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Such an odd couple arrived yesterday. We can't make them out at all. They are both young and good-looking, and appear not to be related to each other; at any rate, their names are down in the visitors' book as Mr. Thompson Binns and Mrs. Jackson. The lady is a widow from San Francisco, and the gentleman seems to be acting as her escort. He is handsome, dark, and curly-haired; “like a brigand of the middle ages,” says Fräulein Bertha. There is about his proceedings that air of mystery which is so dear to the female heart. All the old ladies are full of conjectures about him. “What in the name of wonder,” says Frau Auerbach, want with the ' Kur'?” On the other hand the lady is sickly, as Mr. Thompson Binns informed us on arriving, with American frankness. This frankness went far to win Frau Auerbach's heart. Without losing a moment, I saw her tuck the American lady under her arm, and sally forth with her to Dr. Frickel at once, to avoid all fear of her changing her mind. By the time they returned, Mr. Binns was drinking his coffee, surrounded by an admiring circle, explaining to Mattie and me : “We met on the ship. She was ill, and, as I'd nothing particular to do, I just took her along on the
I told the ship's doctor and the captain that I'd see to her. I'd do the same for any woman." A sentiment which gained him unbounded applause.
June 30.—Marie and her bridegroom are sitting outside on the terrace together. (The crochet is thrown aside.) It is noticeable that the young man never says a sensible word to his betrothed, never makes any attempt at what may be called “conversation.” This disgusts Mattie more than ever. “He treats her exactly like a doll or a plaything,” she complains. At the present moment he happens to be pulling her ears playfully, and giving her stage embraces--they are certainly very public ones. All this seems more or less to imply that Germans do not want much intellectual companionship in their wives. At dinner to-day, Mattie, always full of the “higher education," asked Fräulein Bertha if many German girls learned Greek and Latin. Marie's lover chanced to overhear the question. “Horrible! I can't bear a learned woman,” he said twirling his blonde moustache. Fräulein Bertha has a great contempt for Marie.
She is a pallid, sentimental young woman, who loves to talk of the “immensities” and to pose as
“femme incomprise.” She is emancipated—that is, for a German-and it is distantly rumoured that she writes poetry. She likes to make people think that there is a dark mystery surrounding her life. “Ah,” she said to me once,
“if poor Bertha had had a thaler for every time she had said good-bye, she would long ago have been a millionaire.” She sits and gazes at Mattie and me with sad, saucer-like eyes, but she seldom gets further with us than the remark already quoted. (I defy anybody, however, to talk about the “immensities” with such a thoroughly practical young person as Mattie.) Fräulein Bertha has taken forty baths at almost boiling-point, and has almost washed herself away as the result. That is the worst of Germans, they never do things by halves. They can seldom be induced to take a bath, but when they do take them, they take them with a vengeance! Bertha is much attracted by Mr. Thompson Binns. “ There is a man who is capable of dragging a woman round the town by her hair !" she says admiringly. But I think she misjudges the poor man. Mrs. Jackson, small, pale, and self-possessed, is capable not indeed of pulling him round the room by his hair, but certainly of turning him round her finger. Mrs. Jackson, by the way, is always beautifully dressed in the latest Paris fashion, and wears diamonds as big as peas. Last night when Mattie and I were at an outdoor concert in the “Kurgarten,” we chanced to sit behind a couple conversing in the tenderest tones. Mattie recognised, in the semi-darkness, the big diamond pin that Mrs. Jackson wears in her hair. Without wishing to play the part of eavesdroppers, we could not help overhearing in a lull in the music the following words :
“How many pills did he tell you to take ?”
“Oh, I'm to judge of how they suit me. My constitution 's so remarkably highly strung. When are you to commence taking baths? That'll be the test !”
Mattie and I moved away. “ How romantic !” she whispered, shaking with suppressed laughter.
“Oh, one thing does as well as another to make love over,” I said, remembering the old ballad of Edwin, Angelina, and the ipecacuanha.
July 2.— I was going down into the garden to-day, with the intention of writing in the arbour, when Mattie met me, and said warningly, “Don't go in there! I believe Mr. Binns is proposing to Mrs. Jackson !”
I had hardly time to answer when Mr. Binns himself emerged from the arbour, looking radiant. He came up to us gaily.
“Mrs. Jackson is just taking a nap,” he said, “ before she goes to the bathhouse; she asked me to leave her in peace, so, perhaps, it would be as well, ladies, if you didn't disturb her. It's always best to take a woman like that at her word, you know. She's a woman of
character and knows what she means. She told me I'd teased her about enough for one day” (with a laugh). “But I've gained something. She's given me leave to drive with her this afternoon. From a woman as proud as that, too. Oh! it's quite a concession.”
But Mrs. Jackson had apparently no intention of sleeping, for Mr. Binns had not been gone two minutes when she also emerged, peeping cautiously round first, to see if the coast was clear.
"I do wish that fellow would conclude bothering me,” she said. “I am sick and tired of having him always around me. I've told him twenty times, if I have told him once, that I don't mean to marry him. He plagues me to death. Oh, lord, yes !” she continued, answering my sympathetic look, “he's plagued me ever since we left the steamer. It don't seem any good my telling him I'd prefer to remain single. What on earth should ever tempt a woman who has been comfortably "left' to marry again I don't know. And my husband left me very comfortably off — not wealthy, but enough. He'd insured himself— let's see,” she went on complacently, ticking off her fingers, “it must have been for twenty thousand pounds, I guess, at the lowest computation."
“He must have been a good husband, certainly,” I murmured, while Mattie tried to repress a bad inclination to smile.
“I should say so, indeed. Why, he was three weeks dying, and all the time he kept saying, “Annie, keep on with the business' (his was a blacking business) 'as best you can, and, if you must marry again, marry a man with plenty of “gumption ” and “go” in him, who'll stand by you and the business.””
“Ah !” I said, “and you don't consider Mr. Binns answers the description?”
“Not I! He's a silly old goose, that's what he is. Man ! he a man! I've got more man in my little finger than he's got in his whole body. He's too soft for a man ; he ain't got no gumption. Business ! he ain't got nothing of a head for business. Nothing like my husband. The blacking trade would never keep me in clothes ”—(looking complacently down at her Paris-made skirts)“if he took to the management of it. And, besides, he's always in love with somebody or other. It's second nature to him to fool around some one. You can see what he is. I don't trust him.”
"If he's that sort of man,” I couldn't help here interposing, “I wonder you weren't afraid to travel about so long with him.”
“Oh! I never was afraid of nothing yet. I'd like you to show me the man I ever was afraid of. Why, I've travelled alone out West, and had to carry arms ; and once, when they stopped the coach and tried to rob it, I fired off five shots quickly, and you may bet your pile that they bolted pretty sharp,” clenching her small thin hands at the recollection.
Mattie shuddered. The little fair Yankee didn't look like the actor in such a terrible drama. With her neat braids of glossy hair and her perfectly fitting “Worth ” costume she might have stepped straight from a band-box. But on the present occasion she wasn't quite so self-possessed as usual ; her temper was certainly a bit ruffled.
“And what a man he is to talk !” the widow went on (the "he" still referring to Mr. Binns). “I feel quite ashamed of him sometimes. It makes a woman look so like a fool. Now, hasn't he just been talking about me to you? There! I knew he had. That's what gets my blood up to the notch. Well, that's certain ! my husband didn't talk like him, of whatever he'd got in his head. He can't keep a thing to himself. But it's no use worrying," with a rapid change of tone, “and I had to promise to ride along with him this afternoon, just to keep him quiet. Don't you go thinking it means any more than that. Oh, it's late ! and I must go and prink a little. Here's one of my business cards before I forget,” taking a large bit of cardboard from her pretty reticule. Then she ran into the house.
We looked at the card. This was it:
Dealer in BLACKING.
Offices : 48 & 49 Mill Street,
July 4.— The young girl and her lover have quarrelled-for what cause we cannot imagine, as he was pinching her ears just as usual yesterday. But it now turns out that he is not the young girl's first love. Young as she is, she has had other loves before. This partially accounts for the very little attention she seems to have paid to any other branch of education. She has at last found her tongue, and she is almost as loquacious as Frau Biener herself on the subject of her two loves. “Mein erster Schatz! mein zweiter Schatz.!" she says, quite outrivalling that lady and her two husbands. Now Marie,“ variable as the shade," seems to be harking back to the
erster Schatz.” At any rate there is a great coolness with the “zweiter.” The different parties to the quarrel, unfortunately, choose poor Mattie and myself as confidantes. The lover will only walk with me; the young girl will only walk with Mattie. They glare every time we meet, as we naturally often do within the small area of the “Kur-garten" promenade. The result is that Mattie and I can't speak to each other. We object very much to be used as cats’-paws in a lovers' quarrel that does not the least concern us. But it is all of no use.
"You think I care for that girl?” says the discarded youth to me, as I am vainly endeavouring to get through my portion of water under the flowering limes. “Well, I do not care that” (here he snaps his fingers) “ for her. I shall not think of marrying her if she is not good. A girl with a temper, who will not obey? No, I do not love her. Ha, ha !”
On the other hand, from his fiancée's furious look when we pass, I can quite well conjecture what she is saying to Mattie.
July 5.-When we entered the salle à manger this evening, Mrs. Jackson was conspicuous by her absence; and we noticed that Mr. Thompson Binns's countenance wore a look expressive of the deepest gloom. “He has proposed to her again,” Mattie whispered to me, "and she has refused him.” I unrolled my work silently.
“You do too much work, Mees,” said Frau Auerbach ; "work of all kinds is extremely prejudicial to the 'Kur.'”
“Yes,” added placid Louise, who was sitting in a state of idyllic happiness with her husband's hand in hers (he had come at last to spend Sunday), “it's quite true. You never see me do anything while I'm here.”
“You don't do much at home, my child,” here interposed her mother-in-law, as she looked over her spectacles and knitting at the young couple. “Franz spoils you. Only think,” she went on in a loud whisper to Frau Auerbach ; "he lets her have a girl in the kitchen.”
“Ah! when you have a little son,” said Frau Auerbach goodnaturedly to the bride, “that will give you an occupation. You will have to wash him, to teach him
“He shall go to the same school that you attended,” said Louise, looking radiantly at her Franz ; "he must be brought up exactly like his father.”
The husband beamed at this, and squeezed his Louise's hand affecticnately. Mattie looked another way. These little domestic idylls, enacted in public, made her feel quite sick. As for me, I was