“He is out of town, sir, with the whole family. I believe he went to Albany, sir.”
“Is Mrs. Corning in the house?”
“Mrs. Corning is just come back from market, sir. I heard her voice only a minute ago.”
“Say, I would like to speak to her.”
In a few moments, Mrs. Corning, the housekeeper, a respectable-looking woman, of some forty-five years of age, made her appearance, and testified a hearty pleasure at seeing the young man, whom she kissed with great affection, and by whom she was received with every mark of regard.
The family, she said, in reply to the questions of Pownal, had been absent, at Albany, where they were, on a visit to some relatives, for three weeks, but were daily expected home. She was so sorry they were absent. They were all well, and would be so glad to see him looking so well. She thought she had never seen him looking better. There was nothing like country air to paint the cheeks.
Pownal thought this a good opportunity to commend his friend to the favorable consideration of the housekeeper, and said—
“That I am well, I probably owe to the kindness of this gentleman, who will remain with us during my stay in town,” at the same time, introducing Holden to the lady.
“Your friends, Mr. Thomas,” said Mrs. Corning, courtesying to Holden, “will always be welcome in this house. But, tell me, have you been sick?—I’m sure, you don’t look so—or some accident, or”——
“I will tell you all about it, by-and-by. At present, a cup of coffee.”
“My! what a thoughtless creature I am!” exclaimed Mrs. Corning. “The pleasure of seeing you again, put all idea of breakfast out of my mind. I never thought of asking, if you had had any. But, it shan’t be long before that mistake shall be remedied.”
So saying, good Mrs. Corning bustled out of the room, on hospitable thoughts intent, and, in a short time, the substantial comforts of an American breakfast were smoking on the board. Pownal partook of it with the liberal appetite of high health and youth sharpened by his little voyage, while Holden himself, though in far greater moderation, was not unmindful of the viands before him. His achievements, however, did not seem to satisfy the housekeeper, who vainly pressed her delicacies upon him, and who, subsequently, after a more thorough observation of his character at meals, expressed her wonder, to Pownal, whether the effect of a long beard was not to diminish the appetite!
I met with scoffs, I met with scorns
From youth, and babe, and hoary hairs,
They called me in the public squares,
The fool that wears a crown of thorns.
TENNYSON’S “IN MEMORIAM.”