"Miles," she said, "I will say no more of the pearls, no more of my own money, and will prevent all allusion to Rupert's appearing in your behalf, if you will accept the bail I can provide for you. I know a gentleman who will accept my word as his surety, who is rich enough to be received, and who is under a deep obligation to you, for I have often heard him say as much. You may not know how ready he will be to oblige you, but I do; and I now ask you to give me your word; you will not refuse his assistance, even though he should be an utter stranger to you?"
"How is it possible, Lucy, that you can have any knowledge of such a person?"
"Oh! you cannot imagine what a woman of business I am becoming! You would not refuse me for your bail, were I a man and of age, Miles?"
"Certainly not—feeling as I do towards you, Lucy, I would sooner receive such a favour from you, than from any human being. But you are not a man, thank God, nor of age."
"Then promise me the small favour of accepting this service from the person I shall send to you. It would break all our hearts to think you were remaining here in gaol, while we are living in luxury. I will not relinquish your hand, till you give me a promise."
"That look is sufficient, Lucy; I promise all you can ask."
So intense had the feelings of the dear girl become, that she burst into tears, the moment her mind was relieved, and covered her face with both hands. It was but a passing burst of feeling, and a radiant smile soon chased every trace of sorrow from her sweet, sweet countenance.
"Now, Miles, I am certain we shall soon have you out of this horrid place," she cried; "and before the execution they tell us of, can issue, as they call it, we shall have time to make some proper arrangement for you. I shall be of age, by that time; and I can at least become your creditor, instead of that odious Mr. Daggett. You would not hesitate to owe me money, Miles, in preference to him?"
"Dearest Lucy, there is nothing I would not be willing to owe to you, and that in preference to any other living creature, not even excepting your revered and beloved father."
Lucy looked deeply gratified; and I saw another of those inexplicable smiles lurking around her lovely mouth, which almost tempted me to demand an explanation of its meaning. Ere there was time for this, however, her countenance became very, very sad, and she turned her tearful eyes toward me.
"Miles, I fear I understood your allusion, when you spoke of Rupert's money," she said. "I feared poor, sainted Grace would do this; and I knew you would strip yourself of every dollar to comply with her wishes. I wonder the idea never occurred to me before; but it is so hard to think ill of a brother! I ask no questions, for I see you are determined not to answer them—perhaps have given a pledge to your sister to that effect: but we cannot live under this disgrace; and the day I am twenty-one, this grievous, grievous wrong must be repaired. I know that Grace's fortune had accumulated to more than twenty thousand dollars; and that is a sum sufficient to pay all you owe, and to leave you enough to begin the world anew."
"Even were what you fancy true, do you think I would consent to rob you, to pay Rupert's debts?"
"Talk not of robbery. I could not exist under the degradation of thinking any of us had your money, while debt and imprisonment thus hung over you. There is but one thing that can possibly prevent my paying you back Grace's fortune, the day I am of age, as you will see, Miles."
Again that inexplicable smile passed over Lucy's face, and I was resolved to ask its meaning, when the approaching footstep of Mr. Hardinge prevented it.
"Mr. Harrison is not in," cried the divine, as he entered the room; "but I left a note for him, telling him that his old acquaintance, Captain Wallingford, had pressing need of his services. He has gone to Greenwich, to his country place, but will be back in the course of the day, and I have desired he will come to Wall street, the instant he can. I would not blazon your misfortunes, Miles; but the moment he arrives, you shall hear from him. He is an old school-fellow of mine, and will be prompt to oblige me. Now, Miss Lucy, I am about to release you from prison. I saw a certain Mr. Drewett walking in the direction of Wall-street, and had the charity to tell him you would be at home in ten minutes."
Lucy arose with an alacrity I could hardly forgive. The colour deepened on her face, and I thought she even hurried her father away, in a manner that was scarcely sufficiently reserved. Ere they left the room, however, the dear girl took an opportunity to say, in a low voice, "Remember, Miles, I hold you strictly to your promise: in one hour, you shall be free."
"She half-enclosed me in her arms, She pressed me with a meek embrace; And bending back her head, looked up And gazed upon my face."
I saw no one for the next two hours. A window of the parlour, where I was permitted to remain, overlooked the soi-disant park—or rather Manhattan-disant—and it was not long before I caught a glimpse of my mate and Neb, lying off and on, or blockading the jail, lest I should be secretly carried to parts unknown, or some other great evil should approach me from without. What these two honest and affectionate fellows meant by thus maintaining their post, I did not know, it is true; but such was my conjecture. At length Neb disappeared, and was absent an hour. When he retained, he had a coil of rope over his shoulder, when the two took a station at a safe distance from my prison, and began to measure off fathoms, to cut, knot and splice. I was amused with their diligence, which made no abatement until it was interrupted by myself. Of the manner in which that was effected I shall have occasion to speak presently.
About two hours after I was left by Lucy and her father, a keeper came to announce another visitor. I was expecting my own attorney or Mr. Harrison; but the reader will judge of my surprise when Andrew Drewett entered the room. He was accompanied by the jailer, who held a letter in his hand, and who astounded me by saying—
"Captain Wallingford, I have instructions here to open the door for you—bail has been entered."
The jailer disappeared.
"And this I owe to you, Mr. Drewett!"
"I wish I could say as much, with all my heart, my dear sir," Andrew replied, taking my hand, and giving it a warm, cordial shake; "but it would not be strictly true. After saving my life, I should not have suffered you to lie in jail for want of so small a favour as giving bail for your appearance in court, certainly; but would, and will, gladly be your special bail, at the proper time. Let the credit fall, however, only where it is due. Miss Hardinge asked me to obtain your release, and her wishes are second only to my own gratitude."
This was said in a frank, manly manner; and I wondered I had never viewed Andrew Drewett in a light so favourable before. He had improved in person, bore himself like a gentleman I now thought, and was every way a pleasing, well-mannered, well-dressed, and intelligent-looking young man. I could do all justice to him but pardon him Lucy's preference.
"Lucy can never forget our childish intimacy," I said, a little confused. "She left me, declaring an intention to do something of the sort; though I confess I was not exactly prepared for this. You are a man to be envied, Mr. Drewett, if any man on earth is!"
Andrew looked embarrassed. He glanced at me, coloured, turned his look out at the window, then, by a vast effort, seemed to regain his self-command.
"I believe I understand you, Wallingford," he said. "You mean, in being engaged to Lucy Hardinge?"
"I can mean nothing else—all I hear—all I have seen—this last act, in particular, tells me as much."
"All have then told you wrong. I am not so fortunate as to possess the affections of Miss Hardinge; and no man will gain her hand who does not first obtain her heart; ay, and her whole heart, too."
I was astounded! What! Lucy not engaged to Drewett; not loving him, by his own admission; not likely to love him! I believe Andrew had no difficulty in comprehending my feelings in part, for he seemed disposed to continue the subject; and, what was infinitely to his credit, to continue it in a way that should leave no unpleasant uncertainty hanging about the real position of the dear girl.
"It is only quite lately," he said, "that I have seen the great injustice that I and my family have unconsciously committed towards Miss Hardinge. As you are an old—a very old friend of hers, I will be explicit with you, and endeavour, in some small degree, to excuse myself; though I feel that it can never be done fully. You tell me, that you have heard I was engaged to Miss Hardinge?"
"Unquestionably: I think it was the opinion of her own father; though he must have believed the promise conditional, as Lucy never would marry without his approbation."
"Mr. Hardinge has then been strangely misled. It is true, Mr. Wallingford, that I have long admired Miss Hardinge, and that I offered myself years ago. I was refused from the first. But, Lucy had the frankness to own that she was free to dispose of her hand; and I persevered contrary to her advice, her wishes, and I may say her entreaties. I think she esteems me; and I know she has a strong regard for my mother, who is almost as fond of her as I am myself. This esteem and regard I hoped might ripen into love, and my presumption has brought its own punishment, It is now about six months—I remember it was shortly after we heard of your probable loss—that I had a final conversation with her on the subject, when I became convinced my prospects were hopeless. Since that time, I have endeavoured to conquer my passion; for love unrequited, I suppose you know, will not last for ever; and I have so far succeeded, as to tell you all this without feeling the pain it would once have cost me. Still, I retain the deepest respect for Miss Hardinge; and a single encouraging look would even now recall me. I am of opinion, however, she intends never to marry. But, let us quit this place, which has no longer any claim on you."
I was in a state scarcely to know what. I did. It was comparatively little to me to learn I was free myself, after so unexpectedly learning that Lucy was also free. Lucy—whom I had for years supposed to be irrevocably engaged; and whom I had continued to love, even against hope Andrew Drewett, I fancied, had never loved as I did, or he would not have made the speech he did; or, his love for Lucy had not been a part of his existence from boyhood, as mine had certainly been. While all these thoughts were passing through my mind, I gave a few directions, took Drewett's arm, and hurried out of the gaol.
I confess that I respired more freely when I found myself in the open air. My companion took my direction, and I led him to the spot where Marble and Neb were still at work on their rope. Great was their surprise on seeing me at large; and I thought the mate looked a little disappointed, though he comprehended the matter at once, as soon as he saw Drewett.
"If you had only waited till night, Miles," Marble said, shaking his head as one menaces, "Neb and I would have shown that bloody gaol a seaman's fashion of quitting it. I'm almost sorry the occasion is lost, for it would have done their stomachs good to wake up at two bells, and find their cage empty. I've half a mind to ask you to go back, boy!"
"But I've no mind to comply with the request; so do me the favour to have my bag carried back to our lodgings, where I intend to swing my hammock, again, to-night.—Mr. Drewett, I must hasten to thank her to whom I owe my freedom;—will you accompany me?"
Andrew excused himself; and receiving my thanks, once more we parted with a hearty shake of the hands. I then hastened towards Wall street, and knocked at Lucy's door; (there were knockers to good houses in New York, in 1804, a vile nuisance having been since well gotten rid of,) and I knocked at Lucy's door, scarce conscious of the manner in which I had got there. It was near the dinner-hour, and the footman was demurring about admitting a sailor-man, who hardly knew what he said, when a little scream from Chloe, who happened to see me, soon disposed of my claim for an entrance.
"Masser Mile!—Masser Mile!—I so grad—dat feller, Neb, say you come home—Oh! Masser Mile, now I know dat de rascal at Clawbonny get druv' off!"
This speech, confident as it was, a little cooled my ardour by reminding me I was a beggar, in the figurative meaning of the word. Chloe led the way, however, and I was soon in the drawing-room, and in the presence of the youthful mistress of the house. How gloriously beautiful did Lucy then appear! She had dressed for dinner, as usual, but it was in the simplest and neatest manner. Her face was radiant with the pleasure of seeing me where I was, and excitement had deepened the colour on her cheeks, which were never pale, except with emotions. As for her eyes, I can only describe them by the homely phrase, that "they danced for joy."
"Now, Miles," she said, holding out both hands to meet me, "this is redeeming your pledge, and behaving as you should. Andrew Drewett was delighted with an opportunity of doing something for the man who saved his life, and my only fear was of your obstinacy."
"After all I have heard from Andrew Drewett, beloved Lucy, you never need fear anything from my obstinacy hereafter. He not only has released my body from prison but he has released my spirits from the weight of a mountain, by honestly confessing you do not love him."
The play of roseate light on an autumnal sky at evening, is not more beautiful, than the changing tints that passed over Lucy's beautiful face. She did not speak, at first; but so intent, so inquiring was her look, while at the same time, it was so timid and modest, that I scarce needed the question that she finally succeeded in asking.
"What is it, you wish to say, Miles?" at length came from her in faltering tones.
"To ask to be permitted to keep these hands for ever. Not one, Lucy; one will not satisfy a love like mine, a love that has got to be interwoven with my being, from having formed a part of my very existence from boyhood; yes, I ask for both."
"You have them both, dear, dear Miles, and can keep them as long as you please."
Even while this was in the course of utterance, the hands were snatched from me to be applied to their owner's face, and the dear girl burst into a flood of tears. I folded her in my arms, seated myself at her side on a sofa, and am not ashamed to say that we wept together. I shall not reveal all that passed during the next quarter of an hour, nor am I quite certain that I could were I to make the attempt, but I well recollect my arm was around Lucy's slender waist, at the end of that brief period. What was said was not very coherent, nor do I know that anybody would care to hear, or read it.
"Why have you so long delayed to tell me this, Miles?" Lucy at length inquired, a little reproachfully. "You who have had so many opportunities, and might have known how it would have been received! How much misery and suffering it would have saved us both!"
"For that which it has caused you, dearest, I shall never forgive myself; but as for that I have endured, it is only too well merited. But I thought you loved Drewett; everybody said you were to marry him; even your own father believed and told me as much—"
"Poor, dear papa!—He little knew my heart. One thing, however, he did that would have prevented my ever marrying any one, Miles, so long as you lived."
"Heaven for ever bless him for that, as well as for all his other good deeds? What was it, Lucy?'
"When we heard of the supposed loss of your ship, he believed it, but I did not. Why I did not believe what all around me thought was true, is more than I can explain, unless Providence humanely sustained me by hope. But when my father thought you dead, in conversing of all your good qualities, Miles,—and he loved you almost as well as his daughter"—
"God bless him, dear old gentleman!—but what did he tell you, Lucy?"
"You will never learn, if you thus interrupt me, Miles," Lucy answered, smiling saucily in my face, though she permitted me still to hold both her hands, as if I had taken possession of them literally with an intent to keep them, blushing at the same time as much with happiness, I thought, as with the innate modesty of her nature. "Have a little patience, and I will tell you. When my father thought you dead, he told me the manner in which you had confessed to him the preference you felt for me; and do you, can you think, after I was thus put in possession of such a secret, I could listen to Andrew Drewett, or to any one else?"
I shall not reveal what followed this speech; but I may say that, in the course of the next ten minutes, Lucy mildly reproached me again for having so long delayed my declaration.
"I knew you so well, Miles," she continued, smiling—as for blushing, that she did nearly the whole of the remainder of the day—"I know you so well, Miles, that I am afraid I should have made the declaration myself, had you not found your tongue. Silly fellow! how could you suppose I would ever love any but you?—see here!"
She drew the locket I had given her from her dress, and placed it in my hands, still warm from lying near her heart! I had no choice, but to kiss Lucy again, or to kiss this locket; and I did both, by way of leaving no further grounds for self-reproach. I say, kiss her again, for, to own the truth, I had already done so many times in that interview.
At length, Chloe put her head in at the door, having taken the precaution first to give a gentle tap, to inquire if dinner should be served. Lucy dined at four, and it was now drawing toward five.
"Has my father come in?" demanded the young mistress of her attendant.
"Not yet, Miss Lucy; but he nebber t'ink much of dinner, Miss Lucy, ma'am; and masser Mile been so long a sailor, dat I t'ink he must be hungry. I hear dat he hab berry hard time, dis v'y'ge, Miss Lucy—too hard for old masser and missus son!"
"Ay, you have seen Neb, if the truth were told, Miss Chloe," I cried; "and he has been charming your ear with Othello-tales, of his risks and hardships, to make you love him."
I cannot say that Chloe actually blushed, or, if she did, the spectators were none the wiser for the weakness. But dark as was the skin of this honest-hearted girl, she had most affectionate feelings, and even her features could betray the emotions she entertained.
"De feller!" she exclaimed.—"What Miss Lucy please order? Shall 'e cook dish up?"
"We will have dinner," Lucy answered, with a smile Chloe's eyes dancing with a sort of wild delight. "Tell John to serve it. Mr. Hardinge will be home soon, in all probability. We shall be only us three, at table."
The mentioning of the table caused me to cast an eye at my dress; and the sight of my mate's attire, neat and in truth becoming as it was, to one who had no reason to be ashamed of his figure, caused me to recollect my poverty, and to feel one twinge at the distance that the world might fancy its own opinions placed between us. As for birth, my own family was too respectable, and my education had been too good, to leave me now any very keen regrets on such a subject, in a state of society like ours; but there was truly a wide chasm between the heiress of Mrs. Bradfort and a penniless mate of a ship. Lucy understood me; and, slipping her arm through mine, she walked into the library, saying archly, as she drew me gently along—
"It is a very easy thing, Miles, to get skirts made to your round-about."
"No doubt, Lucy; but, with whose money? I have been in such a tumult of happiness, as to have forgotten that I am a beggar; that I am not a suitable match for you! Had I only Clawbonny, I should feel less humiliated. With Clawbonny I could feel myself entitled to some portion of the world's consideration."
We were in the library by this time. Lucy looked at me a moment, intently; and I could see she was pained at my allusion. Taking a little key from a cabinet where she kept it, she opened a small drawer, and showed me the identical gold pieces that had once been in my possession, and which I had returned to her, after my first voyage to sea. I perceived that the pearls she had obtained under Grace's bequest, as well as those which were my own property, if I could be said to own anything, were kept in the same place. Holding the gold in the palm of a little hand that was as soft as velvet and as white as ivory, she said—
"You once took all I had, Miles, and this without pretending to more than a brother's love; why should you hesitate to do it again, now you say you wish to become my husband?"
"Precious creature! I believe you will cure me of even my silly pride." Then taking up the pearls, I threw them on her neck, where they hung in a long chain, rivalling the skin with which they came in contact—"There—I have said these pearls should be an offering to my wife, and I now make it; though I scarce know how they are to be kept from the grasp of Daggett."
Lucy kissed the pearls—I knew she did not do it on account of any love for them—and tears came into her eyes. I believe she had long waited to receive this gift, in the precise character in which it was now received.
"Thank you, dear Miles," she said. "You see how freely I accept your gifts; and why should you hesitate to receive mine? As for this Mr. Daggett, it will be easy enough to get rid of his claim. I shall be of age before he can bring his cause to trial, as I learn; then nothing will be easier than for Miles Wailingford to pay all his debts; for by that time, all that is now mine will be yours. No—no—this Mr. Daggett shall not easily rob me of this precious gift."
"Rupert"—I said, by way of getting her answer.
"Rupert will not influence my conduct, any further than I shall insist on returning every dollar he has received from you, in the name of our sainted Grace. But I hear my father's voice, and speaking to some other person. I had hoped we should dine alone!"
The door of the library opened, and Mr. Hardinge entered, followed by a grave-looking, elderly man, of respectable mien, and a manner that denoted one accustomed to deal with matters of weight. I knew this person at once to be Richard Harrison, then one of the most distinguished lawyers of America, and the gentleman to whom I had been carried by John Wallingford, when the latter pressed me to make my will. Mr. Harrison shook me cordially by the hand, after saluting Lucy, whom he knew intimately. I saw at once that something unusual was working in his mind. This highly respectable advocate was a man of method and of great coolness of manner in the management of affairs, and he proceeded to business at once, using very little circumlocution.
"I have been surprised to hear that my worthy client and friend, Mr. John Wailingford, is dead," he observed. "I do not know how his decease should have escaped my notice in the papers, unless it were owing to a pretty severe illness I suffered myself about the time it occurred. My good friend, Mr. Hardinge, told it to me for the first time, only half an hour since."
"It is true, sir," I answered. "I understand my kinsman died eight months since."
"And he held your bond for forty thousand dollars at the time he died?"
"I regret to say he did; a bond secured by a mortgage on my paternal place, Clawbonny, which has since been sold, by virtue of the power contained in the clauses, under the statute, and sold for a song; less than a fourth of its value."
"And you have been arrested, at the suit of the administrator, for the balance due on the bond?"
"I have, sir; and am liberated on general bail, only within an hour or two."
"Well, sir, all these proceedings can be, and must be set aside. I have already given instructions to prepare an application to the chancellor for an injunction, and, unless your kinsman's administrator is a great dunce, you will be in peaceable possession of Clawbonny, again, in less than a month—if a moderately sensible man, in less than twenty-four hours."
"You would not raise hopes that are idle, Mr. Harrison; yet I do not understand how all this well can be!"
"Your kinsman, Mr. John Wallingford, who was a much esteemed client of mine, made a will, which will I drew myself, and which will being left in my possession for that purpose, I now put in your hands as his sole executor. By that will, you will perceive that he especially forgives you the debt of forty thousand dollars, and releases the claim under the mortgage. But this is not all. After giving some small legacies to a few of his female relatives, he has left you the residuary legatee, and I know enough of his affairs to be certain that you will receive an addition to your estate of more than two hundred thousand dollars. John Wallingford was a character, but he was a money-making character; had he lived twenty years longer, he would have been one of the richest men in the state. He had laid an excellent foundation, but he died too soon to rear the golden structure."
What a change of circumstances was here! I was not only virtually released from debt, but had Clawbonny restored to me, and was master of all I had ever owned, my earnings and the money invested in the Dawn excepted. This last was irretrievably gone, it was true, but, in its place I had the ample legacy of John Wallingford as a compensation. This legacy consisted of a large sum in the three per cents, which then sold at about sixty, but were subsequently paid off at par, of good bank and insurance stocks, bonds and mortgages, and a valuable and productive real property in the western part of the State, with several buildings in town. In a word, I was even richer than Lucy, and no longer need consider myself as one living on her generosity. It is not difficult to believe I was made supremely happy by this news, and I looked to Lucy for sympathy. As for the dear girl herself, I do believe she felt anything but pleasure, at this new accession of riches; for she had a deep satisfaction in thinking that it was in her power to prove to me how completely I possessed her confidence, by placing all she had in my hands. Nevertheless, she loved Clawbonny as well as I did myself, and my restoration to the throne of my fathers was a subject of mutual delight.
Mr. Harrison went on to say that he had ascertained Daggett was in town, to conduct the expected arrangement with me, on the subject of my personals, and that he had already sent a messenger to his attorney, to let the existence of the will be known. He had, consequently, strong hopes of arranging matters, in the course of the next twenty-four hours. We were still at table, in effect, when the messenger came to let us know an interview was appointed at the office of this eminent counsel, and we all adjourned to that place, Lucy excepted, as soon as the cloth was removed; for, in that day, cloths were always removed. At the office, we found Mr. Daggett, whom I now saw for the first time, and his legal adviser, already waiting for us. One glance sufficed to let us into the secret of the consternation both were in, for the lawer had committed himself in the course of the proceedings he had had an agency in conducting, almost as much as his client.
"This is strange news to us, Mr. Harrison," the attorney commenced; "though your character and reputation, I will confess, make it look serious. Is there no mistake in the matter, sir?"
"None whatever, Mr. Meekly. If you will have the goodness to read this will, sir, you will perceive that the facts have been truly laid before your client; and, as to the authenticity of the document, I can only say, it was not only drawn up by myself, under precise instructions from Mr. Wallingford,—which instructions I still possess, in his own hand-writing,—but the will was copied by my client, as well as signed and sealed in my presence, as one of the witnesses. So far as relates to the personals, this will would be valid, though not signed by the testator, supposing no other will to exist. But, I flatter myself, you will find everything correct as to forms."
Mr. Meekly read the will aloud, from beginning to end, and, in returning it to me, he cast a very give-it-up-sort of look at Daggett. The latter inquired, with some anxiety,—
"Is there any schedule of the property accompanying the will?"
"There is, sir," returned Mr. Harrison; "and directions on it where to find the certificates of stock, and all the other evidences of debts—such as bonds and mortgages. Of the last, several are in my own possession. I presume the bond of this Mr. Wallingford was kept by the testator himself, as a sort of family thing."
"Well, sir, you will find that none of the stock has been touched; and I confess this bond, with a few notes given in Genessee, is all that I have been able to find. We have been surprised at discovering the assets to be so small."
"So much the better for you, Mr. Daggett. Knowing what I do, I shall only give up the assets I hold to the executor and heir. Your letters of administration will be set aside, as a matter of course, even should you presume to oppose us,—which I should hardly think advisable."
"We shall not attempt it, Mr. Harrison," Meekly said, hastily; "and we expect equal liberality from your client."
So much for having a first-rate lawyer and a man of character on my side. Daggett gave the whole thing up, on the spot,—re-conveying to me Clawbonny before he quitted, though the sale would unquestionably be set aside, and subsequently was set aside, by means of an amicable suit. A great deal remained to be done, however; and I was obliged to tear myself away from Lucy, in order to do it. Probate of the will was to be made in the distant county of Genessee—and distant it was from New York, in 1804! The journey that could be made, to day, in about thirty hours, took me ten days: and I spent near a month in going through the necessary forms, and in otherwise settling my affairs at the west, as that part of the State was then called. The time, however, was not wasted below. Mr. Hardinge took charge of everything at Clawbonny, and Lucy's welcome letters,—three of which reached me weekly,—informed me that everything was re-established in the house, on the farm, and at the mill. The Wallingford was set running again, and all the oxen, cows, horses, hogs, &c., &c., were living in their old haunts. The negroes were reinstated, and Clawbonny was itself again! The only chants made wore for the better; the occasion having been improved, to paint and new-vamp the house, which Mr. Daggett's parsimony had prevented him from defacing by modern alterations. In a word, 'Masser Mile' was alone wanting to make all at the farm happy. Chloe had communicated her engagement to 'Miss Lucy,' and it was understood Neb and his master were to be married about the same time. As for Moses, he had gone up to Willow Cove, on a leave of absence. A letter received from him, which now lies before me, will give a better account of his proceedings and feelings than I can write myself. It was in the following words, viz.:
"Willow Cove, Sept. 18th, 1804.
"Dear Sir, and my dear Miles—Here I have been, moored head and starn, these ten days, as comfortable as heart could wish, in the bosom of my family. The old woman was right down glad to see me, and she cried like an alligator, when she heard my story. As for Kitty, she cried, and she laughed in the bargain; but that young Bright, whom you may remember we fell in with, in our cruise after old Van Tassel, has fairly hauled alongside of my niece, and she does little but laugh from morning to night. It's bloody hard to lose a niece in this way, just as a man finds her, but mother says I shall gain a nephew by the trade.
"Now, for old Van Tassel. The Lord will never suffer rogues to prosper in the long run. Mother found the old rascal's receipt, given to my father for the money, years and years ago, and sending for a Hudson lawyer, they made the miserly cheat off with his hatches, and hoist out cargo enough to square the yards. So mother considers the thing as settled at last; but I shall always regard the account as open until I have threshed the gentleman to my heart's content. The old woman got the cash in hard dollars, not understanding paper, and I wasn't in the house ten minutes, before the good old soul roused a stocking out of a drawer, and began to count out the pieces to pay me off. So you see, Miles, I've stepped into my estate again, as well as yourself. As for your offer to pay me wages for the whole of last v'y'ge"—this word Marble could only spell as he pronounced it—"it's generous, and that's a good deal in these bloody dishonest times, but I'll not touch a copper. When a ship's lost, the wages are lost with her, and that's law and reason. It would be hard on a marchant to have to pay wages for work done on board a craft that's at the bottom of the ocean; so no more on that p'int, which we'll consider settled.
"I am delighted to learn you are to be married as soon as you get back to Clawbonny. Was I in your place, and saw such a nice young woman beckoning me into port, I'd not be long in the offing. Thank you, heartily, for the invitation to be one of the bride's-maids, which is an office, my dear Miles, I covet, and shall glory in. I wish you to drop me a line as to the rigging proper for the occasion, for I would wish to be dressed as much like the rest of the bride's-maids as possible; uniformity being always desirable in such matters. A wedding is a wedding, and should be dealt with as a wedding; so, waiting for further orders, I remain your friend and old ship-mate to command,
"Moses Van Dusen Marble."
I do not affirm that the spelling of this letter was quite as accurate as that given in this copy, but the epistle was legible, and evidently gave Marble a great deal of trouble. As for the letters of dear Lucy, I forbear to copy any. They were like herself, however; ingenuous, truthful, affectionate and feminine. Among other things, she informed me that our union was to take place in St. Michael's; that I was to meet her at the rectory, and that we might proceed to Clawbonny from the church-door. She had invited Rupert and Emily to be present, but the health of the last would prevent their accepting the invitation. Major, or general, Merton, as he was universally called in New York, had the gout, and could not be there; and I was asked if it would not be advisable under all the circumstances, to have the affair as private as possible. My answer conveyed a cheerful compliance, and a week after that was despatched, I left the Genessee country, having successfully completed all my business. No one opposed me, and so far from being regarded as an intruder, the world thought me the proper heir of my cousin.
"I calmed her fears, and she was calm, And told her love with virgin pride; And so I won my Genevieve, My bright and beauteous bride."
By arrangement, I stopped at the Willow Cove, to pick up Marble. I found the honest fellow happy as the day was long; but telling fearfully long and wonderful yarns of his adventures, to the whole country round. My old mate was substantially a man of truth; but he did love to astonish "know-nothings." He appears to have succeeded surprisingly well, for the Dutchmen of that neighbourhood still recount anecdotes, of the achievements and sufferings of Captain Marvel, as they usually call him, though they have long ceased to think the country belongs to the United Provinces.
Moses was glad to see me; and, after passing a night in the cottage of his mother, we proceeded towards Clawbonny, in a conveyance that had been sent to Willow Cove to meet me. It was a carriage of my own, one of my own negroes acting as driver. I knew the old team, and will acknowledge that tears forced themselves to, my eyes as I thus saw myself, as it might be, reinstated in my own. The same feeling came powerfully over me, as we drove to the summit of an elevation in the road, that commanded a view of the vale and buildings of Clawbonny. What a moment was that in my existence! I cannot say that I was born to wealth, even as wealth was counted among us sixty years since, but I was born to a competency. Until I lost my ship, I had never known the humiliating sensations of poverty; and the feeling that passed over my heart, when I first heard that Clawbonny was sold, has left an impression that will last for life. I looked at the houses, as I passed them in the streets, and remembered that I was houseless. I did not pass a shop in which clothes were exposed, without remembering that, were my debts paid, I should literally be without a coat to my back. Now, I had my own once more; and there stood the home of my ancestors for generations, looking comfortable and respectable, in the midst of a most inviting scene of rural quiet and loveliness. The very fields seemed to welcome me beneath its roof! There is no use in attempting to conceal what happened; and I will honestly relate it.
The road made a considerable circuit to descend the hill, while a foot-path led down the declivity, by a shorter cut, which was always taken by pedestrians. Making an incoherent excuse to Moses, and telling him to wait for me at the foot of the hill, I sprang out of the carriage, leaped a fence, and I may add, leaped out of sight, in order to conceal my emotion. I was no sooner lost to view, than, seating myself on a fragment of rock, I wept like a child. How long I sat there is more than I can say; but the manner in which I was recalled from this paroxysm of feeling will not soon be forgotten. A little hand was laid on my forehead, and a soft voice uttered the word "Miles!" so near me, that, at the next instant, I held Lucy in my arms. The dear girl had walked to the hill, as she afterwards admitted, in the expectation of seeing me pass on to Clawbonny; and, comprehending my feelings and my behaviour, could not deny herself the exquisite gratification of sharing in my emotions.
"It is a blessed restoration to your rights, dear Miles," Lucy at length said, smiling through her tears. "Your letters have told me that you are rich; but I would rather you had Clawbonny, and not a cent besides, than, without this place, you had the riches of the wealthiest man in the country. Yours it should have been, at all events, could my means have compassed it."
"And this, Lucy, without my becoming your husband, do you mean?"
Lucy blushed brightly; though I cannot say the sincere, ingenuous girl ever looked embarrassed in avowing her preference for me. After a moment's pause, she smiled, and answered my question.
"I have not doubted of the result, since my father gave me an account of your feelings towards me," she said, "and that, you will remember, was before Mr. Daggett had his sale. Women have more confidence in the affections than men, I fear; at least, with us they are more engrossing concerns than with you—for we live for them altogether, whereas you have the world constantly to occupy your thoughts. I have never supposed Miles Wallingford would become the husband of any but Lucy Hardinge, except on one occasion, and then only for a very short period; and, ever since I have thought on such subjects at all, I have known that Lucy Hardinge would never—could never be the wife of any one but Miles Wallingford."
"And that one exception, dearest,—that 'very short period?' Having confessed so much, I am eager to know all."
Lucy became thoughtful, and she moved the grass at her feet with the end of her parasol, ere she replied.
"The one exception was Emily Merton; and the short period terminated when I saw you together, in your own house. When I first saw Emily Merton, I thought her more worthy of your love than I could possibly be; and I fancied it impossible that you could have lived so long in a ship together, without discovering each other's merits. But, when I was placed with you both, under the same roof, I soon ascertained that, while your imagination had been a little led aside, your heart was always true to me."
"Is this possible, Lucy! Are women really so much more discriminating, so much more accurate in their opinions, than us men? While I was ready to hang myself for jealousy of Andrew Drewett, did you really know that my heart was entirely yours?"
"I was not without misgivings, Miles, and sometimes those that were keenly painful; but, on the whole, I will not say I felt my power, but that I felt we were dear to each other."
"Did you never suppose, as your excellent father has done, that we were too much like brother and sister, to become lovers—too much accustomed to be dear to each other as children, to submit to passion? For that which I feel for you, Lucy, I do not pretend to dignify with the name of esteem, and respect, and affection—it is a passion, that will form the misery, or happiness of my life."
Lucy smiled archly, and again the end of her parasol played with the grass that grew around the rock on which we were seated.
"How could I think this for you," she said, "when I had a contrary experience of my own constantly present, Miles? I saw that you thought there was some difference of condition between us, (silly fellow!) and I felt persuaded you had only your own diffidence to overcome, to tell your own story."
"And knowing and seeing all this, cruel Lucy, why did you suffer years of cruel, cruel doubt to hang over me?"
"Was it a woman's part to speak, Miles? I endeavoured to act naturally,—believe I did act naturally,—and I left the rest to God. Blessed be his mercy, I am rewarded!"
I folded Lucy to my heart, and, passing a moment of sweet sympathy in the embrace, we both began to talk of other things, as if mutually conscious that our feelings were too high-wrought for the place in which we were. I inquired as to the condition of things at Clawbonny, and was gratified with the report. Everybody expected me. I had no tenantry to come forth to meet me,—nor were American tenants much addicted to such practices, even when they were to be found: though the miserable sophistry on the subject of landlord and tenant,—one of the most useful and humanizing relations of civilized life,—did not then exist among us, that I am sorry to find is now getting into vogue. In that day, it was not thought 'liberty' to violate the fair covenants of a lease; and attempts to cheat a landed proprietor out of his rights were called cheating, as they ought to be—and they were called nothing else.
In that day, a lease in perpetuity was thought a more advantageous bargain for the tenant, than a lease for a year, or a term of years; and men did not begin to reason as if one indulgence gave birth to a right, to demand more. In that day, paying rent in chickens, and wood, and work, was not fancied to be a remnant of feudality, but it was regarded as a favour conferred on him who had the privilege: and even now, nine countrymen in ten endeavour to pay their debts in everything they can, before they resort to the purse. In that day, the audacious sophism of calling land a monopoly, in a country that probably possesses more than a hundred acres for every living soul within its limits, was not broached: and, in that day, knots of men did not set themselves up as special representatives of the whole community, and interpret the laws in their own favour, as if they were the first principles of the entire republic. But my pen is running away with me, and I must return to Lucy. A crisis is at hand; and we are about to see the laws triumphant, or acts of aggression that will far outdo all that has hitherto rested on the American name, as connected with a want of faith in pecuniary transactions.
Should I ever continue these adventures, occasions may offer to draw certain pictures of the signs of the times; signs that have an ominous aspect as regards real liberty, by substituting the most fearful of all tyrannies, the spurious, in its place. God alone knows for what we are reserved; but one thing is certain—there must be a serious movement backward, or the nation is lost.
I had no tenantry to come out and meet me; but there were the blacks. It is true, the law was on the point of liberating these slaves, leaving a few of the younger to serve for a term of years, that should requite their owners for the care of their infancies and their educations; but this law could not effect an immediate change in the condition of the Clawbonnys. The old ones did not wish to quit me, and never did; while it took years to loosen the tie which bound the younger portion of them to me and mine. At this hour, near twenty of them are living round me, in cottages of mine; and the service of my kitchen is entirely conducted by them. Lucy prepared me for a reception by these children of Africa, even the outcasts having united with the rest to do honour to their young master. Honour is not the word; there was too much heart in the affair for so cold a term; the negro, whatever may be his faults, almost always possessing an affectionate heart.
At length, I remembered Marble, and, taking leave of Lucy, who would not let me accompany her home, I threw myself down the path, and found my mate cogitating in the carnage, at the foot of the hill.
"Well, Miles, you seem to value this land of yours, as a seaman does his ship," cried Moses, before I had time to apologize for having kept him so long waiting. "Howsomever, I can enter into the feelin', and a blessed one it is, to get a respondentia bond off of land that belonged to a feller's grandfather. Next thing to being a bloody hermit, I hold, is to belong to nobody in a crowded world; and I would not part with one kiss from little Kitty, or one wrinkle of my mother's, for all the desert islands in the ocean. Come, sit down now, my lad—why, you look as red as a rose-bud, and as if you had been running up and down hill the whole time you've been absent."
"It is sharp work to come down such a hill as this on a trot. Well, here I am at your side; what would you wish to know?"
"Why, lad, I've been thinkin', since you were away, of the duties of a bride's-maid,"—to his dying day, Moses always insisted he had acted in this capacity at my wedding;—"for the time draws near, and I wouldn't wish to discredit you, on such a festivity. In the first place, how am I to be dressed? I've got the posy you mentioned in your letter, stowed away safe in my trunk. Kitty made it for me last week, and a good-looking posy it was, the last time I saw it."
"Did you think of the breeches?"
"Ay, ay—I have them, too, and what is more I've had them bent. Somehow or other, Miles, running under bare poles does not seem to agree with my build. If there's time, I should like to have a couple of bonnets fitted to the articles."
"Those would be gaiters, Moses, and I never heard of a bride's-maid in breeches and gaiters. No, you'll be obliged to come out like evervbody else."
"Well, I care less for the dress than I do for the behaviour. Shall I be obliged to kiss Miss Lucy?"
"No, not exactly Miss Lucy, but Mrs. Bride—I believe it would not be a lawful marriage without that."
"Heaven forbid that I should lay a straw in the way of your happiness, my dear boy; but you'll make a signal for the proper time to clear ship, then—you know I always carry a quid."
I promised not to desert him in his need, and Moses became materially easier in his mind. I do not wish the reader to suppose my mate fancied he was to act in the character of a woman at my nuptials, but simply that he was to act in the character of a bride's-maid. The difficulties which beset him will be best explained by his last remark on this occasion, and with which I shall close this discourse. "Had I been brought up in a decent family," he said, "instead of having been set afloat on a tombstone, matrimony wouldn't have been such unknown seas to me. But, you know how it is, Miles, with a fellow that has no relations. He may laugh, and sing, and make as much noise as he pleases, and try to make others think he's in good company the whole time; but, after all, he's nothing but a sort of bloody hermit, that's travelling through life, all the same as if he was left with a few pigs on a desert island. Make-believe is much made use of in this world, but it won't hold out to the last. Now of all mortal beings that I ever met with, you've fallen in with her that has least of it. There's some make-believe about you, Miles, as when you looked so bloody unconcerned all the time you were ready to die of love, as I now l'arn, for the young woman you're about to marry: and mother has a little of it, dear old soul, when she says she's perfectly satisfied with the son the Lord has given her, for I'm not so blasted virtuous but I might be better; and little Kitty has lots of it when she pretends she would as soon have one kiss from me as two from young Bright; but, as for Lucy Hardinge, I will say that I never saw any more make-believe about her, than was becoming in a young woman."
This speech proved that Moses was a man of observation. Others might have drawn seemingly nicer shades of character, but this sincerity of feeling, truth of conduct, and singleness of purpose, formed the distinguishing traits of Lucy's virtues. I was excessively gratified at finding that Marble rightly appreciated one who was so very, very dear to me, and took care to let him know as much, as soon as he had made his speech.
We were met by the negroes, at the distance of half a mile from the house. Neb acted as master of the ceremonies, or, commodore would be the better word, for he actually carried a bit of swallow-tail bunting that was borrowed from the sloop, and there was just as much of ocean in the symbols used, as comported with the honours manifested to a seaman. Old Cupid carried the Wallingford's ensign, and a sort of harlequinade had been made out of marlinspikes, serving mallets, sail-maker's palms, and fids. The whole was crowned with a plug of tobacco, though I never used the weed, except in segars. Neb had seen processions in town, as well as in foreign countries, and he took care that the present should do himself no discredit. It is true, that he spoke to me of it afterwards as a "nigger procession," and affected to hold it cheap; but I could see that the fellow was as much pleased with the conceits he had got up for the occasion, as he was mortified at the failure of the whole thing. The failure happened in this wise: no sooner did I approach near enough to the elder blacks to have my features fairly recognised, than the women began to blubber, and the men to toss their arms and shout "Masser Mile," "Masser Mile;" thereby throwing everything into confusion, at once placing feeling uppermost, at the expense of 'law and order.'
To descend from the stilts that seemed indispensable to do credit to Neb's imagination, the manner in which I was received by these simple-minded beings was infinitely touching. All the old ones shook hands with me, while the younger of both sexes kept more aloof, until I went to each in succession, and went through the ceremony of my own accord. As for the boys, they rolled over on the grass, while the little girls kept making curtsies, and repeating "welcome home to Clawbonny, Masser Mile." My heart was full, and I question if any European landlord ever got so warm a reception from his tenantry, as I received from my slaves.
And welcome I was indeed to Clawbonny, and most welcome was Clawbonny to me! In 1804, New York had still some New York feeling left in the State. Strangers had not completely overrun her as has since happened; and New York names were honoured; New York feelings had some place among us; life, homes, firesides, and the graves of our fathers, not yet being treated as so many incidents in some new speculation. Men then loved the paternal roof, and gardens, lawns, orchards and church-yards, were regarded as something other than levels for rail-roads and canals, streets for villages, or public promenades to be called batteries, or parks, as might happen to suit aldermanic ambition, or editorial privilege.
Mr. Hardinge met me at the gate of the little lawn, took me in his arms, and blessed me aloud. We entered the house in silence, when the good old man immediately set about showing me, by ocular proof, that everything was restored as effectually as I was restored myself. Venus accompanied us, relating how dirty she had found this room, how much injured that, and otherwise abusing the Daggetts, to my heart's content. Their reign had been short, however; and a Wallingford was once more master of the five structures of Clawbonny. I meditated a sixth, even that day, religiously preserving every stone that had been already laid, however, in my mind's intention.
The next day was that named by Lucy as the one in which she would unite herself to me for ever. No secret was made of the affair; but notice had been duly given that all at Clawbonny might be present. I left home at ten in the morning, in a very handsome carriage that had been built for the occasion, accompanied by Moses attired as a bride's-maid. It is true his dumpy, square-built frame, rather caricatured the shorts and silk stockings; and, as we sat side by side in this guise, I saw his eye roaming from his own limbs to mine. The peculiarity of Moses's toilette was that which all may observe in men of his stamp, who come out in full dress. The clothes a good deal more than fit them. Everything is as tight as the skin; and the wearer is ordinarily about as awkward in his movements and sensations, as if he had gone into society, in puris naturalibus. That Moses felt the embarrassment of this novel attire, was sufficiently apparent by his looks and movements, to say nothing of his speech.
"Miles, I do suppose," he remarked, as we trotted along, "that them that haven't had the advantage of being brought up at home never get a fair growth. Now, here's these legs of mine; there's plenty of them, but they ought to have been put in a stretcher when I was a youngster, instead of being left to run about a hospital. Well, I'll sail under bare poles, this once, to oblige you, bride-maid fashion; but this is the first and last time I do such a thing. Don't forget to make the signal when I'm to kiss Miss Lucy."
My thoughts were not exactly in the vein to enjoy the embarrassment of Moses, and I silenced him by promising all he asked. We were not elegant enough to meet at the church, but I proceeded at once to the little rectory, where I found the good divine and my lovely bride had just completed their arrangements. And lovely, indeed, was Lucy, in her simple but beautiful bridal attire! She was unattended, had none of those gay appliances about her that her condition might have rendered proper, and which her fortune would so easily have commanded. Yet it was impossible to be in her presence without feeling the influence of her virgin mien and simple elegance. Her dress was a spotless but exquisitely fine India muslin, well made and accurately fitting; and her dark glossy hair was embellished only by one comb ornamented with pearls, and wearing the usual veil. As for her feet and hands, they were more like those of a fairy than of one human; while her countenance was filled with all the heartfelt tenderness of her honest nature. Around her ivory throat, and over her polished shoulders, hung my own necklace of pearls, strung as they had been on board the Crisis, giving her bust an air of affluent decoration, while it told a long story of distant adventure and of well-requited affection.
We had no bride's-maids, (Marble excepted), no groom's-men, no other attendants than those of our respective households. No person had been asked to be present, for we felt that our best friends were with us, when we had these dependants around us. At one time, I had thought of paying Drewett the compliment of desiring him to be a groom's-man; but Lucy set the project at rest, by quaintly asking me how I should like to have been his attendant, with the same bride. As for Rupert, I never inquired how he satisfied the scruples of his father, though the old gentleman made many apologies to me for his absence. I was heartily rejoiced, indeed, he did not appear; and, I think, Lucy was so also.
The moment I appeared in the little drawing-room of the rectory, which Lucy's money and taste had converted into a very pretty but simple room, my "bright and beauteous bride" arose, and extended to me her long-loved hand. The act itself, natural and usual as it was, was performed in a way to denote the frankness and tenderness of her character. Her colour went and came a little, but she said nothing. Without resuming her seat, she quietly placed an arm in mine, and turned to her father, as much as to say we were ready. Mr. Hardinge led the way to the church, which was but a step from the rectory, and, in a minute or two, all stood ranged before the altar, with the divine in the chancel. The ceremony commenced immediately, and in less than five minutes I folded Lucy in my arms, as my wife. We had gone into the vestry-room for this part of the affair, and there it was that we received the congratulations of those humble, dark-coloured beings, who then formed so material a portion of nearly every American family of any means.
"I wish you great joy and ebbery sort of happiness, Masser Mile," said old Venus, kissing my hand, though I insisted it should be my face, as had often been her practice twenty years before. "Ah! dis was a blessed day to old masser and missus, could dey saw it, but. And I won't speak of anoder blessed saint dat be in heaven. And you too, my dear young missus; now, we all so grad it be you, for we did t'ink, a one time, dat would nebber come to pass."
Lucy laid her own little white velvet-like hand, with the wedding ring on its fourth finger, into the middle of Venus's hard and horny palm, in the sweetest manner possible; reminding all around her that she was an old friend, and that she knew all the good qualities of every one who pressed forward to greet her, and to wish her happiness.
As soon as this part of the ceremony was over, we repaired to the rectory, where Lucy changed her wedding robe, for what I fancied was one of the prettiest demi-toilette dresses I ever saw. I know I am now speaking like an old fellow, whose thoughts revert to the happier scenes of youth with a species of dotage, but it is not often a man has an opportunity of pourtraying such a bride and wife as Lucy Hardinge. On this occasion she removed the comb and veil, as not harmonizing with the dress in which she reappeared, but the necklace was worn throughout the whole of that blessed day. As soon as my bride was ready, Mr. Hardinge, Lucy, Moses and myself, entered the carriage, and drove over to Clawbonny. Thither all Lucy's wardrobe had been sent, an hour before, under Chloe's superintendence, who had barely returned to the church in time to witness the ceremony.
One of the most precious moments of my life, was that in which I folded Lucy in my arms and welcomed her to the old place as its mistress.
"We came very near losing it, love," I whispered; "but it is now ours, unitedly, and we will be in no hurry to turn our backs on it."
This was in a tete-a-tete, in the family room, whither I had led Lucy, feeling that this little ceremony was due to my wife. Everything around us recalled former scenes, and tears were in the eyes of my bride as she gently extricated herself from my arms.
"Let us sit down a moment, Miles, and consult on family affairs, now we are here," she said, smiling. "It may be early to begin, but such old acquaintances have no need of time to discover each other's wishes and good and bad qualities. I agree with you, heart and mind, in saying we will never turn our backs on Clawbonny—dear, dear Clawbonny, where we were children together, Miles; where we knew so well, and loved so well, our departed Grace,—and, I hope and trust, it will ever be our principal residence. The country-house I inherit from Mrs. Bradfort is better suited to modern tastes and habits, perhaps, but it can never be one half so dear to either of us. I would not speak to you on this subject before, Miles, because I wished first to give you a husband's just control over me and mine, in giving you my hand; but, now, I may and will suggest what has been passing in my mind on this subject. Riversedge"—so was Mrs. Bradfort's country-house called—"is a good residence, and is sufficiently well furnished for any respectable family. Rupert and Emily must live somewhere, and I feel certain it cannot long be in Broadway. Now, I have thought I would reserve Riversedge for their future use. They can take it immediately, as a summer residence; for I prize one hour passed here more than twenty-four hours passed there."
"What, rebel!—Even should I choose to dwell in your West-Chester house?"
"You will be here, Miles; and it is on your account that Clawbonny is so dear to me. The place is yours,—I am yours,—and all your possessions should go together."
"Thank you, dearest. But will Rupert be able to keep up a town and country house'!"
"The first, not long, for a certainty; how long, you know better than I. When I have been your wife half-a-dozen years, perhaps you will think me worthy of knowing the secret of the money he actually has."
This was said pleasantly; but it was not said without anxiety. I reflected on the conditions of my secresy. Grace wished to keep the facts from Lucy, lest the noble-hearted sister should awaken a feeling in the brother that might prevent her bequest from being carried into effect. Then, she did not think Lucy would ever become my wife, and circumstances were changed, while there was no longer a reason for concealing the truth from the present applicant, at least. I communicated all that had passed on the subject to my-deeply-interested listener. Lucy received the facts with sorrow, though they were no more than she had expected to learn.
"I should be covered with shame, were I to hear this from any other than you, Miles," she answered, after a thoughtful pause; "but I know your nature too well, not to feel certain that the sacrifice scarce cost you a thought, and that you regretted Rupert's self-forgetfulness more than the loss of the money. I confess this revelation has changed all my plans for the future, so far as they were connected with my brother."
"In what manner, dearest? Let nothing that has happened to me influence your decisions."
"In so much as it affects my views of Rupert's character, it must, Miles. I had intended to divide Mrs. Bradford's fortune equally with my brother. Had I married any man but you, I should have made this a condition of our union; but you I know so well, and so well know I could trust, that I have found a deep satisfaction in placing myself, as it might be, in your power. I know that all my personal property is already yours, without reserve, and that I can make no disposition of the real, even after I come of age, without your consent. But I had that faith in you, as to believe you would let me do as I pleased."
"Have it still, love. I have neither need, nor wish, to interfere."
"No, Miles; it would be madness to give property to one of such a character. If you approve, I will make Rupert and Emily a moderate quarterly allowance, with which, having the use of my country-place, they may live respectably. Further than that, I should consider it wrong to go."
It is scarcely necessary to say how much I approved of this decision, or the applause I lavished on the warm-hearted donor. The sum was fixed at two thousand dollars a year, before we left the room; and the result was communicated to Rupert by Lucy herself, in a letter written the very next day.
Our wedding-dinner was a modest, but a supremely happy meal; and in the evening, the blacks had a ball in a large laundry, that stood a little apart, and which was well enough suited to such a scene. Our quiet and simple festivities endured for several days; the "uner" of Neb and Chloe taking place very soon after our own marriage, and coming in good time to furnish an excuse for dancing the week fairly out.
Marble got into trowsers the day after the ceremony, and then he entered into the frolic with all his heart. On the whole, he was relieved from being a bride's-maid,—a sufficiently pleasant thing,—but having got along so well with Lucy, he volunteered to act in the same capacity to Chloe. The offer was refused, however, in the following classical language:
"No, Misser Marble; colour is colour," returned Chloe. "You's white, and we's black. Mattermony is a berry solemn occerpashun; and there mustn't be no improper jokes at my uner with Neb Clawbonny."
"This disease is beyond my practice: yet I have known those which have walked in their sleep, who have died holily in their beds."
The honeymoon was passed at Clawbonny, and many, many other honeymoons that have since succeeded it. I never saw a man more delighted than Mr. Hardinge was, at finding me actually his son-in-law. I really believed he loved me more than he did Rupert, though he lived and died in ignorance of his own son's true character. It would have been cruel to undeceive him; and nothing particular ever occurred to bring about an eclaircissement. Rupert's want of principle was a negative, rather than an active quality, and was only rendered of account by his vanity and selfishness. Self-indulgence was all he aimed at, and he was much too self-indulgent and shrewd to become an active rogue. He would have spent Lucy's and my joint fortunes, had they been put at his control; but, as they never were, he was fain to limit his expenditures to such sums as we saw fit to give him, with certain extra allowances extorted by his debts. Our intercourse was very much restricted to visits of ceremony, at least on my part; though Lucy saw him oftener; and no allusion was ever made to the past. I called him "Mr. Hardinge" and he called me "Mr. Wallingford." "Rupert" and "Miles" were done with for ever, between us. I may as well dispose of the history of this person and his wife, at once; for I confess it gives me pain to speak of them, even at this distance of time.
Rupert lived but four years, after my marriage to his sister. As soon as he found it necessary to give up the Broadway house, he accepted the use of Riversedge and his sister's $2000 a-year, with gratitude, and managed to get along on that sum, apparently, down to the hour of his death. It is true, that I paid his debts, without Lucy's knowledge, twice in that short period; and I really think he was sensible of his errors, to a certain extent, before his eyes were closed. He left one child, a daughter, who survived him only a few months. Major Merton's complaints had carried him off previously to this. Between this old officer and myself, there had ever existed a species of cordiality; and I do believe he sometimes remembered his various obligations to me and Marble, in a proper temper. Like most officials of free governments, he left little or nothing behind him; so that Mrs. Hardinge was totally dependent on her late husband's friends for a support, during her widowhood. Emily was one of those semi-worldly characters, that are not absolutely wanting in good qualities, while there is always more or less of a certain disagreeable sort of calculation in all they do. Rupert's personal advantages and agreeable manners had first attracted her; and believing him to be Mrs. Bradfort's heir, she had gladly married him. I think she lived a disappointed woman, after her father's death; and I was not sorry when she let us know that she was about to "change her condition," as it is termed in widow's parlance, by marrying an elderly man, who possessed the means of giving her all that money can bestow. With this second, or, according to Venus's nomenclature, step-husband, she went to Europe, and there remained, dying only three years ago, an amply endowed widow. We kept up a civil sort of intercourse with her to the last, actually passing a few weeks with her, some fifteen years since, in a house, half-barn, half-castle, that she called a palace, on one of the unrivalled lakes of Italy. As la Signora Montiera, (Montier) she was sufficiently respected, finishing her career as a dowager of good reputation, and who loved the "pomps and vanities of this wicked world." I endeavoured, in this last meeting, to bring to her mind divers incidents of her early life, but with a singular want of success. They had actually passed, so far as her memory was concerned, into the great gulf of time, keeping company with her sins, and appeared to be entirely forgot. Nevertheless, la Signora was disposed to treat me and view me with consideration, as soon as she found me living in credit, with money, horses, and carriages at command, and to forget that I had been only a skip-master. She listened smilingly, and with patience, to what, I dare say, were my prolix narratives, though her own recollections were so singularly impaired. She did remember something about the wheelbarrow and the canal in Hyde Park; but as for the voyage across the Pacific, most of the incidents had passed out of her mind. To do her honour, Lucy wore the pearls, on an occasion in which she gave a little festa to her neighbours; and I ascertained she did remember them. She even hinted to one of her guests, in my hearing, that they had been intended for her originally; but "we cannot command the impulses of the heart, you know, cara mia," she added, with a very self-complacent sort of a sigh.
What of all this? The ci-devant Emily was no more than a summary of the feelings, interests, and passions of millions, living and dying in a narrow circle erected by her own vanities, and embellished by her own contracted notions of what is the end and aim of human existence, and within a sphere that she fancied respectable and refined.
As for the race of the Clawbonnys, all the elderly members of this extensive family lived and died in my service; or, it might be better to say, I lived in theirs. Venus saw several repetitions of her own charms in the offspring of Neb and Chloe, though she pertinaciously insisted to the last, that Cupid, as a step-husband, had no legitimate connection with any of the glistening, thick-lipped, chubby set. But, even closer family ties than those which bound my slaves to me, are broken by the pressure of human institutions. The conscript fathers of New York had long before determined that domestic slavery should not continue within their borders; and, one by one, these younger dependants dropped off, to seek their fortunes in town, or in other portions of the State; until few were left beside Neb, his consort, and their immediate descendants. Some of these last still cling to me; the parents having instilled into the children, in virtue of their example and daily discourse, feelings that set at naught the innovations of a changeable state of society. With them, Clawbonny is still Clawbonny; and I and mine remain a race apart in their perception of things. I gave Neb and Chloe their freedom-papers, the day the faithful couple were married, and at once relieved their posterity from the servitude of eight-and-twenty, and five-and-twenty years, according to sex, that might otherwise have hung over all their elder children, until the law, by a general sweep, manumitted everybody. These papers Neb put in the bottom of his tobacco-box, not wishing to do any discredit to a gift from me; and there I accidentally saw them, in rags, seventeen years later, not having been opened, or seen by a soul, as I firmly believe, in all that time. It is true, the subsequent legislation of the State rendered all this of no moment; but the procedure showed the character and disposition of the man, demonstrating his resolution to stick by me to the last. He has had no intention to free me, whatever may have been my plans for himself and his race.
I never had more than one conversation with either Neb or his wife, on the subject of wages, and then I discovered how tender a thing it was, with the fellow, to place him on a level with the other hired people of my farm and household.
"I won'er what I done, Masser Mile, dat you want to pay me wages, like a hired man!" said Neb, half-disposed to resent, and half-disposed to grieve at the proposal. "I was born in de family, and it seem to me dat quite enough; but, if dat isn't enough, I went to sea wid you, Masser Mile, de fuss day you go, and I go ebbery time since."
These words, uttered a little reproachfully, disposed of the matter. From that hour to this, the subject of wages has never been broached between us. When Neb wants clothes he goes and gets them, and they are charged to "Masser Mile;" when he wants money he comes and gets it, never manifesting the least shame or reluctance, but asking for all he has need of, like a man. Chloe does the same with Lucy, whom she regards, in addition to her having the honour to be my wife, as a sort of substitute for "Miss Grace." With this honest couple, Mr. and Mrs. Miles Wallingford, of Clawbonny, and Riversedge; and Union Place, are still nothing but "Masser Mile" and "Miss Lucy;"—and I once saw an English traveller take out her note-book, and write something very funny, I dare say, when she heard Chloe thus address the mother of three fine children, who were hanging around her knee, and calling her by that, the most endearing of all appellations. Chloe was indifferent to the note of the traveller, however, still calling her mistress "Miss Lucy," though the last is now a grandmother.
As for the children of the house of Nebuchadnezzar, truth compels me to say, that they have been largely influenced by the spirit of the age, and that they look on the relation that existed for more than a century, between the Wallingfords and the Clawbonnys, with eyes somewhat different from those of their parents. They have begun to migrate; and I am not sorry to see them go. Notwithstanding, the tie will not be wholly broken, so long as any of the older stock remain, tradition leaving many of its traces among them. Not one has ever left my rule without my consent; and I have procured places for them all, as ambition, or curiosity, has carried them into the world.
As for this new spirit of the age that is doing so much among us, I am not twaddler enough to complain of all change, for I know that many of these changes have had the most beneficial effects. I am far from thinking that domestic slavery, as it once existed at Clawbonny, is a picture of domestic slavery as it existed throughout the land; but I do believe that the institution, as it was formerly known in New York, was quite as much to the disadvantage of the white man, as to that of the black. There was always something of the patriarchal character in one of our households, previously to the change in the laws; and the relation of master and slave, in old, permanent families, in which plenty was no stranger, had ever more or less of that which was respectable and endearing. It is not so much in relation to the abolition spirit, (if it would only confine its exertions to communities over which it may happen to possess some right of control,) that I feel alarmed as in reference to a certain spirit, which appears to think there always must be more and more change, and that in connection with any specific interest, whatever may have been its advancement under previous regimes; nothing in social life being fully developed, according to the creed of these movement philosophers. Now, in my view of the matter, the two most dangerous of all parties in a state, are that which sets up conservatism as its standard, and that which sets up progress: the one is for preserving things of which it would be better to be rid, while the other crushes all that is necessary and useful in its headlong course. I now speak of these opposing principles, as they are marshalled in parties, opposition giving pertinacity and violence to each. No sane man can doubt that, in the progress of events, much is produced that ought to be retained, and much generated that it would be wiser to reject. He, alone, is the safe and wise legislator, who knows how, and when, to make the proper distinctions. As for conservatism, Lafayette once characterized it excellently well, in one of his happiest hits in the tribune. "Gentlemen talk of the just medium (juste milieu)" he said, "as if it embraced a clear political creed. We all know what the just medium is, as relates to any particular question; it is simply the truth, as it is connected with that question. But when gentlemen say, that they belong to the juste milieu, as a party, and that they intend to steer a middle course in all the public events of the day, they remind me of a case like this—A man of exaggerated notions lays down the proposition that four and four make ten; another of more discretion and better arithmetic combats this idea, by maintaining that four and four make only eight; whereupon, your gentleman of the juste milieu, finds himself obliged to say, 'Messieurs, you are equally in the wrong; the truth never lies in extremes, and four and four make nine.'"
What is true of conservatism, as a principle, is still more true as to the movement; for it often happens in morals, as well as in physics, that the remedy is worse than the disease. The great evil of Europe, in connection with interests of this nature, arises from facts that have little or no influence here. There, radical changes have been made, the very base of the social edifice having been altered, while much of the ancient architecture remains in the superstructure. Where this is the case, some errors may be pardoned in the artisans who are for reducing the whole to the simplicity of a single order. But, among ourselves, the man who can see no end to anything earthly, ever maintaining that the best always lies beyond, if he live long enough to succeed, may live long enough to discover that truth is always on an eminence, and that the downward course is only too easy to those who rush in so headlong a manner at its goal, as to suffer the impetus of the ascent to carry them past the apex. A social fact cannot be carried out to demonstration like a problem in Euclid, the ramifications being so infinite as to reduce the results to something very like a conclusion from a multitude of interests.
It is next incumbent to speak of Marble. He passed an entire month at Clawbonny, during which time he and Neb rigged the Grace and Lucy, seven different ways, coming back to that in which they found her, as the only rig in which she would sail; no bad illustration, by the way, of what is too often the winding up of experiments in overdone political movements. Moses tried shooting, which he had heard belonged to a country life; and he had a sort of design to set up as a fourth or fifth class country gentleman; but his legs were too short to clamber over high rail-fences with any comfort, and he gave up the amusement in despair. In the course of a trial of ten days, he brought in three robins, a small squirrel, and a crow; maintaining that he had also wounded a pigeon, and frightened a whole flock of quails. I have often bagged ten brace of woodcocks of a morning, in the shooting-grounds of Clawbonny, and as many quails in their season.
Six weeks after our marriage, Lucy and I paid Willow Cove a visit, where we passed a very pleasant week. To my surprise, I received a visit from Squire Van Tassel, who seemed to bear no malice. Marble made peace with him, as soon as he paid back the amount of his father's bond, principal and interest, though he always spoke of him contemptuously to me in private. I must confess I was astonished at the seemingly forgiving temper of the old usurer; but I was then too young to understand that there are two principles that govern men's conduct as regards their associations; the one proceeding from humility and Christian forgiveness, and the other from an indifference to what is right. I am afraid the last produces more of what is called a forgiving temper than the first; men being often called vindictive, when they are merely honest.
Marble lost his mother about a twelvemonth after we returned from our unfortunate voyage in the Dawn. A month or two earlier, he lost his niece, little Kitty, by a marriage with the son of 'neighbour Bright.' After this, he passed much of his time at Clawbonny, making occasional visits to us, in Chamber street, in the winter. I say in Chamber street, as trade soon drove us out of Lucy's town residence in Wall street. The lot on which the last once stood is still her property, and is a small fortune of itself. I purchased and built in Chamber street, in 1805, making an excellent investment. In 1825, we went into Bleecker street, a mile higher up town, in order to keep in the beau quartier; and I took advantage of the scarcity of money and low prices of 1839, to take up new ground in Union Place, very nearly a league from the point where Lucy commenced as a house-keeper in the good and growing town of Manhattan.
After Marble found himself an orphan again, he complained that he was little better off than a 'bloody hermit' at Willow Cove, and began to talk about seeing the world. All of a sudden, he made his appearance at Clawbonny, bag and baggage, and announced an intention to look for a mate's berth, in some East Indiaman. I heard his story, kept him a day or two with me, while I superintended the masons who were building my addition to the house, which was then nearly-completed, and then we proceeded to town in company. I took Moses to the ship-yards, and carried him on board a vessel that was just receiving her spars, (she was coppered and copper-fastened, A. No. 1, of live-oak frame, and southern pine decks, &c.,) asking him how he liked her. He hoped she had a good name. "Why, she is called the Smudge," I answered. "I hope you fancy it." Moses jerked a finger over his shoulder, as much as to say he understood me, and inquired where I intended to send the craft. "To Canton, with you for master." I saw that my old mate was touched with this proof of confidence, and that his self-esteem had so much risen with the discovery of his origin that he made no objections to the trust. I did not intend to go regularly into commerce, but I kept the Smudge running many years, always under Marble, and made a vast deal of money by her. Once she went to Europe, Lucy and I going in her as passengers. This was after the death of my dear old guardian, who made such an end, as became his virtuous and Christian life. We, that is Lucy and I, remained abroad several years, returning home in the Smudge, on the last voyage she ever made as belonging to me. Neb had often been out in the ship, just to vary the scene; and he came to Havre in her, as a matter of course, when 'Masser Mile,' 'Miss Lucy,' and their two 'young Massers,' and two 'young Missuses,' were ready to come home. I was a good deal shocked at meeting my old friend, Moses, on this occasion, for he was breaking up fast, being now hard on upon seventy; a time of life when most seamen are unfit for their calling. Moses, however, had held on, with a determination to convey us all back to Clawbonny. Three days after we had sailed, the man of stone had to give up, and take to his berth. I saw that his days were numbered, and felt it to be a duty to let him know his real situation. It was an unpleasant office, but became less so by the resigned and manly manner in which the invalid heard me. It was only when I ceased speaking, that he made an attempt to reply.
"I have known that the v'y'ge of life was pretty near up, Miles," he then answered, "for many a day. When the timbers complain and the new tree-nails hit only decayed wood, it is time to think of breaking up the hull for the craft's copper, and old iron. I've pretty much worn out the Smudge, and the Smudge has pretty much worn out me. I shall never see Ameriky, and I now give up charge of the craft to you. She is your own, and nobody can take better care of her. I own I should like to be cased in something that once belonged to her. There's the bulk-head that was taken down, to alter the state-rooms for your family—it would make as comfortable a coffin as a body could want."
I promised the old man all should be done, as he desired. After a short pause, it struck me the present might be a favourable moment to say a ward on the subject of the future. Marble was never a vicious man, nor could he be called a particularly wicked man, as the world goes. He was thoroughly honest, after making a few allowances for the peculiar opinions of seamen, and his sins were principally those of omission. But, of religious instruction he had literally known none, in early life. That which he had picked up in his subsequent career, was not of the most orthodox character. I had often thought Marble was well disposed on such subjects, but opportunity was always wanting to improve this hopeful disposition. Accordingly, I now spoke plainly to him, and I could see his still keen eyes turned wistfully towards me, more than once, as he listened with an absorbed attention.
"Ay, ay, Miles," he answered, when I was through, "this may all be true enough, but it's rather late in the day for me to go to school. I've heard most of it before, in one shape or another, but it always came so much in scraps and fragments, that before I could bend one idee on to another, so as to make any useful gear of the whole, some of the pieces have slipped through my fingers. Hows'ever, I've been hard at work at the good book, the whole of this v'y'ge, and you know it's been a long one; and I must say that I've picked up a good deal that seems to me to be of the right quality. Now I always thought it was one of the foolishest things a man could do, to forgive one's enemies, my rule having been to return broadside for broadside, as you must pretty well know; but, I now see that it is more like a kind natur' to pardon, than to revenge."
"My dear Moses, this is a very hopeful frame of mind; carry out this feeling in all things, leaning on the Saviour alone for your support, and your dying hour may well be the happiest of your life."
"There's that bloody Smudge, notwithstanding; I hardly think it will be expected of me to look upon him as anything but a 'long-shore pirate, and a fellow to be disposed of in the shortest way possible. As for old Van Tassel, he's gone to square the yards in a part of the univarse where all his tricks will be known; and I hold it to be onreasonable to carry spite ag'in a man beyond the grave. I rather think I have altogether forgiven him; though, to speak the truth, he desarved a rope's-ending."
I understood Marble much better than he understood himself. He felt the sublime beauty of the Christian morality, but, at the same time, he felt there were certain notions so rooted in his own heart, that it exceeded his power to extract them. As for Smudge, his mind had its misgivings concerning the propriety of his own act, and, with the quickness of his nature, sought to protest itself against its own suggestions, by making an exception of that wretch, as against the general mandates of God. Van Tassel he probably could, in a manner, pardon, the mischief having been in a measure repaired; though it was a forgiveness that was strangely tinctured with his own deep contempt for the meanness of the transgressor.
Our conversation lasted a long time. At length Lucy joined in it, when I thought it wisest to leave the old tar in the hands of one so well fitted by nature and education to be the instrument, under the providence of God, of bringing him to a more healthful view of his condition. I had the ship to take care of, and this was a good excuse for not interfering much with what passed between the dying man and her who might almost be termed his ministering angel. I overheard many of their conferences, and was present at some of their prayers, as were my sons and daughters; being thus enabled to understand the progress that was made, and the character of the whole procedure.
It was an admirable sight, truly, to see that still lovely woman, using all the persuasion of her gentle rhetoric, all the eloquence of her warm feelings and just mind, devoting herself for days and days, to the labour of leading such a spirit as that of Marble's to entertain just and humble view's of his own relation to the Creator and his Son, the Saviour of men. I will not say that complete success crowned the pious efforts of the single-hearted woman it was my blessed fortune to call my wife: this, perhaps, was not to be expected. It required a power exceeding hers to guide the human heart at seventy, after a seaman's life, to a full repentance of its sins; but, by the grace of God, so much seemed to be accomplished, as to give us all reason to hope that the seed had taken root, and that the plant might grow under the guidance of that Spirit in whose likeness the most lowly of the race has been created.
The passage was long, but very tranquil, and there was ample time for all that has been related. The ship was still to the eastward of the Grand Banks, when Marble ceased to converse much; though it is evident his thoughts were intently musing. He fell away fast, and I began to look forward to his final departure, as an event that might occur at any hour. He did not seem to suffer, but his hold of life gradually gave way, and the spirit was about to take its departure, purely on account of the decayed condition of the earthly tenement in which it had so long dwelt, as the stork finally deserts the tottering chimney.
About a week after this change, my son Miles came to me on deck, and informed me his dear mother desired to see me in the cabin. On going below, I was met by Lucy, with a face that denoted how solemn she felt was the character of the intelligence she had to communicate.
"The moment is at hand, dear Miles," she said.—"Our old friend is about to be called away."
I felt a pang at this speech, though I had long expected the result. Many of the earlier and more adventurous years of my life passed rapidly in review before me, and I found the image of the dying man blended with nearly all. Whatever may have been his peculiarities, to me he had always been true. From the hour when I first shipped, as a runaway boy, on board the John, down to that hour, Moses Marble had proved himself a firm and disinterested friend to Miles Wallingford.
"Is he conscious?" I asked, anxiously. "When I last saw him, I thought his mind wandered a little."
"Perhaps it did; but he is now more collected, if not entirely so. There is reason to think he has at length felt some of the influence of the Redeemer's sacrifice. For the last week, the proofs of this have been increasing."
No more passed between Lucy and me, on the subject, at that time; but I entered the cabin in which the cot of Marble had been slung. It was a spacious, airy room, for a ship; one that had been expressly fitted by my orders, for the convenience of Lucy and her two daughters, but which those dear, self-denying creatures had early and cheerfully given up to the possession of their old friend.