Jacob threw up his arms, and abandoned the effort to express himself.
Later, when the guests were gone, Spence remembered this, and, to Eleanor’s surprise, he broke into uproarious laughter.
“One of the best jokes I ever heard! A fresh, first-hand judgment on the morality of the Classics by a plain-minded English man of business.” He told the story. “And Bradshaw’s perfectly right; that’s the best of it.”
THE BOARDING-HOUSE ON THE MERGELLINA
The year was 1878. A tourist searching his Baedeker for a genteel but not oppressively aristocratic pension in the open parts of Naples would have found himself directed by an asterisk to the establishment kept by Mrs. Gluck on the Mergellina;—frequented by English and Germans, and very comfortable. The recommendation was a just one. Mrs. Gluck enjoyed the advantage of having lived as many years in England as she had in Germany; her predilections leaned, if anything, to the English side, and the arrival of a “nice” English family always put her in excellent spirits. She then exhibited herself as an Anglicized matron, perfectly familiar with all the requirements, great and little, of her guests, and, when minutiae were once settled, capable of meeting ladies and gentlemen on terms of equality in her drawing-room or at her table, where she always presided. Indeed, there was much true refinement in Mrs. Gluck. You had not been long in her house before she found an opportunity of letting you know that she prided herself on connection with the family of the great musician, and under her roof there was generally some one who played or sang well. It was her dire that all who sat at her dinner-table—the English people, at all events—should be in evening dress. She herself had no little art in adorning herself so as to appear, what she was, a lady, and yet not to conflict with the ladies whose presence honoured her.
In the drawing-room, a few days after the arrival of Mrs. Lessingham and her niece, several members of the house hold were assembled in readiness for the second dinner-bell. There was Frau Wohlgemuth, a middle-aged lady with severe brows, utilizing spare moments over a German work on Greek sculpture. Certain plates in the book had caught the eye of Mrs. Bradshaw, with the result that she regarded this innocent student as a person of most doubtful character, who, if in ignorance admitted to a respectable boardinghouse, should certainly have been got rid of as soon as the nature of her reading had been discovered. Frau Wohlgemuth had once or twice been astonished at the severe look fixed upon her by the buxom English lady, but happily would never receive an explanation of this silent animus. Then there was Fraulein Kriel, who had unwillingly incurred even more of Mrs. Bradshaw’s displeasure, in that she, an unmarried person, had actually looked over the volume together with its possessor, not so much as blushing when she found herself observed by strangers. The remaining persons were an English family, a mother and three daughters, their name Denyer.