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- The Pension Beaurepas - 3/13 -
"We knew some people who had been here; they thought everything of Madame Beaurepas," said Miss Sophy. "They said she was a real friend."
"Mr. and Mrs. Parker--perhaps you have heard her speak of them," Mrs. Ruck pursued.
"Madame Beaurepas has had a great many Americans; she is very fond of Americans," I replied.
"Well, I must say I should think she would be, if she compares them with some others."
"Mother is always comparing," observed Miss Ruck.
"Of course I am always comparing," rejoined the elder lady. "I never had a chance till now; I never knew my privileges. Give me an American!" And Mrs. Ruck indulged in a little laugh.
"Well, I must say there are some things I like over here," said Miss Sophy, with courage. And indeed I could see that she was a young woman of great decision.
"You like the shops--that's what you like," her father affirmed.
The young lady addressed herself to me, without heeding this remark. "I suppose you feel quite at home here."
"Oh, he likes it; he has got used to the life!" exclaimed Mr. Ruck.
"I wish you'd teach Mr. Ruck," said his wife. "It seems as if he couldn't get used to anything."
"I'm used to you, my dear," the husband retorted, giving me a humorous look.
"He's intensely restless," continued Mrs. Ruck.
"That's what made me want to come to a pension. I thought he would settle down more."
"I don't think I AM used to you, after all," said her husband.
In view of a possible exchange of conjugal repartee I took refuge in conversation with Miss Ruck, who seemed perfectly able to play her part in any colloquy. I learned from this young lady that, with her parents, after visiting the British Islands, she had been spending a month in Paris, and that she thought she should have died when she left that city. "I hung out of the carriage, when we left the hotel," said Miss Ruck, "I assure you I did. And mother did, too."
"Out of the other window, I hope," said I.
"Yes, one out of each window," she replied promptly. "Father had hard work, I can tell you. We hadn't half finished; there were ever so many places we wanted to go to."
"Your father insisted on coming away?"
"Yes; after we had been there about a month he said he had enough. He's fearfully restless; he's very much out of health. Mother and I said to him that if he was restless in Paris he needn't hope for peace anywhere. We don't mean to leave him alone till he takes us back." There was an air of keen resolution in Miss Ruck's pretty face, of lucid apprehension of desirable ends, which made me, as she pronounced these words, direct a glance of covert compassion toward her poor recalcitrant father. He had walked away a little with his wife, and I saw only his back and his stooping, patient-looking shoulders, whose air of acute resignation was thrown into relief by the voluminous tranquillity of Mrs. Ruck. "He will have to take us back in September, any way," the young girl pursued; "he will have to take us back to get some things we have ordered."
"Have you ordered a great many things?" I asked jocosely.
"Well, I guess we have ordered SOME. Of course we wanted to take advantage of being in Paris--ladies always do. We have left the principal things till we go back. Of course that is the principal interest, for ladies. Mother said she should feel so shabby if she just passed through. We have promised all the people to be back in September, and I never broke a promise yet. So Mr. Ruck has got to make his plans accordingly."
"And what are his plans?"
"I don't know; he doesn't seem able to make any. His great idea was to get to Geneva; but now that he has got here he doesn't seem to care. It's the effect of ill health. He used to be so bright; but now he is quite subdued. It's about time he should improve, any way. We went out last night to look at the jewellers' windows--in that street behind the hotel. I had always heard of those jewellers' windows. We saw some lovely things, but it didn't seem to rouse father. He'll get tired of Geneva sooner than he did of Paris."
"Ah," said I, "there are finer things here than the jewellers' windows. We are very near some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe."
"I suppose you mean the mountains. Well, we have seen plenty of mountains at home. We used to go to the mountains every summer. We are familiar enough with the mountains. Aren't we, mother?" the young lady demanded, appealing to Mrs. Ruck, who, with her husband, had drawn near again.
"Aren't we what?" inquired the elder lady.
"Aren't we familiar with the mountains?"
"Well, I hope so," said Mrs. Ruck.
Mr. Ruck, with his hands in his pockets, gave me a sociable wink.-- "There's nothing much you can tell them!" he said.
The two ladies stood face to face a few moments, surveying each other's garments. "Don't you want to go out?" the young girl at last inquired of her mother.
"Well, I think we had better; we have got to go up to that place."
"To what place?" asked Mr. Ruck.
"To that jeweller's--to that big one."
"They all seemed big enough; they were too big!" And Mr. Ruck gave me another wink.
"That one where we saw the blue cross," said his daughter.
"Oh, come, what do you want of that blue cross?" poor Mr. Ruck demanded.
"She wants to hang it on a black velvet ribbon and tie it round her neck," said his wife.
"A black velvet ribbon? No, I thank you!" cried the young lady. "Do you suppose I would wear that cross on a black velvet ribbon? On a nice little gold chain, if you please--a little narrow gold chain, like an old-fashioned watch-chain. That's the proper thing for that blue cross. I know the sort of chain I mean; I'm going to look for one. When I want a thing," said Miss Ruck, with decision, "I can generally find it."
"Look here, Sophy," her father urged, "you don't want that blue cross."
"I do want it--I happen to want it." And Sophy glanced at me with a little laugh.
Her laugh, which in itself was pretty, suggested that there were various relations in which one might stand to Miss Ruck; but I think I was conscious of a certain satisfaction in not occupying the paternal one. "Don't worry the poor child," said her mother.
"Come on, mother," said Miss Ruck.
"We are going to look about a little," explained the elder lady to me, by way of taking leave.
"I know what that means," remarked Mr. Ruck, as his companions moved away. He stood looking at them a moment, while he raised his hand to his head, behind, and stood rubbing it a little, with a movement that displaced his hat. (I may remark in parenthesis that I never saw a hat more easily displaced than Mr. Ruck's.) I supposed he was going to say something querulous, but I was mistaken. Mr. Ruck was unhappy, but he was very good-natured. "Well, they want to pick up something," he said. "That's the principal interest, for ladies."
Mr. Ruck distinguished me, as the French say. He honoured me with his esteem, and, as the days elapsed, with a large portion of his confidence. Sometimes he bored me a little, for the tone of his conversation was not cheerful, tending as it did almost exclusively to a melancholy dirge over the financial prostration of our common country. "No, sir, business in the United States is not what it once was," he found occasion to remark several times a day. "There's not the same spring--there's not the same hopeful feeling. You can see it in all departments." He used to sit by the hour in the little garden of the pension, with a roll of American newspapers in his lap and his high hat pushed back, swinging one of his long legs and reading the New York Herald. He paid a daily visit to the American banker's, on the other side of the Rhone, and remained there a long time, turning over the old papers on the green velvet table in the middle of the Salon des Etrangers, and fraternising with chance compatriots. But in spite of these diversions his time hung heavily upon his hands. I used sometimes to propose to him to take a walk; but he had a mortal horror of pedestrianism, and regarded my own taste for it as' a morbid form of activity. "You'll kill yourself, if you don't look out," he said, "walking all over the country. I don't want to walk round that way; I ain't a postman!" Briefly speaking, Mr. Ruck had few resources. His wife and daughter, on the other hand, it was to be supposed, were possessed of a good many that could not be apparent to an unobtrusive young man. They also sat a great deal in the garden or in the salon, side by side, with folded hands, contemplating material objects, and were remarkably independent of most of the usual feminine aids to idleness--light
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