THE NICE PEO­PLE

The Borneo Post - Good English - - Front Page - by Henry Cuyler Bun­ner

“THEY cer­tainly are nice peo­ple,” I as­sented to my wife’s ob­ser­va­tion, us­ing the col­lo­quial phrase with a con­scious­ness that it was any­thing but “nice” English, “and I’ll bet that their three chil­dren are bet­ter brought up than most of----”

“Two chil­dren,” cor­rected my wife. “Three, he told me.” “My dear, she said there were two.” “He said three.”

“You’ve sim­ply for­got­ten. I’m sure she told me they had only two--a boy and a girl.”

“Well, I didn’t en­ter into par­tic­u­lars.”

“No, dear, and you couldn’t have un­der­stood him. Two chil­dren.”

“All right,” I said; but I did not think it was all right. As a near-sighted man learns by en­forced ob­ser­va­tion to rec­og­nize per­sons at a dis­tance when the face is not vis­i­ble to the nor­mal eye, so the man with a bad mem­ory learns, al­most un­con­sciously, to lis­ten care­fully and re­port ac­cu­rately. My mem­ory is bad; but I had not had time to for­get that Mr. Brew­ster Brede had told me that af­ter­noon that he had three chil­dren, at present left in the care of his mother-in-law, while he and Mrs. Brede took their sum­mer va­ca­tion.

“Two chil­dren,” re­peated my wife; “and they are stay­ing with his aunt Jenny.”

“He told me with his mother-in-law,” I put in. My wife looked at me with a se­ri­ous ex­pres­sion. Men may not re­mem­ber much of what they are told about chil­dren; but any man knows the dif­fer­ence be­tween an aunt and a mother-in-law.

“But don’t you think they’re nice peo­ple?” asked my wife.

“Oh, cer­tainly,” I replied. “Only they seem to be a little mixed up about their chil­dren.”

“That isn’t a nice thing to say,” re­turned my wife. I could not deny it.

And yet, the next morn­ing, when the Bre­des came down and seated them­selves op­po­site us at ta­ble, beam­ing and smil­ing in their nat­u­ral, pleas­ant, well­bred fashion, I knew, to a so­cial cer­tainty, that they were “nice” peo­ple. He was a fine-look­ing fel­low in his neat ten­nis-flan­nels, slim, grace­ful, twenty-eight or thirty years old, with a Frenchy pointed beard. She was “nice” in all her pretty clothes, and she her­self was pretty with that type of prettiness which out­wears most other types-the prettiness that lies in a rounded fig­ure, a dusky skin, plump, rosy cheeks, white teeth and black eyes. She might have been twenty-five; you guessed that she was pret­tier than she was at twenty, and that she would be pret­tier still at forty.

And nice peo­ple were all we wanted to make us happy in Mr. Ja­cobus’s sum­mer board­ing-house on top of Or­ange Moun­tain. For a week we had come down to break­fast each morn­ing, won­der­ing why we wasted the pre­cious days of idle­ness with the com­pany gath­ered around the Ja­cobus board.

What joy of hu­man com­pan­ion­ship was to be had out of Mrs. Tabb and Miss Hoogen­camp, the two mid­dleaged gos­sips from Scran­ton, Pa.--out of Mr. and Mrs. Big­gle, an in­durated head-book­keeper and his prim and cen­so­ri­ous wife--out of old Ma­jor Halkit, a re­tired busi­ness man, who, hav­ing once sold a few shares on com­mis­sion, wrote for cir­cu­lars of ev­ery stock com­pany that was started, and tried to in­duce ev­ery one to invest who would lis­ten to him? We looked around at those dull faces, the truth­ful in­dices of mean and bar­ren minds, and de­cided that we would leave that morn­ing.

Then we ate Mrs. Ja­cobus’s bis­cuit, light as Aurora’s cloudlets, drank her hon­est cof­fee, in­haled the per­fume of the late aza­leas with which she decked her ta­ble, and de­cided to post­pone our de­par­ture one more day. And then we wan­dered out to take our morn­ing glance at what we called “our view”; and it seemed to us as if Tabb and Hoogen­camp and Halkit and the Big­gle­ses could not drive us away in a year.

I was not sur­prised when, af­ter break­fast, my wife in­vited the Bre­des to walk with us to “our view.” The Hoogen­camp-Big­gle-Tabb-Halkit con­tin­gent never stirred off Ja­cobus’s ve­randa; but we both felt that the Bre­des would not pro­fane that sa­cred scene. We strolled slowly across the fields, passed through the little belt of woods and, as I heard Mrs. Brede’s little cry of star­tled rap­ture, I mo­tioned to Brede to look up.

“By Jove!” he cried, “heav­enly!”

We looked off from the brow of the moun­tain over fif­teen miles of bil­low­ing green, to where, far across a far stretch of pale blue lay a dim pur­ple line that we knew was Staten Is­land. Towns and vil­lages lay be­fore us and un­der us; there were ridges and hills, up­lands and low­lands, woods and plains, all massed and min­gled in that great si­lent sea of sun­lit green.

For si­lent it was to us, stand­ing in the si­lence of a high place--si­lent with a Sun­day still­ness that made us lis­ten, with­out tak­ing thought, for the sound of bells com­ing up from the spires that rose above the tree-tops--the tree­tops that lay as far be­neath us as the light clouds were above us that dropped great shad­ows upon our heads and faint specks of shade upon the broad sweep of land at the moun­tain’s foot.

“And so that is your view?” asked Mrs. Brede, af­ter a mo­ment; “you are very gen­er­ous to make it ours, too.”

Then we lay down on the grass, and Brede be­gan to talk, in a gen­tle voice, as if he felt the in­flu­ence of the place. He had pad­dled a ca­noe, in his ear­lier days, he said, and he knew ev­ery river and creek in that vast stretch of land­scape. He found his land­marks, and pointed out to us where the Pas­saic and the Hack­en­sack flowed, in­vis­i­ble to us, hid­den be­hind great ridges that in our sight were but comb­ings of the green waves upon which we looked down. And yet, on the fur­ther side of those broad ridges and rises were scores of vil­lages--a little world of coun­try life, ly­ing un­seen un­der our eyes.

“A good deal like look­ing at hu­man­ity,” he said; “there is such a thing as get­ting so far above our fel­low men that we see only one side of them.”

Ah, how much bet­ter was this sort of talk than the chat­ter and gos­sip of the Tabb and the Hoogen­camp-than the Ma­jor’s dis­ser­ta­tions upon his ev­er­last­ing cir­cu­lars! My wife and I ex­changed glances.

“Now, when I went up the Mat­ter­horn” Mr. Brede be­gan.

“Why, dear,” in­ter­rupted his wife, “I didn’t know you ever went up the Mat­ter­horn.”

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