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The Register   By: (1837-1920)

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This etext was produced from the 1911 Houghton Mifflin Company edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

THE REGISTER

by William D. Howells

I.

SCENE: In an upper chamber of a boarding house in Melanchthon Place, Boston, a mature, plain young lady, with every appearance of establishing herself in the room for the first time, moves about, bestowing little touches of decoration here and there, and talking with another young lady, whose voice comes through the open doorway of an inner room.

MISS ETHEL REED, from within: "What in the world are you doing, Nettie?"

MISS HENRIETTA SPAULDING: "Oh, sticking up a household god or two. What are you doing?"

MISS REED: "Despairing."

MISS SPAULDING: "Still?"

MISS REED, tragically: "Still! How soon did you expect me to stop? I am here on the sofa, where I flung myself two hours ago, and I don't think I shall ever get up. There is no reason WHY I ever should."

MISS SPAULDING, suggestively: "Dinner."

MISS REED: "Oh, dinner! Dinner, to a broken heart!"

MISS SPAULDING: "I don't believe your heart is broken."

MISS REED: "But I tell you it is! I ought to know when my own heart is broken, I should hope. What makes you think it isn't?"

MISS SPAULDING: "Oh, it's happened so often!"

MISS REED: "But this is a real case. You ought to feel my forehead. It's as hot!"

MISS SPAULDING: "You ought to get up and help me put this room to rights, and then you would feel better."

MISS REED: "No; I should feel worse. The idea of household gods makes me sick. Sylvan deities are what I want; the great god Pan among the cat tails and arrow heads in the 'ma'sh' at Ponkwasset; the dryads of the birch woods there are no oaks; the nymphs that haunt the heights and hollows of the dear old mountain; the"

MISS SPAULDING: "Wha a at? I can't hear a word you say."

MISS REED: "That's because you keep fussing about so. Why don't you be quiet, if you want to hear?" She lifts her voice to its highest pitch, with a pause for distinctness between the words: "I'm heart broken for Ponkwasset. The dryads of the birch woods. The nymphs and the great god Pan in the reeds by the river. And all that sort of thing!"

MISS SPAULDING: "You know very well you're not."

MISS REED: "I'm not? What's the reason I'm not? Then, what am I heart broken for?"

MISS SPAULDING: "You're not heart broken at all. You know very well that he'll call before we've been here twenty four hours."

MISS REED: "Who?"

MISS SPAULDING: "The great god Pan."

MISS REED: "Oh, how cruel you are, to mock me so! Come in here, and sympathize a little! Do, Nettie."

MISS SPAULDING: "No; you come out here and utilize a little. I'm acting for your best good, as they say at Ponkwasset."

MISS REED: "When they want to be disagreeable!"

MISS SPAULDING: "If this room isn't in order by the time he calls, you'll be everlastingly disgraced."

MISS REED: "I'm that now. I can't be more so there's that comfort. What makes you think he'll call?"

MISS SPAULDING: "Because he's a gentleman, and will want to apologize. He behaved very rudely to you."

MISS REED: "No, Nettie; I behaved rudely to HIM. Yes! Besides, if he behaved rudely, he was no gentleman. It's a contradiction in terms, don't you see? But I'll tell you what I'm going to do if he comes. I'm going to show a proper spirit for once in my life. I'm going to refuse to see him. You've got to see him."

MISS SPAULDING: "Nonsense!"

MISS REED: "Why nonsense? Oh, why? Expound!"

MISS SPAULDING: "Because he wasn't rude to me, and he doesn't want to see me. Because I'm plain, and you're pretty."

MISS REED: "I'm NOT! You know it perfectly well. I'm hideous."

MISS SPAULDING: "Because I'm poor, and you're a person of independent property."

MISS REED: "DEPENDENT property, I should call it: just enough to be useless on! But that's insulting to HIM. How can you say it's because I have a little money?"

MISS SPAULDING: "Well, then, I won't... Continue reading book >>




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