Part 5 (1/2)

”Never had even a little quarrel?” resumed Mrs. Chapman, inquiringly. ”I have heard married people say it was so nice to have a little quarrel now and then. But my dear husband is such a good husband, Mrs.

Toodleburg. Just like yours.” Here she turned toward and dropped Angeline a bow. ”I never want to live to see the day when I shall have to marry a second husband.” Here she turned and dropped a bow to her dear Chapman. ”I should be always praising you, my dear. And unless my dear second husband was a saint there would be trouble in the house, you know. My dear, let us drop this subject. It is not pleasant to look to far into the future.” Here she turned to Angeline, who had proceeded to get some strawberries and cream for her guests.

”You are so nice and comfortable here,” she resumed; ”it takes one back to the good old times, when everything was true and simple.” Mrs.

Chapman gave quicker motion to her tongue. ”You have your loom, and your spinning-wheel, and homespun made by your own hands. How delightful.”

”My dear, my dear,” interrupted Chapman; ”what a homily on the beauties of economy you are reading our friends--”

”Don't interrupt me, my dear,” resumed Mrs. Chapman, and she again turned to Angeline. ”Do you know, Mrs. Toodlebug, that I have always felt that we ought to be the best of friends?”

”You are very kind,” said Angeline, ”very kind. We are very plain people.”

”That's why I like you all the better,” Mrs. Chapman resumed, with an air of condescension. ”My husband and your husband must also be the best of friends. They can make a fortune by it, you know. You see, my husband proposes to make your husband's fortune. He is the greatest man to make other people's fortunes. Yes, he is. My husband's head is full of great progressive ideas. And he has made the fortunes of so many men.” Here Mrs. Chapman lowered her voice to a whisper, and drew her chair a little nearer to Angeline. ”There is another little matter that should make us firm friends. I would not mention it, you know; but I feel that it is no secret.” Here she dropped one of her most significant bows. ”I have taken such a liking to your son. Such a promising young man, he is. That voyage will make a man of him; who knows but he may come home with a large fortune. I have known stranger things than that. I have been encouraging a little love affair between him and my daughter Mattie. You have seen my Mattie? She is clever, wonderfully smart, handsome, too; and if she gets the right kind of a husband, will s.h.i.+ne in society.”

”My poor boy, my poor boy!” exclaimed Angeline, her eyes filling with tears at the mention of his name. ”How, how, how I should like to see him to-night. There is where he used to sit, (here her voice yielded to her emotions,) and here is the chair we always kept for him. Perhaps we shall never see him again. He was so good and so kind to us. I hope G.o.d will be good to him, and will watch over him, and carry him safe through dangers, and bring him back to us. Oh, I know G.o.d will be good to him.

We are both old now, and have nothing to live for but him.” Again she gave way to her grief, and as the tears flowed buried her face in her hands.

”My dear, good friend,” rejoined Mrs. Chapman, rising from her chair, and placing her hand consolingly on Angeline's shoulder; ”there is nothing in the world to weep for. Nothing in the world. I would be proud of a son who had courage and ambition enough to go on one of these voyages. It is proof, my good woman, that he has something in him. And if he should bring home a fortune, you know. Oh, he'd have so many friends. Don't weep, my good woman, don't weep. He'll be such a joy to you when he comes home. And I will encourage Mattie to think of n.o.body else.”



Angeline had just recovered from her grief, and was setting strawberries and cream before her visitors, when a loud knock was heard at the door, which Hanz proceeded to open; when a tall, well-dressed man, with dark, well kept hair, piercing black eyes, features of great regularity, and having the manners of a gentleman, entered and introduced himself as Mr.

Luke Topman, just from New York. ”I am a stranger to you all here,” he said, in a deep, clear voice, ”and I owe you an apology for calling at this seemingly late hour. I said I was a stranger,” he repeated, ”but the business I am on may make us acquaintances.” The stranger stood for a moment, with his eyes fixed on Chapman. Still no recognition pa.s.sed, and their manner was that of strangers who had never met before.

The figures here grouped together were of the most opposite kind, and presented a picture at once striking and effective. A table stood in the centre of the little room, and on it burned a candle, casting a pale and shadowy light over and giving clearer outline to each figure. There was the old loom, with its harnesses, its reed, and its shuttles; the flax-wheel and the distaff, forming a quaint setting, but representing a past age and the primitive habits of the people who used them.

There was Hanz and Angeline on one side. Time was writing its record in deep lines on their faces, and whitening their gray hairs. Frank, simple-minded, honest, and contented, they had enough to carry them through life comfortably; and why should they, Hanz said, trouble themselves about anything more? They represented an age and a people perfectly happy with what it had pleased G.o.d to give them. On the other side there was Chapman and Mrs. Chapman, exact types of the people they represented. Ambitious of making a show in the world, grasping, restless, selfish, intriguing, seeking always for means to advance themselves, studying the future for their own advancement, and ready to use even religion as an a.s.sistant to gaining their objects. Such was the contrast presented in the picture before us.

Again apologizing for calling at what seemed a late hour, the stranger proceeded. ”I am in great haste, madam. I came all the way from New York to-day. Crossed the ferry only an hour ago, and am somewhat fatigued. My business is of great importance, and with Mr. Toodleburg. I was directed here, and am glad to find him so comfortably situated.”

”Very well, very well,” rejoined Hanz, his face lighted up with a smile, and his white hair flowing; ”dat's me, mine friend. You be's welcome to my little home. Yees, mine friend, you shall be so welcome as I can make you.” Hanz shook him heartily by the hand, and invited him to sit down.

”You be's had no shupper, eh?” he resumed. ”Der's no man what comes nor goes hungry to my house.”

The stranger bowed and said, ”Thank you--you are very kind; but I supped on the other side of the sea, and have no need for any more.”

”Mine gracious!” exclaimed Hanz. ”You comes all de way from New York to she me. You eats anoder shupper, shure.”

The stranger persisted that he would eat no more that night. The appearance of the man at so late an hour excited serious apprehensions in the mind of Angeline lest he should bring news of some disaster to the good s.h.i.+p Pacific.

Then turning to Mrs. Chapman, he said, ”I hope, madam, I have not intruded on your privacy here to-night?”

That lady, having dropped him one of her best bows, a.s.sured him there was nothing private so far as she was concerned. ”We are friends and neighbors of these good people,” she replied with a forced smile and an air of condescension. ”We like to be neighborly, and just dropped in to make a friendly call. That's all, sir.”

”I am very glad to meet Mr. Toodleburg. Very glad to find him such an excellent person,” the stranger repeated, turning to Hanz, and again taking him by the hand. ”Topman, I said my name was; Luke Topman, senior partner of the enterprising house of Topman and Gusher, doing a large miscellaneous business in Pearl, near Wall street. You are, doubtless, well acquainted with the reputation of the firm.” Here Mr. Topman compressed his lips, brushed his fingers through his hair, and addressed himself to Chapman, who up to this time had maintained an air of indifference to what was going on.

”Perfectly well,” replied Chapman, with an air of surprise. ”Highly respectable and equally responsible house, that. Why, sir, it is somewhat curious that we should meet here. A relative of mine did business with that house a long time. Highly satisfactory--highly.”