University of Virginia Library


In August of that same year, I followed the world to Saratoga.
In my first reconnoitre of the drawing-room of Congress
Hall, I caught the eye of Mr. McRueit, and received from him
a cordial salutation. As I put my head right, upon its pivot,
after an easy nod to my familiar aversion, my eyes fell upon Miss
Jonthee Twitt—that was—for I had seen, in the newspapers of
two months before, that the resolve (born of the dusty slipper
outside her door), had been brought about, and she was now on
the irrevocable side of a honeymoon sixty days old.

Her eyelid was down upon the pupil—motionless, concentrated,
and vigilant as a couched panther—and from beneath the hem
of her dress curved out the high arched instep of a foot pointed
with desperate tension to the carpet; the little great toe (whose
relying pressure on the soiled slipper Mr. McRueit had been
captivated by), now rigid with as strong a purpose as spiritual
homeopathy could concentrate in so small a tenement. I thought


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I would make Mr. and Mrs. McRueit the subject of quiet study
while I remained at Saratoga.

But I have not mentioned the immediate cause of Mrs. McRueit's
resentment. Her bridegroom was walking up and down
the room with a certain Mrs. Wanmaker, a widow, who was a
better woman than she looked to be, as I chanced to know, but
as nobody could know without the intimate acquaintance with
Mrs. Wanmaker upon which I base this remark. With beauty
of the most voluptuous cast, and a passion for admiration which
induced her to throw out every possible lure to men any way
worth her time as victims, Mrs. Wanmaker's blood was as “cold
as the flow of Iser,” and her propriety, in fact, wholly impregnable.
I had been myself “tried on” by the widow Wanmaker,
and twenty caravan-marches might have been made across the
Desert of Sahara, while the conviction I have just stated was
“getting through my hair.” It was not wonderful, therefore,
that both the bride and her (usually) most penetratious bridegroom,
had sailed over the widow's shallows, unconscious of
soundings. She was a “deep” woman, too—but in the love

I thought McRueit singularly off his guard, if it were only for
“appearances.” He monopolized the widow effectually, and she
thought it worth her while to let the world think him (a bridegroom
and a rising young politician), mad for her, and, truth to
say, they carried on the war strenuously. Perfectly certain as I
was that “the whirligig of time” would “bring about the
revenges” of Mrs. McRueit, I began to feel a meantime pity for
her, and had myself presented duly by McRueit the next morning
after breakfast.

It was a tepid, flaccid, revery-colored August morning, and the


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sole thought of the universe seemed to be to sit down. The
devotees to gayety and mineral water dawdled out to the porticoes,
and some sat on chairs under the trees, and the dandies lay on
the grass, and the old ladies on the steps and the settees, and here
and there, a man on the balustrade, and, in the large swing, visà-vis,
sat McRueit and the widow Wanmaker, chattering in an
undertone quite inaudible. Mrs. McRueit sat on a bench, with
her back against one of the high-shouldered pine-trees in the
court-yard, and I had called McRueit out of his swing to present
me. But he returned immediately to the widow.

I thought it would be alleviative and good-natured to give Mrs.
McRueit an insight to the harmlessness of Mrs. Wanmaker, and
I had done so very nearly to my satisfaction, when I discovered
that the slighted wife did not care sixpence about the fact, and
that, unlike Hamlet, she only knew seems. The more I developed
the innocent object of the widow's outlay of smiles and confidentialities,
the more Mrs. McRueit placed herself in a posture
to be remarked by the loungers in the court-yard and the dawdlers
on the portico, and the more she deepened a certain look—
you must imagine it for the present, dear reader. It would take
a razor's edge of analysis, and a Flemish paint-pot and patience
to carve that injured look into language, or paint it truthfully to
the eye! Juries would hang husbands, and recording angels
“ruthlessly overcharge,” upon the unsupported evidence of such
a look. She looked as if her heart must have suffocated with
forbearance long before she began to look so. She looked as if
she had forgiven and wept, and was ready to forgive and weep
again. She looked as if she would give her life if she could
conceal “her feelings,” and as if she was nerving soul, and
heart, and eyelids, and lachrymatory glands—all to agony—to


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prevent bursting into tears with her unutterable anguish! It
was the most unresisting, unresentful, patient, sweet miserableness!
A lamb's willingness to “furnish forth another meal” of
chops and sweetbread, was testy to such meek endurance! She
was evidently a martyr, a victim, a crushed flower, a “poor
thing!” But she did, now and then—unseen by anybody but
me—give a glance from that truncated orb of a pupil of hers,
over the top of her handkerchief, that, if incarnated, would have
made a hole in the hide of a rhinoceros! It was triumph,
venom, implacability—such as I had never before seen expressed
in human glances.

There are many persons with but one idea, and that a good
one. Mrs. McRueit, I presume, was incapable of appreciating
my interest in her. At any rate she played the same game with
me as with other people, and managed her affairs altogether with
perfect unity. It was in vain that I endeavored to hear from her
tongue what I read in the lowering pupil of her eye. She spoke
of McRueit with evident reluctance, but always with discretion—
never blaming him, nor leaving any opening that should betray
resentment, or turn the current of sympathy from herself. The
result was immediate. The women in the house began to look
black upon McRueit. The men “sent him to Coventry” more
unwillingly, for he was amusing and popular—but “to Coventry”
he went! And at last the widow Wanmaker became aware that
she was wasting her time on a man whose attentions were not
wanted elsewhere—and she (the unkindest cut of all) found reasons
for looking another way when he approached her. He had
became aware, during this process, what was “in the wind,” but
he knew too much to stay in the public eye when it was inflamed.
With his brows lowering, and his face gloomy with feelings I


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could easily interpret, he took the early coach on the third morning
after my introduction to Mrs. McRueit, and departed, probably
for a discipline trip, to some place where sympathy with his
wife would be less dangerous.