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Chapter 13

They had left early that morning for Boston, determined, as they wrote, no longer to trespass on his kindness. There had been a discussion in their bedroom the night before when they got back in which Anna-Rose supplied the heat and Anna-Felicitas the arguments, and it ended in Anna-Felicitas succeeding in restoring Anna-Rose to her original standpoint of proud independence, from which, lured by the comfort and security of Mr. Twist's companionship, she had been inclined to slip.

It took some time, because of Anna-Rose being the eldest. Anna-Felicitas had had to be as wary, and gentle, and persistently affectionate as a wife whom necessity compels to try and get reason into her husband. Anna-Rose's feathers, even as the feathers of a husband, bristled at the mere breath of criticism of her superior intelligence and wisdom. She was the leader of the party, the head and guide, the one who had the dollars in her pocket, and being the eldest naturally must know best. Besides, she was secretly nervous about taking Anna-Felicitas about alone. She too had observed the stares of the public, and had never supposed that any of them might be for her. How was she to get to Boston successfully with so enchanting a creature, through all the complications of travel in an unknown country, without the support and counsel of Mr. Twist? Just the dollars and quarters and dimes and cents cowed her. The strangeness of everything, while it delighted her so long as she could peep at it from behind Mr. Twist, appalled her the minute she was left alone with it. America seemed altogether a foreign country, a strange place whose inhabitants by accident didn't talk in a strange language. They talked English; or rather what sounded like English till you found that it wasn't really.

But Anna-Felicitas prevailed. She had all Anna-Rose's inborn horror of accepting money or other benefits from people who had no natural right to exercise their benevolences upon her, to appeal to. Christopher, after long wrestling restored at last to pride, did sit down and write the letter that so much spoilt Mr. Twist's breakfast next morning, while Columbus slouched about the room suggesting sentences.

It was a letter profuse in thanks for all Mr. Twist had done for them, and couched in language that betrayed the particular share Anna-Felicitas had taken in the plan; for though they both loved long words Anna-Felicitas's were always a little the longer. In rolling sentences that made Mr. Twist laugh in spite of his concern, they pointed out that his first duty was to his mother, and his second was not to squander his possessions in paying the hotel and railway bills of persons who had no sort of claim on him, except those general claims of humanity which he had already on the St. Luke so amply discharged. They would refrain from paying their hotel bill, remembering his words as to the custom of the country, though their instincts were altogether against this course, but they could and would avoid causing him the further expense and trouble and waste of his no doubt valuable time of taking them to Boston, by the simple process of going there without him. They promised to write from the Sacks and let him know of their arrival to the address at Clark he had given them, and they would never forget him as long as they lived and remained his very sincerely, A.-R., and A.-F. Twinkler.

Mr. Twist hurried out to the office.

The clerk who had been so confidential in his manner the evening before looked at him curiously. Yes, the young ladies had left on the 8.15 for Boston. They had come downstairs, baggage and all, at seven o'clock, had asked for a taxi, had said they wished to go to Boston, inquired about the station, etc., and had specially requested that Mr. Twist should not be disturbed.

"They seemed in a slight hurry to be off," said the clerk, "and didn't like there being no train before the 8.15. I thought you knew all about it, Mr. Twist," he added inquisitively.

"So I did--so I did," said Mr. Twist, turning away to go back to his breakfast for three.

"So he did--so he did," muttered the clerk with a wink to the other clerk; and for a few minutes they whispered, judging from the expressions on their faces, what appeared to be very exciting things to each other.

Meanwhile the twins, after a brief struggle of extraordinary intensity at the station in getting their tickets, trying to understand the black man who seized and dealt with their luggage, and closely following him wherever he went in case he should disappear, were sitting in a state of relaxation and relief in the Boston express, their troubles over for at least several hours.

The black porter, whose heart happened not to be black and who had children of his own, perceived the helpless ignorance that lay behind the twins' assumption a of severe dignity, and took them in hand and got seats for them in the parlour car. As they knew nothing about cars, parlour or otherwise, but had merely and quite uselessly reiterated to the booking-clerk, till their porter intervened, that they wanted third-class tickets, they accepted these seats, thankful in the press and noise round them to get anything so roomy and calm as these dignified arm-chairs; and it wasn't till they had been in them some time, their feet on green footstools, with attendants offering them fruit and chocolates and magazines at intervals just as if they had been in heaven, as Anna-Felicitas remarked admiringly, that counting their money they discovered what a hole the journey had made in it. But they were too much relieved at having accomplished so much on their own, quite uphelped for the first time since leaving Aunt Alice, to take it particularly to heart; and, as Anna-Felicitas said, there was still the £200, and, as Anna-Rose said, it wasn't likely they'd go in a train again for ages; and anyhow, as Anna-Felicitas said, whatever it had cost they were bound to get away from being constant drains on Mr. Twist's purse.

The train journey delighted them. To sit so comfortably and privately in chairs that twisted round, so that if a passenger should start staring at Anna-Felicitas one could make her turn her back altogether on him; to have one's feet on footstools when they were the sort of feet that don't reach the ground; to see the lovely autumn country flying past, hills and woods and fields and gardens golden in the October sun, while the horrible Atlantic was nowhere in sight; to pass through towns so queerly reminiscent of English and German towns shaken up together and yet not a bit like either; to be able to have the window wide open without getting soot in one's eyes because one of the ministering angels--clad, this one, appropriately to heaven, in white, though otherwise black--pulled up the same sort of wire screen they used to have in the windows at home to keep out the mosquitoes; to imitate about twelve, when they grew bold because they were so hungry, the other passengers and cause the black angel to spread a little table between them and bring clam broth, which they ordered in a spirit of adventure and curiosity and concealed from each other that they didn't like; to have the young man who passed up and down with the candy, and whose mouth was full of it, grow so friendly that he offered them toffee from his own private supply at last when they had refused regretfully a dozen suggestions to buy--"Have a bit," he said, thrusting it under their noses. "As a gentleman to ladies--no pecuniary obligations--come on, now;" all this was to the twins too interesting and delightful for words.

They accepted the toffee in the spirit in which it was offered, and since nobody can eat somebody's toffee without being pleasant in return, intermittent amenities passed between them and the young man as he journeyed up and down through the cars.

"First visit to the States?" he inquired, when with some reluctance, for presently it appeared to the twins that the clam broth and the toffee didn't seem to be liking each other now they had got together inside them, and also for fear of hurting his feelings if they refused, they took some more.

They nodded and smiled stickily.

"English, I guess."

They hesitated, covering their hesitation with the earnest working of their toffee-filled jaws.

Then Anna-Felicitas, her cheek distorted, gave him the answer she had given the captain of the St. Luke, and said, "Practically."

"Ah," said the young man, turning this over in his mind, the r in "practically" having rolled as no English or American r ever did; but the conductor appearing in the doorway he continued on his way.

"It's evident," said Anna-Rose, speaking with difficulty, for her jaws clave together because of the toffee, "that we're going to be asked that the first thing every time a fresh person speaks to us. We'd better decide what we're going to say, and practise saying it without hesitation."

Anna-Felicitas made a sound of assent.

"That answer of yours about practically," continued Anna-Rose, swallowing her bit of toffee by accident and for one moment afraid it would stick somewhere and make her die, "causes first surprise, then reflection, and then suspicion."

"But," said Anna-Felicitas after a pause during which she had disentangled her jaws, "it's going to be difficult to say one is German when America seems to be so very neutral and doesn't like Germans. Besides, it's only in the eye of the law that we are. In God's eye we're not, and that's the principal eye after all."

Her own eyes grew thoughtful. "I don't believe," she said, "that parents when they marry have any idea of all the difficulties they're going to place their children in."

"I don't believe they think about it at all," said Anna-Rose. "I mean," she added quickly, lest she should be supposed to be questioning the perfect love and forethought of their mother, "fathers don't."

They were silent a little after this, each thinking things tinged to sobriety by the effect of the inner conflict going on between the clam broth and the toffee. Also Boston was rushing towards them, and the Clouston Sacks. Quite soon they would have to leave the peaceful security of the train and begin to be active again, and quick and clever. Anna-Felicitas, who was slow, found it difficult ever to be clever till about the week after, and Anna-Rose, who was impetuous, was so impetuous that she entirely outstripped her scanty store of cleverness and landed panting and surprised in situations she hadn't an idea what to do with. The Clouston Sacks, now--Aunt Alice had said, "You must take care to be very tactful with Mr. and Mrs. Clouston Sack;" and when Anna-Rose, her forehead as much puckered as Mr. Twist's in her desire to get exactly at what tactful was in order to be able diligently to be it, asked for definitions, Aunt Alice only said it was what gentlewomen were instinctively.

"Then," observed Anna-Felicitas, when on nearing Boston Anna-Rose repeated Aunt Alice's admonishment and at the same time provided Anna-Felicitas for her guidance with the definition, "seeing that we're supposed to be gentlewomen, all we've got to do is to behave according to our instincts."

But Anna-Rose wasn't sure. She doubted their instincts, especially Anna-Felicitas's. She thought her own were better, being older, but even hers were extraordinarily apt to develop in unexpected directions according to the other person's behaviour. Her instinct, for instance, when engaged by Uncle Arthur in conversation had usually been to hit him. Was that tact? Yet she knew she was a gentlewoman. She had heard that, since first she had heard words at all, from every servant, teacher, visitor and relation--except her mother--in her Prussian home. Indeed, over there she had been told she was more than a gentlewoman, for she was a noblewoman and therefore her instincts ought positively to drip tact.

"Mr. Dodson," Aunt Alice had said one afternoon towards the end, when the twins came in from a walk and found the rector having tea, "says that you can't be too tactful in America. He's been there."

"Sensitive--sensitive," said Mr. Dodson, shaking his head at his cup. "Splendidly sensitive, just as they are splendidly whatever else they are. A great country. Everything on a vast scale, including sensitiveness. It has to be met vastly. But quite easy really---" He raised a pedagogic finger at the twins. "You merely add half as much again to the quantity of your tact as the quantity you encounter of their sensitiveness, and it's all right."

"Be sure you remember that now," said Aunt Alice, pleased.

As Boston got nearer, Anna-Rose, trying to learn Mr. Dodson's recipe for social success by heart, became more silent. On the ship, when the meeting with the Sacks was imminent, she had fled in sudden panic to her cabin to hide from them. That couldn't have been tact. But it was instinct. And she was a gentlewoman. Now once again dread took possession of her and she wanted to hide, not to get there, to stay in the train and go on and on. She said nothing, of course, of her dread to Anna-Felicitas in order not to undermine that young person's morale, but she did very much wish that principles weren't such important things and one needn't have cut oneself off from the protecting figure of Mr. Twist.

"Now remember what Aunt Alice said," she whispered severely to Anna-Felicitas, gripping her arm as they stood jammed in the narrow passage to the door waiting to be let out at Boston.

On the platform, they both thought, would be the Sacks,--certainly one Sack, and they had feverishly made themselves tidy and composed their faces into pleasant smiles preparatory to the meeting. But once again no Sacks were there. The platform emptied itself just as the great hall of the landing-stage had emptied itself, and nobody came to claim the Twinklers.

"These Sacks," remarked Anna-Felicitas patiently at last, when it was finally plain that there weren't any, "don't seem to have acquired the meeting habit."

"No," said Anna-Rose, vexed but relieved. "They're like what Aunt Alice used to complain about the housemaids,--neither punctual nor methodical."

"But it doesn't matter," said Anna-Felicitas. "They shall not escape us. I'm getting quite hungry for the Sacks as a result of not having them. We will now proceed to track them to their lair."

For one instant Anna-Rose looked longingly at the train. It was still there. It was going on further and further away from the Sacks. Happy train. One little jump, and they'd be in it again. But she resisted, and engaged a porter.

Even as soon as this the twins were far less helpless than they had been the day before. The Sack address was in Anna-Rose's hand, and they knew what an American porter looked like. The porter and a taxi were engaged with comparative ease and assurance, and on giving the porter, who had staggered beneath the number of their grips, a dime, and seeing a cloud on his face, they doubled it instantly sooner than have trouble, and trebled it equally quickly on his displaying yet further dissatisfaction, and they departed for the Sacks, their grips piled up round them in the taxi as far as their chins, congratulating themselves on how much easier it was to get away from a train than to get into one.

But the minute their activities were over and they had time to think, silence fell upon them again. They were both nervous. They both composed their faces to indifference to hide that they were nervous, examining the streets they passed through with a calm and blasť stare worthy of a lorgnette. It was the tact part of the coming encounter that was chiefly unnerving Anna-Rose, and Anna-Felicitas was dejected by her conviction that nobody who was a friend of Uncle Arthur's could possibly be agreeable. "By their friends ye shall know them," thought Anna-Felicitas, staring out of the window at the Boston buildings. Also the persistence of the Sacks in not being on piers and railway stations was discouraging. There was no eagerness about this persistence; there wasn't even friendliness. Perhaps they didn't like her and Anna-Rose being German.

This was always the twins' first thought when anybody wasn't particularly cordial. Their experiences in England had made them a little jumpy. They were conscious of this weak spot, and like a hurt finger it seemed always to be getting in the way and being knocked. Anna-Felicitas once more pondered on the inscrutable behaviour of Providence which had led their mother, so safely and admirably English, to leave that blessed shelter and go and marry somebody who wasn't. Of course there was this to be said for it, that she wasn't their mother then. If she had been, Anna-Felicitas felt sure she wouldn't have. Then, perceiving that her thoughts were getting difficult to follow she gave them up, and slid her hand through Anna-Rose's arm and gave it a squeeze.

"Now for the New World, Christopher," she said, pretending to be very eager and brave and like the real Columbus, as the taxi stopped.

Elizabeth von Arnim