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Chapter 5


Mrs. Roberts, rushing in and looking about in a flutter, till she discovers her husband: "Good gracious, Edward! Is that our train? I ran all the way from the station door as fast as I could run, and I'm perfectly out of breath. Did you ever hear of anything like my meeting Amy on the very instant? She was getting out of her coupe just as I was getting out of mine, and I saw her the first thing as soon as I looked up. It was the most wonderful chance. And the moment we pushed our way through the door and got inside the outer hall, I heard the man calling the train—he calls so distinctly—and I told her I was sure it was our train; and then we just simply flew, both of us. I had the greatest time getting my plush bag. They were all locked up at Stearns's as tight as a drum, but I saw somebody inside, moving about, and I rattled the door, and made signs till he came; and then I said I had left my plush bag; and he said it was against the rules, and I'd have to come Monday; and I told him I knew it was, and I didn't expect him to transgress the rules, but I wished very much to have my plush bag, because there were some things in it that I wished to have, as well as my purse; for I'd brought away my keys in it; and I knew Willis—how d'ye do, Willis?—would want wine with his dinner, and you'd have to break the closet open if I didn't get the key; and so he said he would see if the person who kept the picked-up things was there yet; and it turned out he was, and he asked me for a description of the bag and its contents; and I described them all, down to the very last thing; and he said I had the greatest memory he ever saw. And now I think everything is going off perfectly, and I shall be able to show Amy that there's something inland as well as at the seaside. Why don't you speak to her, Edward? What is the matter? What are you looking at?" She detects him in the act of craning his neck to this side and that, and peering over people's heads and shoulders in the direction of the door. "Hasn't Norah—Bridget, I mean—come yet?" She frowns significantly, and cautions him concerning Mrs. Campbell by pressing her finger to her lip.

Roberts: "Yes—yes, she's here; I suppose she's—she's here. How do you do, Amy? So glad—" He continues his furtive inspection of the door-way, and Willis turns away with a snicker.

Mrs. Campbell: "Willis, what are you laughing at? Is there anything wrong with my bonnet? Agnes, is there? He would let me go about looking like a perfect auk. Did I bang it getting out of the coupe. Do tell me, Willis!"

Mrs. Roberts, to her husband: "You don't mean to say you haven't seen her yet?"

Roberts, desperately: "Seen her? How should I know whether I've seen her? I never saw her in my life."

Mrs. Roberts: "Then what are you looking for, in that way?"

Roberts: "I—I'm looking for her husband."

Mrs. Roberts: "Her husband?"

Roberts: "Yes. He keeps coming back." Campbell bursts into a wild shriek of laughter.

Mrs. Roberts, imploringly: "Willis, what does it mean?"

Mrs. Campbell, threateningly: "Willis, if you don't behave yourself—"

Mrs. Roberts, with the calm of despair: "Well, then, she isn't coming! She's given us the slip! I might have known it! Well, the cat might as well come out of the bag first as last, Amy, though I was trying to keep it in, to spare your feelings; I knew you'd be so full of sympathy." Suddenly to her husband: "But if you saw her husband—Did he say she sent him? I didn't dream of her being married. How do you know it's her husband?"

Roberts: "Because—because she went out and got him! Don't I tell you?"

Mrs. Roberts: "Went out and got him?"

Roberts: "When I spoke to her."

Mrs. Roberts: "When you spoke to her? But you said you didn't see her!"

Roberts: "Of course I didn't see her. How should I see her, when I never saw her before? I went up and spoke to her, and she said she wasn't the one. She was very angry, and she went out and got her husband. He was tipsy, and he's been coming back ever since. I don't know what to do about the wretched creature. He says I've insulted his abominable wife!"

Campbell, laughing: "O Lord! Lord! This will be the death of me!"

Mrs. Campbell: "This is one of your tricks, Willis; one of your vile practical jokes."

Campbell: "No, no, my dear! I couldn't invent anything equal to this. Oh my! oh my!"

Mrs. Campbell, seizing him by the arm: "Well, if you don't tell, instantly, what it is—"

Campbell: "But I can't tell. I promised Roberts I wouldn't."

Roberts, wildly: "Oh, tell, tell!"

Campbell: "About the cook, too, Agnes?"

Mrs. Roberts: "Yes, yes; everything! Only tell!"

Campbell, struggling to recover himself: "Why, you see, Agnes engaged a cook, up-town—"

Mrs. Roberts: "I didn't want you to know it, Amy. I thought you would be troubled if you knew you were coming to visit me just when I was trying to break in a new cook, and so I told Edward not to let Willis know. Go on, Willis."

Mrs. Campbell: "And I understand just how you felt about it, Agnes; you knew he'd laugh. Go on, Willis."

Campbell: "And she sent her down here, and told Roberts to keep her till she came herself."

Both Ladies: "Well?"

Campbell: "And I found poor old Roberts here, looking out for a cook that he'd never seen before, and expecting to recognize a woman that he'd never met in his life." He explodes in another fit of laughter. The ladies stare at him in mystification.

Mrs. Roberts: "I would have stayed myself to meet her, but I'd left my plush bag with my purse in it at Stearns's, and I had to go back after it."

Mrs. Campbell: "She had to leave him. What is there to laugh at?"

Mrs. Roberts: "I see nothing to laugh at, Willis."

Campbell, sobered: "You don't?"

Both Ladies: "No."

Campbell: "Well, by Jove! Then perhaps you don't see anything to laugh at in Roberts's having to guess who the cook was; and going up to the wrong woman, and her getting mad, and going out and bringing back her little fiery-red tipsy Irishman of a husband, that wanted to fight Roberts; and my having to lie out of it for him; and their going off again, and the husband coming back four or five times between drinks, and having to be smoothed up each time—"

Both Ladies: "No!"

Mrs. Roberts: "It was simply horrid."

Mrs. Campbell: "It wasn't funny at all; it was simply disgusting. Poor Mr. Roberts!"

Campbell: "Well, by the holy poker! This knocks me out! The next time I'll marry a man, and have somebody around that can appreciate a joke. The Irishman said himself it would make a cow laugh."

Mrs. Campbell: "I congratulate you on being of the same taste, Willis. And I dare say you tried to heighten the absurdity, and add to poor Mr. Roberts's perplexity."

Roberts: "No, no! I assure you, Amy, if it hadn't been for Willis, I shouldn't have known how to manage. I was quite at my wits' end."

Mrs. Campbell: "You are very generous, I'm sure, Mr. Roberts; and I suppose I shall have to believe you."

Roberts: "But I couldn't act upon the suggestion to take the man out and treat him; Willis was convinced himself, I think, that that wouldn't do. But I confess I was tempted."

Mrs. Roberts: "Treat him?"

Roberts: "Yes. He was rather tipsy already; and Willis thought he would be more peaceable perhaps if we could get him quite drunk; but I really couldn't bring my mind to it, though I was so distracted that I was on the point of yielding."

Both Ladies: "Willis!"

Mrs. Roberts: "You wanted poor Edward to go out and drink with that wretched being, so as to get him into a still worse state?"

Mrs. Campbell: "You suggested that poor Mr. Roberts should do such a thing as that? Well, Willis!"

Mrs. Roberts: "Well, Willis!" She turns from him more in sorrow than in anger, and confronts a cook-like person of comfortable bulk, with a bundle in her hand, and every mark of hurry and exhaustion in her countenance. "Why, here's Bridget now!"

The Cook: "Maggie, mem! I was afraid I was after missun' you, after all. I couldn't see the gentleman anywhere, and I've been runnun' up and down the depot askun' fur um; and at last, thinks I, I'll try the ladies' room; and sure enough here ye was yourself. It was lucky I thought of it."

Mrs. Roberts: "Oh! I forgot to tell you he'd be in the ladies' room. But it's all right now, Maggie; and we've just got time to catch our train."

Campbell, bitterly: "Well, Agnes, for a woman that's set so many people by the ears, you let yourself up pretty easily. By Jove! here comes that fellow back again!" They all mechanically shrink aside, and leave Roberts exposed to the approach of McIlheny.

McIlheny: "Now, sor, me thrain's gahn, and we can talk this little matter oover at our aise. What did ye mane, sor, by comin' up to the Hannorable Mrs. Michael McIlheny and askun' her if she was a cuke? Did she luke like a person that'd demane herself to a manial position like that? Her that never put her hands in wather, and had hilpers to milk her father's cows? What did ye mane, sor? Did she luke like a lady, or did she luke like a cuke? Tell me that!"

The Cook, bursting upon him from behind Roberts, who eagerly gives place to her: "I'll tell ye that meself, ye impidint felly! What's to kape a cuke from lukun' like a lady, or a lady from lukun' like a cuke? Ah, Mike McIlheny, ye drunken blaggurd, is it me ye're tellin' that Mary Molloy never put her hands in wather, and kept hilpers to milk her father's cows! Cows indade! It was wan pig under the bed; and more shame to them that's ashamed to call it a pig, if ye are my cousin! I'm the lady the gentleman was lukin' for, and if ye think I'm not as good as Mary Molloy the best day she ever stipped, I'll thank ye to tell me who is. Be off wid ye, or I'll say something ye'll not like to hear!"

McIlheny: "Sure I was jokin', Maggie! I was goun' to tell the gintleman that if he was lukun' for a cuke, I'd a cousin out of place that was the best professed cuke in Bahston. And I'm glad he's got ye: and he's a gintleman every inch, and so's his lady, I dar' say, though I haven't the pleasure of her acquaintance—"

The Colored Man who calls the Trains: "Cars ready for West Newton, Auburndale, Riverside, Wellesley, Natick, and South Framingham. Train for South Framingham. Express to West Newton. Track No. 5."

Mrs. Roberts: "That's our train, Amy' We get off at Auburndale. Willis, Edward, Maggie—come!" They all rush out, leaving McIlheny alone.

McIlheny, looking thoughtfully after them: "Sure, I wonder what Mary'll be wantun' me to ask um next!"


William Dean Howells

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