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Chapter 12

Alice came down to lunch in a dress which reconciled the seaside and the drawing-room in an effect entirely satisfactory to her mother, and gave her hand to both the gentlemen without the affectation of surprise at seeing either.

"I saw Mr. Munt coning up from the boat," she said in answer to Mavering's demand for some sort of astonishment from her. "I wasn't certain that it was you."

Mrs. Pasmer, whose pretences had been all given away by this simple confession, did not resent it, she was so much pleased with her daughter's evident excitement at the young man's having come. Without being conscious of it, perhaps, Alice prettily assumed the part of hostess from the moment of their meeting, and did the honours of the hotel with a tacit implication of knowing that he had come to see her there. They had only met twice, but now, the third time, meeting after a little separation, their manner toward each other was as if their acquaintance had been making progress in the interval. She took him about quite as if he had joined their family party, and introduced him to Miss Anderson and to all her particular friends, for each of whom, within five minutes after his presentation, he contrived to do some winning service. She introduced him to her father, whom he treated with deep respect and said "Sir" to. She showed him the bowling alley, and began to play tennis with him.

Her mother, sitting with John Munt on the piazza, followed these polite attentions to Mavering with humorous satisfaction, which was qualified as they went on.

"Alice," she said to her, at a chance which offered itself during the evening, and then she hesitated for the right word.

"Well; mamma?" said the girl impatiently, stopping on her way to walk up and down the piazza with Mavering; she had run in to get a wrap and a Tam-o'-Shanter cap.

"Don't—overdo—the honours."

"What do you mean, mamma?" asked the girl; dropping her arms before her, and letting the shawl trail on the floor.

"Don't you think he was very kind to us on Class Day?"

Her mother laughed. "But every one mayn't know it's gratitude."

Alice went out, but she came back in a little while, and went up to her room without speaking to any one.

The fits of elation and depression with which this first day passed for her succeeded one another during Mavering's stay. He did not need Alice's chaperonage long. By the next morning he seemed to know and to like everybody in the hotel, where he enjoyed a general favour which at that moment had no exceptions. In the afternoon he began to organise excursions and amusements with the help of Miss Anderson.

The plans all referred to Alice, who accepted and approved with an authority which every one tacitly admitted, just as every one recognised that Mavering had come to Campobello because she was there. Such a phase is perhaps the prettiest in the history of a love affair. All is yet in solution; nothing has been precipitated in word or fact. The parties to it even reserve a final construction of what they themselves say or do; they will not own to their hearts that they mean exactly this or that. It is this phase which in its perfect freedom is the most American of all; under other conditions it is an instant, perceptible or imperceptible; under ours it is a distinct stage, unhurried by any outside influences.

The nearest approach to a definition of the situation was in a walk between Mavering and Mrs. Pasmer, and this talk, too, light and brief, might have had no such intention as her fancy assigned his part of it.

She recurred to something that had been said on Class Day about his taking up the law immediately, or going abroad first for a year.

"Oh, I've abandoned Europe altogether for the present," he said laughing. "And I don't know but I may go back on the law too."

"Indeed! Then you are going to be an artist?"

"Oh no; not so bad as that. It isn't settled yet, and I'm off here to think it over a while before the law school opens in September. My father wants me to go into his business and turn my powers to account in designing wall-papers."

"Oh, how very interesting!" At the same time Mrs. Pasmer ran over the whole field of her acquaintance without finding another wall-paper maker in it. But she remembered what Mrs. Saintsbury had said: it was manufacturing. This reminded her to ask if he had seen the Saintsburys lately, and he said, No; he believed they were still in Cambridge, though.

"And we shall actually see a young man," she said finally, "in the act of deciding his own destiny!"

He laughed for pleasure in her persiflage. "Yes; only don't give me away. Nobody else knows it."

"Oh no, indeed. Too much flattered, Mr. Mavering. Shall you let me know when you've decided? I shall be dying to know, and I shall be too high-minded to ask."

It was not then too late to adapt 'Pinafore' to any exigency of life, and Mavering said, "You will learn from the expression of my eyes."

William Dean Howells