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Title: The Uncle Of An Angel - 1891
Author: Janvier, Thomas A. (Thomas Allibone)
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 "The Uncle Of An Angel - 1891" ***

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THE UNCLE OF AN ANGEL

By Thomas A. Janvier

Copyright, 1891, by Harper & Brothers

[Illustration: Frontispiece 007 p60]

[Illustration: Page 3 020]



I.

When Mr. Hutchinson. Port, a single gentleman who admitted that he was
forty-seven years old and who actually was rising sixty, of strongly
fixed personal habits, and with the most positive opinions upon every
conceivable subject, came to know that by the death of his widowed
sister he had been placed in the position of guardian of that sister’s
only daughter, Dorothy, his promptly formed and tersely expressed
conception of the situation was that the agency by which it had been
brought about was distinctively diabolical. The fact may be added that
during the subsequent brief term of his guardianship Mr. Port found no
more reason for reversing this hastily formed opinion than did the late
King David for reversing his hastily expressed views in regard to the
general tendency of mankind towards untruthfulness.

The two redeeming features of Mr. Port’s trying situation were that his
duties as a guardian did not begin at all until his very unnecessary
ward was nearly nineteen years old; and did not begin actively--his
ward having elected to remain in France for a season, under the mild
direction of the elderly cousin who had been her mother’s travelling
companion--until she was almost twenty. When she was one-and-twenty, as
Mr. Port reflected with much satisfaction, he would be rid of her.

Neither by nature nor by education had Mr. Hutchinson Port been fitted
to discharge the duties which thus were thrust upon him. His
disposition was introspective--but less in a philosophical sense than a
physiological, for the central point of his introspection was his
liver. That he made something of a fetich of this organ will not appear
surprising when the fact is stated that Mr. Port was a Philadelphian.
In that city of eminent good cheer livers are developed to a degree that
only Strasburg can emulate.

Naturally, Mr. Port’s views of life were bounded, more or less, by what
he could eat with impunity; yet beyond this somewhat contracted region
his thoughts strayed pleasantly afield into the far wider region of the
things which he could not eat with impunity; but which, with a truly
Spartan epicureanism, he did eat--and bravely accepted the bilious
consequences! The slightly anxious, yet determined, expression that
would appear upon Mr. Port’s cleanshaven, ruddy countenance as he
settled himself to the discussion of an especially good and especially
dangerous dinner betrayed heroic possibilities in his nature which,
being otherwise directed, would have won for him glory upon the martial
field.

In minor matters--that is to say, in all relations of life not
pertaining to eating--Mr. Port was very much what was to be expected
of him from his birth and from his environment. Every Sunday, with an
exemplary piety, he sat solitary in the great square pew in St. Peter’s
which had been occupied by successive generations of Ports ever since
the year 1761, when the existing church was completed. Every other day
of the week, from his late breakfast-time for some hours onward, he sat
at his own particular window of the Philadelphia Club and contemplated
disparagingly the outside world over the top of his magazine or
newspaper. At four, precisely, for his liver’s sake, he rode in the
Park; and for so stout a gentleman Mr. Port was an excellent horseman.

[Illustration: Mr. Port was an excellent horseman 024]

On rare occasions he dined at his club. Usually, he dined out; for while
generally regarded as a very disagreeable person at dinners--because of
his habit of finding fault with his food on the dual ground of hygiene
and quality--he was in social demand because his presence at a
dinner was a sure indication that the giver of it had a good culinary
reputation; and in Philadelphia such a reputation is most highly prized.
An irrelevant New York person, after meeting Mr. Port at several of the
serious dinnerparties peculiar to Philadelphia, had described him as the
animated skeleton; and had supplemented this discourteous remark with
the still more discourteous observation that as a feature of a feast the
Egyptian article was to be preferred--because it did not overeat itself,
and did keep its mouth shut. However, Mr. Port’s obvious rotundity
destroyed what little point was to be found in this meagre witticism;
and, if it had not, the fact is well-known in Philadelphia that New
Yorkers, being descended not from an honorable Quaker ancestry but from
successful operations in Wall Street, are not to be held accountable for
their unfortunate but unavoidable manifestations of a frivolity at once
inelegant and indecorous.

In regard to his summers, Mr. Port--after a month spent for the good of
his liver in taking the waters at the White Sulphur--of course went to
Narragan-sett Pier. It may be accepted as an incontrovertible truth that
a Philadelphian of a certain class who missed coming to the Pier
for August would refuse to believe, for that year at least, in the
alternation of the four seasons; while an enforced absence from that
damply delightful watering-place for two successive summers very
probably would lead to a rejection of the entire Copernican system.



II.

“Poor dear mamma and I did not have a harsh word for years, Uncle
Hutchinson,” Miss Lee explained, in the course of the somewhat animated
discussion that arose in consequence of Mr. Port’s declaration that
a part of their summer would be passed, in accordance with his usual
custom, at the White Sulphur, and of Dorothy’s declaration that she did
not want to go there. This, her first summer in America, was the third
summer after Mrs. Lee’s translation; and since Dorothy had come into
colors again she naturally wanted to make the most of them. “No, not
a single harsh word did we ever have. We always agreed perfectly, you
know; or if mamma thought differently at first she always ended by
seeing that my view of the matter was the right one. The only serious
difference that I remember since I was quite a little girl was that
last autumn in Paris; when I had everything so perfectly arranged for a
delightful winter in St. Petersburg, and when mamma was completely set
in her own mind that we must go to the south of France. Her cough was
getting very bad then, you know, and she said that a winter in Russia
certainly would kill her. I don’t think it would have killed her, at
least not especially; but the doctor backed mamma up--and said some
horrid things to me in his polite French way--and declared that St.
Petersburg was not even to be thought of.

“And so, when I found that they were both against me that way, of course
I sacrificed my own feelings and told mamma that I would do just what
she wanted. And mamma cried and kissed me, and said that I was an angel:
wasn’t it sweet of her? To be sure, though, she was having her own way,
and I wasn’t; and I think that I was an angel myself, for I did want
to go to Russia dreadfully. After all, as things turned out, we might
almost as well have gone; for poor dear mamma, you know, died that
winter anyway. But I’m glad I did what I could to please her, and that
she called me an angel for doing it. Don’t you think that I was one? And
don’t you feel, sir, that it is something of an honor to be an angel’s
uncle?

[Illustration: Suppose I kiss you right on your dear little bald spot
030]

“Now suppose I kiss you right on your dear little bald spot, and that
we make up our minds not to go to that horrid sulphur place at all.
Everybody says that it is old-fashioned and stupid; and that is not
the kind of an American watering-place that I want to see, you know.
It would have been all very well if we’d gone there while I was in
mourning, and had to be proper and quiet and retired, and all that; but
I’m not in mourning any longer, Uncle Hutchinson--and you haven’t said
yet how you like this breakfast gown. Do you have to be told that white
lace over pale-blue silk is very becoming to your angel niece, Uncle
Hutchinson? And now you shall have your kiss, and then the matter will
be settled.” With which words Miss Lee--a somewhat bewildering but
unquestionably delightful effect in blond and blue--fluttered up to her
elderly relative, embraced him with a graceful energy, and bestowed upon
his bald spot the promised kiss.

“But--but indeed, my dear,” responded Mr. Port, when he had emerged from
Miss Lee’s enfolding arms, “you know that going to the White Sulphur is
not a mere matter of pleasure with me; it is one of hygienic
necessity. You forget, Dorothy”--Mr. Port spoke with a most earnest
seriousness--“you forget my liver.”

“Now, Uncle Hutchinson, what is the use of talking about your liver
that way? Haven’t you told me a great many times already that it is an
hereditary liver, and that nothing you can do to it ever will make it go
right? And if it is bound to go wrong anyway, why can’t you just try to
forget all about it and have as pleasant a time as possible? That’s
the doctrine that I always preached to poor dear mamma--she had an
hereditary liver too, you know--and it’s a very good one.

“Anyhow, I’ve heard mamma say countless times that Saratoga was a
wonderfully good place for livers; now why can’t we go there? Mamma
always said that Saratoga was simply delightful--horse-racing going on
all the time, and lovely drives, and rowing on the lake, and dancing all
night long, and all sorts of lovely things. Let’s go to Saratoga, Uncle
Hutchinson! Mamma said that the food there was delicious--and you know
you always are grumbling about the food those sulphur people give you.

“But what really would be best of all for you, Uncle Hutchinson,” Miss
Lee continued, with increasing animation, “is Carlsbad. Yes, that’s what
you really want--and while you are drinking the horrid waters I can be
having a nice time, you know. Then, when you have finished your course,
we can take a run into Switzerland; and after that, in the autumn,
we might go over to Vienna--you will be delighted with the Vienna
restaurants, and they do have such good white wines there. And then,
from Vienna, we really can go on and have a winter in Russia. Just
think how perfectly delightful it will be to drive about in sledges, all
wrapped up in furs”--Mr. Port shuddered; he detested cold weather--“and
to go to the court balls, and even, perhaps, to be present the next time
they assassinate the Czar! Oh, what a good time we are going to have! Do
write at once, this very day, Uncle Hutchinson, to Carlsbad and engage
our rooms.”

To a person of Mr. Port’s staid, deliberate temperament this rapid
outlining of a year of foreign travel, and this prompt assumption that
the outline was to be immediately filled in and made a reality, was
upsetting. His mental processes were of the Philadelphia sort, and when
Miss Lee had completed the sketch of her European project he still was
engaged in consideration of her argument in favor of throwing over the
White Sulphur for Saratoga. However, he had comprehended enough of her
larger plan to perceive that by accepting Saratoga promptly he might be
spared the necessity of combating a far more serious assault upon his
peace of mind and digestion. Travel of any sort was loathsome to Mr.
Port, for it involved much hasty and inconsiderate eating.

“Very well,” he said, but not cheerfully, for this was the first time
in a great many years that he had not made and acted upon plans
shaped wholly in his own interest, “we will try Saratoga, since you so
especially desire it; but if the waters affect my liver unfavorably we
shall go to the White Sulphur at once.”

“What! We are not to go to Carlsbad, then? Oh, Uncle Hutchinson, I had
set my heart upon it! Don’t, now don’t be in a hurry to say positively
that we won’t go. Think how much good the waters will do you, and think
of what a lovely time you can have when your course is over, and you can
eat just as much as you want of anything!”

But even by this blissful prospect Mr. Port was not to be lured; and
Dorothy, who combined a good deal of the wisdom of the serpent with
her presumable innocence of the dove, perceived that it was the part of
prudence not further to press for larger victory.

“And from Saratoga, of course, we shall go to the Pier,” said Mr. Port,
but with a certain aggressiveness of tone that gave to his assertion the
air of a proposition in support of which argument might be required.

“To Narragansett, you mean? Oh, certainly. From what several people have
told me about Narragansett I think that it must be quite entertaining,
and I want to see it. And of course, Uncle Hutchinson, even if I didn’t
care about it at all, I should go all the same; for I want to fall in
exactly with your plans and put you to as little trouble as possible,
you know. For if your angel wasn’t willing to be self-sacrificing, she
really wouldn’t be an angel at all.”

Pleasing though this statement of Early Christian sentiment was,
it struck Mr. Port--as he subsequently revolved it slowly in his
slowly-moving mind--as lacking a little on the side of practicality;
for Miss Lee, so far, unquestionably had contrived to upset with a fine
equanimity every one of his plans that was not absolutely identical with
her own.



III.

On the whole, the Saratoga expedition was not a success. Even on the
journey, coming up by the limited train, Miss Lee was not favorably
impressed by the appearance of her fellow-passengers. Nearly all of
the men in the car (most of whom immediately betook themselves to the
bar-room, euphoniously styled a buffet, at the head of the train) were
of a type that would have suggested to one accustomed to American life
that variety of it which is found seated in the high places of the
government of the city of New York; and the aggressively dressed and too
abundantly jewelled female companions of these men, heavily built,
heavy browed, with faces marked in hard lines, and with aggressive
eyes schooled to look out upon the world with a necessarily emphatic
self-assertion, were of a type that, without special knowledge of
American ways, was entirely recognizable. Albeit Miss Lee, having spent
much time in the mixed society of various European watering-places, was
not by any means an unsophisticated young person, and was not at all a
squeamish one, she was sensibly relieved by finding that the chair
next to hers was occupied by a silvery-haired old lady of the most
unquestionable respectability; and her composure was further restored,
presently, by the return to his chair, on the other side of her of Mr.
Port: who had betaken himself to what the conductor had told him was the
smoking-room, and who, finding himself in a bar-room, surrounded by a
throng of hard-drinking, foul-mouthed men, had sacrificed his
much-loved cigar in order to free himself from such distinctly offensive
surroundings.

At their hotel, and elsewhere, Miss Lee and her uncle encountered many
of their fellow-passengers by the limited train, together with others of
a like sort which previous trains had brought thither; and while, on the
whole, these were about balanced by a more desirable class of visitors,
they were in such force as to give to the life of the place a very
positive tone.

At the end of a week Dorothy avowed herself disappointed. “I never did
think much of poor dear mamma’s taste, you know, Uncle Hutchinson,” she
said, with her customary frankness, “and what she found to like in this
place I’m sure I can’t imagine. It’s tawdry and it’s vulgar; and as for
its morals, I think that it’s worse than Monte Carlo. I suppose that
there is a nice side to it, for I do see a few nice people; but,
somehow, they all seem to stand off from each other as though they were
afraid here to take any chances at all with strangers. And I don’t blame
them, Uncle Hutchinson, for I feel just that way myself. What you ought
to have done was to have hired a cottage, and then people would have
taken the trouble to find out about us; and when they’d found that we
were not all sorts of horrid things we should have got into the right
set, and no doubt, at least if we’d stayed here through August, we
should have had a very nice time.

“But we’re not having a nice time, here at this noisy hotel, Uncle
Hutchinson, where the band can’t keep quiet for half an hour at a time,
and where the only notion that people seem to have of amusement is to
overdress themselves and wear diamonds to dinner and sit in crowds on
the verandas and dance at night with any stranger who can get another
stranger to introduce him and to drive over on fine afternoons to that
place by the lake and drink mixed drinks until some of them actually get
tipsy. I really think that it all is positively horrid. And so I’m quite
willing now to go to the White Sulphur. It is stupid, I know, but I’ve
always heard that it is intensely respectable. I will get my packing all
done this afternoon, and we will start to-morrow morning; and I think
that you’d better go and telegraph for rooms right away.”

But to Dorothy’s surprise, and also to her chagrin, Mr. Port refused to
entertain her proposition. He fully agreed with her in her derogatory
estimate of Saratoga life as found at Saratoga hotels; and he cherished
also a private grief incident to his (mistaken) belief that the cooking
was not so good as he remembered it, bright in the glamour of his sound
digestion in his youthful past. On the other hand, however, the waters
certainly were having a most salutary effect upon his liver; and the
move to Virginia would involve spending two days of hot weather in
toilsome travel, sustained only by such food as railway restaurants
afford. Therefore Mr. Port declared decidedly that until the end of July
they would remain where they were--and so gave his niece the doubtful
pleasure of an entirely new experience by compelling her to do something
that she did not want to do at all. It was a comfort to Mr. Port, in
later years, to remember that he had got ahead of Dorothy once, anyhow.

Being a very charming young person, Miss Lee could not, of course, be
grumpy; yet grumpiness certainly would have been the proper word with
which to describe her mood during her last fortnight at Saratoga had she
not possessed such extraordinarily fine gray eyes and such an admirably
dimpled chin. The fact must be admitted that she contrived to make her
uncle’s life so much of a burden to him that his staying powers were
strained to the utmost Indeed, he admitted to himself that he could not
have held out against such tactics for another week; and he perceived
that he had done injustice to his departed sister in thinking--as he
certainly had thought, and even had expressed on more than one occasion
in writing--that in permitting her European movements to be shaped in
accordance with her daughter’s fancies she had exhibited an inexcusable
weakness.

It was a relief to Mr. Port’s mind, and also to his digestion--for
Dorothy’s grumpiness produced an effect distinctly bilious--when the end
of July arrived and his own and his charming ward’s views once more were
brought into harmony by the move to Narragansett Pier. Fortunately,
while somewhat disposed to stand upon her own rights, Miss Lee was not
a person who bore malice; a pleasing fact that became manifest on the
moment that she began to pack her trunks.

“I am afraid, Uncle Hutchinson,” she observed, on the morning that this
important step towards departure was taken--“I am afraid that during the
past week or so your angel may not have been quite as much of an angel
as usual.”

“No,” replied Mr. Port, with a colloquial disregard of grammatical
construction, and with perhaps unnecessary emphasis, “I don’t think she
has.”

“But from this moment onward,” Dorothy continued, courteously ignoring
her uncle’s not too courteous interpolation, and airily relegating into
oblivion the recent past, “she expects to manifest her angelic qualities
to an extent that will make her appear unfit for earth. Very possibly
she may even grow a pair of wings and fly quite away from you,
sir--right up among the clouds, where the other angels are! And how
would you like that, Uncle Hutchinson?”

In the sincere seclusion of his inner consciousness Mr. Port admitted
the thought that if Dorothy had resolved herself into an angelic
_vol-au-vent_ (a simile that came naturally to his mind) at any time
during the preceding fortnight he probably would have accepted the
situation with a commendable equanimity. But what he actually said was
that her departure in this aerated fashion would make him profoundly
miserable. Mr. Port was a little astonished at himself when he was
delivered of this gallant speech; for gallant speeches, as he very well
knew, were not at all in his line.

On the amicable basis thus established, Miss Lee and her guardian
resumed their travels; and, excepting only Mr. Port’s personal misery
incident to the alimentary exigencies of railway transportation, their
journey from the central region of New York to the seaboard of Rhode
Island was accomplished without misadventure.



IV.

In regard to Narragansett Pier, Miss Lee’s opinions, the which she was
neither slow in forming nor unduly cautious in expressing, at first were
unfavorable.

“And so _this_ is ‘the Pier,’ is it?” she observed in a tone by no means
expressive of approval as she stood on the hotel veranda on the day
of her arrival, and contemplated the rather limited prospect that was
bounded at one end by the Casino and at the other by the coal-elevator.
“If those smelly little stones out there are ‘the Rocks’ that people
talk about at such a rate I must confess that I am disappointed in
them”--Mr. Port hastened to assure her that the Rocks were in quite a
different direction--“and if that is the Casino, while it seems a nice
sort of a place, I really think that they might have managed the arch so
as not to have that horrid green house showing under it. And what little
poor affairs the hotels are! Really, Uncle Hutchinson, I don’t see what
there is in this little place to make such a fuss about.”

“Dorothy,” replied Mr. Port, with much solemnity, “you evidently
forget--though I certainly have mentioned the fact to you
repeatedly--that the climate of this portion of Rhode Island is the most
distinctively antibilious climate to be found upon the whole coast of
North America. For persons possessing delicate livers--”

“Oh, bother delicate livers--at least, I beg your pardon, Uncle
Hutchinson,” for an expression of such positive pain had come into Mr.
Port’s face at this irreverent reference to an organ that he regarded as
sacred that even Dorothy was forced to make some sort of an apology. “Of
course I don’t want to bother your poor liver more than it is bothered
anyway; but, you know, I haven’t got a liver, and I don’t care for
climates a bit. What I mean is: what do people do here to have a good
time?”

“In the morning,” replied Mr. Port, “they bathe, and in the afternoon
they drive to the Point. This morning we shall bathe, Dorothy--bathing
is an admirable liver tonic--and this afternoon we shall drive to the
Point.”

“Good heavens! Is that all?” exclaimed Miss Lee. “Why, it’s worse than
Saratoga. Do you mean to say, Uncle Hutchinson, that people don’t dance
here, and don’t go yachting, and don’t have lunch-parties, and don’t
play tennis, and don’t even have afternoon teas?”

“I believe that some of these things are done here,” replied Mr. Port,
in a tone that implied that such frivolities were quite beyond the lines
of his own personal interests. “Yes,” he continued, “I am sure that
all of them are done here now--for the Pier is not what it used to be,
Dorothy. The quiet air of intense respectability that characterized
Narragansett when it was the resort only of a few of the best families
of Philadelphia has departed from it--I fear forever! But, thank Heaven,
its climatic characteristics remain intact. When you are older, Dorothy,
and your liver asserts itself, you will appreciate this incomparable
climate at its proper value.”

“Well, it hasn’t asserted itself yet, you know; and I must say I’m
devoutly thankful that something has happened to wake up the quiet and
intensely respectable Philadelphians before I had to come here. But I’m
very glad, dear Uncle Hutchinson,” Miss Lee continued, winningly, “that
this climate is so good for you, and I’m sure I hope that you won’t have
a single bilious attack all the time that you are here. And you’ll take
your angel to the dances, and to see the tennis, and you’ll give her
lunch-parties, and you’ll take her yachting, won’t you, you dear? But I
know you will; and if this were not such a very conspicuous place,
and might make a scandal, I’d give you a very sweet kiss to pay you
in advance for all the trouble that you are going to take to make
your angel enjoy herself. You needn’t bother about the teas, Uncle
Hutchinson--for the most part they’re only women, and stupid.”

Being still somewhat cast down by painful memories of that trying final
fortnight in Saratoga, during which he and his niece had pulled so
strongly in opposite directions, Mr. Port heard with a lively alarm this
declaration of a plan of campaign which, if carried out, would wreck
hopelessly his own comfort of body and peace of mind. Obviously, this
was no time for faltering. If the catastrophe was to be averted, he must
speak out at once and with a decisive energy.

“I need not tell you, Dorothy,” he began, speaking in a most grave and
earnest tone, “that it is my desire to discharge in the amplest and
kindest manner my duties towards you as a guardian--”

“I’m sure of it, and of course you needn’t tell me, you dearest
dear--and we might begin with just a little lunch to-day. The breakfast
was horrid, and I didn’t get half enough even of what there was.”

“But I must say now,” Mr. Port went on--keenly regretting the
unfortunate beginning that he had given to his declaration of
independence, but judiciously ignoring Dorothy’s shrewd perversion of
it--“that your several suggestions literally are impossibilities. I
admit that dancing for a short period, at about an hour after each meal,
is an admirable exercise that produces a most salutary effect upon the
digestive apparatus; but persistent dancing until an unduly late period
of the night is a practice as unhygienic as, in the mixed company of a
watering-place, it is socially objectionable.

“Tennis is an absurdity worthy of the vacuous minds of those who engage
in it.. To suggest that I shall sit in a cramped position in a draughty
gallery for several hours at a stretch in order to watch empty-headed
young men playing a perverted form of battledoor and shuttlecock across
a net, is to imply that they and I are upon the same intellectual level;
and this, I trust, is not the case.

“As you certainly should remember, Dorothy, all persons of a bilious
habit suffer severely from seasickness; a fact that, of course, disposes
effectually of your yachting plans. For you are not desirous, I am
sure, of purchasing your own selfish enjoyment--if you possibly can have
enjoyment on board a yacht--at the cost of my intense personal misery.

“But in regard to the lunches, my dear”--Mr. Port’s tone softened
perceptibly--“there certainly is something to be said. The food here
at the hotel, I admit, is atrocious, and at the Casino it is possible
occasionally to procure something eatable. Yes, I shall have much
pleasure in giving a lunch this very morning to my angel” (Mr. Port,
warming in advance under the genial influence of the croquette and salad
that he intended to order, became playful), “for what you said in regard
to the breakfast, Dorothy, was quite true--it was abominable. If you
will excuse me, I will just step down to the Casino now and give my
order; then things will be all ready for us when we get back from the
bath.”

And such was Miss Lee’s generalship that she rested content with her
success in one direction, and deferred until a more convenient season
her further demands. She was a reasonable young woman, and was quite
satisfied with accomplishing one thing at a time.



V.

Two or three days later Dorothy advanced her second parallel. In the
interval they had bathed every morning and had driven to the Point every
afternoon, and they had held converse upon the veranda of the hotel
every evening until ten o’clock with certain eminently respectable
people from Philadelphia, by whom Dorothy was bored, as she did not
hesitate to confess, almost to desperation. Further, Mr. Port had given
a lunch-party to which these same Philadelphians were invited; and his
niece had informed him, when the festivity was at an end, that if he did
anything like that again she certainly would either run away or drown
herself. Any trials in this world or any dangers in the next, she
declared, were preferable to sitting opposite to such a person as Mrs.
Logan Rittenhouse, who talked nothing but uninteresting scandal and
crochet, and next to Mr. Pennington Brown, who talked only about
peoples’ great-grandfathers and great-aunts.

It was with a lively alarm that Mr. Port noted these signs of
discontent, together with returning symptoms of the grumpiness which
had disturbed his comfort and digestion at Saratoga; and it was most
selfishly in his own self-interest that he tried to think of something
that would afford his niece amusement. Miss Lee, when she perceived that
her intelligently laid plans were working successfully, was graciously
pleased to assist him.

“It is a great pity, Uncle Hutchinson,” she vouchsafed to remark on the
fourth day of suppressed domestic sunshine, “that you don’t like tennis.
Don’t you think, for your angel’s sake, that you could go for just a
little while this afternoon? There’s going to be a capital match this
afternoon, and your angel does so want to see it. You haven’t been
very--very agreeable the past two or three days, you dear, and I fear
that your liver must be a little out of order. Really, you haven’t given
your angel a single chance to be affectionate--and unless she can be
affectionate and sweet and clinging, and things like that, you know,
your poor angel is not happy at all. Suppose we try the tennis for just
half an hour or so? It won’t be much of a sacrifice for you, and it will
make your angel so happy that she will make herself dearer to you than
ever, you precious thing.”

This form of address was disconcerting to Mr. Port, for during the
period to which Miss Lee referred he certainly had been trying--not very
cleverly, perhaps, for such efforts were not at all in his line, but
still to the best of his ability--to make himself as agreeable as
possible; and the effort on the part of his niece to be angelic, of
which she spoke so confidently, he could not but think had fallen rather
more than a little short of absolute success. The one ray of comfort
that he extracted from Dorothy’s utterance was her reference to herself
as his angel; he had come to understand that the use of this term was
a sign of fair weather, and he valued it accordingly. But even for the
sake of fair weather Mr. Port was not yet prepared to expose his elderly
joints to the draughty discomforts of the galleries overhanging the
tennis-court; and he said so, pretty decidedly. Almost anything else he
was willing to do, he added, but that particular thing he would not do
at all.

“As you please, Uncle Hutchinson,” Dorothy answered, in a tone of gloomy
resignation. “I am used to hearing that. It is just what poor dear mamma
used to say. She always was willing, you know, to do everything but
the thing that I wanted her to do. I remember, just to mention a single
instance, how mamma broke up a delightful water party on Windermere that
Sir Gordon Graham had arranged expressly for us. The weather was rather
misty, as it is apt to be up there, you know, but nothing worth minding
when you are well wrapped up. But mamma said that if she went out in
such a drizzle she knew her cough would be ever so much worse--and of
course she couldn’t really know that it would be worse, for nobody truly
knows what the weather is going to do to them--and so she wouldn’t
go. And Sir Gordon was very much hurt about it, and never came near
us again. And unless I’m very much mistaken, Uncle Hutchinson, mamma’s
selfishness that day lost me the chance of being Lady Graham. So I’m
used to being treated in this way, and you needn’t at all mind refusing
me everything that I ask.” And, being delivered of this discourse, Miss
Lee lapsed into a condition of funereal gloom.

At the end of another twenty-four hours Mr. Port knuckled under. “I
have been thinking, Dorothy,” he said, “about what you were saying about
tennis. It’s a beastly game, but since you insist upon seeing it I’ll
take you for a little while this afternoon.” This was not the most
gracious form of words in which an invitation could be couched; but
Dorothy, who was not a stickler for forms provided she was successful in
results, accepted it with alacrity. Later in the day, as they returned
from the Casino, she declared:

“Your angel has had a lovely afternoon, Uncle Hutchinson, and she is
sure that you have had a lovely afternoon too. And now that you’ve found
what fun there is in looking at tennis, we’ll go every day, won’t we,
dear? Sometimes, you know, you are just a little, just a very little
prejudiced about things; but you are so good and sweet-tempered that
your prejudices never last long, and so your angel cannot help loving
you a great deal.”

Mr. Port, who was not at all sweet-tempered at that moment, was prepared
to reply to the first half of this speech in terms of some emphasis;
for he was limping a little, and a shocking twinge took him in his
left shoulder when he attempted to raise his arm. But Dorothy’s sudden
shifting to polite personalities was of a nature to choke off his
projected indignant utterance. Yet not feeling by any means prepared
to meet in kind her pleasing manifestation of affection, Mr. Port was a
little put to it to find any suitable form of response. After a moment’s
reflection he abandoned the attempt to reply coherently, and contented
himself with grunting.



VI.

Encouraged by the success that was attending her unselfish efforts to
harmonize her own and her uncle’s conceptions of the temporal fitness
of things, Miss Lee began to find life at the Pier quite supportable.
“There’s not much to do here,” she declared, with her customary candor,
“and the hotels--all ugly and all in a row--make it look like an
overgrown charitable institution; and most of the people, I must say,
are such a dismal lot that they might very well be the patients out for
an airing. But, on the whole, I’ve been in several worse places, Uncle
Hutchinson; and if only you’d take me to a hop now and then, instead of
sitting every evening on the pokey hotel veranda talking Philadelphia
twaddle with that stuffy old Mr. Pennington Brown, I might have rather a
good time here.”

“You will oblige me, Dorothy,” replied Mr. Port, “by refraining from
using such a word as ‘stuffy’ in connection with a gentleman who
belongs to one of the oldest and best families in Philadelphia, and who,
moreover, is one of my most esteemed friends.”

“But he _is_ stuffy, Uncle Hutchinson. He never talks about anything but
who peoples’ grandfathers and grandmothers were; and _Watson’s Annals_
seems to be the only book that he ever has heard of. Indeed, I do truly
think that he is the very stuffiest and stupidest old gentleman that I
ever have known.”

Mr. Port made no reply to this sally, for his feelings were such that he
deemed it best not to give expression to them in words; but he was not
unnaturally surprised, after such a declaration of sentiments on
the part of his niece, when she begged to be excused on the ensuing
afternoon from her regular drive to the Point, on the ground that she
had promised to make an expedition to the Rocks in Mr. Brown’s company.
Had an opportunity been given him Mr. Port would have asked for an
explanation of this phenomenon; but the carriage was in waiting that
was to convey his ward and her extraordinary companion to the end of the
road at Indian Rock--a slight rheumatic tendency, that he declared was
hereditary, rendering it advisable for Mr. Brown to reduce the use of
his legs to a minimum--and before Mr. Port could rally his forces they
had entered it and had driven away.

[Illustration: They had entered it and had driven away 050]

In the evening Mr. Port found another surprise awaiting him. Miss Lee
presently retired from the veranda for the avowed purpose of searching
for a missing fan, thus leaving the two gentlemen together.

[Illustration: What a charming girl your niece is 054]

“What a charming girl your niece is, Port!” said Mr. Brown, as the
fluttering train of Dorothy’s dress disappeared through the door-way.

Mr. Port evidently considered that this possibly debatable statement was
sufficiently answered by a grunt, for that was all the answer he gave
it.

Not permitting his enthusiasm to be checked by this chillingly dubious
response, Mr. Brown continued:

“She certainly is one of the most charming girls I have met in a long
time, Port. She is not a bit like the average of young girls nowadays.
I rarely have known a young person of either sex to be so genuinely
interested in genealogy, especially in Philadelphia genealogy; and
I must say that her liking for antiquarian matters generally is very
remarkable. I envy you, I really envy you, old boy, the blessing of that
sweet young creature’s constant companionship.”

“Umph--do you?” was Mr. Port’s concise and rather discouraging reply.

“Indeed I do”--Mr. Brown was too warm to notice the cynical tone of his
friend’s rejoinder--“and I have been thinking, Port, that we are a pair
of selfish old wretches to monopolize every evening in the way that we
have been doing this bright young flower. It is a shame for us to keep
her in our stupid company--though she tells me that she finds our talk
about old people and old times exceedingly interesting--instead of
letting her have a little of the young society and a little of the
excitement and pleasure of watering-place life. Now, how would it do
for us to take her down to the Casino to-night? There is to be a hop
to-night, she says; at least, that is to say”--Mr. Brown became somewhat
confused--“I heard somewhere that there is to be a hop tonight, and
while that sort of thing is pretty stupid for you and me, it isn’t a bit
stupid for a young and pretty girl like her. So suppose we take her, old
man?”

As this amazing proposition was advanced by his elderly friend, Mr.
Port’s anger and astonishment were aroused together; and his rude
rejoinder to it was: “Have you gone crazy, Brown, or has Dorothy been
making a fool of you? Has she asked you to ask me to take her to the
Casino hop? She knows there is no use in talking to me about it any
longer.”

“No, certainly not--at least--that is to say--well, no, not exactly,”
 replied Mr. Brown, beginning his sentence with an asperity and
positiveness that somehow did not hold out to its end. “She did say to
me, I confess, how fond she was of dancing, and how she had refrained
from saying much about it to you”--Mr. Port here interpolated a
sceptical snort--“because she knew that taking her to the Casino would
only bore you. And I do think, Port, that keeping her here with us all
the time is grossly selfish; and if you don’t want to take her to the
hop I hope you’ll let her go with me. But what we’d better do, old man,
is to take her together--then we can talk to each other just as well,
at least nearly as well, as we can here, and we can have the comfort of
knowing that she is enjoying herself too. Come, Hutch; we’re getting old
and rusty, you and I, but let us try at least to keep from degenerating
into a pair of selfish old brutes with no care for anybody’s comfort but
our own.”

Mr. Hutchinson Port might have replied with a fair amount of truth that
so far as he himself was concerned the degeneration that his friend
referred to as desirable to avoid already had taken place. But all of us
like most to be credited with the virtues of which we have least, and he
therefore accepted as his due Mr. Brown’s tribute of implied praise.
And the upshot of the matter was that Dorothy, when she returned to the
veranda again, was unaffectedly surprised (and considering how carefully
she had planned her small campaign she did it very creditably) by
discovering that her uncle’s edict against the Casino hops had been
withdrawn.



VII.

Even Dorothy was disposed to believe that unless some peculiarly
favorable combination of circumstances presented itself as a basis for
her intelligent manipulation her strong desire for a yacht voyage must
remain ungratified; for, now that his liver was decidedly the larger
part of him, Mr. Port had a fairly catlike dread of the sea. To be sure,
Dorothy’s character was a resolute one, and her staying powers were
quite remarkable; but in the matter of venturing his bilious body upon
the ocean she discovered that her uncle--although now reduced to a
fairly satisfactory state of submission in other respects--had a large
and powerful will of his own.

Fortune, however, favors the resolute even more decidedly than she
favors the brave. This fact Dorothy comprehended thoroughly, and
uniformly acted upon. Each time that even a remote possibility of a
yacht cruise presented itself she instantly brought her batteries
to bear; and, with a nice understanding of her uncle’s intellectual
peculiarities, she each time treated the matter as though it never
before had been discussed.

Therefore it was that when Miss Lee’s eyes were gladdened one day--just
as she and her uncle were about to begin their lunch on the shady
veranda of the Casino--by the sight of a trim schooner yacht sliding
down the wind from the direction of Newport, the subject of the cruise
was revived with a suddenness and point that Mr. Port found highly
disconcerting. The yacht rounded to off the Casino, and the sound of a
plunge and a clanking chain floated across the water as her anchor went
overboard.

[Illustration: The yacht rounded to off the Casino 060]

“Oh, isn’t she a beauty!” exclaimed Dorothy, with enthusiasm. “Now,
Uncle Hutchinson, her owner is coming ashore--they have just brought
the gig round to the gangway--and if you don’t know him you must get
somebody to introduce you to him; and then you must introduce him to me;
and then he will ask us to go on a cruise; and of course we will go,
and have just the loveliest time in the world. I haven’t been on board
a yacht for nearly five years (just look at the gig: don’t the men pull
splendidly?)--not since that nice little Lord Alderhone took poor dear
mamma and me up to Norway. We did have such a good time! Poor dear
mamma, of course, was desperately sick--she always was horribly
sea-sick, you know; but I’m never sea-sick the least bit, and it was
perfectly delightful. Look, Uncle Hutchinson, they’ve made the dock, and
now he’s coming right up here. What a handsome man he is, and how well
he looks in his club uniform! It seems to me I’ve seen him somewhere. Do
you know him, Uncle Hutchinson?”

A serious difficulty under which Mr. Port labored in his dealings with
his niece was his inability--due to his Philadelphia habit of mind--to
keep up with the exceptionally rapid flow of her ideas. On the present
occasion, while he still was engaged in consideration of the irrational
proposition that he should court the desperate misery that attends a
bilious man at sea by as good as asking to be taken on a yacht voyage,
he suddenly found his ideas twisted off into another direction by the
reference to his sister’s sufferings on a similar occasion in the past;
and before he could frame in words the reproof that he was disposed
to administer to Dorothy for what he probably would have styled her
heartlessness, he found his thoughts shunted to yet another track by a
direct question. It is within the bounds of possibility that Miss
Lee had arrived at a just estimate of her relative’s intellectual
peculiarities, and that she even sometimes framed her discourses with a
view to taking advantage of them.

The direct question being the simplest section of Dorothy’s complex
utterance, Mr. Port abandoned his intended remonstrance and reproof and
proceeded to answer it. “Yes,” he said, “I know him. It’s Van Rensselaer
Livingstone. His cousin, Van Ruy-ter Livingstone, married your cousin
Grace--Grace Winthrop, you know. He’s a great scamp--this one, I mean;
gambles, and that sort of thing, I’m told, and drinks, and--and various
things. I shall have to speak to him if he sees me, I suppose; but of
course I shall not introduce him to you.”

“Mr. Van Rensselaer Livingstone! Why so it is! How perfectly delightful!
I know him very well, Uncle Hutchinson. He was in Nice the last winter
we were there; and he broke the bank at Monaco; and he played that
perfectly absurd trick on little Prince Sporetti: cut off his little
black mustache when Prince Sporetti was--was not exactly sober, you
know, and gummed on a great red mustache instead of it; and then, before
the prince was quite himself again, took him to Lady Orrasby’s ball. All
Nice was in a perfect roar over it. And they had a duel afterwards, and
Mr. Livingstone--he is a wonderful shot--instead of hurting the little
prince, just shot away the tip of his left ear as nicely as possible.
Oh, he is a delightful man--and here he comes.” And Dorothy, half rising
from her chair, and paying no more attention to Mr. Port’s kicks under
the table than she did to his smothered verbal remonstrances, extended
her well-shaped white hand in the most cordial manner, and in the most
cordial tone exclaimed:

“Won’t you speak to me in English, Mr. Livingstone? We talked French,
I think it was, the last time we met. And how is your friend Prince
Sporetti? Has his ear grown out again? You know my uncle, I think?
Mr. Hutchinson Port.”

Livingstone took the proffered hand with even more cordiality than it
was given, and then extended his own to Mr. Port--who seemed much less
inclined to shake it than to bite it.

“I think that we are justified in regarding ourselves as relations now,
Miss Lee, since our cousins have married each other, you know. Quite a
romance, wasn’t it? And how very jolly it is to meet you here--when I
thought that you certainly were in Switzerland or Norway, or even over
in that new place that people are going to in Roumania! I flatter myself
that I always have rather a knack of falling on my feet, but, by Jove,
I’m doing it more than usual this morning!”

Miss Lee seemed to be entirely unaware of the fact that her uncle was
looking like an animated thunder-cloud. “It is just like a bit out of
a delightful novel,” was her encouraging response. “A long, low, black
schooner suddenly coming in from the seaward and anchoring close off
shore, and the hero landing in a little boat just in time to slay the
villain and rescue the beautiful bride. Of course I’m the beautiful
bride, but my uncle is not a villain, but the very best of
guardians--by-the-way, I don’t think that you know that poor dear mamma
is dead, Mr. Livingstone? Yes, she died only a week or two after you
left us. So you see you must be very nice to the villain--and you can
begin your kind treatment of him by having lunch with him and with me
too. Uncle Hutchinson was _so_ pleased when he saw you come ashore. He
said that we certainly must capture you, and he sent a man to bring some
hot soup for you at once--here it is now.” And so it was, for Dorothy
herself very thoughtfully had given the order that she now modestly
attributed to her uncle.

And so in less than ten minutes from the moment when Mr. Port had
informed Dorothy that Van Rensselaer Livingstone was a very
objectionable person whom he desired to avoid, and whose introduction to
her was not even to be thought of, they all three were lunching together
in what to the casual observer seemed to be the most amicable manner
possible.



VIII.

“I’ve run over to look up Mrs. Rattleton,” said Livingstone, as he
discussed with evident relish the _filet_ that Mr. Port charitably hoped
would choke him. “Very likely you haven’t met her, for she’s only just
got here. But you’ll like her, I know, for she’s ever so jolly. She’s
promised to play propriety for me in a party that we want to make up
aboard the yacht. The squadron won’t get down from New York for a week
yet, and I’ve come up ahead of it so that we can have a cruise to the
Shoals and back before the races. Of course, Miss Lee, you won’t fly in
the face of Fate, after this providential meeting, by refusing to join
our party; at least if you do you will make me wretched to the end of my
days. And we will try to make you comfortable on board, sir,” he added,
politely, turning to Mr. Port. “I have a tolerably fair cook, and ice
isn’t the only thing in the ice-chest, I assure you.”

“How very kind you are, Mr. Livingstone,” Dorothy hastened to say, in
order to head off her uncle’s inevitable refusal. “Of course we will go,
with the greatest possible pleasure. It is very odd how things fall out
sometimes. Now only this morning I was begging Uncle Hutchinson to take
me off yachting, and he was saying how much he enjoyed being at sea, and
how he really thought that if it wasn’t for his age--wasn’t it absurd
of him to talk about his age? He is not old at all, the dear!--he would
have a yacht of his own. And almost before the words are fairly out of
our mouths here you drop from the clouds, or are cast up by the sea,
it’s all the same thing, and give us both just what we have been longing
for. At least, Uncle Hutchinson pretended to be longing for it only in
case he could be young enough to enjoy it; but if he doesn’t think he’s
young now, I’d like to know what he’ll call himself when he’s fifty!”
 And then, facing around sharply upon her uncle, Dorothy concluded: “The
idea of pretending that _you_ are too old to go yachting! Really, Uncle
Hutchinson, I am ashamed of you!”

As has been intimated, if there was any one subject upon which Mr. Port
was especially sensitive, it was the subject of his age. As the parish
register of St. Peter’s all too plainly proved, he never would see sixty
again; but this awkward record was in an out-of-the-way place, and
the agreeable fiction that he advanced in various indirect ways to the
effect that he was a trifle turned of forty-seven was not likely to be
officially contradicted. And it is not impossible, so tenacious was he
upon this point, that had the official proof been produced, he would
have denied its authenticity. For it was Mr. Port’s firm determination
still to figure before the world as a youngish, middle-aged man.

To say that Miss Lee deliberately set herself to playing upon this
weakness of her guardian’s, possibly, remotely possibly, would be
doing her injustice. But the fact is obvious that she succeeded by
her cleverly turned discourse in landing her esteemed relative fairly
between the horns of an exceedingly awkward dilemma: either Mr. Port
must accept the invitation and be horribly ill, or he must reject it,
and so throw over his pretensions to elderly youth.

For a moment the unhappy gentleman hung in the wind, and Dorothy
regretted that she had not made her statement of the case still
stronger. Indeed, she was about to supplement it by a remark to the
effect that people never thought of giving up yachting until they were
turned of sixty, when, to her relief, her uncle slowly filled away on
the right tack. His acceptance was expressed in highly ungracious terms;
but, as has been said, Dorothy never troubled herself about forms,
provided she compassed results. The moment that he had uttered the fatal
words, Mr. Port fell to cursing himself in his own mind for being such
a fool; but the same reason that had impelled him to give his consent
withheld him from retracting it. He knew that he was going to be
desperately miserable; but, at least, nobody could say that he was old.

“I’m ever so much obliged to you, Miss Lee, and to you too, Mr. Port,”
 said Livingstone. “And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and hunt up
Mrs. Rattle-ton, and tell her what a splendid raise I’ve made, and help
her organize the rest of the party. We shall have only two more. It’s a
bore to have more than six people on board a yacht. I don’t know why it
is, I’m sure, but if you have more than six they always get to fighting.
Queer, isn’t it?”

“I beg your pardon,” said Mr. Port. “Mrs. Rattleton? May I ask if this
is the Mrs. Rattleton from New York who was here last season, the one
whose bathing costume was so--so very eccentric, and about whom there
was so much very disagreeable talk?”

“Mrs. Rattleton _is_ from New York, and she _was_ here last season,”
 Livingstone answered. “But I can’t say that I remember anything
eccentric in her bathing costume, except that it was exceedingly
becoming; and I certainly never heard any disagreeable talk about her.
There may have been such talk about her, but perhaps it was thought just
as well not to have it in my presence. Mrs. Rattleton is my cousin, Mr.
Port--she was a Van Twiller, you know. Do you happen to remember any
of the things that were said about her, and who said them?” Livingstone
spoke with extreme courtesy; but there was something in his tone that
caused Mr. Port suddenly to think of the tip of Prince Sporetti’s left
ear, and that led him to reply hurriedly, and by no means lucidly:

“Certainly--no--yes--that is to say, I can’t exactly remember anything
in particular. I’m sure I was led to believe from what was said that she
was a very charming woman. No, I don’t remember at all.”

“Ah, perhaps it is just as well,” Livingstone replied, gravely. “But how
lucky!” he added; “there she is now. Everybody is at the Casino about
this time of day, I fancy. May I bring her over and present her to you,
Miss Lee?”

“Of course you may, Mr. Livingstone. I shall be delighted to meet her.
And if she is to matronize me, the sooner that I begin to get accustomed
to her severities the better.”

And then Mr. Hutchinson Port suffered a fresh pang of misery when the
presentation was accomplished and he was forced to say approximately
pleasant things to a lady whose decidedly ballet-like attire in the
surf--or, to be precise, on the beach above high-water-mark, where,
for some occult reason, she usually saw fit to do the most of her
bathing--joined to the exceeding celerity of her conduct generally, had
marked her during the preceding season as the conspicuous centre of one
phase of life at the Pier. Nor was Mr. Port’s lot made happier as
he listened to the brisk discussion that ensued in regard to the
organization of the yachting party, and found that its two remaining
members were to be drawn, as was only natural, from the eminently
meteoric set to which Mrs. Rattleton belonged.

Had time been given Mr. Port for consideration it is probable that he
would have collected his mental forces sufficiently to have enabled him
to lodge a remonstrance; he might even--though this is doubtful, for
Dorothy’s voting power was vigorous--have accomplished a veto. But
projects in which Mrs. Rattleton was concerned never went slowly; and
in the present case the necessity for getting back in time for the
races really compelled haste. And so it came to pass that not until
the _Fleetwings_ was off the Brenton’s Reef light-ship, with her nose
pointed well up into the north-east, was there framed in Mr. Port’s
slow-moving mind a suitable line of argument upon which to base a
peremptory refusal to go upon the expedition--and by that time he was so
excruciatingly ill in his own cabin that coherent utterance and converse
with his kind were alike impossible.

So far as Mr. Port was concerned the ensuing six days made up an
epoch in his life that can only be described as an agonized blank. And
when--as it seemed to him many ages later--the _Fleetwings_ once more
cast anchor off Narragansett Pier, and he stepped shakily from the
schooner’s gig to the Casino dock, the usual plumpness and ruddiness of
his face had given place to a yellow leanness, and his weight had been
reduced by very nearly twenty pounds. The cruise had been a flying one,
or he never would have finished it. After the first six hours he would
have landed on a desert island cheerfully--and it is not impossible that
a hint from Dorothy as to her uncle’s probable movements should a harbor
be made had induced Livingstone to give the land a wide berth.

Dorothy came ashore blooming. “You don’t know, Uncle Hutchinson,”
 she said, “what a perfectly lovely time I’ve had”--and this cheerful
assertion was the literal truth, for Mr. Port had entered his cabin
before the yacht had crossed the line between Beaver Tail and Point
Judith, and had not emerged from it until the anchor went overboard.
“And you don’t know,” Miss Lee went on with effusion, “how grateful your
angel is to you for helping her to have such a delightful cruise. I’m
sorry that you haven’t been very well, Uncle Hutchinson; but I know
that you will be all the better for it. Poor dear mamma, you know, was
bilious too, and going to sea always made her wretched; but she used to
be wonderfully well always when she got on shore again. And you’ll be
wonderfully well too, you dear; and that will be your reward for helping
your angel to have such a perfectly delightful time.”

Mr. Port made no reply to this address, for his condition of collapse
was too complete to permit him to give form in words to the thoughts
of rage and resentment which were burning in the depths of his injured
soul. Without a word to one single member of the party, he climbed
heavily into a carriage and was driven directly to his hotel--while
Dorothy, still under the chaperonage of Mrs. Rattleton, gayly joined
the pleasant little lunch-party at the Casino with which the yacht
voyage came to an end.



IX.

During the ensuing week, a considerable portion of which Mr. Port passed
in the privacy of his own room, the relations between Miss Lee and her
guardian were characterized by a chill formality that was ominous of
a coming storm. In point of fact, Mr. Port was waiting only until
he should fully regain his strength in order to try conclusions with
Dorothy once and for all--and he was most highly resolved that in the
impending battle royal he should not suffer defeat. So far, he had gone
down in each encounter with his spirited antagonist because the tactics
employed against him were of an unfamiliar sort. But he was beginning to
get the hang of these tactics now; and he also had got what in fighting
parlance would have been styled his second wind. As he thought of the
wrongs which had been heaped upon him, rage filled his breast; and the
strong determination slowly shaped itself within him that to the finesse
of the enemy he would oppose a solid front of brute force.

Astuteness was not the least marked of Miss Lee’s many charming
characteristics, and although her guardian gave no outward sign of his
belligerent intentions, she felt an inward conviction that a decisive
trial of strength between them was at hand. Five or six years earlier
she had engaged in a trial of this nature with her mother, and had
emerged from it victorious. In that case, feminine weakness had yielded
to feminine strength. But now the gloomy thought assailed her that her
uncle, while closely resembling her mother in the matter of his liver,
had in the depths of his torpid nature a substratum of brutal masculine
resolution against which, should it fairly be set in array, she might
battle in vain. And the upshot of her meditations was the conviction
that her only chance of success lay in avoiding a battle by a radical
change of base.

An easy way, as she perceived, to effect such a change of base was to
marry Van Rensselaer Livingstone. Indeed, his proposal, a couple of days
after the yacht voyage ended, came so opportunely that she almost
was surprised into accepting it out of hand. But Dorothy was too well
balanced a young person to do anything hastily, even to get herself
out of a tight place; and while she held Livingstone’s proposal under
advisement--as a line of retreat kept open for use in case of urgent
necessity--she welcomed it less for the possibilities of a safer
position that it offered than for those which it suggested to her
fertile mind.

Marriage, she decided, was the only way by which she could score a final
victory over her uncle, and at the same time spike his guns; but it
did not necessarily follow that her marriage must be with Livingstone.
Indeed, as her coolly intelligent mind perceived, marrying an
unmanageable young man in order to be free of an unmanageable old one
would be simply walking out of the frying-pan into the fire--and that
was not at all the resolution of her difficulties that Dorothy sought.
The plan that now began to shape itself in her mind was one by which
both fire and frying-pan would be successfully avoided; and as the more
that she examined into it the more desirable it appeared to her, she
lost no time in carrying it into effect--whereby, in less than three
days’ time, she sent Mr. Van Rensselaer Livingstone away in such a rage
that he put to sea in the very face of a threatening north-easter, and
in a much shorter period she caused her uncle seriously to doubt the
evidence of his own senses.

At the end of his week of retirement, Mr. Port found himself in the
hale condition of a bilious giant refreshed with blue-pills. He looked a
little thinner than when he had started upon his ill-starred cruise, and
his usual ruddiness was not as yet fully restored; but he was in capital
condition, and a good deal more than ready for Miss Lee to come on.
He could not very well, in the nature of the case, start an offensive
campaign; but at the very first suggestion on Dorothy’s part of
the slightest desire to engage again in any of the various forms of
frivolous amusement by which she had made his life a burden to him, he
was all loaded and primed to go off with a bang that he believed would
settle her.

And, such is the perversity of human nature, Mr. Port presently became
not a little annoyed by Dorothy’s failure to supply the spark that was
to touch him off. In fact, her conduct was bewilderingly strange.
She drew away from the lively circle of which Mrs. Rattleton was the
animated centre and voluntarily associated herself with the elderly and
very respectable Philadelphians whoso acquaintance she previously had
so emphatically declined. Still further to Mr. Port’s astonishment, the
lady and gentleman especially singled out by Miss Lee as most in accord
with her newly-acquired tastes were the severe Mrs. Logan Rittenhouse
and that lady’s staid brother, Mr. Pennington Brown.

[Illustration: The severe Mrs. Logan Rittenhouse 074]

At the feet of the former, quite literally, she sat as a disciple in
crochet; and listened the while with every outward sign of interest to
the dull record of South Fourth Street scandals of the past and West
Walnut Street scandals of the present which this estimable matron
poured into her ears by the hour at a time. And in a quiet corner of the
veranda (Mr. Brown’s eyesight having failed a little, so that he found
reading rather difficult) she read aloud to the latter from _Watson’s
Annals_; and listened with a pleased satisfaction to his comments upon
her selections from this, the Philadelphia Bible, and to the numerous
anecdotes of a genealogical and antiquarian cast which thus were
recalled to his mind. Possibly the readings from _Watson_ were continued
in the afternoons--when Miss Lee and Mr. Brown regularly went down to
the Rocks. So extraordinary was all this that Mr. Port admitted frankly
to himself that he could make neither head nor tail of it; but he had an
inborn conviction that such an unnatural state of affairs was not likely
to last There was good Scriptural authority, he called to mind grimly,
for the assertion that the leopard did not change his spots nor the
Ethiopian his skin.



X.

In accordance with the substantial customs of his fellow-citizens,
Mr. Port always returned to Philadelphia sharp on the 1st of
September--calmly ignoring the heat and the mosquitoes, which are the
dominant characteristics of Philadelphia during that month, and resting
secure in the knowledge that the course which he pursued was that which
his father and his grandfather had pursued before him. It was on the
eve of his departure from Narragansett that his doubts and perplexities
occasioned by Dorothy’s surprising conduct were resolved.

Being seated in a snug corner of the veranda in company with Mr.
Pennington Brown, Mr. Port was smoking a comforting cigar. Mr. Brown,
who also was smoking, did not seem to find his cigar comforting. He
smoked it in so fitful a fashion that it repeatedly went out; and
his nervousness seemed to be increased each time that he lighted it.
Further, his comment upon Mr. Port’s discourse--which was a more than
ordinarily thoughtful and accurate weighing of the relative merits of
thin and thick soups--obviously were delivered quite at random. At
first Mr. Port was disposed to resent this inattention to his soulful
utterances; but as the subject was one in which, as he well knew, his
friend was profoundly interested, he presently became uneasy.

“What’s the matter, Brown?” he asked, in a tone of kindly concern. “Is
your rheumatism bothering you? I’ve been afraid that your absurd sitting
around on rocks with my niece would bring it on again. You’re not as
young as you once were, Pen, and you’ve got to take care of yourself.”

“I am not aware, Port,” Mr. Brown answered rather stiffly, “that I am as
yet conspicuously superannuated. Indeed, I never felt younger in my life
than I have felt during the past fortnight. I _have_ a little touch
of rheumatism to-night,” he added, frankly, and at the same time gave
unintentional emphasis to his admission by catching his breath and
almost groaning as he slightly moved his legs, “but it has nothing to do
with sitting on the rocks with Dor--with your charming niece. You forget
that my rheumatism is hereditary, Port. Why, I had an attack of it when
I was only five-and-twenty.”

“All the same, you wouldn’t have it now if you had spent your afternoons
sensibly with me here on a dry veranda, or properly wrapped up in a dry
carriage, instead of on damp rocks, with that baggage. What on earth has
got into you I can’t imagine. If you were twenty years younger, Brown, I
should think, yes, positively, I should think that you were in love with
her.”

“Port,” said Mr. Brown, with a tone of resentment in his voice, “I shall
be very much obliged if you will not use such language when you are
speaking of Miss Lee. She is the best and kindest and noblest woman I
ever have met. You have most cruelly misunderstood her. Had you given
her half a chance she would have been to you only a source of constant
joy.”

Mr. Port replied to this emphatic assertion by a low, but most pointedly
incredulous, whistle.

“You have not the slightest conception, as such a comment shows,” Mr.
Brown continued, with increasing asperity, “of the depths of sweetness
and tenderness which are in her nature; of her perfect unselfishness;
of the gentleness and trustfulness of her heart. She is all that a woman
can be, and more. She is--she is an angel!” Mr. Brown’s elderly voice
trembled as he made this avowal.

As for Mr. Port, his astonishment was almost too deep for words. But he
managed to say: “Yes, I suppose she is--at least she has said so often
enough herself.”

For some seconds there was silence; and then, with a deprecating manner
and in a voice from which all trace of resentment had disappeared, Mr.
Brown resumed: “Hutch, old man, you and I have been friends these many
years together, and you won’t fail me in your friendship now, will
you? You are right, I _am_ in love with this sweet young creature, and
she--think of it, Hutch!--she has admitted that she is in love with me;
not romantically in love, for that would be, not absurd, of course,
but a little unreasonable--for while I’m not at all old, yet I know,
of course, that I am not exactly what can be called young--but in love
sensibly and rationally. She wants to take care of me, she says, the
dear child!” (Mr. Port grunted.) “And she has such clever notions in
regard to my health. When we are married--how strange and how delightful
it sounds, Hutch!--she says that we will go immediately to Carlsbad,
where the waters will do my rheumatism a world of good; and from there,
when I am better, we will go on to Vienna, where the dry climate and the
white wines, she thinks, still further will benefit me; and from Vienna,
in order to set me on my feet completely, we are to go on to the North
and spend a winter in Russia--for there is nothing that cures rheumatism
so quickly and so thoroughly, she says (though I never should have
imagined it) as steady and long-continued cold. Just think of her
planning it all out for me so well!

“Yes, Hutch, I love her with all my heart; and what has made me so
nervous to-night is the great happiness that has come to me--it only
came positively this afternoon--and the dread that perhaps, as her
guardian, you know, you might not approve of what we have decided to
do. But you do approve, don’t you, Hutch? Of course, in a few months she
will be her own mistress, and your consent to our marriage, as she
very truly says, then will be unnecessary. But even a month seems a
desperately long while to wait; and that is the very shortest time,
she thinks, in which she could get ready--though the dear child has
consented to wait for most of the little things which she wants until we
get on the other side.” Mr. Port smiled cynically at the announcement of
this concession. It struck him that when Dorothy was turned loose among
the Paris shops, backed by the capacious purse of a doting elderly
husband, she would mow a rather startlingly broad swath. “So you won’t
oppose our marriage, will you, old man? You will consent to my having
this dear young creature for my wife?”

Various emotions found place in Mr. Port’s breast as he listened to this
extraordinary declaration and appeal. At first he felt a lively anger
at Dorothy for having, as he coarsely phrased it in his own mind,
so successfully gammoned Mr. Pennington Brown; to this succeeded an
involuntary admiration of the clever way in which she had managed it;
and then a feeling of profound satisfaction possessed him as there came
into his slow-moving mind a realizing sense of his own deliverance.
But Mr. Port was not so utterly selfish but that, in the midst of the
sunrise of happiness which dawned upon him with the opening of a way by
which he decently could get rid of Dorothy, he was assailed by certain
qualms of conscience as to the unfairness of thus casting upon his old
friend the burden that he had found so hard to bear. For the heaviness
of Mr. Port’s mental processes prevented him from perceiving, as a
shrewder person would have perceived, that Dorothy was not the sort
of young woman to engage in an enterprise of this nature without first
fully counting the cost. Had he been keener of penetration he would have
known that she could be trusted, when safely landed in the high estate
of matrimony, to play on skilfully the game that she had so skilfully
begun; that in her own interest she would manage matters in such a
way as never to arouse in the mind of her elderly husband the awkward
suspicion that the scheme of life arranged by his angel apparently
with a view solely to his own comfort really was arranged only for the
comfort of her angelic self.

It was while Mr. Port wavered among his qualms of conscience, hesitating
between his great longing to chuck Dorothy overboard, and so have
done with her, and his sense of duty to Mr. Pennington Brown, that the
subject of his perplexities herself appeared upon the scene; and
her arrival at so critical a juncture seemed to suggest as a remote
possibility that she had been all the while snuffing this particular
battle from not very far off.

“Dear Uncle Hutchinson,” said Miss Lee, with affectionate fervor,
“do you think that your angel is most cruel and horrid because she is
willing to go off in this way after her own selfish happiness and leave
you all alone? But she won’t do it, dear, if you would rather have her
stay. Her only wish, you know, has been to make you comfortable and
happy; and you have been so good and so kind to her that she is ready to
sacrifice even her love for your sake. Yes, if you would rather keep
her to yourself she will stay. Only if she does stay,” and there was a
warning tone of deep meaning in Miss Lee’s well-modulated voice, “her
heart, of course, will be broken, and she will have to ask you to travel”
 with her for two or three years into out-of-the-way parts of the world
(Mr. Port shuddered) “until her poor broken heart gets well. Not that
it ever will get quite well again, you know; but she will be brave, and
try to pretend for your sake that it has. So it shall be just as you
say, dear; only for Pennington’s sake, who loves me so much, Uncle
Hutchinson, I hope that perhaps you may be willing to let me go.”

And having concluded this moving address, Miss Lee extended one of her
well-shaped hands to Mr. Pennington Brown--who grasped it warmly, for
he was deeply moved by so edifying an exhibition of affectionate and
dutiful unselfishness--and with the other applied her handkerchief
delicately to her eyes.

Mr. Port was not in the least moved by Dorothy’s professions of
self-sacrifice; but he was most seriously alarmed by her threat--that
opened before him a dismal vista of bilious misery--to cart him for
several years about the world on the pretext of a broken heart that
required travel for its mending.

[Illustration: Page 67 084]

He believed, to be sure, that in a stand-up fight he could conquer
Dorothy; but he had his doubts as to how long she would stay
conquered--and between constant fighting and constant travel there is
not much choice; for Mr. Port knew from experience how acute is
that form of biliousness which results from rage. After all,
self-preservation is the first law of nature; and under the stress thus
put upon him, therefore, it is not surprising that Mr. Port’s qualms
of conscience incident to his failure to do his duty to his neighbor
vanished to the winds.

Mr. Pennington Brown still held Dorothy’s hand in his own. “Will you
make this great sacrifice, Hutch, for your old friend?” he asked.

Mr. Port hesitated a little, for he felt a good deal like a criminal who
is shifting his crime upon an innocent man; and then he answered, rather
weakly both in tones and terms: “Why, of course.”

“Dear Uncle Hutchinson, how good you are!” exclaimed Miss Lee. “And you
really think that you can spare your angel, then?”

And both promptly and firmly Mr. Port answered: “Yes, I really think
that I can.”





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