“Not quite so loud a pattern of calico this year,” he said, with patronizing forbearance toward the painted woodlands whirling by. “Do you see how the foreground next the train rushes from us and the background keeps ahead of us, while the middle distance seems stationary? I don’t think I ever noticed that effect before. There ought to be something literary in it: retreating past and advancing future and deceitfully permanent present—something like that?”
His wife brushed some crumbs from her lap before rising. “Yes. You mustn’t waste any of these ideas now.”
“Oh no; it would be money out of Fulkerson’s pocket.”
They went to a quiet hotel far down-town, and took a small apartment which they thought they could easily afford for the day or two they need spend in looking up a furnished flat. They were used to staying at this hotel when they came on for a little outing in New York, after some rigid winter in Boston, at the time of the spring exhibitions. They were remembered there from year to year; the colored call-boys, who never seemed to get any older, smiled upon them, and the clerk called March by name even before he registered. He asked if Mrs. March were with him, and said then he supposed they would want their usual quarters; and in a moment they were domesticated in a far interior that seemed to have been waiting for them in a clean, quiet, patient disoccupation ever since they left it two years before. The little parlor, with its gilt paper and ebonized furniture, was the lightest of the rooms, but it was not very light at noonday without the gas, which the bell-boy now flared up for them. The uproar of the city came to it in a soothing murmur, and they took possession of its peace and comfort with open celebration. After all, they agreed, there was no place in the world so delightful as a hotel apartment like that; the boasted charms of home were nothing to it; and then the magic of its being always there, ready for any one, every one, just as if it were for some one alone: it was like the experience of an Arabian Nights hero come true for all the race.
“Oh, why can’t we always stay here, just we two!” Mrs. March sighed to her husband, as he came out of his room rubbing his face red with the towel, while she studied a new arrangement of her bonnet and handbag on the mantel.
“And ignore the past? I’m willing. I’ve no doubt that the children could get on perfectly well without us, and could find some lot in the scheme of Providence that would really be just as well for them.”
“Yes; or could contrive somehow never to have existed. I should insist upon that. If they are, don’t you see that we couldn’t wish them not to be?”
“Oh yes; I see your point; it’s simply incontrovertible.”
She laughed and said: “Well, at any rate, if we can’t find a flat to suit us we can all crowd into these three rooms somehow, for the winter, and then browse about for meals. By the week we could get them much cheaper; and we could save on the eating, as they do in Europe. Or on something else.”