WHILE we waited for dinner in the parlor at Mrs. Marlow's, we felt ourselves becoming saturated with the combined odor of boiling and frying fish. I believe the wise men have decided that fish does not particularly nourish brain any more. In that case, the people who live at the shore, and eat fish because they must eat something, have very little compensation now, while in the past they could console themselves by thinking of the growth of their brains. Still, the theory at present being promulgated by psychical research, that if you concentrate your mind in the determination that you are well, why, then, you are well, may be of use in the case of people residing by the sea and compelled to subsist on fish. Let them focus their minds on these two assertions: "I like fish as food," and "Fish makes my brain larger," and these assertions will become facts in these individual cases.

My friend and I unconsciously fell into such talk as this when we had taken five meals at Mrs. Marlow's, on the edge of the ma'sh. We talked in this way that we might strengthen our endurance of our bill of fare. For breakfast we had griddle cakes, which Mr. Simms called flannel cakes, and which his widowed sister, Mrs. Waters, pronounced flan-nel, with a strong accent on the last syllable. Mrs. Waters might have been educated, or at least "finished," by Mrs. General, of "prunes and prisms" fame, if judged from her way of speaking. She wished to convey the belief that she had a good deal of money, but it was difficult to explain why a person of large means should choose to come every season and board at Mrs. Marlow's. In her personal appearance she was so shiny and neat that it almost made an ordinary mortal feel dirty to look at her, the contrast was so strong. She twiddled her knife and fork in such a fine sort of a way that it was a wonder she had opportunity really to eat anything; she never lifted her cup or her teaspoon to her lips without sticking her little finger out nearly straight. I think this attitude of the hand is an unfailing sign that the person is "genteel." She did not enunciate very clearly, but she accented common words in a variety of remarkable ways, thus revealing her gentility still more. She had a son in France. He had gone in behalf of a wholesale dry-goods house with which he was connected. She talked a great deal about my son Francis, stress of tone on the last syllable. She had always just had a letter from him, or was momentarily expecting one. Francis was already thirty-five years of age, and he had never married. This she told us while we were waiting for our second meal at this house. She came into the parlor a moment after we had arrived. When she announced this bachelor condition of her son we both said, "Indeed," and put on that inane look of interest which we may have seen on the faces of people to whom we have been talking. We saw how clean she was; we saw that there was not a hair out of place, either in her own tresses or the frizzed front she wore; naturally we felt how tumbled and dusty we were.

She was knitting some very wide edging with some very fine cotton; this work she carried in an unwrinkled, large white handkerchief.

"No, he does not marry," she said. "He is too fastidious. I have often told him that he must not expect to find any one absolutely perfect. When I say that, he always replies, 'But we cannot help looking for perfection.' "

Here I rose, and went and examined the cigar-fish on the wall, and Carlos asked if Mr. Waters were in Paris.

"He is there with great frequency," was the answer. Then Mrs. Waters added, as if her duty forced her, "He never says Paris; he always says Par-ee."

Carlos murmured something to the effect that we Yankees must be pardoned if we continued to say Paris. I do not know how much more instruction we might have received had not the bell for supper sounded then. For supper we always had two kinds of pie and some variety of "preserve;" often this latter was made of the wild beach plum. We had cold bread also, and hot biscuit frequently. I say always, for we came to know correctly what " Mis' Marlow's victuals was." These victuals were rather famous; among the natives here Mrs. Marlow was described as a woman who "set a mighty good table." The food was abundant, but the " hearty kind," as they called it, was served with a good deal of fat pork. All kinds of fresh fish were dipped in Indian meal and fried in pork; the chowders were made on a foundation of fried pork which was sizzling in the bottom of a large boiler, and the potatoes and chunks of fish added to it, with a proportion of water and milk. We wished they would sometimes simply boil a cod or a " haddick," and let us eat it with butter, but that way of cooking seemed never thought of. Lobster was invariably on the table, even at supper. Lobster warm from the boiling is, as I may have said before, delicious. But even the ambrosia of Jupiter would pall upon the palate if placed before one three times a day. And there were clams. When we had a clam dinner we had nothing else; but we had clams fried, boiled "plain,"--and in this latter way they were very plain indeed,--and clam chowder. I have heard it said authoritatively that there is no nourishment in clams. I am not prepared to give my opinion on that assertion, but I can state from actual experience that there is a vast amount of indigestibility in clams. If you are liable to attacks of dyspepsia, avoid clams.

I speak in this comprehensive manner about Mrs. Marlow's table because our kerosene stove did not arrive, and we took our meals there for several days longer than we had expected to be obliged to do. Either the expressman to whom we had sent to bring the stove did not get our message, or he did not think it worth while to obey it at present. It almost began to seem as if Marsh Yates had cast a spell over us, and that we should never succeed in really accomplishing anything we intended.

We spend a large part of our time either in going to our meals or coming from them. As the path we are obliged to follow is over very heavy, deep sand, which seems to pull us back constantly, we get a great deal of exercise, and that is undoubtedly good for us. This exercise and the delightful salt air make it possible for us to devour things in the way of food that amaze us when we come to think of them. We are not much more particular than our mastiff, who, I should have said before, is a " mealer" also; only he is left on guard at the tent, and when we return we bring him a confused mixture of chowder and fried fish in a tin pail.

During the small portion of time when we are not somewhere between our tent and Mrs. Marlow's we are usually asleep. This is not a highly stimulated mental life, but it is a state which makes such a life possible in the future.

Sometimes we are awake long enough to say to each other that the ocean is superb to-day, or the water is sullen to-night; or we wish we could remember what it was that Byron said to the sea. We confidently expect to come out of this stupor and be sentimental about our life by the restless waters. At present, however, we live only to eat and sleep. Our life and the life of Max appear to be on a level, so far as one can judge; save that Max has the duty of watching to perform, and we appear to have no duties.

I was going to speak of Mr. Simms, for he has been in my mind ever since our first meal with him. He has never been married: whether from fastidiousness, as in the case of his nephew, I do not know. He is habitually, as Mrs. Marlow confided to me, not only as "blue as a whetstone," but as "down to the heel as a bootjack." Having told us this, she further said it was a case of the "wust kind of dyspepsy,--that kind where a man eats like a hog, but is thin as a rail."

Our own observation had confirmed the truth of this last remark. Mr. Simms was a great eater, and he was long and lank, with a very small head, shaved face, and closely cropped hair. He never smiled. While at table he was too busy to smile, and when not at table I suspect he was too much occupied in watching to discover if what he had eaten was going to "disagree with him." "But for," said Mrs. Marlow once, when out of patience, "one thing agrees with him jest as well as another. I do believe his stummick wouldn't know the difference between an egg and a flat-iron."

"What my brother needs is cheerful society," said Mrs. Waters to us on the third day, just as we were preparing to go over the sand after our dinner." I wish you ladies would come into the parlor a few minutes and converse."

"Yes," said Mrs. Marlow from the entry, " do go in and chipper up Mr. Simms. He wants chipperin',--that's what he wants."

Mrs. Waters continued to urge us, until we went in, feeling vague longings that we might successfully chipper him up, and vague rebellious feelings against being made to do so in this way. I had also a fleeting thought that I was like a monkey sent in to caper before a sick child. If you have ever been bidden to converse, you know how impossible it immediately seems to utter a word.

Mr. Simms was sitting in the only comfortable chair in the room. Of course he kept the chair. Carlos, who has a flow of words upon occasion and can be amusing, was soon telling some ludicrous phase of our experience since we came to the South Shore. Mrs. Waters laughed and I laughed, but Mr. Simms did not relax a muscle of his face. The moment Carlos ceased speaking, he turned to his sister and said:--

"Sarah, I think from the way my liver feels that the lobster for dinner was caught a little, just a little, too young. I should not be one particle surprised if I had nightmare to-night."

After this remark there was a short silence, soon broken by Mrs. Waters anxiously advising a certain powder which the doctor had ordered for incubus. I don't think she thought nightmare a strictly proper word for a lady to use, though permissible for a gentleman.

When we had got ourselves out of the room, my friend said that she didn't know as she cared if Mr. Simms had incubus quite often. She did n't know but she hoped he would have incubus hard that very night. And she expressed a resolve that, if she lived to be a hundred years old, she would never again try to chipper up Mr. Simms.


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