She addressed me with authority, exactly like Aunt Carola, and with even greater precision in her good English and good enunciation. Unlike the girl at the Exchange, she had no accent; her language was simply the perfection of educated utterance; it also was racy with the free censoriousness which civilized people of consequence are apt to exercise the world over. “I was sorry to miss your visit,” she began (she knew me, you see, perfectly); “you will please to come again soon, and console me for my disappointment. I am Mrs. Gregory St. Michael, and my house is in Le Maire Street (Pronounced in Kings Port, Lammarree) as you have been so civil as to find out. And how does your Aunt Carola do in these contemptible times? You can tell her from me that vulgarization is descending, even upon Kings Port.”
“I cannot imagine that!” I exclaimed.
“You cannot imagine it because you don’t know anything about it, young gentleman! The manners of some of our own young people will soon be as dishevelled as those in New York. Have you seen our town yet, or is it all books with you? You should not leave without a look at what is still left of us. I shall be happy if you will sit in my pew on Sunday morning. Your Northern shells did their best in the bombardment—did you say that you rang? I think you had better pull it again; all the way out; yes, like that—in the bombardment, but we have our old church still, in spite of you. Do you see the crack in that wall? The earthquake did it. You’re spared earthquakes in the North, as you seem to be spared pretty much everything disastrous—except the prosperity that’s going to ruin you all. We’re better off with our poverty than you. Just ring the bell once more, and then we’ll go. I fancy Julia—I fancy Mrs. Weguelin St. Michael—has run out to stare at the Northern steam yacht in the harbor. It would be just like her. This house is historic itself. Shabby enough now, to be sure! The great-aunt of my cousin, John Mayrant (who is going to be married next Wednesday, to such a brute of a girl, poor boy!), lived here in 1840, and made an answer to the Earl of Mainridge that put him in his place. She was our famous Kings Port wit, and at the reception which her father (my mother’s uncle) gave the English visitor, he conducted himself as so many Englishmen seem to think they can in this country. Miss Beaufain (pronounced in Kings Port, Bowfayne), as she was then, asked the Earl how he liked America; and he replied, very well, except for the people, who were so vulgar. ‘What can you expect?’ said Miss Beaufain; ‘we’re descended from the English.’ Mrs. St. Michael is out, and the servant has gone home. Slide this card under the door, with your own, and come away.”
She took me with her, moving through the quiet South Place with a leisurely grace and dignity at which my spirit rejoiced; she was so beautiful, and so easy, and afraid of nothing and nobody! (This must be modified. I came later to suspect that they all stood in some dread of their own immediate families.)