The ladies fell upon each other as if they had been mother and daughter; March and the young man shook hands, in the feeling of passengers mutually endeared by the memories of a pleasant voyage. They arrived at the fact that Mr. Leffers had received letters in England from his partners which allowed him to prolong his wedding journey in a tour of the continent, while their wives were still exclaiming at their encounter in the same hotel at Nuremberg; and then they all sat down to have, as the bride said, a real Norumbia time.
She was one of those young wives who talk always with their eyes submissively on their husbands, no matter whom they are speaking to; but she was already unconsciously ruling him in her abeyance. No doubt she was ruling him for his good; she had a livelier, mind than he, and she knew more, as the American wives of young American business men always do, and she was planning wisely for their travels. She recognized her merit in this devotion with an artless candor, which was typical rather than personal. March was glad to go out with Leffers for a little stroll, and to leave Mrs. March to listen to Mrs. Leffers, who did not let them go without making her husband promise to wrap up well, and not get his feet wet. She made March promise not to take him far, and to bring him back early, which he found himself very willing to do, after an exchange of ideas with Mr. Leffers. The young man began to talk about his wife, in her providential, her almost miraculous adaptation to the sort of man he was, and when he had once begun to explain what sort of man he was, there was no end to it, till they rejoined the ladies in the reading-room.
The young couple came to the station to see the Marches off after dinner the next day; and the wife left a bank of flowers on the seat beside Mrs. March, who said, as soon as they were gone, “I believe I would rather meet people of our own age after this. I used to think that you could keep young by being with young people; but I don’t, now. There world is very different from ours. Our world doesn’t really exist any more, but as long as we keep away from theirs we needn’t realize it. Young people,” she went on, “are more practical-minded than we used to be; they’re quite as sentimental; but I don’t think they care so much for the higher things. They’re not so much brought up on poetry as we were,” she pursued. “That little Mrs. Leffers would have read Longfellow in our time; but now she didn’t know of his poem on Nuremberg; she was intelligent enough about the place, but you could see that its quaintness was not so precious as it was to us; not so sacred.” Her tone entreated him to find more meaning in her words than she had put into them. “They couldn’t have felt as we did about that old ivied wall and that grassy, flowery moat under it; and the beautiful Damenthor and that pile-up of the roofs from the Burg; and those winding streets with their Gothic facades all, cobwebbed with trolley wires; and that yellow, aguish-looking river drowsing through the town under the windows of those overhanging houses; and the market-place, and the squares before the churches, with their queer shops in the nooks and corners round them!”