind us
stopped too, and though I am sure he didn't intend me to, I saw quite
plainly through the glass--Mr. Mafferton. It was extremely kind of him
to wish to be of assistance to a lady alone, especially in such weather,
and I could easily understand his desire to see me to my hotel; but what
puzzled me was, why he should have taken another cab!

[Illustration: 0033]

And all night long I dreamed of Mrs. Portheris.



III

|I ONCE visited the Wastgaglesin Boston with momma. It was a visit of
condolence, just after the demise of a grandmother of theirs. I was
going to say, that never since that occasion had I experienced anything
like the solemnity of my breakfast at the Métropole the morning after I
arrived. As a sad-faced waiter with mutton-chop whiskers marshalled me
across the room to an empty little white-and-silvery table beside one of
the big windows, I felt, for the first time in my life, that I was being
made imposing, and I objected to the feeling. The place itself did not
impress me particularly--in America we are accustomed to gorgeousness in
our hotels, and the mirrors and the gilding of the Métropole rather made
me feel at home than otherwise; but it was the demeanour of everything
that weighed upon me. My very chair lived up to its own standard of
decorum; and the table seemed laid upon a pattern of propriety that it
would never willingly depart from. There was an all-pervading sense of
order in the Mr. I couldn't make out exactly where it came from, but it
was there, and it was fearful. The waiters spoke to each other in low
tones, as if something of deep and serious importance were going on;
and when I told one of them what I should like from the bill-of-fare, he
bent down his ear and received my order as if it had been confidential
State business I was asking him to undertake. When he came back,
carrying the tray in front of him, it was almost processional. And in
the interval, when I turned round to look out of the window, and saw
another of those respectfully-subdued waiters standing behind my chair,
quite motionless, I jumped. A great many people were getting their
breakfasts, not with the cheerful alacrity which we use at home, but
rather with a portentous deliberation and concentration which did not
admit of much talking. The silence was broken only in one corner, where
a group of Americans seemed to have got accustomed to the atmosphere.
When the English breakfasters raised their eyes from their papers and
eggs-and-toast, they regarded my talkative compatriots with a look which
must have fairly chilled their tea. I hope nobody has ever looked at me
like that in England The Americans were from Virginia, as I could tell
by their accent, and their 'c'y'arn't' and 'sis'r' and 'honey' and 'heap
better.' But I have no doubt the English people, in their usual loftily
comprehensive fashion, set the strangers down as 'Yankees,' and no
amount of explanation could have taught them that the 'Yankees are
the New Englanders, and that the name would once have been taken as an
insult by a Southerner. But the Virginians were blissfully indifferent
to the British estimate of themselves, and they talked as freely of
their shopping and sight-seeing as they would in Delmonico's or the
Brunswick. To be perfectly honest, a conviction came to me then that
sometimes we don't care enough. But, for my part, I liked listening to
that Virginian corner.

I'm afraid it was rather a late breakfast, and the lobby was full of
people strolling in and out when I went through on my way to my room. I
stood for a moment at the dining-room door looking at the lobby--I had
heard so many Chicago people describe it--and I noticed in the seats
that run around it, against the wall, two young women. They were leaning
back nonchalantly, watching the comers and the goers. Both of them had
their knees crossed, and one had her hands in her jacket pockets. A man
in the seat next them, who might or might not have belonged to them, was
smoking a large cigar. Two English ladies came out from breakfast behind
me, stood waiting for somebody, and said one to the other: 'Look at
those disgusting American girls!'

[Illustration: 0037]

But I had seen the young women's boots. Just to be satisfied, I walked
up to one of them, and asked her if she could kindly tell me when I
ought to post letters for New York.

'The American maiyel goes out Wednesdays an' Satuhdays, I fancy,' the
young woman replied, 'but I'm not suali; it would be saifah to ask the
clahk!'

She spoke quite distinctly, so that the English ladies must have heard
her, and I am afraid they saw in my glance as I went upstairs that I had
intended to correct their mistake.

I started to see Mrs. Portheris at eleven o'clock on the morning of the
9th of April--a lovely day, a day which augured brightly and hopefully.
I waited carefully till eleven, thinking by that time my relation would
have had her breakfast in bed and been dressed, and perhaps have been
helped downstairs to her own particular sunny window, where I thought
I might see her faded, placid, sweet old face looking up from her
knitting and out into the busy street. Words have such an inspiring
effect upon the imagination. All this had emanated from the 'dear ones,'
and I felt confident and pleased and happy beforehand to be a dear
one. I wore one of my plainest walking-dresses--I love simplicity in
dress--so as to mitigate the shock to my relation as far as I could; but
it was a New York one, and it gave me a great deal of moral support.
It may be weak-minded in me, but I simply couldn't have gone to see my
relation in a hat and gloves that didn't match. Clothes and courage have
so much to do with each other.

The porter said that I had better take 'a'ansom,' or if I walked to
Charing Cross I could get 'a'Ammersmith 'bus' which would take me to
Half-Moon Street, Piccadilly. I asked him if there were any street-cars
running that way. 'D'ye mean growlers, miss?' he said. 'I can get ye a
growler in'arf a minute.' But I didn't know what he meant, and I didn't
like the sound of it. A 'growler' was probably not at all a proper thing
for a young lady to ride in; and I was determined to be considerate of
the feelings of my relation. I saw ladies in hansoms, but I had never
been in one at home, and they looked very tiltuppy. Also, they went
altogether too fast, and as it was a slippery day the horses attached to
them sat down and rested a great deal oftener than I thought I should
like. And when the animals were not poor old creatures that were obliged
to sit down in this precipitate way, they danced and pranced in a manner
which did not inspire me with confidence. In America our cab-horses know
themselves to be cab-horses, and behave accordingly--they have none of
the national theories about equality whatever; but the London quadrupeds
might be the greatest Democrats going from the airs they put on. And I
saw no street-cars anywhere. So I decided upon the 'Ammer-smith 'bus,
and the porter pointed out the direction of Charing Cross.

It seems to me now that I was what you would call 'uncommonly' stupid
about it, but I hadn't gone very far before I realised that I did not
quite know what Charing Cross was. I had come, you see, from a city
where the streets are mostly numbered, and run pretty much in rows. The
more I thought about it, the less it seemed to mean anything. So I
asked a large policeman--the largest and straightest policeman, with
the reddest face I had ever seen: 'Mr. Officer,' I said, knowing your
fondness for titles in this country, what is Charing Cross?'

He smiled very kindly. 'Wy, miss,' he said, 'there's Charing Cross
Station, and there's Charing Cross 'Otel, and there's Charing Cross. Wot
were you wanting pertickeler?'

'Charing Cross!' said I.

'There it lies, in front of you!' the policeman said, waving his arm so
as to take in the whole of Trafalgar Square. 'It ain't possible for
you to miss it, Miss. And as three other people were waiting to ask
him something else, I thought I ought not to occupy his attention any
further. I kept straight on, in and out among the crowd, comparing it
in my mind with a New York or Chicago crowd. I found a great many more
kinds of people in it than there would be at home.

You are remarkably different in this country. We are a good deal the
same. I was not at all prepared then to make a comparison of averages,
but I noticed that life seemed to mean something more serious for most
of the people I met than it does with us. Hardly anybody was laughing,
and very few people were making unseemly haste about their business.
There was no eagerness and no enthusiasm. Neither was there any
hustling. In a crowd like that in Chicago everybody would have hustled,
and nobody would have minded it.

'Where is Charing Cross?' I asked one of the flower-women sitting by
the big iron entrances to the station. '_Right_'ere, miss, ware you be
a-standin'! _Buy_ a flower, miss? _Only_ a penny! an' lovely they are!
_Do_ buy one, laidy!' It was dreadfully pathetic, the way she said it,
and she had frightful holes in her shawl, and no hat or bonnet on. I had
never seen a woman selling things out of doors with nothing on her head
before, and it hurt me somehow. But I couldn't possibly have bought
her flowers--they were too much like her. So I gave her a sixpence,
and asked her where I could find an 'Ammersmith' bus. She thanked me so
volubly that I couldn't possibly understand her, but I made out that
if I stayed where I was an 'Ammersmith' bus would presently arrive. She
went on asking me to buy flowers though, so I walked a little farther
off. I waited a long time, and not a single 'bus appeared with
'Ammersmith on it. Finally, I asked another policeman. 'There!' he said,
as one of the great lumbering concerns rolled up--'that's one of 'em
now! You'll get it!' I didn't like to dispute with an officer of the
law, but I had seen plenty of that particular red variety of 'bus go
past, and to be quite certain I said: 'But isn't that a Hammersmith
one?' The policeman looked quite cross. 'Well, isn't that what you're
a-askin' for? 'Ammersmith an' 'Ammersmith--it's all the saime, dependin'
on'ow you per-nounces it. Some people calls it 'Ammersmith, an' some
people calls it '_Ammer_smith!' and he turned a broad and indignant
back upon me. I flew for the'bus, and the conductor, in a friendly way,
helped me on by my elbow.

I did not think, before, that anything could wobble like an Atlantic
steamer, but I experienced nothing more trying coming over than that
Hammersmith 'bus. And there were no straps from the roof to hold on
by--nothing but a very high and inconvenient handrail; and the vehicle
seemed quite full of stout old gentlemen with white whiskers, who looked
deeply annoyed when I upset their umbrellas and unintentionally plunged
upon their feet. 'More room houtside, miss!' the conductor said--which
I considered impertinent, thinking that he meant in the road. 'Is there
any room on top?' I asked him, because I had walked on so many of the
old gentlemen's feet that I felt uncomfortable about it. 'Yes, miss;
that's wot I'm a-sayin'--lots o' room _hout_side!' So I took advantage
of a lame man's getting off to mount the spiral staircase at the back of
the'bus and take a seat on top. It is a pity, isn't it, that Noah didn't
think of an outside spiral staircase like that to _his_ ark. He might
have accommodated so many more of the animals, providing them, of
course, with oilskin covers to keep off the wet, as you do. But even
coming from a bran new and irreverent country, where nobody thinks of
consulting the Old Testament for models of public conveyances, anybody
can see that in many respects you have improved immensely upon Noah.

It was lovely up there--exactly like coming on deck after being in a
stuffy little cabin in the steamer--a good deal of motion, but lots of
fresh Mr. I was a little nervous at first, but as nobody fell off the
tops of any of the other 'buses, I concluded that it was not a thing you
were expected to do, and presently forgot all about it looking at
the people swarming below me. My position made me feel immeasurably
superior--at such a swinging height above them all--and I found myself
speculating about them and criticising them, as I never should have done
walking. I had never ridden on the top of anything before; it gave me
an entirely new revelation of my fellow-creatures--if your monarchical
feelings will allow that expression from a Republican. I must say I
liked it--looking down upon people who were travelling in the same
direction as I was, only on a level below. I began to understand
the agreeableness of class distinctions, and I wondered whether the
arrangement of seats on the tops of the 'buses was not, probably, a
material result of aristocratic prejudices.

Oh, I liked it through and through, that first ride on a London 'bus! To
know just how I liked it, and why, and how and why we all like it from
the other side of the Atlantic, you must be born and brought up, as most
of us have been, in a city twenty-five or fifty years old, where the
houses are all made of clean white or red brick, with clean green
lawns and geranium beds and painted iron fences; where rows of nice new
maple-trees are planted in the clean-shaved boulevards, and fresh-planed
wooden sidewalks run straight for a mile or two at a time, and all the
city blocks stand in their proper right angles--which are among our
advantages, I have no doubt; but our advantages have a way of making
your disadvantages more interesting.

Having been monarchists all your lives, however, you can't possibly
understand what it is to have been brought up in fresh paint. I ought
not to expect it of you. If you could, though, I should find it easier
to tell you, according to my experience, why we are all so devoted to
London.

There was the smell, to begin with. I write 'there was,' because I
regret to say that during the past few months I have become accustomed
to it, and for me that smell is done up in a past tense for ever;
so that I can quite understand a Londoner not believing in it. The
Hammersmith 'bus was in the Strand when I first became conscious of it,
and I noticed afterwards that it was always more pronounced down there,
in the heart of the City, than in Kensington, for instance. It was no
special odour or collection of odours that could be distinguished--it
was rather an abstract smell--and yet it gave a kind of solidity and
nutriment to the air, and made you feel as if your lungs digested it.
There was comfort and support and satisfaction in that smell, and I
often vainly try to smell it again.

We find the irregularity of London so gratifying, too. The way the
streets turn and twist and jostle each other, and lead up into nothing,
and turn around and come back again, and assume _aliases_, and break
out into circuses and stray into queer, dark courts, where small boys go
round on one roller skate, or little green churchyards only a few yards
from the cabs and the crowd, where there is nobody but the dead people,
who have grown tired of it all.

[Illustration: 9043]

From the top of the Hammersmith 'bus, as it went through the Strand that
morning, I saw funny little openings that made me long to get down and
look into them; but I had my relation to think of, so I didn't.

Then there is the well-settled, well-founded look of everything, as if
it had all come ages ago, and meant to stay for ever, and just go on the
way it had before. We like that--the security and the permanence of it,
which seems to be in some way connected with the big policemen, and the
orderly crowd, and 'Keep to the Left' on the signboards, and the British
coat of arms over so many of the shops. I thought that morning that
those shops were probably the property of the Crown, but I was very soon
corrected about that. At home I am afraid we fluctuate considerably,
especially in connection with cyclones and railway interests--we are
here to-day, and there is no telling where we shall be to-morrow. So the
abiding kind of city gives us a comfortable feeling of confidence. It
was not very long before even I, on the top of the Hammersmith 'bus,
felt that I was riding an Institution, and no matter to what extent it
wobbled it might be relied upon not to come down.

I don't know whether you will like our admiring you on account of
your griminess, but we do. At home we are so monotonously clean,
architecturally, that we can't make any aesthetic pretensions whatever.
There is nothing artistic about white brick. It is clean and neat and
sanitary, but you get tired of looking at it, especially when it is made
up in patterns with red brick mixed in. And since you must be dirty,
it may gratify you to know that you are very soothing to Transatlantic
nerves suffering from patterns like that. But you are also misleading.
'I suppose,' I said to a workman in front of me as we entered Fleet
Street, 'that is some old palace? Do you know the date of it?'

'No, miss,' he answered, 'that ain't no palace. Them's the new Law
Courts, only built the last ten year!'

'The _new_ Law Courts!' 'The Strand!' 'Fleet Street!' 'Ludgate Hill!'
'Cheap-side!' and I was actually in those famous places, riding through
them on a'bus, part of their multitude. The very names on the street
corners held fascination enough, and each of them gave me the separate
little thrill of the altogether unexpected. I had unconsciously believed
that all these names were part of the vanished past I had connected them
with, forgetting that in London names endure. But I began to feel that I
ought to be arriving. 'Conductor,' I said, as he passed, 'stop the 'bus,
and let me get down at Half-Moon Street, Piccadilly.'

'We're goin' strait awai from it, miss; you get that red 'bus standin'
over there--that'll taike you!'

So I went all the way back again, and on to my relation's, on the top
of the red 'bus, not at all regretting my mistake. But it made it almost
twelve o'clock when I rang the bell--Mrs. Portheris's bell--at the door
of her house in Half-Moon Street, Piccadilly.



IV

[Illustration: 0047]

|FROM the outside I didn't think much of Mrs. Portheris's house. It was
very tall, and very plain, and very narrow, and quite expressionless,
except that it wore a sort of dirty brown frown. Like its neighbours, it
had a well in front of it, and steps leading down into the well, and
an iron fence round the steps, and a brass bell-handle lettered
'Tradesmen.' Like its neighbours, too, it wore boxes of spotty black
greenery on the window-sills--in fact, it was very like its neighbours,
except that it had one or two solemn little black balconies that looked
as if nobody ever sat in them running across the face of it, and a tall,
shallow porch, with two or three extremely white stone steps before the
front door. Half-Moon Street, to me, looked like a family of houses--a
family differing in heights and complexions and the colour of its hair,
but sharing all the characteristics of a family--of an old family. A
person draws a great many conclusions from the outside of a house,
and my conclusion from the outside of my relation's house was that she
couldn't be very well off to be obliged to live in such a plain and
gloomy locality, with 'Tradesmen' on the ground-floor; and I hoped they
were not any noisy kind of tradesmen, such as shoemakers or carpenters,
who would disturb her early in the morning. The clean-scrubbed stone
steps reflected very favourably, I thought, upon Mrs. Portheris,
and gave the house, in spite of its grimy, old-fashioned, cramped
appearance, a look of respectability which redeemed it. But I did not
see at any window, behind the spotty evergreens, the sweet, sad face of
my relation, though there were a hand-organ and a monkey and a German
band all operating within twenty yards of the house.

I rang the bell. The door opened a great deal more quickly than you
might imagine from the time I am taking to tell about it, and I was
confronted by my first surprise in London. It was a man--a neat, smooth,
pale, round-faced man in livery, rather fat and very sad. It was also
Mrs. Portheris's interior. This was very dark and very quiet, but what
light there was fell richly, through a square, stained-glass window at
the end of the hall, upon the red and blue of some old china above
a door, and a collection of Indian spears, and a twisting old oak
staircase that glowed with colour. Mrs. Portheris's exterior had
prepared me for something different. I did not know then that in London
everything is a matter of the inside--I had not seen a Duchess living
crowded up to her ears with other people's windows. With us the outside
counts so tremendously. An American duchess, if you can imagine such
a person, would consider it only due to the fitness of things that she
should have an imposing front yard, and at least room enough at the back
for the clothes-lines. But this has nothing to do with Half-Moon Street.

'Does Mrs. Portheris live here?' I asked, thinking it was just possible
she might have moved.

'Yes, miss,' said the footman, with a subdued note of interrogation.

I felt relieved. 'Is she--is she well?' I inquired.

'_Quite_ well, miss,' he replied, with the note of interrogation a
little more obvious.

'I should like to see her. Is she in?'

'I'll h'inquire, miss, 'n 'Oo shall I sai, miss?'

I thought I would prepare my relation gradually. 'A lady from Chicago,'
said I.

'Very well, miss. Will you walk upstairs, miss?'

In America drawing-rooms are on the ground-floor. I thought he wanted to
usher me into Mrs. Portheris's bedroom.

'No, sir,' I said; 'I'll wait here.' Then I thought of Mr. Mafferton,
and of what he had said about saying 'sir' to people, and my sensations
were awful. I have never done it once since.

The footman reappeared in a few minutes with a troubled and apologetic
countenance. 'Mrs. Portheris says as she doesn't want anythink, miss! I
told her as I didn't understand you were disposin' of anythink; but that
was 'er message, miss.'

I couldn't help laughing--it was so very funny to think of my being
taken for a lady-pedlar in the house of my relation. 'I'm very glad
she's in,' I said. 'That is quite a mistake! Tell her it's Miss Mamie
Wick, daughter of Colonel Joshua R. Wick, of Chicago; but if she's lying
down, or anything, I can drop in again.'

He was away so long that I bogan to wonder if my relation suspected
me of dynamite in any form, and he came back looking more anxious than
ever. 'Mrs. Portheris says she's very sorry, miss, and will you please
to walk up?' 'Certainly,' I said, 'but I hope I won't be disturbing
her!'

And I walked up.

It was a big square room, with a big square piano in it, and long
lace curtains, and two or three gilt-framed mirrors, and a great
many old-fashioned ornaments under glass cases, and a tinkling glass
chandelier in the middle. There were several oil-paintings on the
walls--low-necked portraits and landscapes, principally dark-green
and black and yellow, with cows, and quantities of lovely china. The
furniture was red brocade, with spindly legs, and there was a tall palm
in a pot, which had nothing to do with the rest of the room, by itself
in a corner. I remembered these things afterwards.

[Illustration: 0050]

At the time I noticed chiefly two young persons with the pinkest cheeks
I ever saw, out of a picture-book, sitting near a window. They were
dressed exactly alike, and their hair hung down their backs to their
waists, although they must have been seventeen; and they sat up very
nicely indeed on two of the red chairs, one occupied with worsted work,
and the other apparently reading aloud to her, though she stopped when I
came in. I have seen something since at Madame Tussaud's--but I daresay
you have often noticed it yourself. And standing in the middle of the
room, with her hand on a centre-table, was Mrs. Portheris.

My first impression was that she had been standing there for the last
hour in that immovable way, with exactly that remarkable expression; and
it struck me that she could go on standing for the next without altering
it, quite comfortably--she seemed to be so solidly placed there, with
her hand upon the table. Though I wouldn't call Mrs. Portheris stout,
she was massive--rather, of an impressive build. Her skirt fell in a
commanding way from her waist, though it hitched up a little in front,
which spoiled the effect. She had broad square shoulders, and a lace
collar, and a cap with pink ribbons in it, and grey hair smooth on each
side of her face, and large well-cut features, and the expression I
spoke of. I've seen the expression since among the Egyptian antiquities
in the British Museum, but I am unable to describe it. 'Armed
neutrality' is the only phrase that occurs to me in connection with it,
and that by no means does it justice. For there was curiosity in it,
as well as hostility and reserve--but I won't try. And she kept her
hand--it was her right hand--upon the table.

'Miss _Wick_' she said, bowing, and dwelling upon the name with strong
doubt. 'I believe I have a connection of that name in America. Is your
father's name Joshua _Peter?_'

'Yes, Mrs. Portheris,' I replied; 'and he says he is your nephew. I've
just come. How do you do?' I said this because it was the only thing the
situation seemed to warrant me saying.

'Oh, I am quite in my usual health, thank you! My nephew by marriage--a
former marriage--a very distant connection.'

'Three thousand five hundred miles,' said I; 'he lives in Chicago. You
have never been over to see us, Mrs. Portheris. At this point I walked
across to one of the spindly red chairs and sat down. I thought then
that she had forgotten to ask me; but even now, when I know she hadn't,
I am not at all sorry I sat down. I find it is possible to stand up too
much in this country.

[Illustration: 0052]

The old lady gathered herself up and looked at me. 'Where are your
father and mother?' she said.

'In Chicago, Mrs. Portheris. All very well, thank you! I had a cable
from them this morning, before I left the hotel. Kind regards to you.'

Mrs. Portheris looked at me in absolute silence. Then she deliberately
arranged her back draperies and sat down too--not in any amiable way,
but as if the situation must be faced.

'Margaret and Isabel,' she said to the two young pink persons, 'go to
your rooms, dears!' And she waited till the damsels, each with a little
shy smile and blush, gathered up their effects and went, before she
continued the conversation. As they left the room I observed that
they wore short dresses, buttoned down the back. It began to grow
very interesting to me, after the first shock of finding this kind of
relation was over. I found myself waiting for what was to come next
with the deepest interest. In America we are very fond of types--perhaps
because we have so few among ourselves--and it seemed to me, as I
sat there on Mrs. Portheris's spindly red chair, that I had come
into violent contact with a type of the most valuable and pronounced
description. Privately I resolved to stay as long as I could, and lose
no opportunity of observing it. And my first observation was that Mrs.
Portheris's expression was changing--losing its neutrality and beginning
to radiate active opposition and stern criticism, with an uncompromising
sense of duty twisted in at the corners of the mouth. There was no
agitation whatever, and I thought with an inward smile of my relation's
nerves.

'Then I suppose,' said Mrs. Portheris--the supposition being of the
vaguest possible importance--'that you are with a party of Americans.
It seems to be an American idea to go about in hordes. I never could
understand it--to me it would be most obnoxious. How many are there of
you?'

'One, Mrs. Portheris--and I'm the one. Poppa and momma had set their
hearts on coming. Poppa thought of getting up an Anglo-American Soda
Trust, and momma wanted particularly to make your acquaintance--your
various Christmas cards have given us all such a charming idea of
you--but at the last minute something interfered with their plans and
they had to give it up. They told me to tell you how sorry they were.'

'Something interfered with their plans! But nothing interfered with
_your_ plans!'

'Oh, no; it was some political business of poppa's--nothing to keep me!'

'Then do I actually understand that your parents, of their _own free
will_, permitted you to cross the Atlantic _alone?_'

'I hope you do, Mrs. Portheris; but if it's not quite clear to you, I
don't mind explaining it again.'

'Upon my word! And you are at an hotel--which hotel?' When I told Mrs.
Portheris the Métropole, her indignation mounted to her cap, and one of
the pink ribbons shook violently.

'It is very American!' she said; and I felt that Mrs. Portheris could
rise to no more forcible a climax of disapproval.

But I did not mind Mrs. Portheris's disapproval; in fact, according to
my classification of her, I should have been disappointed if she had not
disapproved--it would have been out of character. So I only smiled as
sweetly as I could, and said, 'So am I.'

'Is it not very expensive?' There was a note of angry wonder as well as
horror in this.

'I don't know, Mrs. Portheris. It's very comfortable.' 'I never heard of
such a thing in my life!' said Mrs. Portheris. 'It's--it's outrageous!
It's--it's not customary!

I call it criminal lenience on the part of my nephew to allow it, he
must have taken leave of his senses!'

'Don't say anything nasty about poppa, Mrs. Portheris,' I remarked; and
she paused.

'As to your mother----'

'Momma is a lady of great intelligence and advanced views,' I
interrupted, 'though she isn't very strong. And she is very well
acquainted with me.'

'Advanced views are your ruin in America! May I ask how you found your
way here?'

'On a'bus, Mrs. Portheris--the red Hammersmith kind. On two 'buses,
rather, because I took the wrong one first, and went miles straight away
from here; but I didn't mind it--I liked it.'

'_In_ an omnibus I suppose you mean. You couldn't very well be _on_
it, unless you went on the top!' And Mrs. Portheris smiled rather
derisively.

'I did; I went on the top,' I returned calmly. 'And it was lovely.'

Mrs. Portheris very nearly lost her self-control in her effort to grasp
this enormity. Her cap bristled again, and the muscles round her mouth
twitched quite perceptibly.

'Careering all over London on the top of an omnibus!' she ejaculated.
'Looking for my house! And in that frock!' I felt about ten when she
talked about my 'frock.' 'Couldn't you _feel_ that you were altogether
too smart for such a position?'

'No, indeed, Mrs. Portheris!' I replied, unacquainted with the idiom.
'When I got down off the first omnibus in Cheap-side I felt as if I
hadn't been half smart enough!'

She did not notice my misunderstanding. By the time I had finished my
sentence she was rapping the table with suppressed excitement.

'Miss Wick!' she said--and I had expected her to call me Mamie, and say
I was the image of poppa!--'you are the daughter of my nephew--which can
hardly be called a connection at all--but on that account I will give
you a piece of advice. The top of an omnibus is not a proper place for
you--I might say, for any connection of mine, however distant! I would
not feel that I was doing my duty toward my nephew's daughter if I did
not tell you that you _must not_ go there! Don't on any account do it
again! It is a thing people _never_ do!'

'Do they upset?' I asked.

'They might. But apart from that, I must ask you, on personal--on family
grounds--_always_ to go inside. In Chicago you may go outside as much as
you like, but in London----'

'Oh, no!' I interrupted, 'I wouldn't for the world--in Chicago!' which
Mrs. Portheris didn't seem to understand.

I had stayed dauntlessly for half an hour--I was so much interested in
Mrs. Portheris--and I began to feel my ability to prolong the interview
growing weaker. I was sorry--I would have given anything to have heard
her views upon higher education and female suffrage, and the Future
State and the Irish Question; but it seemed impossible to get her
thoughts away from the appalling Impropriety which I, on her spindly
red chair, represented I couldn't blame her for that--I suppose no
impropriety bigger than a spider had ever got into her drawing-room
before. So I got up to go. Mrs. Portheris also rose, with majesty. I
think she wanted to show me what, if I had been properly brought up, I
might have expected reasonably to develop into She stood in the midst
of her red brocaded furniture, with her hands folded, a model of what
bringing up can do if it is unflinchingly persevered in, and all the
mirrors reflected the ideal she presented. I felt, beside her, as if I
had never been brought up at all.

'Have you any friends in London?' she asked, with a very weak solution
of curiosity in her tone, giving me her hand to facilitate my going, and
immediately ringing the bell.

'I think not,' I said with, decision.

'But you will not continue to stay at the Métropole! I _beg_ that you
will not remain another _day_ at the Métropole! It is not usual for
young ladies to stay at hotels. You must go to some place where only
ladies are received, and as soon as you are settled in one communicate
at once with the rector of the parish--alone as you are, that is _quite_
a necessary step, lights and fires will probably be extra.'

'I thought,' said I, 'of going to the Lady Guides' Association--we have
heard of it in Chicago through some friends, who went round every day
for three weeks with lady-guides, and found it simply fascinating--and
asking them to get me a private family to board with. I particularly
wished to see what a private family is like in England.'

Mrs. Portheris frowned. 'I could never bring myself to approve of
lady-guides,' she said. 'There is something in the idea that is
altogether too--American.' I saw that the conversation was likely to
grow personal again, so I said: 'Well, good-bye, Mrs. Portheris!' and
was just going, when 'Stop!' said my relation, 'there is Miss Purkiss.'

'Is there?' said I.

'Certainly--the very thing! Miss Purkiss is a very old friend of mine,
in reduced circumstances. I've known her thirty-five years. She is an
excellent woman, with the most trustworthy views upon all matters. In
so far as our widely different social positions have permitted, Miss
Purkiss and I have been on terms, I may say, of sisterly intimacy since
before you were born. She has no occupation now, having lost her
position as secretary to the Home for Incurable Household Pets through
ill-health, and a very limited income. She lives in an excessively
modest way in Upper Baker Street--very convenient to both the omnibuses
and Underground--and if you cast in your lot with hers while you are in
England, Miss Wick'--here Mrs. Portheris grew almost demonstrative--'you
need never go out alone. I need not say that she is a lady, but her
circumstances will probably necessitate her asking you rather more than
the usual rate for board and lodging, in compensation for her
chaperonage and companionship. All I can say is, that both will be very
thorough. I will give you Miss Purkiss's address at once, and if you
drive there immediately you will be sure to find her in. John, call a
hansom!' And Mrs. Portheris went to her writing-table and wrote the
address.

'There!' she said, folding it up and giving it to me. 'By all means try
to arrange with Miss Purkiss, and she, being a friend of my own, some
afternoon, perhaps--I must think about it--I may ask her to bring you to
tea! Good-bye!'

As the door closed behind me I heard Mrs. Portheris's voice on the
landing. 'Margaret and Isabel,' it said, 'you may come down now!'

'Ware to, miss?' said the driver.

'Hôtel Métropole,' said I. And as we turned into Piccadilly a little
flutter of torn white paper went back on the wind to Mrs. Portheris. It
was Miss Purkiss's address.

[Illustration: 0059]

After lunch I made careful notes of Mrs. Portheris, and then spent half
an hour in the midst of my trunks, looking in the Board and Lodging'
column of the 'Morning Post' for accommodation which promised to differ
as radically as possible from Miss Purkiss's.



V

|MY principal idea was to get away as soon as possible from the
Métropole. So long as I was located there I was within the grasp of my
relation; and as soon as she found out my insubordination in the matter
of her advice, I had no doubt whatever that my relation would appear,
with Miss Purkiss, all in rusty black, behind her--a contingency I
wished to avoid. Miss Purkiss, I reflected, would probably be another
type, and types were interesting, but not to live with--my relation
had convinced me of that. And as to Mrs. Portheris herself, while I had
certainly enjoyed what I had been privileged to see of her, her society
was a luxury regarding which I felt that I could exercise considerable
self-denial. I did not really contemplate being forced into Miss Purkiss
and Upper Baker Street by Mrs. Portheris against my will, not for
a moment; but I was afraid the situation would be presented on
philanthropic grounds, which would be disagreeable. Miss Purkiss as a
terror I felt equal to, but Miss Purkiss as an object of charity might
cow me. And Miss Purkiss in any staying capacity was not, I felt, what
I came to Great Britain to experience. So I studied the columns of the
'Morning Post' diligently for a haven of refuge from Miss Purkiss.

I found it difficult to make a selection, the havens were so very
different, and all so superior. I believe you talk about the originality
of American advertising. I never in my life saw a newspaper page to
compare in either imagination or vocabulary with the one I scanned that
day at the Métropole. It seemed that I could be taken all over London,
at prices varying from one 'g.' to three 'gs.' per week, although the
surprising cheapness of this did not strike me until I had laboriously
calculated in dollars and cents the exact value of a 'g.' I know now
that it is a term of English currency exclusively employed in Bond
Street, Piccadilly, Regent and Oxford Streets--they never give you a
price there in any other. And the phrases descriptive of the various
homes which were awaiting me were so beautiful. 'Excellent meat
breakfast,' 'a liberal and charmingly-refined home,' 'a mother's devoted
supervision,' 'fresh young society,' 'fashionably situated and
elegantly furnished,' 'just vacated by a clergyman,' 'foreign languages
understood'--which would doubtless include American--'a lofty standard
of culture in this establishment.' I wondered if they kept it under
glass. I was struck with the number of people who appeared in print
with 'offerings' of a domiciliary nature. 'A widow lady of cheerful
temperament and artistic tastes offers----' 'The daughter of a late
Civil Servant with a larger house than she requires offers----' This
must have been a reference put in to excite sympathy, otherwise, what
was the use of advertising the gentleman after he was dead? Even from
the sympathetic point of view, I think it was a mistake, for who would
care to go and settle in a house the minute the crape was off the door?
Nobody.

Not only original advertisements of the kind I was looking for, but
original advertisements of kinds I wasn't looking for, appealed to my
interest and took up my time that afternoon.

'Would any one feel disposed to lend an actress five pounds?

'Temporary home wanted, with a family of quiet habits, in a healthful
neighbourhood, who can give best references, for a Persian cat.' 'An
elderly country rector and his wife, in town for a month's holiday,
would be glad of a little pleasant society.'

'A young subaltern, of excellent family, in unfortunate circumstances,
implores the loan of a hundred pounds to save him from ruin. Address,
care of his solicitors.' 'A young gentleman, handsome, an orphan, of
good education and agreeable address, wishes to meet with elderly couple
with means (inherited) who would adopt him. Would make himself pleasant
in the house. Church of England preferred, but no serious objection to
Nonconformists.'

We have nothing like this in America. It was a revelation to me--a most
private and intimate revelation of a social body that I had always been
told no outsider could look into without the very best introductions. Of
course, there was the veil of 'A. B.' and 'Lurline,' and the solicitors'
address, but that seemed as thin and easily torn as the 'Morning Post,'
and much more transparent, showing all the struggling mass, with its
hands outstretched, on the other side. And yet I have heard English
people say how 'personal' our newspapers are!

My choice was narrowed considerably by so many of the addresses being
other places than London, which I thought very peculiar in a London
newspaper. Having come to see London, I did not want to live in Putney,
or Brixton, or Chelsea, or Maida Vale. I supposed vaguely that there
must be cathedrals or Roman remains, or attractions of some sort, in
these places, or they would not be advertised in London; but for the
time being, at any rate, I intended to content myself with the capital.
So I picked out two or three places near the British Museum--I should be
sure, I thought, to want to spend a great deal of time there--and went
to see about them.

They were as much the same as the advertisements were different,
especially from the outside. From the outside they were exactly
alike--so much so that I felt, after I had seen them all, that if
another boarder in the same row chose to approach me on any occasion,
and say that she was me, I should be entirely unable to contradict her.
This in itself was prejudicial. In America, if there is one thing we are
particular about, it is our identity. Without our identities we are in
a manner nowhere. I did not feel disposed to run the risk of losing mine
the minute I arrived in England, especially as I knew that it is a thing
Americans who stay here for any length of time are extremely apt to do.
Nevertheless, I rang the three door-bells I left the Métropole with
the intention of ringing; and there were some minor differences inside,
although my pen insists upon recording the similarities instead. I spent
the same length of time upon the doorstep, for instance, before the same
tumbled and apologetic-looking servant girl appeared, wiping her hands
upon her apron, and let me into the same little dark hall, with the same
interminable stairs twisting over themselves out of it, and the smell of
the same dinner accompanying us all the way up. To be entirely just, it
was a wholesome dinner, but there was so much of it in the air that I
very soon felt as if I was dining unwarrantably, and ought to pay for
it. In every case the stair-carpet went up two flights, and after that
there was oilcloth, rather forgetful as to its original pattern, and
much frayed as to its edges--and after that, nothing. Always pails and
brushes on the landings--what there is about pails and brushes that
should make them such a distinctive feature of boarding-house landings
I don't know, but they are. Not a single elevator in all three. I
asked the servant-girl in the first place, about half-way up the fourth
flight, if there was no elevator? 'No, indeed, miss,' she said: 'I
wishes there was! But them's things you won't find but very seldom 'ere.
We've 'ad American ladies 'ere before, and they allus asks for 'em, but
they soon finds out they ain't to be 'ad, miss.'

Now, how did she know I was an 'American lady'? I didn't really mind
about the elevator, but this I found annoying, in spite of my desire
to preserve my identity. In the course of conversation with this young
woman, I discovered that it was not my own possibly prospective dinner
that I smelt on the stairs. I asked about the hour for meals. 'Aou, we
never gives meals, miss!' she said. 'It's only them boardin' 'aouses as
gives meals in! Mrs. Jones, she only lets apartments. But there's a
very nice restirong in Tottinim Court Road, quite convenient, an' your
breakfast, miss, you could 'ave cooked 'ere, but, of course, it would be
hextra, miss.'

Then I remembered all I had read about people in London living in
'lodgings,' and having their tea and sugar and butter and eggs consumed
unrighteously by the landlady, who was always represented as a buxom
person in calico, with a smut on her face, and her arms akimbo, and an
awful hypocrite. For a minute I thought of trying it, for the novelty
of the experience, but the loneliness of it made me abandon the idea. I
could not possibly content myself with the society of a coal-scuttle
and two candlesticks, and the alternative of going round sightseeing by
myself. Nor could I in the least tell whether Mrs. Jones was agreeable,
or whether I could expect her to come up and visit with me sometimes in
the evenings; besides, if she always wore smuts and had her arms akimbo,
I shouldn't care about asking her. In America a landlady might as likely
as not be a member of a Browning Society, and give 'evenings,' but that
kind of landlady seems indigenous to the United States. And after Mrs.
Portheris, I felt that I required the companionship of something human.

In the other two places I saw the landladies themselves in their
respective drawing-rooms on the second floor. One of the drawing-rooms
was 'draped' in a way that was quite painfully aesthetic, considering
the paucity of the draperies. The flower-pots were draped, and the
lamps; there were draperies round the piano-legs, and round the clock;
and where there were not draperies there were bows, all of the same
scanty description. The only thing that had not made an effort to clothe
itself in the room was the poker, and by contrast it looked very nude.
There were some Japanese ideas around the room, principally a paper
umbrella; and a big painted palm-leaf fan from India made an incident in
one corner. I thought, even before I saw the landlady, that it would be
necessary to live up to a high standard of starvation in that house,
and she confirmed the impression. She was a Miss Hippy, a short,
stoutish person, with very smooth hair, thin lips, and a nose like an
angle of the Pyramids, preternaturally neat in her appearance, with a
long gold watch-chain round her neck. She came into the room in a way
that expressed reduced circumstances and a protest against being obliged
to do it. I feel that the particular variety of smile she gave me with
her 'Good morning!'--although it was after 4 P.M.--was one she kept for
the use of boarders only, and her whole manner was an interrogation.
When she said, 'Is it for yourself?' in answer to my question about
rooms, I felt that I was undergoing a cross-examination, the result of
which Miss Hippy was mentally tabulating.

'We have a few rooms,' said Miss Hippy, 'certainly.' Then she cast her
eyes upon the floor, and twisted her fingers up in her watch-chain, as
if in doubt. 'Shall you be long in London?'

I said I couldn't tell exactly.

'Have you--are you a professional of any kind?' inquired Miss Hippy.
'Not that I object to professional ladies--they are often very
pleasant. Madame Solfreno resided here for several weeks while she
was retrenching; but Madame Solfreno was, of course, more or less
an exceptional woman. She did not care--at least, while she was
retrenching--for the society of other professionals, and she said that
was the great advantage of my house--none of them ever would come here.
Still, as I say, I have no personal objection to professionals. In
fact, we have had head-ladies here; and real ladies, I must say, I have
generally found them. Although hands, of course, I would not take!'

I said I was not a professional.

'Oh!' said Miss Hippy, pitiably baffled. 'Then, perhaps, you are not
a--a young lady. That is, of course, one can see you are that; but you
are--you are married, perhaps?'

'I am not married, madame,' I said. 'Have you any rooms to let?'

Miss Hippy rose, ponderingly. 'I might as well show you what we have,'
she said.

'I think,' I replied, 'that you might as well. Otherwise I will not
detain you any longer.' At which, curiously enough, all hesitation
vanished from Miss Hippy's manner, and she showed me all her rooms, and
expatiated upon all their advantages with a single eye to persuading me
to occupy one of them. So comprehensively voluble was she, indeed, and
so impenetrably did she fill up the door with her broad person when we
came down again, that I found no loophole of escape anywhere, and was
obliged to descend to equivocal measures. 'Have you any rooms, Miss
Hippy,' I inquired, 'on the ground floor?'

'That,' returned Miss Hippy, as if I had put her the only possible
question that she was not prepared for, 'I have not. A gentleman from
the West Indies'--Miss Hippy went on impressively--'hardly ever
without inflammatory rheumatism, which you will admit makes stairs an
impossibility for him, occupies my only ground-floor bedroom--just off
the dining-room!'

'That is unfortunate,' I said, 'since I think in this house I would
prefer a room on the ground-floor. But if I decide to take one of the
others I will let you know, Miss Hippy.'

Miss Hippy's countenance fell, changed, and again became expressive of
doubt--this time offensively.

'I've not asked for any references,' though, of course, it is my
custom----'

'You will receive references,' I interrupted, 'as soon as you require
them. Good afternoon!' We were standing in the hall, and Miss Hippy,
from force of circumstances, was obliged to unfasten the door; but I did
not hear from her, as I passed out into the street, any responsive 'Good
afternoon!'

My third experience was quite antipodal to Miss Hippy. Her parlour was
Japanesy, too, in places, but it was mostly chipped; and it had a great
many rather soiled fat cushions in it, quite a perceptible odour of beer
and tobacco, and a pair of gentleman's worked slippers under the sofa.
The atmosphere was relaxing after Miss Hippy, and suggested liberality
of all sorts; but the slippers, to say nothing of the odours, which
might have floated in from other regions, made it impossible. I waited
for the lady of the house a conscious hypocrite.

[Illustration: 0069]

She came in at last voluminously, rather out of breath, but with great
warmth of manner. 'Do sit down!' she said.

'Now, it does seem strange! Only las' night, at the table, we were
sayin' how much we wanted one more lady boarder! You see, I've got four
young gentlemen in the City here, and of us ladies there's just four, so
we sometimes get up a little dance amongst ourselves in the evenin's.
It amuses the young people, and much better wear out carpets than pay
doctors' bills, say I. Now, I generally play, an' that leaves only
three ladies for the four gentlemen, you see! Now, isn't it a curious
coincidence,' she said, leaning forward with a broad and confident
smile, 'that you should have come in to-day, just after we were savin'
how nice it would be if there were enough to get up the Lancers!'

I bowed my acknowledgments.

'You want a room for yourself, I suppose,' my hostess went on,
cheerfully. 'My top flat, I'm sorry to say, is every bit taken.
There isn't an inch of room up there; but I've got a beautiful little
apartment on the ground-floor you could use as a bed-sittin' room,
lookin' out on what green grass we have. I'll show it to you!'--and she
led me across the hall to a dismantled cupboard, the door of which she
threw open. 'That,' she said, 'you could have for twenty-five shillin's
a week. Of course, it is small, but then--so is the price!' and she
smiled the cheerful, accustomed smile that went with the joke. 'I've
another up here,' she said, leading the way to the first landing,
'rather bigger--thirty shillin's. You see, they're both bein' turned out
at present, so it's rather unfavourable!'--and the lady drew in the deep
breath she had lost going up the stairs.

I could think of only one thing to say: 'I believe you said your top
flat was all taken,' I remarked amiably. She was such a good-natured
soul, I couldn't bear to say anything that would hurt her feelings.
'That is unfortunate. I particularly wanted a room in a top flat. But if
I decide on one of these others I'll let you know!' There were two fibs,
and diametrically opposed fibs, within half an hour, and I know it's
excessively wrong to fib; but, under the circumstances, what could you
say?

'Do, miss. And, though I wouldn't for the world persuade you, I
certainly hope you will, for I'm sure you'd make a very pleasant
addition to our party. I'll just let you out myself.' And she did.



VI

|I DROVE straight back to the Métropole, very thankful indeed that that
was evidently the thing to do next. If there had been no evident thing
to do next, I was so depressed in my mind that I think I would have
taken a ticket to Liverpool that night, and my passage to New York on
the first steamer that was leaving. I won't say what I did in the cab,
but I spoilt a perfectly new veil doing it. London seemed dingy and
noisy, and puzzling and unattractive, and always going to rain. I
thought of our bright clear air in Chicago, and our nice clean houses,
and our street-cars, and our soda-water fountains, and poppa and momma,
and always knowing everybody and what to do under every circumstance;
and all the way to the Métropole I loved Chicago and I hated London.
But there _was_ the Métropole, big and solid and luxurious, and a fact
I understood; and there was the nice respectful housemaid on my
corridor--it would be impossible to convince you how different servants
are with us--and a delightful little fire in my room, and a tin pitcher
of hot water smoking in the basin, and a sort of air of being personally
looked after that was very comforting to my nerves. While I was
getting ready for dinner I analysed my state of mind, and blamed myself
severely, for I found that I could not justify one of the disagreeable
things I had been thinking in any philosophical way. I had simply
allowed the day's experiences, capped by my relation in the morning, to
overcome my entire nerve-system, which was childish and unreasonable. I
wished then, and often since, that Providence had given us a more useful
kind of nerve-system on our side of the Atlantic--something constructed
solidly, on the British plan; and just as I was wishing that there came
a rap. A rap has comparatively no significance until it comes at your
bedroom door when you are alone in a big hotel two thousand five hundred
miles from home. Then it means something. This one meant two cards on a
salver and a message. One of the cards read: '_Mrs. Cummers Portheris_,'
with '_Miss Purkiss_' written under it in pencil; the other, '_Mr.
Charles Mafferton_,' with '49, _Hertford Street. Mayfair_,' in one
corner, and '_The Isthmian Club_' in the other.

'Is she there now?' I asked the servant in acute suspense.

'No, miss. The ladies, they called about 'alf-past three, and we was to
say that one lady was to be 'ere again to-morrow mornin' at ten, miss.
The gentleman, he didn't leave no message.'

Then my heart beat again, and joyfully, for I knew that I had missed my
relation and Miss Purkiss, and that the way of escape was still open to
me, although ten o'clock in the morning was rather early to be obliged
to go out. I must say I thought it extremely foolish of Miss Purkiss to
have mentioned the hour--it was like a fox making an appointment with
a rabbit, a highly improbable thing for the rabbit to keep. And I went
downstairs feeling quite amused and happy, and determined to stay
amused and happy. My unexpected reward for this came at dinner, when
I discovered my neighbours to be two delightful ladies from St.
Paul, Minn., with whom I conversed sociably there, and later in the
drawing-room. They had known Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes; but what to my
eyes gave them an added charm was their amiable readiness to know me.
I was made to promise that I would send them my address when I was
settled, and to this day I suffer from unquieted pangs of conscience
because I failed to keep my word.

By ten o'clock next morning I was in Cockspur Street, Pall Mall, looking
for the 'Lady Guides' Association.' The name in white letters on the
window struck me oddly when I found it. The idea, the institution it
expressed, seemed so grotesquely of to-day there in the heart of old
London, where almost everything you see talks of orthodoxy and the
approval of the centuries. It had the impertinence that a new building
has going up among your smoky old piles of brick and mortar. You will
understand my natural sympathy with it. The minute I went in I felt at
home.

There were several little desks in several little adjoining
compartments, with little muslin curtains in front of them, and ladies
and ink-bottles inside, like a row of shrouded canary-cages. Two or
three more ladies, without their things on, were running round outside,
and several others, with their things on, were being attended to. I saw
only one little man, who was always getting out of the ladies' way, and
didn't seem properly to belong there. There was no label attached, so
I couldn't tell what use they made of him, but I should like to have
known.

The desks were all lettered plainly--one 'Lady Guides,' the next
'Tickets for the Theatre,' and so on; but, of course, I went to the
first one to inquire, without taking any notice of that--people always
do. I think, perhaps, the lady was more polite in referring me to
the proper one than the man would have been. She smiled, and bowed
encouragingly as she did it, and explained particularly, 'the lady with
the eyeglasses and her hair done up high--do you see?' I saw, and went
to the right lady. She smiled too, in a real winning way, looking up
from her entrybook, and leaning forward to hear what I had to say. Then
she came into my confidence, as it were, at once. 'What you want,'
she said, 'is a boarding-house or private hotel. We have all the best
private hotels on our books, but in your case, being alone, what I
should advise would be a thoroughly well-recommended, first-class
boarding-house.'

I said something about a private family--'Or a private family,' added
the lady, acquiescently. 'Now, we can give you whichever you
prefer. Suppose,' she said, with the kindly interested counsel of
good-fellowship, dropping her voice a little, 'I write you out several
addresses _of both kinds_, then you can just see for yourself'--and the
lady looked at me over her eyeglasses most agreeably.

'Why, yes!' I said. 'I think that's a very good idea!'

'Well now, just wait a minute!' the lady said, turning over the pages
of another big book. 'There's a great deal, as you probably know,
in _locality_ in London. We must try and get you something in a nice
locality. Piccadilly, for instance, is a very favourite locality--I
think we have something in Half-Moon Street---'

'Gracious!' I said. 'No! not Half-Moon Street, please. I--I've been
there. I don't like that locality!'

'Really!' said the lady, with surprise. 'Well, you wouldn't believe what
the rents are in Half-Moon Street! But we can easily give you something
else--the other side of the Park, perhaps!'

'Yes.' I said, earnestly. 'Quite the other side, if you please!'

'Well,' returned the lady, abstractedly running her finger down the
page, 'there's Mrs. Pragge, in Holland Park Gardens--have you any
objection to children?--and Miss Camblewell, in Lancaster Gate, _very_
clean and nice. I think we'll put _them_ down. And then two or three
private ones--excuse me _one_ minute. There! I think among those,' with
sudden gravity, 'you ought to find something suitable at from two to
three-and-a-half guineas per week; but if you do not, be sure to come in
again. We always like to give our clients satisfaction.' The lady smiled
again in that pardonable, endearing way; and I was so pleased with her,
and with myself, and with the situation, and felt such warm comfort as
the result of the interview, that I wanted badly to shake hands with her
when I said Good-morning. But she was so engaged that I couldn't, and
had to content myself with only saying it very cordially. As I turned to
go I saw a slightly blank expression come over her face, and she coughed
with some embarrassment, leaning forward as if to speak to me again.
But I was too near the door, so one of the ladies who were running about
detained me apologetically.

'There is a--a charge,' she said, 'of two-and-sixpence. You did not
know.' So I went back uncomfortably and paid. 'Thanks, yes!' said the
lady in the cage. '_Two-and-six!_ No, that is two shillings, a florin,
you see--and that is four--it's half-a-crown we want, isn't it?' very
amiably, considering all the trouble I was giving her. 'Perhaps you
are not very well accustomed to our English currency yet,' as I
finally counted out one shilling, two sixpences, a threepence, and six
halfpennies. If there _is_ a thing in this country that needs reforming
more than the House of Lords--but there, it isn't to be supposed that
you would like my telling you about it. At all events, I managed in the
end to pay my very proper fee to the Lady Guides' Association, and
I sincerely hope that any of its members who may happen to read this
chapter will believe that I never endeavoured to evade it. The slight
awkwardness of the mistake turned out rather pleasantly for me, because
it led me into further conversation with the lady behind the eyeglasses,
in which she asked me whether I wouldn't like to look over their
establishment. I said Yes, indeed; and one of the outside ladies, a very
capable-looking little person, with a round face and short, curly hair,
was told off to take me upstairs. I hadn't been so interested for a long
time. There was the club-room, where ladies belonging to the Association
could meet or make appointments with other people, or write letters or
read the papers, and the restaurant, where they could get anything they
wanted to eat. I am telling you all this because I've met numbers of
people in London who only know enough about the Lady Guides' Association
to smile when it is mentioned, and to say, 'Did you go _there?_' in
a tone of great amusement, which, considering it is one of your own
institutions, strikes me as curious. And it is such an original,
personal, homelike institution, like a little chirping busy nest between
the eaves of the great unconcerned City offices and warehouses, that it
is interesting to know more about than that, I think. The capable little
lady seemed quite proud of it as she ushered me from one room into
the next, and especially of the bedrooms, which were divided from one
another by pretty chintz hangings, and where at least four ladies,
'arriving strange from the country, and elsewhere,' could be tucked away
for the night. That idea struck me as perfectly sweet, and I wished
very sincerely I had known of it before. It seemed to offer so many
more advantages than the Métropole. Of course. I asked any number of
questions about the scope and working of the Association, and the little
lady answered them all with great fluency. It was nice to hear of
such extended usefulness--how the Lady Guides engage governesses,
or servants, or seats at the theatre, and provide dinners and
entertainments, and clothes to wear at them, and suitable manners; and
take care of children by the day--I do not remember whether the
little lady said they undertook to bring them up--and furnish eyes
and understanding, certified, to all visitors in London, at 'a fixed
tariff'--all except gentlemen unaccompanied by their families. 'Such
clients,' the little lady said, with a shade of sadness, I fancied, that
there should be any limitation to the benevolence of the Association,
'the Lady Guide is compelled to decline. It is a great pity--we have so
many gentleman-applicants, and there would be, of course, no necessity
for sending _young_ lady-guides out with them--we have plenty of
elderly ones, widows and so on; but'--and here the little lady grew
confidentially deprecating--'it is thought best not to. You see, it
would get into the papers, and the papers might chaff, and, of course,
in our position we can't afford to be made ridiculous. But it is a great
pity!'--and the little lady sighed again. I said I thought it was, and
asked if any special case had been made of any special entreaty. 'One,'
she admitted, in a justifying tone. 'A gentleman from Japan. He told
us he never would have come to England if he had not heard of our
Association, being a perfect stranger, without a friend in the place.'

'And unacquainted with English prejudices,' I put in.

'Quite so. And what could we do?'

'What did you do?' I inquired.

'We sent _two!_' responded the little lady, triumphing once more over
the situation. 'Nobody could say a thing to that. And he _was_ such a
pleasant little man, and thanked us so cordially.'

[Illustration: 0079]

'Did you find him intelligent?' I asked.

'Very.' But the little lady's manner was growing rather fidgety, and
it occurred to me that perhaps I was taking more information than I was
entitled to for two-and-six. So I went reluctantly downstairs, wishing
there was something else that the lady-guides could do for me. A little
black-eyed woman down there was giving some very businesslike orders.
'Half a day's shopping? I should say send Miss Stuart Saville. And tell
her to be very particular about her accounts. Has Mrs. Mason got that
private ward yet?'

'That,' said my little cicerone, in a subdued tone, 'is our manageress.
She planned the whole thing. Wonderful head!' 'Is that so? 'I remarked.
'I should like to congratulate her.'

'I'm afraid there isn't time,' she returned, looking flurried; 'and the
manageress doesn't approve of anybody wasting it. Will you write your
name in our visitors' book?'

'With pleasure,' I said; 'and I'll come again whenever I feel that I
want anything.' And I wrote my name--badly, of course, as people always
do in visitors' books, but with the lively satisfaction people always
experience in writing their names--why, I've never been able to
discover. I passed the manageress on my way out. She was confronting a
pair of ladies, an old and a young one, in black, who leaned on their
parasols with an air of amiable indecision, and falteringly addressed
her: 'I had a day and a half last week,' one of them said, rather
weakly; 'is there?--do you want me for anything this----?'

The manageress looked at her with some impatience. 'If I want you I'll
send for you, Miss Gypsum,' she said. The door closed upon me at that
moment, so I don't know how Miss Gypsum got away.

As for me, I walked through Cockspur Street and through Waterloo
Place, and so into Piccadilly, reflecting upon Mrs. Pragge, and Miss
Camblewell, and all their uncertainties. Standing in the lee of a large
policeman on one of your valuable iron refuges in the middle of the
street, a flounced black-and-white parasol suddenly shut down almost
in my face. The lady belonging to it leaned over her carriage and said:
'How d'ye do, Miss------? Dear me, how stupid I am about names! Miss
Chicago-young-lady-who-ran-away-without-getting-my-address? Now I've
found you, just pop in----'

'I must ask you to drive on, madam,' the policeman said.

'As soon as this young lady has popped in. There! Now, my dear, what did
the relation say? I've been longing to know.'

And before I realised another thing I was rolling up Regent Street
statefully in the carriage of Mrs. Torquilin.



VII

[Illustration: 0082]

|ARE you going there now?' Mrs. Torquilin went on. 'Because I'm only
out for an airing, I can drop you anywhere you like.' 'Oh, by no means,
thank you, Mrs. Torquilin,' I said; 'I've been there already.'

Mrs. Torquilin looked at me with an extraordinary expression. On top it
was conscientiously shocked, underneath it was extremely curious, amused
by anticipation, and, through it all, kindly.

'You don't get on,' she said. 'What did I tell you? "Mark my words," I
said to Charlie Mafferton, "that child knows _nothing_ of what is ahead
of her!" But pray go on. What happened?'

I went on, and told Mrs. Torquilin what happened a good deal as I have
told you, but I am afraid not so properly, because she was very much
amused; and I suppose if the story of my interview with Mrs. Portheris
excited any feeling in your mind, it was one of sympathy for me. At
least, that was what I intended. But I was so happy in Mrs. Torquilin's
carriage, and so delighted to be talking to somebody I knew, that I made
as funny an account of the tender greetings of my relation as I could,
and it lasted all the way to the Métropole, where I was to be dropped.
I referred to her always as 'my relation,' because Mrs. Torquilin seemed
to enjoy the expression. Incidentally, too, I told her about my plans,
and showed her the addresses I had from the lady-guide, and she was kind
enough to say that if I did not find them satisfactory I must let her
know, and she could send me to a person of her acquaintance, where I
should be 'very comfy, dear'; and I believed her. 'You see,' she said,
'I should like to take a little interest in your plans, because you seem
to be the only really American girl I've come upon in the whole course
of my travels. The New York ones were all English imitations--I had no
patience with them.

'Oh!' I responded, cheerfully, 'that's only on the outside, Mrs.
Torquilin. If you ran down the Stars and Stripes I guess you would find
them pretty American.'

'Well, yes,' Mrs. Torquilin admitted, 'I remember that _was_ the case';
but just then we stopped in front of the Métropole, and I begged her
to come in and lunch with me. 'Dear me, child, no; I must be off!'
she said; but I used all the persuasion I could, and represented how
dreadfully lonely it was for me, and Mrs. Torquilin hesitated. At the
moment of her hesitation there floated out from the dining-room a most
appetising suggestion of fried soles. What small matters contribute to
important results! I don't know anything that I have more cause to
be grateful to than that little wandering odour. For Mrs. Torquilin,
encountering it, said, with some feeling, 'Poor child. I've no doubt it
is lonely for you. Perhaps I really ought to cheer you up a bit--I'll
come!'

And Mrs. Torquilin and I pursued the wandering odour into the
dining-room.

We had a particularly good lunch, and we both enjoyed it immensely,
though Mrs. Torquilin made a fuss about my ordering champagne, and said
it was simply ruinous, and I really ought to have somebody to look after
me. 'By the way,' she said, 'have you seen anything of the Maffertons?'
I told her that Mr. Mafferton had left his card the afternoon before,
but I was out. 'You were out?' said Mrs. Torquilin. 'What a pity!' I
said no; I wasn't very sorry, because I felt so unsettled in my mind
that I was sure I couldn't work myself up to an intelligent discussion
of any of Mr. Mafferton's favourite subjects, and he would hardly have
found much pleasure in his visit. 'Oh! I think he would,' said Mrs.
Torquilin. 'What on earth has "intelligent discussion" to do with it?
I know the Maffertons very well,' she went on, looking at me quite
sharply. 'Excellent family--cousins of Lord Mafferton of Mafferton.
Charlie has enough, but not too much, I should say. However, that's
neither here nor there, for he has no expensive habits, to _my_
knowledge.'

'Just imagine,' I said, 'his being cousin to a lord! And yet he's not a
bit haughty! Have you ever seen the lord, Mrs. Torquilin?'

'Bless the child, yes! Gone down to dinner with him more than once!
Between ourselves,' said Mrs. Torquilin, confidentially, 'he's an old
brute--neither more nor less! But one can't be rude to the man. What
he'll have to say to it heaven only knows! But Charlie is quite capable
of snapping his fingers at him. Do have one of these ices.'

I was immensely interested. 'What has Mr. Mafferton been doing?' I
asked.

'I've no reason to believe he's done it yet,' said Mrs. Torquilin, a
little crossly I thought. 'Perhaps he won't.'

'I'm sure I hope not,' I returned. 'Mr. Mafferton is so nice that it
would be a pity if he got into trouble with his relations, especially if
one of them is a lord.'

'Then don't let him!' said Mrs. Torquilin, more crossly than before.

'Do you think I would have any influence with him?' I asked her. 'I
should doubt it very much. Mr. Mafferton doesn't strike me as a
person at all susceptible to ladies' influence. But, if I knew the
circumstances, I might try.'

'Oh, come along, child!' Mrs. Torquilin returned, folding up the napkin.
'You're _too_ stupid. I'll see the Maffertons in a day or two, and I'll
tell them what I think of you. Is there nothing else you'll have? Then
let us depart, and make room for somebody else.' And I followed Mrs.
Torquilin out of the room with a vague consciousness that she had an
important voice in the management of the hotel, and had been kind enough
to give me my lunch.

My friend did not take leave of me in the hall. 'I'd like to see the
place,' she said. 'Take me up into the drawing-room.'

Mrs. Torquilin admired the drawing-room very much. 'Sumptuous!' she
said, 'Sumptuous!' And as I walked round it with her I felt a particular
kind of pleasure in being the more familiar with it of the two, and
a little pride, too, in its luxury, which I had always been told was
specially designed to suit Americans. I was so occupied with these
feelings and with Mrs. Torquilin's remarks, that I did not observe two
ladies on a sofa at the end of the room until we were almost in front
of them. Then I noticed that one of the ladies was sitting bolt upright,
with a stern, majestic eye fixed full upon me, apparently frozen with
indignation; I also noticed that it was Mrs. Portheris. The other lady,
in rusty black, as I knew she would be, occupied the farther end of the
sofa, very much wilted indeed.

'Miss Wick.' said Mrs. Portheris, portentously, standing up, 'I have
been shopping in the interval, but my friend Miss Purkiss--this is Miss
Purkiss; Miss Purkiss, this is Miss Wick, the connection from Chicago
whom you so kindly consented to try to befriend--Miss Purkiss has been
here since ten o'clock. You will excuse her rising--she is almost, I
might say, in a state of collapse!'

I turned round to Mrs. Torquilin.

'Mrs. Torquilin,' I said, 'this is my relation, Mrs. Portheris. Mrs.
Portheris--Mrs. Torquilin.' In America we always introduce.

[Illustration: 0086]

But I was astonished at the change in Mrs. Torquilin. She seemed to
have grown quite two inches taller, and she was regarding Mrs. Portheris
through a pair of eyeglasses on a stick in the most inexplicable manner,
with her mouth set very firmly indeed in a sort of contemptuous smile.

'Mrs. Cummers Portheris!' she said. 'Yes, I think Mrs. Cummers Portheris
knows me. You did not tell me, dear, that Mrs. Portheris was your
relation--but you need not fear that I shall think any the less of you
for that.'

'Heppy,' said Mrs. Portheris, throwing up her chin, but looking
distinctly nervous, 'your temper is much the same, I am sorry to see, as
it always was.'

Mrs. Torquilin opened her mouth to reply, but closed it again
resolutely, with an expression of infinite disdain. Then, to my
surprise, she took a chair, in a way that told me distinctly of her
intention not to desert me. I felt at the moment that I would have given
anything to be deserted--the situation was so very embarrassing. The
only thing I could think of to do was to ask Miss Purkiss if she and
Mrs. Portheris wouldn't have some lunch. Miss Purkiss looked quite
cheerful for a moment, and began to unbutton her glove; but her
countenance fell when my unfeeling relation forbade her with a look, and
said: 'Thank you, _no_, Miss Wick! Having waited so long, we can easily
manage without food a little longer. Let us get to our arrangements.
Perhaps Miss Purkiss will tell Miss Wick what she has to offer her.'
Mrs. Portheris was evidently trying to ignore Mrs. Torquilin, and
sat offensively, and sideways to her; but she could not keep the
apprehension out of her eye.

'Certainly!' I said; 'but Miss Purkiss must have something.' I was
determined to decline, but I wished to do it as mercifully as possible.
'Tell somebody,' I said to a servant who had come up to poke the fire,
'to bring up some claret and crackers.'

'Biscuits, child,' put in Mrs. Torquilin, 'is what you mean. Biscuits the
young lady means'--to the servant--'and be sharp about it, for we want
to go out immediately.' Then--'May I ask what arrangements you were
thinking of offering Miss Wick?'--to Miss Purkiss.

Miss Purkiss began, quaveringly, that she had never done such a thing in
her life before, but as Mrs. Portheris particularly wished it----

'For your own good, Jane,' interrupted Mrs. Portheris; 'entirely for
your own good. I don't call that gratitude.'

Miss Purkiss hastily admitted that it _was_ for her own good, of course,
and that Mrs. Portheris knew her far too well to believe for a moment
that she was not grateful; but I could have a nice back bedroom on the
second floor, and the use of her sitting-room all day, and I, being
recommended by Mrs. Portheris, she wouldn't think of many extras. Well,
if there were fires, lights, the use of the bath and piano, boots, and
friends to meals, that would be _all_.

'It is quite impossible!' said Mrs. Torquilin. 'I'm sorry you had the
trouble of coming. In the first place, I fear _my young friend_,' with
emphasis and a cursory glance at Mrs. Portheris's chair, 'would find it
dull in Upper Baker Street. In the second'--Mrs. Torquilin hesitated for
a moment, and then made the plunge--'I have taken a flat for the season,
and Miss Wick is coming to me. I believe that is our little plan, my
dear'--with a meaning smile to me. Then Mrs. Torquilin looked at
Mrs. Portheris as if she were wondering whether there could be any
discoverable reason why my relation should stay any longer. Mrs.
Portheris rose, routed, but with a calm eye and a steady front. 'In
that case I _hope_ you will be forbearing with her, Heppy,' she said.
'Remember that she is a stranger to our ways of thinking and doing,
and has probably never had the advantages of up-bringing that you and I
have. I have no doubt, however, that my nephew, Colonel Wick, has done
his best for her. _As you are probably aware_, he is worth his million.'

Mrs. Torquilin missed the sarcasm. 'Not I!' she returned, coolly;
'but I'm sure I'm very glad to hear it, for Miss Wick's sake. As to my
temper, I've noticed that those know most about it who best deserve it.
I don't think you need _worry_ yourself about your young connection,
Mrs. Cummers Portheris.'

'No,' said I, meekly; 'I should hate to be a weight on your mind.'

Mrs. Portheris took my hand in quite an affecting manner.

'Then I leave you, Miss Wick,' she said, 'to this lady--and to
Providence.'

[Illustration: 0090]

'Between them,' I said, 'I ought to have a very good time.' Mrs.
Portheris dropped my hand. 'I feel,' she said, 'that I have done my part
toward you; but remember, if ever you want a home, Miss Purkiss will
take you in. When in doubt----'

'Play trumps!' said Mrs. Torquilin from the window, where she stood
with her back to all of us. 'I always do. Is that your carriage waiting
outside, Mrs. Cummers Portheris?'

'It is,' said my relation, betrayed into asperity. 'I hope you have no
objection to it!'

'Oh, none--not the least. But the horses seem very restive.'

'Come, Miss Purkiss!' said my relation.

'The wine and biscuits, dear love,' said Miss Purkiss, 'are just
arriving.'

But Mirs. Portheris was bowing, with stately indefiniteness, to Mrs.
Torquilin's back.

'Come, Miss Purkiss!' she commanded again. 'You can get a sandwich at
the "A. B. C."'

And Aliss Purkiss arose and followed my relation, which was the saddest
thing of all.

As soon as they were well out of the room, Mrs. Torquilin turned
round. 'I suppose you'll wonder about the why and wherefore of all this
turn-up,' she said to me, her cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkling.
'It's a long story, and I'll tell you another time. But it comes to this
in the end--that creature and I married into the same family. My husband
and the late John Portheris, poor fellow, were step-brothers; and that
old cat had the impudence--but there's no use going into it now. All I
have to say is, she generally meets her match when she meets me.
I'll put up with no hanky-panky work from Mrs. Cummers Portheris, my
dear--and well she knows it!'

'It was certainly nice of you to help me out of the difficulty, Mrs.
Torquilin,' I said, 'for I'd rather go anywhere than to Miss Purkiss's;
but I'm sorry you had to----'

'Tell a tarradiddle? Not a bit of it, my dear--I meant it. Two are
better than one, any day--I've plenty of room in my little flat, and if
you like to share the expenses, I'll not object. At all events, we
can but try it, and it will be showing very good feeling towards the
Maffertons. I'm not a great hand for junketing, mind you, but we'll
manage to amuse ourselves a little--a little giddy-goating does nobody
any harm.'

Then I kissed Mrs. Torquilin, and she kissed me, and I told her
how extremely obliged I was to her, and asked her if she had really
considered it; and Mrs. Torquilin said, wasn't it enough that I should
be left to 'that woman,' meaning my relation, and that I should come
next day to see how we could best arrange matters. 'And while I think
of it, child, here is my address,' my friend continued, taking out her
card-case, and watching me very carefully, with a little smile about her
mouth. I looked at it. I think my embarrassment gratified her a little,
for the card read, '_Lady Torquilin_, 102 Cadogan Mansions, S.W.' I
didn't know what to say. And I had been calling a lady of title 'Mrs.'
all this time! Still, I reflected, she would hardly have been so nice to
me if I had offended her very much, and if she had been particular about
her title she could have mentioned it.

'It seems,' I said, 'that I have been making a mistake. I expected to
make mistakes in this country; but I'm sorry I began with you.'

'Nonsense, child!' she returned. 'It was just my little joke--and I
made Charlie Mafferton keep it. There's precious little in the handle
I assure you--except an extra half-crown in one's bills!' And Lady
Torquilin gave me her hand to say good-bye.

'Good-bye,' I said; 'I think handles are nice all the same.' And
then--it is an uncomfortable thing to write, but it happened--I thought
of something. I was determined to make no more mistakes if asking would
prevent it.

'Please tell me,' I said, 'for you see I can't possibly know--am I to
call you "your ladyship," or "my lady"?'

'Now don't talk rubbish!' said Lady Torquilin. 'You're to call me by
my name. You are _too_ quaint. Be a good child--and don't be late
to-morrow.'



VIII

|IF I only had my own house in Portman Street,' Lady Torquilin remarked
next day when we were having our tea in her flat, 'I could make you a
great deal more comfy. Here we are just a bit cramped--"crowded," as you
say in America. But you can't eat your cake and have it too.'

'Which have you done, Lady Torquilin,' I inquired, 'with your cake?'

'Let it,' said my friend--'twenty-five guineas a week, my dear, which is
something to a poor woman. Last season it only brought twenty, and cost
me a fortune to get it clean again after the pigs who lived in it. For
the extra five I have to be thankful to the Duchess.'

'Did you really let it to a Duchess?' I asked, with deep interest. 'How
lovely!'

'Indeed I did not! But the Duchess came to live round the corner,
and rents went up in consequence. You don't know what it means to
property-owners in London to have a duchess living round the corner,
my child. It means _everything_. Not that I'm freehold in Portman
Street--I've only a lease,' and Lady Torquilin sighed. This led
us naturally into matters of finance, and we had a nice, sensible,
practical discussion about our joint expenses. It doesn't matter to
anybody what our arrangement was, but I must say that I found great
occasion for protest against its liberality towards me. 'Nonsense!' said
Lady Torquilin, invariably; 'don't be a foolish kitten! It's probably
less than you would pay at a good private hotel--that's the advantage to
you. Every time we take a hansom it will be only sixpence each instead
of a shilling--that's the advantage to me; and no small advantage it is,
for cabs are my ruin. And you'll save me plenty of steps, I'm sure, my
dear! So there, say no more about it, but go and get your boxes.'

So I drove back to the Métropole finally, and as I locked my last trunk
I noticed a fresh card on the mantelpiece. It was another of Mr. Charles
Mufferton's; and on the back was written in pencil: '_I hope you are
meeting with no difficulties. Should be glad to be of use in any way.
Please let me know your permanent address as soon as possible, as the
mother and sisters would like to call upon you.--G, M_.' This was nice
and kind and friendly, and I tried in vain to reconcile it with what I
had heard of English stiffness and exclusiveness and reserve. I would
write to Mr. Mafferton, I thought, that very night. I supposed that by
_the_ mother he meant his own, but it struck me as a curious expression.
In America we specify our parents, and a reference to 'the mother' there
would probably be held to refer back to Eve. But in England you like all
kinds of distinguishing articles, don't you?

Lady Torquilin's flat was a new one, of the regular American kind--not a
second or third floor in an old-fashioned London house--and had a share,
I am thankful to say, in a primitive elevator. The elevator was very
small, but the man in the lower hall seemed to stand greatly in awe of
it. 'To get them there boxes up in this 'ere lift, miss,' he said, when
I and my trunks presented ourselves, 'she'll 'ave to make three trips
at least'--and he looked at me rather reproachfully. 'Ware do you
want'em put out?' I said, 'Lady Torquilin's flat.' 'That's Number Four,'
he commented, 'a good ways up. If you wouldn't mind a h'extra sixpence,
miss, I could get a man off the street to 'elp me with'em--they do be a
size!' I said by all means, and presently my impedimenta were ascending
with much deliberate circumstance, one piece at a time. The acoustic
properties of Cadogan Mansions are remarkable. Standing at the foot of
that elevator, encouraging its labours as it were, I could not possibly
help overhearing Lady Torquilin's reception of my trunks, mingled with
the more subdued voices of her housemaids. It was such a warm reception,
expressed in such graphic terms, that I thought I ought to be present
myself to acknowledge it; and the man put on two ordinary-sized valises
next, to allow me to go up at the same time. 'We've got our orders,
miss, to be pertickeler about wot she carries, miss,' he said, when I
thought a trunk or two might accompany me. 'You see, if anything went
wrong with 'er works, miss, there's no say in' ware we'd be!'--and we
solemnly began to rise. 'Ladies in the Mansions don't generally use the
lift such a very great deal,' he remarked further, 'especially goin'
down. They complain of the sinkin'.'

'I shall always go up and down in it,' I said. 'I don't mind the
sinking. I'm used to it.'

'Very well, miss. You 'ave only to press the button and she'll come up;
an' a great convenience you'll find 'er, miss,' he returned, resignedly,
unlocking the grated door on Lady Torquilin's flat, where my hostess
stood with her hands folded, and two maids respectfully behind her,
regarding the first instalment of my baggage. After she had welcomed me:
'It's curiosity in its way,' said Lady Torquilin; 'but what's to be done
with it, the dear only knows--unless we sublet it.' It required some
strength of mind to tell her that there were two more coming up.
The next one she called an abnormity, and the third she called a
barn--simply. And I must say my trunks did look imposing in Lady
Torquilin's flat. Finally, however, by the exercise of ingenuity on our
parts and muscle on the maids', we got the whole of my baggage 'settled
up,' as Lady Torquilin expressed it, and I was ready for my first
approved and endorsed experience in your metropolis.

It came that afternoon. 'I am going to take you,' said Lady Torquilin at
lunch, 'to Mrs. Fry Hamilton's "at home." She likes Americans, and her
parties--"functions," as society idiots call it--disgusting word--are
generally rather "swagger," as they say. I daresay you'll enjoy it. Make
yourself as tidy as possible, mind. Put on your pretty grey; tuck in
that "fringe" of yours a bit too, my dear; and be ready by five sharp.'

'Don't you like my bangs, Lady Torquilin?'

'Say your fringe, child; people don't "bang" in England--except doors
and the piano. No, I can't say I'm fond of it. What were you given a
forehead for, if you were not intended to show it? I fancy I see Sir
Hector, when he was alive, allowing me to wear a fringe!' And Lady
Torquilin pushed my hair up in that fond, cheerful, heavy-handed way
people have, that makes you back away nervously and feel yourself
a fright. I went to my room wondering whether my affection for Lady
Torquilin would ever culminate in the sacrifice of my bangs. I could not
say, seriously, that I felt equal to it then.

We went to Mrs. Fry Hamilton's in a hansom--not, as Lady Torquilin said,
that she had the least objection to omnibuses, especially when they
didn't drop one at the very door, but because there were no omnibuses
very convenient to the part of Cromwell Road that Mrs. Fry Hamilton
lived in. We inspected several before Lady Torquilin made a
selection--rubber-tyred, yellow-wheeled, with a horse attached that
would hardly stand still while we got in. I was acutely miserable, he
went so fast; but Lady Torquilin liked it. 'He's perfectly fresh, poor
darling!' she said. 'It breaks my heart to drive behind a wretched
worn-out creature with its head down.' I said, Yes, I thought he was
very fresh indeed, and asked Lady Torquilin if she noticed how he
waggled his head. 'Dear beastie!' she replied, he's got a sore mouth.
Suppose your mouth were perfectly raw, and you had a bit in it, and a
man tugging at the reins----' But I couldn't stand it any longer; I put
my parasol up through the door in the top.

[Illustration: 0099]

'Make him stop waggling!' I called to the driver. 'It's only a little
'abit of'is, miss,' the driver said, and then, as the horse dropped his
pace, he whipped him. Instantly Lady Torquilin's parasol admonished him.
'If you flog your horse,' she said emphatically, 'I get out.' I don't
think I have ever driven in a hansom with Lady Torquilin since that our
parasols have not both gone through the roof to point statements like
these to the cabman, Lady Torquilin usually anguished on the dear
horse's account, and I unhappy on my own. It enlivens the most
monotonous drive, but it is a great strain on the nerves. I generally
beg for a four-wheeler instead; but Lady Torquilin is contemptuous of
four-wheelers, and declares she would just as soon drive in the British
Museum. She says I will get used to it if I will only abstract my mind
and talk about something else; and I am trying, but the process is a
very painful one.

When we arrived at Mrs. Fry Hamilton's I rang the bell.

'Bless you, child!' said Lady Torquilin, 'that's not the way. They'll
take you for a nursery governess, or a piano-tuner, or a bill! This
is the proper thing for visitors.' And with that Lady Torquilin rapped
sonorously and rang a peal--such a rap and peal as I had never heard
in all my life before. In America we have only one kind of ring for
everybody--from the mayor of the city to the man who sells plaster
Cupids and will take old clothes on account. We approach each other's
door-bells, as a nation, with much greater deference; and there is a
certain humility in the way we introduce our personalities anywhere.

I felt uncomfortable on Mrs. Fry Hamilton's doorstep, as if I were not,
individually, worth all that noise. Since then I have been obliged to
rap and ring myself, because Lady Torquilin likes me to be as proper
as I can; but there is always an incompleteness about the rap and an
ineffectualness about the ring. I simply haven't the education to do it.
And when the footman opens the door I feel that my face expresses
deprecatingly, 'It's only me!' 'Rap and ring!' says Lady Torquilin,
deridingly, 'it's a tap and tinkle!' Lady Torquilin is fond of
alliteration.

Inside quite a few people were ascending and descending a narrow
staircase that climbed against the wall, taking up as little room as
it could; and a great many were in the room on the ground-floor, where
refreshments were being dispensed. They were all beautifully dressed--if
I have learned anything in England, it is not to judge the English
by the clothes they wear in America--and they moved about with great
precision, making, as a general thing, that pleasant rustle which
we know to mean a silk foundation. The rustle was the only form of
conversation that appeared to be general, but I noticed speaking going
on in several groups of two or three. And I never saw better going up
and down stairs--it was beautifully done, even by ladies weighing, I
should think, quite two hundred pounds apiece, which you must reduce to
"stun" for yourself. Lady Torquilin led the way with great simplicity
and directness into the dining-room, and got tea for us both from one of
the three white-capped modestly-expressionless maids behind the
table--I cannot tell you what a dream of peace your servants are in
this country--and asked me whether I would have sponge-cake, or a
cress sandwich, or what. 'But,' I said, 'where is Mrs. Fry Hamilton?--I
haven't been introduced.'

'All in good time,' said Lady Torquilin. 'It's just as well to take our
tea when we can get it--we won't be able to turn round in here in half
an hour!'--and Lady Torquilin took another sandwich with composure. 'Try
the plum-cake,' she advised me in an aside. 'Buszard----I can tell at a
glance! I have to deny myself.'

And I tried the plum-cake, but with a sense of guilty apprehension
lest Mrs. Fry Hamilton should appear in the doorway and be naturally
surprised at the consumption of her refreshments by an utter stranger.
I noticed that almost everybody else did the same thing, and that nobody
seemed at all nervous; but I occupied as much of Lady Torquilins'
shadow as I could, all the same, and on the way up implored her, saying,
'_Have_ I any crumbs?' I felt that it would require more hardihood than
I possessed to face Mrs. Fry Hamilton with shreds of her substance,
acquired before I knew her, clinging to my person. But concealment was
useless, and seemed to be unnecessary.

'Have you had any tea?' said Mrs. Fry Hamilton to Lady Torquilin, her
question embracing us both, as we passed before her; and Lady Torquilin
said, 'Yes, thanks,' as nonchalantly as possible.

Lady Torquilin had just time to say that I was an American.

'Really!' remarked Mrs. Fry Hamilton, looking at me again. 'How nice.
The only one I have to-day, I think.' And we had to make room for
somebody else. But it was then that the curious sensation of being
attached to a string and led about, which I have felt more or less in
London ever since, occurred to me first--in the statement that I was the
only one Mrs. Fry Hamilton had to-day.

Lady Torquilin declared, as she looked round the room, that she didn t
see a soul she knew; so we made our way to a corner and sat down, and
began to talk in those uninterested spasms that always attack people
who come with each other. Presently--'There is that nice little Mrs.
Pastelle-Jones!' said Lady Torquilin, 'I must go and speak to her!'--and
I was left alone, with the opportunity of admiring the china. I don't
wonder at your fondness for it in London drawing-rooms. It seems to be
the only thing that you can keep clean. So many people were filing in
past Mrs. Fry Hamilton, however, that the china soon lost its interest
for me. The people were chiefly ladies--an impressive number of old,
stout, rosy, white-haired ladies in black, who gave me the idea of
remarkable health at their age; more middle-aged ones, rather inclined
to be pale and thin, with narrow cheek-bones, and high-arched noses, and
sweet expressions, and a great deal of black lace and jet, much puffed
on the shoulders; and young ones, who were, of course, the very first
English young ladies I had ever seen in an English drawing-room. I
suppose you are accustomed to them; you don't know what they were
to me--you couldn't understand the intense interest and wonder and
admiration they excited in me. I had never seen anything human so tall
and strong and fine and fresh-coloured before, with such clear limpid
eyes, such pretty red lips, and the outward showing of such excellent
appetites. It seemed to me that everyone was an epitome of her early
years of bread-and-butter and milk puddings and going to bed at
half-past nine, and the epitomes had a charming similarity. The English
young lady stood before me in Mrs. Fry Hamilton's drawing-room as an
extraordinary product--in almost all cases five-eight, and in some quite
six feet in height. Her little mamma was dwarfed beside her, and when
she smiled down upon the occasional man who was introduced to her, in
her tall, compassionate way, he looked quite insignificant, even if he
carried the square, turned-back shoulders by which I have learned to
tell military men in this country. We have nothing like it in America,
on the same scale; although we have a great deal more air to breathe and
vegetables to eat than you. I knew that I had always been considered
'a big girl,' but beside these firm-fleshed young women I felt myself
rather a poor creature, without a muscular advantage to my name. They
smiled a good deal, but I did not see them talk much--it seemed enough
for them to be; and they had a considering air, as if things were new to
them, and they had not quite made up their minds. And as they considered
they blushed a good deal, in a way that was simply sweet. As I sat
musing upon them I saw Lady Torquilin advancing toward me, with one
of the tallest, pinkest, best-developed, and most tailor-made of all
immediately behind her, following, with her chin outstretched a little,
and her eyes downcast, and a pretty expression of doing what she was
told.

'My dear,' said Lady Torquilin, 'this is Miss Gladys Fortescue.
Gladys--Miss Wick, my young lady friend from Chicago. Miss Fortescue has
a brother in America, so you will have something to chat about.'

'Howdj-do?' said Miss Fortescue. She said it very quickly, with a
sweet smile, and an interesting little mechanical movement of the head,
blushing at the same time; and we shook hands. That is, I think one of
us did, though I can't say positively which one it was. As I remember
the process, there were two shakes; but they were not shakes that ran
into each other, and one of them--I think it was mine--failed to 'come
off,' as you say in tennis. Mine was the shake that begins nowhere in
particular, and ends without your knowing it--just the ordinary American
shake arranged on the muscular system in common use with us. Miss
Fortescue's was a rapid, convulsive movement, that sprang from her
shoulder and culminated with a certain violence. There was a little push
in it, too, and it exploded, as it were, high in Mr. At the same time I
noticed the spectacles of a small man who stood near very much in peril
from Miss Fortescue's elbow. Then I remembered and understood the sense
of dislocation I had experienced after shaking hands with Mrs. Fry
Hamilton, and which I had attributed, in the confusion of the moment, to
being held up, so to speak, as an American.

'Do you know my brother?' said Miss Fortescue.

'I am afraid not,' I replied. 'Where does he live?'

'In the United States,' said Miss Fortescue. 'He went out there six
months ago with a friend. Perhaps you know his friend--Mr. Colfax.'

I said I knew two or three Mr. Colfaxes, but none of them were
English--had not been, at least, for some time back; and did Miss
Fortescue know what particular part of the Union her brother and his
friend had gone to? 'You know,' I said, 'we have an area of three
million square miles,' I daresay I mentioned our area with a certain
pardonable pride. It's a thing we generally make a point of in America.

I shouldn't have thought there was anything particularly humorous in
an area, but Miss Fortescue laughed prettily. 'I remember learning that
from my governess,' she said. 'My brother is out in the West--either
in the town of Minneapolis and the State of Minnesota, or the town of
Minnesota and the State of Minneapolis. I never know, without looking
out his address, which comes first. But I daresay there are a good many
people in the United States--you might easily miss him.'

'We have sixty millions, Miss Fortescue,' I said; and Miss Fortescue
returned that in that case she didn t see how we could be expected to
know anybody; and after that the conversation flagged for a few seconds,
during which we both looked at the other people.

'I have never been to America,' Miss Fortescue said. 'I should like to
go. Is it very cold?'

I did not mention the area again. 'In some places,' I said.

'I should not like that. But then, you have the toe-beganing--that must
be nice.

[Illustration: 0105]

I assented, though I did not in the least know, until Miss Fortescue
spoke of skating, what she meant. Miss Fortescue thought the skating
must be nice, too, and then, she supposed, though it was cold, we
always went out _prepared_ for it. And the conversation flagged again.
Fortunately, a gentleman at the other end of the room, where the piano
was, began at that moment to sing something very pleading and lamentable
and uncomfortable, with a burden of 'I love thee so,' which generally
rhymed with 'woe'--an address to somebody he called 'Dear-r-r
Hear-r-r-t!' as high as he could reach, turning up his eyes a good deal,
as if he were in pain. And for the time it was not necessary to talk.

[Illustration: 0107]

When he had finished Miss Fortescue asked me if it was not delightful,
and I said it was--did she know the gentleman's name? Miss Fortescue
said she did not, but perhaps Lady Torquilin would. And then, just as
Lady Torquilin came up, 'How do you like England?' asked Miss Fortescue.

*****

'Well,' asked Lady Torquilin, as we drove home in another hansom, what
did you and Gladys Fortescue find to say to each other?'

I said, quite truly, that I did not remember at the moment, but I
admired Miss Fortescue--also with great sincerity--so enthusiastically,
that I daresay Lady Torquilin thought we had got on splendidly together.

And what I wonder is, if Miss Fortescue had been asked about our
conversation, what she would have said.



IX

|YOU are sure you know where you're going?' said Lady Torquilin,
referring to the 'Army and Navy.' '_Victoria_ omnibus, remember, at
Sloane-square; a penny fare, and not more, mind. You must learn to look
after your pennies. Now, what are you to do for me at the Stores?'

'A packet of light Silurian; your camphor and aconite pilules; to ask
how long they intend to be over the valise, they're fixing for you----'

'Portmanteau they're re-covering. Yes, go on!'

'And what their charge is for cleaning red curtains'

'_And_ to complain about the candles,' added Lady Torquilin.'

'And to complain about the candles.'

'Yes. Don't forget about the candles, dear. See what they'll do. And I'm
very sorry I can't go with you to Madame Tussaud's, but you know I've
been trotting about the whole morning, and all those wax people, with
their idiotic expressions, this afternoon would simply finish me off!
I'll just lie down a bit, and go with you another day; I couldn't
stand up much longer to talk to the Queen herself! You pop into the
"Underground," you know, at St. James's Park, and out you know,
at St. James's Park, and out at Baker Street. Now, where do you pop
in?--and out? That's quite right. Good-bye, child. I rang for the lift
to come up a quarter of an hour ago; it's probably there now, and we
mustn't keep it waiting. Off you go!' But the elevator-door was locked,
and our descent had begun, when Lady Torquilin hurried along the
passage, arrested, and kept it waiting on her own account. 'It's only
to say, dear,' she called through the grating, 'that you are on no
consideration whatever to get in or out of an Underground train while
it is moving. _On no consideration what_-;' but the grating slowly
disappeared, and the rest of Lady Torquilin's admonition came down on
the top of the elevator.

I had done every one of the commissions. I had been magisterially raised
and lowered from one floor to another, to find that everything I wanted
was situated up and down so many staircases 'and turn to your right,
madam,' that I concluded they kept an elevator at the Stores for
pleasure. I had had an agreeable interview with a very blonde young
druggist upon the pilules in the regions above, and had made it all
right with a man in mutton-chop whiskers and an apron about the candles
in the regions below. I had seen a thing I had never seen in my life
before, a very curious thing, that interested me enormously--a husband
and father buying his wife's and daughters' dry-goods--probably Lady
Torquilin would tell me to say 'dress materials.' In America our
husbands and fathers are too much occupied to make purchases for their
families, for which it struck me that we had never been thankful enough
'I will not have you in stripes!' I heard him say, as I passed, full of
commiseration for her. 'What arrogance!' I thought. 'In America they are
glad to have us in anything.' And I rejoiced that it was so.

[Illustration: 0110]

But, as I was saying, I had done all Lady Torquilin's commissions, and
was making my last trip to the ground-floor with the old soldier in the
elevator, when a gentleman got in at one of the stopping-places, and
sat down opposite me. He had that look of deliberate indifference that
I have noticed so many English gentlemen carry about with them--as
if, although they are bodily present, their interest in life had been
carefully put away at home--and he concentrated his attention upon
the point of his umbrella, just as he used to do upon the salt-cellars
crossing the Atlantic Ocean. And he looked up almost with astonishment
when I said, 'How do you do, Mr. Mafferton?' rather as if he did not
quite expect to be spoken to in an elevator by a young lady. Miss Wick!'
he said, and we shook hands as the old soldier let us out. 'How very
odd! I was on the point of looking you up at Lady Torquilin's. You see,
I've found you out at last--no thanks to you--after looking all over the
place.'

There was a very definite reproach in this, so I told Mr. Mafferton
as we went down the steps that I was extremely sorry he had taken any
trouble on my account; that I had fully intended to write to him in
the course of a day or two, but he had no idea how much time it took
up getting settled in a flat where the elevator ran only at stated
intervals. 'But,' I said, with some curiosity, 'how _did_ you find me
out, Mr. Mafferton?' For if there is one interesting thing, it is to
discover how an unexpected piece of information about yourself has been
come by.

'Lady Torquilin dropped me a line,' replied Mr. Mafferton; 'that is,
she mentioned it in--in a note yesterday. Lady Torquilin,' Mr. Mafferton
went on, 'is a very old friend of mine--and an awfully good sort, as I
daresay you are beginning to find out.'

By this time we had reached the pavement, and were standing in
everybody's way, with the painful indetermination that attacks people
who are not quite sure whether they ought to separate or not. "'Ansom
cab, sir?" asked one of the porters. 'No!' said Mr. Mafferton. 'I was
on the very point,' he went on to me, dodging a boy with a bandbox, 'of
going to offer my services as cicerone this afternoon, if you and Lady
Torquilin would be good enough to accept them.'

''Ansom cab, sir?' asked another porter, as Mr. Alafferton, getting out
of the way of a resplendent footman, upset a small child with a topheavy
bonnet, belonging to the lady who belonged to the footman.

[Illustration: 8112]

'_No!_' said Mr. Mafferton, in quite a temper. 'Shall we get out of
this?' he asked me, appealingly; and we walked on in the direction of
the Houses of Parliament. 'There's nothing on in particular, that I
know of he continued; 'but there are always the stock shows, and Lady
Torquilin is up to any amount of sight-seeing, I know.'

'She isn't today, Mr. Mafferton. She's lying down. I did my best to
persuade her to come out with me, and she wouldn't. But I'm going
sight-seeing this very minute, and if you would like to come too, I'm
sure I shall be very glad.'

Mr. Mafferton looked a little uncomfortable. 'Where were you thinking of
going?' he asked.

'To Madame Tussaud's,' I said. 'You go by the Underground Railway
from here. Get in at St. James's Park Station, and out at Baker Street
Station--about twenty-five minutes in the cars. And you are not,'
I said, remembering what I had been told, 'under any consideration
whatever, to get in or out of the train while it is moving.'

Mr. Mafferton laughed. 'Lady Torquilin has been coaching you,' he said:
but he still looked uncomfortable, and thinking he felt, perhaps, like
an intruder upon my plans, and wishing to put him at his ease, I said:
'It would really be very kind of you to come, Mr. Mafferton, for even at
school I never could remember English history, and now I've probably got
your dynasties worse mixed up than ever. It would be a great advantage
to go with somebody who knows all the dates, and which kings usurped
their thrones, and who they properly belonged to.'

Mr. Mafferton laughed again. 'I hope you don't expect all that of me,'
he said. 'But if you are quite sure we couldn't rout Lady Torquilin out,
I will take you to Madame Tussaud's with the greatest pleasure, Miss
Wick.'

'I'm quite sure,' I told Mr. Mafferton, cheerfully. 'She said all those
wax people, with their idiotic expressions, this afternoon would simply
finish her up!'--and Mr. Mafferton said Lady Torquilin put things very
quaintly, didn't she? And we went together into one of those great
echoing caverns in the sides of the streets that led down flights of
dirty steps, past the man who punches the tickets, and widen out into
that border of desolation with a fierce star burning and brightening in
the blackness of the farther end, which is a platform of the Underground
Railway.

'This,' said I to Mr. Mafferton as we walked up and down waiting for our
train, 'is one of the things I particularly wanted to see.'

'The penny weighing-machine?' asked Mr. Mafferton, for I had stopped to
look at that.

'The whole thing,' said I--'the Underground system. But this is
interesting in itself,' I added, putting a penny in, and stepping on the
machine.

[Illustration: 0116]

'Please hold my parasol, Mr. Mafferton, so that I may get the exact
truth for my penny.' Mr. Mafferton took the parasol with a slightly
clouded expression, which deepened when one of two gentlemen who had
just come on the platform bowed to him. 'I think, if you don't mind,
Miss Wick, we had better go farther along the platform--it will be
easier to get the carriage,' he said, in a manner which quite dashed my
amiable intention of telling him how even the truth was cheaper in this
country than in America, for our weighing-machines wouldn't work for
less than a nickel, which was twice and a-half as much as a penny. Just
then, however, the train came whizzing in, we bundled ourselves into a
compartment, the door banged after us with frightful explosiveness--the
Underground bang is a thing which I should think the omnibus companies
had great cause to be thankful for--and we went with a scream and a rush
into the black unknown. It seemed to me in the first few minutes that
life as I had been accustomed to it had lapsed, and that a sort of
semi-conscious existence was filling up the gap between what had been
before and what would be again. I can't say I found this phase of being
agreeable. It occurred to me that my eyes and my ears and my lungs
might just as well have been left at home. The only organ that found
any occupation was my nose--all sense seemed concentrated in
that sharp-edged, objectionable smell. 'What do you think of the
Underground?' said Mr. Mafferton, leaning across, above the rattle.

I told him I hadn't had time to analyse my impressions, in a series of
shrieks, and subsided to watch for the greyness of the next station.
After that had passed, and I was convinced that there were places where
you could escape to the light and air of the outside world again, I
asked Mr. Mafferton a number of questions about the railway, and in
answering them he said the first irritating thing I heard in England. 'I
hope,' he remarked, 'that your interest in the Underground won't take
you all the way round the Circle to see what it's like.'

'Why do you hope that, Mr. Mafferton?' I said. 'Is it dangerous?'

'Not in the least.' he returned, a little confusedly. 'Only--most
Americans like to "make the entire circuit," I believe.'

'I've no doubt they want to see how bad it can be,' I said. 'We are a
very fair nation, Mr. Mafferton. But though I can't understand your hope
in the matter, I don't think it likely I shall travel by Underground
any, more than I can help.' Because, for the moment, I felt an
annoyance. Why should Mr. Mafferton 'hope' about my conduct?--Mr.
Mafferton was not my maiden aunt! But he very politely asked me how I
thought it compared with the Elevated in New York, and I was obliged to
tell him that I really didn't think it compared at all. The Elevated was
ugly to look at, and some people found it giddy to ride on, but it took
you through the best quality of air and sunlight the entire distance;
and if anything happened, at all events you could see what it was. Mr.
Mafferton replied that he thought he preferred the darkness to looking
through other people's windows; and this preference of Mr. Mafferton's
struck me later as being interestingly English. And after that we both
lapsed into meditation, and I thought about old London, with its Abbey,
and its Tower, and its Houses of Parliament, and its Bluecoat boys,
and its monuments, and its ten thousand hansom cabs, lying just over my
head; and an odd, pleasurable sensation of undermining the centuries and
playing a trick with history almost superseded the Underground smell.
The more I thought about it, and about what Mr. Mafferton had said, the
more I liked that feeling of taking an enormous liberty with London,
and by the time we reached Baker Street Station I was able to say to Mr.
Mafferton, with a clear conscience, in spite of my smuts and half-torpid
state of mind, that on consideration I thought I _would_ like to compass
London by the Underground--to 'make the entire circuit.'



X

[Illustration: 9118]

T struck me, from the outside, as oddly imposing--Madame Tussaud's.
Partly, I suppose, because it is always more or less treated jocosely,
partly because of the homely little familiar name, and partly because a
person's expectations of a waxwork show are naturally not very lofty.
I was looking out for anything but a swelling dome and a flag, and the
high brick walls of an Institution. There seemed a grotesqueness
of dignity about it, which was emphasised by the solemn man at the
turnstile who took the shillings and let us through, and by the
spaciousness inside--emphasised so much that it disappeared, so
to speak, and I found myself taking the place quite seriously--the
gentleman in tin on the charger in the main hall below, and the wide
marble stairs, and the urns in the corners, and the oil paintings on
the landings, and everything. I began asking Mr. Mafferton questions
immediately, quite in the subdued voice people use under impressive
circumstances; but he wasn't certain who the architect was, and couldn't
say where the marble came from, and really didn't know how many years
the waxworks had been in existence, and hadn't the least idea what the
gross receipts were per annum--did not, in fact, seem to think he ought
to be expected to be acquainted with these matters. The only thing he
could tell me definitely was that Madame Tussaud was dead--and I knew
that myself. 'Upon my word, you know,' said Mr. Mafferton, 'I haven't
been here since I was put into knickers!' I was surprised at this remark
when I heard it, for Mr. Mafferton was usually elegant to a degree
in his choice of terms; but I should not be now. I have found nothing
plainer in England than the language. Its simplicity and directness are
a little startling at first, perhaps, to the foreign ear; but this soon
wears off as you become accustomed to it, and I dare say the foreigner
begins to talk the same way--in which case my speech will probably be
a matter of grave consideration to me when I get back to Chicago.. In
America we usually put things in a manner somewhat more involved. Yes, I
know you are thinking of the old story about Americans draping the legs
of their pianos; but if I were you I would discount that story. For my
own part, I never in my life saw it done.

The moment we were inside the main hall, where the orchestra was
playing, before I had time to say more than 'How very interesting, Mr.
Mafferton! Who is that? and why is _he_ famous?' Mr. Mafferton bought
one of the red and gilt and green catalogues from the young woman at the
door, and put it into my hand almost impulsively.

'I fancy they're very complete--and reliable, Miss Wick,' he said.
'You--you really mustn't depend upon me. It's such an unconscionable
time since I left school.'

I told Mr. Mafferton I was sure that was only his modest way of putting
it, and that I knew he had reams of English history in his head if he
would only just think of it; and he replied, 'No, really, upon my word,
I have not!' But by that time I realised that I was in the immediate
society of all the remarkable old kings and queens of England; and the
emotions they inspired, standing round in that promiscuous touchable
way, with their crowns on, occupied me so fully, that for at least ten
minutes I found it quite interesting enough to look at them in silence.
So I sat down on one of the seats in the middle of the hall, where
people were listening to the orchestra's selections from 'The
Gondoliers,' and gave myself up to the curious captivation of the
impression. 'It's not bad,' said Mr. Mafferton, reflectively, a little
way off. 'No,' I said, 'it's beautiful!' But I think he meant the
selections, and I meant the kings and queens, to whom he was not paying
the slightest attention. But I did not find fault with him for that--he
had been, in a manner, brought up amongst these things; he lived in a
country that always had a king or queen of some sort to rule over it;
he was used to crowns and sceptres. He could not possibly have the
same feelings as a person born in Chicago, and reared upon Republican
principles. But to me those quaint groups of royalties in the robes and
jewels of other times, and arrayed just as much in their characters as
in their clothes--the characters everybody knows them by--were a
source of pure and, while I sat there, increasing delight. I don't mind
confessing that I like the kings and queens at Madame Tussaud's better
than anything else I've seen in England, at the risk of being considered
a person of low intelligence. I know that Mr. James Russell Lowell--whom
poppa always used to say he was proud to claim as a fellow-countryman,
until he went Mugwump when Cleveland was elected--said of them that they
were 'much like any other English party'; but I should think from that
that Mr. Lowell was perhaps a little prejudiced against waxworks, and
intolerant of the form of art which they represent; or, possibly, when
he said it he had just come to London, and had not attended many English
parties. For it seems to me that the peculiar charm and interest of the
ladies and gentlemen at Madame Tussaud's is the ingenuous earnestness
with which they show you their temperaments and tastes and dispositions,
which I have not found especially characteristic of other English ladies
and gentlemen. As Lady Torquilin says, however, 'that's as it may be.'
All I know is, that whatever Mr. Lowell, from his lofty Harvard standard
of culture, may find to say in deprecation of all that is left of your
early sovereigns, I, from my humble Chicago point of view, was immensely
pleased with them. I could not get over the feeling--I have not got over
it yet--that they were, or at any rate had once been, veritable kings
and queens. I had a sentiment of respect; I could not think of them,
as I told Mr. Mafferton, 'as wax'; and it never occurred to me that
the crowns were brass and the jewels glass. Even now I find that an
unpleasant reflection; and I would not go back to Madame Tussaud's on
any account, for fear the brassiness of the crowns and the glassiness
of the jewels might obtrude themselves the second time, and spoil the
illusion. English history, with its moated castles, and knights in
armour, and tyrant kings and virtuous queens, had always seemed more
or less of a fairy tale to me--it is difficult to believe in mediæval
romance in America--and there, about me, was the fairy tale realised:
all the curious old people who died of a 'surfeit of lampreys,' or of
a bad temper, or of decapitation, or in other ways which would be
considered eccentric now, in all their dear old folds and fashions,
red and blue and gold and ermine, with their crowns on! There was a
sociability among them, too, that I thought interesting, and that struck
me as a thing I shouldn't have expected, some of their characters being
so very good, and some so very bad; but I suppose, being all kings and
queens, any other distinction would be considered invidious. I looked up
while I was thinking about them, and caught Mr. Mafferton yawning.

'Are you impressed?' he said, disguising it with a smile.

'Very much,' I answered him. 'In a way. Aren't you?' 'I think they're
imbecile,' said Mr. Mafferton. 'Imbecile old Things! I have been
wondering what they could possibly suggest to you.'

Mr. Mafferton certainly spoke in that way. I remember it distinctly.
Because I depended upon it in taking, as we went round, a certain
freedom of criticism--depended upon it, I had reason to believe
afterwards, unwarrantably.

'Let us look at them individually,' I said, rising. 'Collectively, I
find them lovable.'

'Well, now, I envy them!' replied Mr. Mafferton, with great coolness.
This was surprisingly frivolous in Mr. Mafferton, who was usually quite
what would be called a serious person, and just for a minute I did not
quite know what to say. Then I laughed a little frivolously too. 'I
suppose you intend that for a compliment, Mr. Mafferton,' I said.
Privately, I thought it very clumsy. 'This is Number One, I think'--and
we stopped before William the Conqueror asking Matilda of Flanders to
sit down.

'I don't know that I did,' said Mr. Mafferton--which made the situation
awkward for me; for if there is an uncomfortable thing, it is to
appropriate a compliment which was not intended. An Englishman is a
being absolutely devoid of tact.

'So this is William the Conqueror?' I said, by way of changing the
subject.

[Illustration: 0124]

'It may be a little like his clothes,' said Mr. Mafferton,
indifferently.

'Oh! don't say that, Mr. Mafferton. I'm sure he looks every inch a
William the Conqueror! See how polite he is to his wife, too--I suppose
that's because he's French?'

Mr. Mafferton didn't say anything, and it occurred to me that perhaps I
had not expressed myself well.

'Do you notice,' I went on, 'how he wears his crown--all tipped to one
side? He reminds me just a little, Mr. Mafferton, with that type of
face--enterprising, you know--and hair that length, only it ought to
be dark, and if the crown were only a wide-brimmed, soft felt hat--he
reminds mo _very much_ of those Californian ranchers and miners Bret
Harte and Joaquin Miller write about.'

'Do you mean cowboys?' asked Mr. Alafferton, in a way that told me he
wasn't going to agree with me.

'Yes, that kind of person. I think William the Conqueror would make a
beautiful cowboy--a regular "Terror of the Canyon."'

'Can't say I see it,' said Mr. Mafferton, fixing his eye upon the bass
'cello at the other end of the room.

'It isn't in that direction,' I said, and Mr. Mafferton became
exceedingly red. Then it occurred to me that possibly over here that
might be considered impertinent, so I did my best to make up for it. 'A
very _nice_ face, isn't it?' I went on. 'What is he particularly noted
for, Mr. Alafferton, besides the Curfew, and the Doomsday Book, and
introducing old families into England?'

Mr. Mafferton bit his moustache. I had never seen anybody bite his
moustache before, though I had always understood from novels that it
was done in England. Whether American gentlemen have better tempers, or
whether they are afraid of injuring it, or why the habit is not a common
one with us, I am unable to say.

'Really, Miss Wick,' Mr. Mafferton responded, with six degrees of frost,
'I--is there nothing about it in the catalogue? He established the only
date which would ever stick in my memory--1006. But you mustn't think he
brought all the old families in England over with him, Miss Wick--it is
incorrect.'

'"I daresay," I said; 'people get such curious ideas about England in
America, Mr. Mafferton.' But that did not seem to please Mr. Mafferton
either. 'I think they ought to know,' he said, so seriously that I
did not like to retaliate with any English misconceptions of American
matters. And from what I know of Mr. Mafferton now, I do not think he
would have seen the slightest parallel.

'How this brings it all back, I said, as we looked at William the
Second, surnamed Hufus, in blue and yellow, with a plain front--'the
marks in history at school, and the dates let in at the sides of the
pages! "His dead body, with an arrow sticking in it, was found by
Purkiss, a charcoal-burner, and carried in a cart to Winchester, where
it was buried in the Cathedral." I remember I used to torment myself by
wondering whether they pulled the arrow out, because in my history it
didn't say they did.'

'It's a fact,' said Mr. Mafferton; 'one always does think of the old
chap with the arrow sticking in him. Burne-Jones or one of those
fellows ought to paint it--the forest, you know, twilight, and the
charcoal-burner in a state of funk. Tremendously effective--though, I
daresay, it's been done scores of times.'

'And sold to be lithographed in advertisements!' I added.

'Ah, Miss Wick, that is the utilitarian American way of looking at
things!' Mr. Mafferton remarked, jocularly; and I don't think I could
have been expected to refrain from telling him that I had in mind a
certain soap not manufactured in America.

When we got as far as Henry the Second, Curtmantle, whom Madame Tussaud
describes as a 'wise and good king,' and who certainly has an amiable,
open countenance, I noticed that all the crowns were different, and
asked Mr. Mafferton about it--whether at that time every king had his
crown made to order, and trimmed according to his own ideas, or had to
take whatever crown was going; and whether it was his to do as he liked
with, or went with the throne; and if the majority of the kings had
behaved properly about their crowns, and where they all were. But if Mr.
Mafferton knew, he chose to be equivocal--he did not give me any answer
that I feel I could rely upon sufficiently to put into print. Then we
passed that nice brave crusading Richard the First, surnamed Coeur de
Lion, in some domestic argument with his sweet Berengaria; and Mr.
Mafferton, talking about her, used the expression, 'Fair flower of
Navarre.' But at that time he was carrying the catalogue.

King John I thought delightful; I could not have believed it possible
to put such a thoroughly bad temper into wax, and I said so to Mr.
Mafferton, who agreed with me, though without enthusiasm. 'The worst
king who ever sat on the English throne!' I repeated, meditatively,
quoting from Madame Tussaud--'that's saying a great deal, isn't it, Mr.
Mafferton?' My escort said No, he couldn't say he thought it represented
such an acme of wickedness, and we walked on, past swarthy little sad
Charles the Second, in armour and lace, who looks--and how could he
help it?--as if he were always thinking of what happened to his sire--I
suppose the expression 'poppa' is unknown among royalties. Mr. Mafferton
would not agree to this either; he seemed to have made up his mind not
to agree to anything further.

I should like to write a whole chapter about Henry the Eighth as he
looked that day, though I daresay it is an habitual expression, and you
may have seen it often yourself. He was standing in the midst of a
group of ladies, including some of his wives, stepping forward in an
impulsive, emotional way; listening, with grief in both his eyes, to the
orchestra's rendition of=

```Bury! Bury! Let the grave close o'er.=

as if deeply deprecating the painful necessity of again becoming a
widower. It was beautiful to see the way the music worked upon his
feelings. It will be impossible for me ever to think so badly of him
again.

'What is your impression of _him?_' asked Mr. Mafferton.

I said I thought he was too funny for words.

'He was a monster!' my friend remarked, 'and you are quite the first
person, I should say, who has ever discovered anything humorous in him.'
And I gathered from Mr. Mafferton's tone that, while it was pardonable
to think badly of an English monarch, it was improper to a degree to
find him amusing.

Then I observed that they were all listening with Henry the
Eighth--Philippa of Hainault with her pink nose, and the Black Prince in
mail, and Catharine of Arragon embracing her monkey, and Cardinal Wolsey
in red, and Caxton in black, and Chaucer in poet's grey, listening
intently--you could tell even by their reflections in the glass--as the
orchestra went on--=

``The days that have been, and never shall be more!=

Personally, I felt sorry for them all, even for that old maid in armour,
James the Second. Mr. Mafferton, by the way, could see nothing in the
least old-maidish about this sovereign. They must have had, as a rule,
such a very good time while it lasted--it must have been so thoroughly
disagreeable to die! I wanted immensely to ask Mr. Mafferton--but
somehow his manner did not encourage me to do it--whether in those
very early times kings were able to wear their crowns every day without
exciting comment, as Madame Tussaud distinctly gives you the idea that
they did. And it seemed to me that in those days it must have been
really worth while to be a king, and be different from other people,
in both dress and deportment. I would not go through the other rooms,
because I did not believe anything could be more beautiful than the
remains of your early sovereigns, and, moreover, Mr. Mafferton was
getting so very nearly sulky that I thought I had better not. But just
through the door I caught a glimpse of one or two American Presidents
in black, with white ties. They had intelligent faces, but beside your
Plantagenets I don't mind confessing they didn't look anything!



XI

|I HAD not the least expectation of being fortunate enough to see your
Parliament open, having always heard that all the peeresses wanted to go
on that occasion, and knowing how little sitting accommodation you had
for anybody. Americans find nothing more impressive in England than the
difficulty of getting a look at your system of government--our own is so
very accessible to everyone who chooses to study it, and to come and sit
in the general gallery of the House of Congress or the Senate without
making a disturbance. The thing an American tells first, and with
most pride, when he comes home after visiting England, is that he has
attended a sitting of Parliament and seen Mr. Gladstone; if he has heard
your veteran politician speak, he is prouder still. So I had cherished
the hope of somehow getting into the House while Parliament was in
session, and seeing all the people we read so much about at home in
connection with the Irish Question--it was the thing, I believe, I had
set my heart upon doing most; but tickets for the opening of Parliament
from Mr. Mafferton, with a note informing Lady Torquilin that his cousin
had promised to look after us on the occasion, represented more than my
highest aspiration.

Lady Torquilin was pleased, too, though I don't think she intended
to express her pleasure when she said, with an air of philosophical
acceptance of whatever Fate might send, 'Providence only knows, my dear,
how the old man will behave! He _may_ be as agreeable as possible--as
merry as a grig--and he may be in a temper like the------'; and Lady
Torquilin compressed her lips and nodded her head in a way that told me
how her remark would finish if she were not a member of the Church of
England, rather low, and a benefactor to deep-sea fishermen and Dr.
Barnardo, with a strong objection to tobacco in any form. 'We must
avoid subjects that are likely to provoke him: local self-government for
Ireland has given him apoplexy twice; I've heard of his getting awful
tantrums about this last Licensing Bill; and marriage with a deceased
wife's sister, I know, is a thing to avoid!'

Then it dawned upon me that this was Mr. Mafferton's cousin, who was a
lord, and I had a very great private satisfaction that I should see what
he was like.

'I remember,' I said. 'This is the cousin that you said was an old----'

'Brute!' Lady Torquilin finished for me, seeing that I didn't quite like
to. 'So he is, when he's in a rage! I wouldn't be Lady Mafferton, poor
dear, for something! An ordinary "K" and an ordinary temper for me!' I
asked Lady Torquilin what she meant by 'an ordinary K'; and in the
next half-hour I got a lesson on the various distinctions of the English
aristocracy that interested me extremely. Lady Torquilin's 'K,' I may
say, while I am talking about it, was the 'C.M.G.' kind, and not the
'K' sometimes conferred late in life upon illustrious butchers. Lady
Torquilin didn't seem to think much of this kind of 'K,' but I was glad
to hear of it. It must be a great encouragement to honesty and industry
in the humbler walks of life, or, as you would say, among the masses;
and though, I suppose, it wouldn't exactly accord with our theory of
government, I am sorry we have nothing even remotely like it in America.

It was a nice day, a lovely day, an extraordinary day, the February
day Lady Torquilin and I compromised upon a hansom and drove to the
Parliament buildings. A person has such a vivid, distinct recollection
of nice days in London! The drive knocked another of my preconceived
ideas to pieces--the idea that Westminster was some distance off,
and would have to be reached by train--not quite so far, perhaps, as
Washington is from New York, for that would just as likely as not put it
in the sea, but a considerable distance. I suppose you will think that
inexcusable; but it is very difficult to be enough interested in foreign
capitals to verify vague impressions about them, and Westminster is a
large-sounding name, that suggests at least a mayor and a town council
of its own. It was odd to find it about twenty minutes from anywhere
in Loudon, and not to know exactly when you had arrived until the cab
rolled under the shadow of the Abbey, and stopped in the crowd that
waited to cheer the great politicians. Lady Torquilin immediately
asked one of the policemen which way to go--I don't know anybody who
appreciates what you might call the encyclopaedic value of the London
police more that Lady Torquilin--and he waved us on. 'Straight ahead,
madame, and turn in at the 'orseback statyou,' he said, genially, the
distance being not more than two hundred yards from where we stood, and
the turning-in point visible On the way, notwithstanding, Lady Torquilin
asked two other policemen. My friend loves the peace of mind that
follows absolute certainty. Presently we were following the rustling
elegance of two or three tall ladies, whom I at once pronounced to be
peeresses, through the broad, quiet, red corridor that leads to the
House of Lords.

We were among the very first, and had our choice of the long, narrow
seats that run along the wall in a terrace on each side of the Chamber.
Fortunately, Lady Torquilin had attended other openings of Parliament,
and knew that we must sit on the left; otherwise we might just as likely
as not have taken our places on the other side, where there were only
two or three old gentlemen with sticks and silk hats--which, I reflected
afterwards, would have been awful. But, as it happened, we sat down very
decorously in our proper places, and I tried to realise, as we looked at
the crowded galleries and the long, narrow, solemn crimson room with the
throne-chair at one end, that I was in the British House of Lords. Our
Senate, just before the opening of Congress, is so very different. Most
of the senators are grey-haired, and many of them are bald, but they all
walk about quite nimbly, and talk before the proceedings begin with
a certain vivacity; and there are pages running round with notes and
documents, and a great many excited groups in the lobbies, and a general
air of crisp business and alacrity everywhere. The only thing I could
feel in the House of Lords that morning was a concentrated atmospheric
essence of Importance. I was thinking of a thing Senator Ingalls said to
me two years ago, which was what you would call 'comic,' when the idea
struck me that it was almost time for Parliament to open, and not a
single peer had arrived. So I asked Lady Torquilin when the lords might
be expected to come in. Up to this time we had been discussing the
millinery by which we were surrounded.

'I daresay there won't be many to-day,' said Lady Torquilin. 'Certainly
very few so far!'

'Are there any here?' I asked her.

'Oh, yes--just opposite, don't you see, child! That wellset-up man with
the nice, wholesome face, the third from the end in the second row from
the bottom--that's Lord Rosebery; and next him is the great beer-man--I
forget his title; and here is Lord Mafferton now--don't look--coming
into the first row from the bottom, and leaning over to shake hands with
Lord Rosebery.'

'Tell me when I can look,' I said, 'because I want to awfully. But, Lady
Torquilin, are _those_ peers? They look very respectable and nice,
I'm sure, but I did expect more in the way of clothes. Where are their
flowing mantles, and their chains and swords and things?'

'Only when the Queen opens Parliament in person,' said Lady Torquilin.
'Then there is a turn-out! Now you can look at Lord Mafferton--the rude
old man! Fancy his having the impudence to sit there with his hat on!'

I looked at Lord Mafferton, who certainly had not removed his hat--the
large, round, shiny silk hat worn by every gentleman in England, and
every commercial traveller in America. Under the hat he was very pink
and fat, with rather a snubby nose, and little twinkling blue eyes, and
a suggestion of white whisker about the place where his chin and his
cheek disappeared into his neck. He wore lavender-kid gloves, and was
inclined to corpulency. I should not have trusted this description of
a peer of your realm if it had come from any other American pen than
my own--I should have set it down as a gross exaggeration, due to envy,
from the fact that we can neither produce peers in our own country nor
keep them there for any length of time; but I was obliged to believe
my own eyes, and that is the way they reported Lord Mafferton from the
other side of your Upper House. There were other gentlemen in the rows
opposite--gentlemen all in black, and gentlemen in light waistcoats,
bearded and clean-shaven, most of them elderly, but a few surprisingly
middle-aged--for your natural expectation is to see a peer
venerable--but I must say there was not one that I would have picked out
to be a peer, for any particular reason, in the street. And it seemed
to me that, since they are constitutional, as it were, there ought to
be some way of knowing them. I reasoned again, however, that perhaps
my lack of discrimination was due to my not being accustomed to seeing
peers--that possibly the delicate distinctions and values that make up a
peer would be perfectly evident to a person born, so to speak, under the
shadow of the aristocracy. And in the meantime the proceedings began
by everybody standing up. I don't know whether I actually expected a
procession and a band, but when I discovered that we were all standing
while four or five gentlemen in red gowns walked to the other end of
the room and took chairs, my emotions were those of blank surprise.
Presently I felt Lady Torquilin give an emphatic tug to my skirt. 'Sit
down, child!' she said. 'Everybody else has! Do you want to make a
speech?'--and I sat down quickly. Then I observed that a gentleman in
black, also in fancy dress, was reading something indistinctly to the
four or five red-gowned gentlemen, who looked very solemn and stately,
but said nothing. It was so difficult for a stranger to understand, that
I did not quite catch what was said to another gentleman in black with
buckled shoes, but it must have been to the purport of 'Go and fetch
it!' for he suddenly began to walk out backwards, stopping at every few
steps to bow with great deference to them of the red gowns, which must
have been very trying, for nobody returned the bows, and he never could
tell who might have come in behind him. 'I suppose he has gone out for a
minute to get something,' I said to Lady Torquilin; and then she told me
what, of course, I ought to have known if I had refreshed myself with
a little English history before starting--that he was the Usher of
the Black Rod, and had been sent to bring the members of the other
Parliament. And presently there was a great sound of footsteps in the
corridors outside, and your House of Commons came hurrying to the 'bar,'
I believe it is called, of your House of Lords. It was wonderfully
interesting to look at, to a stranger, that crowd of members of your
Lower House as it came, without ceremony, to the slender brass rod and
stopped there, because it could come no farther--pressing against it,
laying hands upon it, craning over it, and yet held back by the visible
and invisible force of it. Compared with the well-fed and well-groomed
old gentlemen who sat comfortably inside, these outsiders looked lean
and unkempt; but there were so many of them, and they seemed so much
more in earnest than the old gentlemen on the lynches, that the power
of the brass rod seemed to me extraordinary. I should not have been an
American if I had not wondered at it, and whether the peers in mufti
would not some day be obliged to make a habit of dressing up in their
mantles and insignia on these occasions to impress the Commoners
properly with a sense of difference and a reason for their staying
outside.

Then, as soon as they were all ready to pay attention, the
Vice-Chancellor read the Queen's letter, in which Her Majesty, so far as
I could understand, regretted her inability to be present, told them
all a good deal about what she had been doing since she wrote last,
and closed by sending her kind regards and best wishes--a very pleasant
letter, I thought, and well-written. Then we all stood up again while
the gentlemen in red, the Lord Chancellor, and the others walked out;
after which everybody dispersed, and I found myself shaking hands with
Lord Matterton in a pudgy, hearty way, as he and Lady Torquilin and I
departed together.

[Illustration: 8136]

'So this is our little Yankee!' said Lord Mafferton, with his fat round
chin stretched out sideways, and his hands behind his back. Now I am
quite five-feet eight, and I do not like being called names, but I
found a difficulty in telling Lord Mafferton that I was not their
little Yankee; so I smiled, and said nothing. 'Well, well! Come over
the "duckpond"--isn't that what you call the Atlantic Ocean?--to see how
fast old England is going to pieces, eh?'

'Oh!' said Lady Torquilin, 'I think Miss Wick is delighted with England,
Lord Mafferton.'

'Yes,' I said, 'I am. Delighted with it! Why should anybody think it is
going to pieces?'

'Oh, it's a popular fancy in some quarters,' said Lord

Mafferton. Being a lord, I don't suppose he winked at Lady Torquilin,
but he did something very like it.

'I should call it a popular fallacy,' I declared; at which Lord
Mafferton laughed, and said, 'It was all very well, it was all very
well,' exactly like any old grandpapa. 'Miss Wick would like a look over
the place, I suppose,' he said to Lady Torquilin. 'You think it would
be safe, eh? No explosives concealed about her--she doesn't think of
blowing us up?' And this very jocular old peer led the way through a
labyrinth of chambers and corridors of which I can't possibly remember
the locality or the purpose, because he went so fast.

'No doubt you've heard of Cromwell,' he said beside one door. I should
have liked to know why he asked me, if there was no doubt of it; but I
suppose a lord is not necessarily a logician. 'This is the room in which
he signed the death-warrant of Charles the First.'

'Dear me,' I said. 'The one that he's holding a copy of on his lap at
Madame Tussaud's?'

'I dare say! I dare say!' said Lord Maflerton. 'But not so fast, my
dear young lady, not so fast! You mustn't go in, you know. That's not
allowable!' and he whisked us away to the Library. 'Of course, Miss Wick
understands,' he said to Lady Torquilin, 'that every word spoken here
above a whisper means three days in a dungeon on bread and water!' By
this time my ideas of peers had become so confused that I was entirely
engaged in trying to straighten them out, and had very little to say of
any sort; but Lord Mafferton chatted continually as we walked through
the splendid rooms, only interrupting himself now and then to remind me
of the dungeon and the penalty of talking. It was very difficult getting
a first impression of the English House of Parliament and an English
peer at the same time--they continually interrupted each other. It was
in the Royal Banqueting Hall, for instance, where I was doing my best
to meditate upon scenes of the past, that Lord Mafferton stated to Lady
Torquilin his objection to the inside of an omnibus, and this in itself
was distracting. It would never occur to anybody in America to think of
a peer and an omnibus together. The vestibule of the House of Commons
was full of gentlemen walking about and talking; but there was a great
deliberateness about the way it was done--no excitement, and every man
in his silently-expressive silk hat. They all seemed interested in each
other in an observing way, too, and whether to bow or not to bow; and
when Lord Mafferton recognised any of them, he was usually recognised
back with great cordiality. You don't see so much of that when Congress
opens. The members in the lobby are usually a great deal too much
wrapped up in business to take much notice of each other. I observed,
too, that the British Government does not provide cuspidores for its
legislators, which struck me as reflecting very favourably upon the
legislative sense of propriety here, especially as there seemed to be no
obvious demand for such a thing.

'Bless you, my dear young lady, you mustn't go in _there!_' exclaimed
Lord Mafferton at the door of the House, as I stepped in to take a
perfectly inoffensive look at it. 'Out with you quick, or they'll have
you off to the Tower before you can say George Washington!'

'But why?' I asked, quite breathless with my sudden exit.

'Young people should never ask "why?"' said Lord Mafferton,
serio-comically. 'Thank your American stars that Salisbury or any of
those fellows were not about!'

This peer evidently thought I was very, very young--about twelve; but I
have noticed since that not only peers, but all agreeable old gentlemen
in England, have a habit of dating you back in this way. It is a kindly,
well-meant attitude, but it leaves you without very much to say.

I thought feminine privileges in your House of Commons very limited
indeed then, but considerably more so when I attended a sitting with
Lady Torquilin a week later, and disarranged my features for life trying
to look through the diamonds of the iron grating with which Parliament
tries to screen itself from the criticism of its lady relations.

[Illustration: 0139]

Lord Mafferton came up that day with us, and explained that the grating
was to prevent the ladies from throwing themselves at the heads of the
unmarried members--a singular precaution. The only other reason I could
hear why it should not be taken down was that nobody had done it since
it was put up--a remarkably British reason, and calculated, as most
things seem to be in this country, to last.

And I saw your Prince that afternoon. He came into the Peers' Gallery
in a light overcoat, and sat down with two or three friends to watch his
people governing their country below. He seemed thoroughly interested,
and at times, when Mr. O'Brien or Mr. O'Connor said something that
looked toward the dismemberment of his empire, amused. And it was an
instructive sight to see your future king pleased and edified, and
unencumbered by any disagreeable responsibilities, looking on.



XII

|I TOLD Lady Torquilin that the expression struck me as profane.

'How ridiculous you are, child! It's a good old English word. _Nobody_
will understand you if you talk about your "rubbers" in this country.
"Goloshes," certainly. G-o-l-o-s-h-e-s, "goloshes." Now, go directly
and put them on, and don't be impertinent about the English language in
England, whatever you may be out of it!'

I went away murmuring, c "G-o-l-o-s-h-e-s, goloshes"! What a perfectly
awful--literally unutterable word! No, I love Lady Torquilin, and I like
her England, but I'll never, never, _never_ say "goloshes"! I'd almost
rather swear!' And as I slipped on the light, thin, flexible articles
manufactured, I believe, in Rochester, N.Y., and privately compared them
with the remarkable objects worn by the British nation for the purpose
of keeping its feet dry, the difference in the descriptive terms gave me
a certain satisfaction.

Lady Torquilin and I were going shopping. I had been longing to shop in
London ever since I arrived, but, as Lady Torquilin remarked, my trunks
seemed to make it almost unreasonable. So up to this time I had been
obliged to content myself with looking at the things in the windows,
until Lady Torquilin said she really couldn't spend so much time in
front of shop-windows--we had better go inside. Besides, she argued, of
course there was this to be said--if you bought a good thing, there
it was--always a good thing! I And it isn't as if you were obliged to
pinch, my dear. I would be the last one to counsel extravagance,' said
Lady Torquilin. 'Therefore we'll go to the cheapest place first'--and
we got an omnibus. It seemed full of people who were all going to the
cheapest place, and had already come, some of them a long way, to go
to it, judging by their fares. They were not poor people, nor
respectably-darned people, nor shabby-genteel people. Some of them
looked like people with incomes that would have enabled them to avoid
the cheapest place, and some gave you the idea that, if it were not
for the cheapest place, they would not look so well. But they had
an invariable expression of content with the cheapest place, or
appreciation of it, that made me quite certain they would all get out
when we stopped there; and they did.

We went in with a throng that divided and hurried hither and thither
through long 'departments,' upstairs and down, past counters heaped with
cheapnesses, and under billowing clouds and streaming banners of various
colours, marked 1s. 1d. and 11d. in very black letters on a very white
ground. The whole place spoke of its cheapness, invited you to approach
and have your every want supplied at the lowest possible scale of
profit--for cash. Even the clerks--as we say in America, incorrectly,
I believe--the people behind the counter suggested the sweet
reasonableness of the tariff; not that I mean anything invidious, but
they seemed to be drawn from an unpretending, inexpensive class of
humanity. The tickets claimed your attention everywhere, and held it,
the prices on them were so remarkably low; and it was to me at first
a matter of regret that they were all attached to articles I could not
want under any circumstances. For, the moment I went in. I succumbed to
the cheapest place; I desired to avail myself of it to any extent--to
get the benefit of those fascinating figures personally and immediately.
I followed Lady Torquilin with eagerness, exclaiming: but nothing would
induce her to stop anywhere; she went straight for the trifles she
wanted, and I perforce after her. 'There are some things, my dear,' she
said, when we reached the right counter, 'that one _must_ come here
for, but beyond those few odds and ends--well, I leave you to judge for
yourself.'

[Illustration: 0143]

This was calculated to dash a person's enthusiasm, and mine was dashed
at once. There is nothing, in shopping, like a friend's firm and
outspoken opinion, to change your views. I began to think unfavourably
of the cheapest place immediately, and during the twenty-five minutes
of valuable time which Lady Torquilin spent, in addition to some small
silver, upon a box of pink paper trimmings for pudding-dishes, I had
arrived at a state of objection to the cheapest place, which intensified
as we climbed more stairs, shared more air with the British Public
of the cheapest place, and were jostled at more counters. 'For,' Lady
Torquilin said, 'now that we _are_ here, though I loathe coming, except
that it's something you ought to do, we really might as well see what
there is!'--and she found that there were quite a number of little
things at about a shilling and a ha'penny that she absolutely needed,
and would have to pay 'just double for, my dear, anywhere else.' By that
time my objection became active, and embraced the cheapest place and
everything connected with it, quite unreasonably. For there was no doubt
about the genuineness of the values offered all over its counters, or
about the fact that the clerks were doing the best they could to
sell seven separate shillings'-worth at the same moment to different
individuals, or of the respectability of the seven people who were
spending the seven shillings. It would have been a relief, indeed, to
have detected something fraudulent among the bargains, or some very
great adventuress among the customers. It was the deadly monotony of
goodishness and cheapishness in everything and everybody that oppressed
you. There were no heights of excellence and no contrasting depths--all
one level of quality wherever you looked--so that the things they sold
at the cheapest place--sold with mechanical respect, and as fast as
they could tie them up--seemed to lack all individuality, and to have
no reason for being, except to become parcels. There was none of the
exultation of bargain-getting; the bargains were on a regular system of
fixed laws--the poetic delight of an unexpected 'reduction' was wholly
absent. The cheapest place resolved itself into a vast, well-organised
Opportunity, and inside you saw the British Public and the Opportunity
together.

'Ere is your chainge, madam,' said the hollow-eyed young woman who had
been waiting upon Lady Torquilin in the matter of a letter-weight and a
Japanese umbrella. 'Thank you,' said Lady Torquilin. 'I'm afraid you
get very tired, don't you, before the day is over?' my friend asked the
young woman, with as sweet a smile as she could have given anybody. The
young woman smiled back again, and said, 'Very, madame'; but that was
all, for three other people wanted her. I put this in because it is
one of the little things she often says that show the niceness of Lady
Torquilin.

'Now, what do you think of the cheapest place?' asked Lady Torquilin as
we walked together in the Edgware Road. I told her as I have told you.
'H'mph!' said she. 'It's not a shop I like myself, but that's what I
call being _too_ picksome! You get what you want, and if you don't want
it you leave it, and why should you care! Now, by way of variety, we'll
go to the dearest place;' and the omnibus we got into rattled off in the
direction of Bond Street. It struck me then, and often since, how oddly
different London is from an American city to go shopping in. At home the
large, important stores are pretty much together, in the business part
of the city, and anybody can tell from the mere buildings what to expect
in the way of style and price. In London you can't tell at all, and the
well-known shops are scattered over square miles of streets, by twos and
threes, in little individual towns, each with its own congregation
of smaller shops, and its own butchers and bakers and newsstands, and
post-office and squares and 'places,' and blind alleys and strolling
cats and hand organs; and to get from one to another of the little towns
it is necessary to make a journey in an omnibus. Of course, I know there
are a few places preeminent in reputation and 'form' and price--above
all in price--which gather in a few well-known streets; but life in
all these little centres which make up London would be quite complete
without them. They seem to exist for the benefit of that extravagant
element here that has nothing to do with the small respectable houses
and the little domestic squares, but hovers over the city during the
time of year when the sun shines and the fogs are not, living during
that time in notable localities, under the special inspection of the
'Morning Post.' The people who really live in London--the people of
the little centres--can quite well ignore these places; they have their
special shop in Uxbridge Road or St. Paul's Churchyard, and if they
tire of their own particular local cut, they can make morning trips
from Uxbridge Road to the High Street, Kensington, or from either to
Westboume Grove. To Americans this is very novel and amusing, and we get
a great deal of extra pleasure out of shopping in London in sampling, so
to speak, the different submunicipalities.

While I was thinking these things, Lady Torquilin poked me with her
parasol from the other end of the omnibus. 'Tell him to stop!' she said,
and I did; at least, the gentleman in the corner made the request for
me. That gentleman in the corner is a feature of your omnibus system, I
think. His arm, or his stick, or his umbrella, is always at the service
of any lady who wants the bell rung. It seems to be a duty that goes
with the corner seat, cheerfully accepted by every man that sits there.

[Illustration: 0147]

We had arrived in Bond Street, at the dearest place. From what Lady
Torquilin told me, I gathered that Bond Street was a regular haunt for
dearest places; but it would be impossible for any stranger to suppose
so from walking through it--it is so narrow and crooked and irregular,
and the shops are so comparatively insignificant after the grand sweep
of Regent Street and the wide variety of the circuses. For one, I should
have thought circuses would be the best possible places for business
in London, not only because the address is so easily remembered, but
because once you get into them they are so extremely difficult to get
out of. However, a stranger never can tell.

Inside, the dearest place was a stronger contrast to the cheapest
place than I could describe by any antithesis. There was an exclusive
emptiness about it that seemed to suggest a certain temerity in coming
in, and explained, considered commercially, why the rare visitors
should have such an expensive time of it. One or two tailor-made ladies
discussed something in low tones with an assistant, and beside these
there was nobody but a couple of serious-minded shopwalkers, some
very elegant young ladies-in-waiting, and the dummies that called
your attention to the fashions they were exhibiting. The dummies were
headless, but probably by the variety of their clothes they struck you
as being really the only personalities in the shop. We looked at some
of them before advancing far into the august precincts of the dearest
place, and Lady Torquilin had a sweeping opinion of them. '_Hideous!_
I call them,' she said; but she said it in rather a hushed tone, quite
different from the one she would have used in the cheapest place, and I
am sure the shopwalker did not overhear. 'Bulgarian atrocities! How
in the world people imagine such things! And as to setting to work to
_make_ them----'

I can't say I agreed with Lady Torquilin, for there was a distinct idea
in all the dresses, and a person always respects an idea, whether it is
pretty or not; but neither can I profess an admiration for the fashions
of the dearest place. They were rather hard and unsympathetic; they
seemed to sacrifice everything to be in some degree striking; their
motto seemed to be, 'Let us achieve a difference'--presumably from the
fashions of places that were only dear in the comparative degree. While
we were looking at them, one of the pale young women strolled languidly
up and remarked, with an absent expression, that one of them was
'considered a smart little gown, moddam!' 'Smart enough, I daresay,'
said Lady Torquilin, with a slightly invidious emphasis on the
adjective; whereat the young woman said nothing, but looked volumes of
repressed astonishment at the ignorance implied. Lady Torquilin went on
to describe the kind of dress I thought of buying.

[Illustration: 8150]

'Certainly, moddam! Will you take a seat, moddam? Something _quite_
simple I think you said, moddam, and in muslin. I'll be with you in one
moment, moddam.' And the young woman crawled away with the negligence
that became the dearest place. After an appreciable time she returned
with her arms full of what they used to call, so very correctly,
'fur-belows,' in spotted and flowered muslins.

[Illustration: 8150]

'Dearie me!' said Lady Torquilin. 'That's precisely what I wore when I
was a girl!'

'Yes, moddam!' said the young woman, condescending to the ghost of
a smile. 'The old styles are all comin' in again'--at which burst of
responsiveness she suddenly brought herself up sharply, and assumed a
manner which forbade you to presume upon it.

I picked up one of the garlanded muslins and asked the price of it. It
had three frills round the bottom and various irrelevant ribbon-bows.

'Certainly, moddam! One moment, moddam!' as she looked at the ticket
attached.

'This one is seventeen guineas, moddam. Silk foundation. A Paris model,
moddam, but I dare say we could copy it for you for less.'

Lady Torquilin and I made a simultaneous movement, and looked at each
other in the expressive way that all ladies understand who go shopping
with each other.

'Thanks!' I said. 'It is much too expensive for me.'

'We have nothing of this style under fifteen guineas, moddam,' replied
the young woman, with a climax of weary frigidity. 'Then, shall we go?'

I asked Lady Torquilin--and we went.

'_What_ a price!' said Lady Torquilin, as we left the dearest place
behind us.

I said I thought it was an insult--eighty-five dollars for a ready-made
sprigged muslin dress!--to the intelligence of the people who were
expected to buy it. That, for my part, I should feel a distinct loss of
self-respect in buying anything at the dearest place. What would I be
paying for?

'For being able to say that it came from the dearest place,' said Lady
Torquilin. 'But I thought you Americans didn't mind what anything cost.'

That misconception of Lady Torquilin's is a popular one, and I was
at some pains to rectify it. 'We don't,' I said, 'if we recognise the
fairness of it; but nobody resents being imposed upon more than an
American, Lady Torquilin. We have our idiots, like other nations, and
I daresay a good many of them come to London every year and deal
exclusively at the dearest place; but as a nation, though we don't
scrimp we do like the feeling that we are paying for value received.'

'Well,' said Lady Torquilin, 'I believe that is the case. I know
Americans talk a great deal about the price of things--more, I consider,
than is entertaining sometimes.' I said I knew they did--it was a
national fault--and what did Lady Torquilin think the dress I had on
cost, just to compare it with that muslin, and Chicago was by no means a
cheap place for anything. Lady Torquilin said she hadn't an idea--our
dollars were so difficult to reckon in; but what did I think hers came
to--and not a scrap of silk lining about it. And so the time slipped
away until we arrived in the neighbourhood of Cavendish Square, at what
Lady Torquilin called 'the happy medium,' where the windows were
tempting, and the shopwalker smiled, and the lady-in-waiting was a
person of great dignity, in high, black sleeves, with a delightful
French accent when she talked, which she very seldom forgot, and only
contradicted when she said ''Ow' and ''elliotrope,' and where things
cost just about what they did in America.

[Illustration: 9151]

I have gone very patiently ever since to the happy medium, partly to
acquire the beautiful composure of the lady-in-waiting, partly to enjoy
the respect which all Americans like so much in a well-conducted English
shop, and partly because at the happy medium they understand how to
turn shopping into the pleasant artistic pastime it ought to be, which
everybody in America is in far too much of a hurry to make a fortune and
retire to do for his customers. I am on the most agreeable footing
with the lady in the sleeves now, and I have observed that, as our
acquaintance progresses, her command of English consonantal sounds
remarkably increases. But I have never been able to reconcile myself,
even theoretically, either to the cheapest place, in the Edgware Road,
or the dearest place, in Bond Street.



XIII

[Illustration: 9153]

AS a nation I can't bear 'em--individually, I like 'em _fairly_ well,'
read out Lady Torquilin from a letter at breakfast. 'Bless me!' my
friend went on, 'she's talking about Americans, and she's coming to see
"your specimen"--meaning you, child--this very afternoon.'

So she did. She came to see me that very afternoon--the lady who
couldn't bear us as a nation, but individually liked us fairly well. Her
name was Corke, and she belonged, Lady Torquilin said, to _the_ Corkes.
I heard all about her before she came. She was a lady of moderate
income, unmarried, about ten years older than I was. She knew all about
everything.

'You never saw such a reader, my dear! I won't say it happens often,
for that it does not, but Peter Corke has made me feel like a perfect
ignoramus.'

'_Peter_ Corke?' I said, with some surprise.

'Too ridiculous, I call it! Her proper name is Catharine Clarissa,
but she hates her proper name--sensible girl as she is in every other
way--prefers Peter! And if she happens to take a fancy to you, she will
tell you all manner of interesting things. For old holes and corners, I
always say, go to Peter Corke.'

'I'm glad,' I said, 'that she likes us, individually, fairly well--it's
the only way in which I would have any chance! But she won't like my
accent.'

'If she doesn't,' Lady Torquilin said, 'I promise you she'll tell you.
And you won't mind a bit.'

When Miss Corke arrived I forgot entirely about the doubtfulness of her
liking me--I was too much absorbed in liking her. She was rather a small
person, with a great deal of dignity in her shoulders and a great deal
of humour in her face--the most charming face I have seen in England,
and I can't even make an exception in favour of the Princess of Wales.
I may tell you that she had delightful twinkling brown eyes, and hair a
shade darker, and the colour and health and energy that only an English
woman possesses at thirty, without being in the least afraid that
you could pick her out in the street, or anywhere--she would not like
that--and being put in print, so that people would know her, at all;
it's a thing I wouldn't do on any account, knowing her feelings. It is
only because I am so well convinced that I can't tell you what she was
like that I try, which you may consider a feminine reason, if you want
to. Miss Peter Corke's personality made you think at once of Santa Claus
and a profound philosopher--could you have a more difficult combination
to describe than that? While you listened to a valuable piece of advice
from her lips you might be quite certain that she had an orange for you
in the hand behind her back; and however you might behave, you would get
the orange. Part of her charm was the atmosphere of gay beneficence she
carried about with her, that made you want to edge your chair closer to
wherever she was sitting; and part of it was the remarkable interest she
had in everything that concerned you--a sort of interest that made
you feel as if such information as you could give about yourself was
a direct and valuable contribution to the sum of her knowledge of
humanity; and part of it was the salutary sincerity of everything she
had to say in comment, though I ought not to forget her smile, which
was a great deal of it. I am sure I don't know why I speak of Miss Peter
Corke in the past tense, however. She is not dead--or even married; I
cannot imagine a greater misfortune to her large circle of friends in
London.

'_Two_ lumps, please,' begged Miss Corke of me in the midst of a
succession of inquiries about Lady Torquilin's cough, whether it could
possibly be gout, or if she had been indulging in salmon and
cucumber lately, in which case it served her perfectly right. 'What a
disappointment you are! Why don't you ask me if I like it with all the
trimmings?'

'The trimmings?' I repeated.

'Certainly! the sugar and milk! Fancy being obliged to explain
Americanisms to an American!' said Miss Corke to Lady Torquilin.

'Is trimmings an Americanism?' I asked. 'I never heard it before. But I
dare say it is an expression peculiar to Boston, perhaps.'

'You had better not have any doubt,' said Miss Corke, with mock
ferocity, 'of anything you hear in England.'

'I've heard fixings often at home,' I declared, 'but never trimmings.'

'Oh!' remarked Miss Corke, genially; 'then fixings is the correct
expression.'

'I don't know,' I said, 'about its being the correct expression. Our
washerwoman uses it a good deal.'

'Oh!' said Miss Corke, with an indescribable inflection of amusement;
and then she looked at me over the top of her teacup, as much as to say,
'you had better not go too far!'

'Are your father and mother living?' she asked; and just then I noticed
that it was twenty minutes past four by the clock. I answered Miss Corke
in the affirmative, and naturally I was glad to be able to; but I have
often wondered since why that invariable interest in the existence or
non-existence of a person's parents should prevail in England as it
does. I have seldom been approached by any one in a spirit of kindly
curiosity with a different formula. 'Any brothers and sisters?' Miss
Corke went on. 'When did you come? Where did you go first? How long do
you mean to stay? What have you seen? Did you expect us to be as we are,
or do we exceed your expectations? Have you ever travelled alone before?
Are you quite sure you like the feeling of being absolutely independent?
Don't you love our nice old manners and customs? and won't you wish when
you get back that you could put your President on a golden throne, with
an ermine robe, and a sceptre in his right hand?'

Miss Corke gave me space between these questions for brief answers, but
by the time I looked at the clock again, and saw that it was twenty-five
minutes past four, to the best of my recollection, she had asked me
twelve. I liked it immensely--it made conversation so easy; but I
could not help thinking, in connection with it, of the capacity
for interrogation, which I had always heard credited exclusively to
Americans.

'Peter,' said Lady Torquilin at last, a little tired of it, 'ask
something about me; I haven't seen you for weeks.'

'Dear lady,' said Peter, 'of course I will. But this is something new,
you see, so one takes an ephemeral--very ephemeral!--interest in it.'

Lady Torquilin laughed. I Well!' said she, 'there's nothing more
wonderful than the way it gets about alone.'

Then I laughed too. I did not find anything in the least objectionable
in being called an 'it' by Miss Corke.

'So you've been in England a whole month!' said she. 'And what do you
think you have observed about us? Basing your opinion,' said Miss Corke,
with serio-comicality, 'upon the fact that we are for your admiration,
and _not_ for your criticism, how do you like us?'

I couldn't help it. 'Individually,' I said, 'I like you _fairly_
well--as a nation, I can't----'

'Oh!' cried Miss Corke, in a little funny squeal, rushing at Lady
Torquilin, 'you've gone and told her--you wicked woman!'--and she shook
Lady Torquilin, a thing I didn't see how she dared to do. 'I can't
bear it, and I won't! Private correspondence--I wonder you're not
ashamed!'--and Miss Corke sank into a chair, and covered her face with
her hands and her handkerchief, and squealed again, more comically than
before.

[Illustration: 0158]

By the time I had been acquainted with Miss Corke a fortnight I had
learned to look for that squeal, and to love it. She probably will not
know until she reads this chapter how painfully I have tried to copy it,
and how vainly, doubtless owing to the American nature of my larynx. But
Miss Corke had a way of railing at you that made you feel rather pleased
that you had misbehaved. I could see that it had that effect upon Lady
Torquilin, though all she did was to smile broadly, and say to Miss
Peter, 'Hoity-toity! Have another cup of tea.' In the course of further
conversation, Miss Corke said that she saw my mind must be improved
immediately if she had to do it herself; and where would I like to
begin. I said almost anywhere, I didn't think it much mattered; and Miss
Corke said, Well, that was candid on my part, and augured favourably,
and was I architectururally inclined? I said I thought I was, some; and
out came Miss Peter Corke's little shriek again. 'Tell her,' she
said, prodding Lady Torquilin, 'that we say "rather" over here in that
connection; I don't know her well enough.' And I was obliged to beg
Lady Torquilin to tell _her_ that we said 'some' over there in
that connection, though not in books, or university lectures, or
serious-minded magazines.

'Oh, come!' said Miss Corke, 'do you mean to say you've got any
serious-minded magazines?'

'I'll come anywhere you like,' I responded. 'Have you got any
light-minded ones?'

Whereat Miss Corke turned again to Lady Torquilin, and confided to her
that I was a flippant young woman to live in the same house with, and
Lady Torquilin assured her that there wasn't really any harm in me--it
was only my way.

'H'm!' remarked Miss Peter, perking up her chin in a manner that made
me long to be on kissing terms with her--'the American way!' As I write
that it looks disagreeable; as Peter Corke said it, it was the very
nectar and ambrosia of prejudiced and favourable criticism. And I soon
found out that whatever she might say, her words never conveyed anything
but herself--never had any significance, I mean, that your knowledge of
her delightful nature did not endorse.

'I suppose we'd better begin with the churches, don't you think?' said
Miss Corke to Lady Torquilin. 'Poor dear! I dare say she's never seen a
proper church!'

'Oh, yes!' I said, 'you have never been in Chicago, Miss Corke, or you
wouldn't talk like that. We have several of the finest in America in our
city; and we ourselves attend a very large one, erected last year, the
Congregational--though momma has taken up Theosophy considerably
lately. It's built in amphitheatre style, with all the latest
improvements--electric light, and heated with hot water all through.
It will seat five thousand people on spring-edged cushions, and has a
lovely kitchen attached for socials!' 'Built in the amphitheatre style!
repeated Miss Corke. 'To seat five thousand people on springedged
cushions--with a kitchen attached! And now, will you tell me immediately
what a "social" is?'

'There are different kinds, you know,' I replied. 'Ice-cream socials,
and oyster socials, and ordinary tea-meetings; but they nearly always
have something to eat in them--a dry social with only a collection
never amounts to much. And they're generally held in the basement of the
church, and the young ladies of the congregation wait.'

Miss Corke looked at me, amused and aghast. 'You see, I was quite right,'
she said to Lady Torquilin. 'She never has! But I think this really
ought to be reported to the Foreign Missions Society! I'll take you to
the Abbey to-morrow,' she went on. 'You like "deaders," don't you?
The time between might be profitably spent in fasting and meditation!
Good-bye, dear love!'--to Lady Torquilin. 'No, you will _not_ come
down, either of you! Remember, young lady, three-thirty, _sharp_, at the
entrance everybody uses, opposite Dizzy's statue--the same which you are
never on any account to call Dizzy, but always Lord Disraeli, with the
respect that becomes a foieigner! _Good_-bye!'

[Illustration: 0160]



XIV

[Illustration: 9162]

HAT do you mean?' asked Miss Corke, indicating the Parliament House
clock with a reproachful parasol, as I joined her a week from the
following afternoon outside the south cloister of the Abbey. We had
seen a good deal of her in the meantime, but the Abbey visit had been
postponed. Her tone was portentous, and I looked at the clock, which
said ten minutes to four. I didn't quite understand, for I thought I
was in pretty good time. 'Didn't you say I was to come about now?' I
inquired. Miss Corke made an inarticulate exclamation of wrath.

'Half-past three may be "about now" in America!' she said, 'but it isn't
here, as you may see by the clock. Fancy my having made an appointment
with a young person who had an idea of keeping it "about" the time I had
condescended to fix!'--and Miss Corke put down her parasol as we entered
the cloisters, and attempted to wither me with a glance. If the glance
had not had the very jolliest smile of good-fellowship inside it I don't
know what I should have done, but as it was I didn't wither; though I
regretted to hear that I had missed the Jerusalem Chamber by being late,
where King Henry died--because he always knew he should expire in a
place of that name, and so fulfilled prophecy, poor dear, by coming to
kneel on the cold stone at St. Edward's shrine, where he would always
say his prayers, and nowhere else, immediately after a number of
extraordinary Christmas dinners--and Miss Corke was not in the least
sorry for me, though it was a thing I ought to see, and we positively
must come another day to see it.

We walked up past the little green square that you see in wide spaces
through the side pillars, where the very oldest old monks lie nameless
and forgotten, whose lives gathered about the foundations of the
Abbey--the grey foundations in the grey past--and sank silently into
its history just as their bodily selves have disappeared long ago in the
mosses and grasses that cover them. 'No, Miss Mamie Wick, of Chicago,
I will not hurry!' said Miss Corke, 'and neither shall you! It is a
sacrilege that I will allow no young person in my company to commit--to
go through these precincts as if there were anything in the world as
well worth looking at outside of them.'

I said I didn't want to hurry in the very least.

'Are you sure you don't--inside of you?' she demanded. Certain you have
no lurking private ambition to do the Abbey in two hours and get it
over? Oh, I know you! I've brought lots of you here before.'

'I know,' I said, I as a nation we do like to get a good deal for our
time.'

'It's promising when you acknowledge it'--Miss Corke laughed. 'All the
old abbots used to be buried here up to the time of Henry III.; that's
probably one of 'em'--and Miss Corke's parasol indicated a long, thick,
bluish stone thing lying on its back, with a round lump at one end and
an imitation of features cut on the lump. It lay there very solidly
along the wall, and I tried in vain to get a point of view from which it
was expressive of anything whatever. 'One of the early abbots?' said I,
because it seemed necessary to say something.

'Probably,' said Miss Corke.

'Which particular abbot should you say?' I asked, deferentially, for I
felt that I was in the presence of something very early English indeed,
and that it became me to be impressed, whether I was or not.

'Oh, I don't know,' Miss Peter Corke replied. 'Postard, perhaps, or
Crispin, or maybe Vitalis; nobody knows.'

'I suppose it would have been easier to tell a while ago,' I said.
'There is something so worn about his face, I should think even the
other early abbots would find a difficulty in recognising him now.
Nothing Druidical, I suppose?'

'Certainly not. If you are going to be disrespectful,' said Miss Corke,
'I shall take you home at once.' Whereat I protested that I did not
dream disrespect--that he looked to me quite as much like a Druid as
anything else. I even ventured to say that, if she had not told me he
was an early abbot, I might have taken him for something purely and
entirely geological. The whole of this discussion took place at what
stood for the early abbot's feet, and occupied some little time; so
that, finally, Miss Corke was obliged to tell me that, if there was one
thing she couldn't bear, it was dawdling, and would I be pleased to look
at the monumental tablet to Mr. Thomas Thynne, of which she would relate
to me the history. So we paused in front of it, while Miss Corke told
me how the gentleman in the basrelief chariot was Mr. Thomas Thynne,
and the gentleman on horseback, shooting at him with a blunderbuss, was
Kônigsmark, accompanied by his brother; and Kônigsmark was in the act of
killing Mr. Thomas Thynne, with the horses getting unmanageable, and the
two powdered footmen behind in a state of great agitation, because both
Mr. Thomas Thynne and Kônigsmark were attached to the same lady--a young
widow lady with a great deal of money--and she liked Mr. Thomas Thynne
best, which was more than Mr. Kônigsmark could bear. So Mr. Konigsmark
first swore properly that he would do it, and then did it--all in Pall
Mall, when Mr. Thomas was in the very act of driving home from paying a
visit to the widow. It was a most affecting story, as Peter Corke told
it, especially in the presence of the memorial with a white marble Cupid
pointing to it, erected by Mr. Thynne's bereaved relatives; and I
was glad to hear that the widow had nothing to do with Mr. Kônigsmark
afterwards, in spite of the simplicity and skill of his tactics
with regard to his rival. I thought the history of the event quite
interesting enough in itself, but Miss Corke insisted that the point
about it really worthy of attention was the fact that the younger Mr.
Kônigsmark was the gentleman who afterwards went back to Hanover, and
there flirted so disgracefully with Sophia Dorothea of Zell that King
George said he wouldn't have it, and shut her up in Ahlden Tower
for thirty-two years. Miss Corke explained it all in a delightful
kindergarten way, mentioning volumes for my reference if I wanted to
know more about the incident. 'Although this,' she said, 'is the sort
of thing you ought to have been improving your mind with ever since you
learned to read. I don't know what you mean by it, coming over here with
a vast unbroken field of ignorance about our celebrities. Do you think
time began in 1776?' At which I retaliated, and said that far from being
an improving incident, I wasn't sure that it was altogether respectable,
and I didn't know of a single church in Chicago that would admit a
bas-relief of it, with or without a mourning Cupid. In return to which
Miss Corke could find nothing better to say than 'Lawks!'

'Don't tell me you've read the "Spectator!"' she remarked a little
farther on, 'because I know you haven't--you've read nothing but W. D.
Howells and the "New York World!" Oh, you have? Several essays! When,
pray? At school--I thought so! When you couldn't help it! Well, I know
you've forgotten Sir Roger de Coverley, in the Abbey, stopping
Addison here, to tell him that man thrashed his grandfather! His own
grandfather, you know, not Addison's!' And we contemplated the studious
effigy of Dr. Busby until I told Miss Corke that I wanted to be taken to
the Poets' Corner.

'Of course you do,' said she; 'there are rows of Americans there now,
sitting looking mournful and thinking up quotations. If I wanted to find
an American in London, I should take up my position in the Poets'
Corner until he arrived. You needn't apologise--it's nothing to your
discredit,' remarked Miss Corke, as we turned in among your wonderful
crumbling old names, past the bust of George Grote, historian of Greece.
'Of course, you have heard of his lady-wife,' she said, nodding at Mr.
Grote. I ventured the statement that she was a very remarkable person.

'Well, she was!' returned Miss Corke, 'though that's a shot in the dark,
and you might as well confess it. One of _the_ most remarkable women of
her time. All the biographers of the day wrote about her--as you ought
to know, _intimately_. I have the honour of the acquaintance of a niece
of hers, who told me the other day that she wasn't particularly fond of
her. Great independence of character!'

'Where is Chaucer?' I asked, wishing to begin at the beginning.

'Just like every one of you that I've ever brought here!' Miss Corke
exclaimed, leading the way to the curious old rectangular grey tomb in
the wall. 'The very best--the very oldest--immediately! Such impatience
I never saw! There now--make out that early English lettering, if you
can, and be properly sorry that you've renounced your claim to be proud
of it!'

'I can't make it out, so I'll think about being sorry later,' I said.
'It is certainly very remarkable; he might almost have written it
himself. Now, where is Shakespeare?'

'Oh, certainly!' exclaimed Aliss Corke. 'This way. And after that you'll
declare you've seen them all. But you might just take time to understand
that you're walking over "O rare Ben Jonson!" who is standing up in his
old bones down there as straight as you or I. Insisted--as you probably
are _not_ aware--on being buried that way, so as to be ready when
Gabriel blows his trumpet in the morning. I won't say that he hasn't got
his coat and hat on. Yes, that's Samuel--I'm glad you didn't say Ben was
the lexicographer. Milton--certainly--it's kind of you to notice him.
Blind, you remember. The author of several works of some reputation--in
England.'

'I knew he was blind,' I said, 'and used to dictate to his daughters. We
have a picture of it at home.' I made this remark very innocently, and
Miss Corke looked at me with a comical smile. 'Bless it and save it!'
she said, and then, with an attempt at a reproach, 'What a humbug it
is!'

[Illustration: 0168]

We looked at Shakespeare, supreme among them, predicting solemn
dissolution out of 'The Tempest,' and turned from him to Gay, whose
final reckless word I read with as much astonishment as if I had never
heard of it before.=

```Life's a jest, and all things show it;

```I thought so once, and now I know it,=

has no significance at all read in an American school-book two thousand
miles, and a hundred and fifty years from the writer of it, compared
with the grim shock it gives you when you see it actually cut deep in
the stone, to be a memorial always of a dead man somewhere not far away.

[Illustration: 9169]

'That you should have heard of Nicholas Rowe,' said Miss Corke, 'is
altogether too much to expect. Dear me! it would be considerably easier
to improve your mind if it had ever been tried before. But he was
poet-laureate for George the First--you understand the term?'

'I think so,' I said. 'They contract to supply the Royal Family with
poetry, by the year, at a salary. We have nothing of the kind in
America. You see our Presidents differ so. They might not all like
poetry. And in that case it would be wasted, for there isn't a magazine
in the country that would take it second-hand.'

'Besides having no poets who could do it properly, poor things!' said
Miss Corke--to which I acceded without difficulty.

'Well, Mr. Rowe was a poet-laureate, though that has nothing whatever
to do with it. But he had a great friend in Mr. Pope--Pope, you know
him--by reputation--and when he and his daughter died, Mr. Pope and Mrs.
Rowe felt so bad about it that he wrote those mournful lines, and she
had'em put up.

Now listen!--=

```To those so mourned in death, so lov'd in life,

```The childless parent and the widowed wife--=

meaning the same lady; it was only a neat way they had of doubling up a
sentiment in those days!--=

```With tears inscribes this monumental stone,

```That holds their ashes and expects her own!=

and everybody, including Mr. Pope, thought it perfectly sweet at the
time. Then what does this degenerate widow do, after giving Mr. Pope
every reason to believe that she would fulfil his poetry?'

'She marries again,' I said.

'Quite right; she marries again. But you needn't try to impose upon
me, miss! To come to that conclusion you didn't require any previous
information whatever! She marries again, and you can't think how it
vexed Mr. Pope.'

'I know,' I said, 'he declared that was the last of his lending the
use of his genius to widows'--for I had to assume some knowledge of the
subject.

Miss Corke looked at me. 'You idjit!' she said. 'He did nothing of the
sort.'

'Michael Drayton!' I read amongst other names which surprised me by
their unfamiliarity; for in America, whatever Peter Corke may say, if we
have a strong point, it is names--'who was Michael Drayton? and why was
_he_ entitled to a bust?'

'He wrote the "Polyolbion,"' said Miss Corke, as if that were all there
was to say about it.

'Do you know,' I said--'I am ashamed to confess it, but even of so
well-known and interesting a work of genius as the "Polyolbion" I have
committed very few pages to memory!'

'Oh!' returned Miss Peter, 'you're getting unbearable! There's a lovely
epitaph for you, of Edmund Spenser's, "whose divine spirrit needs noe
othir witnesse than the workes which he left behind him." You will
kindly make no ribald remarks about the spelling, as I perceive you are
thinking of doing. Try and remember that we taught you to spell over
there. And when Edmund Spenser was buried, dear damsel, there came a
company of poets to the funeral--Shakespeare, doubtless, among them--and
cast into his grave all manner of elegies.'

'Of their own composition?' I inquired.

'Stupid!--certainly! And the pens that wrote them!'

I said I thought it a most beautiful and poetic thing to have done, if
they kept no copies of the poems, and asked Miss Corke if she believed
anything of the kind would be possible now.

'Bless you!' she replied. 'In the first place, there aren't the poets;
in the second place, there isn't the hero-worship; in the third place,
the conditions of the poetry-market are different nowadays--it's more
expensive than it used to be; the poets would prefer to send wreaths
from the florist's--you can get quite a nice one for twelve-and-six;'
and Peter Corke made a little grimace expressive of disgust with the
times. 'We used to have all poets and no public, now we have all public
and no poets!' she declared, 'now that _he_ is gone--and Tennyson can't
live for ever.' Miss Corke pointed with her parasol to a name in the
stone close to my right foot. I had been looking about me, and above me,
and everywhere but there. As I read it I took my foot away quickly, and
went two or three paces off. It was so unlooked-for, that name, so new
to its association with death, that I stood aside, held by a sudden
sense of intrusion. He had always been so high and so far off in the
privacy of his genius, so revered in his solitudes, so unapproachable,
that it took one's breath away for the moment to have walked
unthinkingly over the grave of Robert Browning. It seemed like taking an
advantage one would rather not have taken--even to stand aside and read
the plain, strong name in the floor, and know that he, having done with
life, had been brought there, and left where there could be no longer
about him any wonderings or any surmises. Miss Corke told me that she
knew him, 'as one can say one knows such a man,' and how kindly his
interest was in all that the ordinary people of his acquaintance like
herself were thinking and doing; but the little, homely stories she
related to me from her personal knowledge of him seemed curiously
without relevance then. Nothing mattered, except that he who had
epitomised greatness in his art for the century lay there beneath his
name in the place of greatness. And then, immediately, from this grave
of yesterday, there came to me light and definition for all the
graves of the day before. It stole among the quaint lettering of the
inscriptions, and into the dusty corners of the bas-reliefs, and behind
all the sculptured scrolls and laurels, and showed me what I had somehow
missed seeing sooner--all that shrined honour means in England; and just
in that one little corner how great her possessions are! Miss Corke said
something about the royal tombs and the coronation chair, and the wax
effigies in the chamber above the Islip Chapel, and getting on; but, I
if you don't mind,' I said, 'I should like to sit down here for a while
with the other Americans and think.'



XV

[Illustration: 9174]

t is said that there are four hundred people in New York who are
exclusive, and there are a few more on Beacon Hill in Boston, and in
Philadelphia. But most Americans are opposed to exclusiveness. I
know that nothing of the sort flourishes in Chicago. Generally and
individually, Americans believe that every man is as good as his
neighbour; and we take pains to proclaim our belief whenever the
subject of class distinction, is under discussion. Poppa's views,
however--representing those of the majority in an individual, as we
hope they soon may do in a senator--are strongly against any theory of
exclusiveness whatever. And I will say for poppa, that his principles
are carried out in his practice; for, to my knowledge, neither his
retirement from business and purchase of a suburban lakeside residence,
nor even his nomination for the Senate, has made the slightest
difference in his treatment of any human being. And yet Americans coming
over here with all their social theories in their trunks, so to speak,
very carefully packed to be ready at a moment's notice, very seldom seem
to find a use for them in England. I was brought up, you might say,
on poppa's, and momma agreed with him on most points, with the one
qualification that, if you couldn't have nice society, it was much
better to go without any--'Scarce company, welcome trumpery!' momma
always declared would never be her motto. Yet since I have been in
England I have hardly had occasion to refer to them at all. I listened
to an American author about it a while ago, before I had any intention
of writing my own English experiences, and he said the reason Americans
liked the exclusiveness over here was because its operation gave them
such perfect types to study, each of its own little circle; while at
home we are a great indeterminate, shifting mass, and a person who
wanted to know us as a nation must know us very largely as individuals
first. I thought that might be a very good reason for an author,
especially for an author who liked an occasional cup of tea with a
duchess; but I was not sure that it could be claimed by a person
like myself, only over on a visit, and not for any special purpose of
biological research. So I went on liking the way you shut some people
out and let other people in, without inquiring further as to why I
did--it did not seem profitable, especially when I reflected that my
point of view was generally from the inside. My democratic principles
are just the same as ever, though--a person needn't always approve what
she likes. I shall take them back quite unimpaired to a country where
they are indispensable--where you really want them, if you are going to
be comfortable, every day of your life.

Nevertheless, I know it was the 'private' part of the 'Private View'
that made me so anxious to go to the Academy on the first day of May
this year. The pictures would be there the second day, and the day
following, and days indefinitely after that, and for a quarter of a
dollar I could choose my own time and circumstances of going to see
them. I might, weather permitting, have taken my 'view' of the Academy
in the publicity of five or six other people who, like me, would have
paid a shilling a-piece to get in; but I found myself preferring the
privacy of the five or six hundred who did not pay--preferring it
immensely. Besides, I had heard all my life of the 'Private View.' Every
year there are special cablegrams about it in our newspapers--who were
there, and what they wore--generally to the extent of at least a column
and a half. Our special correspondents in London glory in it, and rival
each other, adjectivally, in describing it. Lady Torquilin had been
talking about it a good deal, too. She said it was 'a thing to see,'
and she meant to try to get me an invitation. Lady Torquilin went every
year.

[Illustration: 0177]

But when the thirtieth day of April came, Lady Torquilin told me in
the evening, after dinner, that she hadn't been able to manage it, and
showed me the card upon which the 'President and Members of the
Royal Academy of Arts "requested" the pleasure of the company of Lady
Torquilin,' only, 'Not transferable.'

'It's very tiresome of them,' said Lady Torquilin, 'to put that on. It
means that you positively must not give it to anybody. Otherwise I would
have handed it over to you, child, with the greatest pleasure--I
don't care a pin's point about going, and you could have gone with the
Pastelle-Browns. But there it is!'

Of course, nothing would have induced me to take Lady Torquilin's
invitation, and deprive her of the pleasure of going; but I pinned her
veil at the back, and saw her off down the elevator, next day at two,
with an intensity of regret which cannot come often in the course of an
ordinary lifetime. I was describing my feelings in a letter, addressed,
I think, to Mr. Winterhazel, when, about an hour later, Lady Torquilin
appeared again, flushed with exertion, and sank panting into a chair.

'Get ready, child!' said she. 'I'd wear your tailor-made; those stairs
will kill me, but there was--no time--to waste on the lift. I can get
you in--burry up your cakes!'

'But am I invited?' I asked.

'Certainly you are--by a Royal Academician in person--so _fly!_'

I flew, and in twenty minutes Lady Torquilin and I were engaged in our
usual altercation with a cabman on the way to Burlington House. When he
had got his cab and animal well into a block in Bond Street, and nothing
of any sort could possibly happen without the sanction of a Jove-like
policeman at the crossing, Lady Torquilin took the opportunity of
telling me how it was that she was able to come for me. 'You see,' she
said, 'the very first person I had the good luck to meet when I went
in was Sir Bellamy Bellamy--you remember Sir Bellamy Bellamy at the
Mintherringtons? I tell you frankly that I wouldn't have mentioned it,
my dear, unless he had first, though I knew perfectly well that what Sir
Bellamy Bellamy can't do in that Academy simply can't be done, for you
know I'm the last one to push; but he did. "Where is your young friend?"
said he. Then I took my chance, and told him how I'd asked that old
screw of a Monkhouse Diddlington for two, and only got one, and how
I couldn't possibly give it to you because it was printed "Not
transferable," and how disappointed you were; and he was nice about it.
"My dear Lady Torquilin," he said, "we were children together, and you
never came to me. I should have been _delighted!_"

'"Well," I said, "Sir Bellamy, can't we do anything about it now?" "It's
rather late in the day," said he. "It _is_ late in the day," said I.
"Oh, I say!" said he, "she must come if she wants to--any friend
of yours, Lady Torquilin"--such a humbug as the man is! "It's a bit
irregular," he went on, "and we won't say anything about it, but if you
like to go and get her, and see that she carries this in with her" (here
Lady Torquilin produced a fat, pale-blue catalogue book), "there won't
be any difficulty. I fancy." So there you are, Miss Wick, provided with
Sir Bellamy Bellamy's own catalogue to admit you--if _that's_ not a
compliment, I don't know what is!'

'I don't feel as if I had been properly invited,' I said; 'I'm afraid I
oughtn't to go, Lady Torquilin.'

'Rubbish, child!' said she. 'Do you want them to send a deputation for
you?' And after that, what could I say?

'Hold up your head, and look perfectly indifferent,' advised Lady
Torquilin, as our hansom deposited us in the courtyard before the outer
steps. 'Don't grasp that catalogue as if it were a banner; carry it
carelessly. Now follow me.' And Lady Torquilin, with great dignity, a
sense of rectitude, and a catalogue to which she was properly entitled,
followed by me with vague apprehensions, a bad conscience, and a
catalogue that didn't belong to me, walked into the Private View. Nobody
said anything, though I fancied one of the two old gentlemen in crimson
and black by the door looked knowingly at the other when I passed, as
much as to say: 'About that tailor-made there is something fraudulent.'
I say I 'fancied,' though at the time I was certain they did, because my
imagination, of course, may have had something to do with it. I know
I was very glad of the shelter of Lady Torquilin's unimpeachable
respectability in front. 'There now,' she said, when we were well into
the crowd, 'we're both here, and it's much nicer, isn't it, dear? than
for you to come with strangers, even if I could have made up my mind
that it was right for you to be admitted on a ticket plainly marked "not
transferable"--which I really don't think, dear. I should have been able
to do.'

We moved aimlessly with the throng, and were immediately overtaken and
possessed by the spirit that seemed to be abroad--a spirit of wonder and
criticism and speculation and searching, that first embraced our
nearest neighbours, went off at random to a curiously-dressed person in
perspective, focussed upon a celebrity in a corner, and spent itself in
the shifting crowd. Lady Torquilin bade me consider whether in all my
life before I had ever seen such remarkable gowns, and I was obliged to
confess that I had not. Some of them were beautiful, and some were not;
many were what you so very properly and aptly call 'smart,' and a few
were artistic. All of them, pretty and ugly, I might have encountered at
home, but there was one species of 'frock' which no American, I think,
could achieve with impunity. It was a protest against conventionalism,
very much gathered, and usually presented itself in colours
unattainable out of a London fog. It almost always went with a rather
discouraged-looking lady having a bad complexion, and hair badly done
up; and, invariably, it dragged a little on one side. I don't know
exactly why that kind of dress would be an impossible adjunct to the
person of an American woman, but I am disposed to believe there is a
climatic reason. We have so much sun and oxygen in the United
States that I think they get into our ideas of clothes; and a person
upholstered in the way I have mentioned would very likely find herself
specially and disrespectfully described in the newspapers. But I do not
wish to be thought impertinent about the development of this particular
English dress ideal. It has undoubted points of interest. I had a better
opportunity of observing it at the Academy Soirée in June, when it shed
abroad the suggestion of a Tennysonian idyll left out all night.

Lady Torquilin had just pointed out to me two duchesses: one large and
round, who was certainly a duchess by mistake, and the other tall and
beautiful, with just such a curved upper lip as a duchess ought to have,
and a coronet easily imaginable under her bonnet, and we were talking
about them, when I saw somebody I knew. He was a middle-aged gentleman,
and I had a very interesting association with his face, though I
couldn't for the moment remember his name or where I had met him. I told
Lady Torquilin about it, with the excited eagerness that a person always
feels at the sight of a familiar face in a foreign land. 'Some friend of
poppa's, I am certain,' I said; and although I had only had a glimpse
of him, and immediately lost him in the crowd, we decided to walk on
in that direction in the hope of seeing him again. He reappeared at
a distance, and again we lost him; but we kept on, and while Lady
Torquilin stopped to chat with her numerous acquaintances I looked out
carefully for my father's friend. I knew that as soon as he saw me he
would probably come up at once and shake hands, and then the name would
come back to me; and I yearned to ask a thousand things of Chicago.
We came face to face with him unexpectedly, and as his eye caught mine
carelessly it dawned upon me that the last time I had seen him it
was _not_ in a long grey overcoat and a silk hat--there was something
incongruous in that. Also, I remembered an insolent grizzled chin and
great duplicity. 'Oh!' I said to Lady Torquilin, 'I don't know him at
all! It's----'

'It's Mr. Bancroft!' said Lady Torquilin.

'Who is Mr. Bancroft?' said I. 'It's the Abbé Latour!'

I had enjoyed 'The Dead Heart' so much a fortnight before, but I was
glad I did not bow before I recognised that it was a gentleman with
whom I had the honour of possessing only ten-and-sixpence worth of
acquaintance.

I saw the various scandals of the year as well. Lady Torquilin mentioned
them, just to call my attention to their dresses, generally giving her
opinion that there had been altogether too much said about the matter.
Lady Torquilin did not know many of the literary people who were
present, but she indicated Mr. Anstey and Mr. William Black, whose works
are extremely popular with us, and it was a particular pleasure to be
able to describe them when I wrote home next day. I wanted to see Mr.
Oscar Wilde very especially, but somebody told Lady Torquilin he was at
the Grosvenor--'and small loss, I consider!' said she; 'he's just like
any other man, dear child, only with more nonsense in his head than most
of them!' But it was not in the nature of things or people that Lady
Torquilin should like Mr. Oscar Wilde. Before we went she showed me two
or three lady-journalists busy taking notes.

'There's that nice Miss Jay Penne,' said Lady Torquilin. 'I know all the
Jay Pennes--such a literary family! And Miss Jay Penne always wants to
know what I've got on. I think I must just speak to her, dear, if you
don't mind waiting one moment; and then we'll go.

'She asked about you, too, dear,' said my friend when she rejoined me,
with a little nudge of congratulation.

I should, perhaps, have stated before that there were a number of
artists walking around trying to keep away from their own pictures;
but this I gathered of myself, for, with the exception of Sir Bellamy
Bellamy, who had gone away, Lady Torquilin did not know any of them. I
noticed, too, that the walls of the rooms we were in were covered with
pictures, but they did not seem to have anything to do with the Private
View.



XVI

[Illustration: 9183]

ADY POWDERBYS ball was the first I attended in London, and therefore, I
suppose, made the strongest impression upon me. It was quite different
from a Chicago ball, though the differences were so intangible--not
consisting at all in the supper, or the music, or the dresses, or the
decorations--that I am by no means sure that I can explain them; so I
beg that you will not be disappointed if you fail to learn from my idea
of a London ball what a Chicago ball is like. It is very easy for you to
find out personally, if you happen to be in Chicago.

We went in a four-wheeler at about eleven o'clock, and as the driver
drew up before the strip of carpet that led to the door, the first thing
that struck me was the little crowd of people standing waiting on
either side to watch the guests go in. I never saw that in Chicago--that
patience and self-abnegation. I don't think the freeborn American
citizen would find it consistent with his dignity to hang about the
portals of a party to which he had not been invited. He would take
pains, on the contrary, to shun all appearance of wanting to go.

Inside I expected to find a crowd--I think balls are generally crowded
wherever they are given; but I also expected to be able to get through
it, in which for quite twenty minutes I was disappointed. Both Lady
Torquilin and I made up our minds, at one time, to spend the rest of
the evening in our wraps; but just as we had abandoned ourselves to this
there came a breaking and a parting among the people, and a surge in one
direction, which Lady Torquilin explained, as we took advantage of it,
by the statement that the supper-room had been opened.

In the cloak-room several ladies were already preparing for departure.
'Do you suppose they are ill?' I asked Lady Torquilin, as we stood
together, while two of the maids repaired our damages as far as they
were able. 'Why do they go home so early?'

'Home, child!' said Lady Torquilin, with a withering emphasis. 'They're
going _on_; I daresay they've got a couple more dances a-piece to put in
an appearance at to night.' Lady Torquilin did not approve of what she
called 'excessive riot,' and never accepted more than one invitation an
evening; so I was unfamiliar with London ways in this respect. Presently
I had another object-lesson in the person of a lady who came in and gave
her cloak to the attendant, saying, 'Put it where you can get it easily,
please. I'll want it again in a quarter of an hour.' I thought as I
looked at her that social pleasures must be to such an one simply
a series of topographical experiments. I also thought I should have
something to say when next I heard of the hurry and high pressure in
which Americans lived.

'It's of no use,' said Lady Torquilin, looking at the stairs; 'we can
never get up; we might as well go with the rest and----'

'Have some supper,' added somebody close behind us; and Lady Torquilin
said: 'Oh, Charlie Mafferton! 'though why she should have been surprised
was more than I could imagine, for Charlie Mafferton was nearly always
at hand. Wherever we went to--at homes, or concerts, or the theatre,
or sight-seeing, in any direction, Mr. Mafferton turned up, either
expectedly or unexpectedly, with great precision, and his manner
toward Lady Torquilin was always as devoted as it could be. I have
not mentioned him often before in describing my experiences, and shall
probably not mention him often again, because after a time I began
to take him for granted as a detail of almost everything we did. Lady
Torquilin seemed to like it, so I, of course, had no right to object;
and, indeed, I did not particularly mind, because Mr. Mafferton was
always nice in his manner to me, and often very interesting in his
remarks. But if Lady Torquilin had not told me that she had known him in
short clothes, and if I had not been perfectly certain she was far
too sensible to give her affections to a person so much younger than
herself, I don't know what I would have thought.

So we went with the rest and had some supper, and, in the anxious
interval during which Lady Torquilin and I occupied a position in the
doorway, and Mr. Mafferton reconnoitred for one of the little round
tables, I discovered what had been puzzling me so about the house
ever since I had come into it. Except for the people, and the flower
decorations, and a few chairs, it was absolutely empty. The people
furnished it, so to speak, moving about in the brilliancy of their
dresses and diamonds, and the variety of their manners, to such an
extent that I had not been able to particularise before what I felt was
lacking to this ball. It was a very curious lack--all the crewel-work,
and Japanese bric-à-brac, and flower lamp-shades, that go to make up
a home; and the substitute for it in the gay lights and flowers, and
exuberant supper-table, and dense mass of people, gave me the feeling of
having been permitted to avail myself of a brilliant opportunity, rather
than of being invited to share the hospitality of Lady Torquilin's
friends.

'Has Lady Powderby just moved in?' I asked, as we sat down around two
bottles of champagne, a lot of things _glacées_, a triple arrangement of
knives and forks, and a pyramid of apoplectic strawberries.

'Lady Powderby doesn't live here,' Lady Torquilin said. 'No, Charlie,
thank you--sweets for you young people if you like--savouries for me!'
and my friend explained to me that Lady Powderby was 'at home' at this
particular address only for this particular evening, and had probably
paid a good many guineas house-rent for the night; after which I tried
in vain to feel a sense of personal gratitude for my strawberries, which
I was not privileged even to eat with my hostess's fork--though, of
course, I knew that this was mere sentiment, and that practically I was
as much indebted to Lady Powderby for her strawberries as if she had
grown them herself. And, on general grounds, I was really glad to have
had the chance of attending this kind of ball, which had not come within
my experience before. I don't think it would occur to anybody in Chicago
to hire an empty house to give an entertainment in; and though, now
that I think of it, Palmer's Hotel is certainly often utilised for this
purpose, it is generally the charity or benevolent society hop that is
given there.

During supper, while Lady Torquilin was telling Mr. Mafferton how much
we had enjoyed the 'Opening,' and how kind his cousin had been, I looked
round. I don't know whether it is proper to look round at a ball in
England--it's a thing I never should have thought of doing in Chicago,
where I knew exactly what I should see if I did look round--but
the impersonal nature of Lady Powderby's ball gave me a sense of
irresponsibility to anybody, and the usual code of manners seemed
a vague law, without any particular applicability to present
circumstances. And I was struck, much struck, with the thorough
business-like concentration and singleness of purpose that I saw about
me. The people did not seem much acquainted, except by twos and threes,
and ignored each other, for the most part, in a calm, high-level way,
that was really educating to see. But they were not without a common
sentiment and a common aim--they had all come to a ball, where it
devolved upon them to dance and sup, and dance again--to dance and
sup as often as possible, and to the greatest possible advantage. This
involved a measuring-up of what there was, which seemed to be a popular
train of thought. There was no undue levity. If a joke had been made
in that supper-room it would have exploded more violently than the
champagne-bottles. Indeed, there was as great and serious decorum as was
possible among so many human beings who all required to be fed at once,
with several changes of plates. I observed a great deal of behaviour and
a great similarity of it--the gentlemen were alike, and the ladies were
alike, except that some of the ladies were a little like the gentlemen,
and some of the gentlemen were a little like the ladies. This
homogeneity was remarkable to me, considering how few of them seemed
to have even a bowing acquaintance with each other. But the impressive
thing was the solid unity of interest and action as regarded the supper.

We struggled upstairs, and on the first landing met a lady-relation of
our hostess, with whom Lady Torquilin shook hands.

'You'll never find her,' said this relation, referring to Lady Powderby.
'The Dyngeleys, and the Porterhouses, and the Bangley Coffins have all
come and gone without seeing her.' But I may just state here that we did
find her, towards morning, in time to say good-bye.

When I say that the floor of Lady Powderby's (temporary) ball-room was
full, I do not adequately express the fact. It was replete--it ran
over, if that is not too impulsive an expression for the movement of the
ladies and gentlemen who were twirling round each other upon the floor,
all in one direction, to the music. With the exception of two or three
couples, whose excited gyration seemed quite tipsy by contrast, the ball
upstairs was going on with the same profound and determined action as
the ball downstairs. I noticed the same universal look of concentration,
the same firm or nervous intention of properly discharging the
responsibilities of the evening and the numbers of the programme, on the
face of the sweet, fresh _debutante_, steadily getting pinker; of the
middle-aged, military man, dancing like a disjointed foot-rule; of the
stout old lady in crimson silk, very low in the neck, who sat against
the wall. The popular theory seemed to be that the dancing was something
to be Done--the consideration of enjoyment brought it to a lower plane.
And it was an improving sight, though sad.

[Illustration: 0189]

Mr. Mafferton asked me for Numbers seven, and nine, and eleven--all
waltzes. I knew he would be obliged to, out of politeness to Lady
Torquilin, who had got past dancing herself; but I had been dreading
it all the time I spent in watching the other men go round, while Mr.
Mafferton sought for a chair for her. So I suggested that we should try
Number seven, and see how we got on, ignoring the others, and saying
something weakly about my not having danced for so long, and feeling
absolutely certain that I should not be able to acquit myself with the
erectness--to speak of nothing else--that seemed to be imperative at
Lady Powderby's ball. 'Oh! I am sure we shall do very well,' said Mr.
Mafferton. And we started.

I admire English dancing. I am accustomed to it now, and can look at a
roomful of people engaged in it without a sympathetic attack of vertigo
or a crick in my neck. I think it is, perhaps, as good an exposition of
the unbending, unswerving quality in your national character as could be
found anywhere, in a small way but I do not think an American ought to
tamper with it without preliminary training.

Mr. Mafferton and I started--he with confidence, I with indecision. You
can make the same step with a pair of scissors as Mr. Mafferton made; I
did it afterwards, when I explained to Lady Torquilin how impossible it
was that I should have danced nine and eleven with him, Compared with
it I felt that mine was a caper, and the height of impropriety. You will
argue from this that they do not go together well; and that is quite
correct. We inserted ourselves into the moving mass, and I went
hopelessly round the May pole that Mr. Alatlerton seemed to have turned
into, several times. Then the room began to reel. 'Don't you think we
had better reverse?' I asked; 'I am getting dizzy, I'm afraid.' Mr.
Mafferton stopped instantly, and the room came right again.

[Illustration: 0191]

'Reverse?' he said; 'I don't think I ever heard of it. I thought we were
getting on capitally!' And when I explained to him that reversing meant
turning round, and going the other way, he declared that it was quite
impracticable--that we would knock everybody else over, and that he had
never seen it done. After the last argument I did not press the matter.
It took very little acquaintance with Mr. Mafferton to know that, if he
had never seen it done, he never would do it. 'We will try going back a
bit,' he proposed instead; with the result that after the next four or
five turns he began to stalk away from me, going I knew not whither.
About four minutes later we went back, at my urgent request, to
Lady Torquilin, and Mr. Mafferton told her that we had 'hit it off
admirably.' I think he must have thought we did, because he said
something about not having 'been quite able to catch my step at first,
in a way that showed entire satisfaction with his later performance;
which was quite natural, for Mr. Mafferton was the kind of person who,
so long as he was doing his best himself, would hardly be aware whether
anybody else was or not.

I made several other attempts with friends of Lady Torquilin and
Mr. Mafferton, and a few of them were partially successful, though I
generally found it advisable to sit out the latter parts of them. This,
when room could be found, was very amusing; and I noticed that it
was done all the way up two flights of stairs, and in every other
conceivable place that offered two seats contiguously. I was interested
to a degree in one person with whom I sat out two or three dances
running. He was quite a young man, not over twenty-four or five, I
should think--a nephew of Lady Torquilin, and an officer in the Army,
living at Aldershot, very handsome, and wore an eyeglass, which was,
however, quite a common distinction. I must tell you more about him
again in connection with the day Lady Torquilin and I spent at Aldershot
at his invitation, because he really deserves a chapter to himself. But
it was he who told me, at Lady Powderby's ball, referring to the solid
mass of humanity that packed itself between us and the door, that it
was with the greatest difficulty that he finally gained the ball-room.
'Couldn't get in at all at first,' said he, 'and while I was standin' on
the outside edge of the pavement, a bobby has the confounded impudence
to tell me to move along. '"Can't,"' says I--"I'm at the party."'

I have always been grateful to the Aldershot officer for giving me that
story to remember in connection with Lady Powderby's ball, although Mr.
Mafferton, when I retailed it, couldn't see that it was in the least
amusing. 'Besides,' he said, 'it's as old as "Punch."' But at the end
of the third dance Mr. Mafferton had been sent by Lady Torquilin to look
for me, and was annoyed, I have no doubt, by the trouble he had to
take to find me. And Mr. Mafferton's sense of humour could never be
considered his strong point.



XVII

|A GREAT many other people _were_ going to Aldershot the day we went
there--so many that the train, which we were almost too late for, had
nowhere two spare seats together. Just at the last minute, after Lady
Torquilin had decided that we must travel separately, the guard unlocked
the door of a first-class carriage occupied by three gentlemen alone.
It afforded much more comfortable accommodation than the carriage Lady
Torquilin was crowded into, but there was no time to tell her, so I got
in by myself, and sat down in the left-hand corner going backward,
and prepared to enjoy the landscape. The gentlemen were so much more
interesting, however, that I am afraid, though I ostensibly looked at
the landscape, I paid much more attention to them, which I hope was
comparatively proper, since they were not aware of it.

[Illustration: 8195]

They were all rather past middle age, all very trim, and all dressed to
ride. There the similarity among them ended; and besides being different
from one another, they were all different from any American gentlemen I
had ever met. That is the reason they were so deeply interesting.

[Illustration: 0196]

One, who sat opposite me, was fair, with large blue eyes and an aquiline
nose, and a well-defined, clean-shaven face, all but his graceful
moustache. He was broad-shouldered and tall, and muscular and lean, and
he lounged, illuminating his conversation with a sweet and easy smile.
He looked very clever, and I think he must have been told all his life
that he resembled the Duke of Wellington. The one in the other corner,
opposite, was rosy and round-faced, with twinkling blue eyes and a grey
moustache, and he made a comfortable angle with his rotund person and
the wall, crossing his excellent legs.

The one on my side, of whom I had necessarily an imperfect view, was
very grey, and had a straight nose and a pair of level eyes, rather pink
about the edges, and carefully-cut whiskers and sloping shoulders. He
did not lounge at all, or even cross his legs, but sat bolt upright and
read the paper. He looked like a person of extreme views upon propriety,
and a rather bad temper. The first man had the 'Times,' the second the
'Standard,' and the third the 'Morning Post.' I think they all belonged
to the upper classes.

They began to talk, especially the two opposite, the lean man throwing
his remarks and his easy smiles indolently across the valises on the
seat between them. He spoke of the traffic in Piccadilly, where 'a brute
of an omnibus' had taken off a carriage-wheel for him the day before.
He was of opinion that too many omnibuses were allowed to run through
Piccadilly--'a considerable lot' too many. He also found the condition
of one or two streets in that neighbourhood 'disgustin,' and was 'goin'
to call attention to it.' All in cool, high, pleasant, indolent tones.

'Write a letter to the "Times,"' said the other, with a broad smile, as
if it were an excellent joke. 'I don't mind reading it.'

The first smiled gently and thoughtfully down upon his boot. 'Will
you guarantee that anybody else does?' said he. And they chaffed. My
neighbour turned his paper impatiently, and said nothing.

'What'r'you goin' to ride to-day?' asked the first. His voice was
delightfully refined.

'Haven't a notion. Believe they've got something for me down there.
Expect the worst'--which also, for some unknown reason, seemed to amuse
them very much.

'You've heard 'bout Puhbelow, down heah year befoh last--old Pub below,
used to c'mand 25th Wangers? A.D.C. wides up t' Puhbelow an' tells him
he's wanted at headquahtehs immediately. "That case," says Puhbelow,
"I'd better _walk!_" An' he _did_,' said my _vis-à-vis_.

'Lord!' returned the other, 'I hope it won't come to that.'

'It's the last day I shall be able to turn out,' he went on, ruefully.

'For w'y?'

'Can't get inside my uniform another year.'

'Supuhfluous adipose tissue?'

'Rather! Attended the Levée last week, an' came away black in the face!
At my time o' life a man's got to consider his buttons. 'Pon my word, I
envy you lean dogs.' He addressed both his neighbour and the pink-eyed
man, who took no notice of the pleasantry, but folded his paper the
other way, and said, without looking up, that that had been a very
disastrous flood in the United States.

'They do everything on a big scale over thayah,' remarked the man across
from me, genially, 'includin' swindles.'

The round-faced gentleman's eye kindled with new interest. 'Were you let
in on those Kakeboygan Limiteds?' he said. 'By Jove!--abominable! Never
knew a cooler thing! Must have scooped in fifty thousand!'

'It was ve'y painful,' said the other, unexcitedly. 'By th' way, what
d'you think of Little Toledos?'

'Don't know anything about'em. Bought a few--daresay I've dropped my
money.'

'Wilkinson wanted me to buy. Lunched the beast last week, expectin'
to get a pointer. Confounded sharp scoundrel, Wilkinson!' And this
gentleman smiled quite seraphically. 'Still expectin'. I see Oneida
Centrals have reached a premium. Bought a lot eight months ago for a
song. Cheapah to buy 'em, I thought, than waste more money in somethin'
I knew as little about! There's luck!' This stage of the conversation
found me reflecting upon the degree of depravity involved in getting
the better of the business capacity which made its investments on these
principles. I did not meditate a defence for my fellow-countrymen, but I
thought they had a pretty obvious temptation.

The talk drifted upon clubs, and the gentlemen expressed their
preferences. 'Hear you're up for the Army and Navy,' said the rosy-faced
one.

'Ye-es. Beastly bore getting in,' returned he of the aquiline nose,
dreamily.

'How long?'

''Bout two years, I believe. I'm up again for the United Service, too.
Had a fit of economy in '85--year of the Tarantillas smash--you were in
that, too, wehn't you?--an' knocked off five o' six o' my clubs. They
make no end of a wow about lettin' you in again.'

'Well, the Rag's good enough for me, and the Lyric's convenient to
take a lady to. They say the Corinthian's the thing to belong to now,
though,' said the round gentleman, tentatively.

'If you have a taste for actresses,' returned the other, with another
tender glance at his boot.

Then it appeared, from a remark from the pink-eyed one, that he dined
at the Carlton four nights out of seven--stood by the Carlton--hoped
he might never enter a better club--never met a cad there in his life.
Fairly lived there when he wasn't in Manchester.

'D'you live in Manchester?' drawled the thin gentleman, quite agreeably.
Now, what was there in that to make the pink-eyed one angry? Is
Manchester a disreputable place to live in? But he was--as angry as
possible. The pink spread all over, under his close-trimmed whiskers
and down behind his collar. He answered, in extremely rasping and
sub-indignant tones, that he had a 'place near it,' and retired from the
conversation.

Then the rotund gentleman stated that there were few better clubs
than the Constitutional; and then, what a view you could get from the
balconies! 'Tremendous fine view,' he said, 'I tell you, at night, when
the place is lighted up, an' the river in the distance----'

'Moon?' inquired his companion, sweetly. But the stout gentleman's
robust sentiment failed him at this point, and he turned the
conversation abruptly to something else--a 'house-party' somewhere.

'Have you got what they call a pleasant invitation?' the other asked;
and the portly one said Yes, in fact he had three, with a smile of great
satisfaction. Just then the train stopped, and we all changed cars, and
I, rejoining Lady Torquilin, lost my entertaining fellow-passengers.
I was sorry it stopped at that point, because I particularly wanted to
know what a house-party and a pleasant invitation were--they seemed to
me to be idiomatic, and I had already begun to collect English idioms
to take home with me. In fact, I should have liked to have gone on
observing the landscape from my unobtrusive corner all the way to
Aldershot if I could--these gentlemen made such interesting incidents
to the journey--though I know I have told you that two or three times
before, without making you understand in the least, I am afraid, how or
why they did. There was a certain opulence and indifference about them
which differed from the kind of opulence and indifference you generally
see in the United States in not being in the least assumed. They did not
ignore the fact of my existence in the corner--they talked as if they
were not aware of it. And they had worn the conventionalism of England
so long that it had become assort of easy uniform, which they didn't
know they had on. They impressed you as having always before them,
unconsciously, a standard of action and opinion--though their perception
of it might be as different as possible--and as conducting themselves in
very direct relation to that standard. I don't say this because none of
them used bad language or smoked in my presence. The restraint was
not to be defined--a delicate, all-pervasive thing; and it was closely
connected with a lack of enthusiasm upon any subject, except the
approach to it the rounded gentleman made with reference to the
Constitutional view. They could not be considered flippant, and yet
their talk played very lightly upon the surface of their minds, making
no drafts upon any reserve store of information or opinion. This was odd
to me. I am sure no three Americans who knew each, other could travel
together in a box about six by eight without starting a theory and
arguing about it seriously, or getting upon politics, or throwing
themselves into the conversation in some way or other.

But I have no doubt that, to be impressed with such things as these,
you must be brought up in Chicago, where people are different. Lady
Torquilin was unable to tell me anything about the gentlemen from my
description of them; she said they were exactly like anybody else,
and as for gambling in stocks, she had no sympathy with anybody who
lost--seeming to think that I had, and that that was what had attracted
my attention.

The young officer was at Aldershot Station to meet us, looking quite a
different person in his uniform. I can't possibly describe the uniform,
or you would know the regiment, and possibly the officer, if you are
acquainted with Aldershot--which he might not like. But I may say,
without fear of identifying him, that he wore a red coat, and looked
very handsome in it--red is such a popular colour among officers in
England, and so generally becoming. He was a lieutenant, and his name
was Oddie Pratte.

[Illustration: 0202]

By the time I found this out, which was afterwards, when Mr. Pratte had
occasion to write two or three letters to me, which he signed in
that way, I had noticed how largely pet names cling to gentlemen
in England--not only to young gentlemen in the Army, but even to
middle-aged family men. Mr. Winterhazel's name is Bertram, and I should
be interested to hear what he would say if any one addressed him as
'Bertie.' I think he would be mad, as we say in America. If I had ever
called him anything but Mr. Winterhazel--which I have not--I would do
it myself when I return, just for an experiment. I don't think any
gentleman in the United States, out of pinafores, could be called
'Bertie' with impunity. We would contract it into the brutal brevity
of 'Bert,' and 'Eddie' to 'Ed,' and 'Willie' to 'Will,' and 'Bobby'
to 'Bob.' But it is a real pleasing feature of your civilisation, this
overlapping of nursery tenderness upon maturer years, and I hope it will
spread. What 'Oddie.' was derived from I never got to know Mr. Pratte
well enough to ask, but he sustained it with more dignity than I
would have believed possible. That is the remarkable--at any rate a
remarkable--characteristic of you English people. You sustain everything
with dignity, from your Lord Mayor's Show to your farthing change. You
are never in the least amused at yourselves.



XVIII

|AWF'LY glad you've been able to come!' said Mr. Pratte, leading the
way to his dogcart, 'quite a marked figure, in his broad red shoulders,
among the dark-coloured crowd at the station. 'There's so much going on
in the village I was afraid you'd change your mind. Frightful state of
funk, I assure you, every time the post came in!' Mr. Pratte spoke to
Lady Torquilin, but looked across at me. We are considerably more simple
than this in America. If a gentleman wants to say something polite to
you, he never thinks of transmitting it through somebody else. But your
way is much the most convenient. It gives one the satisfaction of being
complimented without the embarrassment of having to reply in properly
negative terms. So it was Lady Torquilin who said how sorry we should
have been to miss it, and I found no occasion for remark until we were
well started. Then I made the unavoidable statement that Aldershot
seemed to be a pretty place, though I am afraid it did not seriously
occur to me that it was.

'Oh, it's a hole' of sorts!' remarked Mr. Pratte. 'But to see it in its
pristine beauty you should be here when it rains. It's adorable then!'
By that time I had observed that Mr. Pratte had very blue eyes, with a
great deal of laugh in them. His complexion you could find in America
only at the close of the seaside season, among the people, who have just
come home, and even then it would be patchy--it would not have the solid
richness of tint that Mr. Pratte's had. It was a wholesome complexion,
and it went very well with the rest of Mr. Pratte. I liked its tones of
brown and red, and the way it deepened in his nose and the back of his
neck. In fact, I might as well say in the beginning that I liked Mr.
Pratte altogether--there was something very winning about him. His
manner was variable: sometimes extremely flippant, sometimes--and then
he let his eyeglass drop--profoundly serious, and sometimes, when he
had it in mind, preserving a level of cynical indifference that
was impressively interesting, and seemed to stand for a deep and
unsatisfactory experience of life. For the rest, he was just a tall
young subaltern, very anxious to be amused, with a dog.

Mr. Pratte went on to say that he was about the only man in the place
not on parade. There was some recondite reason for this, which I have
forgotten. Lady Torquilin asked him how his mother and sisters were, and
he said: 'Oh, they were as fit as possible, thanks, according to latest
despatches,' which I at once mentally put down as a lovely idiom for use
in my next Chicago letter. I wanted, above all things, to convince them
at home that I was wasting no time so far as the language was concerned;
and I knew they would not understand it, which was, of course, an
additional pleasure. I would express myself very clearly about it
though, I thought, so as not to suggest epilepsy or anything of that
sort.

Americans are nearly always interested in public buildings. We are
very proud of our own, and generally point them out to strangers before
anything else, and I was surprised that Mr. Pratte mentioned nothing of
the sort as we drove through Aldershot. So the first one of any size or
importance that met my eye I asked him about. 'That, I suppose, is
your jail?' I said, with polite interest, as we came in sight of a long
building with that simplicity of exterior that always characterises
jails. Our subaltern gave vent to a suppressed roar. 'What is she saying
now?' asked Lady Torquilin, who had not been paying attention.

'She says--oh, I say, Auntie, what a score! Miss Wick has just pointed
out that building as Aldershot _jail!_'

'Isn't it?' said I.

'I'm afraid Miss Wick is pullin' our leg, Auntie!'

Now, I was in the back seat, and what could have induced Mr. Pratte to
charge me with so unparalleled and impossible a familiarity I couldn't
imagine, not being very far advanced in the language at the time; but
when Mr. Pratte explained that the buildings I referred to were the
officers' quarters, with his own colonel's at one end--and 'Great
Scott!' said Mr. Pratte, going off again, 'What would the old man say to
that?'--I felt too much overcome by my own stupidity to think about
it. I have since realised that I was rather shocked. It was, of course,
impossible to mention public buildings again in any connection, and,
although I spent a long and agreeable day at Aldershot, if you were to
ask me whether it had so much as a town pump, I couldn't tell you. But
I must say I am not of the opinion that it had. To speak American, it
struck me as being rather a one-horse town, though nothing could be
nicer than I found it as a military centre.

[Illustration: 0207]

We drove straight out of town to the parade-ground, over a road that
wound through rugged-looking, broken fields, yellow with your wonderful
flaming gorse and furze, which struck me as contrasting oddly with
the neatness of your landscapes generally. When I remarked upon their
uncultivated state, Mr. Pratte said, with some loftiness, that military
operations were not advantageously conducted in standing corn--meaning
wheat--and I decided for the rest of the day to absorb information, as
far as possible, without inquiring for it.

It was a lovely day--no clouds, no dust, nothing but blue sky, and
sunshine on the gorse; and plenty of people, all of whom seemed to have
extreme views upon the extraordinary fineness of the weather, were on
their way to the parade-ground, chiefly driving in dogcarts. Whenever we
passed a lady in anything more ambitious, Mr. Pratte invariably saluted
very nicely indeed, and told Lady Torquilin that she was the wife of
Colonel So-and-so, commanding the somethingth something. And I noticed
all through the day what a great deal of consideration these ladies
received from everybody, and what extraordinary respect was accorded to
their husbands. I have no doubt it is a class distinction of yours, and
very proper; but I could not help thinking of the number of colonels and
their families we have at home, and how little more we think of them on
that account. Poppa's head man in the baking-powder business for years
was a colonel--Colonel Canister; so is poppa himself--and I never knew
either of them show that they thought anything of it. I suppose momma's
greatest friend is Mrs. Colonel Pabbly, but that is because their tastes
are similar and their families about the same age. For that matter, I
daresay one-third of the visiting-cards momma receives have 'Colonel'
between the 'Mrs.' and the last name. It is really no particular
distinction in America.

We were rather late, and all the best places had been taken up by the
dogcarts of other people. They formed an apparently unbroken front, or,
more properly, back, wherever we wanted to get in. By some extraordinary
means, however, more as a matter of course than anything else--it
couldn't have been done in America--Mr. Pratte inserted his dogcart in
an extremely advantageous position, and I saw opposite, and far off,
the long, long double line of soldiers, stretching and wavering as
the country dipped and swelled under the sky. 'In a minute,' said Mr.
Pratte, 'you'll hear the "furious joy"'--and an instant later there came
splitting and spitting against the blue, from east to west, and from
west to east, the chasing white smoke-jets of the _feu de joie_. You
have a few very good jokes in England.

It seemed to me that two of the bands which defied each other for
the rest of the morning began playing at that instant to prevent any
diminution in the furious joy, while the long line of soldiers broke up
into blocks, each block going off somewhere by itself; and Mr. Pratte
told Lady Torquilin about a dance in town the night before, where he met
a lot of people he loved.

'Was the fair and only one there?' Lady Torquilin inquired with
archness; and Mr. Pratte's countenance suddenly became rueful as he
dropped his eyeglass. 'Yes,' he said; 'but there's a frost on--we
don't play with each other any more!' And I believe other confidences
followed, which I did not feel entitled to hear, so I divided my
attention between the two bands and the parade. One band stood still at
a little distance, and played as hard as possible continually, and every
regiment sent its own band gloriously on ahead of it with the colonel,
generally getting the full significance out of a Scotch jig, which Mr.
Pratte said was the 'march-past.' It made a most magnificently effective
noise.

I hope the person for whose benefit that parade was chiefly intended--I
believe there is always some such person in connection with parades--was
as deeply impressed with it as I was. It was the first time I had ever
seen English soldiers in bulk, and they presented a threatening solidity
which I should think would bo very uninteresting to the enemy. There are
more interstices in our regiments--I think it must be admitted that we
are nationally thinner than you are. Besides, what we are still in the
habit of calling 'our recent unpleasantness' happened about a quarter of
a century ago, and I shouldn't think myself that a taste for blood could
survive that period of peace and comfort, to be very obvious. Certainly,
Chicago parades had not prepared me for anything so warlike as this. Not
that I should encourage anybody to open hostilities with us, however.
Though we are thin, we might be found lively.

The cavalry regiments were splendid, with the colonel's horse as
conscious as anybody of what was expected of him, as the colonel's
horse, stepping on ahead; and particularly the Lancers, with their gay
little pennons flying; but there was not the rhythmic regularity in
their movement that was so beautiful to see in the infantry
coming after. Lady Torquilin found it very absurd--there were so
admirable--that the parade was that long, saw from the rear as once; but
it seemed to of martial order in it. That, and the swing of gleam of the
sun on many points to notice that were more thing I liked best in the
whole quick, instant crinkle that we every man bent his knee at me to
have the whole essence and to hold great fascination, the Highlanders'
kilts, and the their philabegs, and the pride of their marching.

[Illustration: 0210]

That Aldershot Highland regiment, with its screaming bagpipes, seemed,
to my Chicago imagination, to have marched straight out of Inkermann.
Then came the South Wales Borderers, and I heard the story of the
Isandula colours, with the Queen's little gold wreath above them, that
went, preciously furled, in the middle. I wished then--though it is not
consistent with the Monroe doctrine--that we had a great standing army,
with traditions and a constant possibility of foreign fighting. It
may be discouraging to the increase of the male population, but it
encourages sentiment, and is valuable on that account.

So they all came and passed and went, and came and passed and went
again, three times--the whole ten thousand cavalry, infantry, artillery,
commissariat, ambulance, doctors, mules, and all--with a great dust, and
much music, and a tremendous rattling and bumping when the long waggons
came, at the rear of which a single soldier sat in each, with his legs
hanging down looking very sea-sick and unhappy. And they showed me a
prince-subaltern, walking through the dust beside his company with the
others. Nobody seemed to see anything remarkable in this but me, so I
thought it best to display no surprise. But the nominal nature of some
privileges in England began to grow upon me. I also saw a mule--a stout,
well-grown, talented mule--who did not wish to parade. I was glad of
the misbehaviour of that mule. It reduced to some extent the gigantic
proportions of my respect for the British Army.

I met some of the colonels, and their wives and daughters, afterwards,
and in most cases I was lost in admiration of the military tone of the
whole family. Chicago colonels often have very little that is strikingly
military about them, and their families nothing at all. But here the
daughters carried themselves erect, moved stiffly but briskly, and
turned on their heels as sharply as if they were on the parade-ground. I
suppose it would be difficult to live in such constant association with
troops and barracks, and salutes and sentries, and the word of command,
without assimilating somewhat of the distinctive charm of these things;
and the way some of the colonels' ladies clipped their sentences, and
held their shoulders, and otherwise identified themselves with their
regiments, was very taking. It explained itself further when I saw
the 'quarters' in which one or two of them kept house--very pleasant
quarters, where we received most interesting and delightful hospitality.
But it would be odd if domesticity in a series of rooms very square
and very similar, with 'C. O.' painted in black letters over all their
doors, did not develop something a little different from the ordinary
English lady accustomed to cornices and _portières_.

Then came lunch at the mess, at which, as the colonel took care of Lady
Torquilin, I had the undivided attention of Mr. Oddie Pratte, which I
enjoyed. Mr. Pratte was curious upon the subject of American girls
at home--he told me he began to believe himself misinformed about
them--seriously, and dropping his eyeglass. He would like to
know accurately--under a false impression one made such awkward
mistakes--well, for instance, if it were true that they were up to all
sorts of games at home, how was it they were all so deucedly solemn when
they came over here? Mr. Pratte hoped I wouldn't be offended--of course,
he didn't mean that _I_ was solemn--but--well, I knew what he meant--I
_must_ know! And wouldn't I have some more sugar for those strawberries?
'I like crowds of sugar, don't you?' said Mr. Oddie Pratte. Another
thing, he had always been told that they immediately wanted to see
Whitechapel. Now he had asked every American girl he'd met this season
whether she had seen Whitechapel, and not one of'em had.

He wasn't going to ask me on that account. They didn't, as a rule, seem
to see the joke of the thing. Mr. Pratte would like to know if I had
ever met the M'Clures, of New York--Nellie M'Clure was a great pal of
his--and was disappointed that I hadn't. The conversation turned to
India, whither Mr. Pratte's regiment was ordered to proceed immediately,
and I received a good deal of information as to just how amusing life
might be made there from Mr. Pratte. 'They say a man marries as soon
as he learns enough Anglo-Indian to propose in!' he remarked, with
something like anticipative regret. 'First dance apt to be fatal--bound
to bowl over before the end of the season. Simla girl is known to be
irresistible.' And Lady Torquilin, catching this last, put in her oar in
her own inimitable way. 'You're no nephew of mine, Oddie,' said she, 'if
you can't say "No."' Whereat I was very sorry for Oddie, and forgave him
everything.

There was tea on the lawn afterwards, and bagpipes to the full
lung-power of three Highlanders at once, walking up and down, and
beating time on the turf with one foot in a manner that was simply
extraordinary considering the nature of what they were playing; and
conversation with more Aldershot ladies, followed by an inspection in
a body of Mr. Pratte's own particular corner of the barracks, full of
implements of war, and charming photographs, and the performance of Mr.
Pratte's intellectual, small dog. That ended the Aldershot parade. We
have so few parades of any sort in America, except when somebody of
importance dies--and then they are apt to be depressing--that I was
particularly glad to have seen it.



XIX

|POPPA'S interests in London necessitated his having lawyers
there--Messrs. Pink, Pink & Co., of Cheapside. If you know New York, you
will understand me when I say that I had always thought Cheapside a kind
of Bowery, probably full of second-hand clothing shops and ice-cream
parlours--the last place I should think of looking for a respectable
firm of solicitors in, especially after cherishing the idea all my life
that London lawyers were to be found only in Chancery Lane. But that
was Messrs. Pink & Pink's address, and the mistake was one of the large
number you have been kind enough to correct for me.

It was a matter of some regret to poppa that Messrs. Pink & Pink were
bachelors, and could not very well be expected to exert themselves for
me personally on that account; two Mrs. Pinks, he thought, might have
done a little to make it pleasant for me in London, and would, probably,
have put themselves out more or less to do it. But there was no Mrs.
Pink, so I was indebted to these gentlemen for money only, which they
sent me whenever I wrote to them for it, by arrangement with poppa. I
was surprised, therefore, to receive one morning an extremely polite
note from Messrs. Pink & Pink, begging me to name an afternoon when
it would be convenient for me to call at their office, in order that
Messrs. Pink & Pink might have the honour of discussing with me a matter
of private business important to myself. I thought it delightfully
exciting, and wrote at once that I would come next day. I speculated
considerably in the meantime as to what the important private matter
could possibly be--since, beyond my address, Messrs. Pink & Pink knew
nothing whatever of my circumstances in London--but did not tell Lady
Torquilin, for fear she would think she ought to come with me, and
nothing spoils an important private matter like a third person.

'1st Floor, Messrs. Dickson & Dawes, Architects; 2nd Floor, Norwegian
Life Insurance Co.; 3rd floor, Messrs. Pink & Pink, Solicitors,' read
the framed directory inside the door in black letters on a yellow
ground. I looked round in vain for an elevator-boy, though the narrow,
dark, little, twisting stairway was so worn that I might have known that
the proprietors were opposed to this innovation. I went from floor
to floor rejoicing. At last I had found a really antique interior in
London; there was not a cobweb lacking in testimony. It was the very
first I had come across in my own private investigations, and I had
expected them all to be like this.

Four or five clerks were writing at high desks in the room behind the
frosted-glass door with 'Pink & Pink' on it. There was a great deal
of the past in this room also, and in its associations--impossible to
realise in America--which I found gratifying. The clerks were nearly all
elderly, for one thing--grey-headed men. Since then I've met curates
of about the same date. The curates astonished me even more than the
clerks. A curate is such a perennially young person with us. You would
find about as many aged schoolboys as elderly curates in America. I
suppose our climate is more favourable to rapid development than yours,
and they become full-fledged clergymen or lawyers after a reasonable
apprenticeship. If not, they must come within the operation of some
evolutionary law by which they disappear. America is a place where there
is very little room for anachronisms.

Beside the elderly clerks, the room had an air of old leather, and three
large windows with yellow blinds _pinned up_--in these days of automatic
rollers. Through the windows I noticed the cheerful chimneys and spires
of London, E.O., rising out of that lovely atmospheric tone of yellow
which is so becoming to them; and down below--if I could only have
got near enough I am certain I should have seen a small dismantled
graveyard, with mossy tombstones of different sizes a long way out of
the perpendicular. I have become accustomed to finding graveyards in
close connection with business enterprise in London, and they appeal
to me. It is very nice of you to let them stay just where they were put
originally, when you are so crowded.

[Illustration: 8216]

At home there isn't a dead person in existence, so to speak, that would
have a chance in a locality like Cheapside.

And they must suggest to you all sorts of useful and valuable things
about the futility of ambition and the deceitfulness of riches down
there under your very noses, as it were, whenever you pause to look at
them. I can quite understand your respect for them, even in connection
with what E.C. frontage prices must be, and I hope, though I can't be
sure, that there was one attached to the offices in Cheapside of Messrs.
Pink & Pink.

The clerks all looked up with an air of inquiry when I went in, and I
selected the only one who did not immediately duck to his work again for
my interrogation. It was an awkward interrogation to make, and I made
it awkwardly. 'Are the Mr. Pinks in?' I asked; for I did not know in the
least how many of them wanted to see me.


'I believe so, miss,' said the elderly clerk, politely, laying down his
pen. 'Would it be Mr. A. Pink, or Mr. W. W. Pink?'

I said I really didn't know.

'Ah! In that case it would be Mr. A. Pink. Shouldn't you say
so?'--turning to the less mature clerk, who responded loftily, from a
great distance, and without looking, 'Probably.' Whereupon the elderly
one got down from his stool, and took me himself to the door with 'Mr.
A. Pink' on it, knocked, spoke to someone inside, then ushered me into
the presence of Mr. A. Pink, and withdrew.

The room, I regret to say, did not match its surroundings, and could
not have been thought of in connection with a graveyard. It was quite
modern, with a raised leather wall-paper and revolving chairs. I noticed
this before I saw the tall, thin, depressed-looking gentleman who had
risen, and was bowing to me, at the other end of it. He was as bald as
possible, and might have been fifty, with long, grey side-whiskers, that
fell upon a suit of black, very much wrinkled where Mr. Pink did not
fill it out. His mouth was abruptly turned down at the corners, with
lines of extreme reserve about it, and whatever complexion he might have
had originally was quite gone, leaving only a modified tone of old-gold
behind it. 'Dear me!' I thought, 'there can be nothing interesting or
mysterious here.' Mr. Pink first carefully ascertained whether I was
Miss Wick, of Chicago; after which he did not shake hands, as I had
vaguely expected him to do, being poppa's solicitor, but said,
'Pray be seated, Miss Wick!'--and we both sat down in the revolving
chairs, preserving an unbroken gravity.

'You have been in London some weeks, I believe, Miss Wick,' said Mr. A.
Pink, tentatively. He did not know quite how long, because for the first
month I had plenty of money, without being obliged to apply for it. I
smiled, and said 'Yes!' with an inflection of self-congratulation. I was
very curious, but saw no necessity for giving more information than was
actually asked for.

'Your--ah--father wrote us that you were coming over alone. That must
have required great courage on the part of'--here Mr. Pink cleared his
throat--'so young a lady;' and Mr. Pink smiled a little narrow, dreary
smile.

'Oh, no!' I said, 'it didn't, Mr. Pink.'

''You are--ah--quite comfortable, I hope, in Cadogan Mansions. I think
it is Cadogan Mansions, is it not?--Yes.'

'Very comfortable indeed, thank you, Mr. Pink. They are comparatively
modern, and the elevator makes it seem more or less like home.'

Mr. Pink brightened; he evidently wished me to be discursive. 'Indeed!'
he said--'Ye-es?'

'Yes,' I returned; 'when I have time I always use the elevator.'

'That is not, I think, the address of the lady your father mentioned to
us as your only relative in London, Miss Wick?' 'Oh no,' I responded,
cheerfully; 'Mrs. Cummers Portheris lives in Half-Moon Street, Mr.
Pink.'

'Ah, so I understand. Pardon the inquiry, Miss Wick, but was there not
some expectation on your father's part that you would pass the time of
your visit in London with Mrs. Portheris?'

'On all our parts, Mr. Pink. But it vanished the day after I
arrived'--and I could not help smiling as I remembered the letter I had
written from the Métropole telling the Wick family about my reception by
my affectionate relation.

Mr. Pink smiled too, a little doubtfully as well as drearily this time.
He did not seem to know quite how to proceed.

'Pardon me again, Miss Wick, but there must be occasions, I should
think, when you would feel your--ah--comparative isolation'--and Mr.
Pink let one of his grey whiskers run through his long, thin hand.

'Very seldom,' I said; 'there is so much to see in London, Mr. Pink.
Even the store-windows are entertaining to a stranger'--and I wondered
more than ever what was coming.

II see--I see. You make little expeditions to various points of
interest--the Zoological Gardens, the Crystal Palace, and so forth.'

It began to be like the dialogues in the old-fashioned read-ing-books,
carefully marked I Q.' and 'A.'

[Illustration: 0220]

'Yes,' I said, 'I do. I haven't seen the Zoo yet, but I've seen Mrs.
Por------'; there I stopped, knowing that Mr. Pink could not be expected
to perceive the sequence of my ideas.

But he seemed to conclude that he had ascertained as much as was
necessary. 'I think, Miss Wick,' he said, 'we must come to the point at
once. You have not been in England long, and you may or may not be aware
of the extreme difficulty which attaches--er--to obtaining--that is to
say, which Amer--_foreigners_ find in obtaining anything like a correct
idea of--of social institutions here. To a person, I may say, without
excellent introductions, it is, generally speaking, impossible.'

I said I had heard of this difficulty.

'I do not know whether you, personally, have any curiosity upon this
point, but----'

I hastened to say that I had a great deal.

'But I should say that it was probable. There are few persons of your
intelligence, Miss Wick, I venture to hazard, by whom a knowledge of
English society, gained upon what might be termed a footing of intimacy,
would fail to be appreciated.'

I bowed. It was flattering to be thought intelligent by Mr. Pink.

'The question now resolves itself, to come, as I have said, straight to
the point, Aliss Wick, into whether you would or would not care to take
steps to secure it.'

'That would depend, I should think, upon the nature of the steps, Mr.
Pink. I may as well ask you immediately whether they have anything to do
with Aliss Purkiss.'

'Nothing whatever--nothing whatever!' Mr. Pink hastened to assure me. 'I
do not know the lady. The steps which have recommended themselves to
me for you would be taken upon a--upon a basis of mutual accommodation,
Aliss Wick, involving remuneration, of course, upon your side.'

'Oh!' said I, comprehendingly.

'And in connection with a client of our own--an old, and, I may say,
a highly-esteemed'--and Mr. Pink made a little respectful forward
inclination of his neck--'client of our own.' I left the burden of
explanation wholly to Mr. Pink, contenting myself with looking amiable
and encouraging.

'A widow of Lord Bandobust,' said Mr. Pink, with an eye to the effect of
this statement. The effect was bad--I could not help wondering how many
Lord Bandobust had, and said, 'Really!' with an effort to conceal it.

'Lady Bandobust, somewhat late in life--this, of course, is
confidential, Miss Wick--finds herself in a position to--to appreciate
any slight addition to her income. His lordship's rather peculiar
will--but I need not go into that. It is, perhaps, sufficient to say
that Lady Bandobust is in a position to give you every advantage, Miss
Wick--_every_ advantage.'

This was fascinating, and I longed to hear more. 'It seems, a little
indefinite,' said I to Mr. Pink.

'It does, certainly--you are quite right, Miss Wick--it does. Beyond
approaching you, however, and ascertaining your views, I am not
instructed to act in the matter. Ascertaining your views in particular,
I should say, as regards the sum mentioned by Lady Bandobust as a--a
proper equivalent--ahem!'

'What is her ladyship's charge?' I inquired.

'Lady Bandobust would expect three hundred pounds. My client wishes it
to be understood that in naming this figure she takes into consideration
the fact that the season is already well opened,' Mr. Pink said. 'Of
course, additional time must be allowed to enable you to write to your
parents.'

'I see,' I said; 'it does not strike me as exorbitant, Mr. Pink,
considering what Lady Bandobust has to sell.'

Mr. Pink smiled rather uncomfortably. 'You Americans are so humorous,'
he said, with an attempt at affability.

'Well'--drawing both whiskers through his hand conclusively, and
suddenly standing up--'will you step this way, Miss Wick? My client has
done me the honour of calling in person about this matter, and as your
visits, oddly enough, coincide, you will be glad of the opportunity of
going into details with her.' And Mr. A. Pink opened the door leading
into the room of Mr. W. W. Pink. I was taken by surprise, but am afraid
I should have gone in even after time for mature deliberation, I was so
deeply, though insincerely, interested in the details.

[Illustration: 0222]



XX

[Illustration: 9224]

ADY BANDOBUST, may I have the honour of introducing Miss Wick, of
Chicago?' said Mr. Pink, solemnly, bowing as if he himself were being
introduced to somebody. 'I could not do better, I am sure, Miss Wick,
than leave you in Lady Bandobust's hands'--with which master-stroke
of politeness Mr. Pink withdrew, leaving me, as he said, in Lady
Bandobust's hands. She was a little old woman in black, with sharp
eyes, a rather large, hooked nose, and a discontented mouth, over
which hovered an expression of being actively bored. She had sloping
shoulders, and little thin fingers in gloves much too long for them,
and her bonnet dated back five seasons. Her whole appearance, without
offering any special point for criticism, suggested that appreciation of
any pecuniary advantage of which Mr. Pink had spoken, though her manner
gave me definitely to understand that she did not care one jot about it.
She was looking out of the window when Mr. Pink and I came in, and after
acknowledging my bow with a small perfunctory smile, a half-effort to
rise, and a vague vertebral motion at the back of her neck, she looked
out of the window again. I am convinced that there was nothing in the
view that could possibly interest her, yet constantly, in the course of
our conversation, Lady Bandobust looked out of the window. She was
the most uninterested person I have had the pleasure of talking to in
England.

[Illustration: 0225]

[Illustration: 0227]

I said it was a lovely day.

'Yes,' said Lady Bandobust. 'Mr. Pink tells me you are an American,
Miss Wick, though anybody could see that much. He knows your father, I
believe?'

'Not personally, I think,' I returned. 'Poppa has never visited England,
Lady Bandobust.'

'Perhaps we had better say "financially," then--knows him financially.'

'I daresay that is all that is necessary,' I said, innocently at the
time, though I have since understood Lady Bandobust's reason for looking
at me so sharply.

'You come from Chinchinnatti, I understand from Mr. Pink,' she
continued.

'I beg your pardon? Oh, Cincinatti! No, from Chicago, Lady Bandobust.'

'_I understood_ from Mr. Pink that you came from Chinchinnatti--the
place where people make millions in tinned pork. I had a nephew there
for seven years, so I ought to know something about it,' said Lady
Bandobust, with some asperity. 'But if you say you are from Chickago, I
have no doubt you are right.'

'Mr. Pink informed me,' continued Lady Bandobust, 'that he thought
you might feel able to afford to see a little of English society. I've
noticed that Americans generally like to do that if they can.'

I said I was sure it would be interesting.

'It is very difficult,' said Lady Bandobust--'extremely difficult. It is
impossible that you should know how difficult it is.'

I remarked modestly, by way of reply, that I believed few things worth
having were easy to get.

Lady Bandobust ignored the generalisation. 'As Mr. Pink has probably
told you, it costs money,' said she, with another little concessive
smile.

'Then, perhaps, it is not so difficult after all,' I replied, amiably.

Lady Bandobust gave me another sharp look. 'Only you rich Americans
can afford to say that,' she said. 'But Mr. Pink has told me that the
expense would in all likelihood be a matter of indifference to your
people. That, of course, is important.'

'Poppa doesn't scrimp,' I said. 'He likes us to have a good time.'

'Regardless,'said Lady Bandobust--'regardless of the cost! That is very
liberal.'

'Americans,' she went on, 'in English society are very fortunate. They
are always considered as--as Americans, you understand----'

'I'm afraid I don't,' said I.

'And I think, on the whole, they are rather liked. Yes generally
speaking, I think I may say they are liked.'

I tried to express my gratification.

'As a rule,' said Lady Bandobust, absently, 'they spend so much money in
England.'

'There can be no doubt of the _advantages_ of an experience of English
society,' she continued, rather as if I had suggested one. 'To a young
lady especially it is invaluable--it leads to so much. I don't know
quite to what extent you would expect----' Here Lady Bandobust paused,
as if waiting for data on which to proceed.

'I would expect----?' I repeated, not quite understanding.

'But I think I could arrange a certain number of balls, say four; one or
two dinners--you wouldn't care much about dinners, though, I dare say;
a few good 'at homes'; a Saturday or so at Hurlingham--possibly Ascot;
but, of course, you know everything would depend upon yourself.'

'I could hardly expect you to make me enjoy myself, Lady Bandobust,' I
said. 'That altogether depends upon one's own capacity for pleasure, as
you say.'

'Oh, altogether!' she returned. 'Well, we might say six
balls--thoroughly good ones'--and Lady Bandobust looked at me for
a longer time together than she had yet--'and _possibly_ the Royal
Inclosure at Ascot. I say "possibly" because it is very difficult to
get. And a house-party to finish up with, which really ought to be
extra, as it doesn't properly belong to a London season; but if I can
at all see my way to it,' Lady Bandobust went on, 'I'll put it into
the three hundred. There are the Allspices, who have just bought Lord
Frereton's place in Wilts--I could take anybody there!'

'Your friends must be very obliging, Lady Bandobust,' said I.

'The Private View is over,' said Lady Bandobust; 'but there is the
Academy Soiree in June, and the Royal Colonial Institute, and a few
things like that.'

'It sounds charming,' I remarked.

'We might do something about the Four-in-hand,' Lady Bandobust
continued, with some impatience.

'Yes?' I said.

There was a pause, in which I cast about me for some way of escape. I
felt that my interest in Lady Bandobust was exhausted, and that I
could not pretend to entertain her scheme any longer with self-respect.
Besides, by this time I cordially hated her. But I could think of no
formula to retreat under, and resigned myself to sit there helplessly,
and defend myself as best I could, until I was dismissed.

Lady Bandobust produced her last card. 'The Duchess of Dudlington gives
a _fête_ on the twelfth,' she said, throwing it, as it were, upon the
table. 'I should probably be able to take you there.'

'The Duchess of Dudlington?' said I, in pure stupidity.

'Yes. And she is rather partial to Americans, for some extraordinary
reason or another.' The conversation flagged again.

'Presentation--if that is what you are thinking of--would be extra, Miss
Wick,' Lady Bandobust stated, firmly.

'Oh'--how much extra, Lady Bandobust?'

My prospective patroness did not hesitate a minute. 'Fifty pounds,' she
said, and looked at me inquiringly.

'I--I don't think I was thinking of it, Lady Bandobust,' I said. I felt
mean, as we say in America.

'You were not! Well,' said she, judicially, 'I don't know that I would
advise the outlay. It is a satisfactory thing to have done, of course,
but not nearly so essential as it used to be--nothing like. You can get
on without it. And, as you say, fifty pounds is fifty pounds.'

I knew I hadn't said that, but found it impossible to assert the fact.

'Miss Boningsbill, whom I took out last season, I did present,' Lady
Bandobust continued; 'but she went in for everything--perhaps more
extensively than you would be disposed to do. It might facilitate
matters--give you an idea, perhaps--if I were to tell you my
arrangements with Miss Boningsbill.'

'I should like to hear them,' I said.

'She did not live with me--of course, chaperonage does not imply
residence, you understand that. When she went out with me she called for
me in her brougham. She had a brougham by the month, and a landau for
the park. I should distinctly advise you to do the same. I would, in
fact, make the arrangement for you. I know a very reliable man.' Lady
Bandobust paused for my thanks.

'Generally speaking, Miss Boningsbill and I went out together; but when
I found this particularly inconvenient, she took one carriage and I the
other, though she always had her choice. I _stipulated_ only to take
her to the park twice a week, but if nothing interfered I went oftener.
Occasionally I took her to the play--that bores me, though. I hope you
are not particularly fond of the theatre. And then she usually found it
less expensive to get a box, as there were generally a few other people
who could be asked with advantage--friends of my own.' 'She had a box at
Ascot, too, of course,' Lady Bandobust went on, looking down her nose
at a fly in the corner of the window-pane; 'but that is a matter of
detail.'

'Of course,' I said, because I could think of nothing else to say.

'I gave her a ball,' Lady Bandobust continued; 'that is to say, cards
were sent out in my name. That was rather bungled, though--so many
friends of mine begged for invitations for friends of theirs that I
didn't know half the people. And Miss Boningsbill, of course, knew
nobody. Miss Boningsbill was dissatisfied about the cost, too. I was
foolish enough to forget to tell her beforehand. Everything came from
my own particular tradespeople, and, naturally, nothing was cheap. I
_never_ niggle,' said Lady Bandobust, turning her two little indifferent
black eyes full upon me.

'Miss Boningsbill insisted on having her name on the cards as well,'
she said: '"Lady Bandobust and Miss Boningsbill," you understand. That I
should not advise--very bad form, I call it.'

'She was married in October,' Lady Bandobust continued, casually. The
second son of Sir Banbury Slatte--the eldest had gone abroad for his
health. I knew the Banbury Slattes extremely well--excellent family.'

'Miss Boningsbill,' Lady Bandobust went on, absently, 'had nothing like
your figure.'

'Was she an American?' I asked.

'No--Manchester,' answered Lady Bandobust, laconically.

'Cotton-spinners.'

'My dressmaker tells me she finds a marked difference between English
and American figures.' I remarked; 'but I am afraid it is not to our
advantage. We are not nearly so fine as you are.'

'Ah!' said Lady Bandobust. 'Who is your dressmaker?' she asked with
interest.

'I spoke of the firm whose place of business, though not mentioned in
any guide-book, I had found to repay many visits.

'Oh, those people!' said Lady Bandobust. 'Dear, I call them. Smart
enough for evening frocks, but _certainly_ not to be depended upon for
anything else. I should strongly advise you to try Miss Pafty, in Regent
Street, and say I sent you. And for millinery, do let me recommend
Madame Marie. I would give you a note to her. An _excessively_ clever
woman--personal friend of my own. A husband and two sons to support, so
she makes bonnets. I _believe_ the Princess goes to her regularly. And
you pay very little more than you do anywhere else. And now, with regard
to our little scheme, what do you think, Miss Wick?'

'Really, Lady Bandobust,' said I, 'I am afraid I must think about it.' A
decided negative was an utter impossibility at the time.

'Ah!' said Lady Bandobust, I perhaps you think my terms a little
high--just a trifle more than you expected, perhaps. Well, suppose we
say two hundred and fifty?'

'I had no expectations whatever about it, Lady Bandobust,' I said; 'I
knew nothing of it up to about an hour ago.'

'Two hundred,' said Lady Bandobust.

'I am afraid I have no idea of the value of--of such things, Lady
Bandobust,' I faltered.

'I _can_ bring it as low as one hundred and fifty,' she returned, 'but
it would not be quite the same, Miss Wick--you could not expect that.'

*****

The rest of the conversation, which I find rather painful to call
to memory, may perhaps be imagined from the fact that Lady Bandobust
finally brought her offer down to seventy-five pounds, at which point I
escaped, taking her address, promising to write her my decision in the
course of a day or two, and feeling more uncomfortably contemptible than
ever before in my life. We happened to be making visits in Park Lane
next day, and as Lady Bandobust lived near there, I took the note
myself, thinking it would be more polite. And I found the locality,
in spite of its vicinity to Park Lane, quite extraordinary for Lady
Bandobust to have apartments in.

I met Lady Bandobust once again. It was at an 'at home' given by Lord
and Lady Mafferton, where everybody was asked 'to meet' a certain
distinguished traveller. Oddly enough, I was introduced to her, and we
had quite a long chat. But I noticed that she had not caught my name as
my hostess pronounced it--she called me 'Miss Winter' during the whole
of our conversation, and seemed to have forgotten that we had ever seen
each other before; which was disagreeable of her, in my opinion.



XXI

|I WENT to Ascot with the Bangley Coffins--Mr., Mrs., and the two Misses
Bangley Coffin. I didn't know the Bangley Coffins very well, but they
were kind enough to ask Lady Torquilin if I might go with them, and Lady
Torquilin consented with alacrity. 'You _couldn't_ go away from England
without seeing Ascot,' said she. 'It would be a sin! It's far too much
riot for me; besides, I can't bear to see the wretched horses. If they
would only learn to race without beating the poor beasties! To say
nothing of the expense, which I call enormous. So by all means go with
the Bangley Coffins, child--they're lively people--I daresay you'll
enjoy yourself.'

Lady Torquilin was surprised and disappointed, however, when she
learned that the party would go by train. 'I wonder at them,' she said,
referring to the Bangley Coffins; 'they know such a lot of people. I
would have said they were morally certain to be on somebody's drag.
Shall you care to go by train?' Whereupon I promptly assured Lady
Torquilin that I was only too happy to go any way.

So we started, the morning of the Gold Cup day, I and the Bangley
Coffins. I may as well describe the Bangley Coffins, in the hope that
they may help to explain my experiences at Ascot. I have to think of
Mrs. Bangley Coffin very often myself, when I try to look back
intelligently upon our proceedings.

Mrs. Bangley Coffin was tall, with a beautiful figure and pale gold
hair. The Misses Bangley Coffin were also tall, with prospectively
beautiful figures and pale gold hair. I never saw such a resemblance
between mother and daughters as there was between the Misses Bangley
Coffin and their mamma. They sat up in the same way, their shoulders had
the same slope, their elbows the same angle. The same lines developed
on the countenance of Mrs. Bangley Coffin were undeveloped on the
countenances of the Misses Bangley Coffin. Except in some slight matter
of nose or eyes, Mr. Bangley Coffin hardly suggested himself in either
of the young ladies. When they spoke, it was in their mother's voice and
in their mother's manner--a manner that impressed you for the moment
as being the only one in the world. Both they and their mamma had on
dresses which it was perfectly evident they had never worn before, and
of which they demanded my opinion with a frankness that surprised me.
'What do you think,' said they, 'of our Ascot frocks?' I admired them
very much; they represented, amongst them, nearly all the fashionable
novelties, and yet they had a sort of conventional originality, if I may
say such a thing, which was extremely striking. They seemed satisfied
with my applause, but promptly fell upon me for not meriting applause
myself. 'We saw you,' they said unitedly, 'in that frock last Sunday in
the park!'--and there was a distinct reproach in the way they said it.
'It's quite charming!' they assured me--and it was--'but it's not as
if you hadn't _quantities_ of them! Do you mean to say Lady Torquilin
didn't tell you you ought to have a _special_ frock for Ascot?' 'She
said I should do very well in this,' I declared, 'and that it would be
a sin to buy another; I had much better give the money to Dr. Barnardo!'
Whereat Mrs. Bangley Coffin and the two Misses Bangley Coffin looked at
one another and remarked, 'How like Lady Torquilin!'

'I didn't give it to Dr. Barnardo,' I continued--to which Mrs. Bangley
Coffin rejoined, in parenthesis, 'I should hope not'--' but I'm glad
Lady Torquilin did not advise me to get an Ascot frock, though yours are
very pretty. I feel that I couldn't have sustained one--I haven't the
personality!' And indeed this was quite true. It occurred to me often
again through the day; I could not have gone about inside an Ascot frock
without feeling to some extent the helpless and meaningless victim of
it. The Bangley Coffin girls thought this supreme nonsense, and declared
that I could carry anything off, and Mrs.

Bangley Coffin said, with pretended severity, that it was not a
question of feeling but of _looking_; but they united in consoling me
so successfully that I at last believed myself dressed to perfection for
Ascot--if I had only worn something else to the park the Sunday before!

[Illustration: 9237]

The husband and father of the Bangley Coffins was a short,
square-shouldered gentleman with bushy eyebrows, a large moustache,
plaid trousers, and a grey tail-coat that was a very tight fit round the
waist. He had an expression of deep sagacity, and he took from an inner
pocket, and fondled now and then, a case containing six very large brown
cigars. His look of peculiar anticipative intelligence, combined with
the cigars, gave me the idea that we should not be overburdened with Mr.
Bangley Coffin's society during the day--which proved to be a correct
one.

It did not seem to me, in spite of what Lady Torquilin had said, that
it was at all unpopular to go to Ascot by rail. Trains were leaving the
station every four or five minutes, all full of people who preferred
that way of going; and our own car, which was what, I believe, you
call a 'saloon carriage,' had hardly an empty seat. They looked nice
respectable people, too, nearly all in Ascot frocks, though not perhaps
particularly interesting. What surprised me in connection with the ride
was the length of it; it was not a ride, as I had somehow expected, of
twenty minutes or half an hour from London, but a journey of, I forget
how many, interminable hours. And what surprised me in connection
with the people was their endurance of it. They did not fuss, or grow
impatient, or consult their watches as the time dragged by; they sat
up, calm and placid and patient, and only looked occasionally, for
refreshment, at their Ascot frocks. They seemed content to take an
enormous amount of trouble for the amusement which might be supposed to
be tickling their fancy at the other end of the trip--if there was any
other end--to take it unshrinkingly and seriously. It gave me an idea of
how difficult it is to be amused in England--unless you are a foreigner.
Ascot to them was no light matter, and to me it was such a very light
matter. I tried to imagine any fifty Americans of my acquaintance
dressing up in their best clothes, and spending six or seven hours of
a day in protracted railway journeys, for the sake of a little fun
in between; and I failed. It's as much as we would do to inaugurate a
president, or bury a general who saved the Union. We would consider the
terms high. But, of course, it is impossible for me to say how we might
behave if we had Distinguished Occasions, with Royal Inclosures inside
them.

We started with a sense of disappointment, which seemed to come in
through the windows and envelop the Bangley Coffins, because 'some
people' they had expected failed to appear upon the platform. Mr.
Bangley Coffin looked particularly depressed. 'Don't see how the deuce
we're going to arrange!' he said to Mrs. Bangley Coffin, with unction.
'Oh, there's sure to be somebody, Joey, love!' she returned, cheerfully;
'and in any case, you see, we have you.' To which Mr. Bangley Coffin
gave a dubious and indistinct assent. I did not get on well with Mr.
Bangley Coffin. He seemed to mean well, but he had a great many phrases
which I did not in the least understand, and to which he invariably
added, 'As you say in America.' It was never by any chance a thing we
did say in America, but nothing could make Mr. Bangley Coffin believe
that. I can't say that we had much general conversation either, but in
what there was I noticed great good-feeling between the Misses Bangley
Coffins and their mamma.

'The bonnet of that Israelite at the other end of the carriage would
suit you to a "T", mummie,' one of them remarked in joke. The bonnet was
a terrible affair, in four shades of heliotrope.

'Yes,' replied Mrs. Bangley Coffin, smiling quite good-naturedly;
'that's about my form.'

The Bangley Coffins were all form. Form, for them, regulated existence.
It was the all-compelling law of the spheres, the test of all human
action and desire. 'Good form' was the ultimate expression of their
respect, 'bad form' their final declaration of contempt. Perhaps I
should misjudge the Bangley Coffins if I said form was their conscience,
and I don't want to misjudge them--they were very pleasant to me. But I
don't think they would have cared to risk their eternal salvation upon
any religious tenets that were not entirely _comme il faut_--I mean the
ladies Bangley Coffin. The head of their house twisted his moustache and
seemed more or less indifferent.

There is no doubt that, in the end, we did get to Ascot, and left our
dust-cloaks in charge of that obliging middle-aged person who is to
be found in every ladies' waiting-room in England. There was some
discussion as to whether we should or should not leave our dust-cloaks
with her--they were obviously unbecoming, but, obviously also, it might
rain. However, in the end we did. Mrs. Bangley Coffin thought we might
trust to Providence, and Providence proved itself worthy of Mrs. Bangley
Coffin's confidence.

Again, as we joined the crowd that surged out of the station, I noticed
that look of anxious expectancy on the face of the Bangley Coffin
family. It was keener than before, and all embracing. I even fancied I
noticed an understood division of survey--an arrangement by which Mr.
Bangley Coffin looked to the north, and Mrs. Bangley Coffin to the
south, one young lady to the east, and the other to the west. 'We really
must keep an eye open,' said Mr. Bangley Coffin. 'Coming this way?
Oh! Hullo, Pip ply, old man! H'are you?' with extreme cordiality, to a
short, very stout gentleman in grey, with a pink face and a hooked nose,
and a white moustache, and a blue-spotted necktie--a New Yorker, I was
sure, before he spoke. Pipply responded with very moderate transports,
and shook hands hastily with the ladies attached to Mr. Bangley Coffin.
'Mrs. Pipply's with you, I see,' continued Mr. Bangley Coffin, joyously,
'and that charming sister of hers! Kitty, we _must_ see whether they
have forgotten us, mustn't we?'--and he and Kitty advanced upon two very
much-accented fair ladies in frilled muslins and large flowery hats.
They were dressed as fashionably as Bond Street could dress them, and
they were as plump and pretty as could be, but perhaps just a little too
big and blue of eye and pink-and-white of complexion quite to satisfy
the Bangley Coffin idea of 'form.' It would be difficult to account
otherwise for what they did. For the Pipplys, they were very amiable,
but, as you might say, at bay; and after reproaching the Bangley Coffins
with having never, never, never come to see them, after promising
_solemnly_ to do so at Cannes, where they had all had _such_ a good time
together, Mrs. Pipply proceeded to say that she didn't know whether we
were driving--if not, they had room for one, and we might arrange to
meet again somewhere. 'How good of you!' said Mrs. Bangley Coffin, and
looked at her two daughters. 'We're really obliged to you,' said Mr.
Bangley Coffin, and bent a gaze of strong compulsion upon his wife. The
young ladies smiled, hesitated, and looked at me. I couldn't go. I had
not even been introduced. There was an awkward pause--the kind of pause
you never get out of England--and as the Pipplys, rather huffed and
rather in a hurry, were moving off, Mrs. Bangley Coffin covered their
retreat, as it were, with the unblushing statement that she was afraid
we must try to keep our little party together. And we lost the Pipplys;
whereupon Mr. Bangley Coffin regarded his family with the air of a
disciplinarian. 'They're _certain_ to be on a drag,' said he, 'and no
end of Pipply's clubs have tents. Why didn't one of you go? Not classy
enough, eh?' Whereupon they all with one accord began to make excuse,
after which we walked on in a troubled silence. It was very dusty and
very steep, that narrow hill that so many people find fortune at the top
or ruin at the bottom of, leading to the heart of Ascot. But the day had
brightened, and the people--all going uphill--were disposed to be merry,
and two one-armed sailors sat in the sun by the side of the road singing
ballads and shouting, 'Good luck to you, ladies!' so that my spirits
gradually rose. I didn't see how I could help enjoying myself.

'I always think it's such a frightful charge for admission to the Grand
Stand,' said Mrs. Bangley Coffin, as we walked up the arboreal approach
to it. 'A sovereign! Of course, they have to do it, you know, to keep
the mob out; but really, when one thinks of it, it is too much!'

I thought this a real kindness of Mrs. Bangley Coffin, because if I had
not known it was so much I might have let Mr. Bangley Coffin pay for my
ticket too.

It was about this time that Mr. Bangley Coffin disappeared. He launched
us, as it were, upon the crowded terrace in front of the Grand Stand,
where at every turn the Misses Bangley Coffin expected to see a man they
knew. He remained semi-detached and clinging for about a quarter of an
hour, coming up with an agreeable criticism upon a particular costume,
darting off again to talk to a large, calm man with an expansive checked
shirt-front and a silk hat well on the back of his head, who carried a
notebook. Then, once, Mrs. Bangley Coffin addressed him, thinking him
behind her. I Joey, love!' said she. 'Joey, love!' said she again,
turning her head. But Joey was utterly and wholly gone. I believe he
explained afterwards that he had lost us.

'There!' said Mrs. Bangley Coffin, with incisiveness; 'now we _must_ see
somebody we know! Pet, isn't that Sir Melville Cartus?' It was, and Sir
Melville came up in response to Mrs. Bangley Coffin's eyeglass and bow
and smile, and made himself extremely agreeable for about four minutes
and a-quarter. Then he also took off his hat with much charm of manner
and went away. So did a nervous little Mr. Trifugis, who joined us for a
short time. He said he was on the Fitzwalters's drag, and it was so
uncommon full he had apprehensions about getting back. Whose drag were
we on? and didn't we think it was drawing near the halcyon hour of
luncheon?

'Nobody's,' said Mrs. Bangley Coffin, pointedly. 'We came by train this
year. Joey is suffering from a fit of economy--the result of Surefoot's
behaviour at the Derby. It _is_ about time for luncheon.'

Whereat Mr. Trifugis dropped his eyeglass and looked absently over his
left shoulder, blushing hard. Then he screwed the eyeglass in again very
tight, looked at us all with amiable indefiniteness, took off his
hat, and departed. 'Little beast!' said Mrs. Bangley Coffin, candidly;
'there's not the slightest reason why he couldn't have given us all
luncheon at the Lyric enclosure.'

Then I began to see why it was so necessary that we should meet somebody
we knew--it meant sustenance. It was, as Mr. Trifugis had said, quite
time for sustenance, and neither the Bangley Coffin family nor I had
had any since breakfast, and if it had not been for that consideration,
which was naturally a serious one, I, for my part, would have been
delighted just to go round, as we seemed likely to do, by ourselves.
There was no band, as there never is in England--I suppose because
Edward the Confessor or somebody didn't like bands; but there was
everything else that goes to give an occasion brilliance and variety--a
mingling crowd of people with conventionally picturesque clothes and
interesting manners, sunlight, flags, a race-course, open boxes, an
obvious thrill of excitement, a great many novel noises. Besides, it was
Ascot, and its interest was intrinsic.

'I think we must try the drags,' said Mrs. Bangley Coffin--and we
defiled out into the crowd beyond the gates, whose dress is not
original, that surges unremuneratively between the people who pay on the
coaches and the people who pay on the Lawn. It was more amusing outside,
though less exclusive--livelier, noisier. Men were hanging thick against
the palings of the Lawn, with expressions of deep sagacity and coloured
shirts, calling uninterruptedly, 'Two to one bar one!' 'Two to one
Orveito!' and very well dressed young gentlemen occasionally came up
and entered into respectful conference with them. We were jostled a good
deal in the elbowing multitude, and it seemed to me to be always, as if
in irony, by a man who sold gingerbread or boiled lobsters. We made our
way through it, however, and walked slowly in the very shadow of the
drags, on top of which people with no better appetites than we had were
ostentatiously feasting. We were all to look out for the Pibbly hats,
and we did--in vain. 'I can't imagine,' said Mrs. Bangley Coffin to
each of her daughters in turn, 'why you didn't go with them!' We saw Mr.
Trifugis, and noted bitterly that he had not been at all too late.
An actress on the Lyric drag gave us a very frank and full-flavoured
criticism of our dresses, but it was unsatisfying, except to the
sensibilities.

[Illustration: 0245]

'Shall we try behind, mamma?' asked one of the young ladies. 'Who could
possibly see us behind?' exclaimed Mrs. Bangley Coffin, who was getting
cross. Nevertheless, we did try behind, and somebody did see us--several
very intelligent footmen.

'Is there no place,' I inquired for the fourth or fifth time, 'where we
could _buy_ a little light refreshment?' Mrs. Bangley Coffin didn't say
there was not, but seemed to think it so improbable that it was hardly
worth our while to look. 'Nobody lunches at Ascot, Miss Wick,' she said
at last, with a little asperity, 'except on the drags or at the club
enclosures. It's--it's impossible.'

'Well,' I said, 'I think it's very unenterprising not to make provision
for such a large number of people. If this were in America----' But just
then we came face to face with Colonel and Mrs. B. J. Silverthorn, of
St. Paul's, Minnesota. To say that I was glad to see these old friends
in this particular emergency is to say very little. I knew the Colonel's
theory of living, and I was quite sure that starving for six hours on an
English racecourse had no place in it. I knew his generous heart, too,
and was confident that any daughter of poppa's might rely upon it to
the utmost. So, after introducing Mrs. and the Alisses Bangley Coffin,
I proceeded to explain our unfortunate situation. 'Can you tell us,' I
begged, 'where we can get something to eat?'

The Colonel did not hesitate a moment. 'Come right along with me,' he
said. 'It isn't just the Fifth Avenue Hotel, but it'll do if you're
hungry, and I guess you are!' And we all followed him to the rather
abridged seclusion of the restaurant behind the Grand Stand. The Colonel
did it all very handsomely--ordered champagne, and more dishes than
twice as many people could have disposed of; but the cloud that rested
upon the brows of Mrs. and the Alisses Bangley Coffin did not disperse
with the comforting influence of food, and they kept a nervous eye upon
the comers and goers. I suppose they had waited too long for their meal
really to enjoy it.

We parted from Colonel and Mrs. Silverthorn almost immediately
afterwards--they said they wanted to go and have another good look
at the Royalties and Dukes in their own yard, and Mrs. Bangley Coffin
thought it was really our duty to stay where Mr. Bangley Coffin might
find us. So we went and sat in a row and saw the Gold Cup won, and
shortly after took an early train for London, Mrs. Bangley Coffin
declaring that she had no heart for another sovereign for the Paddock.
On the way home she said she was sorry I had had such a dull day, and
that it was her first and last attempt to 'screw' Ascot. But I had not
had at all a dull day--it had been immensely interesting, to say nothing
of the pleasure of meeting Colonel and Mrs. Silverthorn. I quite agreed
with Mrs. Bangley Coffin, however, that it is better to make liberal
arrangements for Ascot when you go as an Ascot person.



XXII

|I DON'T know what we were about to let Miss Wick miss the Boats,' said
Mr. Mafferton one day, over his after-noon-tea in Lady Torquilin's flat.
I looked at Lady Torquilin, and said I thought Mr. Mafferton must be
mistaken; I had never missed a boat in my life, and, besides, we hadn't
been going anywhere by boat lately. The reason we had put off our trip
to Richmond five times was invariably because of the weather. Peter
Corke happened to be there that afternoon, too, though she didn't make
much of a visit. Miss Corke never did stay very long when Mr. Alafferton
was there--he was a person she couldn't bear. She never called him
anything but 'That.' She declared you could see hundreds of him any
afternoon in Piccadilly, all with the same hat and collar and expression
and carnation in their button-holes. She failed to see why I should
waste any portion of my valuable time in observing Mr. Alafferton, when
I had still to see 'Dolly's Chop House,' and Guy the King-maker's tablet
in Warwick Lane, and the Boy in Panyer Alley, and was so far unimproved
by anything whatever relating to Oliver Goldsmith or Samuel Johnson.
She could not understand that a profoundly uninteresting person might
interest you precisely on that account. But, 'Oh you aborigine!' she
began about the Boats, and I presently understood another of those
English descriptive terms by which you mean something that you do not
say.

The discussion ended, very happily for me, in an arrangement suggested
jointly by Miss Corke and Mr. Mafferton. Lady Torquilin and I should go
to Oxford to see 'the Eights.' Mr. Mafferton had a nephew at Pembroke,
and no doubt the young cub would be delighted to look after us. Miss
Corke's younger brother was at Exeter, and she would write to the
dear boy at once that he must be nice to us. Peter was very sorry she
couldn't come herself--nothing would have given her greater pleasure,
she said, than to show me all I didn't know in the Bodleian.

I suppose we have rather a large, exaggerated idea of Oxford in America,
thinking about it, as it were, externally. As a name it is so constantly
before us, and the terms of respect in which the English despatches
speak of it are so marked, that its importance in our eyes has become
extremely great. We think it a city, of course--no place could grow to
such fame without being a city--and with us the importance of a city
naturally invests itself in large blocks of fine buildings chiefly
devoted to business, in a widely-extended and highly-perfected telephone
system, and in avenues of Queen Anne residences with the latest modern
conveniences. And Lady Torquilin, on the way, certainly talked a great
deal about 'the High'--which she explained to be Oxford's principal
thoroughfare--and the purchases she had at one time or another made
on it, comparing Oxford with London prices. So that I had quite an
extensive State Street or Wabash Avenue idea of 'the High.' Both our
young gentlemen friends were fractional parts of the Eights, and were
therefore unable to meet us. It had been arranged that we should lunch
with one at two, and take tea with the other at five, but Lady Torquilin
declared herself in urgent need of something sustaining as soon as we
arrived, and 'Shall we go to the Clarendon to get it?' said she, 'or to
Boffin's?'

'What is Boffin's?' I inquired. It is not safe, in English localisms, to
assume that you know anything.

'Boffin's is a pastry-cook's,' Lady Torquilin informed me, and I
immediately elected for Boffin's. It was something idyllic, in these
commonplace days, when Dickens has been so long dead, that Boffin should
be a pastry-cook, and that a pastry-cook should be Boffin. Perhaps
it struck me especially, because in America he would have been a
'confectioner,' with some aesthetic change in the spelling of the
original Boffin that I am convinced could not be half so good for
business. And we walked up a long, narrow, quiet street, bent like an
elbow, lined with low-roofed little shops devoted chiefly, as I
remember them, to the sale of tennis-racquets, old prints, sausages, and
gentlemen's neckties, full of quaint gables, and here and there lapsing
into a row of elderly stone houses that had all gone to sleep together
by the pavement, leaving their worldly business to the care of the
brass-plates on their doors. Such a curious old street we went up
to Boffin's, so peaceful, nothing in it but inoffensive boys
pushing handcarts, and amiable gentlemen advanced in years with
spectacles--certainly more of these than I ever saw together in any
other place--never drowsing far from the shadow of some serious grey
pile, ivy-bearded and intent, like a venerable scholar--oh, a very
curious old street!

'Shall we get,' said I to Lady Torquilin, 'any glimpse of the High
before we reach Boffin's?' Dear Lady Torquilin looked at me sternly,
as if to discover some latent insincerity. 'None of your impertinence,
miss,' said she; 'this is the High!'

I was more charmed and delighted than I can express, and as Lady
Torquilin fortunately remembered several things we urgently needed, and
could buy to much better advantage in Oxford than in 'Town,' I had the
great pleasure of finding out what it was like to shop in the High,
and the other queer little streets which are permitted to run--no, to
creep--about the feet of the great wise old colleges that take such
kindly notice of them. It was very nice, to my mind, that huddling
together of pastry-cooks and gargoyles, of chapels and old china shops,
of battered mediæval saints and those little modern errand-boys
with their handcarts--of old times and new, preponderatingly old and
respectfully new. Much more democratic, too, than a seat of learning
would be in America, where almost every college of reputation is
isolated in the sea of 'grounds,' and the only sound that falls upon
the academic ear is the clatter of the lawn-mower or the hissing of the
garden-hose. Nor shall I soon forget the emotions with which I made
a perfectly inoffensive purchase in a small establishment of wide
reputation for petty wares, called, apparently from time immemorial,
'The Civet Cat'--not reproachfully, nor in a spirit of derision, but
bearing the name with dignity in painted letters.

People who know their way about Oxford will understand how we found ours
to Pembroke from the High. I find that I have forgotten. We stood at so
many corners to look, and Lady Torquilin bade me hurry on so often, that
the streets and the colleges, and the towers and the gardens, are all
lost to me in a crowded memory that diverges with the vagueness of
enchantment from Carfax and Boffin's. But at last we walked out of the
relative bustle of the highways and byways into the quietest place
I ever saw or felt, except a graveyard in the Strand--a green square
hedged in with buildings of great dignity and solidity, and very serious
mind. I felt, as we walked around it to ask a respectable-looking man
waiting about on the other side where Mr. Sanders Horton's rooms were,
as if I were in church.

[Illustration: 0253]

'Yes'm! This way'm, if you please,' said the respectable-looking man.
'Mr.'Orton's rooms is on the first floor h'up,'m'; and as Mr. Horton
himself had come out on the landing to receive us, and was presently
very prettily shaking hands with us, we had no further difficulty. Our
host had not considered himself equal to lunching two strange ladies
unassisted, however, and as he looked a barely possible nineteen, this
was not remarkable, Lady Torquilin thought afterwards. He immediately
introduced his friend, Lord Symonds, who seemed, if anything, less
mature, but whose manners were quite as nice. Then we all sat down in
Mr. Sanders Horton's pretty little room, and watched the final evolution
of luncheon on the table, and talked about the view. 'You have a lovely
lawn,' said I to Mr. Horton, who responded that it wasn't a bad quad;
and when I asked if the respectable-looking man downstairs was the
caretaker of the college: 'Oh, nothing so swagger!' said Lord Symonds;
'probably a scout!' And the presence of a quad and a scout did more than
all the guide-books I read up afterwards to give me a realising sense
of being in an English university centre. We looked at Mr. Horton's
pictures, too, and examined, complimentarily, all his decorative effects
of wood-carving and old china, doing our duty, as is required of ladies
visiting the _menage_ of a young gentleman, with enthusiasm. I was a
little disappointed, personally, in not finding the initials of Byron or
somebody cut on Mr. Horton's window-sill, and distinctly shocked to hear
that this part of Pembroke College had been built within the memory
of living man, as Mr. Horton was reluctantly obliged to admit. He
apologised for its extreme modernness on the ground of its comparative
comfort, but seemed to feel it, in a subdued way, severely, as was
eminently proper. Among the various photographs of boat-races upon the
wall was one in which Mr. Horton pointed out 'the Torpids,' which I
could not help considering and remarking upon as a curious name for
a boating-crew. 'Why are they called that?' I asked; 'they seem to be
going pretty fast.'

'Oh, rather!' responded Mr. Horton. 'Upon my word, I don't know. It does
seem hard lines, doesn't it? Symonds, where did these fellows get their
name?' But Lord Symonds didn't know exactly either--they'd always
had it, he fancied; and Lady Torquilin explained that 'this young
lady'--meaning me--could never be satisfied with hearing that a thing
was so because it was so--she must always know the why and wherefore of
everything, even when there was neither why nor wherefore; at which we
all laughed and sat down to luncheon. But I privately made up my mind
to ask an explanation of the Torpids from the first Oxford graduate
with honours that I met, and I did. He didn't know either. He was not a
boating-man, however; he had taken his honours in Classics.



XXIII

[Illustration: 9256]

HAD heard so much from English sources of the precocity and forwardness
of very young people in America, that I was quite prepared to find a
commendably opposite state of things in England, and I must say that,
generally speaking, I was not disappointed. The extent to which young
ladies and gentlemen under twenty-two can sit up straight and refrain
from conversation here, impressed me as much as anything I have seen in
society. I have not observed any of this shyness in married ladies or
older gentlemen; and that struck me oddly, too, for in America it is
only with advancing years that we become conscious of our manners.

I have no doubt that, if the Eights had been in America--where they
would probably be called the Octoplets--and Mr. Sanders Horton had been
a Harvard Sophomore, and Lord Symonds's father had made his fortune out
of a patent shoe-lace-tag, and we had all been enjoying ourselves over
there, we might have noticed a difference both in the appearance and the
behaviour of these young gentlemen. They would certainly have been older
for their years, and more elaborately dressed. Their complexions would
probably not have been so fresh, nor their shoulders so broad, and the
pencilling on Mr. Horton's upper lip, and the delicate, fair marking on
Lord Symonds's, would assuredly have deepened into a moustache. Their
manners would not have been so negatively good as they were in Oxford,
where they struck me as expressing an ideal, above all things, to avoid
doing those things which they ought not to do. Their politeness would
have been more effusive, and not the least bit nervous; though I hope
neither Mr. Horton nor Lord Symonds will mind my implying that in Oxford
they were nervous. People can't possibly help the way they have been
brought up, and to me our host's nervousness was interesting, like his
English accent, and the scout and the quad. Personally, I liked the
feeling of superinducing bashfulness in two nice boys like those--it was
novel and amusing--though I have no doubt they were much more afraid of
Lady Torquilin than of me. I never saw a boy, however, from twelve to
twenty-three--which strikes me as the span of boyhood in England--that
was not Lady Torquilins attached slave after twenty minutes'
conversation with her. She did not humour them, or flatter them, or talk
to them upon their particular subjects; she was simply what they called
'jolly' to them, and their appreciation was always prompt and lively.
Lady Torquilin got on splendidly with both Mr. Sanders Horton and Lord
Symonds. The only reason why Mr. Horton's lunch was not an unqualifiedly
brilliant success was that, whenever she talked to one of our hosts, the
other one was left for me to talk to, which was usually distressing for
both of us.

It was an extremely nice lunch, served with anxious deference by the
respectable-looking little man who had come upstairs, and nervously
commanded by Mr. Horton at one end with the cold joint, and Lord Symonds
at the other with the fowl. It began, I remember, with _bouillon_. Lady
Torquilin partook of _bouillon_, so did I; but the respectable scout did
not even offer it to the young gentlemen. I caught a rapid, inquiring
glance from Lady Torquilin. Could it be that there was not _bouillon_
enough? The thought checked any utterance upon the subject, and we
finished our soup with careful indifference, while Lord Symonds covered
the awkwardness of the situation by explaining to me demonstratively
the nature of a Bump. I did not understand Bumps then, nor did I succeed
during the course of the afternoon in picking up enough information to
write intelligently about them. But this was because Lord Symonds had no
_bouillon_. Under the circumstances, it was impossible for me to put my
mind to it.

Presently Mr. Horton asked us if he might give us some salmon--not
collectively, but individually and properly, Lady Torquillin first; and
we said he might. He did not help Lord Symonds, and relapsed himself,
as it were, into an empty plate. It was Lady Torquilin's business to
inquire if the young gentlemen were not well, or if salmon did not agree
with them, and not mine; but while I privately agitated this matter,
I unobservantly helped myself to _mayonnaise_. 'I--I beg your pardon,'
said Mr. Sanders Horton, in a pink agony; 'that's cream!' So it was,
waiting in a beautiful old-fashioned silver pitcher the advent of
those idylls that come after. It was a critical moment. Only one thing
occurred to me to say, for which I hope I may be forgiven.

[Illustration: 9259]

'Yes,' I returned, 'we like it with fish in America. At which Mr. Horton
looked interested and relieved. And I ate as much of the mixture as I
could with a smile, though the salmon had undergone a vinegar treatment
which made this difficult. 'It is in Boston, is it not,' remarked Lord
Symonds politely, 'that the people live almost entirely upon beans?' And
the conversation flowed quite generally until the advent of the fowl.
It was a large, well-conditioned chicken, and when the young gentlemen,
apparently by mutual consent, refrained from partaking of it, the
situation had reached a degree of unreasonableness which was more than
Lady Torquilin could endure.

'Do you intend to eat?'

'Oh, we'd like to, but we can't,' they replied, earnestly and
simultaneously.

'We're still in training, you know,' Lord Symonds went on. 'Fellows have
got to train pretty much on stodge.' And at this juncture Mr. Horton
solemnly cut two slices of the cold beef, and sent them to his friend,
helping himself to the same quantity with mathematical exactness. Then,
with plain bread, and gravity which might almost be called severe, they
attacked it.

Lady Torquilin and I looked at each other reproachfully. This privation
struck us as needless and extreme, and it had the uncomfortable moral
effect of turning our own repast into a Bacchanalian revel. We frowned,
we protested, we besought. We suggested with insidious temptation that
this was the last day of the races, and that nobody would know. We
commended each particular dish in turn, in terms we thought most
appetising. It was very wrong, and it had the sting which drives
wrong-doing most forcibly home to the conscience, of being entirely
futile, besides engendering the severe glances of the respectable scout.
The young gentlemen were as adamant, if adamant could blush. They
would not be moved, and at every fresh appeal they concentrated their
attention upon their cold beef in a manner which I thought most noble,
if a trifle ferocious. At last they began to look a little stern
and disapproving, and we stopped, conscious of having trenched
disrespectfully upon an ideal of conduct. But over the final delicacy
of Mr. Horton's lunch, the first of the season, Lady Torquilin regarded
them wistfully. 'Not even gooseberry tart?' said she. And I will not say
that there was no regret in the courageous rejoinder:

'Not even gooseberry tart.'

I am not pretending to write about the things that ought to have
impressed me most, but the things that did impress me most, and these
were, at Mr. Sanders Horton's luncheon, the splendid old silver college
goblets into which our host poured us lavish bumpers of claret-cup, the
moral support of the respectable scout, and the character and dignity
an ideal of duty may possess, even in connection with cold beef. I came
into severe contact with an idiom, too, which I shall always associate
with that occasion. Lord Symonds did not belong to Pembroke College,
and I asked him, after we had exchanged quite a good deal of polite
conversation, which one he did belong to.

'How lovely these old colleges are,' I remarked, 'and so nice and
impressive and time-stained. Which one do you attend, Lord Symonds?'

'Maudlin,' said Lord Symonds, apparently taking no notice of my
question, and objecting to the preceding sentiment.

'Do you think so?' I said. I was not offended. I had made up my mind
some time before never to be offended in England until I understood
things. 'I'm very sorry, but they do strike an American that way, you
know.'

Lord Symonds did not seem to grasp my meaning. 'It is jolly old,' said
he. 'Not so old as some of 'em. New, for instance. But I thought you
asked my college. Maudlin, just this side of Maudlin bridge, you know.'

'Oh!' I said. 'And will you be kind enough to spell your college, Lord
Symonds? I am but a simple American, over here partly for the purpose of
improving my mind.'

'Certainly. "M-a-g-d-a-l-e-n,"' returned Lord Symonds, very
good-naturedly. 'Now that you speak of it, it is rather a rum way of
spelling it. Something like "Cholmondeley." Now, how would you spell
"Cholmondeley?"'

I was glad to have his attention diverted from my mistake, but
the reputation of 'Cholmondeley' is world-wide, and I spelled it
triumphantly. I should like to confront an American spelling-match
with 'Magdalen,' though, and about eleven other valuable orthographical
specimens that I am taking care of.

In due course we all started for the river, finding our way through
quads even greyer and greener and quieter than Exeter, and finally
turning into a pretty, wide, tree-bordered highway, much too well
trodden to be a popular Lovers' Walk, but dustily pleasant and shaded
withal. We were almost an hour too early for the races, as Mr. Horton
and Lord Symonds wished to take us on the river before they were obliged
to join their respective crews, and met hardly anybody except occasional
strolling, loose-garmented undergraduates with very various ribbons on
their round straw hats, which they took off with a kind of spasmodic
gravity when they happened to know our friends. The tree-bordered walk
ended more or less abruptly at a small stream, bordered on its hither
side by a series of curious constructions reminding one of all sorts
of things, from a Greek warship to a Methodist church in Dakota, and
wonderfully painted. These, Mr. Horton explained, were the College
barges, from which the race was viewed, and he led the way to the Exeter
barge. There is a stairway to these barges, leading to the top, and Mr.
Horton showed us up, to wait until he and Lord Symonds got out the punt.

The word 'punting' was familiar to me, signifying an aquatic pursuit
popular in England, but I had never even seen a punt, and was very
curious about it. I cannot say, however, that the English punt, when our
friends brought it round, struck me as a beautiful object. Doubtless it
had points of excellence, even of grace, as compared with other punts--I
do not wish to disparage it--but I suffered from the lack of a standard
to admire it by. It seemed to me an uninteresting vessel, and I did not
like the way it was cut off at the ends. The mode of propulsion, too,
by which Mr. Horton and Lord Symonds got us around the river--poking a
stick into the mud at the bottom and leaning on it--did not impress me
as being dignified enough for anybody in Society. Lord Symonds asked me,
as we sat in one end enjoying the sun--you get to like it in England,
even on the back of your neck--what I thought of punting. I told him I
thought it was immoderately safe. It was the most polite thing I could
think of at the spur of the moment. I do not believe punting would ever
become popular in America. We are a light-minded people; we like an
element of joyous risk; we are not adapted to punt.

The people were beginning to come down upon the barges when we returned
from this excursion, and it was thought best that we should take our
places. The stream was growing very full, not only of laborious punts
containing three brightly-dressed ladies and one perspiring young man,
but of all kinds of craft, some luxuriously overshadowed with flounced
awnings, under which young gentlemen with cigarette-attachments reposed,
protecting themselves further with Japanese paper umbrellas. The odd
part of this was that both they and their umbrellas seemed to be taken
by themselves and everybody else quite _au sérieux_. This, again, would
be different in America.

Mr. Horton left us with Lord Symonds, who had not to row, he explained
to us, until later in the day; and presently we saw our host below, with
the rest of his bare-legged, muscular crew, getting gingerly into the
long, narrow outrigger lying alongside. They arranged themselves with
great care and precision, and then held their oars, looking earnestly at
a little man who sat up very straight in the stern--the cox. He was my
first cox, for I had never seen a boat-race before, excepting between
champions, who do not row with coxes, and I was delighted to find how
accurately he had been described in the articles we read about English
boating--his size, his erect-ness and alertness, and autocratic dignity.
At a word from the cox every man turned his head half-way round and
back again; then he said, in the sternest accents I had ever heard,
'Are--you--ready?' and in an instant they were off.

'Where are they going?' Lady Torquilin asked.

'Oh, for a preliminary spin,' said Lord Symonds, 'and then for the
starting-point.'

'And when do the barges start?' I inquired, without having given the
matter any kind of consideration.

'The barges!' said Lord Symonds, mystified. 'Do you mean these? They
don't start; they stay here.'

'But can we see the race from here?' I asked.

'Beautifully! They come past.'

'Do I understand, Lord Symonds, that the Oxford boat-race takes place
_out there?_'

'Certainly,' said he. 'Why not?'

'Oh, no particular reason,' I returned--'if there is room.'

'Rather!' the young gentleman explained. 'This is the noble river Isis,
Miss Wick.'

'It may not be so big as the Mississippi, but it's worthy of your
respectful consideration, young lady,' put in Lady Torquilin. Thus
admonished, I endeavoured to give the noble river Isis my respectful
consideration, but the barges occupied so much space in it that I was
still unable to understand how a boat-race of any importance could
come between us and the opposite bank without seriously inconveniencing
somebody.

It did, however, and such was the skill displayed by the coxes in
charge that nobody was hurt. It came off amid demonstrations of the most
extraordinary nature, tin whistles predominating, on the opposite bank,
where I saw a genuine bishop capering along with the crowd, waving his
hat on his stick. It came off straight and tense and arrowy, cheered to
the last stroke.

[Illustration: 0266]

'So near it!' said Lord Symonds, after shouting 'Well rowed, Pembroke!'
until he could shout no longer.

'Near what?' I asked.

'A bump,' said he, sadly; 'but it was jolly well rowed!' and for the
moment I felt that no earthly achievement could compare with the making
of bumps.

Such excitement I never saw, among the Dons on the barges--my first
Dons, too, but they differed very much; I could not generalise about
them--among their wives, who seemed unaggressive, youngish ladies, as
a rule, in rather subdued gowns; among the gay people down from 'Town,'
among the college men, incorrigibly uproarious; among that considerable
body of society that adds so little to the brilliance of such an
occasion but contributes so largely to its noise. And after it was over
a number of exuberant young men on the other side plunged into the noble
river Isis and crossed it with a few well-placed strides, and possibly
two strokes. None of them were drowned.

After that we had a joyous half-hour in the apartments, at Exeter, of
Mr. Bertie Corke, whose brown eyes had Peters very twinkle in them, and
who became established in our affections at once upon that account. Mr.
Corke was one of the Exeter Eight, and he looked reproachfully at
us when we inadvertently stated that we had lingered to congratulate
Pembroke.

'Pembroke got a bump, you know, yesterday,' I remarked, proud of the
technicality.

'Yes,' returned Mr. Bertie Corke, ruefully, 'bumped _us_.'

This was an unfortunate beginning, but it did not mar our subsequent
relations with Miss Peter Corke's brother, which were of the pleasantest
description. He told us on the way down once more to the noble river
Isis the names of all those delightful elderly stone images that had
themselves put over the college doors centuries ago, when they were
built, and he got almost as many interiors into half an hour as
his sister could. He explained to us, too, how, by the rules of the
University, he was not allowed to play marbles on the college steps,
or to wear clothes of other than an 'obfusc hue,' which was exactly the
kind of thing that Peter would tell you--and expect you to remember. He
informed us, too, that according to the pure usage of Oxonian English he
was a 'Fresher,' the man we had just passed being an unattached student,
a 'tosher,' probably walking for what in the vulgar tongue might be
called exercise, but here was 'ekker.' In many ways he was like Peter,
and he objected just as much to my abuse of the English climate.

The second race was very like the first, with more enthusiasm. I have a
little folding card with 'The Eiuuts, May 22 to 28, 1890,' and the names
of the colleges in the order of starting, printed in blue letters on the
inside. The 'order of finish' from 'B. N. C.' to 'St. Edm. Hall' is in
Mr. Bertie Corke's handwriting. I'm not a sentimentalist, but I liked
the Eights, and I mean to keep this souvenir.



XXIV.

[Illustration: 9268]

E records of my experiences in London would be very incomplete without
another chapter devoted to those Miss Peter Corke arranged for me.
Indeed, I would need the license of many chapters to explain at any
length how generously Miss Corke fulfilled to me the offices of guide,
philosopher, and friend; how she rounded out my days with counsel, and
was in all of them a personal blessing.

Dispensing information was a habit which Peter Corke incorrigibly
established--one of the things she could not help. I believe an
important reason why she liked me was because I gave her such unlimited
opportunities for indulging it, and she said I simulated gratitude
fairly well. For my own part, I always liked it, whether it was at the
expense of my accent or my idioms, my manners or my morals, my social
theories or my general education, and encouraged her in it. I was
pleased with the idea that she found me interesting enough to make it
worth while, for one thing, and then it helped my understanding of the
lady herself better than anything else would have done. And many voyages
and large expense might go into the balance against an acquaintance with
Peter Corke.

Miss Corke was more ardently attached to the Past than anybody I have
ever known or heard of that did not live in it. Her interest did not
demand any great degree of antiquity, though it increased in direct
ratio with the centuries; the mere fact that a thing was over and done
with, laid on the shelf, or getting mossy and forgotten, was enough to
secure her respectful consideration. She liked old folios and prints--it
was her pastime to poke in the dust of ages; I've seen her placidly
enjoying a graveyard--with no recent interments--for half an hour at a
time. She had a fine scorn of the Present in all its forms and phases.
If I heard her speak with appreciation of anybody with whose reputation
I was unacquainted, I generally found it safe to ask, intelligently,
'When did he die?' She always knew exactly, and who attended the
funeral, and what became of the children, and whether the widow got an
annuity from the Government or not, being usually of the opinion that
the widow should have had the annuity.

Of course, it was Miss Corke who took me down into Fleet Street to see
where Dr. Johnson used to live. I did not hear the name of Dr. Johnson
from another soul in London during the whole of my visit. My friend bore
down through the Strand, and past that mediæval griffin where Temple
Bar was, that claws the air in protection of your placid Prince in a
frock-coat underneath--stopping here an instant for anathema--and on
into the crook of Fleet Street, under St. Paul's, with all the pure
delight of an enthusiastic cicerone in her face. I think Peter loved
the Strand and Fleet Street almost as well as Dr. Johnson did, and
she always wore direct descendants of the seven-league boots. This was
sometimes a little trying for mine, which had no pedigree, though,
in other respects----; but I must not be led into the statement that
shoemaking is not scientifically apprehended in this country. I have
never yet been able to get anybody to believe it.

'This,' said Miss Corke, as we emerged from a dark little alley occupied
by two unmuzzled small boys and a dog into a dingy rectangle, where the
London light came down upon unblinking rows of windows in walls of all
colours that get the worse for wear--'this is Gough Court. Dr. Johnson
lived here until the death of his wife. You remember that he had a wife,
and she died?'

'I have not the least doubt of it,' I replied.

'I've no patience with you!' cried Miss Corke, fervently. 'Well, when
she died he was that disconsolate, in spite of his dictionaries, that he
couldn't bear it here any longer, and moved away.'

'I don't think that was remarkable,' I said, looking round; to which
Miss Corke replied that it was a fine place in those days, and Johnson
paid so many pounds, shillings, and pence rent for it every Lady Day.
'I am waiting,' she said, with ironical resignation, 'for you to ask me
which house.'

'Oh!' said I. 'Which house?'

'That yellowish one, at the end, idjit!' said Peter, with exasperation.
'Now, if you please, we'll go!'

I took one long and thoughtful look at the yellowish house at the end,
and tried to imagine the compilation of lexicons inside its walls about
the year 1748, and turned away feeling that I had done all within my
personal ability for the memory of Dr. Johnson. Miss Corke, however, was
not of that opinion. 'He moved to Johnson's Court somewhat later,' she
said, 'which you must be careful to remember was _not_ named from him.
We'll just go there now.'

'Is it far?' I asked; 'because there must be other celebrities----'

'_Far_!' repeated Miss Corke, with a withering accent; 'not ten minutes'
walk! Do the trams run _everywhere_ in America? There may be other
celebrities--London is a good place for them--but there's only one
Samuel Johnson.'

We went through various crooked ways to Johnson's Court, Miss Corke
explaining and reviling at every step. 'We _hear_' she remarked with
fine scorn, 'of intelligent Americans who come over here and apply
themselves diligently to learn London! And I've never met a citizen of
you yet,' she went on, ignoring my threatening parasol, 'that was not
quite satisfied at seeing one of Johnson's houses--houses he lived in!
You are a nation of tasters, Miss Mamie Wick of Chicago!' At which I
declared myself, for the honour of the Stars and Stripes, willing to
swallow any quantity of Dr. Johnson, and we turned into a little paved
parallelogram seven times more desolate than the first. Its prevailing
idea was soot, relieved by scraps of blackened ivy that twisted along
some of the window-sills. I once noticed very clever ivy decorations in
iron upon a London balcony, and always afterwards found some difficulty
in deciding between that and the natural vine, unless the wind blew. And
I would not like to commit myself about the ivy that grew in Johnson s
Court. 'Dear me!' said I; 'so he lived here, too! 'I do not transcribe
this remark because it struck me as particularly clever, but because
it seems to me to be the kind of thing anybody might have said without
exciting indignation. But Peter immediately began to fulminate again.
'Yes,' she said, 'he lived here too, miss, at No. 7, as you don't
appear to care to know. A little intelligent curiosity.' she continued,
apparently appealing to the Samuel Johnson chimneys, 'would be
gratifying!'

We walked around these precincts several times, while Miss Corke told me
interesting stories that reminded me of Collier's 'English Literature'
at school, and asked me if by any chance I had ever heard of Boswell.
I loved to find myself knowing something occasionally, just to annoy
Peter, and when I said certainly, he was the man to whom Dr. Johnson
owed his reputation, it had quite the usual effect.

'We shall now go to Bolt Court,' said my friend, 'where Samuel spent the
last of his days, surrounded by a lot of old ladies that I don't see how
he ever put up with, and from which he was carried to Westminster Abbey
in 1784. Hadn't you better put that down?'

Now Peter Corke would never have permitted me to call Dr. Johnson
'Samuel.'

I looked round Johnson's Court with lingering affection, and hung back.
'There is something about this place,' I said, 'some occult attraction,
that makes me hate to leave it. I believe, Peter, that the Past, under
your influence, is beginning to affect me properly. I dislike the
thought of remaining for any length of time out of reach, as it were, of
the memory of Dr. Johnson.'

Peter looked at me suspiciously. 'He lived at Bolt Court as well,' she
said.

'Nowhere between here and there?' I asked. 'No friend's house, for
instance, where he often spent the night? Where did that lady live who
used to give him nineteen cups of tea at a sitting? Couldn't we pause
and refresh ourselves by looking at her portals on the way?'

'Transatlantic impertinence,' cried Miss Corke, leading the way out, 'is
more than I can bear!'

'But,' I said, still hanging back, 'about how far------?'

When my dear friend gave vent to the little squeal with which she
received this, I knew that her feelings were worked up to a point where
it was dangerous to tamper with them, so I submitted to Bolt Court,
walking with humility all the way. When we finally arrived I could see
no intrinsic difference between this court and the others, except that
rather more--recently--current literature had blown up from an adjacent
news-stall. For a person who changed his residence so often, Dr.
Johnson's domestic tastes must have undergone singularly little
alteration.

'He went from here to Westminster Abbey, I think you said,' I remarked,
respectfully, to Peter.

'In 1784,' said Peter, who is a stickler for dates.

'And has not moved since!' I added, with some anxiety, just to aggravate
Peter, who was duly aggravated.

'Well,' I responded, 'we saw Westminster Abbey, you remember. And I
took particular notice of the monument to Dr. Johnson. We needn't go
_there_.'

'It's in St. Paul's!' said Peter, in a manner which wounded me, for if
there is an unpleasant thing it is to be disbelieved.

'And which house did Dr. Johnson live in here?' I inquired.

'Come,' said Peter, solemnly, 'and I'll show you.'

'It has been lost to posterity,' she continued, with depression--'burnt
in 1819. But we have the site--there!'

'Oh!' I replied. 'We have the site. That is--that is something, I
suppose. But I don't find it very stimulating to the imagination.'

'You haven't any!' remarked Miss Corke, with vehemence; and I have no
doubt she had reason to think so. As a matter of fact, however, the name
of Samuel Johnson is not a household word in Chicago. We don't govern
our letter-writing by his Dictionary, and as to the 'Tatler' and the
'Rambler,' it is impossible for people living in the United States to
read up the back numbers of even their own magazines. It is true that we
have no excuse for not knowing 'Rasselas,' but I've noticed that at
home hardly any of the English classics have much chance against Rider
Haggard, and now that Rudyard Kipling has arisen it will be worse still
for elderly respectable authors like Dr. Johnson. So that while I was
deeply interested to know that the great lexicographer had hallowed such
a considerable part of London with his residence, I must confess, to be
candid, that I would have been satisfied with fewer of his architectural
remains. I could have done, for instance, without the site, though I
dare say, as Peter says, they were all good for me.

Before I reached Lady Torquilin's flat again that day, Peter showed me
the particular window in Wine Office Court where dear little Goldsmith
sat deploring the bailiff and the landlady when Dr. Johnson took the
'Vicar' away and sold it for sixty pounds--that delightful old fairy
godfather whom everybody knows so much better than as the author of
'Rasselas.' And the 'Cheshire Cheese,' on the other side of the way,
that quaintest of low-windowed taverns, where the two sat with their
friends over the famous pudding that is still served on the same day of
the week. Here I longed in especial to go inside and inquire about the
pudding, and when we might come down and have some; but Peter said it
was not proper for ladies, and hurried me on. As if any impropriety
could linger about a place a hundred and fifty years old!

The Temple also we saw that day, and Goldsmith's quiet, solitary grave
in the shadow of the old Knights' Church, more interesting and lovable
there, somehow, than it would be in the crowd at Westminster. Miss
Peter Corke was entirely delightful in the Temple, whether she talked
of Goldsmith's games and dancing over Blackstone's sedate head in Brick
Court, or of Elizabeth sitting on the wide platform at the end of the
Middle Temple Hall at the first performance of' 'Twelfth Night,' where,
somewhere beneath those dusky oak rafters, Shakespeare made another
critic. Peter never talked scandal in the present tense, on principle,
but a more interesting gossip than she was of a century back I never had
a cup of tea with, which we got not so very far from the Cock Tavern in
Fleet Street; and I had never known before that Mr. Pepys was a flirt.



XXV

[Illustration: 9276]

R. MAFFERTON frequently expressed his regret that almost immediately
after my arrival in London--in fact, during the time of my
disappearance from the Métropole, and just as he became aware of my
being with Lady Torquilin--his mother and two sisters bad been obliged
to go to the Riviera on account of one of the Misses Mafferton's health.
One afternoon--the day before they left, I believe--Lady Torquilin and
I, coming in, found a large assortment of cards belonging to the family,
which were to be divided between us, apparently. But, as Mr. Charles
Mafferton was the only one of them left in town, my acquaintance with
the Maffertons had made very little progress, except, of course, with
the portly old cousin I have mentioned before, who was a lord, and who
stayed in London through the entire session of Parliament. This cousin
and I became so well acquainted, in spite of his being a lord, that we
used to ask each other conundrums. 'What do they call a black cat in
London?' was a favourite one of his. But I had the advantage of
Lord Mafferton here, for he always forgot that he had asked the same
conundrum the last time we met, and thought me tremendously clever when
I answered, 'Puss, puss!' But, as I have said before, there were very
few particulars in which this nobleman gratified my inherited idea of
what a lord ought to be.

One of the Misses Mafferton--the one who enjoyed good health--had very
kindly taken the trouble to write to me from the Riviera a nice friendly
letter, saying how sorry they all were that we did not meet before they
left Town, and asking me to make them a visit as soon as they returned
in June. The letter went on to say that they had shared their brother's
anxiety about me for some time, but felt quite comfortable in the
thought of leaving me so happily situated with Lady Torquilin, an old
friend of their own, and was it not singular? Miss Mafferton exclaimed,
in her pointed handwriting, signing herself mine ever affectionately, E.
F. Mafferton. I thought it was certainly singularly nice of her to write
to me like that, a perfect stranger; and while I composed an answer in
the most cordial terms I could, I thought of all I had heard about the
hearty hospitality of the English--'when once you know them.'

When I told Mr. Mafferton I had heard from his sister, and how much
pleasure the letter had given me, he blushed in the most violent and
unaccountable manner, but seemed pleased nevertheless. It was odd to
see Mr. Mafferton discomposed, and it discomposed me. I could not in the
least understand why his sister's politeness to a friend of his should
embarrass Mr. Mafferton, and was glad when he said he had no doubt
Eleanor and I would be great friends, and changed the subject. But
it was about this time that another invitation from relatives of Mr.
Mafferton's living in Berkshire gave me my one always-to-be-remembered
experience of the country in England. Lady Torquilin was invited too,
but the invitation was for a Tuesday and Wednesday particularly full of
engagements for her.

'Couldn't we write and say we'd rather come next week?' I suggested.

Lady Torquilin looked severely horrified. 'I should think _not!_' she
replied. 'You're not in America, child. I hardly know these people at
all; moreover, it's you they want to see, and not me in the least. So
I'll just send my apologies, and tell Mrs. Stacy you're an able-bodied
young woman who gets about wonderfully by herself, and that she may
expect you by the train she proposes--and see that you don't outstay
your invitation, young lady, or I shall be in a fidget!' And Lady
Torquilin gave me her cheek to kiss, and went away and wrote to Mrs.
Stacy as she had said.

An hour or two beyond London the parallel tracks of the main line
stretched away in the wrong direction for me, and my train sped down
them, leaving me for a few minutes undecided how to proceed. The little
station seemed to have nothing whatever to do with anything but the main
line. It sat there in the sun and cultivated its flower-beds, and waited
for the big trains to come thundering by, and had no concern but that.
Presently, however, I observed, standing all by itself beside a row
of tulips under a clay bank on the other side of the bridge, the most
diminutive thing in railway transport I had ever seen. It was quite
complete, engine and cab, and luggage-van and all, with its passenger
accommodation properly divided into first, second, and third class, and
it stood there placidly, apparently waiting for somebody. And I followed
my luggage over the bridge with the quiet conviction that this was the
train for Pinbury, and that it was waiting for me.

There was nobody else. And after the porter had stowed my effects
carefully away in the van he also departed, leaving the Pinbury train in
my charge. I sat in it for a while and admired the tulips, and wondered
how soon it would rain, and fixed my veil, and looked over the 'Daily
Graphic' again, but nothing happened. It occurred to me that possibly
the little Pinbury train had been forgotten, and I got out. There was
no one on the platform, but just outside the station I saw a rusty old
coachman seated on the box of an open landau, so I spoke to him. 'Does
that train go to Pinbury?'I asked. He said it did. 'Does it go to-day?'
I inquired further. He looked amused at my ignorance. 'Oh yes, lady,'
he replied; 'she goes every day--twice. But she 'as to wait for two
hup trains yet. She'll be hoff in about 'alf an hour now!'--this
reassuringly.

[Illustration: 0280]

When we did start it took us exactly six minutes to get to Pinbury, and
I was sorry I had not tipped the engine-driver and got him to run down
with me and back again while he was waiting. Whatever they may say to
the contrary, there are few things in England that please Americans more
than the omnipotence of the tip.

Two of the Stacy young ladies met me on the Pinbury platform, and gave
me quite the most charming welcome I have had in England. With the
exception of Peter Corke--and Peter would be exceptional anywhere--I had
nearly always failed to reach any sympathetic relation with the young
ladies I had come in contact with in London. Perhaps this was because
I did not see any of them very often or very long together, and seldom
without the presence of some middle-aged lady who controlled the
conversation; but the occasions of my meeting with the London girl had
never sufficed to overcome the natural curiosity with which she usually
regarded me. I rejoiced when I saw that it would be different with Miss
Stacy and Miss Dorothy Stacy, and probably with the other Misses Stacy
at home. They regarded me with outspoken interest, but not at all
with fear. They were very polite, but their politeness was of the
gay, unconscious sort, which only impresses you when you think of it
afterwards. Delightfully pretty, though lacking that supreme inertia of
expression that struck me so often as the finishing touch upon London
beauty, and gracefully tall, without that impressiveness of development
I had observed in town, Miss Dorothy Stacy's personality gave me quite a
new pleasure. It was invested in round pink cheeks and clear grey eyes,
among other things that made it most agreeable to look at her; and
yellow hair that went rippling down her back; and the perfect freshness
and unconsciousness of her beauty, with her height and her gentle
muscularity, reminded one of an immature goddess of Olympia, if such
a person could be imagined growing up. Miss Dorothy Stacy was sixteen
past, and in a later moment of confidence she told me that she lived in
dread of being obliged to turn up her hair and wear irretrievably long
'frocks.' I found this unreasonable, but charming. In America all joys
are grown up, and the brief period of pinafores is one of probation.

We drove away in a little brown dogcart behind a little brown pony into
the English country, talking a great deal. Miss Stacy drove, and I sat
beside her, while Miss Dorothy Stacy occupied the seat in the rear when
she was not alighting in the middle of the road to pick up the Pinbury
commissions, which did not travel well, or the pony's foot, to see if he
had a stone in it. The pony objected with mild viciousness to having his
foot picked up; but Miss Dorothy did not take his views into account at
all; up came the foot and out came the stone. The average American girl
would have driven helplessly along until she overtook a man, I think.

I never saw a finer quality of mercy anywhere than the Stacy young
ladies exhibited toward their beast. When we came to a rising bit of
road Miss Dorothy invariably leaped down and walked as well as the pony,
to save him fatigue; when a slight declivity presented itself he walked
again solemnly to the bottom, occasionally being led. He expected this
attention always at such times, pausing at the top and looking round for
it, and when it was withheld his hind-quarters assumed an aggrieved
air of irresponsibility. When Miss Stacy wished to increase his rate of
going by a decimal point, she flicked him gently, selecting a spot where
communication might be made with his brain at least inconvenience to
himself; but she never did anything that would really interfere with his
enjoyment of the drive.

Of course, Miss Stacy wanted to know what I thought of England in a
large general way, but before I had time to do more than mention a few
heads under which I had gathered my impressions she particularised with
reference to the scenery. Miss Stacy asked me what I thought of English
scenery, with a sweet and ladylike confidence, including most of what we
were driving through, with a graceful flourish of her whip. She said
I might as well confess that we hadn't such nice scenery in America.
'Grander, you know--more mountains and lakes and things,' said
Miss Stacy, 'but not _really_ so nice, now, have you?' No, I said;
unfortunately it was about the only thing we couldn't manage to take
back with us; at which Miss Stacy astonished; me with the fact that she
knew I was going to be a treat to her--so original--and I must be simply
craving my tea, and it was good of me to come, and flicked the pony
severely, so that he trotted for almost half a mile without a pause.

But we returned to the scenery, for I did not wish to be thought
unappreciative, and the Misses Stacy were good enough to be interested
in the points that I found particularly novel and pleasing--the
flowering hedges that leaned up against the fields by the wayside, and
the quantities of little birds that chirruped in and out of them, and
the trees, all twisted round with ivy, and especially the rabbits, that
bobbed about in the meadows and turned up their little white tails with
as much _naivete_ as if the world were a kitchen-garden closed to the
public. The 'bunnies,' as Miss Dorothy Stacy called them, were a source
of continual delight to me. I could never refrain from exclaiming,
'There's another!' much to the young ladies' amusement. 'You see,'
explained Miss Dorothy in apology, 'they're not new to us, the dear
sweet things! One might say one has been brought up with them, one knows
all their little ways. But they are loves, and it is nice of you to like
them.'

The pony stopped altogether on one little rise, as if he were accustomed
to it, to allow us to take a side-look across the grey-green fields to
where they lost themselves in the blue distance, in an effort to climb.
It was a lovely landscape, full of pleasant thoughts, ideally still and
gently conscious. There was the glint of a river in it, white in the
sun, with twisting lines of round-headed willows marking which way it
went; and other trees in groups and rows threw soft shadows across the
contented fields. These trees never blocked the view; one could always
see over and beyond them into other peaceful stretches, with other
clumps and lines, greyer and smaller as they neared the line where the
low, blue sky thickened softly into clouds and came closer down. An
occasional spire, here and there a farmhouse, queer, old-fashioned
hayricks gossiping in the corners of the fields, cows, horses, crows.
All as if it had been painted by a tenderly conscientious artist, who
economised his carmines and allowed himself no caprices except in the
tattered hedge, full of May, in the foreground; all as if Nature-had
understood a woman's chief duty to be tidy and delectable, except for
this ragged hem of her embroidered petticoat. I dare say it would not
seem so to you; but the country as I had known it in America had been
an expanse of glowing colour, diversified by a striking pattern of
snake-fences, relieved by woods that nobody had ever planted, and
adorned by the bare, commanding brick residences of the agricultural
population. Consequently, delightful as I found this glimpse of English
scenery, I could not combat the idea that it had all been carefully
and beautifully made, and was usually kept under cottonwool. You would
understand this if you knew the important part played in our rural
districts by the American stump.

'Isn't it lovely?' asked Miss Stacy, with enthusiasm. Two cows in the
middle distance suddenly disappeared behind a hayrick, and for a moment
the values of the landscape became confused. Still, I was able to say
that it was lovely, and so neat--which opinion I was obliged to
explain to Miss Stacy, as I have to you, while the brown pony took us
thoughtfully on.



XXVI

[Illustration: 9285]

DROVE in at the gates of Hallington House as one might drive into
the scene of a dear old dream--a dream that one has half-believed and
half-doubted, and wholly loved, and dreamed again all one's life long.
There it stood, as I had always wondered if I might not see it standing
in that far day when I should go to England, behind its high brick wall,
in the midst of its ivies and laburnums and elms and laurel-bushes,
looking across where its lawns dipped into its river at soft green
meadows sloping to the west--a plain old solid grey stone English
country-house so long occupied with the birthdays of other people that
it had quite forgotten its own. Very big and very solid, without any
pretentiousness of Mansard roof, or bow window, or balcony, or verandah
its simple story of strength and shelter and home and hospitality was
plain to me between its wide-open gates and its wide-open doors, and I
loved it from that moment.

It was the same all through--the Stacys realised the England of my
imagination to me most sweetly and completely; I found that there had
been no mistake. Mrs. Stacy realised it, pretty and fresh and fair
at fifty, plump and motherly in her black cashmere and lace, full of
pleasant greetings and responsible inquiries. So did the Squire, coming
out of his study to ask, with courteous old-fashioned solicitude, how I
had borne the fatigue of the journey--such a delightful old Squire, left
over by accident from the last century, with his high-bred phraseology
and simple dignity and great friendliness. So did the rest of the
Stacy daughters, clustering round their parents and their guest and the
teapot, talking gaily with their rounded English accent of all manner
of things--the South Kensington Museum, the Pinbury commissions, the
prospects for tennis. Presently I found myself taken through just such
narrow corridors and down just such unexpected steps as I would have
hoped for, to my room, and left there. I remember how a soft wind
came puffing in at the little low, tiny-paned window flung back on
its hinges, swelling out the muslin curtains and bringing with it the
sweetest sound I heard in England--a cry that was quite new and strange,
and yet came into me from the quiet hedges of the nestling
world outside, as I sat there bewitched by it, with a plaintive
familiarity--'_Cuckoo!_'... '_Cuckoo!_' I must have heard it and loved
it years ago, when the Wicks lived in England, through the ears of my
ancestors. Then I discovered that the room was full of a dainty scent
that I had not known before, and traced it to multitudinous little round
flower-bunches, palest yellow and palest green, that stood about in
everything that would hold them--fresh and pure and delicious, all the
tender soul of the spring in them, all the fairness of the meadows and
the love of the shy English sun. Ah, the charm of it! It is almost worth
while being brought up in Chicago to come fresh to cuckoos and cowslips,
and learn their sweet meaning when you are grown up and can understand
it. I mean, of course, entirely apart from the inestimable advantages of
a Republican form of Government, female emancipation, and the climate of
Illinois. We have no cowslips in Chicago, and no cuckoos; and the
cable cars do not seem altogether to make up for them. I couldn't help
wishing, as I leaned through my low little window into the fragrant
peace outside, that Nature had taken a little more time with America.

'Cuckoo!' from the hedge again! I could not go till the answer came from
the toppling elm-boughs in the field corner, 'Cuckoo!' And in another
minute, if I listened, I should hear it again.

[Illustration: 0288]

Down below, in the meantime, out came two tidy little maids in cap
and apron, and began to weed and to potter about two tidy little
plots--their own little gardens anybody might know by the solicitude
and the comparisons they indulged in--the freedom, too, with which they
pulled what pleased themselves. It was pretty to see the little maids,
and I fell to conjecturing such a scene in connection with the domestic
duchess of Chicago, but without success. Her local interest could never
be sufficiently depended upon, for one thing. Marguerite might plant,
and Irene might water, but Arabella Maud would certainly gather the
fruits of their labour, if she kept her place long enough. And I doubt
if the social duties of any of these ladies would leave them time for
such idylls.

'Cuckoo!' The bird caught it from the piping of the very first lover's
very first love-dream. How well he must have listened!... 'Cuckoo!'

I bade Miss Dorothy Stacy come in when I heard her knock and voice; and
she seemed to bring with her, in her innocent strength and youth and
pinkness, a very fair and harmonious counterpart of the cowslips and the
cuckoos. She came to know if I wasn't coming down to tea. 'Listen!' I
said, as the sweet cry came again. 'I was waiting till he had finished.'
It was better than no excuse at all.

'I think I can show you from here where I suspect they have stolen a
nest, lazy things!' answered Miss Dorothy, sympathetically, and she
slipped her arm round my waist as we looked out of the window together
in the suspected direction. 'Then you don't find them tiresome? Some
people do, you know.' 'No,' I said, 'I don't,' And then Aliss Dorothy
confided to me that she was very glad; 'for, you know,' she said, I one
_can't_ like people who find cuckoos tiresome,' and we concluded that we
really must go down to tea. At that point, however, I was obliged to
ask Miss Dorothy to wait until I did a little towards improving my
appearance. I had quite forgotten, between the cuckoos and the cowslips,
that I had come up principally to wash my face.

'You met our cousin on the ship crossing the Atlantic, didn't you?'
the third Miss Stacy remarked, enthusiastically, over the teapot. 'How
delightfully romantic to make a--a friend--a friend like _that_, I mean,
on a ship in the middle of the ocean! Didn't you always feel perfectly
comfortable afterwards, as if, no matter what happened, he would be sure
to save you?'

'_Kitty!_' said AMs. Stacy from the sofa, in a tone of helpless rebuke.
'Mother, darling!' said Kitty, 'I do beg your pardon! Your daughter
always speaks first and thinks afterwards, doesn't she, sweetest mother!
But you must have had that feeling,' Miss Stacy continued to me; 'I know
you had!'

'Oh, no!' I returned. It was rather an awkward situation

--I had no wish to disparage Miss Stacy's cousin's heroism, which,
nevertheless, I had not relied upon in the least. 'I don't think I
thought about being drowned,' I said.

'That proves it!' she cried in triumph. 'Your confidence was so perfect
that it was unconscious! Sweetest mother--there, I won't say another
word; not another syllable, mother mine, shall pass your daughter's
lips! But one _does_ like to show one's self in the right, doesn't
one, Miss Wick?'--and Mrs. Stacy surrendered to an impulsive volume of
embraces which descended from behind the sofa, chiefly upon the back of
her neck.

How pleasant it was, that five o'clock tea-drinking in the old-fashioned
drawing-room, with the jessamine nodding in at the window and all
the family cats gathered upon the hearthrug--five in number, with one
kitten. The Stacy's compromise in the perpetually-recurring problem of
new kittens was to keep only the representative of a single generation
for family affection and drawing-room privileges. The rest were
obscurely brought up in the stables and located as early as was entirely
humane with respectable cottagers, or darkly spoken of as 'kitchen
cats.' There had been only one break in the line of posterity that
gravely licked itself on the rug, or besought small favours rubbingly
with purrs--made by a certain Satanella, who ate her kittens! and
suffered banishment in consequence. But this was confided to me in
undertones by the second Miss Stacy, who begged me not to mention the
matter to Dorothy. 'We don't talk about it often, for Satanella was her
cat, you know, and she can't get over her behaving so dreadfully.' Each
cat had its individual history, and to the great-great-grandmother of
them attached the thrilling tale, if I remember rightly, of having once
only escaped hanging by her own muscular endurance and activity; but
none bore so dark a blot as covered the memory of Satanella. Perhaps it
is partly owing to my own fondness for pussies, but ever since I made
the acquaintance of the Stacys I must confess to disparaging a family
with no cats in it.

It was naturally Dorothy who took me out to see the garden--sweet, shy
Dorothy, who seemed so completely to have grown in a garden that Lady
Torquilin, when she brought her pink cheeks afterwards to gladden the
FLat in Cadogan Mansions, dubbed her 'the Wild rose' at once. At any
rate, Dorothy had always lived just here beside her garden, and never
anywhere else, for she told me so in explaining her affection for it. I
thought of the number of times we had moved in Chicago, and sighed.

It was not a very methodical garden, Dorothy remarked in apology--the
dear sweet things mostly came up of their own accord year after year,
and the only ambition Peter entertained towards it was to keep it
reasonably weeded. A turn in the walk disclosed Peter at the moment with
a wheelbarrow--the factotum of garden and stable, a solemn bumpkin of
twenty, with a large red face and a demeanour of extreme lethargy. His
countenance broke into something like a deferential grin as he passed
us. 'Can you make him understand?' I asked Miss Dorothy. 'Oh, I should
think so!' she replied. 'He is very intelligent!' From his appearance
I should not have said so. There was nothing 'sharp,' as we say in
America, about Peter, though afterwards I beard him whistling 'Two
lovely black eyes' with a volume of vigorous expression that made one
charge him with private paradoxical sweethearting. But I was new to the
human product after many generations of the fields and hedges.

It was a square garden, shut in from the road and the neighbours by that
high old red-brick wall. A tennis-court lay in the middle in the sun;
the house broke into a warmly-tinted gable, red-roofed and plastered and
quaint, that nestled over the little maids in the larder, I think,
at one end; a tall elm and a spreading horse-chestnut helped the
laurestinus bushes to shut it in from the lawns and the drive and
any eyes that might not fall upon it tenderly. We sat down upon the
garden-seat that somebody had built round the elm, Dorothy and I, and I
looked at the garden as one turns the pages of an old storybook. There
were the daisies in the grass, to begin with, all over, by hundreds and
thousands, turning their bright little white-and-yellow faces up at
me and saying something--I don't know quite what. I should have had to
listen a long time to be sure it was anything but 'Don't step on me!'
but I had a vague feeling that every now and then one said, 'Can't you
remember?' Dorothy remarked it was really disgraceful, so many of them,
and Peter should certainly mow them all down in the morning--by which
her pretty lips gave me a keen pang. 'Oh!' I said, I what a pity!'
'Yes,' she said, relentingly, 'they _are_ dear things, but they're very
untidy. The worst of Peter is,' she went on, with a shade of reflection,
'that we are obliged to keep _at_ him.'

I dare say you don't think much of daisies in the grass--you have always
had so many. You should have been brought up on dandelions instead--in
Chicago!

Then there were all the sweet spring English flowers growing in little
companies under the warm brick wall--violets and pansies and yellow
daffodils, and in one corner a tall, brave array of anemones, red and
purple and white. And against the wall rose-bushes and an ancient
fig-tree; and farther on, all massed and tangled in its own dark-green
shadows, the ivy, pouring out its abundant heart to drape and soften the
other angle, and catch the golden rain of the laburnum that hung over.
And this English Dorothy, with her yellow hair and young-eyed innocence,
the essence and the flower of it all.

Near the stables, in our roundabout ramble to the kitchen-garden,
Dorothy showed me, with seriousness, a secluded corner, holding two
small mounds and two small wooden tablets. On one the head of a spaniel
was carved painstakingly and painted, with the inscription, 'Here Lies a
Friend.' The second tablet had no bas-relief and a briefer legend: 'Here
Lies Another.' 'Jack,' said she, with a shade of retrospection, and
Jingo. Jack died in--let me see--eighteen eighty-five. Jingo two years
later, in eighteen eighty-seven. I didn't do Jingo's picture,' Miss
Dorothy went on, pensively. 'It wasn't really necessary, they were so
very much alike.'

About the kitchen-garden I remember only how rampant the
gooseberry-bushes were, how portentous the cabbages, and how the whole
Vegetable Kingdom combined failed to keep out a trailing company of
early pink roses that had wandered in from politer regions to watch the
last of the sunset across the river and beyond the fields.

'I have a letter to send,' said Miss Dorothy, 'and as we go to the
post-office you shall see Hallington.' So we went through the gates that
closed upon this dear inner world into the winding road. It led us past
'The Green Lion,' amiably _couchant_ upon a creaking sign that swung
from a yellow cottage, past a cluster of little houses with great
brooding roofs of straw, past the village school, in a somewhat bigger
cottage, in one end whereof the schoolmistress dwelt and looked out upon
her lavender and rue, to the post-office at the top of the hill, where
the little woman inside, in a round frilled cap and spectacles, and
her shawl pinned tidily across her breast, sold buttons and thread,
and 'sweeties' and ginger ale, and other things. My eye lighted with
surprise upon a row of very familiar wedgeshaped tins, all blue and
red. They contained corned beef, and they came from Chicago. 'I know the
gentleman who puts those up very well,' I said to Miss Dorothy Stacy;
'Mr. W. P. Hitt, of Chicago. He is a great friend of poppa's. 'Really!'
said she, with slight embarrassment. 'Does he--does he do it himself?
How clever of him!'

On the way back through the village of Hallington we met several stolid
little girls by ones and twos and threes, and every little girl, as we
approached, suddenly lowered her person and her petticoats by about six
inches and brought it up again in a perfectly straight line, and without
any change of expression whatever. It seemed to me a singular and
most amusing demonstration, and Miss Dorothy explained that it was a
curtsey--a very proper mark of respect. 'But surely,' she said, 'your
little cottager girls in America curtsey to the ladies and gentlemen
they meet!' And Miss Dorothy found it difficult to understand just why
the curtsey was not a popular genuflection in America, even if we had
any little cottager girls to practise it, which I did not think we had,
exactly.

[Illustration: 0295]

Later on we gathered round a fire, with the cats, under the quaint old
portraits of very straight-backed dead-and-gone ladies Stacy in the
drawing-room, and I told all I knew about the Apache Indians and Niagara
Falls. I think I also set the minds of the Stacy family at rest about
the curious idea that we want to annex Canada--they had some
distant relations there, I believe, whom they did not want to see
annexed--although it appeared that the relations had been heterodox on
the subject, and had said they wouldn't particularly mind! I suggested
that they were probably stock-raising in the Northwest out there, and
found our tariff inconvenient; and the Stacys said Yes, they were.
I continued that the union they would like to see was doubtless
commercial, and not political; and the Stacys, when they thought of
this, became more cheerful. Further on, the Squire handed me a silver
candlestick at the foot of the stairs with the courtliness of three
generations past; and as I went to bed by candle-light for the first
time in my life, I wondered whether I would not suddenly arrive, like
this, at the end of a chapter, and find that I had just been reading one
of Rhoda Broughton's novels. But in the morning it came in at the
window with the scent of the lilacs, and I undoubtedly heard it
again--'Cuckoo!'...'Cuckoo!'



XXVII

|HAVEN'T you some letters, child, to your Ambassador, or whatever he is,
here in London?' asked Lady Torquilin one morning.

'Why, yes,' I said, 'I have. I'd forgotten about them. He is quite an
old friend of poppa's--in a political way; but poppa advised me not to
bother him so long as I wasn't in any difficulty--he must have such lots
of Americans coming over here for the summer and fussing round every
year, you know. And I haven't been.'

'Well, you must now,' declared Lady Torquilin, 'for I want you to go to
Court with me a fortnight from to-day. It's five years since I've
gone, and quite time I should put in an appearance again. Besides, the
Maffertons wish it.'

'The Maffertons wish it?' I said. I Dear me! I consider that extremely
kind. I suppose they think I would enjoy it very much. And I dare say I
should.'

'Lady Mafferton and I talked it over yesterday,' Lady Torquilin
continued, 'and we agreed that although either she or I might present
you, it would be more properly done, on account of your being an
American, by your American man's wife. Indeed, I dare say it's
obligatory. So we must see about it.' And Lady Torquilin and Lady
Mafferton, with very little assistance from me, saw about it.

In the moment that succeeded the slight shock of the novel idea, I found
a certain delirium in contemplating it that I could not explain by any
of the theories I had been brought up upon. It took entire possession of
me--I could not reason it away. Even in reading my home letters, which
usually abstracted mo altogether for the time, I saw it fluttering round
the corners of the pages. 'What would they say,' I thought, 'if they
knew I was going to be presented to the Queen--their daughter, Mamie
Wick, of Illinois?' Would they consider that I had compromised
the strict Republican principles of the family, and reprobate the
proceeding! The idea gave me a momentary conscience-chill, which soon
passed off, however, under the agreeable recollection of poppa's having
once said that he considered Her Majesty a very fine woman, and for
his part he would be proud to be introduced to her. After all, being
presented was only a way of being introduced to her--the way they do it
in England. I felt pretty sure the family principles could stand
that much. As a matter of fact, you know, very few Americans have any
personal objection to royalty. And I dismissed the idea, abandoning
myself to the joy of preparation, which Lady Tor-quilin decreed should
begin the very next day. I thought this, though pleasurable, rather
unnecessary at first. 'Dear Lady Torquilin,' said I, in the discussion
of our Court dresses, 'can't we see about them next week?--we planned so
many other things for this one!'

'Child, child,' returned Lady Torquilin, impressively, 'in the coming
fortnight we have _barely time!_ You must know that we don't do things
by steam and electricity in this country. You can't go to Court
by pressing a button. We haven't a moment to lose. And as to other
arrangements, we must just give everything up, so as to have our minds
free and comfortable till we get the whole business over.' Afterwards,
about the seventh time I had my Court dress tried on, I became convinced
that Lady Torquilin was right. You do nothing by steam and electricity
in this country. I found that it took ten days to got a pair of
satin slippers made. Though, 'of course, if you were not _quite_
so particular, miss, about that too, or if you 'ad come about them
_sooner_, we could 'ave obliged you in less time,' the shoemaker said.
In less time! A Chicago firm would have made the slippers, gone into
liquidation, had a clearing solo, and reopened business at the old stand
in less time!

[Illustration: 0298]

I like to linger over that fortnight's excitement--its details were so
novel and so fascinating. First, the vague and the general, the creation
of two gowns for an occasion extraordinary, mentioned by head ladies, in
establishments where a portrait of Her Majesty hung suggestively on the
wall, almost with bated breath. Lady Torquilin for once counselled a
mild degree of extravagance, and laughed at my ideas--though she usually
respected them about clothes--when I laid out for her inspection three
perfectly fresh New York dresses, quite ideal in their way, and asked
her if any of thom would 'do.' You have a great deal to learn, child!'
she said. 'No, they won't, indeed! Who over heard of attending one of
Her Majesty's Drawing-Rooms in a frock made in Now York! I'm not saying
you haven't very nice taste over there, my dear, for that you have;
but it stands to reason that your dressmakers, not having Court
instructions, can't be expected to know anything about Court trains,
_doesn't_ it?' From which there was no appeal, so that the next day or
two went in deep conferences with the head ladies aforesaid and absorbed
contemplation of resultant patterns--which Lady Torquilin never liked to
hear me call 'samples.' I was spared the trial of deciding upon a colour
combination; being a young lady I was to go in white, Lady Torquilin
gave me to understand, by edict of the Court. But should I have the
train or the petticoat of the brocade, or would I prefer a bengaline
train with a bodice and petticoat of _crêpe de chine?_ Should the train
come from the shoulder or be 'fulled' in at the waist; and what did I
really think myself about ostrich tips grouped down one side, or bunches
of field flowers dispersed upon the petticoat, or just a _suggestion_
of silver embroidory gleaming all through; or perhaps mademoiselle might
fancy an Empross gown, which would be thoroughly good style--they had
made three for the last Drawing-Room? I had never been so wrought up
about any dress before. Privately, I compared it to Lady Torquilin with
the fuss that is made about a wedding-dross. 'My dear,' she exclaimed,
candidly, 'a wedding-dress is _nothing_ to it; as I dare say,' she
added, roguishly pinching my cheek in a way shoe had, 'it won't be long
before you find out!' But I don't think Lady Torquilin really know at
the time anything about this.

It was not too much to say that those two Court dresses--Lady Torquilin
was going in a schomo of pansy-coloured velvet and holiotropo--haunted
our waking and sleeping hours for quite five days. Peter Corke, dropping
in almost at the beginning, declared it a disgraceful waste of time,
with the whole of Chelsea a dead-lotter to me, and came again almost
every afternoon that week to counsol and collaborate for an hour and a
half. I may say that Miss Corke took the matter in hand vigorously. It
was probably a detail in the improvement of my mind and my mannors which
she could not conscientiously overlook. 'Since you _have_ the audacity
to wish to kiss the hand of a sovoreign who is none of yours,' said
she, with her usual twinkle, 'you'll kindly see that you do it properly,
miss!' So she gave us explicit instructions as to the right florist,
and glover, and laceman, and hairdresser, to which even Lady Torquilin
listened with respect; 'and _do not be persuaded_,' said she, with
mock-severe emphasis, 'to go to anybody else. These people are dear,
but you are perfectly safe with them, and that's important, don't you
think?' Peter even brought over a headdress she wore herself the season
before, to get the American effect, she said, and offered to lend it
to me. It consisted of three white ostrich feathers and a breadth of
Brussels net about a yard and a half long hanging down behind, and I
found it rather trying as an adornment. So I told her I was very much
obliged, but I didn't consider it becoming, and I thought I would go
with nothing on my head. At which she screamed her delightful little
scream, and said indeed I wouldn't, if the Lord Chamberlain had anything
to say in the matter. And when I found out just how much the Lord
Chamberlain had to say in the matter--how he arranged the exact length
of my train and cut of my bodice, and what I wore in my hair--the whole
undertaking, while it grew in consequence, grew also in charm. It was
interesting in quite a novel way to come within the operation of these
arbitrary requirements connected with the person of royalty. I liked
getting ready to go to Court infinitely better than if I had been able
to do it quite my own way, and the Lord Chamberlain had had nothing to
do with it. I enjoyed his interference. This was hard to reconcile
with democratic principles, too. I intend to read up authorities in
Anglo-American fiction who may have dealt with the situation when I
get home, to see if they shed any light upon it, just for my own
satisfaction. But I think it is a good thing that the Lord Chamberlain's
authority stops where it does. It would be simple tyranny if he were
allowed to prescribe colours for middle-aged ladies, for instance, and
had commanded Lady Torquilin to appear in yellow, which is almost the
only colour she can't wear. As it was, he was very nice indeed about
it, allowing her to come in a V-shaped bodice on account of her
predisposition to bronchitis; but she had to write and ask him very
politely indeed. He told her by return post--of course it was not a
private letter, but a sort of circular--just which dressmakers had the
V shaped patterns the Queen liked best in such cases as hers, and Lady
Torquilin at once obtained them. After that she said she had no further
anxiety--there was nothing like going straight to the proper sources for
information to have a comfortable mind. With that letter, if anything
went wrong, the Lord Chamberlain could clearly be made responsible--and
what did one want more than that?

One thing that surprised me during that fortnight of preparation was
the remarkable degree of interest shown in our undertaking by all our
friends. I should have thought it an old story in London, but it seemed
just as absorbing a topic to the ladies who came to see Lady Torquilin
on her 'day,' and who had lived all their lives in England, as it was to
me. They were politely curious upon every detail; they took another
cup of tea, and said it was really an ordeal; they seemed to take a
sympathetic pleasure in being, as it were, in the swirl of the tide that
was carrying us forward to the Royal presence. If the ladies had been
presented themselves they gave us graphic and varying accounts of the
occasion, to which we listened with charmed interest; if not, they
brought forth stories, if anything more thrilling, of what had happened
to other people they knew or had heard of--the lady whose diamond
necklace broke as she bent; the lady who forgot to take the silver paper
out of her train at home, and left it in the arms of the Gentlemen of
the Court as she sailed forward; the lady who was attacked by violent
hysteria just as she passed the Duke of Edinburgh. Miss Corke's
advice--though we relied upon nobody else--was supplemented fifty times;
and one lady left us at half-past six in the afternoon, almost in tears,
because she had failed to persuade me to take a few lessons, at a
guinea a lesson, from a French lady who made a specialty of _debutante_
presentations. I think I should have taken them, the occasion found me
with so little self-reliance, if it had not been for Lady Torquilin. But
Lady Torquilin said No, certainly not, it was a silly waste of money,
and she could show me everything that was necessary for all practical
purposes as well as Madame Anybody. So several mornings we had little
rehearsals, Lady Torquilin and I, after breakfast, in my room, by
which I profited much. We did it very simply, with a towel and whatever
flowers were left over from dinner the night before. I would pin the
towel to my dress behind and hold the flowers, and advance from the
other end of the room to Lady Torquilin, who represented Her Majesty,
and gave me her hand to kiss. I found the curtsey difficult at first,
especially the getting up part of it, and Lady Torquilin was obliged to
give me a great deal of practice.

[Illustration: 0302]

'Remember one thing about the Queen's hand absolutely, child,' said she.
'You're not, under any circumstances whatever, _to help yourself up by
it!_' And then I would be the Queen, and Lady Torquilin, just to get
into the way of it again, would pin on the towel and carry the roses,
and curtsey to me.



XXVIII

|I KNOW I shall enjoy writing this chapter, I enjoyed its prospective
contents so much. To be perfectly candid, I liked going to Court better
than any other thing I did in England, not excepting Madame Tussaud's.
or the Beefeaters at the Tower, or even 'Our Flat' at the Strand. It
did a great deal to reconcile me, practically, with monarchical
institutions, although, chiefly on poppa's account, I should like it to
be understood that my democratic theories are still quite unshaken in
every respect.

It seems to me, looking back upon it, that we began to go very early in
the morning. I remember a vision of long white boxes piled up at the end
of the room through the grey of dawn, and a very short nap afterwards,
before the maid came knocking with Lady Torquilin's inquiries as to how
I had slept, and did I remember that the hairdresser was coming at nine
sharp? It was a gentle knock, but it seemed to bristle with portent as I
heard it, and brought with it the swift realisation that this was Friday
at last--the Friday on which I should see Queen Victoria. And yet, of
course, to be quite candid, that was only half the excitement the knock
brought; the other half was that Queen Victoria should see me, for an
instant and as an individual. There was a very gratifying flutter in
that.

The hairdresser was prompt. She came just as Charlotte was going out
with the tray, Lady Torquilin having decreed that we should take
our morning meal in retirement. She was a kind, pleasant, loquacious
hairdresser.

'I'm glad to see you've been able to take a good breakfast, miss,' she
said, as she puffed and curled me. 'That's 'alf the battle!' She was
sorry that she had to come to us so early, 'but not until two o'clock,
miss, do I expect to be for one moment off my feet, what with Ontry
ladys who don't wish to be done till they're just getting into their
carriages--though for that I don't blame them, miss, and nobody could.
I'm afraid you'll find these lappits very wearing on the nerves before
the day is out. But I'll just pin them up so, miss--and of course you
must do as best pleases you, but my _advice_ would be, don't let them
down for _anybody_, miss, till you start.' But I was not sorry the
hairdresser came so early. It would have been much more wearing on the
nerves to have waited for her.

Perhaps you will find it difficult to understand the interest with which
I watched my own development into a lady dressed for Court. Even the
most familiar details of costume seemed to acquire a new meaning and
importance, while those of special relevance had the charm that might
arise from the mingling of a very august occasion with a fancy-dress
ball. When I was quite ready, it seemed to me that I was a different
person, very pretty, very tall, with a tendency to look backward over
my shoulder, wearing, as well as a beautiful sweeping gown, a lofty
and complete set of monarchical prejudices, which I thought becoming in
masquerade. I was too much fascinated with my outward self. I could have
wished, for an instant, that the Declaration of Independence was hanging
about somewhere framed.

Then the advent of the big square wooden box from the florist's, and
the gracious wonder of white roses and grasses inside, with little buds
dropping and caught in its trailing ribbons--there is a great deal of
the essence of a Royal function in a Drawing-Room bouquet. And then Lady
Torquilin, with a new graciousness and dignity, quite a long way off
if I had not been conscious of sharing her state for the time. Lady
Torquilin's appearance gave me more ideas about my own than the
pier-glass did. 'Dear me!' I thought, with a certain rapture, 'do I
really look anything like _that?_'

[Illustration: 0308]

We went down in the lift one at a time, with Charlotte as train-bearer,
and the other maids furtively admiring from the end of the hall. Almost
everybody in Cadogan Mansions seemed to be going out at about the same
time, and a small crowd had gathered on each side of the strip of
carpet that led from the door to the carriage. It was Lady Mafferton's
carriage, lent for the occasion, and the footman and coachman were as
impressive as powder and buff and brass buttons would make them. In
addition, they wore remarkable floral designs about the size and shape
of a cabbage-leaf upon their breasts immediately under their chins. That
was another thing that could not have been done with dignity in America.

The weather looked threatening as we drove off, precisely at twelve
o'clock, and presently it began to rain with great industry and
determination. The drops came streaming down outside the carriage
windows; fewer people as we passed leaned out of hansoms to look at us.
Inside the Maflerton carriage we were absurdly secure from the weather;
we surveyed our trains, piled up on the opposite seat, with complacency;
we took no thought even for the curl of our feathers. We counted, as
we drove past them to take our place, and there were forty carriages in
line ahead of us. Then we stopped behind the last, in the middle of
a wide road, heavily bordered under the trees with damp people and
dripping umbrellas--there for the spectacle. All kinds of people and all
kinds of umbrellas, I noticed with interest--ladies and gentlemen, and
little seamstresses, and loafers and ragamuffins, and apple-women, and a
large proportion of your respectable lower middle-class. We sat in state
amongst them in the rain, being observed, and liking it. I heard my
roses approved, and the nape of my neck, and Lady Torquilin's diamonds.
I also heard it made very unpleasant for an elderly young lady in the
carriage in front of ours, whose appearance was not approved by a pair
of candid newsboys. The policemen kept the people off, however; they
could only approach outside a certain limit, and there they stood, or
walked up and down, huddled together in the rain, and complaining of the
clouded carriage windows. I think there came to me then, sitting in the
carriage in the warmth and pride and fragrance and luxuriance of it all,
one supreme moment of experience, when I bent my head over my roses and
looked out into the rain--one throb of exulting pleasure that seemed
to hold the whole meaning of the thing I was doing, and to make its
covetable nature plain. I find my thoughts centre, looking back, upon
that one moment.

It was three o'clock before we moved again. In the hours that came
between we had nothing to do but smell our flowers, discuss the people
who drove past to take places farther down the line, congratulate
ourselves upon being forty-first, and eat tiny sandwiches done up in
tissue paper, with serious regard for the crumbs; yet the time did not
seem at all long. Mr. Oddie Pratte, who was to escort us through the
palace and home again, made an incident, dashing up in a hansom on his
way to the club to dress, but that was all. And once Lady Torquilin had
the footman down to tell him and his brother-functionary under the big
umbrella to put on their rubber coats. 'Thank you, my lady!' said the
footman, and went back to the box; but neither of them took advantage of
the permission. They were going to Court too, and knew what was seemly.
And the steamy crowd stayed on till the last.



XXIX

[Illustration: 9311]

RESENTLY, when we were not in the least expecting it, there came a
little sudden jolt that made us look at each other precipitately. Lady
Torquilin was quite as nervous as I at this point. 'What _has_ become
of Oddie?' she exclaimed, and descried a red coat in a cab rolling up
beside us with intense relief. As we passed through the Palace gates the
cab disappeared, and chaos came again.

[Illustration: 0312]

'Naughty boy!' said Lady Torquilin, in bitterness of spirit. 'Why, in
the name of fortune, couldn't he have come with us in the carriage? Men
have _no_ nerves, my dear, none whatever; and they can't understand our
having them!' But at that moment we alighted, in a maze of directions,
upon the wide, red-carpeted steps, and whisked as rapidly as possible
through great corridors with knots of gentlemen in uniform in them to
the cloak-room. 'Hurry, child!' whispered Lady Torquilin, handing our
wraps to the white-capped maid. 'Don't let these people get ahead of
us, and keep close to me!'--and I observed the same spasmodic haste in
everybody else. With our trains over our arms we fled after the others,
as rapidly as decorum would permit, through spacious halls and rooms
that lapse into a red confusion in my recollection, leaving one of
my presentation cards somewhere on the way, and reaching the limit of
permitted progress at last with a strong sense of security and comfort.
We found it in a large pillared room full of regularly-curving lines of
chairs, occupied by the ladies of the forty carriages that were before
us. Every head wore its three white feathers and its tulle extension,
and the aggregation of plumes and lappets and gentle movements made one
in the rear think of a flock of tame pigeons nodding and pecking--it was
very 'quaint,' as Lady Torquilin said when I pointed it out. The dresses
of these ladies immediately became a source of the liveliest interest
to us, as ours were apparently to those who sat near us. In fact, I had
never seen such undisguised curiosity of a polite kind before. But then
I do not know that I had ever been in the same room with so many jewels,
and brocades, and rare orchids, and drooping feathers, and patrician
features before, so perhaps this is not surprising. A few gentlemen were
standing about the room, holding fans and bouquets, leaning over the
backs of the ladies' chairs, and looking rather distraught, in very
becoming costumes of black velvet and silk stockings and shoe-buckles,
and officers in uniform were scattered through the room, looking as if
they felt rather more important than the men in black; as I dare
say they did, representing that most glorious and impressive British
institution, the Army, while the others were only private gentlemen,
their own property, and not connected with her Majesty in any personal
way whatever.

'Here you are,' said somebody close behind us. 'How d'ye do, Auntie? How
d'ye do, Miss Wick? 'Pon my word, I'm awfully sorry I missed you before;
but you're all right, aren't you? The brute of a policeman at the gates
wouldn't pass a hansom.' It was Mr. Oddie Pratte, of course, looking
particularly handsome in his red-and-plaid uniform, holding his helmet
in front of him in the way that people acquire in the Army, and pleased,
as usual, with the world at large.

'Then may I ask how you came here, sir?' said Lady Torquilin, making a
pretence of severity.

'Private _entree!_' responded Mr. Pratte, with an assumption of
grandeur. 'Fellow drove me up as a matter of course--no apologies! They
suspected I was somebody, I guess, coming that way, and I gave the
man his exact fare, to deepen the impression. Walked in. Nobody said
anything! It's what you call a game o' bluff, Auntie dear!'

'A piece of downright impertinence!' said Lady Torquilin? pleasantly.
'It was your red coat, boy. Now, what do you think of our gowns?'

Mr. Pratte told us what he thought of them with great amiability and
candour. I had seen quite enough of him since the day at Aldershot to
permit and enjoy his opinion, which even its frequent use of 'chic' and
I 'rico' did not make in any way irreverent. This young gentleman was
a connoisseur in gowns; he understood them very well, and we were both
pleased that he liked ours. As we criticised and chaffed and chatted
a door opened at the farther end of the room, and all the ladies rose
precipitately and swept forward.

It was like a great, shimmering wave, radiant in colour, breaking in a
hundred places into the foam of those dimpling feathers and streaming
lappets, and it rushed with unanimity to the open door, stopping there,
chafing, on this side of a silk rope and a Gentleman of the Court. We
hurried on with the wave--Lady Torquilin and Mr. Oddie Pratte and I--and
presently we were inextricably massed about half-way from its despairing
outer edge, in an encounter of elbows which was only a little less than
furious. Everybody gathered her train over her left arm--it made one
think of the ladies of Nepaul, who wear theirs in front, it is said--and
clung with one hand to her prodigious bouquet, protecting her pendent
head-dress with the other. 'For pity's sake, child, take care of your
lappets,' exclaimed Lady Torquilin. 'Look at that!' I looked at 'that';
it was a ragged fragment of tulle about a quarter of a yard long,
dependent from the graceful head of a young lady immediately in front of
us. She did not know of her misfortune, poor thing, but she had a vague
and undetermined sense of woe, and she turned to us with speaking eyes.
'I've lost mamma,' she said, unhappily.

'Where is mamma? I _must_ go to mamma.' And she was not such a very
young lady either. But Lady Torquilin, in her kindness of heart, said,
'So you shall, my dear, so you shall!' and Mr. Pratte took his aunt's
bouquet and mine, and held them, one in each hand, above the heads of
the mob of fine-ladyhood, rather enjoying the situation, I think, so
that we could crowd together and allow the young lady who wanted her
mamma to go and find her. Mr. Oddie Pratte took excellent care of the
bouquets, holding them aloft in that manner, and looked so gallantly
handsome doing it that other gentlemen immediately followed his example,
and turned themselves into flowery candelabra, with great effect upon
the brilliancy of the scene.

A sudden movement among the ladies nearest the silken barrier--a sudden
concentration of energy that came with the knowledge that there was
progress to be made, progress to Royalty! A quick, heaving rush through
and beyond into another apartment full of emptiness and marble
pillars, and we were once more at a standstill, having conquered a few
places--brought to, a masterly inactivity by another silken cord and
another Gentleman of the Court, polite but firm. In the room beyond we
could see certain figures moving about at their ease, with no crush and
no struggle--the ladies and gentlemen of the Private Entrée. With what
lofty superiority we invested them! They seemed, for the time, to
belong to some other planet, where Royal beings grew and smiled at every
street-corner, and to be, on the other side of that silken barrier, an
immeasurable distance off. It was a distinct shock to hear an elderly
lady beside us, done up mainly in amethysts, recognise a cousin among
them. It seemed to be self-evident that she had no right to have a
cousin there.

'I'll see you through the barrier,' said Mr. Oddie Pratte, 'and then
I'll have to leave you. I'll bolt round the other way, and be waiting
for you at the off-door, Auntie. I'd come through, only Her Maj. does
hate it so. Not at all nice of her, I call it, but she can't bear the
most charming of us about on these occasions. We're not good enough.' A
large-boned lady in front--red velvet and cream--with a diminutive major
in attendance, turned to him at this, and said with unction, 'I am sure,
Edwin, that is not the case. I have it on excellent authority that the
Queen is _pleased_ when gentlemen come through. Remember, Edwin, I will
not face it alone.'

'I think you will do very well, my dear!' Edwin responded. 'Brace
up!'Pon my word, I don't think I ought to go. I'll join you at----'

'If you desert me, Edwin, _I shall die!_' said the bony lady, in a
strong undertone; and at that moment the crowd broke again. Oddie
slipped away, and we went on exultantly two places, for the major had
basely and swiftly followed Mr. Pratte, and his timid spouse, in a last
clutching expostulation, had fallen hopelessly to the rear.

About twenty of us, this time, were let in at once. The last of the
preceding twenty were slowly and singly pacing after one another's
trains round two sides of this third big room towards a door at the
farther corner. There was a most impressive silence. As we got into file
I felt that the supreme moment was at hand, and it was not a comfortable
feeling. Lady Torquilin, in front of me, put a question to a gentleman
in a uniform she ought to have been afraid of--only that nothing ever
terrified Lady Tor-quilin, which made it less comfortable still. 'Oh,
Lord Mafferton,' said she--I hadn't recognised him in my nervousness and
his gold lace--'How many curtseys are there to make?'

'Nine, dear lady,' replied this peer, with evident enjoyment. 'It's
the most brilliant Drawing-Room of the season. Every Royalty who could
possibly attend is here. Nine, at the least!'

Lady Torquilin's reply utterly terrified me. It was confidential, and
delivered in an undertone, but it was full of severe meaning. 'I'm full
of rheumatism,' said she, 'and I shan't do it.'

The question as to what Lady Torquilin would do, if not what was
required of her, rose vividly before me, and kept me company at every
step of that interminable round. 'Am I all right?' she whispered
over her shoulder from the other end of that trailing length of
pansy-coloured velvet. 'Perfectly,' I said. But there was nobody to
tell _me_ that I was all right--I might have been a thing of shreds and
patches. Somebody's roses had dropped; I was walking on pink petals.
What a pity! And I had forgotten to take off my glove; would it ever
come unbuttoned? How deliberately we were nearing that door at the
farther end! And how could I possibly have supposed that my heart
would beat like this! It was all very well to allow one's self a little
excitement in preparation; but when it came to the actual event I
reminded myself that I had not had the slightest intention of being
nervous. I called all my democratic principles to my assistance--none
of them would come. 'Remember, Mamie Wick,' said I to myself, 'you don't
believe in queens.' But at that moment I saw three Gentlemen of the
Household bending over, and stretching out Lady Torquilin's train into
an illimitable expanse. I looked beyond, and there, in the midst of all
her dazzling Court, stood Queen Victoria. And Lady Torquilin was bending
over her hand! And in another moment it would be--it was my turn!

[Illustration: 0318]

I felt the touches on my own train, I heard somebody call a name I had
a vague familiarity with--'Miss Mamie Wick.' I was launched at last
towards that little black figure of Royalty with the Blue Ribbon
crossing her breast and the Koh-i-nor sparkling there! _Didn't_ you
believe in queens, Aliss Mamie Wick, at that moment? I'm very much
afraid you did.

And all that I remember after was going down very unsteadily before her,
and just daring the lightest touch of my lips upon the gracious little
hand she laid on mine. And then not getting nearly time enough to make
all of those nine curtseys to the beautiful sparkling people that
stood at the Queen's left hand, before two more Gentlemen of the Court
gathered up my draperies from behind my feet and threw them mercifully
over my arm for me. And one awful moment when I couldn't quite tell
whether I had backed out of all the Royal presences or not, made up
my mind that I had, then unmade it, and in agony of spirit turned _and
backed again!_

It was over at last. I had kissed the hand of the Queen of Great Britain
and Ireland, and--there's no use in trying to believe anything to the
contrary--I was proud of it. Lady Torquilin and I regarded each other in
the next room with pale and breathless congratulation, and then turned
with one accord to Oddie Pratte.

'On the whole,' said that young gentleman, blandly, 'you did me credit!'



XXX

|I AM writing this last chapter in the top berth of a saloon cabin on
board the Cunard s.s. 'Etruria.' which left Liverpool June 25, and is
now three days out. From which it will be seen that I am going home.

Nothing has happened there, you will be glad to hear, perhaps. Poppa
and Momma, and all the dear ones of Mrs. Portheris's Christmas card,
are quite in their usual state of health. The elections are not on at
present, so there is no family depression in connection with poppa's
political future. I am not running away from the English climate either,
which had begun, shortly before I left, to be rather agreeable. I have
been obliged to leave England on account of a Misunderstanding.

In order that you should quite see that nobody was particularly to
blame, I am afraid I shall have to be very explicit, which is in a way
disagreeable. But Lady Torquilin said the day I came away that it would
have been better if I had been explicit sooner, and I shall certainly
never postpone the duty again. So that, although I should much prefer
to let my English experiences close happily and gloriously with going
to Court, I feel compelled to add here, in the contracted space at
my disposal, the true story of how I went to dine with Mr. Charles
Mafferton's father and mother and brother and sisters in Hertford
Street, Mayfair.

It occurred almost as soon as the family returned from the South
of France, where they had been all spring, you remember, from
considerations affecting the health of the eldest Miss Mafferton--with
whom I had kept up, from time to time, a very pleasant correspondence.
One day, about three weeks after the Drawing-Room, when Lady Torquilin
and I could scarcely ever rely upon an afternoon at home, we came in to
find all the Mafferton cards again in. There was a note, too, in which
Mrs. Mafferton begged Lady Torquilin to waive ceremony and bring me
to dine with them the following evening. 'You can guess,' said Mrs.
Mafferton, 'how anxious we must be to see her.' There was a postscript
to the invitation, which said that although Charlie, as we probably
knew, was unfortunately out of town for a day or two, Mrs Mafferton
hoped he would be back in the course of the evening.

'Well, my dear,' said Lady Torquilin, 'it's easily seen that I can't go,
with those Watkins people coming here. But you shall--I'll let you
off the Watkinses. It isn't really fair to the Maffertons to keep them
waiting any longer. I'll write at once and say so. Of course,' Lady
Torquilin went on, 'under ordinary circumstances I shouldn't think of
letting you go out to dinner alone, but in this case--there is sure to
be only the family, you know--I don't think it matters.'

So Lady Torquilin wrote, and when the time came lent me Charlotte to go
with me in a hansom to Hertford Street, Mayfair. 'Be sure you bring me
back a full and particular account of how they all behave, child,'
said she, as she looked me over after my toilette was made; 'I shall be
interested to hear.'

A massive butler let me into the usual narrow, high-ceiled Mayfair hall,
richly lighted and luxurious; the usual convenient maid in a white cap
appeared at the first landing to show the way to the proper room for
my wraps. After Lady Torquilin's expression of interest in how
they behaved, I had been wondering whether the Maffertons had any
idiosyncrasies, and I did not waste any unnecessary time in final
touches before going down to see. I like people with idiosyncrasies, and
lately I had been growing accustomed to those of the English nation;
as a whole they no longer struck me forcibly. I quite anticipated some
fresh ones, and the opportunity of observing them closely.

The drawing-room seemed, as I went in, to be full of Maffertons. There
were more Maffertons than china plates on the wall, than patterns on the
carpet. And yet there were only the four young ladies and their mother
and father. The effect was produced, I think, by the great similarity
between the Misses Mafferton. Not in actual face or figure; there were
quite perceptible differences there. The likeness lay in an indefinable
shade of manner and behaviour, in the subdued and unobtrusive way in
which they all got up and looked at me and at their mamma, waiting until
it should be entirely proper for them to come forward. They were dressed
a good deal alike, in low tones of silk, high necked, rather wrinkling
at the shoulders, and finished with lace frills at the throat and
wrists, and they all wore their hair parted in the middle, brushed
smoothly back over their ears, and braided neatly across and across
behind. I have never been sure about their ages--they might have been
anything from twenty-five to forty; but Isabella, whom they spoke of as
the youngest, seemed to me to be the most serious and elderly of all.

Mrs. Mafferton was a very stout old lady, with what is called a fine
face. She wore a good many old-fashioned rings, and a wide lace collar
over her expansive black silk, and as she came heavily forward to meet
me she held out both her hands, and beamed upon me--not an impulsive
beam, however, rather a beam with an element of caution in it.

'You are very welcome, Miss Wick. Indeed, we have been looking forward
to this. I think you ought to let me give you a kiss!'

Of course I did let Mrs. Mafferton give me a kiss--it was impossible to
refuse. But I thought myself singularly favoured; it did not seem at all
in accordance with the character of the family to fall upon the neck
of a stranger and embrace her by way of welcoming her to dinner. I
was still further of that opinion when each of the Misses Alafferton
followed the example of their mamma, and saluted me tenderly on the same
cheek. But I immediately put it down to be an idiosyncrasy. 'We are
so glad to see you at last,' said the eldest. 'Yes, indeed!' said the
second. 'We began to think we never should,' said the third. 'We really
did!' said the fourth.

'Papa,' said Mrs. Alafferton, 'this is Aliss Wick, of whom we have all
heard so much.' She spoke very close to the ear of an old gentleman in
an arm-chair screened from the fire, with one leg stretched out on
a rest; but he did not understand, and she had to say it over again:
'Aliss Wick, of whom we have all heard so much. Poor dear! he does
not hear very well,' Mrs. Alafferton added to me. 'You must use the
speaking-trumpet, I fear, Aliss Wick.' 'Well,' said old Mr. Alafferton,
after shaking hands with me and apologising for not rising, 'if this is
Aliss Wick, I don't see why I shouldn't have a kiss too.' At which Mrs.
Alafferton and all the young ladies laughed and protested, 'Oh, fie,
papa!' For my part I began to think this idiosyncrasy singularly common
to the family.

[Illustration: 0324]

Then the eldest Aliss Mafferton put one end of a long black
speaking-trumpet into my hand, and Mr. Alafferton, seeing her do this,
applied the other to his ear. I had nothing whatever to say, but,
overcome with the fear of seeming rude, I was raising it to my lips and
thinking hard when I felt two anxious hands upon my arm. 'Do excuse us!'
exclaimed a Miss Mafferton, 'but if you wouldn't mind holding it just a
little farther from your lips, please! We are obliged to tell everybody.
Otherwise the voice makes quite a distressing noise in his poor ears.'
At which every semblance of an idea left me instantly. Yet I must say
something--Mr. Mafferton was waiting at the other end of the tube. This
was the imbecility I gave expression to. 'I came here in a cab!' I said.
It was impossible to think of anything else.

That was not a very propitious beginning; and Mr. Mafferton's further
apology for not being able to take me down to dinner, on the ground that
he had to be taken down by the butler himself, did not help matters in
the very least. At dinner I sat upon Mr. Mafferton's right, with the
coiling length of the speaking-trumpet between us. The brother came
in just before we went down--a thin young man with a ragged beard, a
curate. Of course, a curate being there, we began with a blessing.

Then Mrs. Mafferton said, 'I hope you won't mind our not having asked
any one else, Miss Wick. We were selfish enough to want you, this first
evening, all to ourselves.'

It was certainly the Mafferton idiosyncrasy to be extravagantly kind. I
returned that nothing could have been more delightful for me.

'Except that we think that dear naughty Lady Torquilin should have come
too!' said the youngest Miss Mafferton. It began to seem to me that none
of these young ladies considered themselves entitled to an opinion in
the first person singular.

An idea appeared to be, as it were, a family product. 'She was very
sorry,' I said.

'And so, I am sure, are we,' remarked Mrs. Mafferton, graciously, from
the other end of the table. 'It was through dear Lady Torquilin, I
believe, that you first met our son, Miss Wick?'

I began to feel profoundly uncomfortable--I scarcely knew exactly
why. It became apparent to me that there was something in the domestic
atmosphere with which I was out of sympathy. I thought the four Miss
Maffertons looked at me with too much interest, and I believed that the
curate was purposely distracting himself with his soup. I corroborated
what Mrs. Mafferton had said rather awkwardly, and caught one Miss
Mafferton looking at another in a way that expressed distinct sympathy
for me.

I was quite relieved when Mrs. Mafferton changed the subject by
saying, 'So you are an American, Miss Wick?' and I was able to toll
her something about Chicago and our methods of railway travelling. Mrs.
Mafferton was very pleasant about Americans; she said she always found
them nice, kind-hearted people. The curate said, thoughtfully, crumbling
his bread, that we had a vast country over there.

'Francis!' exclaimed the Miss Mafferton who sat next to him, playfully
abstracting the crumbs, 'you know that's naughty of you! I'm afraid
you've come to a very nervous family, Miss Wick.

I felt myself blushing abominably. The situation all at once defined
itself and became terrible. How could I tell the Maffertons, assembled
there around their dinner-table, that I was _not_ coming to their
family!

'Burgundy, miss?'

How could I do anything but sip my claret with immoderate absorption,
and say that nervous disorders did sometimes run in families, or
something equally imbecile!

'But Charlie's nerves are as strong as possible!' said another Miss
Mafferton, reproachfully, to her sister.

We had other general conversation, and I spoke into Mr. Mafferton's
trumpet several times with a certain amount of coherence; but I remember
only the points which struck me as of special interest at the time.
Among them was the proposal that, if I were willing, Mrs. Mafferton
should drive me on Tuesday week--that would be to-day--to see an invalid
married sister living in Hampstead who was most anxious to welcome me.
How could I say I was not willing!

Then, after dinner, in the drawing-room, Mrs. Mafferton took me aside
'for a little chat,' and told me what a good son Charles had always
been, and showed me several photographs of him at earlier stages, from
the time he wore a sash and pinafore. Even then, I remember, he looked a
serious person.

[Illustration: 0328]

After which I had another little chat with two of the Misses Mafferton
together, who explained what a devoted brother they had always had
in Charlie. 'We _are_ so glad you've been kind to him,' they said,
impulsively. 'Of course we haven't seen him yet since our return, but
his letters have told us _that_ much.' I tried in vain to rack my brain
for occasions on which I had been kind to Mr. Charles Mafferton, and
longed for an attack of faintness or a severe headache.

'Indeed,' I said, 'it was always your brother who was kind--to Lady
Torquilin and to me.' At which the young ladies smiled consciously, and
said something about _that_ being perfectly natural. Then, just as I was
wondering whether I absolutely must wait for Charlotte to arrive in a
cab to take me home as Lady Torquilin had arranged, and as the third
Miss Mafferton was telling me how noble but how uninteresting it was
of Francis to take up extreme Ritualistic views and vow himself to
celibacy, the door-bell rang.

'There's Charlie now!' exclaimed the Misses Alafferton all together.

'I must really go!' I said precipitately. 'I--I promised Lady Torquilin
to be home early '--noting with despair by the gold clock under glass
on the mantel that it was only a quarter to ten--'and the American mail
goes out to-morrow--at least, I _think_ it does--and--and Good-night,
Mrs. Mafferton! Good_night_, Mr. Mafferton!' I said it very rapidly, and
although they were all kind enough to meet my departure with protest, I
think it was evident to them that for some reason or other I really must
go. The young ladies exchanged glances of understanding. I think
their idea was that I dreaded the embarrassment of meeting Mr. Charles
Mafferton before his family. Two of them came upstairs with me to get
my wraps, and assured me in various indirect ways that they quite
understood--it was awkward.

[Illustration: 0330]

Coming down, we met Mr. Charles Mafferton at the door of the
drawing-room. The Misses Alafferton, who accompanied me, turned quite
pale when they heard me assure their brother that there was not the
slightest necessity that he should accompany me home. I could not
persuade him of this, however, and we drove away together.

I am afraid I cannot possibly report the conversation that took place
between Mr. Mafferton and myself in the cab. Looking back upon it, I
find it difficult to understand clearly, as I dare say he does if he
ever thinks about it. After I had made him see quite plainly that it was
utterly, absolutely impossible, which was not easy, he left me to
infer that I had been inconsistent, though I am sure I could make no
self-accusation which would be more baseless. Privately, I thought the
inconsistency was his, and that it was of the most glaring description.
I am of opinion, with all due respect to your English customs, that
if Mr. Mafferton desired to marry me, he should have taken me, to some
extent, into his confidence about it. He should not have made Lady
Torquilin the sole repository of the idea. A single bunch of roses, or
basket of fruit, or box of candy addressed to me specially, would have
been enough to give my thoughts a proper direction in the matter. Then I
would have known what to do. But I always seemed to make an unavoidable
second in Mr. Mafferton's attentions, and accepted my share of them
generally with an inward compunction. And I may say, without any malice
at all, that to guess of one's own accord at a developing sentiment
within the breast of Mr. Mafferton would be an unlikely thing to occupy
the liveliest imagination.

Perhaps Mr. Mafferton did not know how his family had intended to behave
to me. At all events, he offered no apology for their conduct. I may say
that the only thing of any consequence that resulted from our drive
was the resolution which I am carrying out on board the s.s. 'Etruria'
to-day.

*****

The ladies' steward of the 'Etruria,' a little fellow with large
blue eyes and spectacles and a drooping moustache, is very polite and
attentive. His devotion, after Mr. Mafferton's, seems the embodiment of
romance. I shall hesitate about tipping him. He has just brought me some
inspiring beef-tea, which accounts for those asterisks.

[Illustration: 0333]

The worst of it was Lady Torquilin's scolding next morning--not that she
said anything unkind, but because it gave me the idea that I had treated
her badly too. I should be so sorry to think that I had treated Lady
Torquilin badly. She seemed to think that I should have told her in the
very beginning that I was engaged to Mr. Arthur Greenleaf Page, of
the Yale University Staff. She seemed to think that I should have told
everybody. I don't see why, especially as we are not to be married until
Christinas, and one never can tell what may happen. Young ladies do not
speak of these things quite so much in America as you do in England, I
think. They are not so openly known and discussed. I must apologise to
myself for bringing Mr. Page in even at this stage, but it seemed to be
unavoidable.

I don't know at all, by the way, what Arthur will say to this last of my
English experiences; he may not consider it as 'formative' as he hoped
the others would be. There is only one thing that makes the thought
endurable for an instant--it would have been nice to be related to the
Stacys.

Just before sailing the purser supplied me with dear consolation in
the shape of a letter from Miss Peter Corke. It was a 'characteristic'
letter, as we say when we want to say a thing easily--bewailing,
advising, sternly questioning, comically reprobating, a little sad and
deprecating by accident, then rallying to herself again with all sorts
of funny reproaches. 'I meant to have done so much, and I've done so
little!' was the burden of it, recurring often--'I meant to have done so
much, and I've done so little!' Dear Peter! She can't possibly know
how much she did do, though I'm taking my unformed mind back to a
comparatively immature civilisation, and shall probably continue to
attend a church where they use spring-edged cushions and incandescent
burners. Peter's England will always be the true England to me. I shall
be able to realise it again easily with some photographs and Hare's
'Walks in London,' though I am afraid I have got all her delightful old
moss-grown facts and figures mixed up so that I couldn't write about
them over again without assistance as intelligently as before. And Peter
says she doesn't mind going on in my second volume, if only I won't
print it; which is very good of her when one thinks that the second
volume will be American, and never written at all, but only lived, very
quietly, under the maples at Yale. I hope she may be found in the last
chapter of that one too. Dear Peter!





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