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Chapter 22

Mrs. Kenton woke with the clear vision which is sometimes vouchsafed to people whose eyes are holden at other hours of the day. She had heard Boyne opening and shutting Ellen's door, and her heart smote her that he should have gone to his sister with whatever trouble he was in rather than come to his mother. It was natural that she should put the blame on her husband, and "Now, Mr. Kenton," she began, with an austerity of voice which he recognized before he was well awake, "if you won't take Boyne off somewhere to-day, I will. I think we had better all go. We have been here a whole fortnight, and we have got thoroughly rested, and there is no excuse for our wasting our time any longer. If we are going to see Holland, we had better begin doing it."

The judge gave a general assent, and said that if she wanted to go to Flushing he supposed he could find some garden-seeds there, in the flower and vegetable nurseries, which would be adapted to the climate of Tuskingum, and they could all put in the day pleasantly, looking round the place. Whether it was the suggestion of Tuskingum in relation to Flushing that decided her against the place, or whether she had really meant to go to Leyden, she now expressed the wish, as vividly as if it were novel, to explore the scene of the Pilgrims' sojourn before they sailed for Plymouth, and she reproached him for not caring about the place when they both used to take such an interest in it at home.

"Well," said the judge, "if I were at home I should take an interest in it here."

This provoked her to a silence which he thought it best to break in tacit compliance with her wish, and he asked, "Do you propose taking the whole family and the appurtenances? We shall be rather a large party."

"Ellen would wish to go, and I suppose Mr. Breckon. We couldn't very well go without them."

"And how about Lottie and that young Trannel?"

"We can't leave him out, very well. I wish we could. I don't like him."

"There's nothing easier than not asking him, if you don't want him."

"Yes, there is, when you've got a girl like Lottie to deal with. Quite likely she would ask him herself. We must take him because we can't leave her."

"Yes, I reckon," the judge acquiesced.

"I'm glad," Mrs. Kenton said, after a moment, "that it isn't Ellen he's after; it almost reconciles me to his being with Lottie so much. I only wonder he doesn't take to Ellen, he's so much like that—"

She did not say out what was in her mind, but her husband knew. "Yes, I've noticed it. This young Breckon was quite enough so, for my taste. I don't know what it is that just saves him from it."

"He's good. You could tell that from the beginning."

They went off upon the situation that, superficially or subliminally, was always interesting them beyond anything in the world, and they did not openly recur to Mrs. Kenton's plan for the day till they met their children at breakfast. It was a meal at which Breckon and Trammel were both apt to join them, where they took it at two of the tables on the broad, seaward piazza of the hotel when the weather was fine. Both the young men now applauded her plan, in their different sorts. It was easily arranged that they should go by train and not by tram from The Hague. The train was chosen, and Mrs. Kenton, when she went to her room to begin the preparations for a day's pleasure which constitute so distinctly a part of its pain, imagined that everything was settled. She had scarcely closed the door behind her when Lottie opened it and shut it again behind her.

"Mother," she said, in the new style of address to which she was habituating Mrs. Kenton, after having so long called her momma, "I am not going with you."

"Indeed you are, then!" her mother retorted. "Do you think I would leave you here all day with that fellow? A nice talk we should make!"

"You are perfectly welcome to that fellow, mother, and as he's accepted he will have to go with you, and there won't be any talk. But, as I remarked before, I am not going."

"Why aren't you going, I should like to know?"

"Because I don't like the company."

"What do you mean? Have you got anything against Mr. Breckon?"

"He's insipid, but as long as Ellen don't mind it I don't care. I object to Mr. Trannel!"

"Why?"

"I don't see why I should have to tell you. If I said I liked him you might want to know, but it seems to me that my not liking him is—my not liking him is my own affair." There was a kind of logic in this that silenced Mrs. Kenton for the moment. In view of her advantage Lottie relented so far as to add, "I've found out something about him."

Mrs. Kenton was imperative in her alarm. "What is it?" she demanded.

Lottie answered, obliquely: "Well, I didn't leave The Hague to get rid of them, and then take up with one of them at Scheveningen."

"One of what?"

"COOK'S TOURISTS, if you must know, mother. Mr. Trannel, as you call him, is a Cook's tourist, and that's the end of it. I have got no use for him from this out."

Mrs. Kenton was daunted, and not for the first time, by her daughter's superior knowledge of life. She could put Boyne down sometimes, though not always, when he attempted to impose a novel code of manners or morals upon her, but she could not cope with Lottie. In the present case she could only ask, "Well?"

"Well, they're the cheapest of the cheap. He actually showed me his coupons, and tried to put me down with the idea that everybody used them. But I guess he found it wouldn't work. He said if you were not personally conducted it was all right."

"Now, Lottie, you have got to tell me just what you mean," said Mrs. Kenton, and from having stood during this parley, she sat down to hear Lottie out at her leisure. But if there was anything more difficult than for Lottie to be explicit it was to make her be so, and in the end Mrs. Kenton was scarcely wiser than she was at the beginning to her daughter's reasons. It appeared that if you wanted to be cheap you could travel with those coupons, and Lottie did not wish to be cheap, or have anything to do with those who were. The Kentons had always held up their heads, and if Ellen had chosen to disgrace them with Bittridge, Dick had made it all right, and she at least was not going to do anything that she would be ashamed of. She was going to stay at home, and have her meals in her room till they got back.

Her mother paid no heed to her repeated declaration. "Lottie," she asked, with the heart-quake that the thought of Richard's act always gave her with reference to Ellen, "have you ever let out the least hint of that?"

"Of course I haven't," Lottie scornfully retorted. "I hope I know what a crank Ellen is."

They were not just the terms in which Mrs. Kenton would have chosen to be reassured, but she was glad to be assured in any terms. She said, vaguely: "I believe in my heart that I will stay at home, too. All this has given me a bad headache."

"I was going to have a headache myself," said Lottie, with injury. "But I suppose I can get on along without. I can just simply say I'm not going. If he proposes to stay, too, I can soon settle that."

"The great difficulty will be to get your father to go."

"You can make Ellen make him," Lottie suggested.

"That is true," said Mrs. Kenton, with such increasing absence that her daughter required of her:

"Are you staying on my account?"

"I think you had better not be left alone the whole day. But I am not staying on your account. I don't believe we had so many of us better go. It might look a little pointed."

Lottie laughed harshly. "I guess Mr. Breckon wouldn't see the point, he's so perfectly gone."

"Do you really believe it, Lottie?" Mrs. Kenton entreated, with a sudden tenderness for her younger daughter such as she did not always feel.

"I should think anybody would believe it—anybody but Ellen."

"Yes," Mrs. Kenton dreamily assented.

Lottie made her way to the door. "Well, if you do stay, mother, I'm not going to have you hanging round me all day. I can chaperon myself."

"Lottie," her mother tried to stay her, "I wish you would go. I don't believe that Mr. Trannel will be much of an addition. He will be on your poor father's hands all day, or else Ellen's, and if you went you could help off."

"Thank you, mother. I've had quite all I want of Mr. Trannel. You can tell him he needn't go, if you want to."

Lottie at least did not leave her mother to make her excuses to the party when they met for starting. Mrs. Kenton had deferred her own till she thought it was too late for her husband to retreat, and then bunglingly made them, with so much iteration that it seemed to her it would have been far less pointed, as concerned Mr. Breckon, if she had gone. Lottie sunnily announced that she was going to stay with her mother, and did not even try to account for her defection to Mr. Trannel.

"What's the matter with my staying, too?" he asked. "It seems to me there are four wheels to this coach now."

He had addressed his misgiving more to Lottie than the rest; but with the same sunny indifference to the consequence for others that she had put on in stating her decision, she now discharged herself from further responsibility by turning on her heel and leaving it with the party generally. In the circumstances Mr. Trannel had no choice but to go, and he was supported, possibly, by the hope of taking it out of Lottie some other time.

It was more difficult for Mrs. Kenton to get rid of the judge, but an inscrutable frown goes far in such exigencies. It seems to explain, and it certainly warns, and the husband on whom it is bent never knows, even after the longest experience, whether he had better inquire further. Usually he decides that he had better not, and Judge Kenton went off towards the tram with Boyne in the cloud of mystery which involved them both as to Mrs. Kenton's meaning.

William Dean Howells

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