"Do you know, Harry," said my wife to me, one evening when I came home to dinner, "I have made a discovery?"

Now, the truth was, that my wife was one of those lively, busy, active, enterprising little women, who are always making incident for themselves and their friends; and it was a regular part of my anticipation, as I plodded home from my office, tired and work-worn, to conjecture what new thing Eva would find to tell me that night. What had she done, or altered, or made up, or arranged, as she always met me full of her subject?

"Well," said I, "what is this great discovery?"

"My dear, I'll tell you. One of those dumb houses in our neighborhood has suddenly become alive to me. I've made an acquaintance."

Now, I knew that my wife was just that social, conversing, conversable creature that, had she been in Robinson Crusoe's island, would have struck up confidential relations with the monkeys and paroquets, rather than not have somebody to talk to. Therefore, I was not in the least surprised, but quite amused, to find that she had begun neighboring in our vicinity.

"You don't tell me," said I, "that you have begun to cultivate acquaintances on this street, so far from the centers of fashion?"

"Well, I have, and found quite a treasure, in at the very next door."

"And pray now, for curiosity's sake, how did you manage it?"

"Well, to tell the truth, Harry, I'm the worst person in the world for keeping up what's called select society; and I never could bear the feeling of not knowing anything about anybody that lives next to me. Why, suppose we should be sick in the night, or anything happen, and we not have a creature to speak to! It seems dreary to think of it. So I was curious to know who lived next door; and I looked down from our chamber-window into the next back-yard, and saw that whoever it was had a right cunning little garden, with nasturtiums and geraniums, and chrysanthemums, and all sorts of pretty things. Well, this morning I saw the sweetest little dove of a Quaker woman, in a gray dress, with a pressed crape cap, moving about as quiet as a chip sparrow among the flowers. And I took quite a fancy to her, and began to think how I should make her acquaintance."

"If that isn't just like you!" said I. "Well, did you run in and fall on her neck?"

"Not exactly. But, you see, we had all our windows open to air the rooms, and my very best pocket handkerchief lay on the bureau. And the wind took it up, and whirled it about, and finally carried it down into that back-yard; and it lit on her geranium bush. 'There, now,' said I to Alice, 'there's a providential opening. I'm just going to run right down and inquire about my pocket handkerchief.' Which I did: I just stepped off from our stoop on to her door-step, and rang the bell. Meanwhile, I saw, on a nice, shining door plate, that the name was Baxter. Well, who should open the door but the brown dove in person, looking just as pretty as a pink in her cap and drab gown. I declare, Harry, I told Alice I'd a great mind to adopt the Quaker costume right away. It's a great deal more becoming than all our finery."

"Well, my dear," said I, "that introduces a large subject; and I want to hear what came next."

"Oh, well, I spoke up, and said, 'Dear Mrs. Baxter, pray excuse me; but I've been so very careless as to lose my handkerchief down in your back-yard.' You ought to have seen the pretty pink color rise in her cheeks; and she said in such a cunning way, 'I'll get it for thee!'

"'Oh, dear, no,' said I, 'don't trouble yourself. Please let me go out into your pretty little garden there.'

"Well, the upshot was, we went into the garden and had a long chat about the flowers. And she picked me quite a bouquet of geraniums. And then I told her all about our little garden, and how I wanted to make things grow in it, and didn't know how; and asked her if she wouldn't teach me. Well, then, she took me into the nicest little drab nest of a parlor that ever you saw. The carpet was drab, and the curtains were drab, and the sofas and chairs were all covered with drab; but the windows were perfectly blazing with flowers. She had most gorgeous nasturtium vines trained all around the windows, and scarlet geraniums that would really make your eyes wink to look at them. I couldn't help laughing a little to myself, that they make it a part of their religion not to have any color, and then fall back upon all these high-colored operations of the Lord by way of brightening up their houses. However, I got a great deal of instruction out of her, and she's going to come in and show me how to arrange my ferns and other things I gathered in the country, in a Ward's case; and she's going to show me, too, how to plant an ivy, so as to have it grow all around this bay-window. The inside of hers is a perfect bower."

"I perceive," said I, "the result of all was that you swore eternal friendship on the spot, just like the Eva that you are."


"And you didn't have the fear of your gentility before your eyes?"

"Not a bit. I always have detested gentility."

"You don't even know the business of her husband."

"But I do, though. He's a watchmaker, and works for Tiffany & Co. I know, because she showed me a curious little clock of his construction; and these things came out in a parenthesis, you see."

"I see the hopeless degradation which this will imply in Aunt Maria's eyes," said I.

"A fig for Aunt Maria, and a fig for the world! I'm married now, and can do as I've a mind to. Besides, you know Quakers are not world's people. They have come out from it, and don't belong to it. There's something really refreshing about this dear little body, with her 'thee's' and her 'thou's' and her nice little ways. And they're young married people, just like us. She's been in this house only a year. But, Harry, she knows everybody on the street,—not in a worldly way, but in the way of her sect. She's made a visitation of Christian love to every one of them. Now, isn't that pretty? She's been to see what she could do for them, and to offer friendship and kind offices. Isn't that sort of Arcadian, now?"

"Well, and what does she tell you?"

"Oh, there are a great many interesting people on this street. I can't tell you all about it now, but some that I think we must try to get acquainted with. In the third story of that house opposite to us is a poor French gentleman, who came to New York a political refugee, hoping to give lessons; but has no faculty for getting along, and his wife, a delicate little woman with a baby, and they're very, very poor. I'm going with her to visit them some time this week. It seems this dear little Ruth was with her when her baby was born,—this dear little Ruth! It struck me so curiously to see how interesting she thinks everybody on this street is."

"Simply," said I, "because she looks at them from the Christian stand-point. Well, dear, I can't but think your new acquaintance is an acquisition."

"And only think, Harry, this nice little person is one of the people that Aunt Maria calls nobody; not rich, not fashionable, not of the world, in short; but just as sweet and lovely and refined as she can be. I think those plain, sincere manners are so charming. It makes you feel so very near to people to have them call you by your Christian name right away. She calls me Eva and I call her Ruth; and I feel somehow as if I must always have known her."

"I want to see her," said I.

"You must. It'll amuse you to have her look at you with her grave, quiet eyes, and call you Harry Henderson. What an effect it has to hear one's simple, common name, without fuss or title!"

"Yes," said I, "I remember how long I called you Eva in my heart, while I was addressing you at arm's length as Miss Van Arsdel."

"It was in the Park, Harry, that we lost the Mr. and Miss, never to find them again."

"I've often thought it strange," said I, "how these unworldly modes of speaking among the Quakers seem to have with them a certain dignity. It would be an offense, a piece of vulgar forwardness, in most people to address you by your Christian name. But, with them it seems to be an attempt at realizing a certain ideal of Christian simplicity and sincerity, which one almost loses sight of in the conventional course of life."

"I was very much amused," said my wife, "at her telling me of one of her visits of Christian love to a Jew family, living on this street. And really, Harry, she has learned an amount of good about the Jews, from cultivating an intimacy with this family, that is quite astonishing. I'd no idea how good the Jews were."

"Well, my little High-Church darling," said I, "you're in a fair way to become ultra-liberal, and to find that what you call the Church doesn't come anywhere near representing the whole multitude of the elect in this world. I comfort myself with thinking, all the time, how much more good there is in the world and in human nature than appears on the surface."

"And, now, Harry, that you and I have this home of our own, we can do some of those things with it that our friends next door seem to be doing. I thought we might stir about and see if we couldn't get up a class for this poor Frenchman, and I'm going to call on his wife. In fact, Harry, I've been thinking that it must be one's own fault if one has no friends in one's neighborhood. I can't believe in living on a street, and never knowing or caring whether your next-door neighbor is sick or dead, simply because you belong to a circle up at the other end of the city."

"Well, dear, you know that I am a democrat by nature. But I am delighted to have you make these discoveries for yourself. It was bad enough, in the view of your friends, presume, for me to have come between you and a fashionable establishment, and a palace on the Park, without being guilty of introducing you into such very mixed society as the course that you're falling into seems to promise. But wherever you go I'll follow."

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