The Travelling Thirds. 1905 The Travelling Thirds. 1905
Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton

The Travelling Thirds. 1905

2024 Edition

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Beschreibung des Verlags

The California cousin of the Lyman T. Moultons—a name too famous to be shorn——stood apart from the perturbed group, her feet boyishly asunder, her head thrown back. Above her hung the thick white clusters of the acacia,[1] drooping abundantly, opaque and luminous in the soft masses of green, heavy with perfume. All Lyons seemed to have yielded itself to the intoxicating fragrance of its favorite tree.
1.  The acacia of Europe is identical with the American locust.

In the Place Carnot, at least, there was not a murmur. The Moultons had hushed in thought their four variations on the aggressive 

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American key, although perhaps insensible to the voluptuous offering of the grove. Mrs. Moulton, had her senses responded to the sweet and drowsy afternoon, would have resented the experience as immoral; and as it was her pale-blue gaze rested disapprovingly on the rapt figure of her husband’s second cousin. The short skirt and the covert coat of ungraceful length, its low pockets always inviting the hands of its owner, had roused more than once her futile protest, and to-day they seemed to hang limp with a sense of incongruity beneath the half-closed eyes and expanded nostrils of the young Californian.

It was not possible for nature to struggle triumphant through the disguise this beneficiary chose to assume, but there was an unwilling conviction in the Moulton family that when Catalina arrayed herself as other women she would blossom forth into something of a beauty. Even her stiff hat half covered her brow and rich brown hair, but her eyes, long and dark and far apart, rarely failed to arrest other eyes, immobile as was their common expression.

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Always independent of her fellow-mortals, and peculiarly of her present companions, she was a happy pagan at the moment, and meditating a solitary retreat to another grove of acacias down by the Saône, when her attention was claimed by Mr. Moulton.

“Would you mind coming here a moment, Catalina?” he asked, in a voice whose roll and cadence told that he had led in family prayers these many years, if not in meeting. “After all, it is your suggestion, and I think you should present the case. I have done it very badly, and they don’t seem inclined to listen to me.”

He smiled apologetically, but there was a faint twinkle in his eye which palliated the somewhat sanctimonious expression of the lower part of his face. Blond and cherubic in youth, his countenance had grown in dignity as time changed its tints to drab and gray, reclaimed the superfluous flesh of his face, and drew the strong lines that are the half of a man’s good looks. He, too, had his hands in his pockets, and he stood in front of his wife and daughters, who sat on a bench in the perfumed shade of the acacias.

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His cousin once removed dragged down her eyes and scowled, without attempt at dissimulation. In a moment, however, she came forward with a manifest attempt to be human and normal. Mrs. Moulton stiffened her spine as if awaiting an assault, and her oldest daughter, a shade more formal and correct, more afraid of doing the wrong thing, fixed a cold and absent eye upon the statue to liberty in the centre of the Place. Only the second daughter, Lydia, just departing from her first quarter-century, turned to the alien relative with a sparkle in her eye. She was a girl about whose pink-and-white-and-golden prettiness there was neither question nor enthusiasm, and her thin, graceful figure and alertly poised head received such enhancement as her slender purse afforded. She wore—need I record it?—a travelling-suit of dark-blue brilliantine, short—but at least three inches longer than Catalina’s—and a large hat about whose brim fluttered a blue veil. She admired and a little feared the recent acquisition from California, experiencing for the first time in her life a pleasing suspense in the 

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vagaries of an unusual character. She and all that hitherto pertained to her belonged to that highly refined middle class nowhere so formal and exacting as in the land of the free.

Catalina, who never permitted her relatives to suspect that she was shy, assumed her most stolid expression and abrupt tones.

“It is simple enough. We can go to Spain if we travel third class, and we can’t if we don’t. I want to see Spain more than any country in Europe. I have heard you say more than once that you were wild to see it—the Alhambra and all that—well, anxious, then,” as Mrs. Moulton raised a protesting eyebrow. “I’m wild, if you like. I’d walk, go on mule-back; in short, I’ll go alone if you won’t take me.”

“You will do what?” The color came into Mrs. Moulton’s faded cheek, and she squared herself as for an encounter. Open friction was infrequent, for Mrs. Moulton was nothing if not diplomatic, and Catalina was indifferent. Nevertheless, encounters there had been, and at the finish the Californian had invariably held the middle of 

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the field, insolent and victorious; and Mrs. Moulton had registered a vow that sooner or later she would wave the colors over the prostrate foe.

For thirty-two years she had merged, submerged, her individuality, but in these last four months she had been possessed by a waxing revolt, of an almost passionate desire for a victorious moment. It was her first trip abroad, and she had followed where her energetic husband and daughters listed. Hardly once had she been consulted. Perhaps, removed for the first time from the stultifying environment of habit, she had come to realize what slight rewards are the woman’s who flings her very soul at the feet of others. It was too late to attempt to be an individual in her own family; even did she find the courage she must continue to accept their excessive care—she had a mild form of invalidism—and endeavor to feel grateful that she was owned by the kindest of husbands, and daughters no more selfish than the average; but since the advent of Catalina all the rebellion left in her had become compact and alert. Here was 

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an utterly antagonistic temperament, one beyond her comprehension, individual in a fashion that offended every sensibility; cool, wary, insolently suggesting that she purposed to stalk through life in that hideous get-up, pursuing the unorthodox. She was not only indomitable youth but indomitable savagery, and Mrs. Moulton, of the old and cold Eastern civilization, bristled with a thrill that was almost rapture whenever this unwelcome relative of her husband stared at her in contemptuous silence.

“You will do what? The suggestion that we travel third class is offensive enough—but are you aware that Spanish women never travel even first class alone?”

“I don’t see what that has to do with me. I’m not Spanish; they would assume that I was ‘no lady’ and take no further notice of me; or, if they did—well, I can take care of myself. As for travelling third class, I can’t see that it is any more undignified than travelling second, and its chief recommendations, after its cheapness, are that it won’t be so deadly respectable as second, and that we’ll meet nice, dirty, picturesque, 

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excitable peasants instead of dowdy middle-class people who want all the windows shut. The third-class carriages are generally big, open cars like ours, with wooden seats—no microbes—and at this time of the year all the windows will be open. Now, you can think it over. I am going to invest twenty francs in a Baedeker and study my route.”

She nodded to Mr. Moulton, dropped an almost imperceptible eyelash at Lydia, and, ignoring the others, strode off belligerently towards the Place Bellecour.

Mrs. Moulton turned white. She set her lips. “I shall not go,” she announced.

“My love,” protested her husband, mildly, “I am afraid she has placed us in a position where we shall have to go.” He was secretly delighted. “Spain, as you justly remarked, is the most impossible country in Europe for the woman alone, and she is the child of my dead cousin and old college chum. When we are safely home again I shall have a long talk with her and arrive at a definite understanding of this singular character, but over here I cannot permit 

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her to make herself—and us—notorious. I am sure you will agree with me, my love. My only fear is that you may find the slow trains and wooden seats fatiguing—although I shall buy an extra supply of air-cushions, and we will get off whenever you feel tired.”

“Do say yes, mother,” pleaded her youngest born. “It will almost be an adventure, and I’ve never had anything approaching an adventure in my life. I’m sure even Jane will enjoy it.”

“I loathe travelling,” said the elder Miss Moulton, with energy. “It’s nothing but reading Baedeker, stalking through churches and picture-galleries, and rushing for trains, loaded down with hand-baggage. I feel as if I never wanted to see another thing in my life. Of course I’m glad I’ve seen London and Paris and Rome, but the discomforts and privations of travel far outweigh the advantages. I haven’t the slightest desire to see Spain, or any more down-at-the-heel European countries; America will satisfy me for the rest of my life. As for travelling third class—the very idea is low and horrid. It is bad enough to travel 

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second, and if we did think so little of ourselves as to travel third—just think of its being found out! Where would our social position be—father’s great influence? As for that California savage, the mere fact that she makes a suggestion—”

“My dear,” remonstrated her father, “Catalina is a most well-conducted young woman. She has not given me a moment of anxiety, and I think her suggestion a really opportune one, for it will enable us to see Spain and give me much valuable literary material. Of course, I do not like the idea of travelling third class myself, and I only wish I could afford to take you all in the train de luxe.”

“You are a perfect dear,” announced Lydia, “and give us everything we want. And if we went in the luxe we couldn’t see any nice little out-of-the-way places and would soon become blasé, which would be dreadful. Jane at first enjoyed it as much as we did, and I could go on forever. No one need ever know that we went third, and when we are at home we will have something else to talk about except the ever-lasting 

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Italy and England and Paris. Do consent, mother.”

This was an unusual concession, and Mrs. Moulton was a trifle mollified. Besides, if her favorite child’s heart was set upon Spain, that dyed the matter with a different complexion; she could defer her subjection of the Californian, and, tired as she was, she was by no means averse to seeing Spain herself. Nevertheless, she rose with dignity and gathered her cape about her.

“You and your father will settle the matter to suit yourselves,” she said, with that access of politeness in which the down-trodden manifest their sense of injury. “But I have no hesitation in saying that I never before heard a gentlewoman”—she had the true middle-class horror of the word “lady”—“express a desire to travel third, and I think it will be a most unbecoming performance. Moreover, I doubt if anything can make us comfortable; we are reasonably sure to become infested with vermin and be made ill by the smell of garlic. I have had my say, however, and shall now go and lie down.”

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As she moved up the path, her step measured, her spine protestant, her husband ran after and drew her arm through his. He nodded over his shoulder to his youngest daughter, and Lydia, deprecating further argument, went swiftly off in search of Catalina.

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GENRE
Belletristik und Literatur
ERSCHIENEN
2024
6. März
SPRACHE
EN
Englisch
UMFANG
106
Seiten
VERLAG
Rectory Print
GRÖSSE
9.6
 MB

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