“Don’t be in too big a hurry for Waterloo,” jested Arkwright. “It’s coming toward you fast enough. That old lady will put you in your place. After ten minutes of her, you’ll feel like a schoolboy who has ‘got his’ for sassing the teacher.”
“I want to meet her,” repeated Craig. And he watched her every movement; watched the men and women bowing deferentially about her chair; watched her truly royal dignity, as she was graciously pleased to relax now and then.
“Every society has its mumbo-jumbo to keep it in order,” said Arkwright. “She’s ours.... I’m dead tired. You’ve done enough for one night. It’s a bad idea to stay too long; it creates an impression of frivolity. Come along!”
Craig went, reluctantly, with several halts and backward glances at the old lady of the ebon staff.
A DESPERATE YOUNG WOMAN
The house where the Severances lived, and had lived for half a century, was built by Lucius Quintus Severence, Alabama planter, suddenly and, for the antebellum days, notably rich through a cotton speculation. When he built, Washington had no distinctly fashionable quarter; the neighborhood was then as now small, cheap wooden structures where dwelt in genteel discomfort the families of junior Department clerks. Lucius Quintus chose the site partly for the view, partly because spacious grounds could be had at a nominal figure, chiefly because part of his conception of aristocracy was to dwell in grandeur among the humble. The Severence place, enclosed by a high English-like wall of masonry, filled the whole huge square. On each of its four sides it put in sheepish and chop-fallen countenance a row of boarding houses. In any other city the neighborhood would have been intolerable because of the noise of the rowdy children. But in Washington the boarding house class cannot afford children; so, few indeed were the small forms that paused before the big iron Severence gates to gaze into the mysterious maze of green as far as might be—which was not far, because the walk and the branching drives turn abruptly soon after leaving the gates.
From earliest spring until almost Christmas that mass of green was sweet with perfume and with the songs of appreciative colonies of bright birds. In the midst of the grounds, and ingeniously shut in on all sides from any view that could spoil the illusion of a forest, stood the house, Colonial, creeper-clad, brightened in all its verandas and lawns by gay flowers, pink and white predominating. The rooms were large and lofty of ceiling, and not too uncomfortable in winter, as the family was accustomed to temperatures below the average American indoors. In spring and summer and autumn the rooms were delightful, with their old-fashioned solid furniture, their subdued colors and tints, their elaborate arrangements for regulating the inpour of light. All this suggested