I rose on the following morning at a late hour, and with a heaviness at the heart that was natural to the occasion. It was a lovely summer's day; but all in and around Clawbonny wore the air of a Sunday. The procession was to form at ten o'clock; and, as I cast my eyes from my window, I could see the negroes moving about on the lawns, and in the lanes, attired in their best, but wearing no holiday faces. It seemed to me to be a species of unnatural Sabbath, possessing all its solemnity, its holy stillness, its breathing calm, but wanting in that solacing spirit of peace which is so apt to be imparted to the day of rest in the country, most particularly at that season of the year. Several of the neighbours, who did not belong to Clawbonny, were beginning to appear; and I felt the necessity of dressing in order to be in readiness for what was to follow.
I had eaten alone in my little study or library from the time my sister died, and had seen no one since my return to the house, the servants excepted, besides my guardian, Lucy, and John Wallingford. The last had taken a light supper with me the previous night; but he was then breakfasting with the rest of the guests in the family eating-room, Mr. Hardinge doing the honours of the house.
As for myself, I found my own little table prepared with its coffee and light meal, as I had ordered before retiring. It had two cups, however, and a second plate had been laid in addition to my own. I pointed to this arrangement, and demanded of the old white-headed house-servant, who was in-waiting, what it meant.
"Miss Lucy, sah—she say she mean to breakfast wid Masser Mile, dis mornin', sah."
Even the accents of this negro were solemn and sad as he made this familiar explanation, like those of a man who was conscious of having reached an hour and an occasion that called for peculiar awe. I bade him let Miss Lucy know that I was in the study.
"Ah, Masser Mile," added the old man, with tears in his eyes as he left the room, "Miss Lucy 'e only young missus now, sah!"
In a few minutes Lucy joined me. She was in deep black of course, and that may have added to the appearance of paleness; but no one could be deceived in the manner in which the dear girl had mourned and wept since we parted. The subdued expression of her face gave it a peculiar sweetness; and, in spite of the absence of colour, I thought, as Lucy advanced towards me, both hands extended, and a smile of anxious inquiry on her lips, that she had never appeared more lovely. I did not hesitate about pressing those hands with fervour, and of kissing the warm though colourless cheek. All this passed as it might have done between an affectionate brother and sister, neither of us thinking, I am persuaded, of aught but the confidence and friendship of childhood.
"This is kind of you, dear Lucy," I said, as we took our seats at the little table; "my cousin John Wallingford, though a good man in the main, is scarcely near enough, or dear enough, to be admitted at a time like this."
"I have seen him," Lucy replied—the tremour in her voice showing how hard she found it to avoid melting in tears, "and rather like him. I believe he was a favourite with mamma Wallingford," so Lucy was accustomed to call my mother, "and that ought to be a high recommendation with us, Miles."
"I am disposed to like him, and shall endeavour to keep up more intercourse with him than I have hitherto done. It is as we begin to find ourselves alone in the world, Lucy, that we first feel the necessity of counting blood and kin, and of looking around us for support."
"Alone you are not, Miles, and never can be while I and my dear father live. We are certainly nearer to you than any that now remain among your blood relatives! You can neither suffer nor be happy without our partaking in the feelings."
This was not said without an effort; that much I could detect; yet it was said firmly, and in a way that left no doubt of its entire sincerity. I even wished there had been less of nature and more of hesitation in the dear girl's manner while she was endeavouring to assure me of the sympathy she felt in my happiness or unhappiness. But the waywardness of a passion as tormenting, and yet as delightful as love, seldom leaves us just or reasonable.
Lucy and I then talked of the approaching ceremony. Each of us was grave and sorrowful, but neither indulged in any outward signs of grief. We knew the last sad offices were to be performed, and had braced ourselves to the discharge of this melancholy duty. It was not customary with the females of purely New York families of the class of the Hardinges, to be present at the performance of the funeral rites; but Lucy told me she intended to be in the little church, and to share in as much of the religious offices as were performed within the building. In a population as mixed as ours has become, it is not easy to say what is and what is not now a national or state usage, on such an occasion; but I knew this was going farther than was usual for one of Lucy's habits and opinions, and I expressed a little surprise at her determination.
"Were it at any other funeral, I would not be present, Miles," she said, the tremour of her voice sensibly increasing; "but I cannot divest myself of the idea that the spirit of Grace will be hovering near; that the presence of her more than sister will be acceptable. Whatever the Providence of God may have ordered for the dear departed, I know it will be grateful to myself to join in the prayers of the church—besides, I am not altogether without the womanly feeling of wishing to watch over the form of Grace while it remains above ground. And now, Miles, brother, friend, Grace's brother, or by whatever endearing term I may address you," added Lucy, rising, coming to my side of the table, and taking my hand. "I have one thing to say that I alone can say, for it would never suggest itself as necessary to my dear father."
I looked earnestly at Lucy's sweet countenance, and saw it was full of concern—I had almost said of alarm.
"I believe I understand you, Lucy," I answered, though a sensation at the throat nearly choked me—"Rupert is here?"
"He is, Miles; I implore you to remember what would be the wishes of her who is now a saint in heaven—what her entreaties, her tears would implore of you, had not God placed a barrier between us."
"I understand you, Lucy"—was the husky reply—"I do remember all you wish, though that recollection is unnecessary. I would rather not see him; but never can! forget that he is your brother!"
"You will see as little of him as possible, Miles—bless you, bless you, for this forbearance!"
I felt Lucy's hasty but warm kiss on my forehead as she quitted the room. It seemed to me a seal of a compact between us that was far too sacred ever to allow me to dream of violating it.
I pass over the details of the funeral procession. This last was ordered as is usual in the country, the friends following the body in vehicles or on horseback, according to circumstances. John Wallingford went with me agreeably to my own arrangement, and the rest took their places in the order of consanguinity and age. I did not see Rupert in the procession at all, though I saw little beside the hearse that bore the body of my only sister. When we reached the church-yard, the blacks of the family pressed forward to bear the coffin into the building. Mr. Hardinge met us there, and then commenced those beautiful and solemn rites which seldom fail to touch the hardest heart. The rector of St. Michael's had the great excellence of reading all the offices of the church as if he felt them; and, on this occasion, the deepest feelings of the heart seemed to be thrown into his accents. I wondered how he could get on; but Mr. Hardinge felt himself a servant of the altar, standing in his master's house, and ready to submit to his will. Under such circumstances it was not a trifle that could unman him. The spirit of the divine communicated itself to me. I did not shed a tear during the whole of the ceremony, but felt myself sustained by the thoughts and holy hopes that ceremony was adapted to inspire. I believe Lucy, who sat in a far corner of the church, was sustained in a similar manner; for I heard her low sweet voice mingling in the responses. Lip service! Let those who would substitute their own crude impulses for the sublime rites of our liturgy, making ill digested forms the supplanter of a ritual carefully and devoutly prepared, listen to one of their own semi-conversational addresses to the Almighty over a grave, and then hearken to these venerable rites, and learn humility. Such men never approach sublimity, or the sacred character that should be impressed on a funeral ceremony, except when they borrow a fragment here and there from the very ritual they affect to condemn. In their eagerness to dissent, they have been guilty of the weakness of dissenting, so far as forms are concerned, from some of the loftiest, most comprehensive, most consolatory and most instructive passages of the inspired book!
It was a terrible moment when the first clod of the valley fell on my sister's coffin. God sustained me under the shock! I neither groaned nor wept. When Mr. Hardinge returned the customary thanks to those who had assembled to assist me "in burying my dead out of my sight," I had even sufficient fortitude to bow to the little crowd, and to walk steadily away. It is true, that John Wallingford very kindly took my arm to sustain me, but I was not conscious of wanting any support. I heard the sobs of the blacks as they crowded around the grave, which the men among them insisted on filling with their own hands, as if "Miss Grace" could only rest with their administration to her wants; and I was told not one of them left the spot until the place had resumed all the appearance of freshness and verdure which it possessed before the spade had been applied. The same roses, removed with care, were restored to their former beds; and it would not have been easy for a stranger to discover that a new-made grave lay by the side of those of the late Captain Miles Wallingford and his much-respected widow. Still it was known to all in that vicinity, and many a pilgrimage was made to the spot within the next fortnight, the young maidens of the adjoining farms in particular coming to visit the grave of Grace Wallingford, the "Lily of Clawbonny," as she had once been styled.
"I knew that we must part—no power could save Thy quiet goodness from an early grave: Those eyes so dull, though kind each glance they cast, Looking a sister's fondness to the last; Thy lips so pale, that gently press'd my cheek; Thy voice—alas! Thou could'st but try to speak;— All told thy doom; I felt it at my heart; The shaft had struck—I knew that we must part."
It is not easy to describe the sensation of loss that came over me after the interment of my sister. It is then we completely feel the privation with which we have met. The body is removed from out of our sight; the places that knew them shall know them no more; there is an end to all communion, even by the agency of sight, the last of the senses to lose its hold on the departed, and a void exists in the place once occupied. I felt all this very keenly, for more than a month, but most keenly during the short time I remained at Clawbonny. The task before me, however, will not allow me to dwell on these proofs of sorrow, nor do I know that the reader could derive much advantage from their exhibition.
I did not see Rupert at the funeral. That he was there I knew, but either he, himself, or Lucy for him, had managed so well, as not to obtrude his person on my sight. John Wallingford, who well knew my external or visible relation to all the Hardinges, thinking to do me a pleasure, mentioned, as the little procession returned to the house, that young Mr. Hardinge had, by dint of great activity, succeeded in reaching Clawbonny in time for the funeral. I fancy that Lucy, under the pretence of wishing his escort, contrived to keep her brother at the rectory during the time I was abroad.
On reaching the house, I saw all my connexions, and thanked them in person for this proof of their respect for the deceased. This little duty performed, all but John Wallingford took their leave, and I was soon left in the place alone with my bachelor cousin. What a house it was! and what a house it continued to be as long as I remained at Clawbonny! The servants moved about it stealthily; the merry laugh was no longer heard in the kitchen; even the heavy-footed seemed to tread on air, and all around me appeared to be afraid of disturbing the slumbers of the dead. Never before, nor since, have I had occasion to feel how completely a negative may assume an affirmative character, and become as positive as if it had a real existence. I thought I could see as well as feel my sister's absence from the scene in which she had once been so conspicuous an actor.
As none of the Hardinges returned to dinner, the good divine writing a note to say he would see me in the evening after my connexions had withdrawn, John Wallingford and myself took that meal tete a tete. My cousin, with the apparent motive of diverting my thoughts from dwelling on the recent scene, began to converse on subjects that he was right in supposing might interest me. Instead of flying off to some topic so foreign to my feelings as constantly to recall the reason, he judiciously connected the theme with my loss.
"I suppose you will go to sea again, as soon as your ship can be got ready, cousin Miles," he commenced, after we were left with the fruit and wine. "These are stirring times in commerce, and the idle man misses golden opportunities."
"Gold has no longer any charm for me, cousin John," I answered gloomily. "I am richer now than is necessary for my wants, and, as I shall probably never marry, I see no great use in toiling for more. Still, I shall go out in my own ship, and that as soon as possible. Here I would not pass the summer for the place, and I love the sea. Yes, yes; I must make a voyage to some part of Europe without delay. It is the wisest thing I can do."
"That is hearty, and like a man! There is none of your mopes about the Wallingfords, and I believe you to be of the true stock. But why never marry, Miles? Your father was a sailor, and he married, and a very good time I've always understood he had of it."
"My father was happy as a husband, and, did I imitate his example, I should certainly marry, too. Nevertheless, I feel I am to be a bachelor."
"In that case, what will become of Clawbonny?" demanded Jack Wallingford, bluntly.
I could not avoid smiling at the question, as I deemed him my heir, though the law would give it to nearer relatives, who were not of the name; but it is probable that John, knowing himself to be so much my senior, had never thought of himself as one likely to outlive me.
"I shall make a new will, the instant I get to town, and leave Clawbonny to you," I answered steadily, and truly, for such a thought had come into my mind the instant I saw him. "You are the person best entitled to inherit it, and should you survive me, yours it shall be."
"Miles, I like that," exclaimed my cousin, with a strange sincerity, stretching out a hand to receive mine, which he pressed most warmly. "You are very right; I ought to be the heir of this place, should you die without children, even though you left a widow,"
This was said so naturally, and was so much in conformity with my own notions on the subject, that it did not so much offend, as surprise me. I knew John Wallingford loved money, and, all men having a very respectful attachment to the representative of value, such a character invariably means, that the party named suffers that attachment to carry him too far. I wished, therefore, my kinsman had not made just such a speech; though it in no manner shook my intentions in his favour.
"You are more ready to advise your friends to get married, than to set the example," I answered, willing to divert the discourse a little. "You, who must be turned of fifty, are still a bachelor."
"And so shall I remain through life. There was a time I might have married, had I been rich; and now I am reasonably rich, I find other things to employ my affections. Still, that is no reason you should not leave me Clawbonny, though it is not probable I shall ever live to inherit it. Notwithstanding, it is family property, and ought not to go out of the name. I was afraid, if you were, lost at sea, or should die of any of those outlandish fevers that sailors sometimes take, the place would get into females, and there would no longer be a Wallingford at Clawbonny. Miles, I do not grudge you the possession of the property the least in the world; but it would make me very unhappy to know one of those Hazens, or Morgans, or Van-der-Schamps had it." Jack had mentioned the names of the children of so many Miss Wallingfords, aunts or great-aunts, of mine, and cousins of his own.—"Some of them may be nearer to you, by a half-degree, or so, but none of them are as near to Clawbonny. It is Wallingford land, and Wallingford land it ought to remain."
I was amused in spite of myself, and felt a disposition now, to push the discourse further, in order better to understand my kinsman's character.
"Should neither of us two marry," I said, "and both die bachelors, what would then be the fate of Clawbonny?"
"I have thought of all that, Miles, and here is my answer: Should such a thing happen, and there be no other Wallingford left, then no Wallingford would live to have his feelings hurt by knowing that a Vander-dunder-Schamp, or whatever these Dutchmen ought to be called, is living in his father's house; and no harm would be done. But, there are Wallingfords besides you and me."
"This is quite new; for I had supposed we two were the last."
"Not so: Miles the first left two sons; our ancestor, the eldest, and one younger, who removed into the colony of New Jersey, and whose descendants still exist. The survivors of us two might go there in quest of our heir, in the long run. But do not forget I come before these Jersey Blues, let them be who, or what they may."
I assured my kinsman he should come before them, and changed the discourse; for, to own the truth, the manner in which he spoke began to displease me. Making my apologies, I retired to my own room, while John Wallingford went out, professedly with the intention of riding over the place of his ancestors, with a view to give it a more critical exanimation than it had hitherto been in his power to do.
It was quite dark, when I heard the arrival of the Hardinges, as the carriage of Lucy drove up to the door. In a few minutes Mr. Hardinge entered the study. He first inquired after my health, and manifested the kind interest he had ever taken in my feelings; after which, he proceeded:
"Rupert is here," he said, "and I have brought him over to see you. Both he and Lucy appeared to think it might be well not to disturb you to-night; but I knew you better. Who should be at your side at this bitter moment, my dear Miles, if it be not Rupert, your old friend and play-mate; your fellow truant, as one might say, and almost your brother?"
Almost my brother! Still I commanded myself. Grace had received my solemn assurances, and so had Lucy, and Rupert had nothing to apprehend. I even asked to see him, desiring, at the same time, that it might be alone. I waited several minutes for Rupert's appearance, in vain. At length the door of my room opened, and Chloe brought me a note. It was from Lucy, and contained only these words—"Miles, for her sake, for mine, command yourself." Dear creature! She had no reason to be alarmed. The spirit of my sister seemed to me to be present; and I could recall every expression of her angel-countenance as it had passed before my eyes in the different interviews that preceded her death.
At length Rupert appeared. He had been detained by Lucy until certain her note was received, when she permitted him to quit her side. His manner was full of the consciousness of undeserving, and its humility aided my good resolutions. Had he advanced to take my hand; had he attempted consolation; had he, in short, behaved differently in the main from what he actually did, I cannot say what might have been the consequences. But his deportment, at first, was quiet, respectful, distant rather than familiar, and he had the tact, or grace, or caution, not to make the smallest allusion to the sad occasion which had brought him to Clawbonny. When I asked him to be seated, he declined the chair I offered, a sign he intended the visit to be short. I was not sorry, and determined, at once, to make the interview as much one of business as possible. I had a sacred duty confided to me, and this might be as fit an occasion as could offer in which to acquit myself of the trust.
"I am glad so early an opportunity has offered, Mr. Hardinge," I said, as soon as the opening civilities were over, "to acquaint you with an affair that has been entrusted to me by Grace, and which I am anxious to dispose of as soon as possible."
"By Grace—by Miss Wallingford!" exclaimed Rupert, actually recoiling a step in surprise, if not absolutely in alarm—"I shall feel honoured—that is, shall have a melancholy gratification in endeavouring to execute any of her wishes. No person commanded more of my respect, Mr. Wallingford, and I shall always consider her one of the most amiable and admirable women with whom it was ever my happy fortune to be acquainted."
I had no difficulty now in commanding myself, for it was easy to see Rupert scarce knew what he said. With such a man I saw no great necessity for using extraordinary delicacy or much reserve.
"You are doubtless aware of two things in our family history," I continued, therefore, without circumlocution: "one that my sister would have been mistress of a small fortune, had she reached the term of twenty-one years, and the other that she died at twenty."
Rupert's surprise was now more natural, and I could see that his interest—shame on our propensities for it!—was very natural, too.
"I am aware of both, and deeply deplore the last," he answered.
"Being a minor, she had it not in her power to make a will, but her requests are legal legacies in my eyes, and I stand pledged to her to see them executed. She has left rather less than $22,000 in all; with $500 of this money I am to present Lucy with some suitable memorial of her departed friend; some small charitable dispositions are also to be made, and the balance, or the round sum of $20,000, is to be given to you."
"To me, Mr. Wallingford!—Miles!—Did you really say to me?"
"To you, Mr. Hardinge,—such is my sister's earnest request—and this letter will declare it, as from herself. I was to hand you this letter, when acquainting you with the bequest." I put Grace's letter into Rupert's hand, as I concluded, and I sat down to write, while he was reading it. Though employed at a desk for a minute or two, I could not avoid glancing at Rupert, in order to ascertain the effect of the last words of her he had once professed to love. I would wish not to be unjust even to Rupert Hardinge. He was dreadfully agitated, and he walked the room, for some little time, without speaking. I even fancied I overheard a half-suppressed groan. I had the compassion to affect to be engaged, in order to allow him to recover his self-possession. This was soon done, as good impressions were not lasting in Rupert; and I knew him so well, as soon to read in his countenance, gleanings of satisfaction at the prospect of being master of so large a sum. At the proper moment, I arose and resumed the subject.
"My sister's wishes would be sacred with me," I said, even had she not received my promise to see them executed. "When a thing of this character is to be done the sooner it is done the better. I have drawn a note at ten days, payable at the Bank of New York, and in your favour, for $20,000: it will not inconvenience me to pay it when due, and that will close the transaction."
"I am not certain, Wallingford, that I ought to receive so large a sum—I do not know that my father, or Lucy or indeed the world, would altogether approve of it."
"Neither your father, nor Lucy, nor the world will know anything about it, sir, unless you see fit to acquaint them I shall not speak of the bequest; and I confess that, on my sister's account, I should prefer that you would not."
"Well, Mr. Hardinge," answered Rupert, coolly putting the note into his wallet, "I will think of this request of poor Grace's, and if I can possibly comply with her wishes, I will certainly do so. There is little that she could ask that I would deny, and my effort will be to honour her memory. As I see you are distressed, I will now retire; you shall know my determination in a few days."
Rupert did retire, taking my note for $20,000 with him. I made no effort to detain him, nor was I sorry to hear he had returned to the rectory to pass the night, whither his sister went with him. The next day he proceeded to New York, without sending me any message, retaining the note however; and, a day or two later, I heard of him on his way to the springs to rejoin the party of the Mertons.
John Wallingford left me the morning of the day after the funeral, promising to see me again in town. "Do no forget the will, Miles," said that singular man, as he shook my hand, "and be certain to let me see that provision in it about Clawbonny, before I go west of the bridge, again. Between relations of the same name, there should be no reserves in such matters."
I scarce knew whether to smile or to look grave, at so strange a request; but I did not change my determination on the subject of the will, itself: feeling that justice required of me such a disposition of the property. I confess there were moments when I distrusted the character of one who could urge a claim of this nature in so plain a manner; and that, too, at an instant when the contemplated contingency seemed the more probable from the circumstance that death had so recently been among us. Notwithstanding, there was so much frankness in my kinsman's manner, he appeared to sympathize so sincerely in my loss, and his opinions were so similar to my own, that these unpleasant twinges lasted but for brief intervals. On the whole, my opinion was very favourable to John Wallingford, and, as will be seen in the sequel, he soon obtained my entire confidence.
After the departure of all my kindred, I felt, indeed, how completely I was left alone in the world. Lucy passed the night at the rectory, to keep her brother company, and good Mr. Hardinge, though thinking he remained with me to offer sympathy and consolation, found so many demands on his time, that I saw but little of him. It is possible he understood me sufficiently well to know that solitude and reflection, while the appearance of the first was avoided, were better for one of my temperament than any set forms of condolence. At any rate, he was at hand, while he said but little to me on the subject of my loss.
At last I got through the day; and a long and dreary day it was to me. The evening came, bland, refreshing, bringing with it the softer light of a young moon. I was walking on the lawn, when the beauty of the night brought Grace and her tastes vividly to my mind, and, by a sudden impulse, I was soon swiftly walking towards her now silent grave. The highways around Clawbonny were never much frequented; but at this hour, and so soon after the solemn procession it had so lately seen, no one was met on the road towards the church-yard. It was months, indeed, after the funeral, that any of the slaves ventured into the latter by night; and, even during the day, they approached it with an awe that nothing could have inspired but the death of a Wallingford. Perhaps it was owing to my increased age and greater observation, but I fancied that these simple beings felt the death of their young mistress more than they had felt that of my mother.
St. Michael's church-yard is beautifully ornamented with flourishing cedars. These trees had been cultivated with care, and formed an appropriate ornament for the place. A fine cluster of them shaded the graves of my family, and a rustic seat had been placed beneath their branches, by order of my mother, who had been in the habit of passing hours in meditation at the grave of her husband. Grace and I, and Lucy, had often repaired to the same place at night, after my mother's death, and there we used to sit many an hour, in deep silence; or, if utterance were given to a thought, it was in a respectful whisper. As I now approached this seat, I had a bitter satisfaction in remembering that Rupert had never accompanied us in these pious little pilgrimages. Even in the day of her greatest ascendancy, Grace had been unable to enlist her admirer in an act so repugnant to his innate character. As for Lucy, her own family lay on one side of that cluster of cedars, as mine lay on the other; and often had I seen the dear young creature weeping, as her eyes were riveted on the graves of relatives she had never known. But my mother had been her mother, and for this friend she felt an attachment almost as strong as that which was entertained by ourselves. I am not certain I ought not to say, an attachment quite as strong as our own.
I was apprehensive some visitors might be hovering near the grave of my sister at that witching hour, and I approached the cedars cautiously, intending to retire unseen should such prove to be the case. I saw no one, however, and proceeded directly to the line of graves, placing myself at the foot of the freshest and most newly made. Hardly was this done, when I heard the word "Miles!" uttered in a low, half-stifled exclamation. It was not easy for me to mistake the voice of Lucy; she was seated so near the trunk of a cedar that her dark dress had been confounded with the shadows of the tree. I went to the spot, and took a seat at her side.
"I am not surprised to find you here," I said, taking the dear girl's hand, by a sort of mechanical mode of manifesting affection which had grown up between us from childhood, rather than from, any sudden impulse—"you that watched over her so faithfully during the last hours of her existence."
"Ah! Miles," returned a voice that was filled with sadness, "how little did I anticipate this when you spoke of Grace in the brief interview we had at the theatre!"
I understood my companion fully. Lucy had been educated superior to cant and false morals. Her father drew accurate and manly distinctions between sin and the exactions of a puritanical presumption that would set up its own narrow notions as the law of God; and, innocent as she was, no thought of error was associated with the indulgence of her innocent pleasures. But Grace, suffering and in sorrow, while she herself had been listening to the wonderful poems of Shakspeare, did present a painful picture to her mind, which, so far from being satisfied with what she had done in my sister's behalf, was tenderly reproachful on account of fancied omissions.
"It is the will of God, Lucy," I answered. "It must be our effort to be resigned."
"If you can think thus, Miles, how much easier ought it to be for me! and, yet—"
"Yet, what, Lucy? I believe you loved my sister as affectionately as I did myself, but I am sensitive on this point; and, tender, true, warm as I know your heart to be, I cannot allow that even you loved her more."
"It is not that, Miles—it is not that. Have I no cause of particular regret—no sense of shame—no feeling of deep humility to add to my grief for her loss?"
"I understand you, Lucy, and at once answer, no. You are not Rupert any more than Rupert is you. Let all others become what they may, you will ever remain Lucy Hardinge."
"I thank you, Miles," answered my companion, gently pressing the hand that still retained hers, "and thank you from my heart. But your generous nature will not sae this matter as others might. We were aliens to your blood, dwellers under your own roof, received into the bosom of your own family, and were bound by every sacred obligation to do you no wrong. I would not have my dear, upright father know the truth for worlds."
"He never will know it, Lucy, and it is my earnest desire that we all forget it. Henceforth Rupert and I must be strangers, though the tie that exists between me and the rest of your family will only be drawn the closer for this sad event."
"Rupert is my brother—" Lucy answered, though it was in a voice so low that her words were barely audible.
"You would not leave me quite alone in the world!" I said, with something like reproachful energy.
"No, Miles, no—that tie, as you have said, must and should last for life. Nor do I wish you to regard Rupert as of old. It is impossible—improper even—but you can concede to us some of that same indulgence which I am so willing to concede to you."
"Certainly—Rupert is your brother, as you say, and I do not wish you ever to regard him, otherwise. He will marry Emily Merton, and I trust he may be happy. Here, over my sister's grave, Lucy, I renew the pledge already made to you, never to act on what has occurred."
I got no answer to this declaration in words, but Lucy would actually have kissed my hand in gratitude had I permitted it. This I could not suffer, however, but raised her own hand to my lips, where it was held until the dear girl gently withdrew it herself.
"Miles," Lucy said, after a long and thoughtful pause, "it is not good for you to remain at Clawbonny, just at this time. Your kinsman, John Wallingford, has been here, and I think you like him. Why not pay him a visit? He resides near Niagara, 'West of the Bridge,' as he calls it, and you might take the opportunity of seeing the 'Falls.'"
[Footnote 3: In the western part of the State of New York, there are several small lakes that lie nearly parallel to each other, and not far asunder, with lengths that vary from fifteen to forty miles. The outlet of one of these lakes—the Cayuga—lies in the route of the great thorough-fare to Buffalo, and a bridge of a mile in length was early thrown across it. From this circumstance has arisen the expression of saying, "West of the Bridge;" meaning the frontier counties, which include, among-other districts, that which is also known as the "Genessee Country."]
"I understand you, Lucy, and am truly grateful for the interest you feel in my happiness. I do not intend to remain long at Clawbonny, which I shall leave to-morrow—"
"To-morrow!" interrupted Lucy, and I thought like one who was alarmed.
"Does that appear too early? I feel the necessity of occupation, as well as of a change of scene. You will remember I have a ship and interests, of moment to myself, to care for: I must turn my face, and move towards the east, instead of towards the west."
"You intend then, Miles, to pursue this profession of yours!" Lucy said, as I thought, with a little like gentle regret in her manner and tones.
"Certainly—what better can I do? I want not wealth, I allow; am rich enough already for all my wants, but I have need of occupation. The sea is to my liking, I am still young, and can afford a few more years on the water. I shall never marry—" Lucy started—"and having now no heir nearer than John Wallingford"—
"John Wallingford!—you have cousins much nearer than he!"
"That is true; but not of the old line. It was Grace's wish that I should leave our cousin John the Clawbonny property at least, whatever I do with the rest. You are so rich now as not to need it, Lucy; else would I leave every shilling to you."
"I believe you would, dear Miles," answered Lucy, with fervent warmth of manner. "You have ever been all that is good and kind to me, and I shall never forget it."
"Talk of my kindness to you, Lucy, when you parted with every cent you had on earth to give me the gold you possessed, on my going to sea. I am almost sorry you are now so much richer than myself, else would I certainly make you my heir."
"We will not talk of money any longer in this sacred place," Lucy answered tremulously. "What I did as a foolish girl you will forget; we were but children then, Miles."
So Lucy did not wish me to remember certain passages in our earlier youth! Doubtless her present relations to Andrew Drewett rendered the recollection delicate, if not unpleasant. I thought this less like herself than was her wont—Lucy, who was usually so simple-minded, so affectionate, so frank and so true. Nevertheless, love is an engrossing sentiment, as I could feel in my own case, and it might be that its jealous sensitiveness took the alarm at even that which was so innocent and sincere. The effect of these considerations, added to that of Lucy's remark, was to change the discourse, and we conversed long, in melancholy sadness, of her we had lost, for this life, altogether.
"We may live, ourselves, to grow old, Miles," Lucy observed, "but never shall we cease to remember Grace as she was, and to love her memory, as we loved her dear self in life. There has not been an hour since her death, that I have not seen her sitting at my side, and conversing in sisterly confidence, as we did from infancy to the day she ceased to live!"
As Lucy said this, she rose, drew her shawl around her, and held out her hand to take leave, for I had spoken of an intention to quit Clawbonny early in the morning. The tears the dear girl shed might have been altogether owing to our previous conversation, or I might have had a share in producing them. Lucy used to weep at parting from me, as well as Grace, and she was not a girl to change with the winds. But I could not part thus: I had a sort of feeling that when we parted this time, it would virtually be a final separation, as the wife of Andrew Drewett never could be exactly that which Lucy Hardinge had now been to me for near twenty years.
"I will not say farewell now, Lucy," I observed. "Should you not come to town before I sail, I will return to Clawbonny to take leave of you. God only knows what will become of me, or whither I shall be led, and I could wish to defer the leave-takings to the last moment. You and your excellent father must have my final adieus."
Lucy returned the pressure of my hand, uttered a hasty good-night, and glided through the little gate of the rectory which by this time we had reached. No doubt she fancied I returned immediately to my own house. So far from this, however, I passed hours alone, in the church-yard, sometimes musing on the dead, and then with all my thoughts bent on the living. I could see the light in Lucy's window, and not till that was extinguished did I retire. It was long past midnight.
I passed hours teeming with strange emotions among hose cedars. Twice I knelt by Grace's grave, and prayed devoutly to God. It seemed to me that petitions offered in such a place must be blessed. I thought of my mother, of my manly, spirited father, of Grace, and of all the past. Then I lingered long beneath Lucy's window, and, in spite of this solemn visit to the graves of the dead, the brightest and most vivid image that I carried away with me was of the living.
Shy. Three thousand ducats—well. Bass. Ay, sir, for three months. Shy. For three months—well. Bass For the which, as I told you, Antonio shall become bound. Shy. Antonio shall become bound—well.
Merchant of Venice.
I found John Wallingford in town, awaiting my appearance. He had taken lodgings at the City Hotel, on purpose to be under the same roof with me, and we occupied adjoining rooms. I dined with him; and after dinner he went with me to take a look at the Dawn. The second-mate told me that Marble had made a flying visit to the ship, promised to be back again in a few days, and disappeared. By comparing dates, I ascertained that he would be in time to meet the mortgage sale, and felt no further concern in that behalf.
"Miles," said John Wallingford, coolly, as we were walking up Pine street, on our way back towards the tavern, "did you not tell me you employed Richard Harrison as a legal adviser?"
"I did. Mr. Hardinge made me acquainted with him, and I understand he is one of the oldest lawyers in the country. That is his office, on the other side of the street—here, directly opposite."
"I saw it, and that was the reason I spoke. It might be well just to step in and give some directions about your will. I wish to see Clawbonny put in the right line. If you would give me a deed of it for one dollar, I would not take it from you, the only son of an eldest son; but it would break my heart to hear of its going out of the name. Mr. Harrison is also an old adviser and-friend of mine."
I was startled with this plain-dealing; yet, there was something about the manner of the man that prevented my being displeased.
"Mr. Harrison would not be visible at this hour, but I will cross to the office, and write him a letter on the subject," I answered, doing as I said on the instant, and leaving John Wallingford to pursue his way to the house alone. The next day, however, the will was actually drawn up, executed, and placed in my cousin's hands, he being the sole executor. If the reader should ask me why I did this, especially the last, I might be at a loss to answer. A strange confidence had come over me, as respects this relative, whose extraordinary frankness even a more experienced man might have believed to be either the height of honesty, or the perfection of art. Whichever was the case, I not only left my will with him, but, in the course of the next week, I let him into the secret of all my pecuniary affairs; Grace's bequest to Rupert, alone, excepted. John Wallingford encouraged this confidence, telling me that plunging at once, heart and hand, into the midst of business, was the most certain mode of forgetting my causes of sorrow. Plunge into anything with my whole heart, I could not, then, though I endeavoured to lose my cares in business.
One of my first acts, in the way of affairs, was to look after the note I had given to Rupert. It had been made payable at the bank where I kept my deposits, and I went thither to inquire if it had been left for collection. The following conversation passed between myself and the cashier on this occasion:
"Good morning, Mr.——," I said, saluting the gentleman; "I have come to inquire if a note for $20,000, made by me in favour of Rupert Hardinge, Esquire, at ten days, has been left for collection. If so, I am ready to pay it now."
The cashier gave me a business smile,—one that spoke favourably of my standing as a moneyed man,—before he answered the question. This smile was, also, a sign that money was plenty.
"Not absolutely for collection, Captain Wallingford, as nothing would give us more pleasure than to renew it, if you would just go through the form of obtaining a city endorser."
"Mr. Hardinge has then left it for collection," I observed, pained, in spite of all that had passed, at Rupert's giving this conclusive evidence of the inherent meanness of his character.
"Not exactly for collection, sir," was the cashier's answer, "for, wishing to anticipate the money, by a few days, and being under the necessity of leaving town, we discounted it for him."
"Anticipate!—you have discounted the note, sir!"
"With the greatest pleasure, knowing it to be good. Mr. Hardinge remarked that you had not found it convenient to draw for so large a sum on the spot, and had given this note at short date; and the consideration having been received in full, he was desirous of being put in cash, at once. We did not hesitate, of course."
"Consideration received in full!" escaped me, spite of a determination to be cool; but, luckily, the appearance of another person on business prevented the words, or the manner, from being noted. "Well, Mr. Cashier, I will draw a check, and take up the note, now."
More smiles followed. The check was given; the note was cancelled and handed to me, and I left the bank with a balance in my favour of rather more than $10,000, instead of the $30,000 odd, which I had held previously to entering it. It is true, I was heir at law to all Grace's assets, which Mr. Hardinge had handed over to me, the morning I left Clawbonny, duly assigned and transferred. These last consisted of stocks, and of bonds and mortgages, drawing interest, being on good farms in our own county.
"Well. Miles, what do you mean to do with your ship," demanded Jack Wallingford, that evening. "I understand the freight for which you bargained has been transferred to another owner, on account of your late troubles; and they tell me freights, just now, are not very high."
"Really, cousin Jack, I am hardly prepared to answer the question. Colonial produce commands high prices in the north of Germany, they tell me; and, were I in cash, I would buy a cargo on my own account. Some excellent sugars and coffees, &c., were offered me to-day, quite reasonably, for ready money."
"And how much cash would be necessary to carry out that scheme, my man?"
"Some $50,000, more or less, while I have but about $10,000 on hand; though I can command $20,000 additional, by selling certain securities; so I must abandon the notion."
"That does not follow necessarily. Let me think a night on it, and we will talk further in the morning. I like quick bargains, but I like a cool head. This hot town and old Madeira keep me in a fever, and I wish a night's rest before I make a bargain."
The next morning, John Wallingford returned to the subject, at breakfast, which meal we took by ourselves, in order to be at liberty to converse without any auditors.
"I have thought over that sweet subject, the sugars, Miles," commenced my cousin, "and approve of the plan. Can you give me any further security if I will lend you the money?"
"I have some bonds and mortgages, to the amount of twenty-two thousand dollars, with me, which might be assigned for such a purpose."
"But $22,000 are an insufficient security for the $30,000, or $35,000, which you may need to carry out your adventure."
"That is quite true, but I have nothing else worth mentioning—unless it be the ship, or Clawbonny."
"Tut for the ship!—she is gone, if you and your cargo go; and as for insurances, I want none of them—I am a landed man, and like landed securities. Give me your note at three months, or six months if you will, with the bonds and mortgages you mention, and a mortgage on Clawbonny, and you can have $40,000, this very day, should you need them."
I was surprised at this offer, having no notion my kinsman was rich enough to lend so large a sum. On a further conversation, however, I learned he had near double the sum he had mentioned, in ready money, and that his principal business in town was to invest in good city securities. He professed himself willing, however, to lend me half, in order to help along a kinsman he liked. I did not at all relish the notion of mortgaging Clawbonny, but John soon laughed and reasoned me out of that. As for Grace's securities, I parted with them with a sort of satisfaction; the idea of holding her effects being painful to me.
"Were it out of the family, or even out of the name, I should think something of it myself. Miles," he said, "but a mortgage from you to me is like one from me to you. You have made me your heir, and to be honest with you, boy, I have made you mine. If you lose my money, you lose your own."
There was no resisting this. My kinsman's apparent frankness and warmth of disposition overcame all my scruples, and I consented to borrow the money on his own terms. John Wallingford was familiar with the conveyancing of real estate, and, with his own hand, he filled up the necessary papers, which I signed. The money was borrowed at 5 per cent.; my cousin positively refusing to receive the legal rate of interest from a Wallingford. Pay-day was put at six months' distance, and all was done in due form.
"I shall not put this mortgage on record, Miles," Jack Wallingford remarked, as he folded and endorsed the paper. "I have too much confidence in your honesty to believe it necessary. You have given one mortgage on Clawbonny with too much reluctance, to render it probable you will be in a hurry to execute another. As for myself, I own to a secret pleasure in having even this incomplete hold on the old place, which makes me feel twice as much of a Wallingford as I ever felt before."
For my part, I wondered at my kinsman's family pride, and I began to think I had been too humble in my own estimate of our standing in the world. It is true, it was not easy to deceive myself in this particular, and, in point of fact, I was certainly right; but when I found a man who was able to lend $40,000 at an hour's notice, valuing himself on coming from Miles the First, I could not avoid fancying Miles the First a more considerable personage than I had hitherto imagined. As for the money, I was gratified with the confidence John Wallingford reposed in me, had really a wish to embark in the adventure for which it supplied the means, and regarded the abstaining from recording the mortgage an act of delicacy and feeling that spoke well for the lender's heart.
My cousin did not cast me adrift as soon as he had filled my pockets. On the contrary, he went with me, and was a witness to all the purchases I made. The colonial produce was duly bought, in his presence, and many a shrewd hint did I get from this cool-headed and experienced man, who, while he was no merchant, in the common sense of the term, had sagacity enough to make a first-class dealer. As I paid for everything in ready money, the cargo was obtained on good terms, and the Dawn was soon stowed. As soon as this was done, I ordered a crew shipped, and the hatches battened on.
As a matter of course, the constant and important business with which I was now occupied, had a tendency to dull the edge of my grief, though I can truly say that the image of Grace was never long absent from my mind, even in the midst of my greatest exertions. Nor was Lucy forgotten. She was usually at my sister's side; and it never happened that I remembered the latter, without seeing the beautiful semblance of her living friend, watching over her faded form, with sisterly solicitude. John Wallingford left me, at the end of a week, after seeing me fairly under way as a merchant, as well as ship-owner and ship-master.
"Farewell, Miles," he said, as he shook my hand with a cordiality that appeared to increase the longer he knew me, "farewell, my dear boy, and may God prosper you in all your lawful and just undertakings. Never forget you are a Wallingford, and the owner of Clawbonny. Should we meet again, you will find a true friend in me; should we never meet, you will have reason to remember me."
This leave-taking occurred at the inn. A few hours later I was in the cabin of the Dawn, arranging some papers, when I heard a well-known voice, on deck, calling out to the stevedores and riggers, in a tone of authority—"Come, bear a hand, and lay aft; off that forecastle; to this derrick,—who ever saw a derrick standing before, after the hatches were battened down, in a first-class ship!—a regular A. No. 1? Bear a hand—bear a hand; you've got an old sea-dog among you, men."
There was no mistaking the person. On reaching the deck, I found Marble, his coat off, but still wearing all the rest of his "go-ashores," flourishing about among the labourers, putting into them new life and activity. He heard my footsteps behind him, but never turned to salute me, until the matter in hand was terminated. Then I received that honour, and it was easy to see the cloud that passed over his red visage, as he observed the deep mourning in which I was clad.
"Good morning to you, Captain Wallingford," he said, making a mate's bow,—"good morning, sir. God's will be done! we are all sinners, and so are some of the stevedores, who've left this derrick standing as if the ship needed it for a jury-mast. Yes, sir, God's will must be submitted to; and sorry enough was I to read the obittery in the newspapers—Grace, &c., daughter, &c., and only sister, &c.—You'll be glad to hear, however, sir, that Willow Cove is moored head and starn in the family, as one might say, and that the bloody mortgage is cut adrift."
"I am glad to hear this, Mr. Marble," I answered, submitting to a twinge, as I remembered that a mortgage had just been placed on my own paternal acres; "and I trust the place will long remain in your blood. How did you leave your mother and niece?"
"I've not left 'em at all, sir. I brought the old lady and Kitty to town with me, on what I call the mutual sight-seeing principle. They are both up at my boarding-house."
"I am not certain, Moses, that I understand this mutual principle, of which you speak."
"God bless you, Miles," returned the mate, who could presume to be familiar, again, now we had walked so far aft as not to have any listeners; "call me Moses as often as you possibly can, for it's little I hear of that pleasant sound now. Mother will dub me Oloff, and little Kitty calls me nothing but uncle. After all, I have a bulrush feelin' about me, and Moses will always seem the most nat'ral. As for the mutual principle, it is just this; I'm to show mother the Dawn, one or two of the markets—for, would you believe it, the dear old soul never saw a market and is dying to visit one, and so I shall take her to see the Bear first, and the Oswego next, and the Fly last, though she cries out ag'in a market that is much visited by flies. Then I must introduce her to one of the Dutch churches;—after that 't will go hard with me, but I get the dear soul into the theatre; and they tell me there is a lion, up town, that will roar as loud as a bull. That she must see, of course."
"And when your mother has seen all these sights, what will she have to show you?"
"The tombstone on which I was laid out, as a body might say, at five weeks old. She tells me they traced the stone, out of feelin' like, and followed it up until they fairly found it, set down as the head-stone of an elderly single lady, with a most pious and edifying inscription on it. Mother says it contains a whole varse from the bible! That stone may yet stand me in hand, for anything I know to the contrary, Miles."
I congratulated my mate on this important discovery, and inquired the particulars of the affair with the old usurer; in what manner the money was received, and by what process the place had been so securely "moored, head and starn, in the family."
"It was all plain sailing when a fellow got on the right course," Marble answered. "Do you know, Miles, that they call paying off one of your heavy loads on land, 'lifting the mortgage;' and a lift it is, I can tell you, when a man has no money to do it with. The true way to get out of debt is to 'arn money; I've found that much out since I found my mother; and, the cash in hand, all you have to do is to hand it over. Old Van Tassel was civil enough when he saw the bag of dollars, and was full of fine speeches. He didn't wish to distress the 'worthy Mrs. Wetmore, not he; and she was welcome to keep the money as long as she pleased, provided the interest was punctually paid;' but I'd have none of his soft words, and laid down the Spaniards, and told him to count them. I 'lifted his encumbrance,' as they call'd it, as easily as if it had been a pillow of fresh feathers, and walked off with that bit of paper in my hands, with the names tore off it, and satisfaction give me, as my lawyer said. This law is droll business, Miles; if money is paid, they give you satisfaction, just as gentlemen call on each other, you know, when a little cross. But, whatever you do, never put your hand and seal to a mortgage; for land under such a curse is as likely to slide one way as the other. Clawbonny is an older place than Willow Cove, even; and both are too venerable and venerated to be mortgaged."
The advice came too late. Clawbonny was mortgaged already, and I confess to several new and violent twinges, as I recalled the fact, while Marble was telling his story. Still I could not liken my kinsman, plain-talking, warm-hearted, family-loving, John Wallingford, to such a griping usurer as Mrs. Wetmore's persecutor.
I was glad to see my mate on every account. He relieved me from a great deal of irksome duty, and took charge of the ship, bringing his mother and Kitty; that very day, to live in the cabin. I could perceive that the old woman was greatly surprised at the neatness she found in all directions. According to her notions, a ship floated nearly as much in tar as in the water; and great was her pleasure in finding rooms almost (conscience will not allow me to say quite) as clean as her own residence. For one whole day she desired to see no more than the ship, though it was easy to discover that the good woman had set her heart on the Dutch church and the lion. In due time her son redeemed all his pledges, not forgetting the theatre. With the last, good Mrs. Wetmore was astounded, and Kitty infinitely delighted. The pretty little thing confessed that she should like to go every night, wondered what Horace Bright would think of it, and whether he would dare venture alone to a play-house, should he happen to come to York. In 1803 this country was still in the palmy state of unsophistication. There were few, scarcely any, strolling players, and none but those who visited the cities, properly so called, enjoyed opportunities of witnessing the wonders of paint, patch and candle-light, as auxiliary to the other wonders of the stage. Poor little Kitty! There was a day, or two, during which the sock and buskin wrought their usual effect on her female nature, and almost eclipsed the glories of Horace Bright, in her own bright eyes.
I could not refrain from accompanying Marble's party to the museum. In that day, this was a somewhat insignificant collection of curiosities, in Greenwich Street, but it was a miracle to the aunt and niece. Even the worthy Manhattanese were not altogether guiltless of esteeming it a wonder, though the greater renown of the Philadelphia Museum kept this of New York a little in the shade. I have often had occasion to remark that, in this republic, the people in the country are a little less country, and the people of the towns a good deal less town, than is apt to be the case in great nations. The last is easily enough accounted for: the towns having shot up so rapidly, and receiving their accessions of population from classes not accustomed to town lives from childhood. Were a thousand villages to be compressed into a single group of houses, their people would long retain the notions, tastes and habits of villagers, though they would form a large town in the aggregate. Such, in a measure, is still the fact with our American towns; no one of them all having the air, tone or appearance of a capital, while most of them would be paragons in the eyes of such persons as old Mrs. Wetmore and her grand-daughter. Thus it was, that the Greenwich Street Museum gave infinite satisfaction to these two unsophisticated visitors. Kitty was most struck with certain villainous wax-figures, works of art that were much on a level with certain similar objects that were lately, if they are not now, exhibited for the benefit of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey, above the tombs of the Plantagenets, and almost in contact with that marvel of gothic art, Henry VII's. chapel! It is said that "misery makes a man acquainted with strange bed-fellows." So, it would seem, do shillings and sixpences. To return to Kitty: After admiring divers beauties, such as the New York Beauty, the South Carolina Beauty, and the Pennsylvania Beauty, she fastened her own pretty eyes on a nun, wondering who a female in such an attire could be. In 1803, a nun and a nunnery would be almost as great curiosities, in America, as a rhinoceros, though the country has since undergone some changes in this respect.
"Grandmother," exclaimed Kitty, "who can that lady be—it isn't Lady Washington, is it?"
"It looks more like a clergyman's wife, Kitty," answered the worthy Mrs. Wetmore, not a little 'non-plushed,' herself, as she afterwards admitted. "I should think Madam Washington went more gaily dressed, and looked happier like. I'm sure if any woman could be happy, it was she!"
"Ay," answered her son, "there is truth in that remark. This woman, here, is what is called a nun in the Roman Catholic quarters of the world."
"A nun!" repeated little Kitty. "Isn't that the sort of woman that shuts herself up in a house, and promises never to get married, uncle?"
"You're quite right, my dear, and it's matter of surprise to me how you should pick up so many useful idees, in an out-of-the-way place, like Willow Cove."
"It was not out of your way, uncle," said Kitty, a little reproachfully, "or you never would have found us."
"In that partic'lar it was well enough, my dear. Yes, a nun is a sort of she-hermit, a breed that I detest altogether."
"I suppose, Kitty," I inquired, "you think it wicked in man or woman to take a vow never to get married."
The poor girl blushed, and she turned away from the nun without making any reply. No one can say what turn the conversation might have taken, had not the grandmother's eye fell on an indifferent copy of Leonardo's celebrated picture of the Last Supper, receiving at the same time a printed explanation, one got up by some local antiquary, who had ventured to affix names to the different personages of the group, at his own suggestion. I pointed out the principal figure of the painting, which is sufficiently conspicuous by the way, and then referred the good woman to the catalogue for the rest of the names.
"Bless me, bless me!" exclaimed the worthy mother, "that I should live ever to see paintings of such people! Kitty, my dear, this bald-headed old man is St. Peter. Did you ever think that St. Peter was bald! And there is St. John, with black eyes.—Wonderful, wonderful, that I should ever live to see likenesses of such blessed men!"
Kitty was as much astonished as her grandmother, and even the son was a little mystified. The latter remarked that "the world was making great head-way in all such things, and, for his part, he did not see how the painters and authors found out all they drew and recorded."
The reader may easily imagine that half a day spent in such company was not entirely thrown away. Still, half a day sufficed; and I went to the Old Coffee-house at one, to eat a sandwich and drink a glass of porter; that being the inn then most frequented for such purposes, especially by the merchants. I was in my box, with the curtain drawn, when a party of three entered that which adjoined it, ordering as many glasses of punch; which in that day was a beverage much in request of a morning, and which it was permitted even to a gentleman to drink before dining. It was the sherry-cobbler of the age; although I believe every thing is now pronounced to be out of fashion before dinner.
As the boxes were separated merely by curtains, it was impossible to avoid hearing any conversation that passed in the one adjoining my own, especially when the parties took no pains to speak low, as happened to be the case with my three neighbours. Consequently, I recognised the voices of Andrew Drewett and Rupert Hardinge in an instant;—that of the third person being unknown to me.
"Well, Norton," said Rupert, a little affectedly as to manner, "you have got Drewett and myself down here among you traders, and I hope you will do the honours of the place, in a way to confer on the latter some credit. A merchant is nothing without credit, you know."
"Have no apprehensions for your gentility, Hardinge," returned the person addressed. "Many of the first persons in town frequent this house, at this hour, and its punch is renowned. By-the-way, I saw in a paper, the other day, Rupert, that one of your relatives is dead—Miss Grace Wallingford, your sister's old associate."
A short pause followed, during which I scarcely breathed.
"No, not a relation," Rupert at length answered. "Only my father's ward. You know how it is in the country: the clergyman being expected to take care of all the sick, and all the orphans."
"But these Wallingfords are people altogether above standing in need of favours," Drewett hastily observed. "I have been at their place, and really it is a respectable spot. As for Miss Wallingford, she was a most charming girl, and her death will prove a severe blow to your sister, Hardinge."
This was said with so much feeling, that I could almost forgive the speaker for loving Lucy; though I question if I could ever truly forgive him for being beloved by her.
"Why, yes," rejoined Rupert, affecting an indifference that I could detect he was far from feeling, "Grace was a good creature; though, living so much with her in childhood, she had less interest in my eyes, perhaps, than she might have had in those of one less accustomed to see her. Notwithstanding, I had a certain sort of regard for Grace, I will confess."
"Respect and esteem her!—I should think all who knew her must," added Drewett, as if determined to win my heart; "and, in my opinion, she was both beautiful and lovely."
"This from a man who is confessedly an admirer—nay, engaged to your own sister, as the world says, Hardinge, must be taken as warm praise," said the third. "But, I suppose, Drewett sees the dear departed with the eyes of her friend—for Miss Hardinge was very intimate with her, I believe."
"As intimate as sisters, and loving each other as sisters," returned Drewett, with feeling. "No intimate of Miss Hardinge's can be anything but meritorious?"
"Grace Wallingford had merit beyond a question," added Rupert, "as has her brother, who is a good, honest fellow enough. When a boy, I was rather intimate with him."
"The certain proof of his excellencies and virtues;" put in the stranger, laughing. "But, if a ward, there must be a fortune. I think I have heard these Wallingfords were richish."
"Yes, that is just it—richish" said Drewett. "Some forty or fifty thousand dollars between them, all of which the brother must now inherit; and glad am I it falls to so good a fellow."
"This is generous praise from you, Drewett; for I have heard this brother might prove your rival."
"I had some such fears myself, once, I will confess," returned the other; "but they are all vanished. I no longer fear him, and can see and acknowledge his merits. Besides, I am indebted to him for my life."
"No longer fear him."—This was plain enough, and was proof of the understanding that existed between the lovers. And why should I be feared?—I, who had never dared to say a word to the object nearest my heart, that might induce her to draw the ordinary distinction between passion and esteem—love, and a brotherly regard?
"Ay, Drewett is pretty safe, I fancy," Rupert remarked, laughing; "though it will hardly do for me to tell tales out of school."
"This is a forbidden subject," rejoined the lover, "and we will talk of Wallingford. He must inherit his sister's fortune."
"Poor Grace!—it was little she had to leave, I fancy," Rupert quietly observed.
"Ay, little in your eyes, Hardinge," added the third person, "but a good deal in those of her brother, the ship-master, one might think. Ever since you have fallen heir to Mrs. Bradfort's estate, a few thousands count for nothing."
"Were it a million, that brother would think it dearly purchased by the loss of his sister!" exclaimed Drewett.
"It's plain enough there is no rivalry between Andrew and Miles," added the laughing Rupert. "Certainly money is not quite of so much account with me now, as it used to be when I had nothing but a clergyman's salary to glean from. As for Mrs. Bradfort's fortune, it came from a common ancestor, and I do not see who has a better right to it, than those who now enjoy it."
"Unless it might be your father," said the third man, "who stood before you, according to the laws of primogeniture. I dare say Rupert made love to his venerable cousin, if the truth were known, and induced her to overlook a generation, with his oily tongue."
"Rupert did nothing of the sort; it is his glory to love Emily Merton, and Emily Merton only. As my worthy cousin could not take her fortune with her, she left it among her natural heirs. How do you know I have got any of it. I give you my honour, my account in bank is under $20,000."
"A pretty fair account, that, by Jove!" exclaimed the other. "It must be a rapping income that will permit a fellow like you to keep up such a balance."
"Why, some persons say my sister has the whole fortune. I dare say that Drewett can satisfy you on this head. The affair concerns him quite as much, as it does any other person of my acquaintance."
"I can assure you I know nothing about it;" answered Drewett, honestly. "Nor do I desire to know. I would marry Miss Hardinge to-morrow, though she had not a cent."
"It's just this disinterestedness, Andrew, that makes me like you," observed Rupert, magnificently. "Depend on it, you'll fare none the worse, in the long run, for this admirable trait in your character. Lucy knows it, and appreciates it as she should."
I wished to hear no more, but left the box and the house, taking care not to be seen. From that moment, I was all impatience to get to sea. I forgot even the intention of visiting my sister's grave; nor did I feel that I could sustain another interview with Lucy herself. That afternoon I told Marble the ship must be ready to sail the succeeding morning.
"Go tenderness of years; take this key. Give enlargement to the swain—bring him festinately hither. I must employ him in a letter to my love."
Love's Labour Lost.
I will not attempt to analyze the feelings which now impelled me to quit America. I had discovered, or thought I had discovered, certain qualities in Andrew Drewett which rendered him, in some measure, at least worthy of Lucy; and I experienced how painful it is to concede such an advantage to a rival. Still, I must be just enough to add, that, in my cooler moments, when I came to consider that Lucy could never be mine, I was rejoiced to find such proofs of a generous disposition in her future husband. On the other hand, I could not divest myself of the idea that perfect confidence in his own position, could alone enable him to be so liberal in his opinions of myself. The reader will understand how extravagant was this last supposition, when he remembers that I had never given Lucy herself, or the world, any sufficient reason to suppose that I was a suitor for the dear girl's hand.
I never saw Marble so industrious as he proved to be when he received my hurried orders for sailing, that afternoon. He shipped his mother and niece for Willow Cove, by an Albany sloop, the same evening, got the crew on board, and the Dawn into the stream, before sunset, and passed half the night in sending off small stores. As for the ship, she had been cleared the day the hatches were battened down. According to every rule of mercantile thrift, I ought to have been at sea twenty-four hours, when these orders were given; but a lingering reluctance to go further from the grave of Grace, the wish to have one more interview with Lucy, and a disposition to indulge my mate in his commendable zeal to amuse his new-found relatives, kept me in port beyond my day.
All these delays, however, were over, and I was now in a feverish hurry to be off. Neb came up to the City Hotel as I was breakfasting, and reported that the ship was riding at single anchor, with a short range, and that the fore-top-sail was loose. I sent him to the post-office for letters, and ordered my bill. All my trunks had gone aboard before the ship hauled off, and,—the distances in New York then being short,—Neb was soon back, and ready to shoulder my carpet-bag. The bill was paid, three or four letters were taken in my hand, and I walked towards the Battery, followed by the faithful black, who had again abandoned home, Chloe, and Clawbonny, to follow my fortunes.
I delayed opening the letters until I reached the Battery. Despatching Neb to the boat, with orders to wait, I took a turn among the trees,—still reluctant to quit the native soil—while I broke the seals. Two of the letters bore the post-marks of the office nearest Clawbonny; the third was from Albany; and the fourth was a packet of some size from Washington, franked by the Secretary of State, and bearing the seal of office. Surprised at such a circumstance, I opened the last of these communications first.
The official letter proved to be an envelope containing,—with a civil request to myself to deliver the enclosures,—dispatches addressed to the Consul at Hamburg, for which port my ship had been advertised some time. Of course, I could only determine to comply; and that communication was disposed of. One of the Clawbonny letters was in Mr. Hardinge's hand, and I found it to contain some excellent and parental advice. He spoke of my sister, but it was calmly, and with the humble hope that became his sacred office. I was not sorry to find that he advised me not to visit Clawbonny before I sailed. Lucy, he said, was well, and a gentle sadness was gradually taking the place of the livelier grief she had endured, immediately after the loss of her friend. "You were not aware, Miles, how keenly she suffered," my good old guardian continued, "for she struggled hard to seem calm in your presence; but from me my dear child had no secrets on this subject, whatever she may see fit to have on another. Hours has she passed, weeping on my bosom, and I much doubt if the image of Grace has been absent from her waking thoughts a single minute, at any one time, since we first laid your sister's head in the coffin. Of you she does not speak often, but, when she does, it is ever in the kindest and most solicitous manner; calling you 'Miles,' 'poor Miles,' or 'dear Miles,' with all that sisterly frankness and affection you have known in her from childhood." The old gentleman had underscored the "sisterly" himself.
To my delight and surprise, there was a long, very long, letter from Lucy, too! How it happened that I did not recognise her pretty, delicate, lady-like handwriting, is more than I can say; but the direction had been overlooked in the confusion of receiving so many letters together. That direction, too, gave me pleasure. It was to "Miles Wallingford, Esquire;" whereas the three others were addressed to "Capt. Miles Wallingford, ship Dawn, New York." Now a ship-master is no more entitled, in strict usage, to be called a "captain," than he is to be called an "esquire." Your man-of-war officer is the only true captain; a 'master' being nothing but a 'master.' Then, no American is entitled to be called an 'esquire,' which is the correlative of "knight," and is a title properly prohibited by the constitution, though most people imagine that a magistrate is an "esquire" ex officio. He is an "esquire" as a member of congress is an "honourable," by assumption, and not of right; and I wish the country had sufficient self-respect to be consistent with itself. What should we think of Mark Anthony, Esquire? or of 'Squire Lucius Junius Brutus? or His Excellency Julius Caesar, Esquire? Nevertheless, "esquire" is an appellation that is now universally given to a gentleman, who, in truth, is the only man in this country that, has any right to it at all, and he only by courtesy. Lucy had felt this distinction, and I was grateful for the delicacy and tact with which she had dropped the "captain," and put in the "esquire." To me it seemed to say that she recognised me as one of her own class, let Rupert, and his light associates, think of me as they might. Lucy never departed a hair's breadth from the strictly proper, in all matters of this sort, something having been obtained from education, but far more from the inscrutable gifts of nature.
[Footnote 4: A few years since, the writer saw a marriage announced in a coloured paper, which read, "Married, by the Rev. Julius Caesar.—Washington, to Miss————."]
As for the letter itself, it is too long to copy; yet I scarce know how to describe it. Full of heart it was, of course, for the dear girl was all heart; and it was replete with her truth and nature. The only thing in it that did not give me entire satisfaction, was a request not to come again to Clawbonny, until my return from Europe. "Time," she added, "will lessen the pain of such a visit; and, by that time, you will begin to regard our beloved Grace as I already regard her, a spotless spirit waiting for our union with it in the mansions of bliss. It is not easy, Miles, to know how to treat such a loss as this of ours. God may bless it to our lasting good, and, in this light, it is useful to bear it ever in mind; while a too great submission to sorrow may only serve, to render us unhappy. Still, I think, no one who knew Grace, as we knew her, can ever recall her image without feeling himself drawn nearer to the dread being who created her, and who has called her to himself so early. We, alone, thoroughly understood the beloved creature My dear, excellent father loved her as he loves me, but he could not, did not know all the rare virtues of her heart. These could be known only to those who knew her great secret, and, God be praised! even Rupert has little true knowledge of that."
"My father has spoken to me of Grace's wish, that he and I should accept some memorials of the affection she bore us. These were unnecessary, but are far too sacred to be declined, I sincerely wish that their value, in gold, had been less, for the hair I possess (some of which is reserved for you) is far more precious to me, than any diamonds, or stones, could possibly become. As, however, something must be purchased, or procured, I have to request that my memorial may be the pearls you gave Grace, on your return from the Pacific. Of course I do not mean the valuable necklace you have reserved for one who will one day be still dearer to you than any of us, but the dozen or two of pearls that you bestowed on your sister, in my presence, at Clawbonny. They are sufficiently valuable in themselves, to answer all the purposes of Grace's bequest, and I know they were very much prized by her, as your gift, dear Miles. I am certain you will not believe they will be the less valuable in my eyes, on that account. As I know where they are, I shall go to Clawbonny and take possession of them at once, so you need give yourself no further concern on account of the memorial that was to be presented to me. I acknowledge its reception, unless you object to my proposition."
I scarce knew what to think of this. I would gladly have bestowed on Lucy pearls of equal value to those I had given Grace, but she refused to receive them; and now, she asked for these very pearls, which, intrinsically, were not half the value of the sum I had informed Mr. Hardinge Grace had requested me to expend in purchasing a memorial. This avidity to possess these pearls—for so it struck me—was difficult to account for, Grace having owned divers other ornaments that were more costly, and which she had much oftener worn. I confess, I had thought of attempting to persuade Lucy to receive my own necklace as the memorial of Grace, but, a little reflection satisfied me of the hopelessness of success, and nothing had been said on the subject. Of course I acquiesced in the wish of the dear girl to possess the pearls; but, at the same time, I determined to make an additional purchase, more thoroughly to carry out the wishes of my sister.
On the whole, the letter of Lucy gave me a great and soothing pleasure. I came to a resolution to answer it, and to send that answer back by the pilot. I had no owner to feel any solicitude in the movements of the ship; had no longer a sister to care for myself; and to whom else could my last words on quitting the land be so appropriately addressed, as to this constant and true-hearted friend? That much, at least, I could presume to call Lucy, and even to that I clung as the ship-wrecked mariner clings to the last plank that floats.
The fourth letter, to my astonishment, bore the signature of John Wallingford, and the date of Albany. He had got this far on his way home, and written me a line to let me know the fact. I copy his epistle in full, viz:—
"Here I am, and sorry am I to see, by the papers, there you are still. Recollect, my dear boy, that sugars will melt. It is time you were off: this is said for your own sake, and not for mine, as you well know I am amply secured. Still, the markets may fall, and he who is first in them can wait for a rise, while he who is last must take what offers."
"Above all, Miles, do not take it into your head to alter your will. Things are now arranged between us precisely as they should be, and I hate changes. I am your heir, and you are mine. Your counsel, Richard Harrison, Esquire, is a man of great respectability, and a perfectly safe repository of such a secret. I leave many of my papers in his hands, and he has now been my counsel ever since I had need of one; and treads so hard on Hamilton's heels, that the last, sometimes feels his toes. This is as counsel, however, and not as an advocate.
"Adieu, my dear boy: we are both Wallingfords, and the nearest of kin to each other, of the name. Clawbonny will be safe with either of us, and either of us will be safe with Clawbonny.
"Your affectionate cousin, John Wallingford."
I confess that all this anxiety about Clawbonny began to give me some uneasiness, and that I often wished, I had been less ambitious, or less hasty would be the better word, and had been content to go to sea again, in my simple character of ship-master, and ship-owner; leaving the merchant to those who better understood the vocation.
I now went to the boat, and to the ship. Marble was all ready for me, and in ten minutes the anchor was clear of the bottom; in ten more, it was catted and fished, and the Dawn was beating down the bay, on a young flood, with a light breeze, at south-west. The pilot being in charge, I had nothing to do but go below, and write my letters. I answered everybody, even to the Secretary of State, who, at that time, was no less a man than James Madison. To him, however, I had nothing to say, but to acknowledge the receipt of the dispatches, and to promise to deliver them. My letter to Mr. Hardinge, was, I hope, such as a son might have written to a revered parent. In it, I begged he would allow me to add to his library, by a purchase of theological works of value, and which, in that day, could only be procured in Europe. This was to be his memorial of my sister. I also begged of his friendship an occasional look at Clawbonny, though I did not venture to speak of the mortgage, of which I now felt a sort of conviction he would not approve.
The letter to John Wallingford, was as pithy as his own to me. I told him my will was made, on a conviction of its perfect propriety, and assured him it would not be altered in a hurry; I told him the sugars were safe, and let him understand that they were already on their way to Hamburg, whence I hoped, ere long, to send him a good account of their sale.
To Lucy, I was by no means so laconic. On the subject of the pearls of Grace, I begged her to do just as she pleased; adding a request, however, that she would select such others of my sister's ornaments, as might be most agreeable to herself. On this point I was a little earnest, since the pearls were not worth the sum Grace had mentioned to me; and I felt persuaded Lucy would not wish me to remain her debtor. There was a pair of bracelets, in particular, that Grace had highly prized, and which were very pretty in themselves. My father had purchased the stones—rubies of some beauty—in one of his voyages, for my mother, who had fancied them too showy for her to wear. I had caused them to be set for Grace, and they would make a very suitable ornament for Lucy; and were to be so much the more prized, from the circumstance, that Grace had once worn them. It is true, they contained a little, though very little of my hair; for on this Grace had insisted; but this hair was rather a blemish, and might easily be removed. I said as much in my letter.
On the subject of my sister's death, I found it impossible to write much. The little I did say, however, was in full accordance with her own feelings, I felt persuaded, and I had no difficulty in believing she would sympathize in all I did express, and in much that I had not words to express.
On the subject of the necklace, I did find language to communicate a little, though it was done in the part of the letter where a woman is said to give her real thoughts,—the postscript. In answer to what Lucy had said on the subject of my own necklace, I wrote as follows, viz:—"You speak of my reserving the more valuable pearls for one, who, at some future day, may become my wife. I confess this was my own intention, originally; and very pleasant was it to me to fancy that one so dear would wear pearls that had been brought up out of the sea by my own hands. But dearest Lucy, all these agreeable and delusive anticipations have vanished. Depend on it, I shall never marry. I know that declarations of this sort, in young men of three and twenty, like those of maidens of nineteen, excite a smile oftener than they produce belief; but I do not say this without reflection, and, I may add, without feeling. She whom I once did hope to persuade to marry me, although much my friend, is not accustomed to view me with the eyes that lead to love. We were brought together under circumstances that have probably induced her to regard me more as a brother than as a suitor, and while the golden moments have passed away, her affections have become the property of another. I resemble, in this particular at least, our regretted Grace, and am not likely to change. My nature may be sterner, and my constitution stronger, than those of my poor sister proved to be, but I feel I cannot love twice; not as I have, and still do love, most certainly. Why should I trouble you with all this, however? I know you will not accept of the necklace—though so ready to give me your own last piece of gold, when I went to sea, you have ever been so fastidious as to refuse every thing from us that had the least appearance of a pecuniary obligation—and it is useless to say more about it. I have no right to trouble you with my griefs, especially at a moment when I know your affectionate heart is suffering so deeply from our recent loss."