Sarah Walker by Bret Harte
It was very hot. Not a breath of air was stirring throughout the
western wing of the Greyport Hotel, and the usual feverish life of its
four hundred inmates had succumbed to the weather. The great veranda
was deserted; the corridors were desolated; no footfall echoed in the
passages; the lazy rustle of a wandering skirt, or a passing sigh that
was half a pant, seemed to intensify the heated silence. An intoxicated
bee, disgracefully unsteady in wing and leg, who had been holding an
inebriated conversation with himself in the corner of my window pane,
had gone to sleep at last and was snoring. The errant prince might have
entered the slumberous halls unchallenged, and walked into any of the
darkened rooms whose open doors gaped for more air, without awakening
the veriest Greyport flirt with his salutation. At times a drowsy
voice, a lazily interjected sentence, an incoherent protest, a
long-drawn phrase of saccharine tenuity suddenly broke off with a gasp,
came vaguely to the ear, as if indicating a half-suspended,
half-articulated existence somewhere, but not definite enough to
indicate conversation. In the midst of this, there was the sudden
crying of a child.
I looked up from my work. Through the camera of my jealously guarded
window I could catch a glimpse of the vivid, quivering blue of the sky,
the glittering intensity of the ocean, the long motionless leaves of
the horse-chestnut in the road,—all utterly inconsistent with
anything as active as this lamentation. I stepped to the open door and
into the silent hall.
Apparently the noise had attracted the equal attention of my
neighbors. A vague chorus of "Sarah Walker," in querulous recognition,
of "O Lord! that child again!" in hopeless protest, rose faintly from
the different rooms. As the lamentations seemed to approach nearer, the
visitors' doors were successively shut, swift footsteps hurried along
the hall; past my open door came a momentary vision of a heated
nursemaid carrying a tumultuous chaos of frilled skirts, flying sash,
rebellious slippers, and tossing curls; there was a moment's rallying
struggle before the room nearly opposite mine, and then a door opened
and shut upon the vision. It was Sarah Walker!
Everybody knew her; few had ever seen more of her than this passing
vision. In the great hall, in the dining-room, in the vast parlors, in
the garden, in the avenue, on the beach, a sound of lamentation had
always been followed by this same brief apparition. Was there a sudden
pause among the dancers and a subjugation of the loudest bassoons in
the early evening "hop," the explanation was given in the words "Sarah
Walker." Was there a wild confusion among the morning bathers on the
sands, people whispered "Sarah Walker." A panic among the waiters at
dinner, an interruption in the Sunday sacred concert, a disorganization
of the after-dinner promenade on the veranda, was instantly referred to
Sarah Walker. Nor were her efforts confined entirely to public life. In
cozy corners and darkened recesses, bearded lips withheld the amorous
declaration to mutter "Sarah Walker" between their clenched teeth; coy
and bashful tongues found speech at last in the rapid formulation of
"Sarah Walker." Nobody ever thought of abbreviating her full name. The
two people in the hotel, otherwise individualized, but known only as
"Sarah Walker's father" and "Sarah Walker's mother," and never as Mr.
and Mrs. Walker, addressed her only as "Sarah Walker"; two animals that
were occasionally a part of this passing pageant were known as "Sarah
Walker's dog" and "Sarah Walker's cat," and later it was my proud
privilege to sink my own individuality under the title of "that friend
of Sarah Walker's."
It must not be supposed that she had attained this baleful eminence
without some active criticism. Every parent in the Greyport Hotel had
held his or her theory of the particular defects of Sarah Walker's
education; every virgin and bachelor had openly expressed views of the
peculiar discipline that was necessary to her subjugation. It may be
roughly estimated that she would have spent the entire nine years of
her active life in a dark cupboard on an exclusive diet of bread and
water, had this discipline obtained; while, on the other hand, had the
educational theories of the parental assembly prevailed, she would have
ere this shone an etherealized essence in the angelic host. In either
event she would have "ceased from troubling," which was the general
Greyport idea of higher education. A paper read before our Literary
Society on "Sarah Walker and other infantile diseases," was referred to
in the catalogue as "Walker, Sarah, Prevention and Cure," while the
usual burlesque legislation of our summer season culminated in the Act
entitled "An Act to amend an Act entitled an Act for the abatement of
Sarah Walker." As she was hereafter exclusively to be fed "on the
PROVISIONS of this Act," some idea of its general tone may be gathered.
It was a singular fact in this point of her history that her natural
progenitors not only offered no resistance to the doubtful celebrity of
their offspring, but, by hopelessly accepting the situation, to some
extent POSED as Sarah Walker's victims. Mr. and Mrs. Walker were known
to be rich, respectable, and indulgent to their only child. They
themselves had been evolved from a previous generation of promiscuously
acquired wealth into the repose of inherited property, but it was
currently accepted that Sarah had "cast back" and reincarnated some
waif on the deck of an emigrant ship at the beginning of the
Such was the child separated from me by this portentous history, a
narrow passage, and a closed nursery door. Presently, however, the door
was partly opened again as if to admit the air. The crying had ceased,
but in its place the monotonous Voice of Conscience, for the moment
personated by Sarah Walker's nursemaid, kept alive a drowsy
recollection of Sarah Walker's transgressions.
"You see," said the Voice, "what a dreadful thing it is for a little
girl to go on as you do. I am astonished at you, Sarah Walker. So is
everybody; so is the good ladies next door; so is the kind gentleman
opposite; so is all! Where you expect to go to, 'Evin only knows! How
you expect to be forgiven, saints alone can tell! But so it is always,
and yet you keep it up. And wouldn't you like it different, Sarah
Walker? Wouldn't you like to have everybody love you? Wouldn't you like
them good ladies next door, and that nice gentleman opposite, all to
kinder rise up and say, 'Oh, what a dear good little girl Sarah Walker
is?'" The interpolation of a smacking sound of lips, as if in unctuous
anticipation of Sarah Walker's virtue, here ensued—"Oh, what a
dear, good, sw-e-et, lovely little girl Sarah Walker is!"
There was a dead silence. It may have been fancy, but I thought that
some of the doors in the passage creaked softly as if in listening
expectation. Then the silence was broken by a sigh. Had Sarah Walker
ingloriously succumbed? Rash and impotent conclusion!
"I don't," said Sarah Walker's voice, slowly rising until it broke
on the crest of a mountainous sob,
I—don't want—'em—to say—what
a—dear—good—little girl— Sarah Walker is!" She
caught her breath. "I—want—'em—to say— what a
girl Sarah Walker is—so I do. There!"
The doors slammed all along the passages. The dreadful issue was
joined. I softly crossed the hall and looked into Sarah Walker's
The light from a half-opened shutter fell full upon her rebellious
little figure. She had stiffened herself in a large easy-chair into the
attitude in which she had been evidently deposited there by the nurse
whose torn-off apron she still held rigidly in one hand. Her shapely
legs stood out before her, jointless and inflexible to the point of her
tiny shoes—a POSE copied with pathetic fidelity by the French
doll at her feet. The attitude must have been dreadfully uncomfortable,
and maintained only as being replete with some vague insults to the
person who had put her down, as exhibiting a wild indecorum of silken
stocking. A mystified kitten—Sarah Walker's inseparable—was
held as rigidly under one arm with equal dumb aggressiveness. Following
the stiff line of her half-recumbent figure, her head suddenly appeared
perpendicularly erect—yet the only mobile part of her body. A
dazzling sunburst of silky hair, the color of burnished copper, partly
hid her neck and shoulders and the back of the chair. Her eyes were a
darker shade of the same color—the orbits appearing deeper and
larger from the rubbing in of habitual tears from long wet lashes.
Nothing so far seemed inconsistent with her infelix reputation, but,
strange to say, her other features were marked by delicacy and
refinement, and her mouth—that sorely exercised and justly
dreaded member—was small and pretty, albeit slightly dropped at
The immediate effect of my intrusion was limited solely to the
nursemaid. Swooping suddenly upon Sarah Walker's too evident
deshabille, she made two or three attempts to pluck her into propriety;
but the child, recognizing the cause as well as the effect, looked
askance at me and only stiffened herself the more. "Sarah Walker, I'm
"It ain't HIS room anyway," said Sarah, eying me malevolently.
"What's he doing here?"
There was so much truth in this that I involuntarily drew back
abashed. The nurse-maid ejaculated "Sarah!" and lifted her eyes in
"And he needn't come seeing YOU," continued Sarah, lazily rubbing
the back of her head against the chair; "my papa don't allow it. He
warned you 'bout the other gentleman, you know."
I felt it was necessary to say something. "Don't you want to come
with me and look at the sea?" I said with utter feebleness of
invention. To my surprise, instead of actively assaulting me Sarah
Walker got up, shook her hair over her shoulders, and took my hand.
"With your hair in that state?" almost screamed the domestic. But
Sarah Walker had already pulled me into the hall. What particularly
offensive form of opposition to authority was implied in this prompt
assent to my proposal I could only darkly guess. For myself I knew I
must appear to her a weak impostor. What would there possibly be in the
sea to interest Sarah Walker? For the moment I prayed for a
water-spout, a shipwreck, a whale, or any marine miracle to astound her
and redeem my character. I walked guiltily down the hall, holding her
hand bashfully in mine. I noticed that her breast began to heave
convulsively; if she cried I knew I should mingle my tears with hers.
We reached the veranda in gloomy silence. As I expected, the sea lay
before us glittering in the sun—vacant, staring, flat, and
hopelessly and unquestionably uninteresting.
"I knew it all along," said Sarah Walker, turning down the corners
of her mouth; "there never was anything to see. I know why you got me
to come here. You want to tell me if I'm a good girl you'll take me to
sail some day. You want to say if I'm bad the sea will swallow me up.
That's all you want, you horrid thing, you!"
"Hush!" I said, pointing to the corner of the veranda.
A desperate idea of escape had just seized me. Bolt upright in the
recess of a window sat a nursemaid who had succumbed to sleep equally
with her helpless charge in the perambulator beside her. I instantly
recognized the infant—a popular organism known as "Baby
Buckly"—the prodigy of the Greyport Hotel, the pet of its
enthusiastic womanhood. Fat and featureless, pink and pincushiony, it
was borrowed by gushing maidenhood, exchanged by idiotic maternity, and
had grown unctuous and tumefacient under the kisses and embraces of
half the hotel. Even in its present repose it looked moist and shiny
from indiscriminate and promiscuous osculation.
"Let's borrow Baby Buckly," I said recklessly.
Sarah Walker at once stopped crying. I don't know how she did it,
but the cessation was instantaneous, as if she had turned off a tap
"And put it in Mr. Peters' bed!" I continued.
Peters being notoriously a grim bachelor, the bare suggestion
bristled with outrage. Sarah Walker's eyes sparkled.
"You don't mean it!—go 'way!"—she said with affected
"But I do! Come."
We extracted it noiselessly together—that is, Sarah Walker
did, with deft womanliness—carried it darkly along the hall to
No. 27, and deposited it in Peters' bed, where it lay like a freshly
opened oyster. We then returned hand in hand to my room, where we
looked out of the window on the sea. It was observable that there was
no lack of interest in Sarah Walker now.
Before five minutes had elapsed some one breathlessly passed the
open door while we were still engaged in marine observation. This was
followed by return footsteps and a succession of swiftly rustling
garments, until the majority of the women in our wing had apparently
passed our room, and we saw an irregular stream of nursemaids and
mothers converging towards the hotel out of the grateful shadow of
arbors, trees, and marquees. In fact we were still engaged in
observation when Sarah Walker's nurse came to fetch her away, and to
inform her that "by rights" Baby Buckly's nurse and Mr. Peters should
both be made to leave the hotel that very night. Sarah Walker permitted
herself to be led off with dry but expressive eyes. That evening she
did not cry, but, on being taken into the usual custody for
disturbance, was found to be purple with suppressed laughter.
This was the beginning of my intimacy with Sarah Walker. But while
it was evident that whatever influence I obtained over her was due to
my being particeps criminis, I think it was accepted that a regular
abduction of infants might become in time monotonous if not dangerous.
So she was satisfied with the knowledge that I could not now, without
the most glaring hypocrisy, obtrude a moral superiority upon her. I do
not think she would have turned state evidence and accused me, but I
was by no means assured of her disinterested regard. She contented
herself, for a few days afterwards, with meeting me privately and
mysteriously communicating unctuous reminiscences of our joint crime,
without suggesting a repetition. Her intimacy with me did not seem to
interfere with her general relations to her own species in the other
children in the hotel. Perhaps I should have said before that her
popularity with them was by no means prejudiced by her infelix
reputation. But while she was secretly admired by all, she had few
professed followers and no regular associates. Whether the few whom she
selected for that baleful preeminence were either torn from her by
horrified guardians, or came to grief through her dangerous counsels,
or whether she really did not care for them, I could not say. Their
elevation was brief, their retirement unregretted. It was however
permitted me, through felicitous circumstances, to become acquainted
with the probable explanation of her unsociability.
The very hot weather culminated one afternoon in a dead faint of
earth and sea and sky. An Alpine cloudland of snow that had mocked the
upturned eyes of Greyport for hours, began to darken under the folding
shadow of a black and velvety wing. The atmosphere seemed to thicken as
the gloom increased; the lazy dust, thrown up by hurrying feet that
sought a refuge, hung almost motionless in the air. Suddenly it was
blown to the four quarters in one fierce gust that as quickly dispersed
the loungers drooping in shade and cover. For a few seconds the long
avenue was lost in flying clouds of dust, and then was left bare of
life or motion. Raindrops in huge stars and rosettes appeared
noiselessly and magically upon the sidewalks—gouts of moisture
apparently dropped from mid-air. And then the ominous hush
A mile away along the rocks, I turned for shelter into a cavernous
passage of the overhanging cliff, where I could still watch the coming
storm upon the sea. A murmur of voices presently attracted my
attention. I then observed that the passage ended in a kind of open
grotto, where I could dimly discern the little figures of several
children, who, separated from their nurses in the sudden onset of the
storm, had taken refuge there. As the gloom deepened they became silent
again, until the stillness was broken by a familiar voice. There was no
mistaking it.—It was Sarah Walker's. But it was not lifted in
lamentation, it was raised only as if resuming a suspended
"Her name," said Sarah Walker gloomily, "was Kribbles. She was the
only child—of—of orphaned parentage, and fair to see, but
she was bad, and God did not love her. And one day she was separated
from her nurse on a desert island like to this. And then came a
hidgeous thunderstorm. And a great big thunderbolt came galumping after
her. And it ketehed her and rolled all over her—so! and then it
came back and ketched her and rolled her over—so! And when they
came to pick her up there was not so much as THAT left of her. All
"Wasn't there just a little bit of her shoe?" suggested a cautious
"Not a bit," said Sarah Walker firmly. All the other children echoed
"Not a bit," indignantly, in evident gratification at the completeness
of Kribbles' catastrophe. At this moment the surrounding darkness was
suddenly filled with a burst of blue celestial fire; the heavy inky sea
beyond, the black-edged mourning horizon, the gleaming sands, each nook
and corner of the dripping cave, with the frightened faces of the
huddled group of children, started into vivid life for an instant, and
then fell back with a deafening crash into the darkness.
There was a slight sound of whimpering. Sarah Walker apparently
pounced upon the culprit, for it ceased.
"Sniffling 'tracts 'lectricity," she said sententiously.
"But you thaid it wath Dod!" lisped a casuist of seven.
"It's all the same," said Sarah sharply, "and so's asking
This obscure statement was however apparently understood, for the
casuist lapsed into silent security. "Lots of things 'tracts it,"
continued Sarah Walker. "Gold and silver, and metals and knives and
"And pennies most of all! Kribbles was that vain, she used to wear
jewelry and fly in the face of Providence."
"But you thaid—"
"Will you?—There! you hear that?" There was another blinding
flash and bounding roll of thunder along the shore. "I wonder you
didn't ketch it. You would—only I'm here."
All was quiet again, but from certain indications it was evident
that a collection of those dangerous articles that had proved fatal to
the unhappy Kribbles was being taken up. I could hear the clink of
coins and jingle of ornaments. That Sarah herself was the custodian was
presently shown. "But won't the lightning come to you now?" asked a
"No," said Sarah, promptly, "'cause I ain't afraid! Look!"
A frightened protest from the children here ensued, but the next
instant she appeared at the entrance of the grotto and ran down the
rocks towards the sea. Skipping from bowlder to bowlder she reached the
furthest projection of the ledge, now partly submerged by the rising
surf, and then turned half triumphantly, half defiantly, towards the
grotto. The weird phosphorescence of the storm lit up the resolute
little figure standing there, gorgeously bedecked with the chains,
rings, and shiny trinkets of her companions. With a tiny hand raised in
mock defiance of the elements, she seemed to lean confidingly against
the panting breast of the gale, with fluttering skirt and flying
tresses. Then the vault behind her cracked with three jagged burning
fissures, a weird flame leaped upon the sand, there was a cry of terror
from the grotto, echoed by a scream of nurses on the cliff, a deluge of
rain, a terrific onset from the gale—and—Sarah Walker was
gone? Nothing of the kind! When I reached the ledge, after a severe
struggle with the storm, I found Sarah on the leeward side, drenched
but delighted. I held her tightly, while we waited for a lull to regain
the cliff, and took advantage of the sympathetic situation.
"But you know you WERE frightened, Sarah," I whispered; "you thought
of what happened to poor Kribbles."
"Do you know who Kribbles was?" she asked confidentially.
"Well," she whispered, "I made Kribbles up. And the hidgeous storm
and thunderbolt—and the burning! All out of my own head."
The only immediate effect of this escapade was apparently to
precipitate and bring into notoriety the growing affection of an
obscure lover of Sarah Walker's, hitherto unsuspected. He was a mild
inoffensive boy of twelve, known as "Warts," solely from an inordinate
exhibition of these youthful excrescences. On the day of Sarah Walker's
adventure his passion culminated in a sudden and illogical attack upon
Sarah's nurse and parents while they were bewailing her conduct, and in
assaulting them with his feet and hands. Whether he associated them in
some vague way with the cause of her momentary peril, or whether he
only wished to impress her with the touching flattery of a general
imitation of her style, I cannot say. For his lovemaking was peculiar.
A day or two afterwards he came to my open door and remained for some
moments bashfully looking at me. The next day I found him standing by
my chair in the piazza with an embarrassed air and in utter inability
to explain his conduct. At the end of a rapid walk on the sand one
morning, I was startled by the sound of hurried breath, and looking
around, discovered the staggering Warts quite exhausted by endeavoring
to keep up with me on his short legs. At last the daily recurrence of
his haunting presence forced a dreadful suspicion upon me. Warts was
courting ME for Sarah Walker! Yet it was impossible to actually connect
her with these mute attentions. "You want me to give them to Sarah
Walker," I said cheerfully one afternoon, as he laid upon my desk some
peculiarly uninviting crustacea which looked not unlike a few detached
excrescences from his own hands. He shook his head decidedly. "I
understand," I continued, confidently; "you want me to keep them for
her." "No," said Warts, doggedly. "Then you only want me to tell her
how nice they are?" The idea was apparently so shamelessly true that he
blushed himself hastily into the passage, and ceased any future
contribution. Naturally still more ineffective was the slightest
attempt to bring his devotion into the physical presence of Sarah
Walker. The most ingenious schemes to lure him into my room while she
was there failed utterly. Yet he must have at one time basked in her
baleful presence. "Do you like Warts?" I asked her one day bluntly.
"Yes," said Sarah Walker with cheerful directness; "ain't HE got a lot
of 'em?—though he used to have more. But," she added
reflectively, "do you know the little Ilsey boy?" I was compelled to
admit my ignorance. "Well!" she said with a reminiscent sigh of
satisfaction, "HE'S got only two toes on his left foot—showed 'em
to me. And he was born so." Need it be said that in these few words I
read the dismal sequel of Warts' unfortunate attachment? His accidental
eccentricity was no longer attractive. What were his evanescent
accretions, subject to improvement or removal, beside the hereditary
and settled malformations of his rival?
Once only, in this brief summer episode, did Sarah Walker attract
the impulsive and general sympathy of Greyport. It is only just to her
consistency to say it was through no fault of hers, unless a
characteristic exposure which brought on a chill and diphtheria could
be called her own act. Howbeit, towards the close of the season, when a
sudden suggestion of the coming autumn had crept, one knew not how,
into the heart of a perfect day; when even a return of the summer
warmth had a suspicion of hectic,—on one of these days Sarah
Walker was missed with the bees and the butterflies. For two days her
voice had not been heard in hall or corridor, nor had the sunshine of
her French marigold head lit up her familiar places. The two days were
days of relief, yet mitigated with a certain uneasy apprehension of the
return of Sarah Walker, or—more alarming thought!—the Sarah
Walker element in a more appalling form. So strong was this impression
that an unhappy infant who unwittingly broke this interval with his
maiden outcry was nearly lynched. "We're not going to stand that from
YOU, you know," was the crystallized sentiment of a brutal bachelor. In
fact, it began to be admitted that Greyport had been accustomed to
Sarah Walker's ways. In the midst of this, it was suddenly whispered
that Sarah Walker was lying dangerously ill, and was not expected to
Then occurred one of those strange revulsions of human sentiment
which at first seem to point the dawning of a millennium of poetic
justice, but which, in this case, ended in merely stirring the languid
pulses of society into a hectic fever, and in making sympathy for Sarah
Walker an insincere and exaggerated fashion. Morning and afternoon
visits to her apartment, with extravagant offerings, were de rigueur;
bulletins were issued three times a day; an allusion to her condition
was the recognized preliminary to all conversation; advice,
suggestions, and petitions to restore the baleful existence, flowed
readily from the same facile invention that had once proposed its
banishment; until one afternoon the shadow had drawn so close that even
Folly withheld its careless feet before it, and laid down its feeble
tinkling bells and gaudy cap tremblingly on the threshold. But the
sequel must be told in more vivid words than mine.
"Whin I saw that angel lyin' there," said Sarah Walker's nurse, "as
white, if ye plaze, as if the whole blessed blood of her body had gone
to make up the beautiful glory of her hair; speechless as she was, I
thought I saw a sort of longin' in her eyes.
"'Is it anythin' you'll be wantin', Sarah darlint', sez her mother
with a thremblin' voice, 'afore it's lavin' us ye are? Is it the
ministher yer askin' for, love?' sez she.
"And Sarah looked at me, and if it was the last words I spake, her
lips moved and she whispered 'Scotty.'
"'Wirra! wirra!' sez the mother, 'it's wanderin' she is, the
darlin';' for Scotty, don't ye see, was the grand barkeeper of the
"'Savin' yer presence, ma'am,' sez I, 'and the child's here, ez is
half a saint already, it's thruth she's spakin'—it's Scotty she
wants.' And with that my angel blinks wid her black eyes 'yes.'
"'Bring him,' says the docthor, 'at once.'
"And they bring him in wid all the mustachios and moighty fine curls
of him, and his diamonds, rings, and pins all a-glistening just like
his eyes when he set 'em on that suffering saint.
"'Is it anythin' you're wantin,' Sarah dear?' sez he, thryin' to
spake firm. And Sarah looks at him, and then looks at a tumbler on the
"'Is it a bit of a cocktail, the likes of the one I made for ye last
Sunday unbeknownst?' sez he, looking round mortal afraid of the
parents. And Sarah Walker's eyes said, 'It is.' Then the ministher
groaned, but the docthor jumps to his feet.
"'Bring it,' sez he, 'and howld your jaw, an ye's a Christian sowl.'
And he brought it. An' afther the first sip, the child lifts herself up
on one arm, and sez, with a swate smile and a toss of the glass:
"'I looks towards you, Scotty,' sez she.
"'I observes you and bows, miss,' sez he, makin' as if he was
dhrinkin' wid her.
"'Here's another nail in yer coffin, old man,' sez she winkin'.
"'And here's the hair all off your head, miss,' sez he quite aisily,
tossin' back the joke betwixt 'em.
"And with that she dhrinks it off, and lies down and goes to sleep
like a lamb, and wakes up wid de rosy dawn in her cheeks, and the
morthal seekness gone forever."
. . . . . . . . .
Thus Sarah Walker recovered. Whether the fact were essential to the
moral conveyed in these pages, I leave the reader to judge.
I was leaning on the terrace of the Kronprinzen-Hof at Rolandseck
one hot summer afternoon, lazily watching the groups of tourists
strolling along the road that ran between the Hof and the Rhine. There
was certainly little in the place or its atmosphere to recall the
Greyport episode of twenty years before, when I was suddenly startled
by hearing the name of "Sarah Walker."
In the road below me were three figures,—a lady, a gentleman,
and a little girl. As the latter turned towards the lady who addressed
her, I recognized the unmistakable copper-colored tresses, trim figure,
delicate complexion, and refined features of the friend of my youth! I
seized my hat, but by the time I had reached the road, they had
The utter impossibility of its being Sarah Walker herself, and the
glaring fact that the very coincidence of name would be inconsistent
with any conventional descent from the original Sarah, I admit confused
me. But I examined the book of the Kronprinzen- Hof and the other
hotels, and questioned my portier. There was no "Mees" nor "Madame
Walkiere" extant in Rolandseck. Yet might not Monsieur have heard
incorrectly? The Czara Walka was evidently Russian, and Rolandseck was
a resort for Russian princes. But pardon! Did Monsieur really mean the
young demoiselle now approaching? Ah! that was a different affair. She
was the daughter of the Italian Prince and Princess Monte Castello
staying here. The lady with her was not the Princess, but a foreign
friend. The gentleman was the Prince. Would he present Monsieur's
They were entering the hotel. The Prince was a little,
inoffensive-looking man, the lady an evident countrywoman of my own,
and the child—was, yet was NOT, Sarah! There was the face, the
outline, the figure—but the life, the verve, the audacity, was
wanting! I could contain myself no longer.
"Pardon an inquisitive compatriot, madam," I said; "but I heard you
a few moments ago address this young lady by the name of a very dear
young friend, whom I knew twenty years ago—Sarah Walker. Am I
The Prince stopped and gazed at us both with evident affright; then
suddenly recognizing in my freedom some wild American indecorum,
doubtless provoked by the presence of another of my species, which he
really was not expected to countenance, retreated behind the portier.
The circumstance by no means increased the good-will of the lady, as
she replied somewhat haughtily:—
"The Principessina is named Sarah Walker, after her mother's maiden
"Then this IS Sarah Walker's daughter!" I said joyfully.
"She is the daughter of the Prince and Princess of Monte Castello,"
corrected the lady frigidly.
"I had the pleasure of knowing her mother very well." I stopped and
blushed. Did I really know Sarah Walker very well? And would Sarah
Walker know me now? Or would it not be very like her to go back on me?
There was certainly anything but promise in the feeble-minded, vacuous
copy of Sarah before me. I was yet hesitating, when the Prince, who had
possibly received some quieting assurance from the portier, himself
stepped forward, stammered that the Princess would, without doubt, be
charmed to receive me later, and skipped upstairs, leaving the
impression on my mind that he contemplated ordering his bill at once.
There was no excuse for further prolonging the interview. "Say good-by
to the strange gentleman, Sarah," suggested Sarah's companion stiffly.
I looked at the child in the wild hope of recognizing some prompt
resistance to the suggestion that would have identified her with the
lost Sarah of my youth—but in vain. "Good-by, sir, said the
affected little creature, dropping a mechanical curtsey. "Thank you
very much for remembering my mother." "Good-by, Sarah!" It was indeed
For on my way to my room I came suddenly upon the Prince, in a
recess of the upper hall, addressing somebody through an open door with
a querulous protest, whose wild extravagance of statement was
grotesquely balanced by its utter feeble timidity of manner. "It is,"
said the Prince, "indeed a grave affair. We have here hundreds of
socialists, emissaries from lawless countries and impossible places,
who travel thousands of miles to fall upon our hearts and embrace us.
They establish an espionage over us; they haunt our walks in incredible
numbers; they hang in droves upon our footsteps; Heaven alone saves us
from a public osculation at any moment! They openly allege that they
have dandled us on their knees at recent periods; washed and dressed
us, and would do so still. Our happiness, our security—"
"Don't be a fool, Prince. Do shut up!"
The Prince collapsed and shrank away, and I hurried past the open
door. A tall, magnificent-looking woman was standing before a glass,
arranging her heavy red hair. The face, which had been impatiently
turned towards the door, had changed again to profile, with a frown
still visible on the bent brow. Our eyes met as I passed. The next
moment the door slammed, and I had seen the last of Sarah Walker.