DEWDROPS AND DIAMONDS.
THE weather was delicious; brilliant yet soft, and full of that vague, lulling enchantment which is the peculiar virtue of the Newport air. The sun shone, but not in a downright, uncultured way, such as might be obnoxious to polite sensibilities : you were conscious of it rather as a diffused exhalation of pale golden mist, a celestial form of the grosser golden mist that was floating about in the minds of the people who moved under its radiance, in the holiday part of the town. I have no doubt the wealthy ones among them were gratified that the sun so well understood its place and behaved with such very proper deference ; others, whose slender purses enabled them only to cling to the edge of the show, dilated their chests and absolutely enjoyed a passing illusion that they were rich. It was one of those days when a southwest breeze, streaming over the island in a steady succession of bluff gusts, makes you feel as if you were standing on a quarter-deck — a deck neatly carpeted with verdant lawns, embowered in trees, and thickly encumbered with villas, a few of which are more like small palaces. Yes, the wind pats your face in a vigorous, companionable manner that flatters you with the idea that you are an old salt, and know all about it, and can stand any amount of exposure — as long as the grass is dry and your nice clothes are not spoiled, and your pleasant club is near at hand. You even murmur to yourself something about “ The Bay of Biscay, O; ” and then you think of distant places, all the balmy and romantic coasts and islands from which this breeze has come, and the name of for Cathay forms itself lazily on your lips. At least, this was the case with Oliphant, when he came out into the air again, to fulfill an engagement he had made. He had accepted a maternal sort of invitation from Mrs. Farley Blazer, to drive: with her. This poor old ogress was rather lonely in her splendor; and as the girls were driving with other people that day, she wanted a companion. Besides, she may have had some faint design of marrying Oliphant to the elder niece, if nothing better could be done. Her foreign policy had had in view alliances with England and France, or possibly Italy : if such an international concert could be established, her own position would be made more secure. But she was discouraged, just now, as to Tilly’s capturing Lord Hawkstane, unless the reported engagement with Miss Hobart should come to nothing ; and there was beginning to be some danger that Ruth would not get married at all; in which event even so humble a match as Oliphant might be worth considering. Of course he had no suspicion of such an absurdity; and as I have said, he thought of far Cathay, while the breeze wafted aside his troubled mood regarding Octavia. He surrendered himself to the scented indolence and poppied ease of Newport, as being more easily attainable than Cathay, and in all likelihood pleasanter; meanwhile rolling along in Mrs. Blazer’s chariot, which was like a huge bathtub on wheels.
Morning at Newport is a disorganized period, in which the general gathering at the Casino about midday is the most definite incident. Strangers wander about uneasily ; now and then a dashing equipage speeds along Bellevue Avenue, or a hired victoria creeps languidly through that thoroughfare. The coachmen and footmen attached to the dashing equipages glide rigidly onward in their appointed places; the grooms jump up or down, open doors, and fold their arms, with all the precision of trained monkeys; their yellow-topped boots,many-buttoned liveries and “ bug” adorned hats increasing the likeness. There are also a good many young men on the street who bear a close resemblance to these hired attendants : their dress, though different, is just as artificial, and they are just as much bound to conduct themselves according to an arbitrary fashion. It is the height of luxury for human beings who have the requisite means to distort other human beings who take care of their horses and carriages,—on the same principle that once made it the fashion at European courts to keep dwarfs, who had been specially stunted and twisted to meet the demand. The young men of the avenue, finding no one else to distort them, have to do it for themselves. They are debarred from becoming lackeys, but they enjoy all the appearance of being employed on salaries to make themselves absurd. There they go, trotting about in their small, tight-waisted cutaways, or in long-tailed Incroyable coats, that give them a playful likeness to moths of an exaggerated size. Their shoulders are held awkwardly forward; they lift their tight little legs and stamp their small, uncomfortable shoes down on the pavement with studied over-earnestness, producing a startling imitation of persons who really have a purpose in going somewhere. They cling each one to a small cane, With a certain desperate tenacity that makes you suspect it is a sort of perch, to which they have grown accustomed in the cage where they served their apprenticeship. But what are we talking about? Are not these little creatures men ? Most assuredly they wear that painful look of experience so carefully assumed by an order of animals nearly approaching man ; and we must give them the benefit of the doubt.
During the forenoon large covered wagons, with romantic names sprawled along their sides, — the Amarintha, the Margarita, the Madeline, — had proudly caracoled through the streets, carrying a motley freight of people still ignorant and innocent enough to ride clown to Easton’s Beach for a surgebath ; but now these lordly vehicles, their brief hour of triumph having passed, withdrew into obscurity, giving way to the veritable curule aristocracy. The little creatures, also, with their tight legs and tiny sticks and slender coat-tails, made haste either to get places in the driving throng, or to ensconce themselves on the reading-room veranda or in the Casino Club windows, where they could view the procession with placid superiority.
Gradually the soft crushing of wheels and the tapping sound of delicately stepping horses, which had at first been intermittent, merged into a continuous, subdued whirr: the main part of Bellevue Avenue and broad, old-time Kaye Street, with its sober mansions and retired-looking cottages, were filled by an unbroken stream of moving carriages. The sunlight glinted on the polished harness metal and abundant varnish of tilburys, dog-carts, landaus, gigs ; and even basket-wagons were to be seen here and there, swimming along in the black, glittering tide. Quisbrough and Judge Malachi Hixon, sitting democratically on the long piazza of the Ocean House, — the Judge with his hat and chair both tipped comfortably back and his feet entangled in the railing, — observed the procession. Mary Deering was out in her village-cart, driving Atlee, who surveyed the scene with such perfection of acquired gravity that his very eye-glass seemed to cast a shadow over everything. Soon afterwards they saw Congressman Overblow jolting along on the back seat of a T-cart, while his enormous spouse occupied a place in front beside the hook-nosed gentleman who was directing the horse. Overblow smoked a very large cigar and appeared to think that he was in the height of the style. On went the cavalcade. Vivian Ware had chosen to make herself conspicuous by appearing on horseback, attended by Count Fitz-Stuart; and Justin Craig, who was strolling along the sidewalk in his loose, dowdy apparel, on the lookout for her, did not even receive a nod from the fair face under the tall hat. Josephine Hobart flashed by in company with a young man who appeared to be greatly devoted to her, but left on the minds of spectators, as he skimmed the edge of the crowd, only the impression of a long red mustache flying through the air. There was no occasion for remark in her being with him, for everybody knew him as Roland De Peyster, whose ambition it was to secure for his tilbury more pretty girls in the season than should fall to the lot of any other young bachelor ; but he had no intention of lavishing his great fortune on any single damsel. “ I can’t marry, you know,” he would sometimes say. “It would turn the head of the best girl I could pick ; so I try to preserve them in all their perfection as they are.” had noticed in the house of a friend. It depicted the Appian Way crowded with chariots and litters, fleet Nubian slaves and fashionable idlers and beautiful women, at the time of Rome’s greatest luxury, before the fall. No doubt the architecture and the costumes were very different, but there was an element of sameness in the pictured scene and this real one : here, too, were the reigning beauties and the handsome, selfish young men and the slaves — the last from Britannia and Hibernia, instead of Nubia, and wearing more than the simple waist-cloth that satisfied Rome. And might not Overblow, with his big cigar, take the place of Boulanger’s bullnecked senator? Oliphant laughed at the burlesque truth in his fancy. What he saw before him, after all, was only a parody upon the Roman scene ; a modern comic opera, mounted at great expense and ridiculing the old notion that luxury implies decadence.
There were many lovely women in the procession, and many bows and smiles were exchanged ; but there were likewise hidden animosities and heartburnings lurking under the gay costumes and flowers of the women and the reticent coats of the men. Sundry youths of the most eligible pattern had failed to secure desirable partners for the course, and drove in solitary grandeur. Raish Porter was also alone, but he looked the personification of contentment ; his penetrating eyes took in everything, but his bearded, hearty face gave him the air of an indulgent master of the ceremonies, a person who watched the machinery and helped to keep it going for the benefit of others. Quisbrough pointed out to Judge Hixon Mrs. Ballard Mole, a devoted churchwoman, who was airing the Bishop of Alaska in a heavy barouche, presided over by two servants in deep black, with wrinkled black gloves and equally wrinkled visages, doleful as those of hired mourners. But just as he had done so, the inane tooting of a horn was heard ; and the four-in-hand of Colonel Clancy lumbered into view, bearing on its high back a large party who appeared to have fled to that eminence in order to escape some threatened inundation. They were closely pursued by the Baron de Huyneck, the Austrian ambassador; and a stout individual not far behind, who might have been taken for a prosperous old-clothes dealer from Chatham Street, turned out to be Rustuffi Bey, representative of the Sublime Porte. It was natural enough that Mrs. Farley Blazer should happen to pass at about the same time with the other diplomatists ; but it may be imagined how insignificant Oliphant must have felt in such a train. Still, he was permitted something of that awful joy which small boys on the outside of a circus experience in peeping under some lifted fold of the tent. He knew he had not paid his share for the performance, but he was getting the benefit of it, all the same. Millions of dollars, and various things besides, had been contributed by the others. Trade, law, religion, social ambition, politics, honor, — possibly dishonor, — thrift and idleness, were all in that stream ; and those who stood for such diverse interests had probably sacrificed a good deal in order to join the rout. What power was it, mightier than horses’ legs, that drew them on, and whither were they drifting ? That was what the atom Olipliant inwardly inquired; and in the thickest part of the press he was suddenly reminded of an engraving after Boulanger, which he
“What are you laughing at? ” Mrs. Blazer asked, coming out of a brief preoccupation. “ Oh, I see,” she added, immediately: “you recognize your friends.”
In fact, as she put her question, Oliphant was taking off his hat to Octavia, who, enthroned upon a high seat with Thorburn, swept by them in the neighboring line of carriages, going the other way. Her face was radiant, and she gave him an enchanting smile and bow. Then he saw her no more.
“No,” said Oliphant, becoming almost grave ; “ I was laughing at an ancient joke — a joke at least two thousand years old.”
“ Ah,” said the matron, “ that was before my time. What can it be ? ”
“ The joke of thinking society is serious.”
“ I wish I could see the fun in that,” Mrs. Blazer observed.
“ So do I,” returned Oliphant; “ for if you did you might be happier.” And the smile came back to his lips.
We need not be deceived by his tone. At that instant he was by no means in a jocose mood ; and, in fact, if he and Octavia had leaned from their carriages as they passed, and had wounded each other with rapiers, the encounter could not have been more startling than it proved for both of them.
He was amazed to see her abroad at all; especially to see her so apparently contented. Although he had not wanted her to suffer, it shocked him that she should so easily surmount the pain she must have felt; and possibly he was thwarted in some unconscious scheme of acting as a consoler. Add to this that her being with Thorburn, and the possibility that the heavily gilded youth might be making headway in his suit for her hand, quickened the sentiment already smouldering in Oliphant’s breast. From the ashes in his heart an impassioned envy, a new hope, broke like a spurt of flame.
Octavia, in turn, was horrified that he should openly parade in Mrs. Blazer’s company. What did all his protestations of strict concealment amount to, weighed against his presence there with the woman who had first hinted to her the gossip concerning Gifford’s former attachment to Miss Davenant ? Octavia believed strongly in feminine intuitions, particularly when she was constructing an opinion of her own. She saw it all, now; she was positive that Oliphant had weakly allowed Mrs. Blazer to extract the whole history from him. The bitterness of this thought, stinging her mind even as she bowed to him, had a peculiar result : it caused her to throw additional sweetness into her smile.
“ Who is that Oliphant, any way ? ” inquired the blonde young Cræsus at her side, as they drove along. “ Seems to me, if any man could reasonably claim the right to be jealous about you, there would be some cause for alarm, just now. I think Mr. Oliphant will be falling in love with you in about two twos from the present moment—or say in one shake of a ram’s tail.”
“ Perry,” said Octavia, “ if you expect to talk with me, you really must correct your slang. But what makes you think that about Mr. Oliphant ? ”
“ Oh, the way he looked at you. How can I tell what makes me think it, anyhow ? Let’s talk about Josephine. You say that her father really insists on her going back to Jamestown. How soon ? ”
“ In a few days, at the outside. He’s inexorable.”
The young man looked meditative. “ Well, what am I to do ? ” he began, after a pause. “ I hardly dare to venture on speaking to her so soon. Would you advise me to ? ”
“ My friend,” said Octavia, “ is any one ever old enough to advise in such matters ? Besides, you know ” — here the young widow slightly tossed back her head and laughed aloud, so that the short white veil that scarcely touched her lips was shaken by the merriment — “ she ’s supposed to be engaged to Lord Hawkstane ! ”
People in the neighboring carriages, though they could not distinguish what she said, heard her laugh ring out, and turned to look at the white throat, swelling like a song-bird’s, at the trim figure, the dainty costume, the roses blooming in her corsage.
“ The devil! ” exclaimed Thorburn. “ I beg pardon ; but that’s hardly slang, because — because the devil is eminently the proper thing nowadays. Is it positively true, though, about Josephine and Hawkstane ? ”
I regret to say that the clatter of harness and hoofs and the crunching of wheels made Octavia’s reply inaudible, so that it cannot be given here.
By this time, Mrs. Blazer and Oliphant were far away in the opposite direction, and were entering upon the road that leads to Castle Hill ; but they had continued to converse about the two people we have just been listening to.
“ You knew Mrs. Gifford before, I believe,” remarked Mrs. Blazer.
“ Before when ? No ; I never saw her until I came to Newport.”
“ But Mr. Gifford was acquainted with your wife, I hear.”
“ What! ” cried Oliphant. “You have found it out, too ? I wonder if there is anybody left in Newport who has n’t been told of that interesting circumstance.”
“ I imagine it. is known to very few,” said Mrs. Blazer quietly, with a rather wicked glimmer in her weary eyes, peering out from the dull, white face.
“ Seriously, then,” he resumed, “ will you tell me from whom you learned it?-”
Mrs. Blazer attempted pleasantry.
“ You were just saying, Mr. Oliphant, that it’s foolish to take society au sérieux.”
“ Well, I suppose it is. But I' m not a society man ; and this is not a public matter, you assure me, though it had begun to seem like one when you mentioned it.”
“ Don’t you remember,” she resumed, “ that I told you how Mr. Sweetser knew all about you ? ”
“Ah, it was from him, was it? But he could n’t have known of the ”— Oliphant was on the point of saying “ the letter.” He made a new approach. “ One question occurs to me : have you spoken of this to Mrs. Gifford, at all? ”
“ Mrs. Gifford ? Why, that would be the most natural thing in the world, would n’t it ? Yes, I think I did say something.” How artlessly Mrs. Blazer answered !
“ I ’m exceedingly sorry. I don’t think you should have done it,” said he, biting his lip.
“ If I had had any idea it could annoy you,” the lady replied, benignly, “ of course I would n’t have uttered a word.”
“ Do you consider it strange that I should be annoyed? Perhaps it isn’t necessary for me to go into the reasons why I am. But I really shall have to ask you how much you may have said to Mrs. Gifford.”
“ What a singular question ! You seem to be disturbed, Mr. Oliphant. Well, I ’ll tell you : I hardly said more to Mrs. Gifford than I have to you.”
“ Your answer is as strange as my question,” said Oliphant. He was at. a loss to guess how Octavia had been apprised that there was a letter, if it had not been through Mrs. Blazer. Then, reverting to the possibility that Raish had found out something, “ Did your information,” he inquired, “come only from Mr. Sweetser ? ”
“From whom else should you imagine ? ” Mrs. Blazer retorted. “ Of course he was my informant.”
“ The only one ? ” Oliphant fixed his eyes upon her.
His companion shifted the position of her parasol by a point or two, and bowed in her grand manner to the Baron de Huyneck, who had made a turn and was coming back. “ Dear me,” she replied, languidly, “ I know very little about this affair. I only mentioned it because it happened to come into my head. I thought it might make conversation.”
“ And so it did,” Oliphant answered. “ I have been put in a disagreeable position of late, by this very thing, because some one has spoken of what I had supposed was to be guarded sacredly. You will greatly oblige me if you will give me a direct reply.”
“ I m sorry to refuse,” said Mrs. Blazer, “ but I cannot see why I should be mixed up with it, any way.”
Oliphant’s suspicion was strengthened by her behavior. The conviction that it was Mrs. Blazer who had carried everything to Octavia, and the belief that she had purposely inveigled him into public companionship with her, mortified and enraged him. He laid his hand on the lever of the carriage door.
“ What are you going to do ? ” demanded the owner of the carriage, in alarm.
“ I 'm going to take my leave, and walk back,” said he.
“ Oh, don’t! don’t! ” she exclaimed. “ You will kill yourself ! Wait a moment. Andreas,” she called to the coachman, “ stop here : we are going to turn.”
“ Thanks,” said Oliphant. " You mustn’t inconvenience yourself ; I prefer to get down.” He already had the door open, and, as Andreas reined in the horses, he placed his foot on the step. “ You have nothing more to tell me ? ” he queried, looking up at her with hostile fixity.
“ Nothing,” declared Mrs. Blazer, and firmly contracted those uneasy lips of hers. At this, Oliphant sprang to the ground.
“ Drive on, Andreas,” Mrs. Blazer commanded. And, while Oliphant lifted his hat with grim ceremony, the impressive bath-tub on wheels started forward again, its occupant settling herself to face the sea-breeze alone.
He strode along the highway in a fierce temper. All the soft serenity of the afternoon did not avail to soothe him ; and when he regained the sidewalk of Bellevue Avenue, where the well-bred rumble and clatter of the polished turnouts were still going on, the sight of that respectable pageant redoubled his disgust. “ What a fool I am,” he muttered, “ to care about all this ! Why do I bother myself about Mrs. Gifford, and why can’t I just look on and amuse myself with the mock-Roman Newport holiday ? Or else, why don’t I get away from here at once, and leave the whole thing behind me ?” But something told him he could not go ; it was too late ; he had been trapped, fascinated, he hardly knew how. The rest of the world looked strangely empty, as he imagined himself going out into it again. Desolate though it had been to him before, he had not conceived until this instant that it could seem quite so vacant.
All at once Octavia appeared before him a second time, not as a vision, but as a delightful reality. Thorburn had decided to take the Ocean drive, and they had changed their direction accordingly. Away they flew, and Oliphant had only time enough for a glimpse of her. He thought her absorbed in conversation with Perry; too much so, indeed. He did not know that they were still talking more or less directly about Josephine Hobart; nor was he aware that they had both observed him and exchanged comments at his reappearance on foot, so soon after they had seen him with Mrs. Blazer.
“ I swear ! ” observed Perry. “ Came back on purpose to see you.”
“ Nonsense,” said Octavia. “ He has forgotten something he had to do ; or perhaps Mrs. Blazer only took him up by chance, for a little way.”
Her heart fluttered, though she sawno reason for its doing so ; and, bending her head as if to keep the wind off her face, she avoided meeting Oliphant’s gaze. As for him, he proceeded on his way still more disconsolately ; and when he came opposite the Casino entrance, the desire to get out of sight and be quiet moved him to pass into the deserted inclosure.
Another unhappy lover had gone in there, just a little before — in fact, our friend Justin Craig; and the two met, not many paces from the Clock-Tower. Oliphant observed that the young musician looked peculiarly excited, as he came forward. “ See here, what I have found ! ” cried Justin, stretching forth his hand.
As Oliphant had passed the tickettakers window, he had caught sight of a white paper on the wall, announcing the loss of a lady’s diamond pin, for the recovery of which a large reward was offered. “What Justin now disclosed in his artistic palm was .apparently the very jewel described.
“ You’ve found it, eh ? ” said the widower. “ Ah, you rascal, to take advantage of seeing the notice before I did ! That was what brought you in, I suppose — hunting for this thing.”
Justin’s face grew pink. “ I did n’t see any notice at all,” he said, rather gruffly. “ Where ? ”
Oliphant pointed towards the small spot of paper. “At any rate, my boy,” said he, “you’re five hundred dollars better off than you were before you stepped in here: that’s the reward. And I ’m glad of it. But bow did you happen upon the discovery ? ”
“ Well, the fact is, I felt blue, I — I don’t care to explain why; and so I got reckless and spent half a dollar to come in here— half a dollar is a good deal to me, you know. I was mooning around, looking at the grass and the flowers, and trying to be unconscious of those swell waiters over in the café windows : there were two of them laughing at my clothes, I know they were.” Justin’s manner here became quite ferocious, and he glared disdainfully at the restaurant side of the building. “ There’s one comfort,” he said : “ the wretches are forced to wear dress-coats in the day-time ; so they ’re as much out of fashion as I am. Well, I was looking into that flowerbed close by the balcony, when I saw a twinkle and flash in the dark earth. I thought it was a dewdrop, at first; it threw out that same sort of gleam. Do you know how beautiful the dew is, Mr. Oliphant ? I often walk out very early in the morning to see it on the fields ; it is so glorious. You’d think gems had been scattered there over night — rubies and emeralds and topazes and beryls and the rest of ’em ; but there’s no pride or envy connected with them. Ah, it’s one of my greatest pleasures ! ”
“ But the diamonds,” Oliphant reminded him, quietly amazed at his young friend’s indifference. “ You ’re forgetting about those.”
Justin looked down at the shining cluster in his hand. “ Oh,” he said, smiling, “I thought I had explained. Of course there could n't be any dew at this time of day : it turned out to be these diamonds, almost buried in the mould. They probably slipped from some lady’s dress, as she was standing on the balcony above. Now, there’s a nice idea, to think how horribly she must feel about it, and how happy she ’ll be when she gets them back ! ”
Oliphant laughed, his amazement turning to pleasure. “ Upon my word,” he declared, “ I believe, if it were n’t for that idea, you’d be sorry they were diamonds, instead of dewdrops. You don’t seem to think anything about the reward.”
“ The reward ! That’s true : I suppose it’s fair to take it, if it’s worth the sum to her to get them back.”
“Of course it’s worth that much and more. The stones must have cost, four or five thousand, Justin ; and five hundred ” —
“ Did you mean that ? ” Justin broke in, grasping his arm. “ I thought you were joking. Five hundred dollars in a lump ! Why, it’s a fortune to me ! I can do all sorts of things ; I can go to Germany and study.” He held his breath for an instant. “ But then I should have to leave ”— He stopped.
“ Of course you’d have to ‘ leave,’ if you were going. Leave what ? ”
“ Home,” said Justin shyly. “ Something else, too — a great deal more to me than that.”
“ Oh, I see,” said his companion. “I wonder who the lady is.”
“ That I sha n’t tell you,” Craig retorted, presenting a warlike front. He saw his mistake, however, instantly.
“ I meant the lady who lost the jewel, " Oliphant told him ; and they joined in a laugh of good understanding.
“I hardly like this idea, though,”
Craig resumed, “ of accepting money for restoring what is n’t mine. It seems to put one in a false position.”
“ Not in your case,” argued his friend. “ I think it would be wrong for you to refuse. You must consider the money as a tax levied by Providence for the encouragement of art.”
They proceeded in a very cheerful humor to the superintendent’s office ; for the incident of the finding had temporarily driven off Oliphant’s agitations concerning Octavia, and had almost made Craig forget the misery of having been met by Vivian Ware without recognition.
“ I see,” he began, to the clerk, “ that a diamond brooch has been lost. Can you tell me the name of the owner ? ”
The clerk looked up at him with experienced insolence. “ See here, young man,” said he, “ do you think I’m fresh ? ”
“ No,” said Craig. “ I should think you were particularly faded. Does that suit you any better ? ”
The official youth was surprised at such audacity in a mere citizen, badly dressed. He looked closer at the two gentlemen, and saw that Oliphant’s costume and appearance were deserving of respect. “ I thought you were a newspaper chap,” he remarked somewhat apologetically to Craig, “ picking up items. Do you know anything about that brooch ? ”
“ I should like to know something about it, because I’ve found one here.”
“ You have, hey ? ” returned the clerk, becoming briskly companionable. “ That’s all right, then. You ’re in for the reward, I guess. Well, the lady that lost it is Mrs. Chauncey Ware. Know her ? ”
A change came over Craig’s manner. He stiffened, glanced quickly at Oliphant, and then back at the clerk. “ There is the brooch I found,” he said, holding it up for the man’s inspection. “ I shall not take any reward.”
The clerk suppressed a whistle of astonishment, and put his hand forward to receive the diamonds.
“Just wait a minute,” interposed Oliphant. “ This is a matter for one of the governors. You need n’t deliver the pin here, Craig. Besides,” he continued in a lower tone, “I protest against your declining the reward.”
Craig was pale and rather agitated.
“ Do you know,” he returned, with a cold gleam in his eyes, “ who Mrs. Ware is ? She is the mother of Vivian Ware ; and if I had to starve first, I would never accept a dollar from her, under any circumstances.”
They had stepped away a little, so that the clerk behind the desk should not hear. “ Take a little time, my boy ; think,” said Oliphant, with a hand on his shoulder. “ You will find my name down,” he added, to the clerk, “ as a subscriber; and I will be responsible for the delivery of this brooch. Or you can send for one of the governors, and we will wait up-stairs. Here’s my card.”
“ All right, sir,” said the companionable clerk.
“ No, we won’t wait at all! ” thundered Craig, vehemently. “ I ’ve found the brooch, and I ’ll have nothing more to do with it. Mr. Oliphant, you ought to understand me ! ” And as he spoke, he brought to bear upon his friend the ardor and the softness of his fine eyes, in which could be read a confession of his love for Vivian, and all the piteous struggle of his wounded pride and social disadvantage. “ There ! ” he wound up ; “ take the pin, and manage it as you prefer. I don’t wish my name mentioned ; and I’m going.”
Oliphant looked at him reproachfully, but Craig thrust the precious object into his hands and stalked quickly away, making for the street. “ Atleast, Craig — look here!” called his friend. “I want you to dine with me at seven, here in the Casino. Will you come ? ” Craig halted. “In these clothes? he inquired sarcastically.
“ In anything— a bathing-suit, if you like.”
Justin’s magnificence broke down at this. “I ’ll be with you,” he said, emitting a short, pleased laugh. But, having done that much, he continued on his way, and disappeared.
Oliphant waited until he could see the superintendent and assure him of the safety of the brooch ; and after that he hastened to the house of Mrs. Chauncey Ware, lie found her engaged, but Stillman, whom he had met at Raish’s lunch, received him. Stillman Ware, who was about twenty-eight, looked forty years old : he had a wrinkled brow and black hair which was alarmingly scant on the crown of his head ; and he wore mild, unobtrusive little shiny shoes. There was a general air about him as if he had been finished in patent leather ; he also bore his premature aging with the imperturbableness of a trained gentleman ; indeed, with something of pleasantry, as if conscious that he had got a good deal of fun out of life, even though he had drawn heavily on his principal to pay for it. He accepted the news of Justin’s refusal to take the reward with a kind of sweet annoyance. He was very gentle, but very much provoked.
“Mr. Craig,” he said, “may be an excellent person, but I don’t see why he should assume the tone of a man of wealth. I am told he is quite straitened as to his means. And it is scarcely fair for him to insist on placing us under an obligation which we can’t repay.”
“ Will you dine with me this evening, and meet him ? ” Oliphant asked. “ I think you would like him, and you might talk it over.”
“ Thanks ; I am engaged for dinner. However, my mother or I will perhaps see him to-morrow. There is a particular reason why we cannot accept a favor of this kind at his hands. It’s all wrong. He must allow us to recompense him.”
“ And the particular reason ? ” Oliphant began. “ I suppose I ought not to Inquire what it is.”
“ I would rather not say,” answered Ware. “ Perhaps you have some inkling of it already.”
This was the gist of their interview, which soon came to an end. In the evening, Justin professed annoyance that Oliphant should have disclosed his name as that of the finder; but this wore off, and the result of their session at dinner was a long walk together under the starlight, and a talk in which Oliphant made his way to Justin’s confidence.
“ I stand alone in the world, Craig,” he said to him, “ and if you will make a friend of me I shall be in your debt for giving me a new interest. With me the best of life is over, but perhaps I can help your cause with Vivian ; and if you succeed in music through any passing assistance I may lend, don’t you see how great my pleasure would be in that success ?”
They were pausing, about to part, by the mysterious Old Mill, or Norseman’s Tower, in Touro Park. The carriages, coaches, and phaetons which had filed past it so numerously a few hours before had now utterly disappeared ; there was no more tramping of horses ; not a trace of the pageant remained. A village quiet, in fact, reigned over Newport, broken only at the moment by the meagre, sharp, and grating notes of a chorus of tree-toads. Electric lights, however, suspended on high poles, threw a weird illumination down upon the dew-damp street, or across and under the muffling foliage of the trees, in wide splashes and long, jagged streaks, as if the radiance were a liquid that had undergone icy crystallization. In this cold light the face of Justin shone for an instant with responsive gratitude : he seemed to accept the position of a younger brother towards his companion.
“ Your sympathy and fellowship are help enough,” he said, pressing Oliphant’s hand.
Then the lighted face turned and passed away down the dark street, and Oliphant’s eyes rested on the dim tower which confronted him like a ghost of gray stone, looking as if it had a warning to utter. But what of that ? Faces come and go around the old tower, or vanish forever from its presence, while it remains unaltered, a perpetual enigma of the past. And are not the faces enigmas, just as much ? And has not love its gray ruins, that loom up in the night and seem on the point of warning us ? But no one would heed the warning, even if it ever came to speech.
LORD HAWKSTANE’S JUST PRIDE.
Mrs. Chauncey Ware was a woman of high social position in Boston ; she had abundant wealth; she was attended by a train of obsequious ancestors and subservient living personages. Her face was colorless except for a lingering brown tinge, and was all quilted over with fine lines that seemed to have been arranged by a pattern; so that you might have fancied for a moment that it. was itself an heirloom, some kind of a sampler or old piece of stitching, carefully preserved until it had grown rather dingy. Further reflection would convince you that the surface was human, after all, but that peculiar influences slowly working upon it had imparted a strangeness and imperviousness that made it appear unreal.
It was a comfortable, satisfied countenance, as well it might be, for the prevailing superstition in the three-hilled city attributed to its possessor an amount of visiting-list and old-family wisdom never surpassed by any other conservator of society. Mrs. Ware always exhibited two cylindrical puffs of grayish, hair on her temples; minute sibylline scrolls, one might say. Somehow, in those two puffs, which were like insignia of her high office, she appeared to have coiled up the experience of a life-time ; and Raish Porter had once alluded to them as the steel-gray mainsprings of her existence.
It may easily be imagined how such a person, knowing in a distant and austere way that Craig cherished a preposterous sentiment for her daughter, must have felt with regard to his obstinacy about the reward. “ I entirely agree with Stillman,” she said, the next morning, at breakfast. “ The young man should be made to take it.”
She regarded her son with instructive gravity, as if it were he whom she desired to convince, instead of her daughter. The gently polished Stillman, who had stayed out late the night before, gambling heavily, seemed to have become indifferent on the subject.
“‘Made to take it,’ mamma?” said Vivian. “ One would almost suppose he had committed an offense by finding your pin and sending it to you. I think he has a right to refuse, if he wants to — the right that any gentleman would have.”
“ Is he any ? If so, how many ? ” her brother asked, trying to relieve the tedium of the discussion.
“Stillman, I fear for your mind,” said Vivian. “ Don’t you think it is tottering just a little bit?” She contemplated him with a pretty, unconcerned scorn, then devoted herself wholly for the moment to a rye-and-Indian roll.
“ I shall believe it is tottering, my excellent sister,” he replied, “when I find myself convinced by you.”
His savageness did not humiliate her, but she tried a pathetic appeal, quite as if she had actually been humiliated. “ You would n’t like to take money yourself, in that way, would you? ” she demanded, bending earnestly forward, and giving him a look for which Craig would have walked fifty miles.
“ Would n’t I ? ” returned the patentleather cynic, unmoved. “ Just let mother try offering it to me. I dropped twice that sum at roulette, last night.”
“ Stillman,” said Mrs. Ware, in a. tone of conventional grief, “ I wish you would n’t allude to those things.”
He smiled, complacently. “ You know, mother, I never make any secret of my amusements. It is only serious things that one cares to conceal.”
“ That is quite epigrammatic,” his sister observed, thinking it best to flatter him. “ But, mamma, why not just thank Mr. Craig, and let the whole thing go ? ” .
“ Or,” suggested Stillman, attempting an extreme of sarcasm, “ you might invite him to your party to-night.”
“ Not a bad idea, either,” Vivian commented.
“ What absurdity ! ” exclaimed her mother.
“ Oh, I’ve no doubt Vivian is longing to have him here. She is greatly interested in him, beyond a question.”
“ So is Mrs. Gifford,” Vivian retorted. “And why shouldn’t I be? It was she who first made me acquainted with him ; don’t you remember ? ”
“I wish she had been in Guinea!” affirmed Mrs. Ware, in a large geographical spirit. “ A strange freak of hers, that was ; and your allowing him to call here, Vivian, was still stranger. But then, I long ago learned that I needn’t expect you to be judicious, You will never outgrow your girlhood, my child.”
Vivian, who had at that instant conveyed a dainty morsel to her lips, was seized with something like a choking fit. When this threat had been averted, she was seen to be laughing. “I assure you, mamma,” she cried, “you almost made me swallow my fork ; and then what would you have done ? Outgrow my girlhood ? I hope I shall not. I
mean always to be young. Dear me, this is too funny ! ” Mrs. Ware’s wisdom-curls appeared to wind themselves tighter than ever, in view of a levity so abandoned; but Vivian, still afflicted with laughter, rose from her place and turned — her gayly colored baptiste gown making a graceful sweep — to the bird-cage in the window behind her. “ Poor little canary,” she murmured, “ you have n’t had your morning bath and your fresh chickweed, have you ? And all this time we are talking about trivial matters.” Here she cast a swift glance at her mother again, and remarked tersely, “ As if I were in any way responsible for Mr. Craig ! You may count me out.”
“ Stillman, will you go down to see him ? ” Mrs. Ware asked, in a confidential tone, ignoring Vivian.
“ I’m sorry, mother, but I have so much to do about our affair this evening, you know.”
“ Then I shall go,” she announced. “It is proper that the young man should be thanked, at any rate, if he won’t accept more.”
Go she did, accordingly. Justin was summoned from an abstruse piece of counterpoint on which he was laboring, to confront the undecipherable face and the gray puffs, which had emerged from the Ware chariot just drawn up at his humble boarding-house door; and at first his visitor endeavored to give their meeting a briefly business-like turn. “ I am very much obliged to you,” she said, “ for recovering an ornament that I value especially for its associations, and I have come in person to hand you the sum we had named as the reward, because I wanted to have the opportunity of thanking you for your service.”
“ It was no service,” said Justin; “ only an accident. But I appreciate your kindness in thanking me.”
He spoke so simply, and in a tone so engaging, that Mrs. Ware began to be impressed. “ Then, will you allow me”—she continued, hesitating slightly, as she touched the spring of the seal-skin portemonnaie she carried.
Justin was naturally somewhat dramatic in his movements. lie raised one hand, with a gesture of forbidding. “ No, indeed ! ” he responded vigorously. “ I thought Mr. Olipliant had made that clear to you.”
“ May I ask,” inquired the lady, her gloved fingers still hovering over the portemonnaie, “ why you are so resolute in declining this very proper return for your favor ? ”
“ I hardly think,” he replied, calmly, “ it would do any good for me to go into the reasons. I really can't see that I have done anything to be rewarded, and you have more than paid me with your thanks.”
Mrs. Chauncey Ware secretly admired his reserved and politic attitude ; she felt that it lifted him up almost to her own plane. “ Pardon me,” she rejoined, “ I do not know much of young men of your class, but I must say I was n’t prepared for this sort of feeling in one of them.”
There was great danger of combustion in Justin’s mind, at this instant, but he managed to prevent it. “ You surprise me,” he said. “ If we have any such thing as distinct classes in this country, I should have thought that it was precisely with mine that you would be best acquainted.”
“ At all events,” she returned, quite unperturbed, “ it is a great satisfaction to arrive at so good an understanding.” Still, Mrs. Ware had sense enough to see that she had got the worst of it, and tact enough to be conscious that there was but one way of recovering her lost ground. Besides, I believe she had a certain amount of humane sympathy left in her, which caused her to pity Justin’s poverty, and to value his independence. “ We will say no more about this errand on which I came,” she continued, “ if you prefer; but it shall be on one condition: that is, that you come tonight to a reception which I have arranged at my house.”
Justin’s heart leaped with the pleasurable thought of such an invitation. He was perfectly aware that the sleeves of his dress-coat were very ragged inside ; but no One is richer than he who, being without money, can afford to refuse it ; and for the time being he felt as opulent as possible. To meet Vivian in this way, in her own house, on equal terms with all her friends, and especially the Count Fitz-Stuart ! It was something not to be foregone. He did not betray his emotion ; he did not spring into the air ; he did not give vent to the triumphant cry that clamored within him. “ I shall be very happy,” he said, with exemplary self-control; but that short phrase covered a great deal of meaning.
And thus it happened that Stillman Ware’s extravagant suggestion became within an hour’s time sober reality, through the action of that unimpeachable authority, his mother.
“ I don’t know what we shall come to, if this is the sort of thing that’s going to be done,” he complained, when she told him of it; “ which means that I do know, exactly. Vivian, whose sense of humor can't be depended on, will fall in love with that young pianopounder, and never see the absurdity of it.”
“ Well, my boy, Vivian is erratic, at the best : she will be wild, whatever is done. Do you know what she did only yesterday ? She called across the street to Colonel Clancy, who was passing, and made him go into the Casino to lunch with Roland De Peyster and herself and the Richards girls. I wonder you had n’t heard, for it came to me soon enough, I can tell you. But it’s no use talking to her. And as for this Craig, now that he has called here he may as well be recognized. If we try to keep him out, she will think all the more of him. Besides, I had to do something to throw the obligation upon his side.”
Mrs. Ware had found her son on the lawn at the back of the house, superintending the placing of some lanterns. “ Very well,” he said, when she finished. “I see that it’s settled; but I shall have to make some changes in my plan, now : it will be necessary to put lanterns in the arbor.”
” Why, what has that got to do with Craig ? ”
“ I ’ll tell you,” said Stillman, resignedly. “ That arbor was to be left dark; I had just told the men so. It was a little experiment of mine — a trap in which I expected to catch a few song-birds. Off in that quiet corner under the trees, you see, some of the sentimental young people would be sure to make for it, if it were dark. Now that Craig is coming, though, I shall illuminate it brilliantly: no tête-à-tête there for him, with Vivian, if I can help it! But you’ve spoiled my fun, this time.”
Oliphant was delighted with the news of Justin’s invitation, but it was not the only surprise of the day, for him. At the club, about noon, he fell in with Dana Sweetser, who, chirping gayly of current incidents, spoke of the gossip concerning Lord Hawkstane’s engagement.
” Amazingly lucky fellow ! ” he exclaimed, reviving for the occasion an ancient tremor of the voice which had once, no doubt, been capable of conveying real emotion. “ On her part, however, it seems to me a mistake to accept him so early in the season. She should have waited until September. It diminishes the interest, you know: she won’t be sought after as much. But do you know, Mr. Oliphant, that I am nearly heart-broken over this thing ? You may not have been aware that I had a particular admiration for Miss Hobart — a tender admiration, I may say. And now I must stifle all that, subdue myself to a cold and distant respect, and even take an interest in the young nobleman’s triumph.” All this Mr. Sweetser delivered with so close an imitation of pathos that Oliphant would have been quite prepared to see a natural tear roll down his autumnal cheeks. But the stricken gallant went on without pause : " Fortunately, Miss Loyall, the young beauty from Albany, is here, and I think her presence may console me in part. Ah, she too is very charming ! I have written her some little verses to-day, which I will show you by and by.”
“ Indeed ? But how is it possible, Mr. Sweetser, a man with such diverse interests, that you find time to write poetry ? I thought you were absorbed now by the Alaska and British Columbia Inlet Excavation. By the Way, what are its prospects ? ”
“ Excellent,” replied Dana, instantly, as Oliphant had hoped, forgetting about his heart-break and his verses. The scheme referred to was a gigantic undertaking : nothing less than the scooping out of a considerable territory north of the United States, so that a large inlet from the Pacific Ocean might be formed, which should modify and greatly improve the climate of this country. “ You know how rapidly the stock was taken up, based on grants of land which will come into demand for farms and cities so soon as the Inlet is completed. Well, we are beginning work now. A good many laborers were frozen to death at first, but it was a valuable lesson to us, as well as to them, and we have now provided against that. I have another matter in hand, though, for which you must interest yourself : it is the Drainage Association.”
“ What is the object ? ”
“ To improve the drainage of Newport — very much needed, you know. The conditions are frightful, here. Do you appreciate, sir, that we are walking in constant peril ? The whole place is threatened with an unborn pestilence — think of it!—doomed, perhaps. I’m going to agitate, and there must be an Association.”
Oliphant found himself in another sort of peril from Sweetser’s enthusiasm ; hut Sweetser, catching sight of Lord Hawkstane, who had just entered the next room, abandoned his subject and his listener, and went to offer the Englishman his congratulations. So, at least, Oliphant inferred from his effusive manner and wreathed smiles.
Hawkstane appeared embarrassed, but not displeased. Oliphant imagined that he was making some negative protestation ; but Sweetser evidently thought this an excellent joke, looked very shrewd and sly, and then, with a brief gurgle of rejuvenated laughter, went off towards the writing-room. Hawkstane began to approach the place where Oliphant sat; but on the way he was stopped a second time; for Atlee, coming in from the veranda, held him with his glittering eye-glass, as if he had been an improved species of Ancient Mariner.
“ Good mawning,” said Atlee, in much the same tone he might have used had he been talking in his sleep.
“ Howjoo do ? ” said Lord Hawkstane.
“ Ah — ah ; fine day,” Atlee continued.
“ Uncommonly, for this country. If you would n’t have it so beastly hot, you know ! ”
Atlee assumed the helpless look which he believed to be a token of the highest breeding. He let it be understood from his manner that climate was controlled by an inferior order of forces, with which he had no connection. After an interval of sympathetic vacancy, he resumed intellectual exercise.
“ Have n’t had the chance to offer my congratulations befoah, melord. Allow me to do so now.”
“ W’y does every one congratulate me ? ” inquired Lord Hawkstane, politely.
“ Haw, haw,” said Atlee, with funereal hilarity. “Because they envy you so howibly, I dare say. Don’t you think you ought to be ? ”
“ Oh, I’ve no objection ; not the least in the world. I suppose I’ve got on better than most men.” Hawkstane looked very complacent, but adjusted his shirt-collar with one finger, as if his satisfaction needed propping. “ You mean Miss Hobart?” he ended.
“ To be sure,” Atlee answered. “ You ought to be ve’y happy.”
“ Thanks, yes; I am very happy,” Said his lordship, promptlzy. " I don’t mind it; not the least in the world.”
The spurious Englishman sounded his doleful laugh once more. " I should think not,” he said, carefully preserving the somnolent tone—"I should think not.”
His mental resources having apparently been exhausted, he turned to the newspapers, and Hawkstane spoke to Oliphant.
“ Is it true, then,” Oliphant asked immediately, " that you ’re engaged to Miss Hobart?”
The young man colored. ' Engaged?” he repeated. " What makes you think that ? ”
“ You must excuse my bluntness,” Oliphant replied. “I thought that was what you were just speaking of. It’s the general opinion, I believe.”
“ Hang it, no ! I’m not engaged,” Lord Hawkstane declared with some energy, recovering his natural pallor.
Atlee dropped his newspaper, and looked over at him with a faint, embarrassed grin, at the same time reducing his facial aspect to a complete void.
“ You ’re not! ” exclaimed Oliphant. " Good heavens, why didn’t you tell us that before ? ”
“ W’y ? Yrou ’re the first man who has asked me anything about it, Mr. Oliphant. And have n’t I told you, directly you asked ? I thought everybody knew Miss Hobart turned me off.”
“ But,” protested Atlee, " you — you allowed me to congratulate you.” (In his excitement he forgot to slur the " r.”)
“ My dear fellah,” said Lord Hawkstane, “ that was what you wanted, wasn't it? ’Pon my word, too, I think it was right enough. W’en you think how many men admire her, and how hard she is to come at, you know, I think it’s a good deal to get so far as I did. ’Pon my word, now, I accept your congratulations for having been honored by a refusal. That’s more than you'll ever be, Atlee. Isn’t it, Mr. Oliphant? ”
Whether the young aristocrat had defeated his American friends on their own ground as a sad humorist, or whether he really meant what he said, Oliphant was unable to determine; so he held his peace, and looked wise.
“ I beg pahdon, you know — awfully stupid in me — pahdon,” Atlee said, disjoin tedly.
“Hang it !” Lord Hawkstane again ejaculated. “I mean it, you know. I’m proud of it. ’ Gad, it’s a feather in my cap.”
Meanwhile Sweetser, unable long to resist the attraction of a title, had come back from the writing-room, and had overheard the whole disclosure from the threshold. Without delay he left the Club, and in a singularly brief space of time, what he had gathered was spread through the town.
George Parsons Lathrop.