“Why, you don’t mean to say you pay duty on gloves and laces! I only pay postage; have them done p and sent in the Boston Advertiser.”
There are those who believe that the most difficult thing to create is a woman who can comprehend that it is wrong to smuggle; and that an impossible thing to create is a woman who will not smuggle, whether or no, when she gets a chance. But these may be errors.
We went wandering off toward the country, and were soon far down in the lonely black depths of a road that was roofed over with the dense foliage of a double rank of great cedars. There was no sound of any kind, there; it was perfectly still. And it was so dark that one could detect nothing but sombre outlines. We strode farther and farther down this tunnel, cheering the way with chat.
Presently the chat took this shape: “How insensibly the character of a people and of a government makes its impress upon a stranger, and gives him a sense of security or of insecurity without his taking deliberate thought upon the matter or asking anybody a question! We have been in this land half a day; we have seen none but honest faces; we have noted the British flag flying, which means efficient government and good order; so without inquiry we plunge unarmed and with perfect confidence into this dismal place, which in almost any other country would swarm with thugs and garroters”—
’Sh! What was that? Stealthy footsteps! Low voices! We gasp, we close up together, and wait. A vague shape glides out of the dusk and confronts us. A voice speaks—demands money!
“A shilling, gentlemen, if you please, to help build the new Methodist church.”
Blessed sound! Holy sound! We contribute with thankful avidity to the new Methodist church, and are happy to think how lucky it was tat those little colored Sunday-school scholars did not seize upon everything we had with violence, before we recovered from our momentary helpless condition. By the light of cigars we write down the names of weightier philanthropists than ourselves on the contribution-cards, and then pass on into the farther darkness, saying, What sort of a government to they call this, where they allow little black pious children, with contribution-cards, to plunge out upon peaceable strangers in the dark and scare them to death?
We prowled on several hours, sometimes by the sea-side, sometimes inland, and finally managed to get lost, which is a feat that requires talent in Bermuda. I had on new shoes. They were No. 7′s when I started, but were not more than 5′s now, and still diminishing. I walked two hours in those shoes after that, before we reached home. Doubtless I could have the reader’s sympathy for the asking. Many people have never had the headache or the toothache, and I am one of those myself; but everybody has worn tight shoes for two or three hours, and known the luxury of taking them off in a retired place and seeing his feet swell up and obscure the firmament. Few of us will ever forget the exquisite hour we were married. Once when I was a callow, bashful cub, I took a plain, unsentimental country girl to a comedy one night. I had known her a day; she seemed divine; I wore my new boots. At the end of the first half hour she said, “Why do you fidget so with your feet?“ I said, “Did I?“ Then I put my attention there and kept still. At the end of another half hour she said, “Why do you say, ’Yes, oh yes!′ and ’Ha, ha, oh, certainly! very true!′ to everything I say, when half the time those are entirely irrelevant answers?“ I blushed, and explained that I had been a little absent-minded. At the end of another half hour she said, “Please, why do you grin so steadfastly at vacancy, and yet look so sad?“ I explained that I always did that when I was reflecting. An hour passed, and then she turned and contemplated me with her earnest eyes and said, “Why do you cry all the time?“ I explained that very funny comedies always made me cry. At last human nature surrendered, and I secretly slipped my boots off. This was a mistake. I was not able to get them on any more. It was a rainy night; there were no omnibuses going our way; and as I walked home, burning up with shame, with the girl on one arm and my boots under the other, I was an object worthy of some compassion,—especially in those moments of martyrdom when I had to pass through the glare that fell upon the pavement from street lamps. Finally, this child of the forest said, “Where are your boots?“ and being taken unprepared, I put a fitting finish to the follies of the evening with the stupid remark, “The higher classes do not wear them to the theatre.”