The fact is, for three years, neither the suicide nor any one else had violated this sanctuary of virtue. But Mlle. Celestine was not only a virtuous and sensible woman, but a woman of eloquence. Nothing could be more attractive than the harangues she made use of to induce lodgers to occupy her rooms. Honey flowed from her mouth, and many persons were led away by the siren's song. But generally they soon became terrified and fled from the terrors which besieged them. Mlle. Celestine Crepeneau therefore could not praise her new lodger too highly. "What a charming man," said she to her neighbors in 11 and 51, the porters of which looked on her as an oracle. "Doctor Matheus is an angel, pure as those of Paradise. God forgive me for saying so, for I think he is handsomer than they, with his magnificent whiskers and moustache. I do not see why angels do not wear them! I am sure they are very becoming. Besides, he is so kind to other people. Only the other day he wished to set Tamburin's leg, which some Jacobin had broken." In Mlle. Crepeneau's mind, a Jacobin was capable of any thing. "And what a magnificent room he has! how beautiful: all full of noble skeletons, Jacobins' heads, and books enough to fill all the Place Louis XV. He has also a fine practice, and patients of every kind coming on horseback, in carriages, on foot, and in wooden shoes. He refuses no one, and cures every body—even Tamburin. The poor animal is very fond of him, never barking when he passes, but wagging his tail as if he knew his physician. I alone attend to Doctor Matheus," continued Mlle. Crepeneau, "and I flatter myself he is well waited on. He has a great deal of trouble, too, especially on his consultation days. One would think then all Paris met at his house. He is a brave man, and is not afraid of ghosts! Yet he said the other day, 'I have killed so many people that one more would run me mad.'"
Yet while Mlle. Crepineau was thus prodigal of her praises, in front of No. 13, her lodger, as she called him, was in the third story of the house, and was shut up in his room engaged in the strangest manner. The studio had preserved nothing of its original destination but its name. Instead of pictures, plaster casts, statuettes, and manikins, the table was covered with manuscripts, books, pamphlets, and loose papers; on this battle-field, where science, art and politics seemed to contend together, stood a noble Japan vase from which arose a noble bouquet of white camelias—above this hung the portrait of a protestant preacher.
Doctor Matheus, as Mlle. Celestine had said, was young and handsome. He had luxuriant fair hair, hanging in clusters around his face and falling on his shoulders, so as to give a seraphic air to his face, very well calculated to touch the heart of pious Celestine. In his mild blue eyes, however, there was an expression of will, decision and daring which strangely contrasted with the rest of his face. The Doctor was tall and elegantly formed, and wore at home the costume yet popular at Leipsig, Gottingen and Heidelberg, a doublet of velvet and a kind of cap surmounted by a plume. He had suppressed the plume. This is exactly the costume of Karl de Moor in Schiller's robber; and in 1847 we saw the pupils of those venerable universities strolling through the streets of the German capitals in this very theatrical costume, precisely that of Wilhelm Meister's actors when they met Mignon on the Ingolstadt road just after their unfortunate representation of Hamlet. The Doctor, we have said, was strangely engaged. He leaned over a vast chart of Europe, extended before him like a body waiting for the knife of the anatomist. His eyes were expanded, his brow flushed, and from time to time he stuck black pins into this chart, and whenever he did so consulted the manuscripts which he held in his hand. When he had inserted the last pin, he arose, and with a cry of joy looked around like a conqueror; as great men are wont to survey their fields of triumphs. "Europe is ours," said he, "and the world is Europe's." The vaccine of Carbonarism has taken, and courses from vein to vein, to the very noblest portion of the social body. It has reached and taken possession of the heart. The old man is dead and a new being is about to be born. Better still, Lazarus, regenerated, is about to burst from the tomb.
Afraid to yield to a false hope, trembling lest he should be deceived in his calculations, the Doctor leaned again over his chart, and began to compute the black pins which, like a mourning cloak, covered the map of Europe. And indeed the terrible monster he had named was a pall thrown over the happiness of the people of the world. The idealists and ambitious men who sought to extend it were the murderers of all prosperity. A Gothic clock which leaned against the wall struck eleven. The features of the Doctor at once changed their expression, and infinite grief replaced the enthusiasm which pervaded them. He hurried to a low window of his cabinet, and pushing aside the curtain, looked anxiously into a garden which was behind the house he dwelt in, and from which he was separated only by the parterre of which we have spoken before. This garden belonged to a magnificent hotel in the street of Verennes. A large portal decked with flower vases led to rooms on the ground-floor. This door was just then opened and a beautiful girl hurried past, when the Doctor went to the window of his cabinet. The young girl walked down an alley well lighted; she seemed to seek for the generous heat of the sun, and turned toward it like a true Heliotrope. She seemed to take no care of her complexion, for her head was scarcely covered by a straw-hat which could not avert the heat. A thin dress of embroidered muslin with short sleeves displayed her arms, and a blue sash surrounded her thin and delicate form. She gathered a few flowers, and cut away a few bad branches of the rose-trees with an elegant English pruning-knife. Then after having passed two or three times up and down the alley in front of the portal, she put her hand to her brow as if to make a visor to shield her eyes from the burning rays of the sun. Just in front of her was the window—the curtain of which Doctor Matheus had drawn aside, and there he stood more beautiful and radiant than ever. The young girl blushed slightly and looked hastily away, for the sun probably appeared too bright just then. The Doctor seemed fascinated by what he had seen, and we cannot say how long his ecstasy continued. At last a well-known voice exclaimed on the other side of the door, which was closed even to Mlle. Celestine Crepineau, "Doctor—you are wanted in the parlor. A gentleman—a patient. He has given me his card to bring you."
"Very well," said the Doctor, "I am coming."
"But, sir, if you will open the door I will give you his card."
"Keep it," said the Doctor, "as I am coming down and do not need it."
"Yet," said the inquisitive porteress.—"Monsieur may wish to know the name in advance."
"I do not," said the Doctor, "and hope Mlle. Crepineau that you will go away."
"My God!" said Mlle. Celestine, terrified at the Doctor's manner. "What is the matter with my new lodger? Why will he not let me enter his cabinet? Perhaps though he is cutting up some human body, and has respect for my sex."
The Doctor left his room, and locked the door carefully; putting the key in his pocket, he went down. When he entered the room he was amazed to see who was waiting for him.
"The Duke d'Harcourt here!" said he, bowing respectfully to his visitor.
The Duke said, "My visit should not surprise you, for I came, after all, only to thank you for your services to my dear Marie."
"Duke," said Doctor Matheus, "your benevolent reception, when I had the honor to be presented to you, has converted a duty into a pleasure. The natural interest," added he, with profound emotion, "with which your daughter inspires all who see her, would make me most proud of her cure."
"Doctor," said the Duke, looking most earnestly at the physician, "you inspire me with a confidence I have had in none of your brethren. Your reply, therefore, to my question, I shall look on as a sentence. Do not fear to be frank, Doctor, for I am prepared for every misfortune; already crushed by my sufferings, my heart looks forward to no earthly happiness. The lives of my two surviving children are the objects of my own life, but uncertainty is too much for me. Reply therefore, I beg you, sincerely to me whether the life of my child is in danger."
"Duke," said Doctor Matheus, "the hand of God is more powerful than that of science.—HE often strikes down the strong, and preserves the weak, so that none here can tell when to expect his blows. I can, however, assure you on my honor, that your daughter, delicate as she is, at this time has not even a germ of the terrible malady which has ravaged your hearth. This germ is always in the blood of members of the same family. Art establishes this, though it can provide no remedy.—This secret enemy, however," said the physician, with a kind of pride, "before which all known remedies are powerless, I can perhaps oppose and conquer."
"Tell me, Doctor, tell me!" said the Duke, clasping the Doctor's hands, "save my child, grant her life, and my fortune is yours."
"Duke," said Matheus, "if I had the honor of a better acquaintance with you, I would not listen to such language as you have used.—Gold has little value in my eyes, and reputation no more, for I do not place my hopes for the future in my profession. Since, however, study has revealed to me the art of assisting those who suffer, and of saving those who are in danger, I would esteem it a crime not to do so; and I promise this art shall be employed in the cure of Mlle. d'Harcourt.
"And," said the Duke, "will this be a secret to me?"
"No, Duke; I will use it in your presence. I will also own that I have already made use of it, though but slightly, in the case of Mlle. d'Harcourt; what I have done, satisfies me that I may hope to see her completely restored."
"It is true;" said the Duke. "The interview and the simple remedies you prescribed, have sufficed to soothe the sufferings of my daughter. Ah! Monsieur," added he, clasping the Doctor's hand kindly, "how can I discharge my obligations towards you?"
"By granting me a boon, invaluable to me, and which all Paris will envy, and of which I know you are prodigal indeed, your esteem—the respect of the Duke d'Harcourt—the most honorable and virtuous of men. You see, Monsieur, I place a great value on my consultations; and few persons have received so noble a recompense from you."
"Doctor," said the Duke d'Harcourt, with a smile, "in that case you are already paid; for I know all that you do in Paris, and especially in this neighborhood. I know that want meets here with a better reception than opulence, and that you look on all sufferers as having an equal claim on your attention. You must be aware, that knowing this I have already given you all you ask."
"Well, then," said the Doctor, "let me continue to have your respect, and we shall be equal."
Just then Mlle. Celestine Crepineau knocked at the door.
"Come in," said Doctor Matheus.
"Sir, there are in the reception-room an English Milord, and two miserable creatures waiting to see you."
"Who are the latter?"
"One is an Auvergnat, very badly dressed, with a bandage over his eye, who has already been here once or twice."
Doctor Matheus seemed annoyed, and turned away lest the Duke should observe it.
"The other is a peasant from the environs, who has a handkerchief over his face as if he enjoyed a fluxion."
"I will go," said the Duke, "for your visitors are impatient, and sorrow should not wait. I will give place to Milord."
"Mademoiselle," said the Doctor, "show in the poor wretches."
"Very well," said the Duke, "the poor before the rich, I expected that." Bowing kindly to the Doctor, the old nobleman left.
As he passed through the reception room, he saw the Doctor's visitors, each of whom looked towards him. The Milord rushed towards a window, which luckily was closed. The other two were introduced to the Doctor's room. No sooner were they there, than the one threw off his handkerchief, and the Auvergnat his bandage. The Doctor gave them his hand and exclaimed, "MONTE-LEONE! Taddeo."
"And here, too, am I," said the Milord, entering the room and throwing aside his red wig and burning whiskers.
"D'Harcourt, too"—said the Doctor, hurrying to meet the new comer—and then closing the curtains, "Here we all are," said he.
"Yes, dear Von Apsbury," said the Count, embracing him. "The Pulcinelli of the Etruscan villa are again united."
* * * * *
Dr. Franklin's father had seventeen children. He was the fifteenth. He says in his autobiography, that his father died at the age of eighty-nine, and his mother at the age of eighty-five, and that neither were ever known to have any sickness except that of which they died.
[H] Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850, by Stringer & Townsend, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New-York.
From Fraser's Magazine.
LIFE AT A WATERING PLACE.
THE DOG OF ALCIBIADES.
BY C. ASTOR BRISTED.
We left Tom Edwards mysteriously swallowed up, like a stage ghost down a trap-door. And do you know, reader, I am very near leaving him so for good and all, and suspending these sketches indefinitely,—yea, even to the time of the Mississippi dividends, or any other period beyond the Greek Calends that your imagination can conjure up. For the wise men—and the wise women, too—of Gotham are wroth with me, and one says that I am writing on purpose to libel this man or puff that woman, and another charges me with sketching my own life in Fraser, for self-glorification, and a third holds up the last number of Pendennis at me and says, "If you could write like that, there would be some excuse for you, but you won't as long as you live." "Alas, no!" said I, and was just going to burn my unfinished papers, and vow that I would never again turn aside from my old craft of reviewing. But then came reflection in the shape of a bottle of true Dutch courage—genuine Knickerbocker Madeira—and said, "Why should you be responsible for resemblances you never meant, if people will insist on finding them? Consider how prone readers, and still more hearers who take their reading at second-hand, are to suppose that the author, be he great or small, must have represented himself in some one of his personages." True enough, Mr. Bottle; for instance, any one of our fashionables will tell you that "our spirituel and accomplished friend" (as Slingsby calls him), M. Le Vicomte Vincent Le Roi, is the hero of his thrilling romance, Le Chevalier Bazalion—why they should, or what possible resemblance they can find between the real man in New-York, and the ideal one in the novel, it passeth my poor understanding to discover. Bazalion is a stalwart six-footer, who goes about knocking people's brains out, scaling inaccessible precipices, defending castles single-handed against a regiment or two, and, by way of relaxation after this hard work, victimizing all the fair dames and blooming damsels that come in his way—breaking the hearts of all the women when he has broken the heads of all the men. Le Roi is a nice gentlemanly man, of the ordinary size, who sings prettily and talks well, and makes himself generally agreeable, and not at all dangerous in society—much the more Christian and laudable occupation, it seems to me. If ever he does bore you, it is with his long stories, not with a long pike as Bazalion used to do. Be the absurdity, then, on the head of him who makes it; Qui vult decipi decipiatur: if any one chooses to think that I am bodied forth under the character of Harry Benson, and am, in consequence, a handsome young man, who can do a little of every thing instead of——but never mind what; your actor has not yet sufficient standing to come down before the footlights, and have his little bit of private chaff with the audience. Only this will I say, so help me N. P. Willis, I mean to go on with these sketches till they are finished, provided always that Fraser will take them so long and that you continue to read them, or fall into a sweet and soothing slumber over them, as the case may be. For if we are all to shut up shop until we can write as well as Mr. Titmarsh, there will be too extensive a bankruptcy of literary establishments.
Before Ashburner could form any conjecture to account for the evanishment of Edwards—indeed before he could altogether realize it to himself—the little man's head reappeared above the ground, though there were no signs of his horse; and at the same time Benson began to ride round the scene of the catastrophe, at an easy canter, laughing immoderately. The Englishman shook up his brute into the best gallop he could get out of him, and a few more strides brought him near enough to see the true state of things. There was a marsh at no great distance, which rendered the grass in the immediate vicinity moist and sloppy, and just in this particular spot the action of the water had caved away a hole precisely large enough to receive a horse and rider—it could hardly have made a more accurate grave had they been measured for it—and so marked by a slight elevation in front, that it was ten to one any person riding over the ground at such a rate, and unacquainted with the position of this trap, but must fall headlong into it, as Edwards had done. There was some reason to suspect that our friend Harry, who was an habitual rider, and knew all the environs of Oldport pretty well, and was fonder of short cuts and going over grass than most American horsemen are, had not been altogether ignorant of the existence of the pitfall; it looked very much as if he had led Edwards, who was no particular friend of his, purposely into it: but if such was the case, he kept his own counsel. When the fallen man and mare had scrambled out of the hole, which they did before Benson had offered to help them, or Ashburner had time to be of any assistance, it appeared that she had sprained her off foreankle, and he his nigh wrist. But they were close to the main road; by good luck a boy was found to conduct the animal home, and by a still greater piece of good luck the Robinsons' carriage happened to be coming along just then, so the little man, who did not take up much room, was popped into it, and as much pitied and mourned over by the lady occupants as was pere Guilleri in the French song. And, to do him justice, even without this consolation, he had taken his mishap very quietly from the first, as soon as he found himself not injured in any vital, i. e. dancing part.
Having finished their road at a more leisurely pace, our two horsemen arrived at the glen after most of the company were assembled there. And as the place was one of general resort, they noticed traces of other parties, people of the Simpson class, hail-fellow-well-met men, who didn't dance but took it out in drinking, and who in their intercourse with the other sex, betrayed more vulgar familiarity and less refined indecency than characterized the men and boys of White, Edwards, Robinson, and Co.'s set. But of these it may be supposed that the set took no heed. There was some really pretty scenery about the glen, but they took no heed of that either—to be sure, most of them had seen it at least once before. They had gone straight to the largest parlor of the house, and led, as usual, by the indefatigable Edwards, had begun their tricks with the chairs. Booted and spurred as he was, and with his arm in a sling, the ever-ready youth had already arranged the German cotillion, taking the head himself, and constituting Sumner his second in command. Benson was left out of this dance for coming too late, one of the ladies told him; but he did not find the punishment very severe, as he rather preferred walking with Ashburner, and showing him the adjacent woods. As they passed out through several specimens of the Simpson species, who were smoking and lounging around the door, Ashburner nearly ran over a very pretty young woman who was coming up the steps. She was rather rustically, but not unbecomingly dressed, and altogether so fresh and rosy that it was a treat to see her after the fine town ladies, even the youngest of whom were beginning to look faded and jaded from the dissipation of the season. But when she opened her mouth in reply to Benson's affable salutation, it was like the girl in the fairy tale dropping toads and adders, so nasal, harsh, and inharmonious was the tone in which she spoke.
"That's Mrs. Simpson," said Harry, as they went on, "the Bird's wife. Pretty little woman: what a pity she has that vulgar accent! She belongs to New England originally; one finds many such girls here, every way charming until they begin to talk. But I suppose you saw no difference between her and any of us. In your ears we all speak with a barbarous accent—at least you feel bound to think so."
"What do you think yourself? You have known a good many of my countrymen, and heard them talk, and are able to make the comparison. Do you, or do you not, find a difference?"
"To say the truth, I do; it is a thing I never think seriously of denying, for it seems to me neither singular nor to be ashamed of. You can tell an Irishman from a Londoner by his accent; so you can a Scotchman; or a Yorkshireman for that matter: why should you not be able to tell an American? The error of your countrymen consists in attributing to all our people the nasal twang, which is almost peculiar to one section of the country. If I were asked the peculiar characteristic of a New-Yorker's speech, I should say monotone. Notice any one of our young men—you will find his conversational voice pitched in the same key. Sumner goes on at the same uniform growl, Edwards in an unvaried buzz. When I first landed in England, I was struck with the much greater variety of tone one hears in ordinary conversation. Your women, especially, seemed to me always just going to sing. And I fancied the address of the men affected—just as, very likely, this monotone of ours seems affected to you."
"What I remark most is a hardness and dryness of voice, as if the extremes of climate here had an injurious effect on the vocal organs."
"Perhaps they do; and yet I think you will find a better average of singers, male and female, in our society than in yours, notwithstanding our fashionables are so engrossed by dancing. Holla! here's Harrison. How are you, old fellow? and how are the Texas Inconvertibles?"
It was indeed the broker, wandering moodily alone. What had he in common with the rest of the company—the fops and flirts, the dancing men and dancing women? The males all snubbed and despised him, from tall White down to little Robinson; the women were hardly conscious of his existence. He knew, too, that he could thrash any man there in a fair stand-up fight, or buy out any three of them, ay, or talk any of them down in the society of sensible and learned people; and this very consciousness of superiority only served to embitter his position the more. There were other sets, doubtless, who would have welcomed him gladly, but either they were not sufficiently to his taste to attract him, or he was in no mood to receive consolation from their sympathy. So he had wandered alone, untouched by the charming scenery about him—a man whom nobody cared for; and when Benson addressed him genially, and in an exuberance of spirits threw his arm over the other's neck as they walked side by side, the broker's heart seemed to expand towards the man who had shown him even this slight profession of kindness, his intelligent eyes lighted up, and he began to talk out cheerfully and unassumingly all that was in him.
Harrison's own narrative of his personal prowess, as well as the qualified panegyric pronounced upon him by Benson, had led Ashburner to expect to find in him a manly person with some turn for athletic sports and good living, but no particular intellectual endowments beyond such as his business demanded. He was, therefore, not a little astonished at (inasmuch as he was altogether unprepared for) the variety of knowledge and the extent of mental cultivation which the broker displayed as their conversation went on. They talked of the hills and valleys, and ravines and water-courses around them, and Harrison compared this place with others in a way that showed a ready observer of the beauties of nature. They talked of Italy, and Harrison had at his fingers' ends the principal palaces in every city, and the best pictures in every palace. They talked of Greece, and Harrison quoted Plato. They talked of England and France, and Harrison displayed a familiar acquaintance, not merely with the statistics of the two countries, but also with the habits and characteristics of their people. Finally, they talked on the puzzling topic of American society—puzzling in its transition state and its singular contrasts—and, whether the broker's views were correct or not, they were any thing but commonplace or conventional.
"Our fashionable society has been all a mistake hitherto," said Harry (Ashburner could not well make out whether there was a spice of irony in his observation); "Mrs. Benson and some others are going to reform it indifferently. The women thus far have been lost sight of after marriage, and have left the field to the young girls. Now they are beginning to wake up to their rights and privileges."
"They will not remedy any of the present evils in that way," answered Harrison, apparently addressing himself to Ashburner, but he seemed to be talking at Benson and through him at Benson's wife, or his own, or both of them. "Our theory and practice was that a young girl should enjoy herself in all freedom; that her age and condition were those of pleasure and frolic—of dissipation, if you will—that after her marriage she, comparatively speaking, retired from the world, not through any conventional rule or imaginary standard of propriety, but of her own free will, and in the natural course of things; because the cares of maternity and her household gave her sufficient employment at home. A woman who takes a proper interest in her family gives them the first place in her thoughts, and is always ready to talk about them. Now these domestic details are the greatest possible bore to a mere fashionable casual drawing-room acquaintance. Hence you see that the French, whose chief aim is to talk well in a drawing-room or an opera box, utterly detest and unmercifully ridicule every thing connected with domesticity or home life. On the other hand, if a married woman never talks of these things or lets you think of them, she does not take a proper interest in her family. No, the fault of youth is with the other sex. There are too few men about, and too many boys. And the more married belles there are the more will the boys be encouraged. For your married belles like to have men about them younger than themselves—it makes them appear younger, or at least they think so; and besides, such youths are more easily managed and more subservient. But, still worse, the more these boys usurp the place of men in society, the more boyish and retrograde will the few men become who continue to divide the honors of society with them. When Plato enumerated among the signs of a republic in the last stage of decadence, that the youth imitate and rival old men, and the old men let themselves down to a level with the youth, he anticipated exactly the state of things that has come to pass among us. Look at that little friend of yours with the beard—I don't mean Edwards, but an older man about his size."
"Dicky Bleecker, I suppose you mean," growled Benson: "he's as much your friend—or your wife's—as he is mine."
"Well, he is my contemporary, I may say; perhaps five years at most my junior. What perceptible sign of mature age or manliness is there about him? In what is he superior to or distinguishable from young Snelling, who but this season rejoices in his first white tie and first horse, and in the fruits of his first course of dancing lessons?"
"Well, but consider," said Benson, who was always ready to take up any side of an argument—it was one of the first criticisms Ashburner made on American conversation, that the men seemed to talk for victory rather than for truth—"it stands to reason, that an intelligent married woman must be better able than a girl to converse with a mature man, and her conversation must have more attraction for him. As to our boys coming out too soon, doubtless they do, but that depends not on the persons ready to receive them, but on the general social system of the country which pushes them into the world so early. For instance, I was left my own master at twenty-one. So, too, with the want of proper progress and growth in knowledge of the men. It is and must be so with the man of fashion every where, for he is not occupied in learning things that have a tendency to develop or improve his mind, but the contrary. I myself have seen Frenchmen of fifty as easily amused and as eager after trifles as boys."
"Frenchmen?" sneered the other; "yes, but they are boys all their lives, except in innocence."
"Very amusing and pleasant, at any rate; the best people for travelling acquaintances that I know."
"Exactly—very pleasant to know for a little while. I have met with a great many Frenchmen who impressed me favorably, and I used to think as you say, what amusing people they were, but I never had occasion to live with one for any length of time without finding him a bore and a nuisance. A Frenchman turns himself inside out, as it were, at once. He shows off all that there is to show on first acquaintance. You see the best of him immediately, and afterwards there is nothing left but repetitions of the same things, and eternal dissertations on himself and his own affairs. He is like a wide, shallow house, with a splendid front externally, and scanty furniture inside."
"Very true, and an Englishman (don't blush Ashburner) is like a suite of college-rooms in one of his own university towns—a rusty exterior, a dark, narrow passage along which you find your way with difficulty; and when you do get in, jolly and comfortable apartments open suddenly upon you; and as you come to examine them more carefully, you discover all sorts of snug, little, out-of-the-way closets and recesses, full of old books and old wine, and all things rich and curious. But the entrance is uninviting to a casual acquaintance. Now, when you find an American of the right stamp (here Benson's hands were accidentally employed in adjusting his cravat), he hits the proper medium, and is accessible as a Frenchman and as true as an Englishman."
Ashburner was going to express a doubt as to the compatibility of the two qualities, when Harrison struck in again.
"On that account I never could see why Frenchmen should be dreaded as dangerous in society. They fling out all their graces at once, exhaust all their powers of fascination, and soon begin to be tiresome. How many cases I have seen where a Frenchman fancied he was making glorious headway in a lady's affections, and that she was just ready to fall into his arms, when she was only ready to fall asleep in his face, and was civil to him only from a great sacrifice of inclination to politeness!"
"Very pleasant it must be to a lady," said Ashburner, "that a man should be at the same time wearying her to death with his company, and perilling her reputation out of doors by his language."
"By Jove, it's dinner time!" exclaimed Benson, pulling out a microscopic Geneva watch. "I thought the clock of my inner man said as much." And back they hurried through the woods to the Glen House, but were as late for the dinner as they had been for the dance. Harrison and Benson found seats at the lower end of the table, where they established themselves together and began, a propos of Edwards's misadventure, to talk horse, either because they had exhausted all other subjects, or because they did not think the company worthy a better one. Mrs. Benson beckoned Ashburner up to a place by her, but, somehow, he found himself opposite Mrs. Harrison's eyes, and though he could not remember any thing she said ten minutes after, her conversation, or looks, or both, had the effect of transferring to her all the interest he was beginning to feel for her husband—of whom, by the way, she took no more notice than if he had not belonged to her.
"Poor Harrison!" said Benson, as he and Ashburner were walking their horses leisurely homeward that evening (they both had too much sense to ride fast after dinner), "he is twice thrown away! He might have been a literary gentleman and a lover of art, living quietly on a respectable fortune; but his father would make him go into business. He might be a model family man, and at the same time a very entertaining member of society; but his wife has snubbed and suppressed him for her own exaltation. If, instead of treating him thus, she would only show him a little gratitude as the source of all her luxury and magnificence, her dresses and her jewelry, her carriage and horses (what a pair of iron-grays she does drive!), and all her other splendors—if she would only be proud of him as the great broker—not to speak of his varied knowledge, of which she might also well be proud—if she would take some little pains to interest herself in his pleasures and to bring him forward in society—how easily she could correct and soften his little uncouthnesses of person and dress, if she would take the trouble! Why should she be ashamed of him? He is older than she—how much? ten years perhaps, or twelve at most. He is not a beauty; but in a man, I should say, mind, comes before good looks; and how infinitely superior he is in mind and soul to any of the frivolous little beaux, native or foreign, whom she delights to draw about her!"
"I fear I shall never be able to regard Mr. Harrison with as much respect as you do. It may be ignorance, but I never could see much difference between a speculator in stocks and a gambler."
"When a man is in his predicament domestically there are three things, to one, two, or all of which he is pretty sure to take—drink, gambling, and horses. Harrison is too purely intellectual a man to be led away by the vulgar animal temptation of liquor, though he has a good cellar, and sometimes consoles himself with a snug bachelor dinner. Stock-jobbing is, as you say, only another sort of gambling, and this is his vice: at the same time you will consider that it is his business, to which he was brought up. Then, for absolute relaxation, he has his 'fast crab.' Put him behind his 2' 45" stepper and he is happy for an hour or two, and forgets his miseries—that is to say, his wife."
"But you talk as if his marriage was the cause of his speculations, whereas you told me the other day that his speculations were the indirect cause of his marriage."
"You are right: I believe the beginning of that bad habit must be set down to his father's account; but the continuance of it is still chargeable on his wife. I have heard him say myself that he would have retired from business long ago but for Mrs. Harrison—that is to say, he had to go on making money to supply her extravagance."
One fine morning there was a great bustle and flurry; moving of trunks, and paying of bills, and preparations for departure. The fashionables were fairly starved out, and had gone off in a body. The brilliant equipages of Ludlow and Loewenberg, the superfine millinery of the Robinsons, the song and story of the Vicomte, the indefatigable revolutions of Edwards, were all henceforth to be lost to the sojourners at Oldport. Mr. Grabster heeded not this practical protest against the error of his ways. He had no difficulty in filling the vacant rooms, for a crowd of people from all parts of the Union constantly thronged Oldport, attracted by its reputation for coolness and salubrity; and he rather preferred people from the West and South, as they knew less about civilized life, and were more easily imposed upon. To be sure, even they would find out in time the deficiencies of his establishment, and report them at home; but meanwhile he hoped to fill his pockets for two or three seasons under cover of The Sewer's puffs, and then, when business fell off, to impose on his landlord with some plausible story, and obtain a lowering of his rent.
Some few—a very few—of "our set" were left. Our friend Harry stayed, because the air of the place agreed remarkably with the infant hope of the Bensons; and a few of the beaux remained—among them Sumner, White, and Sedley—either out of friendship for Benson, or retained by the attractions of Mrs. Benson, or those of Mrs. Harrison; for the lionne stayed of course, it being her line to do just whatever the exclusives did not do. But though Benson remained, he was not disposed to suffer in silence. All this while The Sewer had been filled with letters lauding every thing about the Bath Hotel; and communications equally disinterested, and couched in the same tone, had found their way into some more respectable prints. Benson undertook the thankless task of undeceiving the public. He sat down one evening and wrote off a spicy epistle to The Blunder and Bluster, setting forth how things really were at Oldport. Two days after, when the New-York mail arrived, great was the wrath of Mr. Grabster. He called into council the old gentleman with the melodious daughter, The Sewer reporters, and some other boarders who were in his confidence; and made magnificent, but rather vague promises, of what he would do for the man who should discover the daring individual who had thus bearded him in his very den; simultaneously he wrote to The Blunder and Bluster, demanding the name of the offender. With most American editors such a demand (especially if followed up with a good dinner or skilfully-applied tip to the reporter or correspondent) would have been perfectly successful. But he of The Blunder and Bluster was a much higher style of man. As Benson once said of him, he had, in his capacity of the first political journalist in the country, associated so much with gentlemen, that he had learned to be something of a gentleman himself. Accordingly he replied to Mr. Grabster, in a note more curt than courteous, that it was impossible to comply with his request. So the indignant host was obliged to content himself for the time with ordering The Sewer to abuse the incognito. Before many days, however, he obtained the desired information through another source, in this wise.
Oldport had its newspaper, of course. Every American village of more than ten houses has its newspaper. Mr. Cranberry Fuster, who presided over the destinies of The Oldport Daily Twaddler, added to this honorable and amiable occupation the equally honorable and amiable one of village attorney. Though his paper was in every sense a small one, he felt and talked as big as if it had been The Times, or The Moniteur, or The Blunder and Bluster. He held the President of the United States as something almost beneath his notice, and was in the habit of lecturing the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Austria, and other foreign powers, in true Little Pedlington style. Emboldened by the impunity which attended these assaults, he undertook to try his hand on matters nearer home, and boldly essayed one season to write down the polka and redowa as indecent and immoral. But here he found, as Alexander, Napoleon, and other great men, had done before him, that there is a limit to all human power. He might better have tried to write off the roof of the Bath Hotel, which was rather a fragile piece of work, and might have been carried away by much less wind than usually served to distend the columns of The Twaddler. The doughty Tom Edwards snapped his heels, so to speak, in the face of the mighty editor, and the exclusives continued to polk more frantically than ever in the teeth of his direst fulminations. One practical effect, however, these home diatribes had, which his luminous sallies on foreign affairs altogether failed to effect—they put money into his pocket. The next thing Americans like to hearing themselves well praised, is to hear somebody, even if it be themselves, well abused; and accordingly, on the mornings when Mr. Fuster let out an anti-polka article, the usually small circulation of his small sheet was multiplied by a very large factor—almost every stranger bought a copy, the million to see the abuse of the fashionables, the fashionables to see the abuse of themselves.
Benson, in the course of his almost annual visits to Oldport Springs, had been frequently amused by the antics of this formidable gentleman, and had laudably contributed to make them generally known. Once, when Mr. Fuster had politely denominated the Austrian emperor "a scoundrel," Harry moved The Blunder and Bluster to say, that it was very sorry for that potentate, who would undoubtedly be overwhelmed with mortification when he learned that The Twaddler entertained such an opinion of him. Whereupon Fuster, who was of a literal dulness absolutely joke-proof, struck off a flaming article on "the aristocratic sympathies" of The Blunder and Bluster, which, like a British Whig and Federal journal as it was, always came to the rescue of tyrants and despots, &c. &c. On another occasion—the very morning of a State election—The Twaddler had announced, with a great flourish, "that before its next sheet was issued Mr. Brown would be invested with the highest honors that the State could confer upon him." But even American editors are not always infallible; Mr. Brown came out sadly in the minority, and the day after The Blunder and Bluster had a little corner paragraph to this effect:—
"We sincerely regret to see that our amusing little contemporary, THE OLDPORT DAILY TWADDLER, has suspended publication."
At this Mr. Fuster flared up fearfully, and threatened to sue The Blunder and Bluster for libel.
Now this magniloquent editor, who professed to be a great moral reformer at home, and to regulate the destinies of nations abroad, was in truth the mere creature and toady of Mr. Grabster, the greater part of the revenue of his small establishment being derived from printing the bills and advertisements of the Bath Hotel. As in duty bound, therefore, he set to work to abuse the anonymous assailant of that atrociously-kept house, calling him a quantity of heterogeneous names, and more than insinuating that he was a person who had never been in good society, and did not know what good living was, because he found fault with the living at the Bath Hotel. The leader wound up with a more than ever exaggerated eulogy of Mr. Grabster and his "able and gentlemanly assistants." Benson happened to get hold of this number of The Twaddler one evening when he had nothing to do, and those dangerous implements, pen, ink, and paper, were within his reach. Beginning to note down the absurdities and non sequiturs in Mr. Fuster's article, he found himself writing a very chaffy letter to The Twaddler. He had an unfortunate talent for correspondence had Benson, like most of his countrymen; so, giving the reins to his whim, he finished the epistle, making it very spicy and satirical, with a garnish of similes and classical quotations—altogether rather a neat piece of work, only it might have been objected to as a waste of cleverness, and building a large wheel to break a very small bug upon. Then he dropped it into the post-office himself, never dreaming that Cranberry would publish it, but merely anticipating the wrath of the little-great man on receiving such a communication. It chanced, however, not long before, that Benson, in the course of some legal proceedings, had been to sign papers, and "take fifty cents' worth of affidavit," as he himself phrased it, before Mr. Fuster in his legal capacity. The latter gentleman had thus the means of identifying by comparison, the handwriting of the pseudonymous letter. In a vast fit of indignation, not unmingled with satisfaction, he brought out next day Harry's letter at full length, to the great peril of the Latin quotations, and then followed it up with a rejoinder of his own, in which he endeavored to take an attitude of sublime dignity, backed up by classical quotations also, to show that he understood Latin as well as Benson. But the attempt was as unsuccessful as it was elaborate, for his anger broke through in every other sentence, making the intended "smasher" an extraordinary compound of superfine writing and vulgar abuse.
When in the course of human events (he began) it becomes necessary for men holding our lofty and responsible position to stoop to the chastisement of pretentious ignorance and imbecility, we shall not be found to shrink from the task. The writer of the above letter is Mr. Henry Benson, a young man of property, and a Federal Whig. He insinuates that we are very stupid. It's no such thing; we are not stupid a bit, and we mean to show Mr. B. as much before we have done with him. Mr. Benson is a pompous young aristocrat, and Mr. Grabster is more of a gentleman than he is—and so are we too for that matter. He says the Bath Hotel is a badly kept house. We say it isn't, and we know a great deal better than he does. We have dined there very often, and found the fare and attendance excellent: and so did the Honorable Theophilus Q. Smith, of Arkansas, last summer, when he came to enjoy the invigorating breezes of this healthful locality. That distinguished and remarkable man expressed himself struck with the arrangements of the Bath Hotel, which left him no cause, he said, to regret the comforts of his western home. But this establishment cannot please the fastidious Mr. Benson! O tempora, O Moses! as Cicero said to Catiline, quousque tandem?
And so on for three columns.
Likewise, The Sewer, which had begun to blackguard The Blunder and Bluster's correspondent while he remained under the shelter of his pseudonym, now that his name was known, came out with double virulence, and filled half a sheet with filthy abuse of Harry, including collateral assaults on his brother, grandmother, and second cousins, and most of the surviving members of his wife's family. But as Benson never read The Sewer, this part of the attack was an utter waste of Billingsgate so far as he was concerned. What did surprise and annoy him was to find that The Inexpressible, which, though well-known to be a stupid, was generally considered a decent paper, had taken the enemy's side, and published some very impertinent paragraphs about him. Afterwards he discovered that he had been the victim of a principle. The Inexpressible and Blunder and Bluster had a little private quarrel of their own, and the former felt bound to attack every thing in any way connected with the latter.
Nevertheless Benson was not very much distressed even at this occurrence, for a reason which we shall now give at length, and which will at the same time explain the propriety of the heading we have given to this number. While every body was reading The Sewer and The Twaddler, and the more benevolent were pitying Harry for having started such a nest of editorial and other blackguards about his ears, and the more curious were wondering whether he would leave the hotel and resign the field of battle to the enemy, our friend really cared very little about the matter, except so far as he could use it for a blind to divert attention from another affair which he had on hand, and which it was of the greatest importance to keep secret, lest it should draw down the interference of the local authorities: in short, he had a defiance to mortal combat impending over him, which dangerous probability he had brought upon himself in this wise.
Among the beaux who remained after the Hegira of the fashionables was a Mr. Storey Hunter, who had arrived at Oldport only just before that great event, for he professed to be a traveller and travelling man, and, to keep up the character never came to a place when other people did, but always popped up unexpectedly in the middle, or at the end, of a season, as if he had just dropped from the moon, or arrived from the antipodes. He had an affectation of being foreign—not English, or French, or German, or like any particular European nation, but foreign in a general sort of way, something not American; and always, on whichever side of the Atlantic he was, hailed from some locality; at one time describing himself in hotel books as from England, at another as from Paris, at another from Baden—from anywhere, in short, except his own native village in Connecticut. In accordance with this principle, moreover, he carefully eschewed the indigenous habits of dress; and while all the other men appeared at the balls in dress coats, and black or white cravats, he usually displayed a flaming scarlet or blue tie, a short frock coat, and yellow or brown trousers. A man six feet high, and nearly as many round, is a tolerably conspicuous object in most places, even without any marked peculiarities of dress; and when to this it is added, that Mr. Hunter exhibited on his shirt-front and watch-chain trinkets enough to stock a jeweller's shop, and that he was always redolent of the most fashionable perfumes, it may be supposed that he was not likely to escape notice at Oldport. His age no one knew exactly; some of the old stagers gave him forty years and more, but he was in a state of wonderful preservation, had a miraculous dye for his whiskers, and a perpetually fresh color in his cheeks. Sedley used to say he rouged, and that you might see the marks of it inside his collar; but this may have been only an accident in shaving. He rather preferred French to English in conversation; and with good reason, for when he used the former language, you might suppose (with your eyes shut) that you were talking to a very refined gentleman, whereas, so soon as he opened his mouth in the vernacular, the provincial Yankee stood revealed before you. As to his other qualities and merits, he appeared to have plenty of money, and was an excellent and indefatigable dancer. Ashburner, when he saw him spin round morning after morning, and night after night, till he all but melted away himself, and threatened to drown his partner, thought he must have the laudable motive of wishing to reduce his bulk, which, however, continued undiminished. Notwithstanding his travels and accomplishments, which, especially the dancing, were sufficient to give him a passport to the best society, there were some who regarded him with very unfavorable eyes, more particularly Sumner and Benson. Supposing this to be merely another of the frivolous feuds that existed in the place, and among "our set," Ashburner was not over-anxious or curious to know the cause of it. Nor, if he had been, did the parties seem disposed to afford him much information. Benson had, indeed, observed one day, that that Storey Hunter was the greatest blackguard in Oldport, except The Sewer reporters; but as he had already said the same thing of half-a-dozen men, his friend was not deterred thereby from making Hunter's acquaintance—or rather, from accepting it; the difficulty at Oldport being, not to make the acquaintance of any man in society. And he found the fat dandy, to all appearance, an innocent and good-natured person, rather childish for his years, and well illustrating Harrison's assertion, that the men in fashionable life rather retrograded than developed from twenty to forty; but in no apparent respect formidable, save for a more than American tendency to gossip. He had some story to the prejudice of every one, but seemed to tell all these stories just as an enfant terrible might, without fully understanding them, or at all heeding the possible consequences of repeating them.
The glory of the balls had departed with Edwards and the Robinsons, but the remaining fashionables kept up their amusement with much vigor; and the absence of the others, though detracting much from the brilliancy of the place, was in some respects the gain of a loss. White came out in all his glory now that most of the young men were gone. With his graceful figure, neat dress, and ever-ready smile and compliment, he looked the very ideal of the well-drilled man of fashion. Sumner, though he could not have talked less if he had been an English heavy dragoon-officer, or an Hungarian refugee, understanding no language but his own, was very useful for a quiet way he had of arranging every thing beforehand without fuss or delay, and, moreover, had the peculiar merit (difficult to explain, but which we have all observed in some person at some period of our lives) of being good company without talking. Benson, with less pretence and display than he had before exhibited, showed an energy and indefatigableness almost equal to Le Roi's; whatever he undertook, he "kept the pot a-boiling." In short, the people of "our set," who were left, went on among themselves much better than before, because the men's capabilities were not limited to dancing, and the women had less temptation to be perpetually dressing. Besides, the removal of most of the fashionables had encouraged the other portions of the transient population to come more forward, and exhibit various primitive specimens of dancing, and other traits worth observing. One evening there was a "hop" at the Bellevue. Ashburner made a point of always looking in at these assemblies for an hour or so, and scrutinizing the company with the coolness and complacency which an Englishman usually assumes in such places, as if all the people there were made merely for his amusement. Benson, who had literally polked the heel off one of his boots, and thereby temporarily disabled himself, was lounging about with him, making observations on men, women, and things generally.
"You wouldn't think that was only a girl of seventeen," said Harry, as a languishing brunette, with large, liquid black eyes, and a voluptuous figure, glided by them in the waltz. "How soon these Southerners develope into women! They beat the Italians even."
"I wonder the young lady has time to grow, she dances so much. I have watched her two or three evenings, and she has never rested a moment except when the music stopped.—Something must suffer, it seems to me. Does her mind develope uniformly with her person? She is a great centre of attraction, I observe; is it only for her beauty and dancing?"
"I suppose a beautiful young woman, with fifty or sixty thousand a year, may consider mental accomplishments as superfluous. She knows, perhaps, as much as a Russian woman of five-and-twenty. How much that is, you, who have been on the Continent, know."
"Ah, an heiress; acres of cotton-fields, thousands of negroes, and so on."
"Exactly. I put the income down at half of what popular report makes it; these southern fortunes are so uncertain: the white part of the property (that is to say, the cotton) varies with the seasons; and the black part takes to itself legs, and runs off occasionally. But, at any rate, there is quite enough to make her a great prize, and an object of admiration and attention to all the little men—not to the old hands, like White and Sumner; they are built up in their own conceit, and wouldn't marry Sam Weller's 'female marchioness,' unless she made love to them first, like one of Knowles's heroines. But the juveniles are crazy about her. Robinson went off more ostentatiously love-sick than a man of his size I ever saw; and Sedley is always chanting her praises—the only man, woman, or child, he was ever known to speak well of. I don't think any of them will catch her. Edwards might dance into her heart, perhaps, if he were a little bigger; but as it is, she will, probably, make happy and rich some one in her own part of the world. She says the young men there suit her better, because they are 'more gentlemanly' than we Northerners."
"I have heard many strangers say the same thing," said Ashburner, prudently refraining from expressing any opinion of his own for he knew Benson's anti-southern feelings.
"If education has any thing to do with being a gentleman, then, whether you take education in the highest sense, as the best discipline and expansion of the mind by classical and scientific study; or in the utilitarian sense, as the acquisition of useful knowledge, and a practical acquaintance with men and things; or in the fine lady sense, as the mastery of airs, and graces, and drawing-room accomplishments; or in the moralist's sense, as the curbing of our mischievous propensities, and the energizing of our good ones—in every case, we are more of gentlemen than the Southerners. If the mere possession of wealth, and progress in the grosser and more material arts of civilization, have any thing to do with it, then, too, we are more of gentlemen. Their claims rest on two grounds: first, they live on the unpaid labor of others, while we all work, more or less, for ourselves, holding idleness as disgraceful as they do labor; secondly, they are all the time fighting duels."
"Are there no duels ever fought in this part of the country?"
"Scarcely any since Burr shot Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton was one of our greatest men, and his death excited a feeling throughout the Northern States which put down the practice almost entirely; and I certainly think it a step forward in real civilization."
"Do you mean to say that it is with you as with us, where, if a man becomes so involved in a quarrel that he is challenged, it is against him and almost ruin to him whether he fights or does not fight? Or is public opinion decidedly in favor of the man who does not fight, and against the man who does? For instance, suppose you were challenged yourself?"
"A man can't say beforehand what he would do in an emergency of the kind; but my impression is that I should not fight, and that the opinion of society would bear me out."
"But suppose a man insulted your wife or sister?"
"It is next door to impossible that an American gentleman should do such a thing; but if he did, I should consider that he had reduced himself to the level of a snob, and should treat him as I would any snob in the streets,—knock him down, if I was able; and if I wasn't, take the law of him: and if a man had wronged me irreparably, I fancy I should do as these uncivilized Southerners themselves do in such a case,—shoot him down in the street, wherever I could catch him. What sense or justice is there in a duel? It is as if a man stole your coat, and instead of having him put into prison, you drew lots with him whether you or he should go."
"But suppose a man was spreading false reports about you; suppose he said you were no gentleman, or that you had cheated somebody?"
"Bah!" replied Benson, dexterously evading the most important part of the question, "if I were to fight all the people that spread false reports about me, I should have my hands full. There is a man in this room that slandered me as grossly as he could four years ago, and was very near breaking off my marriage. That fat man there, with all the jewelry—Storey Hunter."
"Indeed!" exclaimed the other, really surprised, for he had just seen Mrs. Benson conversing with the ponderous exquisite, apparently on most amicable terms.
"Yes, and it was entirely gratuitous. I never gave the scamp any provocation. By Jupiter!" Benson turned very white and then very red, "if he isn't dancing with my wife! His impudence is too much, and——. I believe one of our women would put up with any thing from a man here if he can only dance well. They have no self-respect."
Benson appeared to have very little himself at that moment, and not to care much what he said or did. He trembled all over with rage, and his friend expected to see an immediate outbreak; but, as if recollecting himself, he suddenly stammered out something about the necessity of changing his boots, and limped off accordingly for that purpose. He was not gone more than five minutes, but in that time had contrived not only to supply his pedal deficiency, but also to take a drink by way of calming himself; and after the drink he took a turn with Miss Friskin, and whirled her about the room, till he knocked over two or three innocent bystanders, all of which tended very much to compose his feelings. Ashburner had a presentiment that something would happen, and stayed longer that night than his wont; indeed, till the end of the ball, which, as there was now no German cotillion, lasted till only one in the morning.
But the universal panacea of the polka had its mollifying effect on Benson, and every thing might have passed off quietly but for an unlucky accident. Some of the young Southerners had ordered up sundry bottles of champagne, and were drinking the same in a corner. Hunter, who was much given to toadying Southerners (another reason for Benson's dislike of him), mingled among them, and partook of the inspiring beverage. In vino veritas is true as gospel, if you understand it rightly as meaning that wine develops a man's real nature. Hunter, being by nature gossipy and mendacious, waxed more and more so with every glass of Heidseck he took down. Ashburner chancing to pass near the group, had his attention arrested by hearing Benson's name. He stopped, and listened: Hunter was going on with a prolix and somewhat confused story of some horse that Benson had sold to somebody, in which transaction Sumner was somehow mixed up, and the horse hadn't turned out well, and the purchaser wasn't satisfied, and so on.
"If Benson hear this!" thought Ashburner.
And Benson did hear it very promptly, for Sedley was within ear-shot, and, delighted at having a piece of mischief to communicate, he tracked Harry out at the further extremity of the room, to inform him of the liberties Storey Hunter was taking with his name. Whereupon the slandered one, with all his wrath reawakened, traversed the apartment in time to hear the emphatic peroration that, "bad as Sumner was, Benson was a thousand times worse."
"I can't stand this," exclaimed he. "Where is Frank Sumner?" Sumner was not visible. "Ashburner, will you stand by me if there's a row?"
By this time the ball was breaking up, and Benson, on going back to look for his party, found that Mrs. B., like a true watering-place belle, had gone off without waiting for him. This was exactly what he wanted. Keeping his eye on Hunter, he followed him out to the head of the staircase, where he had just been bidding good night to some ladies. No one was in sight but Ashburner, who happened to be standing just outside the door-way. The fat man nodded to Harry as if they had been the best friends in the world.
"Curse his impudence!" exclaimed Benson, now fairly boiling over. "Holloa, you Hunter! did you know you were an infernal scoundrel? Because you are."
"What for?" quoth the individual in question, half sobered and half disconcerted by this unceremonious address.
"And a contemptible blackguard," continued Benson, following up his verbal attack.
"You're another," retorted Hunter.
Ashburner wondered if the two men were going to stand slanging each other all night.
"I ought to have pulled your nose three years ago, and now take that!" and Benson, who had been working at his glove ever since the parley began, twitched it off and slapped Hunter in the face with it.
When an Irishman sees two people fighting, or going to fight, his natural impulse is to urge them on. A Scotchman or an American tries to part them. A Frenchman runs after the armed force. An Englishman does nothing but look quietly on, unless one side meets with foul play. Thus it was with Ashburner in the present instance. He took Benson's request "to stand by him in case of a row," au pied de la lettre. He stood by him, and that was all.
As soon as Hunter felt the glove in his face he struck out at Benson, who stopped the blow very neatly, and seemed about to return it with a left-hander; then suddenly changing his style of attack, he rushed within the other's guard, and catching him by the throat with both hands, did his best to strangle him. Hunter, unable to call for help or to loosen the throttling grasp of his assailant, threw himself bodily upon him. As he was about twice Benson's size and weight, the experiment succeeded. Harry was thrown off his feet and precipitated against the banisters, which being of slight material, gave way like so much paper, and both men tumbled over into the landing-place below amid a great scattering of splinters. Lighting on their feet, they began to pummel each other without doing more damage than a couple of children, for they were at such close quarters and so blinded by rage that they hit wild; but Benson had caught his man by the throat again and was just getting him into chancery, when White, Sedley, and some of the Southerners, attracted by the noise, ran down stairs, calling on the "gentlemen" to "behave as such," and words proving ineffectual, endeavoring to pull them apart; which was no easy matter, for Benson hung on like grim death, and when his hand was removed from Hunter's collar, caught him again by the nose, nor would he give up till Mr. Simson, who was one of the stoutest and most active men in the place, caught him up from behind and fairly carried him off to the hall below. Then he seemed to come to himself all at once, and recollected that he had invited the remains of "our set" to supper that night. And accordingly, after taking a rapid survey of himself in a glass, and finding that his face bore no mark of the conflict, and that his dress was not more disordered than a man's usually is when he has been polkaing all the evening, he went off to meet his company, and a very merry time they had of it. Ashburner was surprised to find that the spectators of the fray were able to ignore it so completely. If they had been old men and old soldiers, they could not have acted with more discretion, and it was impossible to suspect from their conversation or manner that any thing unpleasant had occurred. "These people do know how to hold their tongues sometimes," thought he.
Next morning while strolling about before breakfast (he was the earliest riser of the young men in the place, as he did not dance or gamble), he heard firing in the pistol-gallery. He thought of his conversation with Benson and the occurrences of last night, and then recollected that he was out of practice himself, and that there would be no harm in trying a few shots. So he strode over to the gallery, and there, to his astonishment, found on one side of the door the keeper, on the other Frank Sumner (who had given a most devoted proof of friendship by getting up two hours earlier in the morning than he had ever been known to do before); and between them Benson, blazing away at the figure, and swearing at himself for not making better shots.
"Take time by the forelock, you see," said he as he recognized Ashburner. "Nunquam non paratus. The fellow will send me a challenge this morning, I suppose, and I want to be ready for him."
"But do you know," said the Englishman, "if after this you should kill your man, we in our country would call it something very like murder?"
"That may be," answered Harry, as he let fly again, this time ringing the bell; "but we only call it practice."
* * * * *
John Adams, in his Diary, states, that out of eight prominent members of the Boston bar in 1763, with whom he was one evening discussing the encroachments of England upon the colonies, only one, Adams himself, lived through the Revolution, as an advocate of American independence. Five adhered to Great Britain: Gridley, Auchmuty, Fitch, Kent, and Hutchinson. Thatcher died in 1765, and Otis became incapacitated in 1771.
From Colburn's New Monthly Magazine
THE TWIN SISTERS.
A TRUE STORY.
BY W. WILKIE COLLINS, AUTHOR OF "ANTONINA."
Among those who attended the first of the King's levees, during the London season of 18—, was an unmarried gentleman of large fortune, named Streatfield. While his carriage was proceeding slowly down St. James's Street, he naturally sought such amusement and occupation as he could find in looking on the brilliant scene around him. The day was unusually fine; crowds of spectators thronged the street and the balconies of the houses on either side, all gazing at the different equipages with as eager a curiosity and interest, as if fine vehicles and fine people inside them were the rarest objects of contemplation in the whole metropolis. Proceeding at a slower and slower pace, Mr. Streatfield's carriage had just arrived at the middle of the street, when a longer stoppage than usual occurred. He looked carelessly up at the nearest balcony; and there among some eight or ten ladies, all strangers to him, he saw one face that riveted his attention immediately.
He had never beheld any thing so beautiful, any thing which struck him with such strange, mingled, and sudden sensations, as this face. He gazed and gazed on it, hardly knowing where he was, or what he was doing, until the line of vehicles began again to move on. Then—after first ascertaining the number of the house—he flung himself back in the carriage, and tried to examine his own feelings, to reason himself into self-possession; but it was all in vain. He was seized with that amiable form of social monomania, called "love at first sight."
He entered the palace, greeted his friends, and performed all the necessary Court ceremonies, feeling the whole time like a man in a trance. He spoke mechanically, and moved mechanically—the lovely face in the balcony occupied his thoughts, to the exclusion of every thing else. On his return home, he had engagements for the afternoon and the evening—he forgot and broke them all; and walked back to St. James's Street as soon as he had changed his dress.
The balcony was empty; the sight-seers, who had filled it but a few hours before, had departed—but obstacles of all sorts now tended only to stimulate Mr. Streatfield; he was determined to ascertain the parentage of the young lady, determined to look on the lovely face again—the thermometer of his heart had risen already to Fever Heat! Without loss of time, the shopkeeper to whom the house belonged was bribed to loquacity by a purchase. All that he could tell, in answer to inquiries, was that he had let his lodgings to an elderly gentleman and his wife, from the country, who had asked some friends into their balcony to see the carriages go to the levee. Nothing daunted, Mr. Streatfield questioned and questioned again. What was the old gentleman's name?—Dimsdale.—Could he see Mr. Dimsdale's servant?—The obsequious shopkeeper had no doubt that he could: Mr. Dimsdale's servant should be sent for immediately.
In a few minutes the servant, the all-important link in the chain of Love's evidence, made his appearance. He was a pompous, portly man, who listened with solemn attention, with a stern judicial calmness, to Mr. Streatfield's rapid and somewhat confused inquiries, which were accompanied by a minute description of the young lady, and by several explanatory statements, all very fictitious, and all very plausible. Stupid as the servant was, and suspicious as all stupid people are, he had nevertheless sense enough to perceive that he was addressed by a gentleman, and gratitude enough to feel considerably mollified by the handsome douceur which was slipped into his hand. After much pondering and doubting, he at last arrived at the conclusion that the fair object of Mr. Streatfield's inquiries was a Miss Langley, who had joined the party in the balcony that morning, with her sister; and who was the daughter of Mr. Langley, of Langley Hall, in ——shire. The family were now staying in London, at —— Street. More information than this, the servant stated that he could not afford—he was certain that he had made no mistake, for the Miss Langleys were the only very young ladies in the house that morning—however, if Mr. Streatfield wished to speak to his master, he was ready to carry any message with which he might be charged.
But Mr. Streatfield had already heard enough for his purpose, and departed at once for his club, determined to discover some means of being introduced in due form to Miss Langley, before he slept that night—though he should travel round the whole circle of his acquaintance—high and low, rich and poor—in making the attempt. Arrived at the club, he began to inquire resolutely, in all directions, for a friend who knew Mr. Langley, of Langley Hall. He disturbed gastronomic gentlemen at their dinner; he interrupted agricultural gentlemen who were moaning over the prospects of the harvest; he startled literary gentlemen who were deep in the critical mysteries of the last Review; he invaded billiard-room, dressing-room, smoking-room; he was more like a frantic ministerial whipper-in, hunting up stray members for a division, than an ordinary man; and the oftener he was defeated in his object, the more determined he was to succeed. At last, just as he had vainly inquired of every body that he knew, just as he was standing in the hall of the clubhouse thinking where he should go next, a friend entered, who at once relieved him of all his difficulties—a precious, an estimable man, who was on intimate terms with Mr. Langley, and had been lately staying at Langley Hall. To this friend all the lover's cares and anxieties were at once confided; and a fitter depositary for such secrets of the heart could hardly have been found. He made no jokes—for he was not a bachelor; he abstained from shaking his head and recommending prudence—for he was not a seasoned husband, or an experienced widower; what he really did was to enter heart and soul into his friend's projects—for he was precisely in that position, the only position, in which the male sex generally take a proper interest in match-making: he was a newly married man.
Two days after, Mr. Streatfield was the happiest of mortals—he was introduced to the lady of his love—to Miss Jane Langley. He really enjoyed the priceless privilege of looking again on the face in the balcony, and looking on it almost as often as he wished. It was perfect Elysium. Mr. and Mrs. Langley saw little or no company—Miss Jane was always accessible, never monopolized—the light of her beauty shone, day after day, for her adorer alone; and his love blossomed in it, fast as flowers in a hot-house. Passing quickly by all the minor details of the wooing to arrive the sooner at the grand fact of the winning, let us simply relate that Mr. Streatfield's object in seeking an introduction to Mr. Langley was soon explained, and was indeed visible enough long before the explanation. He was a handsome man, an accomplished man, and a rich man. His two first qualifications conquered the daughter, and his third the father. In six weeks Mr. Streatfield was the accepted suitor of Miss Jane Langley.
The wedding-day was fixed—it was arranged that the marriage should take place at Langley Hall, whither the family proceeded, leaving the unwilling lover in London, a prey to all the inexorable business formalities of the occasion. For ten days did the ruthless lawyers—those dead weights that burden the back of Hymen—keep their victim imprisoned in the metropolis, occupied over settlements that never seemed likely to be settled. But even the long march of the law has its end like other mortal things: at the expiration of the ten days all was completed, and Mr. Streatfield found himself at liberty to start for Langley Hall.
A large party was assembled at the house to grace the approaching nuptials. There were to be tableaux, charades, boating-trips, riding-excursions, amusements of all sorts—the whole to conclude (in the play-bill phrase) with the grand climax of the wedding. Mr. Streatfield arrived late; dinner was ready: he had barely time to dress, and then bustle into the drawing-room, just as the guests were leaving it, to offer his arm to Miss Jane—all greetings with friends and introductions to strangers being postponed till the party met round the dining-table.
Grace had been said; the covers were taken off; the loud, cheerful hum of conversation was just beginning, when Mr. Streatfield's eyes met the eyes of a young lady who was seated opposite, at the table. The guests near him, observing at the same moment, that he continued standing after every one else had been placed, glanced at him inquiringly. To their astonishment and alarm, they observed that his face had suddenly become deadly pale—his rigid features looked struck by paralysis. Several of his friends spoke to him; but for the first few moments he returned no answer. Then, still fixing his eyes upon the young lady opposite, he abruptly exclaimed, in a voice, the altered tones of which startled every one who heard him:—"That is the face I saw in the balcony!—that woman is the only woman I can ever marry!" The next instant, without a word more of either explanation or apology, he hurried from the room.
One or two of the guests mechanically started up, as if to follow him; the rest remained at the table, looking on each other in speechless surprise. But before any one could either act or speak, almost at the moment when the door closed on Mr. Streatfield, the attention of all was painfully directed to Jane Langley. She had fainted. Her mother and sisters removed her from the room immediately, aided by the servants. As they disappeared, a dead silence again sank down over the company—they all looked around with one accord to the master of the house.
Mr. Langley's face and manner sufficiently revealed the suffering and suspense that he was secretly enduring. But he was a man of the world—neither by word nor action did he betray what was passing within him. He resumed his place at the table, and begged his guests to do the same. He affected to make light of what had happened; entreated every one to forget it, or, if they remembered it at all, to remember it only as a mere accident which would no doubt be satisfactorily explained. Perhaps it was only a jest on Mr. Streatfield's part—rather too serious a one, he must own. At any rate, whatever was the cause of the interruption to the dinner which had just happened, it was not important enough to require every body to fast around the table of the feast. He asked it as a favor to himself, that no further notice might be taken of what had occurred. While Mr. Langley was speaking thus, he hastily wrote a few lines on a piece of paper, and gave it to one of the servants. The note was directed to Mr. Streatfield; the lines contained only these words:—"Two hours hence, I shall expect to see you alone in the library."
The dinner proceeded; the places occupied by the female members of the Langley family, and by the young lady who had attracted Mr. Streatfield's notice in so extraordinary a manner, being left vacant. Every one present endeavored to follow Mr. Langley's advice, and go through the business of the dinner, as if nothing had occurred; but the attempt failed miserably. Long, blank pauses occurred in the conversation; general topics were started, but never pursued; it was more like an assembly of strangers, than a meeting of friends; people neither ate nor drank, as they were accustomed to eat and drink; they talked in altered voices, and sat with unusual stillness, even in the same positions. Relatives, friends, and acquaintances, all alike perceived that some great domestic catastrophe had happened; all foreboded that some serious, if not fatal, explanation of Mr. Streatfield's conduct would ensue: and it was vain and hopeless—a very mockery of self-possession—to attempt to shake off the sinister and chilling influences that recent events had left behind them, and resume at will the thoughtlessness and hilarity of ordinary life.
Still, however, Mr. Langley persisted in doing the honors of his table, in proceeding doggedly through all the festive ceremonies of the hour, until the ladies rose and retired. Then, after looking at his watch, he beckoned to one of his sons to take his place; and quietly left the room. He only stopped once, as he crossed the hall, to ask news of his daughter from one of the servants. The reply was, that she had had a hysterical fit; that the medical attendant of the family had been sent for; and that since his arrival she had become more composed. When the man had spoken, Mr. Langley made no remark, but proceeded at once to the library. He locked the door behind him, as soon as he entered the room.
Mr. Streatfield was already waiting there—he was seated at the table, endeavoring to maintain an appearance of composure, by mechanically turning over the leaves of the books before him. Mr. Langley drew a chair near him; and in low, but very firm tones, began the conversation thus:—
"I have given you two hours, sir, to collect yourself, to consider your position fully—I presume, therefore, that you are now prepared to favor me with an explanation of your conduct at my table, to-day."
"What explanation can I make?—what can I say, or think of this most terrible of fatalities?" exclaimed Mr. Streatfield, speaking faintly and confusedly; and still not looking up—"There has been an unexampled error committed!—a fatal mistake, which I could never have anticipated, and over which I had no control!"
"Enough, sir, of the language of romance," interrupted Mr. Langley, coldly; "I am neither of an age nor a disposition to appreciate it. I come here to ask plain questions honestly, and I insist, as my right, on receiving answers in the same spirit. You, Mr. Streatfield, sought an introduction to me—you professed yourself attached to my daughter Jane—your proposals were (I fear unhappily for us) accepted—your wedding-day was fixed—and now, after all this, when you happen to observe my daughter's twin-sister sitting opposite to you—"
"Her twin-sister!" exclaimed Mr. Streatfield; and his trembling hand crumpled the leaves of the book, which he still held while he spoke. "Why is it, intimate as I have been with your family, that I now know for the first time that Miss Jane Langley has a twin-sister?"
"Do you descend, sir, to a subterfuge, when I ask you for an explanation?" returned Mr. Langley, angrily. "You must have heard, over and over again, that my children, Jane and Clara, were twins."
"On my word and honor, I declare that—"
"Spare me all appeals to your word or your honor, sir; I am beginning to doubt both."
"I will not make the unhappy situation in which we are all placed, still worse, by answering your last words, as I might, at other times, feel inclined to answer them," said Mr. Streatfield, assuming a calmer demeanor than he had hitherto displayed. "I tell you the truth, when I tell you that, before to-day, I never knew that any of your children were twins. Your daughter Jane has frequently spoken to me of her absent sister Clara, but never spoke to me of her as her twin-sister. Until to-day, I have had no opportunity of discovering the truth; for until to-day, I have never met Miss Clara Langley since I saw her in the balcony of the house in St. James's street. The only one of your children who was never present during my intercourse with your family in London, was your daughter Clara—the daughter whom I now know, for the first time, as the young lady who really arrested my attention on my way to the levee—whose affections it was really my object to win in seeking an introduction to you. To me, the resemblance between the twin-sisters has been a fatal resemblance; the long absence of one, a fatal absence."