|EUNICE found her first morning in school
a trying one. There were the new pupils to meet and, what was much more
embarrassing, the mothers of most of them, who had accompanied their children
to see the new teacher. Then, when the formalities of the opening were over,
there was the classifying and arranging the studies of each individual pupil;
fatiguing work, demanding the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon,
But it was over at last; and at
a quarter past twelve Eunice had on her little bonnet, and had turned
the key in the lock with a feeling of relief that her first and most trying
day was ended. Partly from the heat, to which she was unaccustomed, and
partly from fatigue and excitement, her head was aching badly, and she found
it difficult to remain at table through the noon-day dinner with its pleasant
air of excitement, as the children eagerly recounted the events of the
first morning at school. She had been able to eat but little, greatly to
Mrs. Charlton's concern, which found voice when Eunice asked to be excused
"You poor child!" she said anxiously,
"you are all tired out! Yes, go to your room and lie down, and I will
keep every one away from you this afternoon."
In her own room the cool green light,
sifting through of the linden and through the bowed shutters, was grateful
to her aching eyes. When she first lay down, a throng of feverish thoughts
went trooping through her brain, of everything that had happened in these
few days; but gradually they all slipped away but the one grateful thought
of everyone's kindness. She fell asleep thinking of Mrs. Charlton's grace
and beauty and vivacity, which made her the most charming woman she had
ever known, and of dear Dr. Charlton, for whom, with his scholarly ways,
his kindly humor and old-fashioned gallantry, she had begun to feel a romantic
She had slept an hour or two when
she was awakened by a soft knock. She sprang up, went to the door, and
opened it. It was Lucy.
"I hope I did not wake you, " she
said. "Here is 'Judge' with a note for you, and he refuses to deliver
it to any one but you."
Behind Lucy stood "Judge," bowing
and scraping and politely grinning:
"Yes, miss, Marse Mac 'low I was
to gib de note to Miss hehse'f," he said, as he handed her a tiny white
"Oh, it is from Mr. McAllister,"
said Lucy, smiling; he sent me an invitation to a concert once, and 'Judge'
gave it to Charles Cook, junior, who forgot all about it, of course, and
I never received it. I suppose he was afraid of the same fate for this
one unless 'Judge' delivered it into your own hands." Lucy spoke to Eunice
by way of explanation, but "Judge" answered her gravely:
"Yes, miss, dat's it; Marse Mac
'low I gib it to nobody else, 'cep'in' de young lady."
Eunice stood looking at the note
in her hand, half frightened, half pleased; she could not remember that
ever in her life before she had received a note from a young gentleman,
but she had reason to be a little afraid of this one.
"Will you come in, Lucy, while I
read it?" she said.
"Are you to wait for an answer,
'Judge'?" asked Lucy, turning to him.
"Yes, miss, Marse Mac 'lowed I mought
git one," returned "Judge," with a succession of bendings, and pullings
of his forelock without which utterance seemed impossible to him.,
"Very well, then, you can wait in
the hall," said Lucy, going into Eunice's room and closing the door.
Eunice had already broken the seal, and
was reading with flushed cheeks:
"Mr. McAllister presents his compliments
to Miss Harlowe, and would beg to say that he feels an explanation due
him for Miss Harlowe's action of Saturday night. If Miss Harlowe will permit,
he will do himself the honor of calling this evening to hear from her
personally of what offense he has been guilty to call forth so marked
a token of her displeasure."
Eunice read it over twice, the crimson
spot in either cheek growing deeper as she read; then she handed it to
Lucy and said:
"I wish you would read it, Lucy,
and tell me what I must do. Don't you think it would be better to write
my apology? He has given me the opportunity, I think, by his note."
Lucy read it also carefully; then
she said slowly, and with no idea that she was innocently playing into
"No, I don't think I would. You
see, he particularly requests a personal explanation, and unless you have
some well-defined excuse, it is easier to make things clear and all right
again by talking them over. It is so easy to be misunderstood in writing."
"Yes," said Eunice; "but it is because
I haven't any excuse–only an apology–that I thought I would rather write;
but perhaps it will be better to see him."
She went to her writing-table, got out some paper from the
drawer, and took up her pen:
"What shall I say? I really don't
know how to write it."
Notes were of small moment to Lucy;
she had any number of them neatly piled away in her little desk: invitations
for concerts, for lectures, for driving parties to the mountains or the
springs, for walks to the barracks or the cave, for Sunday-evening church,
for Wednesday-evening pray-meeting or Saturday-evening choir rehearsal–all
of which were included in the list of Bellaire gaieties. So she answered
"Oh, I would make it as brief and
formal as possible. 'Miss Harlowe's compliments to Mr. McAllister, and
would be happy to see him this evening.' "
Eunice obeyed, and the note was
written, sealed, and given to "Judge," patiently waiting in the hall.
Dr. and Mrs. Charlton were spending the
evening out at a faculty tea-party given by the senior professor in West
I wonder if anywhere in the world
in these days of form and fashion and late dinners people get together
and have such good times as they used to at those old faculty tea-parties.
"Tea" now is associated in our minds with a crush and jam, light refreshments,
and lighter talk, but it meant something very different in those days. It
meant sitting down comfortably to a long table covered with snowy damask
and shining with polished silver and glass and dainty china. There was sure
to be a noble platter of fried chicken at one end of the table if it were
the season when chickens were young enough to fry; not broiled, but cooked
as only the good old darky cooks of our youth could cook them: fried to
a crisp golden brown, and covered with an unctuous cream gravy of the same
color. If it was not possible to find sufficiently young chicken for the
pièce de resistance, the same noble platter was filled
with fried oysters, golden brown also, and hot and tender and not greasy,
and the oysters flanked by a beautifully decorated dish of chicken-salad,
made after the recipe of Professor Tiffin himself, the epicure of the faculty–"little
vinegar and less mustard; much cayenne pepper and more oil." And whether chicken
or oysters were in the platter, there were always waffles, so light and crisp
that the most sensitive dyspeptic need not fear them, with bowls of mixed
cinnamon and sugar to eat with them for those who liked it; and there was
also, always, hot Maryland biscuit, snowy with just a delicate tinge of the
necessary brown, and innocent of soda or yeast powder or any other death-dealing
drug; and of course there were wonderfully concocted pickles, and shaking
jellies glowing like rubies, and rich preserves; and for the second course
a little very nice cake and such fruit as happened to be in season, from
scarlet strawberries to luscious peaches, served with thick yellow cream–though
the second course was of little moment in the mind of a good Bellaire housekeeper
compared with the substantials. And to crown the feast there was always
coffee, hot and clear and strong enough, with the exquisite flavor of the
Mocha easily distinguishable, and rich with cream. Indeed, the coffee was
a test of any Bellaire tea-party, and the anxious hostess never felt that
her supper was a complete success until the gentlemen, and even some of the
ladies, began to send up for a second cup of her "delicious coffee."
But there was no lack of a finer
kind of entertainment also at these teas. The creature comforts, far from
deadening the intellect, seemed to stimulate the flow of wit and reason.
There might possibly be a little formality and dullness while the company
were gathering in the "front parlor," and the ladies were all more or less
in sympathy with the hostess's anxiety in the critical moments preceding
supper, and the husbands were insensibly sensitive to the mood of their wives.
But from the moment they were all seated at the table, husbands scrupulously
separated from wives–from that moment until ten o'clock, when, exact almost
to the minute, they said good night, there was a constant ripple of gentle
Professor Tiffin was host this evening,
and he readily proved himself, not an epicure only, but also a most polished
man of the world, who could discourse delightfully on the latest literature
or the society news from Baltimore and Philadelphia, the centers of fashion
for Bellaire. Opposite him at the head of the table sat Mrs. Tiffin,
a pale, aristocratic-looking blonde, who bore the enviable reputation of
being able to cook a dinner or entertain a parlorful of guests with equal
ease and skill. And there were Professor Fieldman and his wife, two jovial
souls who for months had been keeping up a running wager as to who should
tell the most and the best stories. And there was the bachelor professor,
a big, fine-looking man well up in his forties, with a magnificent head
covered with Jove-like curls. He had a beautiful old lady for a mother, and
two bright and handsome sisters; and it was for their sakes, no doubt, that
he had never married, though he seemed to enjoy his single estate and the
freedom it gave him to worship moderately at many shrines, and to display
to untrammeled advantage his two talents–for be was an accomplished musician,
and even more accomplished in conversation.
Perhaps conversation is not quite
the right word to apply to Professor Haywood's brilliant monologues.
There was no doubt about their brilliance: they were well worth listening
to, scintillating with wit, studded with epigram, flashing on every subject
in the wide range of literature and philosophy; but sometimes, if you liked
to talk yourself, you found them just a little tiresome. There had been
rumors that if Miss Lydia McNair, who was an heiress in her own right, would
have looked kindly on him, he would have gracefully submitted to matrimonial
bonds; but we never knew certainly, for Miss Lydia kept her own counsel
in such matters, and the professor was not likely to publish his defeats.
Certain it is that they were still on terms of amity, and although he no
longer haunted the McNair parlors as he had once done, he went there at intervals,
and it was reported that she treated him with as much nonchalance as she
did any of her younger beaux, and had been known more than once to interrupt
his most brilliant flight with a saucy, "Now, professor, you rest awhile
and let me talk."
Then there were the professor's
two charming sisters, always, of course, included in faculty parties.
Miss Kate was a dashing brunette, bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked, with all
the wit of her brother, but so toned down by the feminine desire to please
and kept in bounds by feminine intuition, that warned her at once if she
were in danger of becoming a bore, that she was as fascinating as she was
beautiful. I remember as a child we used to sing a song beginning, "Miss
Kate was once a laughing girl, Eyes of jet and teeth of pearl," and I never
for a moment doubted that the song referred to beautiful Miss Kate Haywood.
Her sister, Meta, was of a more stately type: fair and large, with dignified
composure of manner. She had a way of listening with such sympathy and apparent
comprehension as to give the impression that she had herself been talking
most learnedly or wittily, as the case might be. I never remember to have
heard her utter more than the most ordinary commonplaces, but the tone
of their utterance wag always so well chosen and they were delivered with
such an air that I do not think that at the time they impressed me as commonplace
at all. It was this talent of hers as a sympathetic listener that had, no
doubt, won for her the reputation of being quite a Madame de Staël
in learning and wit.
There was another bachelor professor
in the faculty: a Johnsonian style of man, big and ungainly of person,
pompous and uncouth of manner, but of undoubted learning and ability. It
seemed to be always Miss Meta's lot to sit next him at the faculty teas, and
by a judicious use of her eyes and pretty smile, and a proper distribution
of "Noes," "Yesses," and " Indeeds!", she produced such an impression on the
honest and impressionable heart of the awkward scholar that he invariably
found an opportunity later in the evening to say to one or two of the married
members of the faculty, "I find Miss Meta a most charming young lady. Does
it ever strike you that she is–ah–in fact–erudite?"; and the professor
in, whom he happened to repose this confidence as invariably responded
with some jocose suggestion that it was time for him to be thinking seriously
of giving up his bachelor freedom and making some charming woman happy by
joining the ranks of the Benedicts,–which suggestion the professor always
received seriously, though somewhat sheepishly, and promised to think of
it. As nothing ever came of these periodical seizures, it is to be presumed
that the next morning, in his comfortable study, surrounded by his beloved
books, the vision of the fair charmer faded until the next faculty tea.
But any description of any kind
of faculty party would be very incomplete without a mention of the two
Misses Perkins. They did not properly belong to the faculty by any consanguineous
connection with that charmed circle; but no faculty dame would have dared
to give a function, however small and informal, without including them in
the list of invitations. Two splendid New England women, born in another
century, and belonging even in my childhood to a fast passing generation;
of an imposing presence and an elegance and propriety of manner that would
have enabled a discriminating stranger to have conjectured at once that
they were at the head of a young ladies' boarding-school. The educating
and polishing of young ladies had been their life-work, and from Maine to
Georgia they were widely known as elegant women and distinguished educators.
Miss Caroline rather overshadowed
her younger sister, Miss Phoebe; for Miss Phoebe, by virtue of being
the younger, had come to be regarded both by herself and her sister as
perennially youthful, and cherished the modest and girlish graces they
both considered suitable to her. I never believed that this was an intentional
affectation on Miss Phoebe's part; it was the force of long-continued
attitude. So, while Miss Caroline discussed ably the topics of the day
with the men she met, giving clear-cut views on all subjects, Miss Phoebe
sat primly by with folded hands and an amiable smile of attention in her
faded blue eyes.
Miss Caroline was broad of frame
and almost masculine in the effect of strength her physique gave. Her eyes
were gray and still keen, rarely needing the assistance of glasses, though
she never hesitated to use them if they seemed necessary. She always wore
on her hair, iron-gray and her own, a square of black-thread lace with
long side-tabs to which was added on party occasions a little purple ribbon;
or if the party was an unusually fine one, the purple was lightened to
lavender. Her dress was invariably of black silk, stiff and shiny, with
straight voluminous skirts, finished at the neck with a rather small but
rich lace collar fastened with a cameo brooch. In the very plainness of
her dress she impressed one with her strength verging on masculinity.
Miss Phoebe, on the other hand,
had all the small feminine likings for gay ribbons and soft laces, and
as far as possible she tried to follow the prevailing mode. Now that hoops
were in, she had timidly ventured on a small one, though she felt every
time it caught on an obtrusive door-scraper–which was not seldom–that she
was wearing it at the risk of her life. Her skirts were flounced to her
waist; her sleeves were wide to admit of pretty under-sleeves, and the surplus
opening of her bodices was filled in with soft blond or delicate lace. Her
caps, too, were butterfly creations, caught up at irregular angles with
tiny bunches of narrow pink-satin ribbons, and resting on a false front
of richest chestnut hue. As for her eyes, they had long since lost their
keenness of vision with their luster, but Miss Phoebe preferred all the
inconvenience and uncertainty of half-blindness rather than confess to glasses.
Dear soul! who that has a heart
can find fault with that tender clinging to the romance of her girlhood?
I never heard that Miss Phoebe had ever had a lover, but it is enough to
know that she was once sixteen and had all the pure, sweet, timid dreams
of a possible lover that are as much a part of those bright, unfolding years
as the fragrance is of the rose. And it is not impossible to realize it
of Miss Phoebe, in spite of her faded eyes, the primly set mouth, the rigidly
erect and angular figure with no trace of girlish grace remaining. There
is a suggestion of it, like the faint perfume that still clings to withered
rose-petals, in the modest folding of the snowy lace across the maidenly
bosom, and in the rosy tint of the ribbons in her cap. But my imagination
refuses to conceive of Miss Caroline as ever having had a girlhood filled
with dream-lovers or real ones. I might easily fancy her a boy playing at
football, or "shinny," but a coy and sensitive maiden–never!
And now these were the prominent
members of that old faculty circle gathered about Mrs. Tiffin's table that
Monday evening, including, of course, our dear and genial Dr. Charlton,
without whom every gathering would have lost its center of sunshine and
warmth, for that was the effect of his ready flow of kindly wit and gentle
humor; and his beautiful wife, whose sparkling vivacity and gracious ways
charmed us almost as much as her radiant beauty.
And this night at Mrs. Tiffin's
the little company did not break up promptly at ten. It was the first
social gathering of the season, and they had all the long vacation experiences
to compare. Some of them had been to the mountains, and some to the sea;
Professor and Mrs. Tiffin in Europe; Professor Haywood at White Sulphur
Springs, where he was sure to meet the fashion and beauty of the South;
and his brother bachelor professor buried in the British Museum, delving
among its archives for material for his book that he had been faithfully
at work upon for years.
And when it was almost time to be
going Professor Fieldman challenged Dr. Charlton to a game of chess,
and that was one of the good doctor's weaknesses in which he yet found
little time to indulge, and which Mrs. Charlton encouraged as little as
she did his other weakness for punning. It seemed to her a great waste
of time to pore over a chess-board for hours, when one might be reading
some charming book or enjoying a delightful dish of conversation.
Mrs. Tiffin, noting the doctor's
wistful look, and perceiving that he was about to decline, added her persuasions
to the professor's, and herself arranged the little chess-table in a quiet
corner where they would neither interrupt the flow of talk nor be disturbed
by it. And as the hour of ten came and passed and the little circle saw
their head sitting unmoved by the cuckoo-chime that proclaimed the hour,
they ventured to linger a little, too. But they could not feel perfectly
at ease after that admonitory sound, and so conversation languished, and
gradually, one by one, the ladies withdrew to Mrs. Tiffin's room to put on
their bonnets, and the gentlemen formed a half-circle around the players
and silently watched the game. And that is one of the essential differences
between men and women. Whoever saw a circle of women watching a game in
which they could have no hand! They go to base-ball and to foot-ball, but
it is not the game that attracts them: it is the gay and eager crowds. As
a rule, all the daughters of Eve must have their finger in the pie or the
flavor is not to their liking.
A rustle of skirts and a gentle
murmur of voices at length proclaimed the return of the ladies, and Mrs.
Charlton floated up to the table where her husband sat, his finger laid
along his nose, his eyes fixed on the board, oblivious to everything else
in the world. The game was at a critical point, and, almost to the horror
of the interested circle of spectators, she laid her hand lightly on the
"My dear, do you know it is almost
half-past ten?" she said.
"Impossible!" ejaculated the doctor,
never taking his eyes from the board, nor in any way moving a muscle not
required by the act of articulation.
"Yes, dear, and we must be going."
"Wait one moment, my love," said
the doctor, putting his fingers on his king and then venturing to glance
hurriedly up at her.
The board was clear of men, except
Professor Fieldman's king, the doctor's king, and one knight, with which
he had been vainly striving for a checkmate: Professor Fieldman's king
stood on his rook's square, the doctor's knight on the bishop's second, and
his king on the knight's second; there was no use of struggling longer; the
doctor moved his king to the bishop's first and proclaimed a stalemate with
quite an air of triumph, for the professor was a player of some repute, and
kept in good practice by his wife, who was as fond of chess as she was of
stories. Then the doctor arose, flushed with success, made his courtly apology
to Mrs. Tiffin for keeping such late hours, and said his pleasant "good night"
to every one else.
Half-way across the long walk between
West and East College they heard the sharp click of the little gate in
the hedge, and a little further on they passed some one who took off his
hat and made a low bow. It was dark and the doctor could not recognize
"My dear," he said, "that seems
to be some one coming from our house. Could you tell who it was?"
"I think it was Mr. McAllister,"
she answered; "but it seems to me he has been staying rather late."
"Mr. McAllister!" said the doctor;
"I did not know he called on Lucy; I thought it was always you he came
"Oh, he calls on Lucy sometimes,"
said Mrs. Charlton; "but I fancy this time it was not Lucy, but Eunice."
"Ah, to be sure–of course!" said