Why Thomas Was
Brant Beach is a long promontory of rock and sand, jutting out at an
acute angle from a barren portion of the coast. Its farthest extremity
is marked by a pile of many-colored, wave-washed boulders; its junction
with the mainland is the site of the Brant House, a watering-place of
The attractions of this spot are not numerous. There is surf-bathing all
along the outer side of the beach, and good swimming on the inner. The
fishing is fair; and in still weather yachting is rather a favorite
amusement. Further than this there is little to be said, save that the
hotel is conducted upon liberal principles, and the society generally
But to the lover of nature—and who has the courage to avow himself
aught else?—the sea-shore can never be monotonous. The swirl and sweep
of ever-shifting waters, the flying mist of foam breaking away into a
gray and ghostly distance down the beach, the eternal drone of ocean,
mingling itself with one's talk by day and with the light dance-music in
the parlors by night—all these are active sources of a passive
pleasure. And to lie at length upon the tawny sand, watching, through
half-closed eyes, the heaving waves, that mount against a dark blue sky
wherein great silvery masses of cloud float idly on, whiter than the
sunlit sails that fade and grow and fade along the horizon, while some
fair damsel sits close by, reading ancient ballads of a simple metre, or
older legends of love and romance—tell me, my eater of the fashionable
lotos, is not this a diversion well worth your having?
There is an air of easy sociality among the guests at the Brant House, a
disposition on the part of all to contribute to the general amusement,
that makes a summer sojourn on the beach far more agreeable than in
certain larger, more frequented watering-places, where one is always in
danger of discovering that the gentlemanly person with whom he has been
fraternizing is a faro-dealer, or that the lady who has half-fascinated
him is Anonyma herself. Still, some consider the Brant rather slow, and
many good folk were a trifle surprised when Mr. Edwin Salsbury and Mr.
Charles Burnham arrived by the late stage from Wikhasset Station, with
trunks enough for two first-class belles, and a most unexceptionable
man-servant in gray livery, in charge of two beautiful setter-dogs.
These gentlemen seemed to have imagined that they were about visiting
some backwoods wilderness, some savage tract of country, "remote,
unfriended, melancholy, slow," for they brought almost everything with
them that men of elegant leisure could require, as if the hotel were but
four walls and a roof, which they must furnish with their own chattels.
I am sure it took Thomas, the man-servant, a whole day to unpack the
awnings, the bootjacks, the game-bags, the cigar-boxes, the guns, the
camp-stools, the liquor-cases, the bathing-suits, and other
paraphernalia that these pleasure-seekers brought. It must be owned,
however, that their room, a large one in the Bachelors' Quarter, facing
the sea, wore a very comfortable, sportsmanlike look when all was
Thus surrounded, the young men betook themselves to the deliberate
pursuit of idle pleasures. They arose at nine and went down the shore,
invariably returning at ten with one unfortunate snipe, which was
preserved on ice, with much ceremony, till wanted. At this rate it took
them a week to shoot a breakfast; but to see them sally forth, splendid
in velveteen and corduroy, with top-boots and a complete harness of
green cord and patent-leather straps, you would have imagined that all
game-birds were about to become extinct in that region. Their dogs,
even, recognized this great-cry-little-wool condition of things, and
bounded off joyously at the start, but came home crestfallen, with an
air of canine humiliation that would have aroused Mr. Mayhew's tenderest
After breakfasting, usually in their room, the friends enjoyed a long
and contemplative smoke upon the wide piazza in front of their windows,
listlessly regarding the ever-varied marine view that lay before them in
flashing breadth and beauty. Their next labor was to array themselves in
wonderful morning-costumes of very shaggy English cloth, shiny flasks
and field-glasses about their shoulders, and loiter down the beach, to
the point and back, making much unnecessary effort over the walk—a
brief mile—which they spoke of, with importance, as their
"constitutional." This killed time till bathing-hour, and then another
toilet for dinner. After dinner a siesta: in the room, when the weather
was fresh; when otherwise, in hammocks hung from the rafters of the
piazza. When they had been domiciled a few days, they found it expedient
to send home for what they were pleased to term their "crabs" and
"traps," and excited the envy of less fortunate guests by driving up and
down the beach at a racing gait to dissipate the languor of the
This was their regular routine for the day—varied, occasionally, when
the tide served, by a fishing trip down the narrow bay inside the point.
For such emergencies they provided themselves with a sail-boat and
skipper, hired for the whole season, and arrayed themselves in a highly
nautical rig. The results were, large quantities of sardines and pale
sherry consumed by the young men, and a reasonable number of sea-bass
and blackfish caught by the skipper.
There were no regular "hops" at the Brant House, but dancing in a quiet
way every evening to a flute, violin, and violoncello, played by some of
the waiters. For a time Burnham and Salsbury did not mingle much in
these festivities, but loitered about the halls and piazzas, very
elegantly dressed and barbered (Thomas was an unrivalled coiffeur),
and apparently somewhat ennuyé.
That two well-made, full-grown, intelligent, and healthy young men
should lead such a life as this for an entire summer might surprise one
of a more active temperament. The aimlessness and vacancy of an
existence devoted to no earthly purpose save one's own comfort must soon
weary any man who knows what is the meaning of real, earnest life—life
with a battle to be fought and a victory to be won. But these elegant
young gentlemen comprehended nothing of all that: they had been born
with golden spoons in their mouths, and educated only to swallow the
delicately insipid lotos-honey that flows inexhaustibly from such
shining spoons. Clothes, complexions, polish of manner, and the
avoidance of any sort of shock were the simple objects of their
I do not know that I have any serious quarrel with such fellows, after
all. They have strong virtues. They are always clean; and your rough
diamond, though manly and courageous as Coeur de Lion, is not apt to be
scrupulously nice in his habits. Affability is another virtue. The
Salsbury and Burnham kind of man bears malice toward no one, and is
disagreeable only when assailed by some hammer-and-tongs utilitarian.
All he asks is to be permitted to idle away his pleasant life
unmolested. Lastly, he is extremely ornamental. We all like to see
pretty things; and I am sure that Charley Burnham, in his fresh white
duck suit, with his fine, thoroughbred face—gentle as a girl's—shaded
by a snowy Panama, his blonde moustache carefully pointed, his golden
hair clustering in the most picturesque possible waves, his little red
neck-ribbon—the only bit of color in his dress—tied in a studiously
careless knot, and his pure, untainted gloves of pearl gray or lavender,
was, if I may be allowed the expression, just as pretty as a picture.
And Ned Salsbury was not less "a joy forever," according to the dictum
of the late Mr. Keats. He was darker than Burnham, with very black hair,
and a moustache worn in the manner the French call triste, which
became him, and increased the air of pensive melancholy that
distinguished his dark eyes, thoughtful attitudes, and slender figure.
Not that he was in the least degree pensive or melancholy, or that he
had cause to be; quite the contrary; but it was his style, and he did it
These two butterflies sat, one afternoon, upon the piazza, smoking very
large cigars, lost, apparently, in profoundest meditation. Burnham, with
his graceful head resting upon one delicate hand, his clear blue eyes
full of a pleasant light, and his face warmed by a calm, unconscious
smile, might have been revolving some splendid scheme of universal
philanthropy. The only utterance, however, forced from him by the
sublime thoughts that permeated his soul, was the emission of a white
rolling volume of fragrant smoke, accompanied by two words: "Doocéd
Salsbury did not reply. He sat, leaning back, with his fingers
interlaced behind his head, and his shadowy eyes downcast, as in sad
remembrance of some long-lost love. So might a poet have looked, while
steeped in mournfully rapturous daydreams of remembered passion and
severance. So might Tennyson's hero have mused, while he sang:
"Oh, that 'twere possible,
After long grief and pain,
To find the arms of my true love
Round me once again!"
But the poetic lips opened not to such numbers. Salsbury gazed long and
earnestly, and finally gave vent to his emotion, indicating, with the
amber tip of his cigar-tube, the setter that slept in the sunshine at
"Shocking place, this, for dogs!"—I regret to say he pronounced it
"dawgs"—"Why, Carlo is as fat—as fat as—as a—"
His mind was unequal to a simile even, and he terminated the sentence
in a murmur.
More silence; more smoke; more profound meditation. Directly Charley
Burnham looked around with some show of vitality.
"There comes the stage," said he.
The driver's bugle rang merrily among the drifted sand-hills that lay
warm and glowing in the orange light of the setting sun. The young men
leaned forward over the piazza-rail and scrutinized the occupants of the
vehicle as it appeared.
"Old gentleman and lady, aw, and two children," said Ned Salsbury; "I
hoped there would be some nice girls."
This, in a voice of ineffable tenderness and poetry, but with that odd,
tired little drawl, so epidemic in some of our universities.
"Look there, by Jove!" cried Charley, with a real interest at last; "now
that's what I call a regular thing!"
The "regular thing" was a low, four-wheeled pony-chaise of basket-work,
drawn by two jolly little fat ponies, black and shiny as vulcanite,
which jogged rapidly in, just far enough behind the stage to avoid its
This vehicle was driven by a young lady of decided beauty, with a spice
of Amazonian spirit. She was rather slender and very straight, with a
jaunty little hat and feather perched coquettishly above her dark brown
hair, which was arranged in one heavy mass and confined in a silken net.
Her complexion was clear, without brilliancy; her eyes blue as the
ocean horizon, and spanned by sharp, characteristic brows; her mouth
small and decisive; and her whole cast of features indicative of quick
talent and independence.
Upon the seat beside her sat another damsel, leaning indolently back in
the corner of the carriage. This one was a little fairer than the first,
having one of those beautiful English complexions of mingled rose and
snow, and a dash of gold-dust in her hair where the sun touched it. Her
eyes, however, were dark hazel and full of fire, shaded and intensified
by their long, sweeping lashes. Her mouth was a rosebud, and her chin
and throat faultless in the delicious curve of their lines. In a word,
she was somewhat of the Venus-di-Milo type; her companion was more of a
Diana. Both were neatly habited in plain travelling-dresses and cloaks
of black and white plaid, and both seemed utterly unconscious of the
battery of eyes and eye-glasses that enfiladed them from the whole
length of the piazza as they passed.
"Who are they?" asked Salsbury; "I don't know them."
"Nor I," said Burnham; "but they look like people to know. They must be
Half an hour later the hotel-office was besieged by a score of young
men, all anxious for a peep at the last names upon the register. It is
needless to say that our friends were not in the crowd. Ned Salsbury was
no more the man to exhibit curiosity than Charley Burnham was the man
to join in a scramble for anything under the sun. They had educated
their emotions clear down, out of sight, and piled upon them a mountain
of well-bred inertia.
But, somehow or other, these fellows who take no trouble are always the
first to gain the end. A special Providence seems to aid the poor,
helpless creatures. So, while the crowd still pressed at the
office-desk, Jerry Swayne, the head clerk, happened to pass directly by
the piazza where the inert ones sat, and, raising a comical eye, saluted
"Heavy arrivals to-night. See the turnout?"
"Y-e-s," murmured Ned.
"Old Chapman and family. His daughter drove the pony-phaeton, with her
friend, a Miss Thurston. Regular nobby ones. Chapman's the steam-ship
man, you know. Worth thousands of millions! I'd like to be connected
with his family—by marriage, say!"—and Jerry went off, rubbing his
cropped head and smiling all over, as was his wont.
"I know who they are now," said Charley. "Met a cousin of theirs, Joe
Faulkner, abroad two years ago. Doocéd fine fellow. Army."
The manly art of wagoning is not pursued vigorously at Brant Beach. The
roads are too heavy back from the water, and the drive is confined to a
narrow strip of wet sand along the shore; so carriages are few, and the
pony-chaise became a distinguished element at once. Salsbury and Burnham
whirled past it in their light trotting-wagons at a furious pace, and
looked hard at the two young ladies in passing, but without eliciting
even the smallest glance from them in return.
"Confounded distingué-looking girls, and all that," owned Ned, "but,
aw, fearfully unconscious of a fellow!"
This condition of matters continued until the young men were actually
driven to acknowledge to each other that they should not mind knowing
the occupants of the pony carriage. It was a great concession, and was
rewarded duly. A bright, handsome boy of seventeen, Miss Thurston's
brother, came to pass a few days at the seaside, and fraternized with
everybody, but was especially delighted with Ned Salsbury, who took him
out sailing and shooting, and, I am afraid, gave him cigars stealthily,
when out of range of Miss Thurston's fine eyes. The result was that the
first time the lad walked on the beach with the two girls and met the
young man, introductions of an enthusiastic nature were instantly sprung
upon them. An attempt at conversation followed.
"How do you like Brant Beach?" asked Ned.
"Oh, it is a very pretty place," said Miss Chapman, "but not lively
"Well, Burnham and I find it pleasant; aw, we have lots of fun."
"Indeed! Why, what do you do?"
"Oh, I don't know. Everything."
"Is the shooting good? I saw you with your guns yesterday."
"Well, there isn't a great deal of game. There is some fishing, but we
haven't caught much."
"How do you kill time, then?"
Salsbury looked puzzled.
"Aw—it is a first-rate air, you know. The table is good, and you can
sleep like a top. And then, you see, I like to smoke around, and do
nothing, on the sea-shore. It is real jolly to lie on the sand, aw, with
all sorts of little bugs running over you, and listen to the water
"Let's try it!" cried vivacious Miss Chapman; and down she sat on the
sand. The others followed her example, and in five minutes they were
picking up pretty pebbles and chatting away as sociably as could be. The
rumbling of the warning gong surprised them.
At dinner Burnham and Salsbury took seats opposite the ladies, and were
honored with an introduction to papa and mamma, a very dignified, heavy,
rosy, old-school couple, who ate a good deal and said very little. That
evening, when flute and viol wooed the lotos-eaters to agitate the light
fantastic toe, these young gentlemen found themselves in dancing humor,
and revolved themselves into a grievous condition of glow and wilt in
various mystic and intoxicating measures with their new-made friends.
On retiring, somewhat after midnight, Miss Thurston paused while "doing
her hair," and addressed Miss Chapman.
"Did you observe, Hattie, how very handsome those gentlemen are? Mr.
Burnham looks like a prince of the sang azur, and Mr. Salsbury like
"Yes, dear," responded Hattie; "I have been considering those flowers of
the field and lilies of the valley."
"Ned," said Charlie, at about the same time, "we won't find anything
nicer here this season, I think."
"They're pretty worth while," replied Ned, "and I'm rather pleased with
"Which do you like best?"
"Oh, bother! I haven't thought of that yet."
The next day the young men delayed their "constitutional" until the
ladies were ready to walk, and the four strolled off together, mamma and
the children following in the pony-chaise. At the rocks on the end of
the point Ned got his feet very wet fishing up specimens of seaweed for
the damsels; and Charley exerted himself super-humanly in assisting them
to a ledge which they considered favorable for sketching purposes.
In the afternoon a sail was arranged, and they took dinner on board the
boat, with any amount of hilarity and a good deal of discomfort. In the
evening more dancing and vigorous attentions to both the young ladies,
but without a shadow of partiality being shown by either of the four.
This was very nearly the history of many days. It does not take long to
get acquainted with people who are willing, especially at
watering-places; and in the course of a few weeks these young folks
were, to all intents and purposes, old friends—calling each other by
their given names, and conducting themselves with an easy familiarity
quite charming to behold. Their amusements were mostly in common now.
The light wagons were made to hold two each instead of one, and the
matinal snipe escaped death, and was happy over his early worm.
One day, however, Laura Thurston had a headache, and Hattie Chapman
stayed at home to take care of her; so Burnham and Salsbury had to amuse
themselves alone. They took their boat and idled about the waters inside
the point, dozing under an awning, smoking, gaping, and wishing that
headaches were out of fashion, while the taciturn and tarry skipper
instructed the dignified and urbane Thomas in the science of trolling
At length Ned tossed his cigar-end overboard and braced himself for an
"I say, Charlie," said he, "this sort of thing can't go on forever, you
know. I've been thinking lately."
"Phenomenon!" replied Charlie; "and what have you been thinking about?"
"Those girls. We've got to choose."
"Why? Isn't it well enough as it is?"
"Yes—so far. But I think, aw, that we don't quite do them justice.
They're grands partis, you see. I hate to see clever girls wasting
themselves on society, waiting and waiting, and we fellows swimming
about just like fish around a hook that isn't baited properly."
Charley raised himself upon his elbow.
"You don't mean to tell me, Ned, that you have matrimonial intentions?"
"Oh, no! Still, why not? We've all got to come to it some day, I
"Not yet, though. It is a sacrifice we can escape for some years yet."
"Yes—of course—some years; but we may begin to look about us a bit.
I'm, aw, I'm six and twenty, you know."
"And I'm very near that. I suppose a fellow can't put off the yoke too
long. After thirty chances aren't so good. I don't know, by Jove! but
what we ought to begin thinking of it."
"But it is a sacrifice. Society must lose a fellow, though, one time
or another. And I don't believe we will ever do better than we can now."
"Hardly, I suspect."
"And we're keeping other fellows away, maybe. It is a shame!"
Thomas ran his line in rapidly, with nothing on the hook.
"Cap'n Hull," he said, gravely, "I had the biggest kind of a fish then
I'm sure; but d'rectly I went to pull him in, sir, he took and let go."
"Yaas," muttered the taciturn skipper, "the biggest fish allers falls
back inter the warter."
"I've been thinking a little about this matter, too," said Charlie,
after a pause, "and I had about concluded we ought to pair off. But I'll
be confounded if I know which is the best! They're both nice girls."
"There isn't much choice," Ned replied. "If they were as different, now,
as you and me, I'd take the blonde, of course, aw, and you'd take the
brunette. But Hattie Chapman's eyes are blue, and her hair isn't black,
you know, so you can't call her dark, exactly."
"No more than Laura is exactly light. Her hair is brown more than
golden, and her eyes are hazel. Hasn't she a lovely complexion, though?
"Better than Hattie's. Yet I don't know but Hattie's features are a
little the best."
"They are. Now, honest, Ned, which do you prefer? Say either; I'll take
the one you don't want. I haven't any choice."
"Neither have I."
"How shall we settle?"
"Aw, throw for it?"
"Yes. Isn't there a backgammon board forward, in that locker, Thomas?"
The board was found and the dice produced.
"The highest takes which?"
"Say Laura Thurston."
"Very good; throw."
"No. Go on."
Charlie threw with about the same amount of excitement he might have
exhibited in a turkey raffle.
"Five-three," said he; "now for your luck."
"Six-four! Laura's mine. Satisfied?"
"Perfectly—if you are. If not, I don't mind exchanging."
"Oh, no. I'm satisfied."
Both reclined upon the deck once more with a sigh of relief, and a long
"I say," began Charlie, after a time, "it is a comfort to have these
little matters arranged without any trouble, eh?"
"Do you know, I think I'll marry mine?"
"I will, if you will."
"Done! It is a bargain."
This "little matter" being arranged, a change gradually took place in
the relations of the four. Ned Salsbury began to invite Laura Thurston
out driving and bathing somewhat oftener than before, and Hattie Chapman
somewhat less often; while Charlie Burnham followed suit with the
last-named young lady. As the line of demarcation became fixed, the
damsels recognized it, and accepted with gracious readiness the
cavaliers that Fate, through the agency of a chance-falling pair of
dice, had allotted to them.
The other guests of the house remarked the new position of affairs, and
passed whispers about it to the effect that the girls had at last
succeeded in getting their fish on hooks instead of in a net. No
suitors could have been more devoted than our friends. It seemed as if
each knight bestowed upon the chosen one all the attentions he had
hitherto given to both; and whether they went boating, sketching, or
strolling upon the sands, they were the very picture of a partie
carrée of lovers.
Naturally enough, as the young men became more in earnest, with the
reticence common to my sex they spoke less frequently and freely on the
subject. Once, however, after an unusually pleasant afternoon, Salsbury
ventured a few words.
"I say, we're a couple of lucky dogs! Who'd have thought now, aw, that
our summer was going to turn out so well? I'm sure I didn't. How do you
get along, Charley, boy?"
"Deliciously. Smooth sailing enough. Wasn't it a good idea, though, to
pair off? I'm just as happy as a bee in clover. You seem to prosper,
"Couldn't ask anything different. Nothing but devotion, and all that.
I'm delighted. I say, when are you going to pop?"
"Oh, I don't know. It is only a matter of form. Sooner the better, I
suppose, and have it over."
"I was thinking of next week. What do you say to a quiet picnic down on
the rocks, and a walk afterwards? We can separate, you know, and do the
thing up systematically."
"All right. I will, if you will."
"That's another bargain. I notice there isn't much doubt about the
A close observer might have seen that the gentlemen increased their
attentions a little from time to time. The objects of their devotion
perceived it, and smiled more and more graciously upon them.
The day set for the picnic arrived duly, and was radiant. It pains me to
confess that my heroes were a trifle nervous. Their apparel was more
gorgeous and wonderful than ever, and Thomas, who was anxious to be off
courting Miss Chapman's lady's-maid, found his masters dreadfully
exacting in the matter of hair-dressing. At length, however, the toilet
was over, and "Solomon in all his glory" would have been vastly
astonished at finding himself "arrayed as one of these."
The boat lay at the pier, receiving large quantities of supplies for the
trip, stowed by Thomas, under the supervision of the grim and tarry
skipper. When all was ready the young men gingerly escorted their fair
companions aboard, the lines were cast off, and the boat glided gently
down the bay, leaving Thomas free to fly to the smart presence of Susan
Jane and to draw glowing pictures for her of a neat little porter-house
in the city, wherein they should hold supreme sway, be happy with each
other, and let rooms up-stairs for single gentlemen.
The brisk land breeze swelling the sail, the fluttering of the gay
little flag at the gaff, the musical rippling of water under the
counter, and the spirited motion of the boat combined, with the bland
air and pleasant sunshine, to inspire the party with much vivacity. They
had not been many minutes afloat before the guitar-case was opened, and
the girls' voices—Laura's soprano and Hattie's contralto—rang
melodiously over the waves, mingled with feeble attempt at bass
accompaniment from their gorgeous guardians.
Before these vocal exercises wearied, the skipper hauled down his jib,
let go his anchor, and brought the craft to just off the rocks; and
bringing the yawl alongside, unceremoniously plucked the girls down into
it, without giving their cavaliers a chance for the least display of
agile courtliness. Rowing ashore, this same tarry person left them
huddled upon the beach, with their hopes, their hampers, their emotions,
and their baskets, and returned to the vessel to do a little private
fishing on his own account till wanted.
The maidens gave vent to their high spirits by chasing each other among
the rocks, gathering shells and seaweed for the construction of those
ephemeral little ornaments—fair, but frail—in which the sex delights,
singing, laughing, quoting poetry, attitudinizing upon the peaks and
ledges of the fine old boulders—mossy and weedy and green with the wash
of a thousand storms, worn into strange shapes, and stained with the
multitudinous dyes of mineral oxidization—and, in brief, behaved
themselves with all the charming abandon that so well becomes young
girls set free, by the entourage of a holiday ramble, from the buckram
and clear-starch of social etiquette.
Meanwhile Ned and Charley smoked the pensive cigar of preparation in a
sheltered corner, and gazed out seaward, dreaming and seeing nothing.
Erelong the breeze and the romp gave the young ladies not only a
splendid color and sparkling eyes, but excellent appetites also. The
baskets and hampers were speedily unpacked, the table-cloth laid on a
broad, flat stone, so used by generations of Brant House picnickers, and
the party fell to. Laura's beautiful hair, a little disordered, swept
her blooming cheek, and cast a pearly shadow upon her neck. Her bright
eyes glanced archly out from under her half-raised veil, and there was
something inexpressibly naïve in the freedom with which she ate,
taking a bird's wing in her fingers, and boldly attacking it with teeth
as white and even as can be imagined. Notwithstanding all the mawkish
nonsense that has been put forth by sentimentalists concerning feminine
eating, I hold that it is one of the nicest things in the world to see a
pretty woman enjoying the creature comforts; and Byron himself, had he
been one of this picnic party, would have been unable to resist the
admiration that filled the souls of Burnham and Salsbury. Hattie Chapman
stormed the fortress of boned turkey with a gusto equal to that of
Laura, and made highly successful raids upon certain outlying salads
and jellies. The young men were not in a very ravenous condition; they
were, as I have said, a little nervous, and bent their energies
principally to admiring the ladies and coquetting with pickled oysters.
When the repast was over, with much accompanying chat and laughter, Ned
glanced significantly at Charley, and proposed to Laura that they should
walk up the beach to a place where, he said, there were "some pretty
rocks and things, you know." She consented, and they marched off. Hattie
also arose, and took her parasol, as if to follow, but Charley remained
seated, tracing mysterious diagrams upon the table-cloth with his fork,
and looked sublimely unconscious.
"Sha'n't we walk, too?" Hattie asked.
"Oh, why, the fact is," said he, hesitatingly, "I—I sprained my ankle
getting out of that confounded boat, so I don't feel much like
exercising just now."
The young girl's face expressed concern.
"That is too bad! Why didn't you tell us of it before? Is it painful?
I'm so sorry!"
"N-no—it doesn't hurt much. I dare say it will be all right in a
minute. And then—I'd just as soon stay here—with you—as to walk
This very tenderly, with a little sigh.
Hattie sat down again, and began to talk to this factitious cripple in
the pleasant, purring way some damsels have, about the joys of the
sea-shore, the happy summer that was, alas! drawing to a close, her own
enjoyment of life, and kindred topics, till Charley saw an excellent
opportunity to interrupt with some aspirations of his own, which, he
averred, must be realized before his life would be considered a
If you had ever been placed in analogous circumstances, you know, of
course, just about the sort of thing that was being said by the two
gentlemen at nearly the same moment: Ned, loitering slowly along the
sands with Laura on his arm, and Charley, stretched in indolent
picturesqueness upon the rocks, with Hattie sitting beside him. If you
do not know from experience, ask any candid friend who has been through
the form and ceremony of an orthodox proposal.
When the pedestrians returned the two couples looked very hard at each
other. All were smiling and complacent, but devoid of any strange or
unusual expression. Indeed, the countenance is subject to such severe
education, in good society, that one almost always looks smiling and
complacent. Demonstration is not fashionable, and a man must preserve
the same demeanor over the loss of a wife or a glove-button, over the
gift of a heart's whole devotion or a bundle of cigars. Under all these
visitations the complacent smile is in favor as the neatest, most
serviceable, and convenient form of non-committalism.
The sun was approaching the blue range of misty hills that bounded the
mainland swamps by this time; so the skipper was signalled, the dinner
paraphernalia gathered up, and the party were soon en route for home
once more. When the young ladies were safely in, Ned and Charley met in
their room, and each caught the other looking at him stealthily. Both
"Did I give you time, Charley?" asked Ned; "we came back rather soon."
"Oh, yes; plenty of time."
"Did you—aw, did you pop?
"Y-yes. Did you?"
"And you were—"
"Rejected, by Jove!"
"So was I!"
The day following this disastrous picnic the baggage of Mr. Edwin
Salsbury and Mr. Charles Burnham was sent to the depot at Wikhasset
Station, and they presented themselves at the hotel-office with a
request for their bill. As Jerry Swayne deposited their key upon its
hook, he drew forth a small tri-cornered billet from the pigeon-hole
beneath, and presented it.
"Left for you this morning, gentlemen."
It was directed to both, and Charley read it over Ned's shoulder. It ran
"DEAR BOYS: The next time you divert yourselves by throwing dice
for two young ladies, we pray you not to do so in the presence of a
valet who is upon terms of intimacy with the maid of one of them.
"With many sincere thanks for the amusement
you have given us—often when you least suspected
it—we bid you a lasting adieu, and remain, with
the best wishes,
"It is all the fault of that, aw—that confounded Thomas!" said Ned.
So Thomas was discharged.