Count and Wedding Guest
One evening when Andy Donovan went to dinner at his Second Avenue boarding-house, Mrs. Scott introduced him to a new boarder, a young lady, Miss Conway. Miss Conway was small and unobtrusive. She wore a plain, snuffy-brown dress, and bestowed her interest, which seemed languid, upon her plate. She lifted her diffident eyelids and shot one perspicuous, judicial glance at Mr. Donovan, politely murmured his name, and returned to her mutton. Mr. Donovan bowed with the grace and beaming smile that was rapidly winning for him social, business and political advancement, and erased the snuffy-brown one from the tablets of his consideration.
Two weeks later Andy was sitting on the front steps enjoying his cigar. There was a soft rustle behind and above him, and Andy turned his headand had his head turned.
Just coming out of the door was Miss Conway. She wore a night-black dress of crêpe decrêpe deoh, this thin black goods. Her hat was black, and from it drooped and fluttered an ebon veil, filmy as a spiders web. She stood on the top step and drew on black silk gloves. Not a speck of white or a spot of colour about her dress anywhere. Her rich golden hair was drawn, with scarcely a ripple, into a shining, smooth knot low on her neck. Her face was plain rather than pretty, but it was now illuminated and made almost beautiful by her large grey eyes that gazed above the houses across the street into the sky with an expression of the most appealing sadness and melancholy.
Gather the idea, girlsall black, you know, with the preference for crêpe deoh, crêpe de chinethats it. All black, and that sad, far-away look, and the hair shining under the black veil (you have to be a blonde, of course), and try to look as if, although your young life had been blighted just as it was about to give a hop-skip-and-a-jump over the threshold of life, a walk in the park might do you good, and be sure to happen out the door at the right moment, andoh, itll fetch em every time. But its fierce, now, how cynical I am, aint it?to talk about mourning costumes this way.
Mr. Donovan suddenly reinscribed Miss Conway upon the tables of his consideration. He threw away the remaining inch-and-a-quarter of his cigar, that would have been good for eight minutes yet, and quickly shifted his centre of gravity to his low-cut patent leathers.
Its a fine, clear evening, Miss Conway, he said; and if the Weather Bureau could have heard the confident emphasis of his tones it would have hoisted the square white signal and nailed it to the mast.
To them that has the heart to enjoy it, it is, Mr. Donovan, said Miss Conway, with a sigh.
Mr. Donovan, in his heart, cursed fair weather. Heartless weather! It should hail and blow and snow to be consonant with the mood of Miss Conway.
I hope none of your relativesI hope you havent sustained a loss? ventured Mr. Donovan.
Death has claimed, said Miss Conway, hesitatingnot a relative, but one whobut I will not intrude my grief upon you, Mr. Donovan.
Intrude? protested Mr. Donovan. Why, say, Miss Conway, Id be delighted, that is, Id be sorryI mean Im sure nobody could sympathize with you truer than I would.
Miss Conway smiled a little smile. And oh, it was sadder than her expression in repose.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and they give you the laugh, she quoted. I have learned that, Mr. Donovan. I have no friends or acquaintances in this city. But you have been kind to me. I appreciate it highly.
He had passed her the pepper twice at the table.
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