"My daughter, Major Hawkins--come home to mourn; flown home at the call of affliction to help the authors of her being bear the burden of bereavement. She was very fond of the late earl--idolized him, sir, idolized him--"

"Why, father, I've never seen him."

"True--she's right, I was thinking of another--er--of her mother--"

"I idolized that smoked haddock?--that sentimental, spiritless--"

"I was thinking of myself! Poor noble fellow, we were inseparable com--"

"Hear the man! Mulberry Sel--Mul--Rossmore--hang the troublesome name I can never--if I've heard you say once, I've heard you say a thousand times that if that poor sheep--"

"I was thinking of--of--I don't know who I was thinking of, and it doesn't make any difference anyway; somebody idolized him, I recollect it as if it were yesterday; and--"

"Father, I am going to shake hands with Major Hawkins, and let the introduction work along and catch up at its leisure. I remember you very well in deed, Major Hawkins, although I was a little child when I saw you last; and I am very, very glad indeed to see you again and have you in our house as one of us;" and beaming in his face she finished her cordial shake with the hope that he had not forgotten her.

He was prodigiously pleased by her outspoken heartiness, and wanted to repay her by assuring her that he remembered her, and not only that but better even than he remembered his own children, but the facts would not quite warrant this; still, he stumbled through a tangled sentence which answered just as well, since the purport of it was an awkward and unintentional confession that her extraordinary beauty had so stupefied him that he hadn't got back to his bearings, yet, and therefore couldn't be certain as to whether he remembered her at all or not. The speech made him her friend; it couldn't well help it.

In truth the beauty of this fair creature was of a rare type, and may well excuse a moment of our time spent in its consideration. It did not consist in the fact that she had eyes, nose, mouth, chin, hair, ears, it consisted in their arrangement. In true beauty, more depends upon right location and judicious distribution of feature than upon multiplicity of them. So also as regards color. The very combination of colors which in a volcanic irruption would add beauty to a landscape might detach it from a girl. Such was Gwendolen Sellers.

The family circle being completed by Gwendolen's arrival, it was decreed that the official mourning should now begin; that it should begin at six o'clock every evening, (the dinner hour,) and end with the dinner.

"It's a grand old line, major, a sublime old line, and deserves to be mourned for, almost royally; almost imperially, I may say. Er--Lady Gwendolen--but she's gone; never mind; I wanted my Peerage; I'll fetch it myself, presently, and show you a thing or two that will give you a realizing idea of what our house is. I've been glancing through Burke, and I find that of William the Conqueror's sixty-four natural ah-- my dear, would you mind getting me that book? It's on the escritoire in our boudoir. Yes, as I was saying, there's only St. Albans, Buccleugh and Grafton ahead of us on the list--all the rest of the British nobility are in procession behind us. Ah, thanks, my lady. Now then, we turn to William, and we find--letter for XYZ? Oh, splendid--when'd you get it?"

"Last night; but I was asleep before you came, you were out so late; and when I came to breakfast Miss Gwendolen--well, she knocked everything out of me, you know--"

"Wonderful girl, wonderful; her great origin is detectable in her step, her carriage, her features--but what does he say? Come, this is exciting."

"I haven't read it--er--Rossm--Mr. Rossm--er--"

"M'lord! Just cut it short like that. It's the English way. I'll open it. Ah, now let's see."

A. TO YOU KNOW WHO. Think I know you. Wait ten days. Coming to Washington.

The excitement died out of both men's faces. There was a brooding silence for a while, then the younger one said with a sigh:

"Why, we can't wait ten days for the money."

"No--the man's unreasonable; we are down to the bed rock, financially speaking."

"If we could explain to him in some way, that we are so situated that time is of the utmost importance to us--"

"Yes--yes, that's it--and so if it would be as convenient for him to come at once it would be a great accommodation to us, and one which we--which we--which we--wh--well, which we should sincerely appreciate--"

"That's it--and most gladly reciprocate--"

"Certainly--that'll fetch him.

The American Claimant Page 17

Mark Twain

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