It has long been the custom of the North German Lloyd steamers, which convey passengers from Bremen to New York, to anchor for several hours in the pleasant port of Southampton, where their human cargo receives many additions. An intelligent young German, Count Otto Vogelstein, hardly knew, a few years ago, whether to condemn this custom or approve it. He leaned over the bulwarks of the Donau as the American passengers crossed the plank—the travelers who embark at Southampton are mainly of that nationality—and curiously, indifferently, vaguely, through the smoke of his cigar, saw them absorbed in the huge capacity of the ship, where he had the agreeable consciousness that his own nest was comfortably made. To watch from a point of vantage the struggles of late comers—of the uninformed, the unprovided, the bewildered—is an occupation not devoid of sweetness, and there was nothing to mitigate the complacency with which our young friend gave himself up to it; nothing, that is, save a natural benevolence which had not yet been extinguished by the consciousness of official greatness. For Count Vogelstein was official, as I think you would have seen from the straightness of his back, the lustre of his light, elegant spectacles, and something discreet and diplomatic in the curve of his moustache, which looked as if it might well contribute to the principal function, as cynics say, of the lips—the concealment of thought. He had been appointed to the secretaryship of the German legation at Washington and in these first days of the autumn he was going to take possession of his post. He was a model character for such a purpose—serious, civil, ceremonious, stiff, inquisitive, stuffed with knowledge, and convinced that at present the German Empire is the country in the world most highly evolved. He was quite aware, however, of the claims of the United States, and that this portion of the globe offered a vast field for study. The process of inquiry had already begun, in spite of his having as yet spoken to none of his fellow-passengers; for Vogelstein inquired not only with his tongue—he inquired with his eyes (that is with his spectacles), with his ears, with his nose, with his palate, with all his senses and organs.
He was an excellent young man, and his only fault was that he had not a high sense of humour. He had enough, however, to suspect this deficiency, and he was aware that he was about to visit a highly humorous people. This suspicion gave him a certain mistrust of what might be said of him; and if circumspection is the essence of diplomacy, our young aspirant promised well. His mind contained several millions of facts, packed too closely together for the light breeze of the imagination to draw through the mass. He was impatient to report himself to his superior in Washington, and the loss of time in an English port could only incommode him, inasmuch as the study of English institutions was no part of his mission. But, on the other hand, the day was charming; the blue sea, in Southampton Water, pricked all over with light, had no movement but that of its infinite shimmer. And he was by no means sure that he should be happy in the United States, where doubtless he should find himself soon enough disembarked. He knew that this was not an important question and that happiness was an unscientific term, which he was ashamed to use even in the silence of his thoughts. But lost in the inconsiderate crowd, and feeling himself neither in his own country nor in that to which he was in a manner accredited, he was reduced to his mere personality; so that, for the moment, to fill himself out, he tried to have an opinion on the subject of this delay to which the German steamer was subjected in English waters. It appeared to him that it might be proved to be considerably greater than the occasion demanded.
Count Vogelstein was still young enough in diplomacy to think it necessary to have opinions. He had a good many, indeed, which had been formed without difficulty; they had been received ready-made from a line of ancestors who knew what they liked. This was, of course—and under pressure, being candid, he would have admitted it—an unscientific way of furnishing one’s mind. Our young man was a stiff conservative, a Junker of Junkers; he thought modern democracy a temporary phase, and expected to find many arguments against it in the United States. In regard to these things, it was a pleasure to him to feel that, with his complete training, he had been taught thoroughly to appreciate the nature of evidence. The ship was heavily laden with German emigrants, whose mission in the United States differed considerably from Count Otto’s. They hung over the bulwarks, densely grouped; they leaned forward on their elbows for hours, their shoulders kept on a level with their ears; the men in furred caps, smoking long-bowled pipes, the women with babies hidden in their shawls. Some were yellow Germans and some were black, and all of them looked greasy and matted with the sea-damp. They were destined to swell the current of western democracy; and Count Vogelstein doubtless said to himself that they would not improve its quality. Their numbers, however, were striking, and I know not what he thought of the nature of this evidence.
The passengers who came on board at Southampton were not of the greasy class; they were for the most part American families who had been spending the summer, or a longer period, in Europe. They had a great deal of luggage, innumerable bags and rugs and hampers and sea-chairs, and were composed largely of ladies of various ages, a little pale with anticipation, wrapped in striped shawls and crowned with very high hats and feathers. They darted to and fro across the gangway, looking for each other and for their scattered parcels; they separated and reunited, they exclaimed and declared, they eyed with dismay the occupants of the steerage, who seemed numerous enough to sink the vessel, and their voices sounded faint and far as they rose to Vogelstein’s ear over the tarred sides of the ship. He observed that in the new contingent there were many young girls, and he remembered what a lady in Dresden had once said to him—that America was a country of girls. He wondered whether he should like that, and reflected that it would be a question to study, like everything else. He had known in Dresden an American family, in which there were three daughters who used to skate with the officers; and some of the ladies now coming on board seemed to him of that same habit, except that in the Dresden days feathers were not worn quite so high. . . .
It still wanted two hours of dinner, and, by the time Vogelstein’s long legs had measured three or four miles on the deck, he was ready to settle himself in his sea-chair and draw from his pocket a Tauchnitz novel by an American author whose pages, he had been assured, would help to prepare him. On the back of his chair his name was painted in rather large letters, this being a precaution taken at the recommendation of a friend who had told him that on the American steamers the passengers—especially the ladies—thought nothing of pilfering one’s little comforts. His friend had even said that in his place he would have his coronet painted. This cynical adviser had added that the Americans are greatly impressed by a coronet. I know not whether it was scepticism or modesty, but Count Vogelstein had omitted this ensign of his rank; the precious piece of furniture which on the Atlantic voyage, is depended upon to remain steady among general concussions, was emblazoned simply with his title and name. It happened, however, that the blazonry was huge; the back of the chair was covered with enormous German characters. This time there can be no doubt; it was modesty that caused the secretary of the legation, in placing himself, to turn this portion of his seat outward, away from the eyes of his companions—to present it to the balustrade of the deck. . . .
His glance was arrested by the figure of a young lady who had just ascended to the deck, and who paused at the mouth of the companion-way. In itself this was not an extraordinary phenomenon; but what attracted Vogelstein’s attention was the fact that the young person appeared to have fixed her eyes on him. She was slim, brightly dressed, and rather pretty; Vogelstein remembered in a moment that he had noticed her among the people on the wharf at Southampton. She very soon saw that he was looking at her; whereupon she began to move along the deck with a step which seemed to indicate that she was coming straight towards him. Vogelstein had time to wonder whether she could be one of the girls he had known at Dresden; but he presently reflected that they would now be much older than this. It was true they came straight towards one, like that. This young lady, however, was no longer looking at him, and though she passed near him it was now tolerably clear that she had come upstairs simply to take a general survey. She was a quick, handsome, competent girl, and she wished to see what one could think of the ship, of the weather, of the appearance of England from such a position as that; possibly even of one’s fellow passengers. She satisfied herself promptly on these points, and then she looked about, while she walked, as if she were in search of a missing object; so that Vogelstein presently saw this was what she really had come up for. She passed near him again, and this time almost stopped, with her eyes bent upon him attentively. He thought her conduct remarkable, even after he had perceived that it was not at his face, with its yellow moustache, she was looking, but at the chair on which he was seated. Then those words of his friend came back to him,—the speech about the people, especially of the ladies, on the American steamers taking to themselves one’s little belongings. Especially the ladies, he might well say; for here was one who apparently wished to pull from under him the very chair he was sitting on. He was afraid she would ask him for it, so he pretended to read, without meeting her eye. He was conscious that she hovered near him, and he was curious to see what she would do. It seemed to him strange that such a nice-looking girl (for her appearance was really charming) should endeavour by acts so flagrant to attract the attention of a secretary of legation. At last it became evident to him that she was trying to look round a corner, as it were, trying to see what was written on the back of his chair. “She wants to find out my name; she wants to see who I am!” This reflection passed through his mind, and caused him to raise his eyes. They rested on her own—which for an appreciable moment she did not withdraw. The latter were brilliant and expressive, and surmounted a delicate aquiline nose, which, though pretty, was perhaps just a trifle too hawk-like. It was the oddest coincidence in the world; the story Vogelstein had taken up treated of a flighty, forward little American girl, who plants herself in front of a young man in the garden of an hotel. Was not the conduct of this young lady a testimony to the truthfulness of the tale, and was not Vogelstein himself in the position of the young man in the garden? That young man ended by speaking to his invader (as she might be called), and after a short hesitation Vogelstein followed his example. “If she wants to know who I am, she’s welcome,” he said to himself; and he got out of the chair, seized it by the back, and, turning it round, exhibited the superscription to the girl. She coloured slightly, but she smiled and read his name, while Vogelstein raised his hat.
“I am much obliged to you. That’s all right,” she remarked, as if the discovery had made her very happy.
It seemed to him indeed all right that he should be Count Otto Vogelstein; this appeared even a rather flippant mode of disposing of the fact. By way of rejoinder, he asked her if she desired his seat.
“I am much obliged to you; of course not. I thought you had one of our chairs, and I didn’t like to ask you. It looks exactly like one of ours; not so much now as when you sit in it. Please sit down again. I don’t want to trouble you. We have lost one of ours, and I have been looking for it everywhere. They look so much alike; you can’t tell till you see the back. Of course I see there will be no mistake about yours,” the young lady went on, with a frank smile. “But we have such a small name—you can scarcely see it,” she added, with the same friendly intention. “Our name is Day. If you see that on anything, I should be obliged if you would tell me. It isn’t for myself, it’s for my mother; she is so dependent on her chair, and that one I’m looking for pulls out so beautifully. Now that you sit down again and hide the lower part, it does look just like ours. Well, it must be somewhere. You must excuse me; I am much obliged to you.”
This was a long and even confidential speech for a young woman, presumably unmarried, to make to a perfect stranger; but Miss Day acquitted herself of it with perfect simplicity and self-possession. She held up her head and stepped away, and Vogelstein could see that the foot she pressed upon the clean, smooth deck was slender and shapely. He watched her disappear through the trap by which she had ascended, and he felt more than ever like the young man in his American tale. The girl in the present case was older and not so pretty, as he could easily judge, for the image of her smiling eyes and speaking lips still hovered before him. He went back to his book with the feeling that it would give him some information about her. This was rather illogical, but it indicated a certain amount of curiosity on the part of Count Vogelstein. The girl in the book had a mother, it appeared, and so had this young lady; the former had also a brother, and he now remembered that he had noticed a young man on the wharf—a young man in a high hat and a white overcoat—who seemed united to Miss Day by this natural tie. And there was some one else too, as he gradually recollected, an older man, also in a high hat, but in a black overcoat—in black altogether—who completed the group, and who was presumably the head of the family. These reflections would indicate that Count Vogelstein read his volume of Tauchnitz rather interruptedly. Moreover, they represented a considerable waste of time; for was he not to be afloat, in an oblong box, for ten days, with such people, and could it be doubted he should see a great deal of them?
It may as well be said without delay that he did see a great deal of them. I have depicted with some precision the circumstances under which he made the acquaintance of Miss Day, because the event had a certain importance for this candid Teuton; but I must pass briefly over the incidents that immediately followed it. He wondered what it was open to him, after such an introduction, to do with regard to her, and he determined he would push through his American tale and discover what the hero did. But in a very short time he perceived that Miss Day had nothing in common with the heroine of that work, save a certain local quality and the fact that the male sex was not terrible to her. Her local quality, indeed, he took rather on trust than apprehended for himself. She was a native of a small town in the interior of the American continent; and a lady from New York, who was on the ship, and with whom he had a good deal of conversation, assured him Miss Day was exceedingly provincial. How this lady ascertained the fact did not appear, for Vogelstein observed that she held no communication with the girl. It is true that she threw some light on her processes by remarking to him that certain Americans could tell immediately who other Americans were, leaving him to judge whether or not she herself belonged to the discriminating class. She was a Mrs. Dangerfield, a handsome confidential, insinuating woman, and Vogelstein’s talk with her took a turn that was almost philosophic. She convinced him, rather effectually, that even in a great democracy there are human differences, and that American life was full of social distinctions, of delicate shades, which foreigners are often too stupid to perceive. Did he suppose that every one knew every one else in the biggest country in the world, and that one was not as free to choose one’s company there as in the most monarchical communities? She laughed these ideas to scorn, as Vogelstein tucked her beautiful furred coverlet (they reclined together a great deal in their elongated chairs) well over her feet. How free an American lady was to choose her company she abundantly proved by not knowing any one on the steamer but Count Otto.
He could see for himself that Mr. and Mrs. Day had not her peculiar stamp. They were fat, plain, serious people, who sat side by side on the deck for hours, looking straight before them. Mrs. Day had a white face, large cheeks, and small eyes; her forehead was surrounded with a multitude of little tight black curls, and her lips and cheeks moved as if she had always a lozenge in her mouth. She wore entwined about her head an article which Mrs. Dangerfield spoke of as a “nuby”—a knitted pink scarf which covered her coiffure and encircled her neck, leaving among its convolutions a hole for her perfectly expressionless face. Her hands were folded on her stomach, and in her still, swathed figure her little bead-like eyes, which occasionally changed their direction, alone represented life. Her husband had a stiff grey beard on his chin, and a bare, spacious upper lip, to which constant shaving had imparted a kind of hard glaze. His eyebrows were thick and his nostrils wide, and when he was uncovered, in the saloon, it was visible that his grizzled hair was dense and perpendicular. He might have looked rather grim and truculent, had it not been for the mild, familiar, accommodating gaze with which his large, lightcoloured pupils—the leisurely eyes of a silent man—appeared to consider surrounding objects. He was evidently more friendly than fierce, but he was more diffident than friendly. He liked to look at you, but he would not have pretended to understand you much nor to classify you, and would have been sorry that it should put you under an obligation. He and his wife spoke sometimes, but they seldom talked, and there was something passive and patient about them, as if they were victims of a spell. The spell, however, was evidently pleasant; it was the fascination of prosperity, the confidence of security, which sometimes makes people arrogant, but which had had such a different effect upon this simple satisfied pair, in which further development of every kind appeared to have been arrested.
Mrs. Dangerfield told Count Vogelstein that every morning, after breakfast, the hour at which he wrote his journal in his cabin, the old couple were guided upstairs and installed in their customary corner by Pandora. This she had learned to be the name of their elder daughter, and she was immensely amused by her discovery. “Pandora”—that was in the highest degree typical; it placed them in the social scale, if other evidence had been wanting; you could tell that a girl was from the interior, the mysterious interior about which Vogelstein’s imagination was now quite excited, when she had such a name as that. This young lady managed the whole family, even a little the small beflounced sister, who, with bold, pretty, innocent eyes, a torrent of fair, silky hair, a crimson fez, such as is worn by male Turks, very much askew on top of it, and a way of galloping and straddling about the ship in any company she could pick up (she had long, thin legs, very short skirts, and stockings of every tint), was going home, in elaborate French clothes, to resume an interrupted education. Pandora overlooked and directed her relatives; Vogelstein could see that for himself, could see that she was very active and decided, that she had in a high degree the sentiment of responsibility, and settled most of the questions that could come up for a family from the interior. The voyage was remarkably fine, and day after day it was possible to sit there under the salt sky and feel one’s self rounding the great curves of the globe. The long deck made a white spot in the sharp black circle of the ocean and in the intense sea-light, while the shadow of the smoke-streamers trembled on the familiar floor, the shoes of fellow-passengers, distinctive now, and in some cases irritating, passed and repassed, accompanied, in the air so tremendously “open,” that rendered all voices weak and most remarks rather flat, by fragments of opinion on the run of the ship. Vogelstein by this time had finished his little American story, and now definitely judged that Pandora Day was not at all like the heroine. She was of quite another type; much more serious and preoccupied, and not at all keen, as he had supposed, about making the acquaintance of gentlemen. Her speaking to him that first afternoon had been, he was bound to believe, an incident without importance for herself, in spite of her having followed it up the next day by the remark, thrown at him as she passed, with a smile that was almost familiar, “It’s all right, sir. I have found that old chair!” After this she had not spoken to him again, and had scarcely looked at him. She read a great deal, and almost always French books, in fresh yellow paper; not the lighter forms of that literature, but a volume of Sainte-Beuve, of Renan, or at the most, in the way of dissipation, of Alfred de Musset. She took frequent exercise, and almost always walked alone, not, apparently, having made many friends on the ship, and being without the resource of her parents, who, as has been related, never budged out of the cosy corner in which she planted them for the day. . . .
The days were long, but the voyage was short, and it had almost come to an end before Count Vogelstein yielded to an attraction peculiar in its nature and finally irresistible, and, in spite of Mrs. Dangerfield’s warning, sought occasion for a little continuous talk with Miss Pandora Day. To mention this sentiment without mentioning sundry other impressions of his voyage, with which it had nothing to do, is perhaps to violate proportion and give a false idea; but to pass it by would be still more unjust. The Germans, as we know, are a transcendental people, and there was at last a vague fascination for Vogelstein in this quick, bright, silent girl, who could smile and turn vocal in an instant, who imparted a sort of originality to the filial character, and whose profile was delicate as she bent it over a volume which she cut as she read, or presented it, in absentminded attitudes, at the side of the ship, to the horizon they had left behind. But he felt it to be a pity, as regards a possible acquaintance with her, that her parents should be heavy little burghers, that her brother should not correspond to Vogelstein’s conception of a young man of the upper class, and that her sister should be a Daisy Miller en herbe.* Repeatedly warned by Mrs. Dangerfield, the young diplomatist was doubly careful as to the relations he might form at the beginning of his sojourn in the United States. Mrs. Dangerfield reminded him, and he had made the observation himself in other capitals, that the first year, and even the second, is the time for prudence. One is ignorant of proportions and values; one is exposed, lonely, thankful for attention; and one may give one’s self away to people who afterwards prove a great encumbrance. Mrs. Dangerfield struck a note which resounded in Vogelstein’s imagination. She assured him that if he didn’t “look out” he would be falling in love with some American girl with an impossible family. In America, when one fell in love with a girl, there was nothing to do but marry her, and what should he say, for instance, to finding himself a near relation of Mr. and Mrs. P. W. Day? (These were the initials inscribed on the back of the two chairs of that couple.) Vogelstein felt the peril, for he could immediately think of a dozen men he knew who had married American girls. There appeared now to be a constant danger of marrying the American girl; it was something one had to reckon with, like the railway, the telegraph, the discovery of dynamite, the Chassepôt rifle, the socialistic spirit; it was one of the complications of modern life. . . .
Vogelstein had come up to walk, and as the girl brushed past him he distinguished Pandora’s face (with Mrs. Dangerfield he always spoke of her as Pandora) under the veil that seemed intended to protect it from the sea-damp. He stopped, turned, hurried after her, threw away his cigar, and asked her if she would do him the honour to accept his arm. She declined his arm, but accepted his company, and he walked with her for an hour. They had a great deal of talk, and he remembered afterwards some of the things she said. There was now a certainty of the ship getting into dock the next morning but one, and this prospect afforded an obvious topic. Some of Miss Day’s expressions struck him as singular; but, of course, as he knew, his knowledge of English was not nice enough to give him a perfect measure.
“I am not in a hurry to arrive; I am very happy here,” she said. “I’m afraid I shall have such a time putting my people through.”
“Putting them through?”
“Through the custom-house. We have made so many purchases. Well, I have written to a friend to come down, and perhaps he can help us. He’s very well acquainted with the head. Once I’m chalked, I don’t care. I feel like a kind of black-board by this time, any way. We found them awful in Germany.”
Vogelstein wondered whether the friend she had written to was her lover, and if she were betrothed to him, especially when she alluded to him again as “that gentleman that is coming down.” He asked her about her travels, her impressions, whether she had been long in Europe, and what she liked best; and she told him that they had gone abroad, she and her family, for a little fresh experience. Though he found her very intelligent he suspected she gave this as a reason because he was a German and she had heard that Germans were fond of culture. He wondered what form of culture Mr. and Mrs. Day had brought back from Italy, Greece, and Palestine (they had travelled for two years and been everywhere), especially when their daughter said, “I wanted father and mother to see the best things. I kept them three hours on the Acropolis. I guess they won’t forget that!” Perhaps it was of Phidias and Pericles they were thinking, Vogelstein reflected, as they sat ruminating in their rugs. Pandora remarked also that she wanted to show her little sister everything while she was young; remarkable sights made so much more impression when the mind was fresh; she had read something of that sort in Goethe, somewhere. She had wanted to come herself when she was her sister’s age; but her father was in business then, and they couldn’t leave Utica. Vogelstein thought of the little sister frisking over the Parthenon and the Mount of Olives, and sharing for two years, the years of the schoolroom, this extraordinary odyssey of her parents, and wondered whether Goethe’s dictum had been justified in this case. He asked Pandora if Utica were the seat of her family; if it were a pleasant place; if it would be an interesting city for him, as a stranger, to see. His companion replied frankly that it was horrid, but added that all the same she would ask him to “come and visit us at our home,” if it weren’t that they should probably soon leave it.
“Ah! You are going to live elsewhere?”
“Well, I’m working for New York. I flatter myself I have loosened them while we have been away. They won’t find Utica the same; that was my idea. I want a big place, and, of course, Utica—” And the girl broke off, with a little sigh.
“I suppose Utica is small?” Vogelstein suggested.
“Well, no, it’s middle-sized. I hate anything middling,” said Pandora Day. She gave a light, dry laugh, tossing back her head a little as she made this declaration. And looking at her askance, in the dusk, as she trod the deck that vaguely swayed, he thought there was something in her air and port that carried out such a spirit.
“What is her social position?” he inquired of Mrs. Dangerfield the next day. “I can’t make it out at all, it’s so contradictory. She strikes me as having so much cultivation and so much spirit. Her appearance, too, is very neat. Yet her parents are little burghers. That is easily seen.”
“Oh, social position!” Mrs. Dangerfield exclaimed, nodding two or three times, rather portentously. “What big expressions you use! Do you think everybody in the world has a social position? That is reserved for an infinitely small minority of mankind. You can’t have a social position at Utica, any more than you can have an opera-box. Pandora hasn’t got any; where should she have found it? Poor girl, it isn’t fair of you to ask such questions as that.”
“Well,” said Vogelstein, “if she is of the lower class, that seems to me very—very—” And he paused a moment, as he often paused in speaking English, looking for his word.
“Very what, Count Vogelstein?”
“Very significant, very representative.”
“Oh, dear, she isn’t of the lower class,” Mrs. Dangerfield murmured, helplessly.
“What is she, then?”
“Well, I’m bound to admit that since I was at home last she is a novelty. A girl like that, with such people—it’s a new type.”
“I like novelties,” said Count Vogelstein, smiling, with an air of considerable resolution. He could not, however, be satisfied with an explanation that only begged the question; and when they disembarked in New York, he felt, even amid the confusion of the wharf and the heaps of disembowelled baggage, a certain acuteness of regret at the idea that Pandora and her family were about to vanish into the unknown. . . .
Vogelstein went wherever he was asked, on principle, partly to study American society, and partly because, in Washington, pastimes seemed to him not so numerous that one could afford to neglect occasions. Of course, at the end of two winters he had a good many of various kinds, and his study of American society had yielded considerable fruit. When, however, in April, during the second year of his residence, he presented himself at a large party given by Mrs. Bonnycastle, and of which it was believed that it would be the last serious affair of the season, his being there (and still more his looking very fresh and talkative) was not the consequence of a rule of conduct. He went to Mrs. Bonnycastle’s simply because he liked the lady, whose receptions were the pleasantest in Washington, and because if he didn’t go there he didn’t know what he should do. . . .
Count Otto, that evening, knew every one, or almost every one. There were often inquiring strangers, expecting great things, from New York and Boston, and to them, in the friendly Washington way, the young German was promptly introduced. It was a society in which familiarity reigned, and in which people were liable to meet three times a day, so that their ultimate essence really became a matter of importance.
“I have got three new girls,” Mrs. Bonnycastle said. “You must talk to them all.”
“All at once?” Vogelstein asked, reversing in imagination a position which was not unknown to him. He had often, in Washington, been discoursed to at the same moment by several virginal voices.
“Oh no; you must have something different for each; you can’t get off that way. Haven’t you discovered that the American girl expects something especially adapted to herself? It’s very well in Europe to have a few phrases that will do for any girl. The American girl isn’t any girl; she’s a remarkable individual in a remarkable genus. But you must keep the best this evening for Miss Day.”
“For Miss Day!” Vogelstein exclaimed, staring. “Do you mean for Pandora?”
Mrs. Bonnycastle stared a moment, in return; then laughed very hard. “One would think you had been looking for her over the globe! So you know her already, and you call her by her pet name?”
“Oh no, I don’t know her; that is, I haven’t seen her, nor thought of her, from that day to this. We came to America in the same ship.”
“Isn’t she an American, then?”
“Oh yes; she lives at Utica, in the interior.”
“In the interior of Utica? You can’t mean my young woman then, who lives in New York, where she is a great beauty and a great success, and has been immensely admired this winter.”
“After all,” said Vogelstein, reflecting and a little disappointed, “the name is not so uncommon; it is perhaps another. But has she rather strange eyes, a little yellow, but very pretty, and a nose a little arched?”
“I can’t tell you all that; I haven’t seen her. She is staying with Mrs. Steuben. She only came a day or two ago, and Mrs. Steuben is to bring her. When she wrote to me to ask leave, she told me what I tell you. They haven’t come yet.”
Vogelstein felt a quick hope that the subject of this correspondence might indeed be the young lady he had parted from on the dock at New York, but the indications seemed to point the other way, and he had no wish to cherish an illusion. It did not seem to him probable that the energetic girl who had introduced him to Mr. Lansing would have the entree of the best house in Washington; besides, Mrs. Bonnycastle’s guest was described as a beauty and as belonging to the brilliant city. . . .
At last he heard it mentioned that the President had arrived, had been some half-an-hour in the house, and he went in search of the illustrious guest, whose whereabouts at Washington parties was not indicated by a cluster of courtiers. He made it a point, whenever he found himself in company with the President, to pay him his respects; and he had not been discouraged by the fact that there was no association of ideas in the eye of the great man as he put out his hand, presidentially, and said, “Happy to see you, sir.” Vogelstein felt himself taken for a mere constituent, possibly for an office-seeker; and he used to reflect at such moments that the monarchical form had its merits: it provided a line of heredity for the faculty of quick recognition. He had now some difficulty in finding the chief magistrate, and ended by learning that he was in the tea-room, a small apartment devoted to light refection, near the entrance of the house. Here Vogelstein presently perceived him, seated on a sofa, in conversation with a lady. There were a number of people about the table, eating, drinking, talking; and the couple on the sofa, which was not near it, but against the wall, in a kind of recess, looked a little withdrawn, as if they had sought seclusion and were disposed to profit by the diverted attention of the others. The President leaned back; his gloved hands, resting on either knee, made large white spots. He looked eminent, but he looked relaxed, and the lady beside him was making him laugh. Vogelstein caught her voice as he approached—he heard her say, “Well, now, remember; I consider it a promise.” She was very prettily dressed, in rose-colour; her hands were clasped in her lap, and her eyes were attached to the presidential profile.
“Well, madam, in that case it’s about the fiftieth promise I have given to-day.”
It was just as he heard these words, uttered by her companion in reply, that Vogelstein checked himself, turned away, and pretended to be looking for a cup of tea. It was not customary to disturb the President, even simply to shake hands, when he was sitting on a sofa with a lady, and Vogelstein felt it in this case less possible than ever to break the rule, for the lady on the sofa was none other than Pandora Day. He had recognised her without her appearing to see him, and even in his momentary look he had perceived that she was now a person to be reckoned with. She had an air of elation, of success; she looked brilliant in her rose-coloured dress; she was extracting promises from the ruler of fifty millions of people. What an odd place to meet her, Vogelstein thought, and how little one could tell, after all, in America, who people were! He didn’t want to speak to her yet; he wanted to wait a little and learn more; but, meanwhile, there was something attractive in the fact that she was just behind him, a few yards off, that if he should turn he might see her again. It was she whom Mrs. Bonnycastle had meant; it was she who was so much admired in New York. Her face was the same, yet Vogelstein had seen in a moment that she was vaguely prettier; he had recognised the arch of her nose, which suggested ambition. He took two ices, which he did not want, in order not to go away. He remembered her entourage on the steamer: her father and mother, the silent burghers, so little “of the world,” her infant sister, so much of it, her humorous brother, with his tall hat and his influence in the smoking-room. He remembered Mrs. Dangerfield’s warnings—yet her perplexities too, and the letter from Mr. Bellamy, and the introduction to Mr. Lansing, and the way Pandora had stooped down on the dirty dock, laughing and talking, mistress of the situation, to open her trunk for the customs. He was pretty sure that she had paid no duties that day; that had been the purpose, of course, of Mr. Bellamy’s letter. Was she still in correspondence with this gentleman, and had he recovered from his sickness?** All this passed through Vogelstein’s mind, and he saw that it was quite in Pandora’s line to be mistress of the situation, for there was nothing, evidently, on the present occasion that could call itself her master. He drank his tea, and as he put down his cup he heard the President, behind him, say, “Well, I guess my wife will wonder why I don’t come home.”
“Why didn’t you bring her with you?” Pandora asked.
“Well, she doesn’t go out much. Then she has got her sister staying with her—Mrs. Runkle, from Natchez. She’s a good deal of an invalid, and my wife doesn’t like to leave her.”
“She must be a very kind woman,” Pandora remarked, sympathetically.
“Well, I guess she isn’t spoiled yet.”
“I should like very much to come and see her,” said Pandora.
“Do come round. Couldn’t you come some night?” the President responded.
“Well, I’ll come some time. And I shall remind you of your promise.”
“All right. There’s nothing like keeping it up. Well,” said the President, “I must bid good-bye to these kind folks.”
Vogelstein heard him rise from the sofa, with his companion, and he gave the pair time to pass out of the room before him, which they did with a certain impressive deliberation, people making way for the ruler of fifty millions and looking with a certain curiosity at the striking pink person at his side. When, after a few moments, Vogelstein followed them across the hall, into one of the other rooms, he saw the hostess accompany the President to the door, and two foreign ministers and a judge of the Supreme Court address themselves to Pandora Day. He resisted the impulse to join this circle; if he spoke to her at all he wished to speak to her alone. She continued, nevertheless, to occupy him, and when Mrs. Bonnycastle came back from the hall he immediately approached her with an appeal. “I wish you would tell me something more about that girl—that one, opposite, in pink?”
“The lovely Day—that is what they call her, I believe? I wanted you to talk with her.”
“I find she is the one I have met. But she seems to be so different here. I can’t make it out.”
There was something in his expression which provoked Mrs. Bonnycastle to mirth. “How we do puzzle you Europeans; you look quite bewildered.”
“I am sorry I look so; I try to hide it. But, of course, we are very simple. Let me ask, then, a simple question. Are her parents also in society?”
“Parents in society! D’où tombez-vous? Did you ever hear of a girl—in rose-colour—whose parents were in society?”
“Is she, then, all alone?” Count Vogelstein inquired, with a strain of melancholy in his voice.
Mrs. Bonnycastle stared at him a moment, with her laughter in her face. “You are too pathetic. Don’t you know what she is? I supposed, of course, you knew.”
“It’s exactly what I am asking you.”
“Why, she’s the new type. It has only come up lately. They have had articles about it in the papers. That’s the reason I told Mrs. Steuben to bring her.”
“The new type? What new type, Mrs. Bonnycastle?” said Vogelstein, pleadingly, and conscious that all types in America were new.
Her laughter checked her reply for a moment, and by the time she had recovered herself the young lady from Boston, with whom Vogelstein had been talking, stood there to take leave. This, for an American type, was an old one, he was sure; and the process of parting between the guest and her hostess had an ancient elaboration. Vogelstein waited a little; then he turned away and walked up to Pandora Day, whose group of interlocutors had now been reinforced by a gentleman that had held an important place in the cabinet of the late occupant of the presidential chair. Vogelstein had asked Mrs. Bonnycastle if she were “all alone;” but there was nothing in her present situation that suggested isolation. She was not sufficiently alone for Vogelstein’s taste; but he was impatient, and he hoped she would give him a few words to himself. She recognised him without a moment’s hesitation, and with the sweetest smile, a smile that matched the tone in which she said, “I was watching you; I wondered if you were not going to speak to me.”
“Miss Day was watching him,” one of the foreign ministers exclaimed, “and we flattered ourselves that her attention was all with us!”
“I mean before,” said the girl, “while I was talking with the President.”
At this the gentlemen began to laugh, and one of them remarked that that was the way the absent were sacrificed, even the great; while another said that he hoped Vogelstein was duly flattered.
“Oh, I was watching the President too,” said Pandora. “I have got to watch him. He has promised me something.”
“It must be the mission to England,” the judge of the Supreme Court suggested. “A good position for a lady; they have got a lady at the head, over there.”
“I wish they would send you to my country,” one of the foreign ministers suggested. “I would immediately get recalled.”
“Why, perhaps in your country I wouldn’t speak to you! It’s only because you are here,” the girl returned, with a gay familiarity which with her was evidently but one of the arts of defence. “You’ll see what mission it is when it comes out. But I will speak to Count Vogelstein anywhere,” she went on. “He’s an older friend than any one here. I have known him in difficult days.”
“Oh yes, on the ocean,” said the young man, smiling. “On the watery waste, in the tempest!”
“Oh, I don’t mean that so much; we had a beautiful voyage, and there wasn’t any tempest. I mean when I was living in Utica. That’s a watery waste, if you like, and a tempest there would have been a pleasant variety.”
“Your parents seemed to me so peaceful!” Vogelstein exclaimed, with a vague wish to say something sympathetic.
“Oh, you haven’t seen them on shore. At Utica they were very lively. But that is no longer our home. Don’t you remember I told you I was working for New York? Well, I worked—I had to work hard. But we have moved.”
“And I hope they’re happy,” said Vogelstein.
“My father and mother? Oh, they will be, in time. I must give them time. They are very young yet; they have years before them. And you have been always in Washington?” Pandora continued. “I suppose you have found out everything about everything.”
“Oh no; there are some things I can’t find out.”
“Come and see me, and perhaps I can help you. I am very different from what I was on the ship. I have advanced a great deal since then.”
“Oh, how was Miss Day on the ship?” asked the cabinet minister of the last administration.
“She was delightful, of course,” said Vogelstein.
“He is very flattering; I didn’t open my mouth!” Pandora cried. “Here comes Mrs. Steuben to take me to some other place. I believe it’s a literary party, near the Capitol. Everything seems so separate in Washington. Mrs. Steuben is going to read a poem. I wish she would read it here; wouldn’t it do as well?”
This lady, arriving, signified to Pandora the necessity of their moving on. But Miss Day’s companions had various things to say to her before giving her up. She had an answer for each of them, and it was brought home to Vogelstein, as he listened, that, as she said, she has advanced a great deal. Daughter of small burghers as she was, she was really brilliant. . . .
Pandora gave her hand to Count Vogelstein, and asked him if he thought they should meet again. He answered that in Washington people were always meeting, and that at any rate he should not fail to come and see her. Hereupon, just as the two ladies were detaching themselves, Mrs. Steuben remarked that if Count Vogelstein and Miss Day wished to meet again the picnic would be a good chance—the picnic that she was getting up for the following Thursday. It was to consist of about twenty bright people, and they would go down the Potomac to Mount Vernon. Vogelstein answered that, if Mrs. Steuben thought him bright enough, he should be delighted to join the party; and he was told the hour for which the tryst was taken.
He remained at Mrs. Bonnycastle’s after every one had gone, and then he informed this lady of his reason for waiting. Would she have mercy on him and let him know, in a single word, before he went to rest—for without it rest would be impossible—what was this famous type to which Pandora Day belonged?
“Gracious, you don’t mean to say you have not found out that type yet!” Mrs. Bonnycastle exclaimed, with a return of her hilarity. “What have you been doing all the evening? You Germans may be thorough, but you certainly are not quick!”
It was Alfred Bonnycastle who at last took pity on him. “My dear Vogelstein, she is the latest, freshest fruit of our great American evolution. She is the self-made girl!” . . .
“Sit down, and we’ll tell you all about it,” Mrs. Bonnycastle said. “I like talking this way after a party’s over. You can smoke, if you like, and Alfred will open another window. Well, to begin with, the self-made girl is a new feature. That, however, you know. In the second place, she isn’t self-made at all. We all help to make her, we take such an interest in her.”
“That’s only after she’s made!” Alfred Bonnycastle broke in. “But it’s Vogelstein that takes an interest. What on earth has started you up so on the subject of Miss Day?”
Vogelstein explained, as well as he could, that it was merely the accident of his having crossed the ocean in the steamer with her; but he felt the inadequacy of this account of the matter, felt it more than his hosts, who could know neither how little actual contact he had had with her on the ship, how much he had been affected by Mrs. Dangerfield’s warnings, nor how much observation at the same time he had lavished on her. He sat there half an hour, and the warm, dead stillness of the Washington night—nowhere are the nights so silent—came in at the open windows, mingled with a soft, sweet, earthy smell, the smell of growing things. Before he went away he had heard all about the self-made girl, and there was something in the picture that almost inspired him. She was possible, doubtless, only in America; American life had smoothed the way for her. She was not fast nor emancipated nor crude nor loud, and there was not in her, of necessity at least, a grain of the stuff of which the adventuress is made. She was simply very successful, and her success was entirely personal. She had not been born with the silver spoon of social opportunity; she had grasped it by honest exertion. You knew her by many different signs, but chiefly, infallibly, by the appearance of her parents. It was her parents that told the story; you always saw that her parents could never have made her. Her attitude with regard to them might vary, in innumerable ways; the great fact on her own side was that she had lifted herself from a lower social plane, done it all herself, and done it by the simple lever of her personality. In this view, of course, it was to be expected that she should leave the authors of her being in the shade. Sometimes she had them in her wake, lost in the bubbles and the foam that showed where she had passed; sometimes, as Alfred Bonnycastle said, she let them slide; sometimes she kept them in close confinement; sometimes she exhibited them to the public in discreet glimpses, in prearranged attitudes. But the general characteristic of the self-made girl was that, though it was frequently understood that she was privately devoted to her kindred, she never attempted to impose them on society, and it was striking that she was much better than they. They were almost always solemn and portentous, and they were for the most part of a deathly respectability. She was not necessarily snobbish, unless it was snobbish to want the best. She didn’t cringe, she didn’t make herself smaller than she was; on the contrary, she took a stand of her own, and attracted things to herself. Naturally, she was possible only in America, only in a country where certain competitions were absent. The natural history of this interesting creature was at last completely exhibited to Vogelstein, who, as he sat there in the animated stillness, with the fragrant breath of the western world in his nostrils, was convinced of what he had already suspected, that conversation in the United States is much more psychological than elsewhere. Another thing, as he learned, that you knew the self-made girl by was her culture, which was perhaps a little too obvious. She had usually got into society more or less by reading, and her conversation was apt to be garnished with literary allusions, even with sudden quotations. Vogelstein had not had time to observe this element as a developed form in Pandora Day; but Alfred Bonnycastle said that he wouldn’t trust her to keep it under in a tête-à-tête. It was needless to say that these young persons had always been to Europe; that was usually the first thing they did. By this means they sometimes got into society in foreign lands before they did so at home; it was to be added, on the other hand, that this resource was less and less valuable; for Europe, in the United States, had less and less prestige, and people in the latter country now kept a watch on that roundabout road. All this applied perfectly to Pandora Day—the journey to Europe, the culture (as exemplified in the books she read on the ship), the effacement of the family. The only thing that was exceptional was the rapidity with which she had advanced; for the jump she had taken since he left her in the hands of Mr. Lansing struck Vogelstein, even after he had made all allowance for the abnormal homogeneity of American society, as really considerable. It took all her cleverness to account for it. When she moved her family from Utica, the battle appeared virtually to have been gained. . . .
Vogelstein’s curiosity about Pandora Day had been much more quickened than checked by the revelations made to him in Mrs. Bonnycastle’s drawing-room. It was a relief to see the young lady classified; but he had a desire, of which he had not been conscious before, to judge really to the end how well a girl could make herself. . . .
Mrs. Steuben’s picnic was still three days distant. He called on Pandora a second time, and he met her each evening in the Washington world. It took very little of this to remind him that he was forgetting both Mrs. Dangerfield’s warnings and the admonitions—long familiar to him—of his own conscience. Was he in peril of love? Was he to be sacrificed on the altar of the American girl—an altar at which those other poor fellows had poured out some of the bluest blood in Germany, and at which he had declared himself that he would never seriously worship? He decided that he was not in real danger; that he had taken his precautions too well. It was true that a young person who had succeeded so well for herself might be a great help to her husband; but Vogelstein, on the whole, preferred that his success should be his own; it would not be agreeable to him to have the air of being pushed by his wife. Such a wife as that would wish to push him; and he could hardly admit to himself that this was what fate had in reserve for him—to be propelled in his career by a young lady who would perhaps attempt to talk to the Kaiser as he had heard her the other night talk to the President. Would she consent to relinquish relations with her family, or would she wish still to borrow plastic relief from that domestic background? That her family was so impossible was to a certain extent an advantage; for if they had been a little better the question of a rupture would have been less easy. Vogelstein turned over these ideas in spite of his security, or perhaps, indeed, because of it. The security made them speculative and disinterested. They haunted him during the excursion to Mount Vernon, which took place according to traditions long established.
Mrs. Steuben’s picnickers assembled on the steamer, and were set afloat on the big brown stream which had already seemed to Vogelstein to have too much bosom and too little bank. Here and there, however, he became conscious of a shore where there was something to look at, even though he was conscious at the same time that he had of old lost great opportunities of idyllic talk in not sitting beside Pandora Day on the deck of the North German Lloyd. The two turned round together to contemplate Alexandria, which for Pandora, as she declared, was a revelation of old Virginia. She told Vogelstein that she was always hearing about it during the civil war, years before. Little girl as she had been at the time, she remembered all the names that were on people’s lips during those years of reiteration. This historic spot had a certain picturesqueness of decay, a reference to older things, to a dramatic past. The past of Alexandria appeared in the vista of three or four short streets, sloping up a hill and bordered with old brick warehouses, erected for merchandise that had ceased to come or go. It looked hot and blank and sleepy, down to the shabby waterside where tattered darkies dangled their bare feet from the edge of rotting wharves. Pandora was even more interested in Mount Vernon (when at last its wooded bluff began to command the river) than she had been in the Capitol; and after they had disembarked and ascended to the celebrated mansion she insisted on going into every room it contained. She declared that it had the finest situation in the world, and that it was a shame they didn’t give it to the President for his villeggiatura.*** Most of her companions had seen the house often, and were now coupling themselves, in the grounds, according to their sympathies, so that it was easy for Vogelstein to offer the benefit of his own experience to the most inquisitive member of the party. They were not to lunch for another hour, and in the interval Vogelstein wandered about with Pandora. The breath of the Potomac, on the boat, had been a little harsh, but on the softly-curving lawn, beneath the clustered trees, with the river relegated to a mere shining presence far below and in the distance, the day gave out nothing but its mildness, the whole scene became noble and genial.
Vogelstein could joke a little on great occasions, and the present one was worthy of his humour. He maintained to his companion that the shallow, painted mansion looked like a false house, a “fly,” a structure of daubed canvas, on the stage; but she answered him so well with certain economical palaces she had seen in Germany, where, as she said, there was nothing but china stoves and stuffed birds, that he was obliged to allow the home of Washington to be after all really gemüthlich.**** What he found so, in fact, was the soft texture of the day, his personal situation, the sweetness of his suspense. For suspense had decidedly become his portion; he was under a charm which made him feel he was watching his own life and that his susceptibilities were beyond his control. It hung over him that things might take a turn, from one hour to the other, which would make them very different from what they had been yet; and his heart certainly beat a little faster as he wondered what that turn might be. Why did he come to picnics on fragrant April days with American girls who might lead him too far? Would not such girls be glad to marry a Pomeranian count? And would they, after all, talk that way to the Kaiser? If he were to marry one of them he should have to give her some lessons. In their little tour of the house Vogelstein and his companion had had a great many fellow-visitors, who had also arrived by the steamer and who had hitherto not left them an ideal privacy. But the others gradually dispersed; they circled about a kind of showman, who was the authorised guide, a big, slow, genial, familiar man, with a large beard, and a humorous, edifying, patronising tone, which had immense success when he stopped here and there to make his points, to pass his eyes over his listening flock, then fix them quite above it with a meditative look, and bring out some ancient pleasantry as if it were a sudden inspiration. He made a cheerful thing even of a visit to the tomb of the pater patriae. It is enshrined in a kind of grotto in the grounds, and Vogelstein remarked to Pandora that he was a good man for the place, but that he was too familiar.
“Oh, he would have been familiar with Washington,” said the girl, with the bright dryness with which she often uttered amusing things.
Vogelstein looked at her a moment, and it came over him, as he smiled, that she herself probably would not have been abashed even by the hero with whom history has taken fewest liberties. “You look as if you could hardly believe that,” Pandora went on. “You Germans are always in such awe of great people.” And it occurred to Vogelstein that perhaps, after all, Washington would have liked her manner, which was wonderfully fresh and natural. The man with the beard was an ideal cicerone for American shrines; he played upon the curiosity of his little band with the touch of a master, and drew them away to see the classic ice-house where the old lady had been found weeping in the belief it was Washington’s grave. While this monument was under inspection Vogelstein and Pandora had the house to themselves, and they spent some time on a pretty terrace, upon which certain windows of the second floor opened—a little roofless verandah, which overhung in a manner, obliquely, all the magnificence of the view—the immense sweep of the river, the artistic plantations, the last-century garden, with its big box-hedges and remains of old espaliers. They lingered here for nearly half an hour, and it was in this spot that Vogelstein enjoyed the only approach to intimate conversation that fate had in store for him with a young woman in whom he had been unable to persuade himself that he was not interested. It is not necessary, and it is not possible, that I should reproduce this colloquy; but I may mention that it began—as they leaned against the parapet of the terrace and heard the fraternising voice of the showman wafted up to them from a distance—with his saying to her, rather abruptly, that he couldn’t make out why they hadn’t had more talk together when they crossed the ocean.
“Well, I can, if you can’t,” said Pandora. “I would have talked if you had spoken to me. I spoke to you first.”
“Yes, I remember that,” Vogelstein replied, rather awkwardly.
“You listened too much to Mrs. Dangerfield.”
“To Mrs. Dangerfield?”
“That woman you were always sitting with; she told you not to speak to me. I have seen her in New York; she speaks to me now herself. She recommended you to have nothing to do with me.”
“Oh, how can you say such dreadful things?” the young man murmured, blushing very red.
“You know you can’t deny it. You were not attracted by my family. They are charming people when you know them. I don’t have a better time anywhere than I have at home,” the girl went on, loyally. “But what does it matter? My family are very happy. They are getting quite used to New York. Mrs. Dangerfield is a vulgar wretch; next winter she will call on me.”
“You are unlike any girl I have ever seen; I don’t understand you,” said poor Vogelstein, with the colour still in his face.
“Well, you never will understand me, probably; but what difference does it make?”
Vogelstein attempted to tell her what difference it made, but I have not space to follow him here. It is known that when the German mind attempts to explain things it does not always reduce them to simplicity, and Pandora was first mystified, then amused, by some of her companion’s revelations. At last I think she was a little frightened, for she remarked irrelevantly, with some decision, that lunch would be ready and they ought to join Mrs. Steuben. He walked slowly, on purpose, as they left the house together, for he had a vague feeling that he was losing her.
“And shall you be in Washington many days yet?” he asked her as they went.
“It will all depend. I am expecting some news. What I shall do will be influenced by that.”
The way she talked about expecting news made him feel, somehow, that she had a career, that she was active and independent, so that he could scarcely hope to stop her as she passed. It was certainly true that he had never seen any girl like her. It would have occurred to him that the news she was expecting might have reference to the favour she had asked of the President, if he had not already made up his mind, in the calm of meditation, after that talk with the Bonnycastles, that this favour must be a pleasantry. What she had said to him had a discouraging, a somewhat chilling, effect; nevertheless it was not without a certain ardour that he asked of her whether, so long as she stayed in Washington, he might not come and see her.
“You may come as often as you like,” she answered, “but you won’t care for it long.”
“You try to torment me,” said Vogelstein.
She hesitated a moment. “I mean that I may have some of my family.”
“I shall be delighted to see them once more.”
She hesitated again. “There are some you have never seen.”
In the afternoon, returning to Washington on the steamer, Count Vogelstein received a warning. It came from Mrs. Bonnycastle, and constituted, oddly enough, the second occasion on which an officious female friend had, on the deck of a vessel, advised him on the subject of Pandora Day.
“There is one thing we forgot to tell you, the other night, about the self-made girl,” Mrs. Bonnycastle said. “It is never safe to fix your affections upon her, because she has almost always got an impediment somewhere in the background.”
Vogelstein looked at her askance, but he smiled and said, “I should understand your information—for which I am so much obliged—a little better if I knew what you mean by an impediment.”
“Oh, I mean she is always engaged to some young man who belongs to her earlier phase.”
“Her earlier phase?”
“The time before she had made herself—when she lived at home. A young man from Utica, say. They usually have to wait; he is probably in a store. It’s a long engagement.”
“Do you mean a betrothal—to be married?”
“I don’t mean anything German and transcendental. I mean that peculiarly American institution, a precocious engagement; to be married, of course.”
Vogelstein very properly reflected that it was no use his having entered the diplomatic career if he were not able to bear himself as if this interesting generalisation had no particular message for him. He did Mrs. Bonnycastle, moreover, the justice to believe that she would not have taken up the subject so casually if she had suspected that she should make him wince. The whole thing was one of her jokes, and the notification, moreover, was really friendly. “I see, I see,” he said in a moment. “The self-made girl has, of course, always had a past. Yes, and the young man in the store—from Utica—is part of her past.”
“You express it perfectly,” said Mrs. Bonnycastle. “I couldn’t say it better myself.”
“But, with her present, with her future, I suppose it’s all over. How do you say it in America? She lets him slide.”
“We don’t say it at all!” Mrs. Bonnycastle cried. “She does nothing of the sort; for what do you take her? She sticks to him; that, at least, is what we expect her to do,” Mrs. Bonnycastle added, more thoughtfully. “As I tell you, the type is new. We haven’t yet had time for complete observations.”
“Oh, of course, I hope she sticks to him,” Vogelstein declared simply, and with his German accent more apparent, as it always was when he was slightly agitated.
For the rest of the trip he was rather restless. He wandered about the boat, talking little with the returning revellers. Towards the last, as they drew near Washington, and the white dome of the Capitol hung aloft before them, looking as simple as a suspended snowball, he found himself, on the deck, in proximity to Mrs. Steuben. He reproached himself with having rather neglected her during an entertainment for which he was indebted to her bounty, and he sought to repair his omission by a little friendly talk. But the only thing he could think of to say to her was to ask her by chance whether Miss Day were, to her knowledge, engaged.
Mrs. Steuben turned her Southern eyes upon him with a look of almost romantic compassion. “To my knowledge? Why, of course I would know! I should think you would know too. Didn’t you know she was engaged? Why, she has been engaged since she was sixteen.”
Vogelstein stared at the dome of the Capitol. “To a gentleman from Utica?”
“Yes, a native of her place. She is expecting him soon.”
“Oh, I am so glad to hear it,” said Vogelstein, who decidedly, for his career, had promise. “And is she going to marry him?”
“Why, what do people get engaged for? I presume they will marry before long.”
“But why have they never done so, in so many years?”
“Well, at first she was too young, and then she thought her family ought to see Europe—of course they could see it better with her—and they spent some time there. And then Mr. Bellamy had some business difficulties which made him feel as if he didn’t want to marry just then. But he has given up business, and I presume he feels more free. Of course it’s rather long, but all the while they have been engaged. It’s a true, true love,” said Mrs. Steuben, who had a little flute-like way of sounding the adjective.
“Is his name Mr. Bellamy?” Vogelstein asked, with his haunting reminiscence. “D. F. Bellamy, eh? And has he been in a store?”
“I don’t know what kind of business it was; it was some kind of business in Utica. I think he had a branch in New York. He is one of the leading gentlemen of Utica, and very highly educated. He’s a good deal older than Miss Day. He is a very fine man. He stands very high in Utica. I don’t know why you look as if you doubted it.”
Vogelstein assured Mrs. Steuben that he doubted nothing, and indeed what she told him struck him as all the more credible, as it seemed to him eminently strange. Bellamy had been the name of the gentleman who, a year and a half before, was to have met Pandora on the arrival of the German steamer; it was in Bellamy’s name that she had addressed herself with such effusion to Bellamy’s friend, the man in the straw hat, who was to fumble in her mother’s old clothes. This was a fact which seemed to Vogelstein to finish the picture of her contradictions; it wanted at present no touch to be complete. Yet even as it hung there before him it continued to fascinate him, and he stared at it, detached from surrounding things and feeling a little as if he had been pitched out of an overturned vehicle, till the boat bumped against one of the outstanding piles of the wharf at which Mrs. Steuben’s party was to disembark. There was some delay in getting the steamer adjusted to the dock, during which the passengers stood watching the process, over the side and extracting what entertainment they might from the appearance of the various persons collected to receive it. There were darkies and loafers and hackmen, and also individuals with tufts on their chins, toothpicks in their mouths, their hands in their pockets, rumination in their jaws, and diamond-pins in their shirt-fronts, who looked as if they had sauntered over from Pennsylvania Avenue to while away half an hour, forsaking for that interval their various postures of inclination in the porticoes of the hotels and the doorways of the saloons.
“Oh, I am so glad! How sweet of you to come down!” It was a voice close to Vogelstein’s shoulder that spoke these words, and the young secretary of legation had no need to turn to see from whom it proceeded. It had been in his ears the greater part of the day, though, as he now perceived, without the fullest richness of expression of which it was capable. Still less was he obliged to turn to discover to whom it was addressed, for the few simple words I have quoted had been flung across the narrowing interval of water, and a gentleman who had stepped to the edge of the dock without Vogelstein’s observing him tossed back an immediate reply.
“I got here by the three o’clock train. They told me in K Street where you were, and I thought I would come down and meet you.”
“Charming attention!” said Pandora Day, with her friendly laugh; and for some moments she and her interlocutor appeared to continue the conversation only with their eyes. Meanwhile Vogelstein’s, also, were not idle. He looked at Pandora’s visitor from head to foot, and he was aware that she was quite unconscious of his own nearness. The gentleman before him was tall, good-looking, well-dressed; evidently he would stand well not only at Utica, but, judging from the way he had planted himself on the dock, in any position which circumstances might compel him to take up. He was about forty years old; he had a black moustache and a business-like eye. He waved a gloved hand at Pandora, as if, when she exclaimed, “Gracious, ain’t they long!” to urge her to be patient. She was patient for a minute, and then she asked him if he had any news. He looked at her an instant in silence, smiling, after which he drew from his pocket a large letter with an official seal, and shook it jocosely above his head. This was discreetly, covertly done. No one appeared to observe the little interview but Vogelstein. The boat was now touching the wharf, and the space between the pair was inconsiderable.
“Department of State?” Pandora asked, dropping her voice.
“That’s what they call it.”
“Well, what country?”
“What’s your opinion of the Dutch?” the gentleman asked, for an answer.
“Oh, gracious!” cried Pandora.
“Well, are you going to wait for the return trip?” said the gentleman.
Vogelstein turned away, and presently Mrs. Steuben and her companions disembarked together. When this lady entered a carriage with Pandora, the gentleman who had spoken to the girl followed them; the others scattered, and Vogelstein, declining with thanks a “lift” from Mrs. Bonnycastle, walked home alone, in some intensity of meditation. Two days later he saw in a newspaper an announcement that the President had offered the post of Minister to Holland to D. F. Bellamy, of Utica; and in the course of a month he heard from Mrs. Steuben that Pandora’s long engagement had terminated at the nuptial altar. He communicated this news to Mrs. Bonnycastle, who had not heard it, with the remark that there was now ground for a new induction as to the self-made girl.
** In material excised from the end of Part I, Vogelstein and Pandora meet again on the dock as they prepare for customs inspection. Pandora’s friend Mr. Bellamy was unable to meet her, owing to illness. But he had sent her a letter of introduction to his friend Mr. Lansing, a customs officer, who eases Pandora and her family through. As she departs, she bids the German adieu: “Good-bye, Count Vogelstein. I hope you’ll judge us correctly!” Return to text.
*** Residence in the country for a holiday or retreat from the city. Return to text.
**** A situation that induces a cheerful or peaceful mood; a situation in which one feels belonging. Return to text.