Read CHAPTER TEN of Their Silver Wedding Journey‚ Part III., free online book, by William Dean Howells, on ReadCentral.com.

Kenby did not come to the Swan before supper; then he reported that the doctor had said Rose was on the verge of a nervous collapse.  He had overworked at school, but the immediate trouble was the high, thin air, which the doctor said he must be got out of at once, into a quiet place at the sea-shore somewhere.  He had suggested Ostend; or some point on the French coast; Kenby had thought of Schevleningen, and the doctor had said that would do admirably.

“I understood from Mrs. Adding,” he concluded, “that you were going. there for your after-cure, Mr. March, and I didn’t know but you might be going soon.”

At the mention of Schevleningen the Marches had looked at each other with a guilty alarm, which they both tried to give the cast of affectionate sympathy but she dismissed her fear that he might be going to let his compassion prevail with him to his hurt when he said:  “Why, we ought to have been there before this, but I’ve been taking my life in my hands in trying to see a little of Germany, and I’m afraid now that Mrs. March has her mind too firmly fixed on Berlin to let me think of going to Schevleningen till we’ve been there.”

“It’s too bad!” said Mrs. March, with real regret.  “I wish we were going.”  But she had not the least notion of gratifying her wish; and they were all silent till Kenby broke out: 

“Look here!  You know how I feel about Mrs Adding!  I’ve been pretty frank with Mr. March myself, and I’ve had my suspicions that she’s been frank with you, Mrs. March.  There isn’t any doubt about my wanting to marry her, and up to this time there hasn’t been any doubt about her not wanting to marry me.  But it isn’t a question of her or of me, now.  It’s a question of Rose.  I love the boy,” and Kenby’s voice shook, and he faltered a moment.  “Pshaw!  You understand.”

“Indeed I do, Mr. Kenby,” said Mrs. March.  “I perfectly understand you.”

“Well, I don’t think Mrs. Adding is fit to make the journey with him alone, or to place herself in the best way after she gets to Schevleningen.  She’s been badly shaken up; she broke down before the doctor; she said she didn’t know what to do; I suppose she’s frightened ­”

Kenby stopped again, and March asked, “When is she going?”

“To-morrow,” said Kenby, and he added, “And now the question is, why shouldn’t I go with her?”

Mrs. March gave a little start, and looked at her husband, but he said nothing, and Kenby seemed not to have supposed that he would say anything.

“I know it would be very American, and all that, but I happen to be an American, and it wouldn’t be out of character for me.  I suppose,” he appealed to Mrs. March, “that it’s something I might offer to do if it were from New York to Florida ­and I happened to be going there?  And I did happen to be going to Holland.”

“Why, of course, Mr. Kenby,” she responded, with such solemnity that March gave way in an outrageous laugh.

Kenby laughed, and Mrs. March laughed too, but with an inner note of protest.

“Well,” Kenby continued, still addressing her, “what I want you to do is to stand by me when I propose it.”

Mrs. March gathered strength to say, “No, Mr. Kenby, it’s your own affair, and you must take the responsibility.”

“Do you disapprove?”

“It isn’t the same as it would be at home.  You see that yourself.”

“Well,” said Kenby, rising, “I have to arrange about their getting away to-morrow.  It won’t be easy in this hurly-burly that’s coming off.”

“Give Rose our love; and tell Mrs. Adding that I’ll come round and see her to-morrow before she starts.”

“Oh!  I’m afraid you can’t, Mrs. March.  They’re to start at six in the morning.”

“They are!  Then we must go and see them tonight.  We’ll be there almost as soon as you are.”

March went up to their rooms with, his wife, and she began on the stairs: 

“Well, my dear, I hope you realize that your laughing so gave us completely away.  And what was there to keep grinning about, all through?”

“Nothing but the disingenuous, hypocritical passion of love.  It’s always the most amusing thing in the world; but to see it trying to pass itself off in poor old Kenby as duty and humanity, and disinterested affection for Rose, was more than I could stand.  I don’t apologize for laughing; I wanted to yell.”

His effrontery and his philosophy both helped to save him; and she said from the point where he had side-tracked her mind:  “I don’t call it disingenuous.  He was brutally frank.  He’s made it impossible to treat the affair with dignity.  I want you to leave the whole thing to me, from this out.  Now, will you?”

On their way to the Spanischer Hof she arranged in her own mind for Mrs. Adding to get a maid, and for the doctor to send an assistant with her on the journey, but she was in such despair with her scheme that she had not the courage to right herself when Mrs. Adding met her with the appeal: 

“Oh, Mrs. March, I’m so glad you approve of Mr. Kenby’s plan.  It does seem the only thing to do.  I can’t trust myself alone with Rose, and Mr. Kenby’s intending to go to Schevleningen a few days later anyway.  Though it’s too bad to let him give up the manoeuvres.”

“I’m sure he won’t mind that,” Mrs. March’s voice said mechanically, while her thought was busy with the question whether this scandalous duplicity was altogether Kenby’s, and whether Mrs. Adding was as guiltless of any share in it as she looked.  She looked pitifully distracted; she might not have understood his report; or Kenby might really have mistaken Mrs. March’s sympathy for favor.

“No, he only lives to do good,” Mrs. Adding returned.  “He’s with Rose; won’t you come in and see them?”

Rose was lying back on the pillows of a sofa, from which they would not let him get up.  He was full of the trip to Holland, and had already pushed Kenby, as Kenby owned, beyond the bounds of his very general knowledge of the Dutch language, which Rose had plans for taking up after they were settled in Schevleningen.  The boy scoffed at the notion that he was not perfectly well, and he wished to talk with March on the points where he had found Kenby wanting.

“Kenby is an encyclopaedia compared with me, Rose,” the editor protested, and he amplified his ignorance for the boy’s good to an extent which Rose saw was a joke.  He left Holland to talk about other things which his mother thought quite as bad for him.  He wished to know if March did not think that the statue of the bishop with the sparrow on its finger was a subject for a poem; and March said gayly that if Rose would write it he would print it in ‘Every Other Week’.

The boy flushed with pleasure at his banter.  “No, I couldn’t do it.  But I wish Mr. Burnamy had seen it.  He could.  Will you tell him about it?” He wanted to know if March had heard from Burnamy lately, and in the midst of his vivid interest he gave a weary sigh.

His mother said that now he had talked enough, and bade him say good-by to the Marches, who were coming so soon to Holland, anyway.  Mrs. March put her arms round him to kiss him, and when she let him sink back her eyes were dim.

“You see how frail he is?” said Mrs. Adding.  “I shall not let him out of my sight, after this, till he’s well again.”

She had a kind of authority in sending Kenby away with them which was not lost upon the witnesses.  He asked them to come into the reading-room a moment with him, and Mrs. March wondered if he were going to make some excuse to her for himself; but he said:  “I don’t know how we’re to manage about the Triscoes.  The general will have a room to himself, but if Mrs. Adding takes Rose in with her, it leaves Miss Triscoe out, and there isn’t a room to be had in this house for love or money.  Do you think,” he appealed directly to Mrs. March, “that it would do to offer her my room at the Swan?”

“Why, yes,” she assented, with a reluctance rather for the complicity in which he had already involved her, and for which he was still unpunished, than for what he was now proposing.  “Or she could come in with me, and Mr. March could take it.”

“Whichever you think,” said Kenby so submissively that she relented, to ask: 

“And what will you do?”

He laughed.  “Well, people have been known to sleep in a chair.  I shall manage somehow.”

“You might offer to go in with the general,” March suggested, and the men apparently thought this was a joke.  Mrs. March did not laugh in her feminine worry about ways and means.

“Where is Miss Triscoe?” she asked.  “We haven’t seen them.”

“Didn’t Mrs. Adding tell you?  They went to supper at a restaurant; the general doesn’t like the cooking here.  They ought to have been back before this.”

He looked up at the clock on the wall, and she said, “I suppose you would like us to wait.”

“It would be very kind of you.”

“Oh, it’s quite essential,” she returned with an airy freshness which Kenby did not seem to feel as painfully as he ought.

They all sat down, and the Triscoes came in after a few minutes, and a cloud on the general’s face lifted at the proposition Kenby left Mrs. March to make.

“I thought that child ought to be in his mother’s charge,” he said.  With his own comfort provided for, he made no objections to Mrs. March’s plan; and Agatha went to take leave of Rose and his mother.  “By-the-way,” the general turned to March, “I found Stoller at the restaurant where we supped.  He offered me a place in his carriage for the manoeuvres.  How are you going?”

“I think I shall go by train.  I don’t fancy the long drive.”

“Well, I don’t know that it’s worse than the long walk after you leave the train,” said the general from the offence which any difference of taste was apt to give him.  “Are you going by train, too?” he asked Kenby with indifference.

“I’m not going at all,” said Kenby.  “I’m leaving Würzburg in the morning.”

“Oh, indeed,” said the general.

Mrs. March could not make out whether he knew that Kenby was going with Rose and Mrs. Adding, but she felt that there must be a full and open recognition of the fact among them.  “Yes,” she said, “isn’t it fortunate that Mr. Kenby should be going to Holland, too!  I should have been so unhappy about them if Mrs. Adding had been obliged to make that long journey with poor little Rose alone.”

“Yes, yes; very fortunate, certainly,” said the general colorlessly.

Her husband gave her a glance of intelligent appreciation; but Kenby was too simply, too densely content with the situation to know the value of what she had done.  She thought he must certainly explain, as he walked back with her to the Swan, whether he had misrepresented her to Mrs. Adding, or Mrs. Adding had misunderstood him.  Somewhere there had been an error, or a duplicity which it was now useless to punish; and Kenby was so apparently unconscious of it that she had not the heart to be cross with him.  She heard Miss Triscoe behind her with March laughing in the gayety which the escape from her father seemed to inspire in her.  She was promising March to go with him in the morning to see the Emperor and Empress of Germany arrive at the station, and he was warning her that if she laughed there, like that, she would subject him to fine and imprisonment.  She pretended that she would like to see him led off between two gendarmes, but consented to be a little careful when he asked her how she expected to get back to her hotel without him, if such a thing happened.