Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

Why Thomas Was Discharged by George Arnold

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 excellent repute.

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 select.

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 arranged.

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 sympathies.

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 after-dinner sleep.

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 solicitude.

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 well.

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 hot!"

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 his feet.

"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 dust.

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 somebody."

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 them.

"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 enough."

"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 swashing about!"

"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 his poet-laureate."

"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 them."

"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 for blue-fish.

At length Ned tossed his cigar-end overboard and braced himself for an effort.

"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 suppose."

"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? By Jove!"

"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."

"You first."

"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 silence followed.

"I say," began Charlie, after a time, "it is a comfort to have these little matters arranged without any trouble, eh?"

"Y-e-s."

"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, too, heh?"

"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 results."

"Hardly!"

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 anywhere."

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 satisfactory success.

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 smiled.

"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?"

"Well—yes."

"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 thus:

"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,

"HATTIE CHAPMAN, "LAURA THURSTON.

  "Brant House,
            "Wednesday."

"It is all the fault of that, aw—that confounded Thomas!" said Ned.

So Thomas was discharged.