Chance is the key word, and those readers who have been following the story will quickly relate to the proverb ‘two times lucky, three times a charm’. If Harry’s uncle hadn’t required a stenographer and collapsed mid-sentence, if in the course of the Great White Hurricane, Louise had not gone to work, and Harry had not been riding about in near impassable streets, if Tompkins, trying to impress Louise, hadn’t taken their party to . . .
Delmonico’s Restaurant, the first fine dining restaurant in The United States, opened in 1837. The first eating establishment to be called ‘restaurant’ and the first to use tablecloths, it was also the first to offer facilities for a ball or gala event outside a private residence. The third floor consisted of private dining rooms where, as Delmonico’s puts it, ‘discriminate entertaining was the order of the day.’ The basement held over a thousand bottles of wine. Dishes such as Eggs Benedict, Lobster Newburg and Bombe Alaska were created in this restaurant, which became world-renowned. In 1868, Delmonico’s was the first in New York City to serve women unescorted by men, hosting The Sorosis Club, the first professional women’s club in the U.S.(Delmonico). Gunter provides an effective sensory description of the noisy and hectic atmosphere on the dining floor of the busy restaurant in 1888.
Prior to dinner, Louise’s friend Sally throws a bit of a hissy fit that they are not going to see a play, ‘Fauntleroy‘, which is ending its run. Tompkins, Louise’s partner for the night, is taking them to the Paragon theatre instead, though what they see doesn’t deserve comment. Some of Gunter’s readership may have been aware of the significance of mentioning the play at this time (late March, 1888), but to the modern reader it is something in the order of an insider joke.
It sets the preparative theme of ‘what might have been’ for the majority of the chapter to accentuate resolution at the end. We have: Alfred Tompkins’ aspirations and hopes for Louise Minturn, and Louise’s reflections on Harry Larchmont, Sally’s regrets over her station in life and Mr. Jenkins anger at his loss of preferred regard in Sally’s eyes.
The curious thing is, Gunter knows that if a play called Little Lord Fauntleroy were playing in New York at that time then it would have to have been an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, the plagiarized version written by the British playwright E.V. Seebohm. This unauthorised play opened in London on 23rd February, 1888, but never appeared in New York, as Burnett took legal action to prevent it.
Burnett’s novel Little Lord Fauntleroy was tremendously successful, both in its original serialization in St. Nicholas Magazine from November 1885 to October 1886, then as a book by Scribner’s (the publisher of St. Nicholas) in 1886. The main character, modeled upon her son Vivian, was not only a bestseller, but also became an influence in children’s fashion: velvet suits, lace collars, even chocolates were merchandised (McCarthy). Burnett and her husband and children were in Florence when she heard about Seebohm’s play, a comedy, in which great slabs of her novel had been used (Nierman). As reprinted in the New York Times of 4th March, 1888, a London Truth article titled ‘Mr. Seebohm’s Literary Morality’ describes dramatically how Seebohm used the attention Burnett’s story had attracted:
. . . he seizes upon it, dramatizes it, advertises it, uses for his play the title of Mrs. Burnett’s story, trades on the reputation of it, and then, when the authoress informs him that it is her story, that she invented it, and that she herself has dramatized it, and is anxious to produce it on the stage, Mr. Seebohm tells her that she has no grievance! Why! Because says Mr. Seebohm, the play is mine not yours; because I have widely departed from the original, and because, if it does succeed, I don’t mind giving you a bit! Mr. Seebohm impudently declares that no man could have behaved more honorably. That opinion will be scarcely be shared by the public, who consider that, be the law what it may, the authoress of the charming story has been very unfairly and shabbily treated.New York Times, March 1888
Burnett discovered that copyright laws did not extend to plays. She took the matter to court, and on May 12th, won a landmark court decision on property rights to a work of fiction. This forced Mr. Seebohm’s play off the boards. The Society of British Authors was so moved that she was presented with a diamond ring and bracelet (Nierman), and bracketed with James Russell Lowell, sturdy defender of international copyright laws, as guest of honor at a banquet in Queen’s Hall (Mc Carthy). Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy opened on December 3rd, 1888 in the Broadway Theatre, New York and closed on May 11th, 1889.
As a playwright and author, Gunter could not have failed to be aware of these events as they directly impacted on concerns that his own works be protected. Gunter uses artistic licence, mentioning ‘Fauntleroy’ nine months before it opens, to add momentary colour to the night outing, and to press home the point through Tompkins’ budget off-Broadway choice, and Sally’s complaint that there is an economic class ceiling under which they survive. Louise’s later comments on their male companion’s attire bear this out. But also, naming the play perhaps represents a subtle nod of thanks to his fellow writer, Frances Hodgson Burnett.
A CHANCE MEETING AT DELMONICO’S
As I enter from my unsuccessful promenade, Sally’s sweet lips give me a kiss, and Sally’s laughing voice says: “Well, Miss Lazy, I beat you home after all!”
Then, as if sudden suspicion has come to her, she cries: “Did you meet him?”
“Him—who?” I gasp, as a startled blush comes upon me.
“Why, Mr. Tompkins, of course!”
“Mr. Tompkins?” I reply icily, “Do you suppose I would go out walking with Mr. Tompkins?”
“Oh, you didn’t think I meant Alfred! Who did you suppose I meant? Is—is there someone else? Those violets! Are you keeping a secret from me?” and Sally’s bright eyes are gazing into mine with sudden and embarrassing inquiry.
Whatever have been my wild thoughts about this gentleman of clubs and cotillons and fashion, I have made no confidant of my chum, nor anyone else—nor ever shall!
To turn the conversation from this dangerous ground, I suggest: “Come! Help me pack my trunk, as you promised to.”
“Not till tomorrow,” answers my volatile companion. “You must keep your best dress out for tonight.”
“Tonight Mr. Tompkins and Mr. Jenkins have requested the pleasure of escorting us to the theatre.”
“The theatre! I have too much to do.”
“Nonsense! Your trunk isn’t such a very large one. I’ll help you tomorrow. Besides, you’ll spoil our party. I can’t go out with two gentlemen. This will be your last chance to do me a great favor.”
As she says this, Sally’s blue eyes are fixed in entreaty upon mine. The thought of parting from her makes me pliable to cajoling. “Very well!” I assent.
“Ah! I thought I could persuade you, and have already arranged the party,” says Miss Broughton, who is even now in her best bib and tucker, and looks very well in it—her bib being a handsome fur-trimmed jacket; and her tucker, a pretty and modest fawn-colored cloth dress, that drapes her rather under-sized, but plump figure, with graceful folds.
“This will make him happy,” she continues thoughtfully. “He comes to take us to dinner—”
“Mr. Tompkins, of course! It is to be at the Dairy Kitchen, where they have music. We will have a jolly time! But goodness, hurry! I hear his step upon the stairs, and you are not yet in festive array!”
Thus adjured, I retire to our bedroom, and in fifteen minutes come out to meet Mr. Tompkins, who is talking to Sally, as she puts on her hat. As I enter, their conversation floats to me.
“She is so deuced haughty!” says the gentleman.
“Haughty? How absurd! She’s affability itself,” returns the young lady.
“Yes, to girls!” answers Mr. Tompkins snappishly. Then he turns and sees me. My efforts at personal adornment seem to be pleasing to him, for I catch a stifled “By Jove!” as he regards me, and Sally gives a little cry, partly of surprise, partly—I am vain enough to think—of admiration; for before my glass, a sudden thought had flown into my mind. “Perhaps at the theatre I may meet him!” And I had drawn upon the utmost limits of my wardrobe, to make myself as alluring as possible, with, I think, very good effect.
Perchance this accounts for Mr. Tompkins’ more than usually effusive manner, as he greets me with, “Hew are yer?” and then murmurs: “This is exquisite, Miss Louise. I take it as a personal compliment!”
“I never compliment anybody!” I reply icily.
Then I grow red a little, for it has suddenly struck me I have been complimenting Mr. Harry Larchmont. My blushes seem to please Mr. Tompkins. He shows a rapture in his face which embarrasses me. A moment after, he suggests: “You have something on your mind?” For I have got to thinking of Panama, and have placed my latchkey on the table, instead of putting it in my pocket.
“Yes,” I reply, “there is something on my mind. I am going—”
A biting pinch from Sally’s quick fingers makes me pause—half in astonishment, half in pain.
A second after, getting opportunity as we put the finishing touches to our toilettes in the little bedroom, she whispers: “Don’t tell him now.”
“Why not?” I ejaculate.
“Because you’ll spoil our theatre party. I can’t explain now; but don’t tell either of the gentlemen till we get home. Promise!”
“Certainly. It is a matter of indifference to me whether Mr. Tompkins or Mr. Jenkins ever know of my departure!” I answer.
So we rejoin our escort, who is a florid little fellow, not much over five feet seven, with a quick, dapper walk. He wears the conventional evening dress of the day, embellished by a heavy gold chain across his vest, that does not seem to me to be exactly the mode. At all events, Mr. Larchmont never wears one.
A moment after, we are under way for the Dairy Kitchen, a gorgeous restaurant on Fourteenth Street, that accommodates the well-to-do hundred thousand, and furnishes them with a very fair dinner at a reasonable price, accompanied by the music of an indifferent orchestra, and the discordant sounds of half a hundred waiters, who clash their dishes together with vivacious activity.
Under its brilliant arc-lights we meet Mr. Jenkins, one of the floorwalkers of Pacy & Company, who says in a loud voice, that is suggestive to me of “Cash!”: “I have kept this table for you for twenty minutes, and am hungry.”
“Then you must wear your dress coat in the store. I don’t think you ever get away till at least a quarter after six, at Pacy’s,” sneers the haughty Alfred Tompkins.
Mr. Jenkins, crushed by this business sarcasm, regards us in gloomy and hungry silence, as we take seats at his table, and Mr. Tompkins suggests: “Have you ordered the menu, Horace?”
“No! What’s that?” asks Jenkins suddenly, at which I stifle incipient laughter, and Miss Broughton suggests with playful sarcasm: “Perhaps he thought it was the oysters!”
At Sally’s badinage Mr. Jenkins grows so savage, that I turn the conversation, by hastily asking: “To what theatre are you going to take us?”
After giving the necessary orders for our entertainment, Mr. Tompkins condescends to furnish me the information I ask. “I have procured tickets,” he says, “for the Paragon.”
“The Paragon!” Sally screams in horror. “Why do you always take us to the Paragon? Now if it had been Fauntleroy, that I have been dying to see for six months, that would have been something like. Couldn’t you do it now? It is getting near the end of its run.”
Here Mr. Jenkins candidly remarks: “Fauntleroy tickets are not on the bargain counter yet.”
At this soft insinuation Mr. Tompkins hems and blushes.
The theatres that Mr. Tompkins patronizes, are always those that have on their boards either unsuccessful pieces, or plays that have been performed so long that, their first flush of glory being over, the management are liberal with complimentary tickets. His position as floorwalker in a leading dry-goods establishment gives him rather a command of these tributes of managerial favor, for he has been quite successful, in his day; in making full houses for them; and several times the employees of his house have attended some of our leading theatres almost in a body, giving them the appearance of great prosperity and crowded houses. To “first nights” Mr. Tompkins seldom invites any one. In fact, he says he does not like them. He prefers a play to grow mellow and old, and to receive the polish of one hundred and fifty performances, before he visits it. At the Paragon, however, he sometimes invites people to “first nights,” though at the box office it is always said:” “We are sold up to Q.”
Consequently it is the Paragon to which Mr. Tompkins is going to take us this evening.
At his announcement, my heart sinks; for I am very certain Harry Sturgis Larchmont will not be in its orchestra chairs or boxes: and a half hysterical regret, for which I anathematize myself, comes into my mind. “Perhaps I will not see him before I go.”
Noting my preoccupied manner, Mr. Tompkins in his most dulcet tones suggests: “Is the something on your mind, that Miss Sally spoke of, destroying your appetite?” Then he whispers, a Romeo timbre in his voice: “Is it about me—Alfredo?”
At this I give a start. The romantic tone of the gentleman—Sally’s hint not to tell him of my departure. A sudden suspicion comes into my mind, that makes me very icy and haughty to Mr. Tompkins.
A few minutes after, we all stroll over to Broadway to take car to visit the Paragon, a little theatre where they sometimes have very good plays, but rarely full houses.
The performance this evening is a pleasant one, and the party leave the theatre in very good spirits, except me.
We walk over to Fifth Avenue, and turn down this great thoroughfare, crowded with rushing cabs and carriages coming from the theatres. During our walk Mr. Tompkins announces to us that he has had a great stroke of business luck; that he has been promoted to a higher department, with a better salary. He has apparently kept this piece of news to impress either Mr. Jenkins, Sally or myself.
As we approach Twenty-sixth Street, this gentleman’s good fortune seems to have made him financially reckless. He suddenly says: “What do you say, young ladies, to supper at Del’s?”
“Supper at Del’s!” ejaculates Sally in unbelief.
“Catch me!” gasps Miss Broughton and pretends to be overcome. But Tompkins repeats sternly: “I mean it! A supper at Del’s!”
This is too good a chance for Jenkins to refuse. He answers, “Right you are!” and promptly leads the way.
For a moment I am about to draw back. An awning is up on Twenty-sixth Street; a cotillon, or dinner dance, or Patriarchs’ ball, or something of that kind is going on in the ballroom upstairs. It is quite probable that Harry Sturgis Larchmont may be there. I may meet him in the restaurant or the hall, and I shrink from this fashionable gentleman encountering me under the escort of the florid Tompkins.
But Sally pulls at my arm, whispering: “A supper at Delmonico’s! It is the chance of your life!”
Hesitation would be absurd. I know she will try and drag me in if I do not go, and I follow them.
Looking on our party as we pass in, I am content with Miss Broughton and myself, though the gentlemen do not impress me “as to the manner born” to the glories of this fashionable restaurant. Sally’s dress is certainly very nice. My own I know is all right. Besides, the hall boy, as he takes and checks our wraps, is politeness and humility itself. The haughty head waiter, however, impresses me more strongly, as he precedes us, remarking: “Table pour quatre!”
Our escorts’ clothes, however, do not impose upon me. True, they both wear swallowtail coats, but their fashion is not of the latest mode; and their vests are not of the white duck I see some of the gentlemen at the neighboring tables wearing. Besides that, both of them have three horribly big exaggerated studs in their shirt fronts.
I am delighted when they sit down and hide their watch guards from view; for this atmosphere is one to disclose slight defects in the dress of either man or woman.
The room is a blaze of electric light. The toilettes of the ladies, some of whom are in graceful and beautiful evening gowns, having just come in from the opera, are nearly all magnificent; the dress suits of the gentlemen, perfect in detail.
“This time we have a menu,” remarks Mr. Tompkins proudly, and shows it to Mr. Jenkins, as the waiter places it in front of him.
A moment after, he surreptitiously passes the carte du jour to me, muttering: “Confound it! It is printed in French. Won’t you assist me, Miss Louise?” my knowledge of that language being known to him.
“I’ll save you the trouble,” laughs Sally. “The other side of the card is in English.”
Then Mr. Tompkins, his face covered with embarrassment, orders oysters, some cold partridges, ice-cream, and a bottle of champagne; and thoughtlessly being lured into unknown fields of extravagance by the waiter’s suggestion, adds terrapin to his bill of fare, and we have a very pleasant meal of it.
My ears, however, are devoted to the conversation at the table next us. The people there are giving me information that interests me. One of the ladies remarks carelessly: “Mrs. Dewitt, I hear, goes to Europe on Saturday. I believe she chaperons Miss Severn.”
“Of course Mr. Larchmont goes with his ward,” is the reply of a gentleman.
“Oh, certainly; they leave on the Aurania. They say Mr. Larchmont is interested in pretty Miss Jessie much more personally, than as trustee of her estate, and guardian of her person.”
I catch no more of this conversation, as the party giving it to my ears now rise and leave the restaurant.
Soon we are going also, Mr. Tompkins looking sorrowfully at his bill. As we reach the hall, the incident comes to me that I have dreaded, yet hoped for. I again see Harry Larchmont’s pleasant face.
He is talking to a gentleman standing near the office.
His friend says: “You lead the cotillon with Miss Severn, I understand, tonight?”
“’Yes, for the last time—perhaps.” This with a little sigh.
“Why the last time?”
“I am going away.”
This confirms the news I have just heard of him from the party in the restaurant.
A moment later, his glance catches mine. The hall boy is about to hand me my wrap.
In a second he stands beside me, with outstretched hand, which I do not refuse, and says:”How do you do, Miss Minturn? No after effects from the blizzard?”
“No,” I reply, “only gratitude.”
But the blizzard has left an after effect on me. I turn my head away, my cheeks are burning.
“Nonsense!” he replies lightly. “Don’t think of the affair in that serious way. I regard it now—only with pleasure.”
“What! When you slept on a counter that night,” I return.
As this is going on, he is cloaking me with that deft ease which indicates the squire of dames, while Mr. Tompkins, who has hurried to my side to proffer a similar attention, stands glaring at this unknown swell who is acting as my cavalier for the moment.
A second later, Mr. Larchmont whispers: “I am most happy to have seen you before I go away.”
“Oh, I am going away also!” I reply.
“On the Colon—”
He interrupts this with a little start, saying: “On the Colon? Then I shall only say au revoir,” bows, rejoins his friend, and the two go upstairs, from which the sound of music tells us of the coming dance; while I look on his departing figure, wondering what he means.
During this, Sally has been gazing at me with very large eyes; and as we pass out, is questioning eagerly: “Isn’t he very handsome? Who is he?”
I reply, attempting nonchalance: “Mr. Harry Sturgis Larchmont.”
This announcement is received by unbelieving sneers from both Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Tompkins, who have read many times of Mr. Larchmont in the society columns of their morning newspapers.
“What!” screams Sally, careless of overhearing cabmen, “the leader of cotillons? the howling swell?”
“I don’t know about the howling swell,” I reply, “but I believe he leads the cotillon this evening.”
“Good heavens! Why did you not introduce me?” This is a sigh of unutterable reproach at lost opportunity; then Sally goes on impetuously: “I would so like to know a real swell before I die!”
At this uncomplimentary speech, Jenkins grinds his teeth, as he walks by her side, and Mr. Tompkins grows pale, for he fears I have told the truth.
So we go home, they all questioning me, “How did I know him?”
This Sally answers for me. She says proudly: “He is a relic of her former life. You know that Louise is Miss Minturn—one of the real Minturns. You can read of her cousins, aunts, and uncles every day, in the society columns of the papers. They are dancing now, perhaps, with Mr. Harry Sturgis Larchmont.”
At this suggestion comes the thought that he is dancing now with Miss Jessie Severn, and the idea which has been in my mind so often, comes up with renewed force. Had not misfortune befallen my mother’s parents on the Isthmus, I might have been dancing the German with him, in her place, and this makes me severe—severe with poor Tompkins, from whose remarks I turn with disdain.
By this time we are at our home in Seventeenth Street. Mr. Jenkins leaves us at the door, apparently not having forgiven Miss Sally for her remark about a real swell.
A moment after, Mr. Tompkins bids us adieu, and turns to follow him.
I am about to bid him goodby as well as goodnight and tell him of my intended departure; but Sally whispers to me: “He will know tomorrow.” Then as the young man disappears she archly says: “Yes, he is sure to turn up tomorrow. He turns up every day. Perhaps Mr. Tompkins will sleep better tonight if he does not hear the news until tomorrow.”
“Don’t talk nonsense!” I return, as we run up together to our rooms. In the parlor, Miss Broughton, who has been in high spirits all the evening, suddenly changes her mood.
She looks at me wistfully, and says: “Louie, only one night more together after this!”
Then we two lonely ones in this world gaze at each other, and our eyes grow dim; and after we have gone to bed I hear dear little Sally sobbing, until sleep comes to us both and gives us rest.
The next morning Miss Broughton has apparently regained her spirits. She whispers: “You will write to me often, and if you don’t like it there, come back.”
“I have a contract.”
“Come back, contract or no contract. They can’t chain you there. With sixty dollars a week you can save money to pay your own passage.”
“And you!” I say anxiously. “What are you going to do?”
“Oh, I’m all right!” she runs on. “I have got Laura Dutton to come and take your place. She won’t be such pleasant company, but is of a motherly disposition, and I think will keep me in good order.”
So, breakfast being over, I am compelled to go to the office of Flandreau & Co., to sign the contract, and complete my arrangements for departure.
There I meet the dapper little clerk again, who is very polite to me, and has the contract drawn up, to be signed in duplicate, by which I bind myself for one year to furnish my stenographic services to the firm of Montez Aguilla et Cie., contractors construction, Panama, for the sum of sixty dollars per week and the various other emoluments that had been agreed to between us.
These documents are in printed forms in Spanish, apparently being in general use by the Panama firm to cover their agreements for labor.
Somehow or other, the name of the firm—Montez Aguilla et Cie., seems to me familiar.
These contracts I take to Miss Work, who has advised to this effect, and she gets a young lawyer in a neighboring office to see if they are what I wish. I translate them to him, and this gentleman pronounces them, in his judgment, satisfactory. I put my name to them, and returning to the office in South Street, they are signed by Flandreau & Co. as agents for the firm with which I contract.
My ticket for Panama, for a first class passage, is given me, and I am informed that the captain of the steamer Colon will take charge of me as far as the Atlantic side of the Isthmus. There Mr. Stuart, the agent of the Pacific Steamship Company at Colon, will see about my railroad ticket, and transfer me across the Isthmus. I am given letters of introduction to both these gentlemen, and sufficient money in hand for any reasonable expenses that may come to me upon the voyage.
All this has been done by one o’clock in the day, and I depart for our rooms up town, I purchasing on the way a little souvenir de remembrance for Sally. Miss Broughton is waiting for me, for she has given up her day’s work to pack my trunk and see the last of me. This packing does not take long. My wardrobe, though good, is not extensive; but I have purchased a few light and I think pretty gowns, suitable for a warm climate. So together we soon make quick work of the trunk. But this very packing brings the past back to me.
Among the mementos left me by my dead mother are a few things she had received from her own. One is a picture of a beautiful lady in the dress of thirty years ago. It is a tintype, bearing on the back: “Edouart’s Gallery, Ambrotypes and Daguerreotypes, 634 Washington Street, San Francisco.” There is also a package of letters my mother had received as a schoolgirl, from her parents in California. These I have looked over before. Some time on the Isthmus I will read them again.
Perhaps I may learn the fate of the writers at Panama. Perhaps I may regain the treasure that was lost with them. Perhaps I may be—Pshaw! Nonsense! Their fate came on them thirty years ago.
We have had our dinner, and eight o’clock comes, and with it Mr. Tompkins. The trunk is now out in the parlor, strapped and labelled.
This trunk seems to give Mr. Tompkins a sensation. Almost as he wishes me good-evening, it catches his eye. He says hurriedly: “You are going away?”
“And where do you think she is going?” interjects Sally.
“To Long Island,” suggests Mr. Tompkins uncertainly.
“To Panama for a year—under contract at sixty dollars a week—and first class passage there and back!” cries Miss Broughton.
“To Panama!” gasps the gentleman. “Impossible!”
“Look at that trunk! Read its label!” returns Sally.
“Miss Louise Ripley Minturn, Panama, via steamship Colon.”
Reading this, Mr. Tompkins believes, and sinks down, overcome, upon our little sofa. But only for a moment. Then conviction has such an awful effect upon him, that Sally and I stare at his emotion.
He rises, an inch added to his height, a desperate determination in his face, and cries: “Put that trunk away! Unpack it at once! I forbid you to go!”
His manner is so extraordinary, and there is such a wild light in his eyes, that Miss Broughton, having raised the Romeo in him, runs away from it into the other room, with a stifled giggle.
This is perhaps fortunate, as Mr. Tompkins’ emotions have suddenly become of a most embarrassingly ardent nature to me. At last I realize why Sally has prevented any knowledge of my departure reaching the romantic Tompkins before. He is given to the emotions in their most violent and dramatic form.
Looking at me he mutters in reproachful tones: “And you kept it from me?” then again cries out in a desperate way: “But I will not let you leave!”
However, I steady myself and say determinedly: “That is impossible! I have signed a contract.”
“I want you to sign a contract with me!” he returns, an awful romantic significance in his voice, “a contract to be my wife.”
He is coming towards me. In another moment his arm will be about my waist. With a gasp of consternation, I place the trunk between us.
From the other side of it he still addresses me. “Yesterday I was made very happy. My salary was raised. It is sufficient to support a wife. Tell me, Miss Minturn—Louise, that you will enjoy that salary with me!” He reaches to seize my hand, but three feet of trunk prevent him.
“I am glad to hear of your business success, Mr. Tompkins,” I reply, trying to stifle any emotion that may be in me.
“Your Alfred’s success!” he cries. “Call me Alfred!” and steps to my side of the trunk, but I, with a deft spring, keep it between us.
“Will you marry me?” he asks in eager tone.
“No!” I answer desperately, for his hand has caught my arm, and there are kisses in his eyes, “No! Never!”
Then comes an awful scene. He reproaches me for having made him love me—me, who had hardly given him a thought—who had not even cared enough about him to guess what Sally’s insinuations had meant.
Finally he exclaims: “I know it now; you love another!” and grinds his teeth.
“Another?” gasp I. “I forbid you to continue!”
“Why not?” he cries. “Why not? Didn’t your eyes tell me your hideous secret last night at Delmonico’s when you looked at the swell? Harry Sturgis Larchmont, that’s his name! What chance have we workingmen against these gentlemen of fashion? But, frivolous girl, I warn you of him! With my last word, I, Alfred Tompkins, warn you!”
With this invective he departs.
I pray God he will be happy. True hearts are scarce in this world, and though Alfred Tompkins’ love for me is perhaps not of the most exalted type, still he has given me the whole of it.
Then Sally comes out to me and whispers: “You have sent him away?”
“I knew you would, ever since you looked, last evening, at the swell in Delmonico’s. Why, what awful blushes! but they’re very becoming, Louise.”
“Nonsense!” I cry. “Don’t dare to speak such ineffable idiocy. No more of Mr. Tompkins!”
“No more of Mr. Harry Sturgis Larchmont?”
“No more of anyone!” and I turn from the subject, though Sally brings it back to me several times upon this last evening we spend together. The last night of our friendship! If I come back, I will be changed, and she—Any way it will be different!
But at present we are all in all to each other, and mingle our farewells with tears and caresses, and promises to never forget each other.
So the morning comes to us, and my trunk is taken away by the expressman, and Sally and I go down to the great steamship, at its dock in the North River. I present my letter of introduction to the captain, and find that I have a very pleasant stateroom, all to myself. Here Sally and I bid each other farewell. A moment after, I give a start.
Alfred Tompkins is standing before me. He says, heedless of Sally’s presence: “Whether you change your mind or not, I have come down to bid you good by!”
And I whisper to him: “I can’t change my mind! You will forget me in time.”
Then the cry comes up of “All ashore!”—the cry that is separating me from the land of my birth. And Sally and Mr. Tompkins have gone across the gangplank to wave adieu to me as the steamer leaves its dock.
Other farewells are being said. Husbands are parting from wives, and sisters from brothers, and a lot of fashionables are waving farewell to some gentleman comrade. Carelessly I turn to look at him.
I give a gasp of astonishment. What does it mean to my life? The man waving an adieu to his friends, and standing carelessly on the bulwarks of the ship—the man sailing away with me to Panama—is Harry Sturgis Larchmont.
Sally and Tompkins have seen and recognized him too. I see it by the look of amazed alarm upon their faces. Good heavens, if they think it an elopement! I give a start of horror, and fly to my stateroom dismayed and overcome at emotions that give me curious joy and bashful fear.
Notes and References
- tucker: a piece of linen, muslin, or the like, worn by women about the neck and shoulders.
- emoluments: profit, salary, or fees from office or employment; compensation for services
- swell: a person who is very fashionably dressed, a man of high social or political standing.
- terrapin: a term formerly used to refer to any aquatic turtle but now restricted largely, though not exclusively, to the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) of the turtle family Emydidae. (britannica.com)
James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), poetryfoundation.org
Little Lord Fauntleroy, Internet Broadway Database.
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