At three o'clock in the afternoon, all the fashionable world at Nice
may be seen on the Promenade des Anglais—a charming place, for the
wide walk, bordered with palms, flowers, and tropical shrubs, is
bounded on one side by the sea, on the other by the grand drive, lined
with hotels and villas, while beyond lie orange orchards and the hills.
Many nations are represented, many languages spoken, many costumes
worn, and on a sunny day the spectacle is as gay and brilliant as a
carnival. Haughty English, lively French, sober Germans, handsome
Spaniards, ugly Russians, meek Jews, free-and-easy Americans, all
drive, sit, or saunter here, chatting over the news, and criticizing
the latest celebrity who has arrived—Ristori or Dickens, Victor
Emmanuel or the Queen of the Sandwich Islands. The equipages are as
varied as the company and attract as much attention, especially the low
basket barouches in which ladies drive themselves, with a pair of
dashing ponies, gay nets to keep their voluminous flounces from
overflowing the diminutive vehicles, and little grooms on the perch
Along this walk, on Christmas Day, a tall young man walked slowly, with
his hands behind him, and a somewhat absent expression of countenance.
He looked like an Italian, was dressed like an Englishman, and had the
independent air of an American—a combination which caused sundry pairs
of feminine eyes to look approvingly after him, and sundry dandies in
black velvet suits, with rose-colored neckties, buff gloves, and orange
flowers in their buttonholes, to shrug their shoulders, and then envy
him his inches. There were plenty of pretty faces to admire, but the
young man took little notice of them, except to glance now and then at
some blonde girl in blue. Presently he strolled out of the promenade
and stood a moment at the crossing, as if undecided whether to go and
listen to the band in the Jardin Publique, or to wander along the beach
toward Castle Hill. The quick trot of ponies' feet made him look up,
as one of the little carriages, containing a single young lady, came
rapidly down the street. The lady was young, blonde, and dressed in
blue. He stared a minute, then his whole face woke up, and, waving his
hat like a boy, he hurried forward to meet her.
"Oh, Laurie, is it really you? I thought you'd never come!" cried Amy,
dropping the reins and holding out both hands, to the great
scandalization of a French mamma, who hastened her daughter's steps,
lest she should be demoralized by beholding the free manners of these
"I was detained by the way, but I promised to spend Christmas with you,
and here I am."
"How is your grandfather? When did you come? Where are you staying?"
"Very well—last night—at the Chauvain. I called at your hotel, but
you were out."
"I have so much to say, I don't know where to begin! Get in and we can
talk at our ease. I was going for a drive and longing for company.
Flo's saving up for tonight."
"What happens then, a ball?"
"A Christmas party at our hotel. There are many Americans there, and
they give it in honor of the day. You'll go with us, of course? Aunt
will be charmed."
"Thank you. Where now?" asked Laurie, leaning back and folding his
arms, a proceeding which suited Amy, who preferred to drive, for her
parasol whip and blue reins over the white ponies' backs afforded her
"I'm going to the bankers first for letters, and then to Castle Hill.
The view is so lovely, and I like to feed the peacocks. Have you ever
"Often, years ago, but I don't mind having a look at it."
"Now tell me all about yourself. The last I heard of you, your
grandfather wrote that he expected you from Berlin."
"Yes, I spent a month there and then joined him in Paris, where he has
settled for the winter. He has friends there and finds plenty to amuse
him, so I go and come, and we get on capitally."
"That's a sociable arrangement," said Amy, missing something in
Laurie's manner, though she couldn't tell what.
"Why, you see, he hates to travel, and I hate to keep still, so we each
suit ourselves, and there is no trouble. I am often with him, and he
enjoys my adventures, while I like to feel that someone is glad to see
me when I get back from my wanderings. Dirty old hole, isn't it?" he
added, with a look of disgust as they drove along the boulevard to the
Place Napoleon in the old city.
"The dirt is picturesque, so I don't mind. The river and the hills are
delicious, and these glimpses of the narrow cross streets are my
delight. Now we shall have to wait for that procession to pass. It's
going to the Church of St. John."
While Laurie listlessly watched the procession of priests under their
canopies, white-veiled nuns bearing lighted tapers, and some
brotherhood in blue chanting as they walked, Amy watched him, and felt
a new sort of shyness steal over her, for he was changed, and she could
not find the merry-faced boy she left in the moody-looking man beside
her. He was handsomer than ever and greatly improved, she thought, but
now that the flush of pleasure at meeting her was over, he looked tired
and spiritless—not sick, nor exactly unhappy, but older and graver
than a year or two of prosperous life should have made him. She
couldn't understand it and did not venture to ask questions, so she
shook her head and touched up her ponies, as the procession wound away
across the arches of the Paglioni bridge and vanished in the church.
"Que pensez-vous?" she said, airing her French, which had improved in
quantity, if not in quality, since she came abroad.
"That mademoiselle has made good use of her time, and the result is
charming," replied Laurie, bowing with his hand on his heart and an
She blushed with pleasure, but somehow the compliment did not satisfy
her like the blunt praises he used to give her at home, when he
promenaded round her on festival occasions, and told her she was
'altogether jolly', with a hearty smile and an approving pat on the
head. She didn't like the new tone, for though not blase, it sounded
indifferent in spite of the look.
"If that's the way he's going to grow up, I wish he'd stay a boy," she
thought, with a curious sense of disappointment and discomfort, trying
meantime to seem quite easy and gay.
At Avigdor's she found the precious home letters and, giving the reins
to Laurie, read them luxuriously as they wound up the shady road
between green hedges, where tea roses bloomed as freshly as in June.
"Beth is very poorly, Mother says. I often think I ought to go home,
but they all say 'stay'. So I do, for I shall never have another
chance like this," said Amy, looking sober over one page.
"I think you are right, there. You could do nothing at home, and it is
a great comfort to them to know that you are well and happy, and
enjoying so much, my dear."
He drew a little nearer, and looked more like his old self as he said
that, and the fear that sometimes weighed on Amy's heart was lightened,
for the look, the act, the brotherly 'my dear', seemed to assure her
that if any trouble did come, she would not be alone in a strange land.
Presently she laughed and showed him a small sketch of Jo in her
scribbling suit, with the bow rampantly erect upon her cap, and issuing
from her mouth the words, 'Genius burns!'.
Laurie smiled, took it, put it in his vest pocket 'to keep it from
blowing away', and listened with interest to the lively letter Amy read
"This will be a regularly merry Christmas to me, with presents in the
morning, you and letters in the afternoon, and a party at night," said
Amy, as they alighted among the ruins of the old fort, and a flock of
splendid peacocks came trooping about them, tamely waiting to be fed.
While Amy stood laughing on the bank above him as she scattered crumbs
to the brilliant birds, Laurie looked at her as she had looked at him,
with a natural curiosity to see what changes time and absence had
wrought. He found nothing to perplex or disappoint, much to admire and
approve, for overlooking a few little affectations of speech and
manner, she was as sprightly and graceful as ever, with the addition of
that indescribable something in dress and bearing which we call
elegance. Always mature for her age, she had gained a certain aplomb
in both carriage and conversation, which made her seem more of a woman
of the world than she was, but her old petulance now and then showed
itself, her strong will still held its own, and her native frankness
was unspoiled by foreign polish.
Laurie did not read all this while he watched her feed the peacocks,
but he saw enough to satisfy and interest him, and carried away a
pretty little picture of a bright-faced girl standing in the sunshine,
which brought out the soft hue of her dress, the fresh color of her
cheeks, the golden gloss of her hair, and made her a prominent figure
in the pleasant scene.
As they came up onto the stone plateau that crowns the hill, Amy waved
her hand as if welcoming him to her favorite haunt, and said, pointing
here and there, "Do you remember the Cathedral and the Corso, the
fishermen dragging their nets in the bay, and the lovely road to Villa
Franca, Schubert's Tower, just below, and best of all, that speck far
out to sea which they say is Corsica?"
"I remember. It's not much changed," he answered without enthusiasm.
"What Jo would give for a sight of that famous speck!" said Amy,
feeling in good spirits and anxious to see him so also.
"Yes," was all he said, but he turned and strained his eyes to see the
island which a greater usurper than even Napoleon now made interesting
in his sight.
"Take a good look at it for her sake, and then come and tell me what
you have been doing with yourself all this while," said Amy, seating
herself, ready for a good talk.
But she did not get it, for though he joined her and answered all her
questions freely, she could only learn that he had roved about the
Continent and been to Greece. So after idling away an hour, they drove
home again, and having paid his respects to Mrs. Carrol, Laurie left
them, promising to return in the evening.
It must be recorded of Amy that she deliberately prinked that night.
Time and absence had done its work on both the young people. She had
seen her old friend in a new light, not as 'our boy', but as a handsome
and agreeable man, and she was conscious of a very natural desire to
find favor in his sight. Amy knew her good points, and made the most
of them with the taste and skill which is a fortune to a poor and
Tarlatan and tulle were cheap at Nice, so she enveloped herself in them
on such occasions, and following the sensible English fashion of simple
dress for young girls, got up charming little toilettes with fresh
flowers, a few trinkets, and all manner of dainty devices, which were
both inexpensive and effective. It must be confessed that the artist
sometimes got possession of the woman, and indulged in antique
coiffures, statuesque attitudes, and classic draperies. But, dear
heart, we all have our little weaknesses, and find it easy to pardon
such in the young, who satisfy our eyes with their comeliness, and keep
our hearts merry with their artless vanities.
"I do want him to think I look well, and tell them so at home," said
Amy to herself, as she put on Flo's old white silk ball dress, and
covered it with a cloud of fresh illusion, out of which her white
shoulders and golden head emerged with a most artistic effect. Her hair
she had the sense to let alone, after gathering up the thick waves and
curls into a Hebe-like knot at the back of her head.
"It's not the fashion, but it's becoming, and I can't afford to make a
fright of myself," she used to say, when advised to frizzle, puff, or
braid, as the latest style commanded.
Having no ornaments fine enough for this important occasion, Amy looped
her fleecy skirts with rosy clusters of azalea, and framed the white
shoulders in delicate green vines. Remembering the painted boots, she
surveyed her white satin slippers with girlish satisfaction, and
chassed down the room, admiring her aristocratic feet all by herself.
"My new fan just matches my flowers, my gloves fit to a charm, and the
real lace on Aunt's mouchoir gives an air to my whole dress. If I only
had a classical nose and mouth I should be perfectly happy," she said,
surveying herself with a critical eye and a candle in each hand.
In spite of this affliction, she looked unusually gay and graceful as
she glided away. She seldom ran—it did not suit her style, she
thought, for being tall, the stately and Junoesque was more appropriate
than the sportive or piquante. She walked up and down the long saloon
while waiting for Laurie, and once arranged herself under the
chandelier, which had a good effect upon her hair, then she thought
better of it, and went away to the other end of the room, as if ashamed
of the girlish desire to have the first view a propitious one. It so
happened that she could not have done a better thing, for Laurie came
in so quietly she did not hear him, and as she stood at the distant
window, with her head half turned and one hand gathering up her dress,
the slender, white figure against the red curtains was as effective as
a well-placed statue.
"Good evening, Diana!" said Laurie, with the look of satisfaction she
liked to see in his eyes when they rested on her.
"Good evening, Apollo!" she answered, smiling back at him, for he too
looked unusually debonair, and the thought of entering the ballroom on
the arm of such a personable man caused Amy to pity the four plain
Misses Davis from the bottom of her heart.
"Here are your flowers. I arranged them myself, remembering that you
didn't like what Hannah calls a 'sot-bookay'," said Laurie, handing her
a delicate nosegay, in a holder that she had long coveted as she daily
passed it in Cardiglia's window.
"How kind you are!" she exclaimed gratefully. "If I'd known you were
coming I'd have had something ready for you today, though not as pretty
as this, I'm afraid."
"Thank you. It isn't what it should be, but you have improved it," he
added, as she snapped the silver bracelet on her wrist.
"I thought you liked that sort of thing."
"Not from you, it doesn't sound natural, and I like your old bluntness
"I'm glad of it," he answered, with a look of relief, then buttoned her
gloves for her, and asked if his tie was straight, just as he used to
do when they went to parties together at home.
The company assembled in the long salle a manger, that evening, was
such as one sees nowhere but on the Continent. The hospitable
Americans had invited every acquaintance they had in Nice, and having
no prejudice against titles, secured a few to add luster to their
A Russian prince condescended to sit in a corner for an hour and talk
with a massive lady, dressed like Hamlet's mother in black velvet with
a pearl bridle under her chin. A Polish count, aged eighteen, devoted
himself to the ladies, who pronounced him, 'a fascinating dear', and a
German Serene Something, having come to supper alone, roamed vaguely
about, seeking what he might devour. Baron Rothschild's private
secretary, a large-nosed Jew in tight boots, affably beamed upon the
world, as if his master's name crowned him with a golden halo. A stout
Frenchman, who knew the Emperor, came to indulge his mania for dancing,
and Lady de Jones, a British matron, adorned the scene with her little
family of eight. Of course, there were many light-footed,
shrill-voiced American girls, handsome, lifeless-looking English ditto,
and a few plain but piquante French demoiselles, likewise the usual set
of traveling young gentlemen who disported themselves gaily, while
mammas of all nations lined the walls and smiled upon them benignly
when they danced with their daughters.
Any young girl can imagine Amy's state of mind when she 'took the
stage' that night, leaning on Laurie's arm. She knew she looked well,
she loved to dance, she felt that her foot was on her native heath in a
ballroom, and enjoyed the delightful sense of power which comes when
young girls first discover the new and lovely kingdom they are born to
rule by virtue of beauty, youth, and womanhood. She did pity the Davis
girls, who were awkward, plain, and destitute of escort, except a grim
papa and three grimmer maiden aunts, and she bowed to them in her
friendliest manner as she passed, which was good of her, as it
permitted them to see her dress, and burn with curiosity to know who
her distinguished-looking friend might be. With the first burst of the
band, Amy's color rose, her eyes began to sparkle, and her feet to tap
the floor impatiently, for she danced well and wanted Laurie to know
it. Therefore the shock she received can better be imagined than
described, when he said in a perfectly tranquil tone, "Do you care to
"One usually does at a ball."
Her amazed look and quick answer caused Laurie to repair his error as
fast as possible.
"I meant the first dance. May I have the honor?"
"I can give you one if I put off the Count. He dances devinely, but he
will excuse me, as you are an old friend," said Amy, hoping that the
name would have a good effect, and show Laurie that she was not to be
"Nice little boy, but rather a short Pole to support...
A daughter of the gods,<BR>
Devinely tall, and most devinely fair,"<BR>
was all the satisfaction she got, however.
The set in which they found themselves was composed of English, and Amy
was compelled to walk decorously through a cotillion, feeling all the
while as if she could dance the tarantella with relish. Laurie
resigned her to the 'nice little boy', and went to do his duty to Flo,
without securing Amy for the joys to come, which reprehensible want of
forethought was properly punished, for she immediately engaged herself
till supper, meaning to relent if he then gave any signs penitence. She
showed him her ball book with demure satisfaction when he strolled
instead of rushed up to claim her for the next, a glorious polka
redowa. But his polite regrets didn't impose upon her, and when she
galloped away with the Count, she saw Laurie sit down by her aunt with
an actual expression of relief.
That was unpardonable, and Amy took no more notice of him for a long
while, except a word now and then when she came to her chaperon between
the dances for a necessary pin or a moment's rest. Her anger had a
good effect, however, for she hid it under a smiling face, and seemed
unusually blithe and brilliant. Laurie's eyes followed her with
pleasure, for she neither romped nor sauntered, but danced with spirit
and grace, making the delightsome pastime what it should be. He very
naturally fell to studying her from this new point of view, and before
the evening was half over, had decided that 'little Amy was going to
make a very charming woman'.
It was a lively scene, for soon the spirit of the social season took
possession of everyone, and Christmas merriment made all faces shine,
hearts happy, and heels light. The musicians fiddled, tooted, and
banged as if they enjoyed it, everybody danced who could, and those who
couldn't admired their neighbors with uncommon warmth. The air was
dark with Davises, and many Joneses gamboled like a flock of young
giraffes. The golden secretary darted through the room like a meteor
with a dashing French-woman who carpeted the floor with her pink satin
train. The serene Teuton found the supper-table and was happy, eating
steadily through the bill of fare, and dismayed the garcons by the
ravages he committed. But the Emperor's friend covered himself with
glory, for he danced everything, whether he knew it or not, and
introduced impromptu pirouettes when the figures bewildered him. The
boyish abandon of that stout man was charming to behold, for though he
'carried weight', he danced like an India-rubber ball. He ran, he
flew, he pranced, his face glowed, his bald head shown, his coattails
waved wildly, his pumps actually twinkled in the air, and when the
music stopped, he wiped the drops from his brow, and beamed upon his
fellow men like a French Pickwick without glasses.
Amy and her Pole distinguished themselves by equal enthusiasm but more
graceful agility, and Laurie found himself involuntarily keeping time
to the rhythmic rise and fall of the white slippers as they flew by as
indefatigably as if winged. When little Vladimir finally relinquished
her, with assurances that he was 'desolated to leave so early', she was
ready to rest, and see how her recreant knight had borne his punishment.
It had been successful, for at three-and-twenty, blighted affections
find a balm in friendly society, and young nerves will thrill, young
blood dance, and healthy young spirits rise, when subjected to the
enchantment of beauty, light, music, and motion. Laurie had a waked-up
look as he rose to give her his seat, and when he hurried away to bring
her some supper, she said to herself, with a satisfied smile, "Ah, I
thought that would do him good!"
"You look like Balzac's '<I>Femme Peinte Par Elle-Meme</I>'," he said, as he
fanned her with one hand and held her coffee cup in the other.
"My rouge won't come off." and Amy rubbed her brilliant cheek, and
showed him her white glove with a sober simplicity that made him laugh
"What do you call this stuff?" he asked, touching a fold of her dress
that had blown over his knee.
"Good name for it. It's very pretty—new thing, isn't it?"
"It's as old as the hills. You have seen it on dozens of girls, and
you never found out that it was pretty till now—stupide!"
"I never saw it on you before, which accounts for the mistake, you see."
"None of that, it is forbidden. I'd rather take coffee than
compliments just now. No, don't lounge, it makes me nervous."
Laurie sat bold upright, and meekly took her empty plate feeling an odd
sort of pleasure in having 'little Amy' order him about, for she had
lost her shyness now, and felt an irrestible desire to trample on him,
as girls have a delightful way of doing when lords of creation show any
signs of subjection.
"Where did you learn all this sort of thing?" he asked with a quizzical
"As 'this sort of thing' is rather a vague expression, would you kindly
explain?" returned Amy, knowing perfectly well what he meant, but
wickedly leaving him to describe what is indescribable.
"Well—the general air, the style, the self-possession,
the—the—illusion—you know", laughed Laurie, breaking down and
helping himself out of his quandary with the new word.
Amy was gratified, but of course didn't show it, and demurely answered,
"Foreign life polishes one in spite of one's self. I study as well as
play, and as for this"—with a little gesture toward her dress—"why,
tulle is cheap, posies to be had for nothing, and I am used to making
the most of my poor little things."
Amy rather regretted that last sentence, fearing it wasn't in good
taste, but Laurie liked her better for it, and found himself both
admiring and respecting the brave patience that made the most of
opportunity, and the cheerful spirit that covered poverty with flowers.
Amy did not know why he looked at her so kindly, nor why he filled up
her book with his own name, and devoted himself to her for the rest of
the evening in the most delightful manner; but the impulse that wrought
this agreeable change was the result of one of the new impressions
which both of them were unconsciously giving and receiving.