Miriam Coles Harris.

Richard Vandermarck online

. (page 3 of 16)
Online LibraryMiriam Coles HarrisRichard Vandermarck → online text (page 3 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"Poor fellow! How lonely he must be! Let's ask him to go and walk with
us this evening."

Before I could remonstrate or detach myself from her, she had twisted
herself about, in a peculiarly supple and child-like manner that she
had, and had made the suggestion to him.

He was immeasurably surprised, no doubt, but he gave no sign of it.
After a silence of two or three instants, during which, I think, he was
occupied in trying to find a way to decline, he assented very sedately.

Charlotte Benson and her friend, who were behind us, were enraged at
this proceeding. During the week they had all been in the house
together, they had never gone beyond speaking terms with the tutor, and
this they had agreed was the best way to keep things, and it seemed to
be his wish no less than theirs. Here was this saucy girl, in want of
amusement, upsetting all their plans. They shortly declined to go to
walk with us: and so Mary Leighton, Mr. Langenau, and I started alone
toward the river.

It must be confessed, Miss Leighton was not rewarded for her effort, for
a stiffer and more uncomfortable companion could not be imagined. He
entirely declined to respond to her coquetry, and she very soon found
she must abandon this role; but she was nothing if not coquettish, and
the conversation flagged uncomfortably. Before we reached home she was
quite impatient, and ran up the steps, when we got there, as if it were
a great relief. The tutor raised his hat when he left us at the door,
turned back, and disappeared for the rest of the evening.

The next morning, coming down-stairs half an hour before breakfast, I
went into the library (a little room at the right of the front door),
for a book I had left there. I threw myself into an easy-chair, and
opened it, when I caught sight of the tutor, reading at the window. I
half started to my feet, and then sank back again in confusion; for what
was there to go away for?

He rose and bowed, and resumed his seat and his book.

The room was quite small, and we were very near each other. How I could
possibly have missed seeing him as I entered, now surprised me. I longed
to go away, but did not dare do anything that would seem rude. He
appeared very much engrossed with his book, but I, for my part, could
not read a word, and was only thinking how I could get away. Possibly he
guessed at my embarrassment, for after about ten minutes he arose, and
coming up to the table by which I sat, he took up a card, and placed it
in his book for a mark, and shut it up, then made some remark to me
about the day.

The color was coming and going in my face.

He must have felt sorry or curious, for he did not go directly away, and
continued to talk of things that did not require me to answer him.

I do not know what it was about his voice that was so different from the
ordinary voices of people. There was a quality in it that I had never
heard in any other. But perhaps it was in the ear that listened, as well
as the voice that spoke. And apart from the tones, the words I never
could forget. The most trivial things that he ever said to me, I can
remember to this day.

I believe that this was not of my imagination, but that others felt it
in some degree as I did. It was this that made him such an invaluable
teacher; he impressed upon those flesh-and-blood boys, in that one
summer, more than they would have learned in whole years from ordinary
persons. It was not very strange, then, that I was smitten with the
strangest interest in all he said and did, and that his words made the
deepest impression on me.

No doubt it is pleasant to be listened to by one whose face tells you
you are understood; and the tutor was not in a hurry to go away. He had
got up from the window, I know, with the intention of going out of the
room, but he continued standing, looking down at me and talking, for
half an hour at least.

The soft morning wind came in at the open door and window, with a scent
of rose and honeysuckle: the pretty little room was full of the early
sunshine in which there is no glare: I can see it all now, and I can
hear, as ever, his low voice.

He talked of the book I held in my hand, of the views on the river, of
the pleasantness of country life. I fancy I did not say much, though I
never am able to remember what I said when talking to him. Whatever I
said was a mere involuntary accord with him. I never recollect to have
felt that I did not agree with and admire every word he uttered.

How different his manner from last night when he had talked with Mary
Leighton; all the stiffness, the half-concealed repelling tone was
gone. I had not heard him speak to any one, except perhaps once to
Benny, as he spoke now. I was quite sure that he liked me, and that he
did not class me with the others in the house. But when the
breakfast-bell rang, he gave a slight start, and his voice changed; and
such a frown came over his face! He looked at his watch, said something
about the hour, and quickly left the room. I bent my head over my book
and sat still, till I heard them all come down and go into the
breakfast-room. I trusted they would not know he had been talking to me,
and there was little danger, unless they guessed it from my cheeks being
so aflame.

At breakfast he was more silent than ever, and his brow had not quite
got over that sudden frown. At dinner he was away again, as the
day before.

The day passed much as yesterday had done. About four o'clock there came
a telegram from Kilian to his sister. He had been delayed, and Mr.
Whitney would wait for him, and they would come the next evening by the
boat. I think Mary Leighton could have cried if she had not been
ashamed. Her pretty blue organdie was on the bed ready to put on. It
went back into the wardrobe very quickly, and she came down to tea in a
gray barége that was a little shabby.

A rain had come on about six o'clock. At tea the candles were lit, and
the windows closed. Every one looked moped and dull; the evening
promised to be insufferable. Mrs. Hollenbeck saw the necessity of
rousing herself and providing us some amusement. When Mr. Langenau
entered, she met his bow with one of her best smiles: how the change
must have struck him; for she had been very mechanical and polite to him
before. Now she spoke to him with the charming manner that brought every
one to her feet.

And what was the cause of this sudden kindness? It is very easy for me
to see now, though then I had not a suspicion. Alas! I am afraid that
the cheeks aflame at breakfast-time were the immediate cause of the
change. Mrs. Hollenbeck would not have made so marked a movement for an
evening's entertainment: it seemed to suit her very well that I should
talk to the tutor in the library before breakfast, and she meant to give
me opportunities for talking to him in the parlor too.

"A dreary evening, is it not?" she began. "What shall we all do?
Charlotte, can't you think of something?"

Charlotte, who had her own plans for a quiet evening by the lamp with a
new book, of course could not think of anything.

"Henrietta, at least you shall give us some music, and Mr. Langenau, I
am sure you will be good enough to help us; I will send over to the
school-room for that flute and those piles of music that I've seen upon
a shelf, and you will be charitable enough to play for us."

"I must beg you will not take that trouble."

"Oh, Mr. Langenau, that is selfish now."

Mrs. Hollenbeck did not press the subject then, but made herself
thoroughly delightful during tea, and as we rose from the table renewed
the request in a low tone to Mr. Langenau: and the result was, a little
after eight o'clock he came into the parlor where we sat. A place was
made for him at the table around which we were sitting, and Mrs.
Hollenbeck began the process of putting him at his ease. There was no
need. The tutor was quite as much at ease as any one, and, in a little
while, imperceptibly became the person to whom we were all listening.

Charlotte Benson at last gave up her book, and took her work-box
instead. We were no longer moping and dull around the table. And bye and
bye Henrietta, much alarmed, was sent to the piano, and her poor little
music certainly sounded very meagre when Mr. Langenau touched the keys.

I think he consented to play not to appear rude, but with the firm
intention of not being the instrument of our entertainment, and not
being made use of out of his own accepted calling. But happily for us,
he soon forgot all about us, and played on, absorbed in himself and in
his music. We listened breathlessly, the others quite as much engrossed
as I, because they all knew much more of music than I did. Suddenly,
after playing for a long while, he started from the piano, and came back
to the table. He was evidently agitated. Before the others could say a
word of thanks or wonder, I cried, in a fear of the cessation of what
gave me such intense pleasure,

"Oh, sing something; can't you sing?"

"Yes, I can sing," he said, looking down at me with those dangerous
eyes. "Will it give you pleasure if I sing for you?"

He did not wait for an answer, but turned back to the piano.

He had said "if I sing for you," and I knew that for me he was singing.
I do not know what it was for others, but for me, it was the only true
music that I had ever heard, the only music that I could have begged
might never cease, but flood over all the present and the future,
satisfying every sense. Other voices had roused and thrilled, this
filled me. I asked no more, and could have died with that sound in
my ears.

"Why, Pauline! child! what is it?" cried Mrs. Hollenbeck, as the music
ceased and Mr. Langenau. again came back to the circle round the table.
Every one looked: I was choking with sobs.

"Oh, don't, I don't want you to speak to me," I cried, putting away her
hand and darting from the room. I was not ashamed of myself, even when I
was alone in my room. The powerful magic lasted still, through the
silence and darkness, till I was aroused by the voices of the others
coming up to bed.

Mrs. Hollenbeck knocked at my door with her bedroom candle in her hand,
and, as she stood talking to me, the others strayed in to join her and
to satisfy their curiosity.

"You are very sensitive to music, are you not?" said Charlotte Benson,
contemplatively. She had tried me on Mompssen, and the "Seven Lamps,"
and found me wanting, and now perhaps hoped to find some other point
less faulty.

"I do not know," I said, honestly. "I seem to have been very sensitive
to-night."

"But you are not always?" asked Henrietta Palmer. "You do not always cry
when people sing?"

"Why, no," I said with great contempt. "But I never heard any one sing
like that before."

"He does sing well," said Mrs. Hollenbeck, thoughtfully.

"Immense expression and a fine voice," added Charlotte Benson.

"He has been educated for the stage, you may be sure," said Mary
Leighton, with a little spite. "As Miss d'Estrée says, I never heard
anyone sing like that, out of the chorus of an opera."

"Well, I think," returned Charlotte Benson, "if there were many voices
like that in ordinary choruses, one would be glad to dispense with the
solos and duets."

"Oh, you would not find his voice so wonderful, if you heard it out of a
parlor. It is very well, but it would not fill a concert hall, much less
an opera house. No; you may be sure he has been educated for some of
those German choruses; you know they are very fine musicians."

"Well, I don't know that it is anything to us what he was educated for,"
said Charlotte Benson, sharply. "He has given us a very delightful
evening, and I, for one, am much obliged to him."

"_Et moi aussi"_ murmured Henrietta, wreathing her large beautiful arms
about her friend, and the two sauntered away.

Mary Leighton, in general ill-humor, and still remembering the walk of
the last evening, desired to fire a parting-shot, and exclaimed, as she
went out, "Well, I think it is something to us; I like to have
gentlemen about me."

"You need not be uneasy," said Mrs. Hollenbeck, a little stiffly. "I
think Mr. Langenau is a gentleman."

But at this moment his step was heard in the hall below, and there was
an end put to the conversation.



CHAPTER VI.

MATINAL.

Last night, when some one spoke his name,
From my swift blood that went and came
A thousand little shafts of flame
Were shivered in my narrow frame.

_Tennyson_.


The next morning was brilliant and cool, the earth and heavens shining
after the rain of the past night. I was dressed long, long before
breakfast: it would be so tiresome to wait in my room till the bell
rang; yet if I went down-stairs, would it not look as if I wanted to see
Mr. Langenau again? I need not go to the library, of course, but I could
scarcely avoid being seen from the library if I went out. But why
suppose that he would be down again so early? It was very improbable,
and so, affectionately deceived, I put on a hat and walking-jacket and
stole down the stairs. I saw by the clock in the lower hall that it was
half an hour earlier than I had come down the morning before; at which I
was secretly chagrined, for now there was no danger, _alias_ hope, of
seeing Mr. Langenau.

But probably he had forgotten all about the foolish half-hour that had
given me so much to think about. I glanced into the library, which was
empty, and hurried out of the hall-door, secretly disappointed.

I took the path that led over the hill to the river. It passed through
the garden, under the long arbors of grapevines, over the hill, and
through a grove of maples, ending at the river where the boat-house
stood. The brightness of the morning was not lost on me, and before I
reached the maple-grove I was buoyant and happy. At the entrance of the
grove (which was traversed by several paths, the principal coming up
directly from the river) I came suddenly upon the tutor, walking
rapidly, with a pair of oars over his shoulder. He started, and for a
moment we both stood still and did not speak. I could only think with
confusion of my emotion when he sang.

"You are always early," he said, with his slight, very slight, foreign
accent, "earlier than yesterday by half an hour," he added, looking at
his watch. My heart gave a great bound of pleasure. Then he had not
forgotten! How he must have seen all this.

He stood and talked with me for some moments, and then desperately I
made a movement to go on. I do not believe, at least I am not sure, that
at first he had any intention of going with me. But it was not in human
nature to withstand the flattery of such emotion as his presence seemed
always to inspire in me; and then, I have no doubt, he had a certain
pleasure in talking to me outside of that; and then the morning was so
lovely and he had so much of books.

He proposed to show me a walk I had not taken. There was a little
hesitation in his manner, but he was reassured by my look of pleasure,
and throwing down the oars under a tree, he turned and walked beside me.
No doubt he said to himself, "America! This paradise of girlhood; - there
can be no objection." It was heavenly sweet, that walk - the birds, the
sky, the dewiness and freshness of all nature and all life. It seemed
the unstained beginning of all things to me.

The woods were wet; we could not go through them, and so we went a
longer way, along the river and back by the road.

This time he did not do all the talking, but made me talk, and listened
carefully to all I said; and I was so happy, talking was not any effort.

At last he made some allusion to the music of last night; that he was so
glad to see that I loved music as I did. "But I don't particularly," I
said in confusion, with a great fear of being dishonest, "at least I
never thought I did before, and I am so ignorant. I don't want you to
think I know anything about it, for you would be disappointed." He was
silent, and, I felt sure, because he was already disappointed; in fear
of which I went on to say -

"I never heard any one sing like that before; I am very sorry that it
gave any one an impression that I had a knowledge of music, when I
hadn't. I don't care about it generally, except in church, and I can't
understand what made me feel so yesterday."

"Perhaps it is because you were in the mood for it," he said. "It is
often so, one time music gives us pleasure, another time it does not."

"That may be so; but your voice, in speaking, even, seems to me
different from any other. It is almost as good as music when you speak;
only the music fills me with such feelings."

"You must let me sing for you again," he said, rather low, as we walked
slowly on.

"Ah; if you only will," I answered, with a deep sigh of satisfaction.

We walked on in silence till we reached the gate: he opened it for me
and then said, "Now I must leave you, and go back for the oars."

I was secretly glad of this; since the walk had reached its natural
limit and its end must be accepted, it was a relief to approach the
house alone and not be the subject of any observation.

Breakfast had began: no one seemed to feel much interest in my entrance,
though flaming with red roses and red cheeks.

They were of the sex that do not notice such things naturally, with much
interest or admiration. They had hardly "shaken off drowsy-hed," and had
no pleasure in anything but their breakfast, and not much in that.

"How do you manage to get yourself up and dressed at such inhuman
hours?" said Mary Leighton, querulously.

"You are a reproach to the household, and we will not suffer it," said
Charlotte Benson.

"I never could understand this thing of getting up before you are
obliged to," added Henrietta plaintively.

But Sophie seemed well satisfied, particularly when Mr. Langenau came in
and I looked down into my cup of tea, instead of saying good-morning to
him. He did not say very much, though there was a good deal of babble
among the others, principally about his music.

It was becoming the fashion to be very attentive to him. He was made to
promise to play in the evening; to bring down his books of music for the
benefit of Miss Henrietta, who wanted to practice, Heaven knows what of
his. His advice was asked about styles of playing and modes of
instruction; he was deferred to as an authority. But very little he
seemed to care about it all, I thought.



CHAPTER VII.

THREE WEEKS TOO LATE.

_Qui va à la chasse perd sa place_.

_De la main à la bouche se perd souvent la soupe_.

Distance all value enhances!
When a man's busy, why, leisure
Strikes him as wonderful pleasure.
Faith! and at leisure once is he,
Straightway he wants to be busy.

_R. Browning_.


Two weeks more passed: two weeks that seem to me so many years when I
look back upon them. Many more walks, early and late, many evenings of
music, many accidents of meeting. It is all like a dream. At seventeen
it is so easy to dream! It does not take two weeks for a girl to fall in
love and make her whole life different.

It was Saturday evening, and Richard was expected; Richard and Kilian
and Mr. Eugene Whitney. Ah, Richard was coming just three weeks
too late.

We were all waiting on the piazza for them, in pretty toilettes and
excellent tempers. It was a lovely evening; the sunset was filling the
sky with splendor, and Charlotte and Henrietta had gone to the corner of
the piazza whence the river could be seen, and were murmuring fragments
of verses to each other. They were not so much absorbed, however, but
that they heard the first sound of the wheels inside the gate, and
hurried back to join us by the steps.

Mary Leighton looked absolutely lovely. The blue organdie had seen the
day at last, and she was in such a flutter of delight at the coming of
the gentlemen that she could scarcely be recognized as the pale, flimsy
young person who had moped so unblushingly all the week.

"They are all three there," she exclaimed with suppressed rapture, as
the carriage turned the angle of the road that brought them into sight.
Mrs. Hollenbeck, quite beaming with pleasure, ran down the steps (for
Richard had been away almost two months), and Mary Leighton was at her
side, of course. Charlotte Benson and Henrietta went half-way down the
steps, and I stood on the piazza by the pillar near the door.

I was a little excited by their coming, too, but not nearly as much so
as I might have been three weeks ago. A subject of much greater interest
occupied my mind that very moment, and related to the chances of the
tutor's getting home in time for tea, from one of those long walks that
were so tiresome. I felt as if I hardly needed Richard now. Still, dear
old Richard! It was very nice to see him once again.

The gentlemen all sprang out of the carriage, and a Babel of welcomes
and questions and exclamations arose. Richard kissed his sister, and
answered some of her many questions, then shook hands with the young
ladies, but I could see that his eye was searching for me. I can't tell
why, certainly not because I felt at all shy, I had stepped back, a
little behind the pillar and the vines. In an instant he saw me, and
came quickly up the steps, and stood by me and grasped my hand, and
looked exactly as if he meant to kiss me. I hoped that nobody saw his
look, and I drew back, a little frightened. Of course, I know that he
had not the least intention of kissing me, but his look was so eager and
so unusual,

"It is two months, Pauline," he said; "and are you well?" And though I
only said that I was well and was very glad to see him, I am sure his
sister Sophie thought that it was something more, for she had followed
him up the steps and stood in the doorway looking at us.

The others came up there, and Kilian, as soon as he could get out of the
meshes of the blue organdie, came to me, and tried to out-devotion
Richard.

That is the way with men. He had not taken any trouble to get away from
Mary Leighton till Richard came.

A young woman only needs one lover very much in earnest, to bring about
her several others, not so much, perhaps, in earnest, but very amusing
and instructive. Richard went away very quickly, for I am sure he did
not like that sort of thing.

It was soon necessary for Mr. Kilian to suspend his devotion and go to
his room to get ready for tea.

When we all assembled again, at the table, I found that he had placed
himself beside me, next his sister, little Benny having gone to bed.

"Of course, the head of the table belongs to Richard; I never interfere
there, and as everybody else is placed, this is the only seat that I can
take, following the rose and thorn principle."

"But that principle is not followed strictly," cried Charlotte Benson,
who sat by Mary Leighton. "Here are two roses and no thorn."

"Ah! What a strange oversight," he exclaimed, seating himself
nevertheless. "The only way to remedy it will be to put the tutor in
your place, Miss Benson, and you come opposite Miss Pauline. Quick;
before he comes and refuses to move his Teutonic bones an inch."
Charlotte Benson changed her seat and the vacant one was left between
her and Mary Leighton.

This is the order of our seats, for that and many following happy nights
and days:

Richard,
Mary Leighton, Henrietta,
The Tutor, Mr. Eugene Whitney,
Charlotte Benson, Myself,
Charley, Kilian,
Sophie.

Mary Leighton looked furious and could hardly speak a word all through
the meal. It was particularly hard upon her, as the tutor did not come,
and the chair was empty, and a glaring insult to her all the time.

Kilian had done his part so innocently and so simply that it was hard to
suspect him of any intention to pique her and annoy Richard, but I am
sure he did it with just those two intentions. He was as thorough a
flirt as any woman, and withal very fond of change, and I think my pink
grenadine quite dazzled him as I stood on the piazza. Then came the
brotherly and quite natural desire to outshine Richard and put things
out a little. I liked it all very much, and was charmed to be of so much
consequence, for I saw all this quite plainly. I laughed and talked a
good deal with Kilian; he was delightful to laugh and talk with. Even
Eugene Whitney found me more worth his weak attention than the beautiful
and placid Henrietta.

The amusement was chiefly at our end of the table. But amidst it, I did
not fail to glance often at the door and wonder, uncomfortably, why the
tutor did not come.


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryMiriam Coles HarrisRichard Vandermarck → online text (page 3 of 16)