EDITED BY WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS AND HENRY MILLS ALDEN
A ROMANCE OF WHOOPING HARBOR
MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN
JANE'S GRAY EYES
A STIFF CONDITION
IN THE INTERESTS OF CHRISTOPHER
FRANCIS WILLING WHARTON
THE WRONG DOOR
WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS
ELIA W. PEATTIE
THE RUBAIYAT AND THE LINER
ANNIE HAMILTON DONNELL
To the perverse all courtships probably are quaint; but if ever human
nature may be allowed the full range of originality it may very well be
in the exciting and very personal moments of making love. Our own
peculiar social structure in which the sexes have so much innocent
freedom and youth is left almost entirely to its own devices in the
arrangement of double happiness is so favorable to the expression of
character at these supreme moments that it is wonderful there is so
little which is idiosyncratic in our wooings. They tend rather to a
type very simple very normal and most people get married for the
reason that they are in love as if it were the most matter-of-course
affair of life. They find the fact of being in love so entirely
satisfying to the ideal that they seek nothing adventitious from
circumstance to heighten their tremendous consciousness.
Yet here and there people even American people are so placed that
they take from the situation a color of eccentricity if they impart
none to it and the old old story which we all wish to have end well
zigzags to a fortunate close past juts and angles of individuality which
the heroes and heroines have not willingly or wittingly thrown out. They
would have chosen to arrive smoothly and uneventfully at the goal as by
far the greater majority do; and probably if they are aware of looking
quaint to others in their progress they do not like it. But it is this
peculiar difference which renders them interesting and charming to the
spectator. If we all love a lover as Emerson says it is not because of
his selfish happiness but because of the odd and unexpected chances
which for the time exalt him above our experience and endear him to our
eager sympathies. In life one cannot perhaps have too little romance in
affairs of the heart or in literature too much; and in either one may
be as quaint as one pleases in such affairs without being ridiculous.
BY MARGARET DELAND
According to Old Chester to be romantic was just one shade less
reprehensible than to put on airs. Captain Alfred Price in all his
seventy years had never been guilty of airs but certainly he had
something to answer for in the way of romance.
However in the days when we children used to see him pounding up the
street from the post-office reading as he walked a newspaper held at
arm's length in front of him he was far enough from romance. He was
seventy years old he weighed over two hundred pounds his big head was
covered with a shock of grizzled red hair; his pleasures consisted in
polishing his old sextant and playing on a small mouth-harmonicon. As to
his vices it was no secret that he kept a fat black bottle in the
chimney-closet in his own room; added to this he swore strange oaths
about his grandmother's nightcap. "He used to blaspheme" his
daughter-in-law said "but I said 'Not in my presence if you please!'
So now he just says this foolish thing about a nightcap." Mrs. Drayton
said that this reform would be one of the jewels in Mrs. Cyrus Price's
crown; and added that she prayed that some day the Captain would give up
tobacco and _rum_. "I am a poor feeble creature" said Mrs. Drayton; "I
cannot do much for my fellow men in active mission-work. But I give my
prayers." However neither Mrs. Drayton's prayers nor Mrs. Cyrus's
active mission-work had done more than mitigate the blasphemy; the "rum"
(which was good Monongahela whiskey) was still on hand; and as for
tobacco except when sleeping eating playing on his harmonicon or
dozing through one of Dr. Lavendar's sermons the Captain smoked every
moment the ashes of his pipe or cigar falling unheeded on a vast and
wrinkled expanse of waistcoat.
No; he was not a romantic object. But we girls watching him stump past
the schoolroom window to the post-office used to whisper to each other
"Just think! _he eloped_."
There was romance for you!
To be sure the elopement had not quite come off but except for the
very end it was all as perfect as a story. Indeed the failure at the
end made it all the better: angry parents broken hearts--only the
worst of it was the hearts did not stay broken! He went and married
somebody else; and so did she. You would have supposed she would have
died. I am sure in her place any one of us would have died. And yet
as Lydia Wright said "How could a young lady die for a young gentleman
with ashes all over his waistcoat?"
However when Alfred Price fell in love with Miss Letty Morris he was
not indifferent to his waistcoat nor did he weigh two hundred pounds.
He was slender and ruddy-cheeked with tossing red-brown curls. If he
swore it was not by his grandmother nor her nightcap; if he drank it
was hard cider (which can often accomplish as much as "rum"); if he
smoked it was in secret behind the stable. He wore a stock and (on
Sunday) a ruffled shirt; a high-waisted coat with two brass buttons
behind and very tight pantaloons. At that time he attended the Seminary
for Youths in Upper Chester. Upper Chester was then as in our time the
seat of learning in the township the Female Academy being there too.
Both were boarding-schools but the young people came home to spend
Sunday; and their weekly returns all together in the stage were
responsible for more than one Old Chester match....
"The air" says Miss sniffing genteelly as the coach jolts past the
blossoming May orchards "is most agreeably perfumed. And how fair is
the prospect from this hilltop!"
"Fair indeed!" responded her companion staring boldly.
Miss bridles and bites her lip.
"_I_ was not observing the landscape" the other explains carefully.
In those days (Miss Letty was born in 1804 and was eighteen when she
and the ruddy Alfred sat on the back seat of the coach)--in those days
the conversation of Old Chester youth was more elegant than in our time.
We who went to Miss Bailey's school were sad degenerates in the way of
manners and language; at least so our elders told us. When Lydia Wright
said "Oh my what an awful snow-storm!" dear Miss Ellen was displeased.
"Lydia" said she "is there anything 'awe'-inspiring in this display of
"No 'm" faltered poor Lydia.
"Then" said Miss Bailey gravely "your statement that the storm is
'awful' is a falsehood. I do not suppose my dear that you
intentionally told an untruth; it was an exaggeration. But an
exaggeration though not perhaps a falsehood is unladylike and should
be avoided by persons of refinement." Just here the question arises:
what would Miss Ellen (now in heaven) say if she could hear Lydia's
Lydia just home from college remark--But no: Miss Ellen's precepts
shall protect these pages.
But in the days when Letty Morris looked out of the coach window and
young Alfred murmured that the prospect was fair indeed conversation
was perfectly correct. And it was still decorous even when it got beyond
the coach period and reached a point where Old Chester began to take
notice. At first it was young Old Chester which giggled. Later old Old
Chester made some comments; it was then that Alfred's mother mentioned
the matter to Alfred's father. "He is young and of course foolish"
Mrs. Price explained. And Mr. Price said that though folly was
incidental to Alfred's years it must be checked.
"Just check it" said Mr. Price.
Then Miss Letty's mother awoke to the situation and said "Fy fy
So it was that these two young persons were plunged in grief. Oh
glorious grief of thwarted love! When they met now they did not talk of
the landscape. Their conversation though no doubt as genteel as before
was all of broken hearts. But again Letty's mother found out and went
in wrath to call on Alfred's family. It was decided between them that
the young man should be sent away from home. "To save him" says the
father. "To protect my daughter" says Mrs. Morris.
But Alfred and Letty had something to say.... It was in December; there
was a snow-storm--a storm which Lydia Wright would certainly have called
"awful"; but it did not interfere with true love; these two children met
in the graveyard to swear undying constancy. Alfred's lantern came
twinkling through the flakes as he threaded his way across the hillside
among the tombstones and found Letty just inside the entrance standing
with her black serving-woman under a tulip-tree. The negress chattering
with cold and fright kept plucking at the girl's pelisse; but once
Alfred was at her side Letty was indifferent to storm and ghosts. As
for Alfred he was too cast down to think of them.
"Letty they will part us."
"No my dear Alfred no!"
"Yes. Yes they will. Oh if you were only mine!"
Miss Letty sighed.
"Will you be true to me Letty? I am to go on a sailing-vessel to China
to be gone two years. Will you wait for me?"
Letty gave a little cry; two years! Her black woman twitched her sleeve.
"Miss Let it's gittin' cole honey."
"(Don't Flora.)--Alfred _two years!_ Oh Alfred that is an eternity.
Why I should be--I should be twenty!"
The lantern set on a tombstone beside them blinked in a snowy gust.
Alfred covered his face with his hands he was shaken to his soul; the
little gay creature beside him thrilled at a sound from behind those
"Alfred"--she said faintly; then she hid her face against his arm; "my
dear Alfred I will if you desire it--fly with you!"
Alfred with a gasp lifted his head and stared at her. His slower mind
had seen nothing but separation and despair; but the moment the word was
said he was aflame. What! Would she? Could she? Adorable creature!
"Miss Let my feet done get cole--"
("Flora be still!)--Yes Alfred yes. I am thine."
The boy caught her in his arms. "But I am to be sent away on Monday! My
angel could you--fly _to-morrow_?"
And Letty her face still hidden against his shoulder nodded.
Then while the shivering Flora stamped and beat her arms and the
lantern flared and sizzled Alfred made their plans which were simple
to the point of childishness. "My own!" he said when it was all
arranged; then he held the lantern up and looked into her face blushing
and determined with snowflakes gleaming on the curls that pushed out
from under her big hood. "You will meet me at the minister's?" he said
passionately. "You will not fail me?"
"I will not fail you!" she said; and laughed joyously; but the young
man's face was white.
She kept her word; and with the assistance of Flora romantic again when
her feet were warm all went as they planned. Clothes were packed
savings-banks opened and a chaise abstracted from the Price stable.
"It is my intention" said the youth "to return to my father the value
of the vehicle and nag as soon as I can secure a position which will
enable me to support my Lefty in comfort and fashion."
On the night of the elopement the two children met at the minister's
house. (Yes the very old Rectory to which we Old Chester children went
every Saturday afternoon to Dr. Lavendar's Collect class. But of course
there was no Dr. Lavendar there in those days.)
Well; Alfred requested this minister to pronounce them man and wife; but
he coughed and poked the fire. "I am of age" Alfred insisted; "I am
twenty-two." Then Mr. Smith said he must go and put on his bands and
surplice first; and Alfred said "If you please sir." And off went Mr.
Smith--_and sent a note to Alfred's father and Letty's mother!_
We girls used to wonder what the lovers talked about while they waited
for the traitor. Ellen Dale always said they were foolish to wait. "Why
didn't they go right off?" said Ellen. "If I were going to elope I
shouldn't bother to get married. But oh think of how they felt when in
walked those cruel parents!"
The story was that they were torn weeping from each other's arms; that
Letty was sent to bed for two days on bread and water; that Alfred was
packed off to Philadelphia the very next morning and sailed in less
than a week. They did not see each other again.
But the end of the story was not romantic at all. Letty although she
crept about for a while in deep disgrace and brooded upon death--that
interesting impossibility so dear to youth--_married_ if you please!
when she was twenty and went away to live. When Alfred came back seven
years later he got married too. He married a Miss Barkley. He used to
go away on long voyages so perhaps he wasn't really fond of her. We
tried to think so for we liked Captain Price.
In our day Captain Price was a widower. He had given up the sea and
settled down to live in Old Chester; his son Cyrus lived with him and
his languid daughter-in-law--a young lady of dominant feebleness who
ruled the two men with that most powerful domestic rod--foolish
weakness. This combination in a woman will cause a mountain (a masculine
mountain) to fly from its firm base; while kindness justice and good
sense leave it upon unshaken foundations of selfishness. Mrs. Cyrus was
a Goliath of silliness; when billowing black clouds heaped themselves in
the west on a hot afternoon she turned pale with apprehension and the
Captain and Cyrus ran for four tumblers into which they put the legs of
her bed where cowering among the feathers she lay cold with fear and
perspiration. Every night the Captain screwed down all the windows on
the lower floor; in the morning Cyrus pulled the screws out. Cyrus had a
pretty taste in horseflesh but Gussie cried so when he once bought a
trotter that he had long ago resigned himself to a friendly beast of
twenty-seven years who could not go much out of a walk because he had
string-halt in both hind legs.
But one must not be too hard on Mrs. Cyrus. In the first place she was
not born in Old Chester. But added to that just think of her name! The
effect of names upon character is not considered as it should be. If one
is called Gussie for thirty years it is almost impossible not to become
gussie after a while. Mrs. Cyrus could not be Augusta; few women can;
but it was easy to be gussie--irresponsible silly selfish. She had a
vague flat laugh she ate a great deal of candy and she was afraid
of--But one cannot catalogue Mrs. Cyrus's fears. They were as the sands
of the sea for number. And these two men were governed by them. Only
when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed will it be understood
why a man loves a fool; but why he obeys her is obvious enough: Fear is
the greatest power in the world; Gussie was afraid of thunder-storms or
what not; but the Captain and Cyrus were afraid of Gussie! A hint of
tears in her pale eyes and her husband would sigh with anxiety and
Captain Price slip his pipe in his pocket and sneak out of the room.
Doubtless Cyrus would often have been glad to follow him but the old
gentleman glared when his son showed a desire for his company.
"Want to come and smoke with me? 'Your granny was Murray!'--you're
sojering. You're first mate; you belong on the bridge in storms. I'm
before the mast. Tend to your business!"
It was forty-eight years before Letty and Alfred saw each other
again--or at least before persons calling themselves by those old names
saw each other. Were they Letty and Alfred--this tousled tangled
good-humored old man ruddy and cowed and this small bright-eyed old
lady led about by a devoted daughter? Certainly these two persons bore
no resemblance to the boy and girl torn from each other's arms that cold
December night. Alfred had been mild and slow; Captain Price (except
when his daughter-in-law raised her finger) was a pleasant old roaring
lion. Letty had been a gay high-spirited little creature not as
retiring perhaps as a young female should be and certainly
self-willed; Mrs. North was completely under the thumb of her daughter
Mary. Not that "under the thumb" means unhappiness; Mary North desired
only her mother's welfare and lived fiercely for that single purpose.
From morning until night (and indeed until morning again for she rose
often from her bed to see that there was no draught from the crack of
the open window) all through the twenty-four hours she was on duty.
When this excellent daughter appeared in Old Chester and said she was
going to hire a house and bring her mother back to end her days in the
home of her girlhood Old Chester displayed a friendly interest; when
she decided upon a house on Main Street directly opposite Captain
Price's it began to recall the romance of that thwarted elopement.
"Do you suppose she knows that story about old Alfred Price and her
mother?" said Old Chester; and it looked sidewise at Miss North with
polite curiosity. This was not altogether because of her mother's
romantic past but because of her own manners and clothes. With painful
exactness Miss North endeavored to follow the fashion; but she looked
as if articles of clothing had been thrown at her and some had stuck. As
to her manners Old Chester was divided. Mrs. Barkley said she hadn't
any. Dr. Lavendar said she was shy. But as Mrs. Drayton said that was
just like Dr. Lavendar always making excuses for wrong-doing!--"Which"
said Mrs. Drayton "is a strange thing for a minister to do. For my
part I cannot understand impoliteness in a _Christian_ female. But we
must not judge" Mrs. Drayton ended with what Willy King called her
"holy look." Without wishing to "judge" it may be said that in the
matter of manners Miss Mary North palpitatingly anxious to be polite
told the truth. She said things that other people only thought. When
Mrs. Willy King remarked that though she did not pretend to be a good
housekeeper she had the backs of her pictures dusted every other day
Miss North her chin trembling with shyness said with a panting smile:
"That's not good for housekeeping; it's foolish waste of time." Which
was very rude of course--though Old Chester was not as displeased as
you might have supposed.
While Miss North timorous and truthful (and determined to be polite)
was putting the house in order before sending for her mother Old
Chester invited her to tea and asked her many questions about Letty and
the late Mr. North. But nobody asked whether she knew that her opposite
neighbor Captain Price might have been her father;--at least that was
the way Miss Ellen's girls expressed it. Captain Price himself did not
enlighten the daughter he did not have; but he went rolling across the
street and pulling off his big shabby felt hat stood at the foot of
the steps and roared out: "Morning! Anything I can do for you?" Miss
North indoors hanging window-curtains her mouth full of tacks shook
her head. Then she removed the tacks and came to the front door.
"Do you smoke sir?"
Captain Price removed his pipe from his mouth and looked at it. "Why! I
believe I do sometimes" he said.
"I inquired" said Miss North smiling tremulously her hands gripped
hard together "because if you do I will ask you to desist when
passing our windows."
Captain Price was so dumbfounded that for a moment words failed him.
Then he said meekly "Does your mother object to tobacco smoke ma'am?"
"It is injurious to all ladies' throats" said Miss North her voice
quivering and determined.
"Does your mother resemble you madam?" said Captain Price slowly.
"Oh no! my mother is pretty. She has my eyes but that's all."
"I didn't mean in looks" said the old man; "she did not look in the
least like you; not in the least! I mean in her views?"
"Her views? I don't think my mother has any particular views" Miss
North answered hesitatingly; "I spare her all thought" she ended and
her thin face bloomed suddenly with love.
Old Chester rocked with the Captain's report of his call; and Mrs. Cyrus
told her husband that she only wished this lady would stop his father's
"Just look at his ashes" said Gussie; "I put saucers round everywhere
to catch 'em but he shakes 'em off anywhere--right on the carpet! And
if you say anything he just says 'Oh they'll keep the moths away!' I
worry so for fear he'll set the house on fire."