CHAPTER I. SPILLED OUT.
Sylvie Argenter was driving about in her mother's little basket-phæton.
There was a story about this little basket-phæton, a story, and a bit of domestic diplomacy.
The story would branch away, back and forward; which I cannot, right here in this first page, let it do. It would tell—taking the little carriage for a text and key—ever so much about aims and ways and principles, and the drift of a household life, which was one of the busy little currents in the world that help to make up its great universal character and atmosphere, at this present age of things, as the drifts and sweeps of ocean make up the climates and atmospheres that wrap and influence the planet.
But the diplomacy had been this:—
"There is one thing, Argie, I should really like Sylvie to have. It is getting to be almost a necessity, living out of town as we do."
Mr. Argenter's other names were "Increase Muchmore;" but his wife passed over all that, and called him in the grace of conjugal intimacy, "Argie."
Increase Muchmore Argenter.
A curious combination; but you need not say it could not have happened. I have read half a dozen as funny combinations in a single advertising page of a newspaper, or in a single transit of the city in a horse-car.
It did not happen altogether without a purpose, either. Mr. Argenter's father had been fond of money; had made and saved a considerable sum himself; and always meant that his son should make and save a good deal more. So he signified this in his cradle and gave him what he called a lucky name, to begin with. The wife of the elder Mr. Argenter had been a Muchmore; her only brother had been named Increase, either out of oddity, such as influenced a certain Mr. Crabtree whom I have heard of, to call his son Agreen, or because the old Puritan name had been in the family, or with a like original inspiration of luck and thrift to that which influenced the later christening, if you can call it such; and now, therefore, resulted Increase Muchmore Argenter. The father hung, as it were, a charm around his son's neck, as Catholics do, giving saints' names to their children. But young Increase found it, in his earlier years, rather of the nature of a millstone. It was a good while, for instance, before Miss Maria Thorndike could make up her mind to take upon herself such a title. She did not much mind it now. "I.M. Argenter" was such a good signature at the bottom of a check; and the surname was quite musical and elegant. "Mrs. Argenter" was all she had put upon her cards. There was no other Mrs. Argenter to be confounded with. The name stood by itself in the Directory. All the rest of the Argenters were away down in Maine in Poggowantimoc.
"Living out of town as we do." Mrs. Argenter always put that in. It was the nut that fastened all her screws of argument.
"Away out here as we are, we must keep an expert cook, you know; we can't send out for bread and cake, and salads and soups, on an emergency, as we did in town." "We must have a seamstress in the house the year round; it is such a bother driving about a ten-mile circuit after one in a hurry;" and now,—"Sylvie ought to have a little vehicle of her own, she is so far away from all her friends; no running in and out and making little daily plans, as girls do in a neighborhood....