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A Pair of Patient Lovers by William Dean Howells

A PAIR OF PATIENT LOVERS

by

W. D. Howells

Author of "The Landlord at Lion's Head" "Ragged Lady" etc.

New York and London Harper & Brothers Publishers 1901

CONTENTS

A Pair of Patient Lovers

The Pursuit of the Piano

A Difficult Case

The Magic of a Voice

A Circle in the Water

A PAIR OF PATIENT LOVERS

I.

We first met Glendenning on the Canadian boat which carries you down the rapids of the St. Lawrence from Kingston and leaves you at Montreal. When we saw a handsome young clergyman across the promenade-deck looking up from his guide-book toward us, now and again, as if in default of knowing any one else he would be very willing to know us, we decided that I must make his acquaintance. He was instantly and cordially responsive to my question whether he had ever made the trip before, and he was amiably grateful when in my quality of old habitue of the route I pointed out some characteristic features of the scenery. I showed him just where we were on the long map of the river hanging over his knee, and I added, with no great relevancy, that my wife and I were renewing the fond emotion of our first trip down the St. Lawrence in the character of bridal pair which we had spurned when it was really ours. I explained that we had left the children with my wife's aunt, so as to render the travesty more lifelike; and when he said, "I suppose you miss them, though," I gave him my card. He tried to find one of his own to give me in return, but he could only find a lot of other people's cards. He wrote his name on the back of one, and handed it to me with a smile. "It won't do for me to put 'reverend' before it, in my own chirography, but that's the way I have it engraved."

"Oh," I said, "the cut of your coat bewrayed you," and we had some laughing talk. But I felt the eye of Mrs. March dwelling upon me with growing impatience, till I suggested, "I should like to make you acquainted with my wife, Mr. Glendenning."

He said, Oh, he should be so happy; and he gathered his dangling map into the book and came over with me to where Mrs. March sat; and, like the good young American husband I was in those days, I stood aside and left the whole talk to her. She interested him so much more than I could that I presently wandered away and amused myself elsewhere. When I came back, she clutched my arm and bade me not speak a word; it was the most romantic thing in the world, and she would tell me about it when we were alone, but now I must go off again; he had just gone to get a book for her which he had been speaking of, and would be back the next instant, and it would not do to let him suppose we had been discussing him.

II.

I was sometimes disappointed in Mrs. March's mysteries when I came up close to them; but I was always willing to take them on trust; and I submitted to the postponement of a solution in this case with more than my usual faith. She found time, before Mr. Glendenning reappeared, to ask me if I had noticed a mother and daughter on the boat, the mother evidently an invalid, and the daughter very devoted, and both decidedly ladies; and when I said, "No. Why?" she answered, "Oh, nothing," and that she would tell me. Then she drove me away, and we did not meet till I found her in our state-room just before the terrible mid-day meal they used to give you on the _Corinthian_, and called dinner.


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