"I arranged our affairs—we had a small competence after all debts were paid. We live yonder in a small cottage, and in half an hour I shall be there. I seldom take these strolls. Half my time is study—the rest, work upon our small plot of ground. This was necessary to prepare you for what I have to say.
"I had never been in love until I was twenty-four and a half—that is to say, half a year ago. But one day I saw upon a race-course a young girl who strongly attracted my attention, and I went home thinking of her. I did not know her name, but I recognised in her bright, frank, bold face—it was almost bold—that clear, strong nature which has ever had an inexpressible charm for me. I had studied that strange volume called Woman, and had easily found out this fact: that the wildest and most careless young girls are often far more delicate, feminine, and innocent than those whose eyes are always demurely cast down, and whose lips are drawn habitually into a prudish and prim reserve. Do you understand my awkward words?"
"Yes," said the boy quietly.
"Well," pursued Mowbray, "in forty-eight hours the dream of my life was to find and woo that woman. I instinctively felt that she would make me supremely happy—that the void which every man feels in his heart, no matter what his love for relatives may be, could be filled by this young girl alone—that she would perfect my life. Very well—now listen, Charles."
"Yes," said the boy, in a low tone.
"I became acquainted with her—for when did a lover ever fail to discover the place which contained his mistress?—and I found that this young girl whom I had fallen so deeply in love with was a great heiress."
"Unhappy chance!" exclaimed the boy; "I understand easily that this threw an ignoble obstacle in the way. Her friends——"
"No—there you are mistaken, Charles," said Mowbray "the obstacle was from herself."
"Did she not love you?"
Mowbray smiled sadly.
"You say that in a tone of great surprise," he replied; "there is scarcely ground for such astonishment."
"I should think any woman might love you," murmured the boy.
Mowbray smiled again as sadly as before, and said:
"Well, I see you are determined to make me your devoted friend, by reaching my heart through my vanity. But let me continue. I said that the obstacles in my way were not objections on the part of Philippa's friends—that was her name, Philippa: do not ask me more."
"No," said the boy.
"The barrier was her own nature. I had mistaken it; in the height of my pride I had dreamed that my vision had pierced to the bottom of her nature, to the inmost recesses of her heart: I was mistaken. I had gazed upon the woman, throwing the heiress out of the question; you see I was hopelessly enslaved by the woman before dreaming of the heiress," he added, with a melancholy smile.
Hoffland made no reply.
"Now I come to the end, and I shall not detain you much longer from the moral. I visited her repeatedly. I found more to admire than I expected even—more to be repelled by, however, than my mind had prepared me for. I found this young girl with many noble qualities—but these qualities seemed to me obscured by her eternal consciousness of riches: her suspicion, in itself an unwomanly trait, was intense."
"Oh, sir!" cried the boy, "but surely there is some excuse! Of course," he added, with an effort to control his feelings, "I do not know Miss Philippa, but assuredly a young girl who is cursed with great wealth must discriminate between those who love her for herself and those who come to woo her because she is wealthy. Oh, believe me, it is, it must be very painful to be wealthy, to have to suspect and doubt—to run the hazard of wounding some noble nature, who may be by chance among the sordid crowd who come to kneel to her because she is an heiress—who would turn their backs upon her were she portionless. Indeed, we should excuse much."
"Yes," said Mowbray, "and you defend the cause of heiresses well. But let me come back to my narrative. The suspicion of this young girl was immense—as her fortune was. That fortune chilled me whenever I thought of it. I did not want it. I could have married her—I had quite enough for both. Heaven decreed that she should be wealthy, however—that the glitter of gold should blind her heart—that she should suspect my motives. Do not understand me to say that she placed any value upon that wealth herself. No; I believe she despised, almost regretted it: but still, who can tell? At least I love her too much still to hazard what may be unjust—ah! the cinder is not cold."
And Mowbray's head drooped. They walked on in silence.
"Well, well," he continued at length, "I saw her often. I could not strangle my feelings. I loved her—in spite of her wealth—not on account of it. But gradually my sentiment moderated: like a whip of scorpions, this suspicion she felt struck me, wounding my heart and inflaming my pride. I tried to stay away; I dragged through life for a week without seeing her; then, impelled by a violent impulse, I went to her again, armed with an impassible pride, and determined to converse upon the most indifferent subjects—to test her nature fully, and—to make the test complete—bend all the energies of my mind to the task of weighing her words, her looks, her tones, that I might make a final decision. Well, she almost distinctly intimated, fifteen minutes after our interview commenced, that I was a fortune-hunter whom she regarded with a mixture of amusement and contempt."
"Oh, sir! could it have been that you——"
The boy stopped.
"How unhappy she must be—to have to suspect such noble natures as your own," he added in a low voice.
Mowbray turned away his head; then by a powerful effort went on.
"You shall judge, Charles," he said in a voice which he mastered only by a struggle; "you shall say whether I am correct in my opinion of her thoughts. She asked me plainly if I was poor; to which question I replied with a single word—'Very.' Next, did I hope to become rich! I did hope so. Her advice then was, she said, that I should marry some heiress, since that was a surer and more rapid means than law or politics. She said it very satirically, and with a glance which killed my love——"
"Oh, sir!" the boy murmured.
"Yes; and though I was calm, my face not paler, I believe, than usual, I was led to say what I bitterly regret—not because it was untrue, for it was not, rather was it profoundly true—but because it might have been misunderstood. It was disgraceful to marry for mere wealth, I said; and I added, 'too expensive'—since unhappiness at any price was dear. I added that money would never purchase my own heart—school-boy fashion, you perceive; and then I left her—never to return."
A long silence followed these words. Mowbray then added calmly:
"You deduce from this narrative, Charles, one lesson. Never give your affections to a woman suddenly; never make a young girl whom you do not know the queen of your heart—the fountain of your illusions and your dreams. The waking will be unpleasant; pray Heaven you may never wake as I have with a mind which is becoming sour—a heart which is learning to distrust whatever is most fair in human nature. Let us dismiss the subject now. I am glad I felt this impulse to open my heart to you, a stranger, though a friend. We often whisper into a strange ear what our closest friends would ask in vain. See, there is his Excellency's chariot with its six white horses, and look what a graceful bow he makes us!"
Mowbray walked on without betraying the least evidence of emotion. He seemed perfectly calm.
HOW HOFFLAND FOUND THAT HE HAD LEFT HIS KEY BEHIND.
They entered the town in silence, and both of the young men seemed busy with their thoughts. Mowbray's face wore its habitual expression of collected calmness; as to Hoffland, he was smiling.
Mowbray at last raised his head, and chasing away his thoughts by a strong effort, said to his companion:
"You have no dormitory yet, I believe—I mean, that you are not domiciled at the college. Can I assist you?"
"Oh, thank you; but I am lodged in town."
"Yes; Doctor Small procured permission for me."
"Where is your room, Charles?—I shall come and see you."
"Just down there, somewhere," said Hoffland dubiously.
"On Gloucester street?"
"No; just around there," replied the student, pointing in the direction of the college.
"Well," said Mowbray, "we shall pass it on our way, and I will go up and see if you are comfortably fixed. I may be able to give you some advice—I am an old member of the commissary department.
"Oh, thank you," said Hoffland quickly; "but I believe every thing is very well arranged."
"Can you judge?" smiled Mowbray.
"Yes, indeed," Hoffland said, turning away his head and laughing; "better than you can, perhaps."
"I doubt it."
"You grown lords of the creation fancy you know so much!" said Hoffland.
Mowbray caught the merry contagion, and smiling, said:
"Nevertheless, I insist upon going to see if my new brother Charles is comfortably established."
Hoffland bit his lip.
"This is the place, is it not?" asked Mowbray.
Hoffland hesitated for a moment, and then replied with an embarrassed tone:
"Yes—but—let us go on."
"No," Mowbray said, "I am very obstinate; and as Lucy will not expect me now until tea-time, I am determined to devote half an hour to spying out your land. Come, lead the way!"
Hoffland wrung his hands with a nettled look, which made him resemble a child deprived of its plaything.
"But—" he said.
"Come—you pique my curiosity; go on, Charles."
A sudden smile illumined the boy's face.
"Well," he said, "if you insist, so be it."
And he led the way up a staircase which commenced just within the open door of the house. The lodging of Sir Asinus was in one of those buildings let out to students; this seemed more private—Hoffland alone dwelt here.
The student searched his pockets one after the other.
"Oh me!" he cried, "could I have left my key at the college?"
"Careless!" said Mowbray, with a smile.
"I think I am very unfortunate."
"Well, then, my domiciliary visit is rendered impossible. Come, Charles, another time!"
And Mowbray descended, followed by the triumphant Hoffland, who, whatever his motive might be, seemed to rejoice in the accident, or the success of his ruse, whichever the reader pleases.
"Come! I am just going to see Warner Lewis a moment," said Mowbray, "and then I shall return to the 'Raleigh Tavern,' get my horse, and go to Roseland——"
"Roseland! Is that your sister's home?"
"Yes, we live there—no one but Lucy and myself; that is to say, except one single servant reserved from the estate."
"Roseville?" murmured Hoffland; "I think I have passed it."
"Very probably; it is just yonder, beyond the woods—a cottage embosomed in trees, and with myriads of roses around it, which Lucy takes great pleasure in cultivating."
"I think I should like to know your sister," said Hoffland.
"Why, nothing is easier: come with me this evening."
"How could I?" laughed Hoffland; "your house is so small, that without some warning I should probably incommode you."
"Oh, not at all—we have a very good room for you. You know in Virginia we always keep the 'guest's chamber,' however poor we are."
"Hum!" said Hoffland.
"Come!" said Mowbray.
Hoffland began to laugh.
"How could I go?" he asked.
"In what manner, pray?"
"On horseback," said Mowbray; "I can easily procure you a horse."
Hoffland turned his head aside to conceal his laughter.
"No, I thank you," he said.
Mowbray looked at him.
"You are a strange person, Charles," he said; "you seem half man, half child—I might almost say half girl."
"Oh, Ernest, to hurt my feelings so!" said the boy, turning away his face.
Mowbray found himself reflecting that he had uttered a very unkind speech.
"I only meant that there was a singular mixture of character and playfulness in you, Charles," he said; "you are as changeable as the wind—and quite as pleasant to my weary brow," he added, with a smile; "you smooth its wrinkles."
"I'm very glad I do," said Hoffland; "but do not again utter such unfeeling words—I like a girl!"
"No, I will not—pray pardon me," replied Mowbray.
Hoffland's lip was puckered up, until it resembled a rose-leaf rumpled by the finger of a school-girl.
"Then there is another objection to my going out this evening, Ernest," he said: "you see I return to the subject."
"You ought to tell your sister what a fascinating young man I am, and put her upon her guard——"
"Charles!" cried Mowbray, with a strong disposition to laugh; "you must pardon my saying that your vanity is the most amusing I have ever encountered."
"Is it!" asked Hoffland, smiling; "but come, don't you think me fascinating?"
"Upon my word," said Mowbray, "were I to utter the exact truth, I should say yes; for I have never yet found myself so completely conciliated by a stranger. Just consider that we have not known each other a week yet——"
"But four days!" laughed Hoffland; "be accurate!"
"Well, that makes it all the stronger: we have known each other but four days, and here we are jesting with every word—'Charles' here, 'Ernest' there—as though we had been acquainted twenty years."
"Such an acquaintance might be possible for you—it is not for me," Hoffland said, laughing; "but I find you very generous. You have not added the strongest evidence of my wayward familiarity—that I advised you to put your sister on her guard against my fascinations. Let her take care! Else shall she be a love-sick girl—the most amusing spectacle, I think, in all the world!"
With which words Hoffland laughed so merrily and with such a musical, ringing, contagious joy, that Mowbray's feeling of pique at this unceremonious allusion to his sister passed away completely, and he could not utter a word.
They passed on thus to the college, conversing about a thousand things; and Mowbray saw with the greatest surprise that his companion possessed a mind of remarkable clearness and justness. His comments upon every subject were characterized by a laughing satire which played around men and things like summer lightning, and by the time they had reached Lord Botetourt's statue, Mowbray was completely silent. He listened.
HOW HOFFLAND CAUGHT A TARTAR IN THE PERSON OF MISS LUCY'S LOVER.
The day was not to end as quietly as Mowbray dreamed, and we shall now proceed to relate the incidents which followed this conversation.
Upon the smooth-shaven lawn, at various distances from each other, were stretched parties of students, who either bent their brows over volumes of Greek or Latin—or interchanged merry conversation, which passed around like an elastic ball—or leaning their heads upon overturned chairs, suffered to curl upward from their lazy lips white wreaths of smoke which turned to floods of gold in the red sunset, while the calm pipe-holders dreamed of that last minuet and the blue eyes shrining it in memory, then of the reel through which she darted with such joyous sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks—and so went on and dreamed and sighed, then sighed and dreamed again. We are compelled to add that the devotees of conversation and the dreamers outnumbered the delvers into Greek and Latin, to a really deplorable degree.
It is so difficult to study out upon the grass which May has filled with flowers—so very easy to lie there and idly talk or dream!
Through these groups Mowbray and his friend took their way, noticed only with a careless glance by the studious portion when their shadows fell upon the open volumes—not at all by the talkers—and scarcely more by the dreamers, who lazily moved their heads as smokers only can—with a silent protest, that is to say, at having their reveries disturbed, and being compelled to take such enormous trouble and exertion.
As Mowbray was about to ascend the steps beyond the statue, a young man came down and greeted him familiarly.
Mowbray turned round and said:
"Mr. Denis, are you acquainted with Mr. Hoffland?"
And then the new-comer and the young student courteously saluted each other, smiled politely, and shook hands.
"Stay till I come back, Charles," said Mowbray; "you and Denis can chat under the tree yonder—and he will tell you whether Roseland can accommodate a guest. He has staid with me more than once."
With which words Mowbray passed on.
Hoffland looked at his companion; and a single glance told him all he wished to know. Jack Denis—for he was scarcely known by any other name—was an open-hearted, honest, straight-forward young fellow of twenty, with light-brown hair, frank eyes, and a cordial bearing which at once put every body at their ease. Still there was a latent flash in the eye which denoted an excitable temper—not seldom united, as the reader must have observed, with such a character.
The young men strolled across to the tree which Mowbray had indicated, and sat down on a wicker seat which was placed at its foot.
"Mr. Mowbray said you could tell me about Roseland," Hoffland said, raising his dark eyes as was his habit beneath his low-drooping hat; "I am sure it is a pretty place from his description—is it not?"
"Oh, beautiful!" said Denis warmly; "you should go and see it."
"I think I will."
"It is not far, and indeed is scarcely half an hour's ride from town—there to the west."
"Yes; and Miss Lucy is very pretty, is she not?"
Denis colored slightly, and replied:
"I think so."
Hoffland with his quick eye discerned the slight color, and said somewhat maliciously:
"You know her very well, do you not?"
"Why, tolerably," said Denis.
"I must make her acquaintance," continued Hoffland, "for I am sure from Mowbray's description of her she is a gem. He invited me to come this evening."
"You should not have done so, sir: Mowbray is not prodigal of such invitations."
"But I had a reason," he said mischievously.
"What, pray—if I may ask?"
"Oh, certainly, you may ask," Hoffland replied, smiling; "though it may appear very vain to you—my reason."
"Hum!" said Denis, not knowing what to think of his new acquaintance, whose quizzing manner, to use the technical word, did not please him.
"I told Mowbray very frankly, however, why I could not come this evening," pursued Hoffland, with the air of one child teasing another; "and I think he appreciated my reason. I was afraid on Miss Lucy's account."
"On Lucy's account!"
"On Miss Lucy's account," said Hoffland, emphasizing the "Miss."
"Oh, well, sir," said Denis, with a slight air of coldness; "I don't deny that I was wrong in so speaking of a lady, but I don't see that you had the right to correct me."
"Why, Mr. Denis," said Hoffland smiling, "you take my little speeches too seriously."
"No, sir; and if I showed some hastiness of temper, excuse me—I believe it is my failing."
"Oh, really now! no apologies," said Hoffland laughing; "I am not aware that you were out of temper—though that is not an unusual thing with men. And now, having settled the question of the proper manner to address or speak of Miss Lucy, I will go on and tell you—as you seemed interested—why I did not feel myself at liberty to accept Mr. Mowbray's invitation—or Ernest's: I call him Ernest, and he calls me Charles."
"You seem to be well acquainted with him," said Denis.
"Oh, we are sworn friends!—of four days' standing."
Denis looked at his companion with great curiosity.
"Mowbray—the most reserved of men in friendship!" he muttered.
"Ah," replied Hoffland, whose quick ear caught these words; "but I am not a common person, Mr. Denis. Remember that."
"Indeed?" said Denis, again betraying some coolness at his companion's satirical manner: his manner alone was satirical—the words, as we may perceive, were scarcely so.
"Yes," continued Hoffland, "and I am an exception to all general rules—just as Crichton was."
"Yes; the admirable Crichton."
And having uttered this conceited sentence with a delightful little toss of the head, Hoffland laughed.
Denis merely inclined his head coldly. He was becoming more and more averse to this companion every moment.
"But we were speaking of Roseland, and my reasons for not accepting Mowbray's invitation," pursued Hoffland, smiling; "the reason may surprise you."
"Possibly, if you will tell me what it is," said Denis.
"Why, it is the simplest thing in the world. I come from the mountains, you know."
"No, I did not know it before, sir," replied Denis.
"Well, such at least is the fact. Now, in the mountains, you know, the girls are prettier, and the men handsomer."
"I know nothing of the sort," replied Denis coldly.
"Very well," Hoffland replied; "as I have just said, such is nevertheless the fact."
"Certainly. Now I am a fair specimen of the mountain men."
Denis looked at his companion with an expression of contempt which he could not repress. Hoffland did not appear to observe it, but went on in the same quizzing tone—for we can find no other word—which he had preserved from the commencement of the interview.
"Feeling that Miss Lucy had probably not seen any one like myself," he said, "I was naturally anxious that her brother should prepare her."
And Denis choked down his rising anger. Hoffland did not observe it, but continued as coolly as ever:
"You know how much curiosity the fair sex have," he said, "and my plan was for Mowbray to describe me beforehand to his sister—as I know he will."
"Pardon me, sir," said Denis coldly; "but I do not perceive your drift. Doubtless it arises from my stupidity, but such is the fact, to use your favorite expression."
"Why, it is much plainer than any pikestaff," Hoffland replied, laughing; "listen, and I will explain. Mowbray will return home this evening, and after tea he will say to his sister, 'I have a new friend at college, Lucy—the handsomest, brightest, most amiable and fascinating youth I ever saw.' You see he will call me a 'youth;' possibly this may excite Miss Lucy's curiosity, and she will ask more about me; and then Mowbray will of course expatiate on my various and exalted merits, as every warm-hearted man does when he speaks of his friends. Then Miss Lucy will imagine for herself a beau ideal of grace, elegance, beauty, intelligence and wit, far more than human. She will fall in love with it—and then, when she is hopelessly entangled in this passion for the creation of her fancy, I will make my appearance. Do you not understand now, sir?"
Denis frowned and muttered a reply which it had been well for Hoffland to have heard.
"I think it very plain," continued the young man; "with all those graces of mind and person which a kind Providence has bestowed upon me, I still feel that I could expect nothing but defeat, contending with the ideal of a young girl's heart. Oh, sir, you can't imagine how fanciful they are—believe me, women very seldom fall in love with real men: it is the image of their dreams which they sigh over and long to meet. This is all that they really love."
"Ah?" said Denis, in a freezing tone.
"Yes," Hoffland said; "and applying this reasoning to the present subject, you cannot fail to understand my motives for refusing Mowbray's kind invitation. Once in love with my shadow, Lucy will not fall in love with me. To tell you the truth, I could not afford to have her——"
"Why, Mr. Denis—did any thing hurt you? Perhaps——"
"It was nothing, sir!" said Denis, with a flushed face.
"Well, to conclude," said Hoffland; "I could not accept Lucy's love were she to offer it to me, and for this reason I have staid away. I am myself fettered by another object; I could not marry her were she to fall sick for love of me, and beg me on her knees to accept her hand and heart—I really could not!"
Denis rose as if on springs.
"Mr. Hoffland!" he said, "you have basely insulted a young girl whom I love—the sister of my friend—the best and purest girl in the world. By Heaven, sir! you shall answer this! But for your delicate appearance, sir, I would personally chastise you on the spot! But you do not escape me, sir! Hold yourself in readiness to receive a challenge from me to-morrow morning, sir!"
"Mr. Denis!" murmured Hoffland, suddenly turning pale and trembling from head to foot.
"Refuse it, and I will publish you as a coward!" cried Denis, in a towering rage; "a poltroon who has insulted a lady and refused to hold himself responsible!"
With which words Denis tossed away; and passing through the crowd of students, who, hearing angry voices, had risen to their feet, he entered the college.
Hoffland stood trembling and totally unable to reply to the questions addressed to him by the crowd. Suddenly he felt a hand upon his shoulder; and raising his eyes he saw Mowbray.
He uttered a long sigh of relief; and drawing his hat over his eyes, apparently to conceal his paleness and agitation, took his friend's arm and dragged him away.
"What in the world is all this about?" asked Mowbray.
"Oh!" said Hoffland, trying to smile, but failing lamentably, "Mr. Denis is going to kill me!"
And Mowbray felt that the hand upon his arm was trembling.
HOFFLAND MAKES HIS WILL.
When they had reached the open street, and the crowd of curious students were no longer visible, Hoffland, growing gradually calmer, and with faint smiles, related to his companion what had just occurred; that is to say, in general terms—rather in substance, it must be confessed, than in detail. Mr. Denis and himself, he said, had at first commenced conversing in a very friendly manner, the conversation had then grown animated, and Mr. Denis had become somewhat excited; then, at the conclusion of one of his (Hoffland's) observations, he had declared himself deeply offended, and farther, announced his intention of dispatching a mortal defiance to him on the ensuing morning.
Mowbray in vain endeavored to arrive at the particulars of the affair. Hoffland obstinately evaded detailing the cause of the quarrel.
"Well, Charles," said Mowbray, "you are certainly unlucky—to quarrel so quickly at college; but——"
"Was it my fault?" replied the boy, in a reproachful tone.
"I don't know; your relation is so general, you descend so little to particulars, that I have not been able to form an opinion of the amount of blame which attaches to each."
"Blame!" said Hoffland. "Oh, Ernest! you are not a true friend."
"You do not espouse my part."
Mowbray uttered a sigh of dissatisfaction.
"Do you know," he said, "that my place is rather yonder, as the friend and adviser of Denis?"
"Well, sir," said Hoffland, in a hurt tone, "as you please."
Mowbray said calmly:
"No, I will not embrace your advice; I will not leave you, a mere youth, alone, to go and range myself on the side of Denis, though we have been intimate friends for years. He has numbers of acquaintances and friends; you could count yours upon the fingers of one hand."
"On the little finger of one hand, say," Hoffland replied, regaining his good humor.
"Well," Mowbray said calmly, "then there is all the more reason for my espousing your cause—since you hint that I am the little finger."
"No, I will promote you," Hoffland answered, smiling; "you shall have this finger, one rank above the little finger, you see."
And he held up his left hand, touching the third finger.
Then the boy turned away and laughed as merrily and carelessly as before the disagreeable events of the evening.
Mowbray looked at him with a faint smile.
"Youth, youth!" he murmured; "youth, so full of joy and lightness—so careless and gay-hearted! Here is a man—or a child—who in twenty-four hours may be lying cold in death yonder, and he smiles and even laughs. Hoffland," he added, "let us cease our discussions in relation to the origin of this unhappy affair, and endeavor to decide upon the course to be pursued. With myself the matter stands thus: I have known Denis for years; he is one of my best friends; no one loves me more, I think——"
"Except one," said Hoffland, laughing.
"My dear Charles," said Mowbray seriously, "let us speak gravely. This affair is serious, since it involves two lives—especially serious to me, since it involves the life of a friend of many years' standing, and no less the life of one I have promised to assist, advise, and guide—yourself."
"Oh," said Hoffland, with a hurt expression, "you call Mr. Denis your friend, while I—I am only 'one you have promised to advise.' Ernest, that is cruel; you have not learned yet how sensitive I am!"
And Hoffland turned away.
"Really, I am dealing with a child," murmured Mowbray; "let me summon all my patience."
And he said aloud:
"My dear Hoffland, I am not one of those men who make violent protestations and feel sudden and excessive friendships. Friendship, with me, is a tree of slow growth; and I even now wonder at the position you have been able to take in my regard, upon such a slight acquaintance. There is a frank word—all words between friends should be frank. There, I call you my friend—you are such: does that please you?"
"Oh, very much," said Hoffland, smiling and banishing his sad expression instantly; "I know you are the noblest and most sincere of men."
And the boy held out to his companion a small hand, which returned the pressure of Mowbray's slightly, and was then quietly withdrawn.
"Well, now," said Mowbray, "let us come back to this affair. Denis will send you a challenge?"
"He says so."
"Well; then he will keep his promise."
"Or course he will act as a man of honor throughout," said Hoffland, laughing; "I am sure of that, because he is your friend."
"Pray drop these polite speeches, and let us talk plainly."
"Very well, Ernest; but Denis is a good fellow, eh?" asked Hoffland, smiling.
"A good swordsman!"
"And with the pistol?" asked Hoffland, laughing.
"The best shot in college," returned Mowbray, pleased in spite of himself at finding his companion so calm and smiling.
Hoffland placed his thumb absently upon his chin—leaned upon it, and after a moment's reflection said in a business tone:
"I think I'll choose swords."
"I? Why, my dear Ernest, have you never seen me with a foil in my hand?"
"Indeed? Well, I fence like the admirable Crichton himself. It was some allusion to that celebrated gentleman, in connection with myself, by the by, which excited Mr. Denis's anger."
"Well, well, it would embarrass me to explain. Let us dismiss Mr. Crichton. My mind is made up—I choose short-swords, for I was always afraid of pistols."
Mowbray looked with curiosity at his companion.
"Afraid?" he said.
"Yes, indeed," replied Hoffland; "you will not believe me, but I never could fire a pistol or a gun without shutting my eyes, and dropping it when it went off!"
With which words Hoffland burst into laughter.
Mowbray saw that it would be necessary to check the mercurial humor of his companion. He therefore suppressed the smile which rose unconsciously to his lips when Hoffland laughed so merrily, and said gravely:
"Charles, are you prepared for a mortal duel?"
"Perfectly," said Hoffland, with great simplicity.
"Have you made your will?"
"My will! Fie, Mr. Lawyer! Why, I am a minor."
"Minors make wills," said Mowbray; "and I advise you, if you are determined to encounter Mr. Denis, to make your will, and put in writing whatever you wish done."
"But what have I to leave to any one?" said Hoffland, affecting annoyance. "Ah, yes!" he added, "I am richer than I supposed. Well, now, this terrible affair may take place before I can make my arrangements; so I will, with your permission, make a nuncupative will—I believe nuncupative is the word, but I am not sure."
Mowbray sighed; he found himself powerless before this incorrigible light-heartedness, and had not the resolution to check it. He began to reflect wistfully upon the future: he already saw that boyish face pale and bloody, but still smiling—that slender figure stretched upon the earth—a mere boy, dead before his prime.
Hoffland went on, no longer laughing, but uttering sighs, and affecting sudden and profound emotion.
"This is a serious thing, Ernest," he said; "when a man thinks of his will, he stops laughing. I beg therefore that you will not laugh, nor interrupt me, while I dispose of the trifling property of which I am possessed."
Hoffland echoed this sigh, and went on:
"First: As I have no family, and may confine my bequests wholly to my present dear companions, acquaintances, and friends—first, I leave my various suits of apparel, which may be found at my lodgings, to my dear companions aforesaid; begging that they may be distributed after the following fashion. To the student who is observed to shed the most tears when he receives the intelligence of my unhappy decease, I give my suit of silver velvet, with chased gold buttons, and silk embroidery. The cocked hat and feather, rosetted shoes with diamond buckles, and the flowered satin waistcoat, go with this. Also six laced pocket-handkerchiefs, which I request my dear tender-hearted friend to use on all occasions when he thinks of me, to dry his eyes with.
"Item: My fine unit of Mecklenburg silk, with silver buttons, I give to the friend who expresses in words the most poignant regret. I hold that tears are more genuine than words, for which reason the best weeper has been preferred, and so has received the velvet suit. Nevertheless, the loudest lamenter is not unworthy; and so I repeat that he shall have the silk suit. If there be none who weep or lament me, I direct that these two suits shall be given to the janitor of the college, the old negro Fairfax, whose duty ever thereafter shall be to praise and lament me.
"Second: I give my twelve other suits of various descriptions, more or less rich, to the members of the 'Anti-Stamp-Act League,' of which I am a member. This with my love; and I request that, whenever they speak of me, they may say, 'Hoffland, our lamented, deceased brother, was a man of expanded political ideas, and a true friend of liberty.'
"Third: I give all my swords, pistols, guns, carbines, short swords, broad swords, poniards, and spurs, to my friend Mr. Denis, who has had the misfortune to kill me. It is my request that he will not lament me, or feel any pangs of conscience. So far from dying with the thought that he has been unjust to me, I declare that his conduct has been worthy of the Chevalier Bayard; and I desire that the above implements of war may be used to exterminate even the whole world, should they give him like cause of quarrel.
"Fourth: I give my books to those I am most intimately acquainted with:—my Elzevir Horace to T. Randolph—he will find translations of the best odes upon the fly leaves, much better than any he could make; my Greek books, the Iliad, Graeca Minora, Herodotus, etc., which are almost entirely free from dog-ears and thumb-marks, as I have never opened them, I give to L. Burwell, requesting that he will thenceforth apply himself to Greek in earnest. My Hebrew books I give to Fairfax, the janitor, as he is the only one in the college who will not pretend to understand them; thus, much deception will be warded off and prevented.
"Fifth: I give and bequeath to the gentleman who passed us this afternoon on horseback, and who is plainly deep in love with some one—I believe he is known as Mr. Jacques—I bequeath to him my large volume of love-songs in manuscript, begging him to read them for his interest and instruction, and never, under any circumstances, to copy them upon embossed paper and send them to his lady-love, pretending that they are original, as I have known many forlorn lovers to do before this.
"Sixth: I bequeath to Miss Lucy Mowbray, the sister of my beloved friend, my manuscript 'Essay upon the Art of Squeezing a Lady's Hand;' begging that she will read it attentively, and never suffer her hand to be squeezed in any other manner than that which I have therein pointed out.
"Seventh: I bequeath my 'Essay upon the Hebrew Letter Aleph' to the College of William and Mary, requesting that it shall be disposed of to some scientific body in Europe, for not less than twenty thousand pounds—that sum to be dedicated to the founding of a new professorship—to be called the Hoffland Professorship for the instruction of young men going to woo their sweethearts. And the professor shall in all cases be a woman.
"Eighth: Having disposed of my personal, I now come to add a disposition also of my invisible and more valuable property remaining. I bequeath my memory to the three young ladies to whom I am at present engaged—begging them to deal charitably with what I leave to them; and if harsh thoughts ever rise in their hearts, to remember how beautiful they are, and how utterly impossible it was for their poor friend to resist yielding to that triple surpassing loveliness. If this message is distinctly communicated to them, they will not be angry, but ever after revere and love my memory, as that of the truest and most rational of men.
"Ninth: I leave to my executor a lock of my hair, which he shall carry ever after in his bosom—take thence and kiss at least once every day—at the same time murmuring, 'Poor Charles! he loved me very much!'
"Tenth, and last: I bequeath my heart to Mr. Ernest Mowbray. I mean the spiritual portion—my love. And if I should make him my executor, I hereby declare that clause ninth shall apply to him, and be carried out in full; declaring that he may utter the words therein written with a good conscience; and declaring further, that my poverty alone induces me to make him so trifling a bequest as this, in the tenth clause expressed. Moreover, he had full possession of it formerly during my life-time; and, finally, I make him my executor.
"That is all," said Hoffland, laughing and turning away his head; "a capital will, I think!"
Mowbray shook his head.
"I have listened to your jesting in silence, Charles," he said, "because I thought it best to let your merry mood expend itself——"
"I was never graver in my life!"
"Then you were never grave at all. Now let us seriously consult about this unhappy affair. Ah, duelling, duelling! how wicked, childish, illogical, despotic, bloody, and at the same time ludicrous it is! Come, you have lost your key, you say—we cannot go to your lodgings: let us find a room in the 'Raleigh,' and arrange this most unhappy affair. Come."
And, followed by Hoffland, Mowbray took his way sadly toward the "Raleigh."
We regard it as a very fortunate circumstance that the manuscript record of what followed, or did not follow, the events just related, has been faithfully preserved. A simple transcription of the papers will do away with the necessity of relating the particulars in detail; and so we hasten to present the reader with the correspondence, prefacing it with the observation that the affair kept the town or city of Williamsburg in a state of great suspense for two whole days.
"You insulted a lady in my presence yesterday evening, and I demand from you a retraction of all that you uttered. I am not skilled in writing, but you will understand me. The friend who bears this will bring your answer.
I am your obed't serv't,
"For you know you begin 'Mr. Hoffland!' as if you said, 'Stand and deliver!'—I have read your note, and I am sure I shan't be able to write half as well. I am so young that, unfortunately, I have never had an affair, which is a great pity, for I would then know how to write beautiful long sentences that no one could possibly fail to understand.
"You demand a retraction, your note says. I don't like 'demand'—it's such an ugly word, you know; and if you change the letters slightly, it makes a very bad, shocking word, such as is used by profane young men. Then 'retraction' is so hard. For you know I said I was handsome: must I take back that? Then I said that I could not marry the lady we quarrelled about: must I say I can? I can't tell a story, and I assure you on my honor—yes, Mr. Denis! on my sacred word of honor as a gentleman!—that I cannot marry Lucy!
"You see I can't take it back, and if you were to eat me up I couldn't say I didn't say it.
"To think how angry you were!
"Your note is not satisfactory at all. I did not quarrel with your opinion of yourself, and you know it. I was not foolish enough to be angry at your declaring that you were engaged to some lady already. You spoke of a lady who is my friend, and what you said was insulting.
"I say again that I am not satisfied.
"Your obed't serv't,
"Stop!—I didn't say I was engaged to any lady: no misunderstanding.
"I do not understand your note. You evade my request for an explanation. I think, therefore, that the shortest way will be to end the matter at once.
"The friend who brings you this will make all the arrangements.
"I have the honor to be,
"Oh, Mr. Denis, to shoot me in cold blood! Well, never mind! Of course it's a challenge. But who in the world will be my 'friend'? Please advise me. You know Ernest ought not to—decidedly. He likes you, and you seemed to like Miss Lucy, who must be a very sweet girl as she is Ernest's sister. Therefore, as I have no other friend but Ernest, I should think we might arrange the whole affair without troubling him. I have been talking with some people, and they say I have 'the choice of weapons'—because you challenged me, you know. I would rather fight with a sword, I think, than be shot, but I think we had better have pistols. I therefore suggest pistols, and I have been reading all about fighting, and can lay down the rules.
"1. The pistols shall be held by the principals with the muzzles down, not more than six inches from the right toe—pointing that way, I mean.
"2. The word shall be 'Fire! One, Two, Three!' and if either fire before 'one' or after 'three,' he shall be immediately killed. For you know it would be murder, and ours is a gentlemanly affair of honor.
"3. The survivor, if he is a bachelor, shall marry the wife of the one who falls. You are a bachelor, I believe, and so am I: thus this will not be very hard, and for my part I'm very glad; I shouldn't like to marry a disconsolate widow. I think we could fight on the college green, and Dr. Small might have a chair placed for him under the big tree to look on from—near his door, you know.
"I have the honor to be,
"Your note is very strange. You ask me to advise you whom to take as your second; and then you lay down rules which I never heard of before. I suppose a gentleman can right his grievances without having to fight first and marry afterwards. What you write is so much like joking, that I don't know what to make of it. You seem to be very young and inexperienced, sir, and you say you have no friend but Mowbray.
"I'm obliged to you for your delicacy about Mowbray, but I cannot take it upon myself to advise any one else.—I hardly know how to write to you, for the whole thing seems a joke to you. If you were jesting in what you said, say so, sir, and we can shake hands. I don't want to take your blood for a joke, and especially as you are a stranger here.
"Your obed't serv't,
"Joking, my dear fellow? Of course I was joking! Did you think I really was in earnest when I said that I was so handsome, and was engaged already, et cetera, and so forth, as one of my friends used to say? I was jesting! For on my sacred word of honor, I am not engaged to any one—and yet I could not marry Lucy. I am wedded already—to my own ideas! I am not my own master—and yet I have no mistress!
"But I ought not to be tiring you in this way. Why didn't you ask me if I was joking at first? Of course I was! I was laughing all the time and teasing you. It's enough to make me die a-laughing to think we were going to murder each other for joking. I was plaguing you! for I saw at once from what you said that you were hopelessly in——well, well! I won't tell your secrets.
"I am very glad you were joking, and I am glad you have said so with manly courtesy—though I am at a loss to understand why you wished to 'tease' me. But I don't take offence, and am sure the whole matter was a jest. I hope you will not jest with me any more upon such a subject—I am very hasty; and my experience has told me that most men that fall in duels, are killed for this very jesting.
"As to what you say about my admiring Miss Mowbray, it is true in some degree, and I am not offended. As far as my part goes, we are as good friends as ever.
"Your apology is perfectly satisfactory.—But I forgot! I made the apology myself! Well, it's all the same, and I am glad we haven't killed each other—for then, you know, we would have been dead now.
"Come round this evening to my lodging—one corner from Gloucester street, by the college, you know—and we'll empty a jolly bottle, get up a game of ombre with Mowbray, and make a night of it. Oh! I forgot!—my key has disappeared: I don't see it any where, and so, to my great regret, your visit must be deferred. What a pity!
"We shall meet this evening, when we shall embrace each other—figuratively—and pledge everlasting friendship.
"Devotedly till death,
Thus was the great affair which agitated all Williamsburg for more than forty-eight hours arranged to the perfect satisfaction of all parties: though we must except that large and influential body the quidnuncs, who, as every body knows, are never satisfied with any thing which comes to an end without a catastrophe. The correspondence, as we have seen, had been confined to the principals, and the only public announcement was to the effect that "both gentlemen were satisfied"—which we regard as a very gratifying circumstance.
SENTIMENTS OF A DISAPPOINTED LOVER ON THE SUBJECT OF WOMEN.
Hoffland had just met and made friends with Jack Denis—"embraced him figuratively," to use his expression; and he and Mowbray were walking down Gloucester street, inhaling the pleasant air of the fine morning joyously.
Hoffland was smiling as usual. Mowbray's countenance wore its habitual expression of collected calmness—his clear eye as usual betrayed no emotion of any description.
"I feel better than if I was dead," said Hoffland, laughing, "and I know you are glad, Ernest, that I am still alive."
"Sincerely," said Mowbray, smiling.
"Wasn't it a good idea of mine to carry on all the correspondence?"
"Yes; the result proves it in this instance. I thought that I could arrange the unhappy affair, but I believe you were right in taking it out of my hands—or rather, in never delivering it to me. Well, I am delighted that it is over. I could ill spare you or Denis; and God forbid that you should ever fall victims to this barbarous child's play, duelling."
"Ah! my dear fellow," replied Hoffland, "we men must have some tribunal above the courts of law; and then you know the women dote upon a duellist.
"Yes, Hoffland, as they dote upon an interesting monstrosity—the worse portion. Women admire courage, because it is the quality they lack—I mean animal courage, the mere faculty of looking into a pistol-muzzle calmly; and their admiration is so great that they are carried away by it. They admire in the same way a gay wild fellow; they do not dislike even a 'poor fellow—ah! very dissipated!' and this arises from the fact that they admire decided 'character' of any description, more than the want of character—even when the possesser of character is led into vice by it."
"A great injustice!—a deep injustice!" said Hoffland "I wonder how you can say so!"
"I can say so because I believe it to be true—nay, I know it."
"Conceited!—you know women indeed!"
"Not even remotely; but listen. I was about to add that women admire reckless courage and excessive animal spirits. But let that courage lead a man to shed another's blood for a jest, or let that animal spirit draw a man into degrading and bestial advice—presto! they leave him!"
"And they are right!"
"But they are not the less wrong at first: the importance they attach to courage leads many boys and young men into murderous affrays—just as their satirical comments upon 'milky dispositions' lead thousands into vice."
"Do you deny it?"
"Well, that only proves to me once more that you know nothing of women."
"Do you think so?" said Hoffland, smiling.
"Yes: what I have said is the tritest truth. That women admire these qualities excessively, and that men, especially young men, shape their conduct by this feminine feeling, is as true as that sunlight."
"I deny it."
"Very well; that proves further, Charles, that you have not observed and studied much."
"And you are a great master in the wiles of women by this time, I suppose," said Hoffland satirically.
"No, you misunderstand me," replied Mowbray, without observing the boy's smile. "I never shall pretend to understand women; but I can use my eyes, and I can read the open page before me."
"The open page? What do you mean?"
"I mean that the history of the modern world, the social history, has a great key-note—is a maze unless you keep constantly in view the existence of this element—women."
"I should say it was: we could not well get on without them."
"The middle age originated the present deification of woman," continued Mowbray philosophically, "and the old knights left us the legacy. We have long ago discarded for its opposite the scriptural doctrine that the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man; and we justify ourselves by the strange plea, 'they are so weak.'"
"Well, are they not?"
"Woman weak? Poor Charles! Parliaments, inquisitions, secret tribunals and executioners' axes are straws compared to them. They smile, and man kneels; they weep, and his moral judgment is effaced like a shadow: he is soft clay in their hands. One caress from a girl makes a fool of a giant. Have you read the history of Samson?"
"Vile misogynist!" said Hoffland, "you are really too bad!"
Mowbray smiled sadly.
"Do not understand me to say that we should return to barbarous times, and make the women labor and carry burdens, while we the men lounge in the sun and dream," he said; "not at all. All honor to the middle age! The knight raised up woman, and she made him a reproachless chevalier in return; but it did not end there. He must needs do more—he loved, and love is so strong! Divine love is strongest—he must deify her."
"You are a great student, forsooth!"
"Deny it if you can: but you cannot, Charles. The central idea of the middle age—the age of chivalry—is woman. That word interprets all; it is the open sesame which throws wide the portals. Without it, that whole era is a mere jumble of bewildering anomalies—events without causes—actions without motives. Well, see how truly we are the descendants of those knights. To this day our social god is woman."
"No; what I say is more in sorrow than anger. It will impede our national and spiritual growth, for I declare to you that one hundred years hence, women in my opinion will not be satisfied with this poetic and chivalric homage: they will demand a voice in the government. They will grow bolder, and learn to regard these chivalric concessions to their purity and weakness as their natural rights. Woman's rights!—that will be their watchword."
"And I suppose you would say they have no rights."
"Oh, many. Among others, the right to shape the characters and opinions of their infant children," said Mowbray with a grave smile.
"And no more, sir?"
"Far more; but this discussion is unprofitable. What I mean is simply this, Charles: that the middle age has left us a national idea which is dangerous—the idea that woman should, from her very weakness, rule and direct; especially among us gentlemen who hold by the traditions of the past—who reject Sir Galahad, and cling to Orlando and Amadis—who grow mad and fall down worshipping and kissing the feet of woman—happy even to be spurned by her."
"Really, sir!—but your conversation is very instructive Who, pray, was Sir Galahad?—for I have read Ariosto, and know about Orlando."
"Sir Galahad is that myth of the middle age, Charles, who went about searching for the holy Graal—the cup which our Saviour drank from in his last supper; which Joseph of Arimathea collected his precious blood in. You will understand that I merely repeat the monkish tradition."
"Well, what sort of a knight was this Sir Galahad; and why do you hold him up as superior to Orlando and Amadis?"
"Because he saw the true course, and loved woman as an earthly consoler, did not adore her as a god. Read how he fought and suffered many things for women; see how profoundly he loved them, and smiled whenever they crossed his path; how his whole strength and every thing was woman's. Was she oppressed? Did brute strength band itself against her? His chivalric arm was thrown around her. Was she threatened with shame, or hatred and wrong? His heart, his sword, all were hers, and he would as willingly pour out his blood for her as wander on a sunny morning over flowery fields."
"Well," said Hoffland, "he was a true knight. Have you not finished?"
"By no means. With love for and readiness to protect the weak and oppressed woman—with satisfaction in her smiles, and rejoicing in the thanks she gave him—the good knight's feelings ended. He would not give her his heart and adore her—he knelt only to his God. He refused to place his arm at her disposal in all things, and so become the tool of her caprice; he would not sell himself for a caress, and hold his hands out to be fettered, when she smiled and offered him an embrace. A child before God, and led by a grand thought, he would not become a child before woman, and be directed by her idle fancies. He was the 'knight of God,' not of woman; and he grasped the prize."
Hoffland listened to these earnest words more thoughtfully.
"Well," he said, "so Sir Galahad is your model—not the mad worshipper of woman, Orlando!"
"A thousand times."
"Ah! we have neither now."
"We have no Galahads, for woman has grown stronger even than in the old days. She would not tolerate a lover who espoused her cause from duty: she wants adoring worship."
"No! no!—only love!" said Hoffland.
"A mistake," said Mowbray; "she does not wish a mere knightly respect and love—that of the real knight; she demands an Amadis, to grow mad for her—to be crazed by her beauty, and kneel down and sell himself for a kiss. She wishes power, and scouts the mere chivalric smile and homage. She claims and exacts the fullest obedience, and her claim is pronounced just. She says to-day—returning to what we commenced with—she says, 'Go and murder that man: he has uttered a jest;' or, 'On penalty of my pity and contempt, make yourself the slave of my caprice, and kill your friend, who has said laughing that I am not an angel.' The unhappy part of all this is," said Mowbray, "that the men, especially young men, obey. And then, when the blood is poured out, the tragedy consummated; when the body which was a breathing man is taken from the bloody grass where it lies like a wounded bird, its heart-blood welling out—when it is home cold and pale before her, and the mother, sister, daughter wail and moan—then the beautiful goddess who has gotten up this little drama for her amusement, finds her false philosophy broken in her breast, her deity overthrown, her supreme resolution crushed in presence of this terrible spectacle; and she wrings her hands, and sobs and cries out at the evil she has done; but cries much louder, that the hearts of men are horrible and bloody; that their instincts are barbarous and terrible; that she alone is tender and soft-hearted and forgiving; that she would never have plunged the sword into the bosom, or sent the ball tearing its way through the heart; that man alone is horrible and cruel and depraved; that she is noble and pure-hearted, true and innocent; that woman is above this miserable humanity—great like Diana of the Ephesians, pure and strong and immaculate—without reproach! That is a tolerably accurate history of most duels," added Mowbray coldly; "you will not deny it."
Hoffland made no reply.
"You will not deny it because it is true," said Mowbray; "it is what every man knows and feels and sees. You think it strange, then, that they act as they do, in this perfect subservience to woman, knowing what I have said is true. It is not more strange than any other ludicrous inconsequence which men are guilty of. Look at me! I know that what I have said is as true as the existence of this earth; and now, what would I do? I will tell you. Were I in love with a woman, I would make myself a child, and adore her, and sell my soul for her caresses; and make my brain the tool of my infatuation by yielding to her false, fatal sophistry, because that sophistry would be uttered by red lips, and would become truth in the dazzling light of her seductive smiles. Do you expect me, because I know it is all a lie, to resist sighs and murmurs, and those languid glances, which women employ to gain their ends? If you wish me to resist them, give me a lump of ice instead of a heart—a freezing stream instead of a warm current in my veins—make me a thinking machine, all brain; but take care how you leave one particle of the man! That particle will fire all; for the age tells me that woman is all pure, all-knowing, all true—how can I go astray? I am not a machine—the atmosphere of that old woman-worshipping world has nourished me, because I breathe it now; and if the woman I loved madly wished a little murder enacted for the benefit of her enemies, why, I cannot, dare not say, I would not go and murder for her, thinking I was serving nothing but the cause of purity and justice."
Hoffland listened to these coldly uttered words with some agitation, but made no reply. They walked on for some moments in silence, and Mowbray then said:
"The discussion is getting too grave, Charles; and I am afraid I have spoken very harshly of women—led away in the discussion of this subject. But remember that most of these unhappy affairs indirectly arise from this fatal philosophy; and I have reason to suppose that the present one, which has so nearly taken from me one or both of my dearest friends, originated indirectly in such a source. Do not understand me as undervaluing the fine old chivalrous devotion to women: the hard task is for me to believe that any devotion to a good and pure woman is exaggerated. They are above us, Charles, in all the finer and nobler traits, and we are responsible for this weakness in them. What wonder if they believed us when we told them that they were more than human, something angelic? Their duty was to listen to us, and act by our judgment; and when we have told them now for ages that our place is at their feet, the hem of their garments for our lips, their smiles brighter than the sunshine of heaven, should we feel surprise at their acquiescing in our dicta, and assuming the enormous social influence which we yield to them, beg them upon our knees to take? For my part, I rejoice that man has not a power as unlimited; and if one sex must rule, spite of every thing, I am almost ready to give up to the women. They go right oftener; and if this tyranny must really exist, I know not that Providence has not mercifully placed the sceptre in her hands. See where all my great philosophy ends—I can't help loving while I speak against them. The sneer upon my lips turns to a smile—my indignation to good-humor. Oh, Charles! Charles! right or wrong, they rule us; and if we must have sexual tyranny, it is best in the hands of mothers. But rather let us have no tyranny at all: let the man take his place as lord without, the woman her sovereignty over the inner world. Let her grace perfect his strength; her bosom hold his rude head and dusty brow; let her heart crown his intellect—each fill the void in each. Vain thought, I am afraid; and this, I fear, is scarcely more than dreaming. Let us leave the subject."
And Mowbray sighed; nodding, as he passed on, to a young gentleman on horseback. This was Jacques.
ADVANCE OF THE ENEMY UPON SIR ASINUS.
Instead of listening further to the conversation of Mowbray and Hoffland, let us follow Jacques, who, mounted as we have seen on a beautiful horse, is gaily passing down the street.
Jacques is clad as usual like a lily of the field, with something of the tulip; he hums a melancholy love song of his own composition, not having yet come into possession of Hoffland's legacy; he smiles and sighs, and after some hesitation, draws rein before the domicile of our friend Sir Asinus, and dismounting, ascends to the apartment of that great political martyr.
Sir Asinus was sitting in an easy chair tuning a violin; his pointed features wearing their usual expression of cynical humor, and his dress wofully negligent.
He had been making a light repast upon crackers and wine, and on the floor lay a tobacco pipe with an exceedingly dirty reed stem, which Jacques, with his usual bad fortune, trod upon and reduced to a bundle of splinters.
"There!" cried Sir Asinus, "there, you have broken my pipe, you awkward cub!"
"Ah," sighed Jacques, gazing upon the splinters with melancholy curiosity; "what you say is very just."
And sitting down, he gazed round him, smiling sadly.
"Nothing better could be expected from you, however, you careless fop!"
And giving one of the violin pegs a wrench, Sir Asinus snapped a string.
"There!" he cried, "you bring bad fortune! whenever you come, I have the devil's own luck."
Jacques laughed quietly, and stretching out his elegant foot, yawned luxuriously.
"You are naturally unlucky, my dear knight," he said. "Hand me a glass of wine—or don't trouble yourself: the exercise of rising will do me good."
And leaning over, he poured out a glass of wine and sipped it.
"I was coming along, and thought I would come in," he said. "How is your Excellency to-day?"
"Dying of weariness!"
"What! even your great Latin song——"
"Is growing dull, sir. How can a man live on solitude and Latin? No girls, no frolics, no fun, no nothing, if I may use that inelegant expression," said Sir Asinus.
"Go back, then."
"Do you ask? I am a martyr, sir, to my great and expanded political ideas; my religious opinions; my theory of human rights."
"Ah, indeed? Well, they ought to appreciate the compliment you pay them, and console you in your exile."
"They do, sir," said Sir Asinus.
"Delighted to hear it," sighed Jacques, setting down his glass. "Has Doctor Small called on you yet?"
"No. I fervently desire that he will call. We could sing my Latin song together—he would take the bass; and in three hours I should make of him a convert to my political ideas."
"Indeed? Shall I mention that you wish to see him?"
"No, I believe not," said Sir Asinus; "I am busy at present."
"No, you fop! I am framing a national anthem for the violin."
"Tune—the 'Exile's Return,' eh?"
"Base scoffer! But what news?"
"A great piece."
"I am too indolent to tell it."
"Come, Jacques—I'm dying for news."
"I really couldn't. You have no idea how weakly I am growing; and as it deals in battle and blood, I cannot touch upon it."
"Ah! that is the character of a man's friends. In the sunshine all devotion; in adversity——"
"Very well," said Jacques, "I can afford to labor under your injustice. You are systematically unjust. But I just dropped in as I passed—and, my dear Sir Asinus, there is a visitor coming. I shall intrude——"
"No; stay! stay!"
Sir Asinus laid down his violin; and stretching himself, said carelessly:
"I shouldn't be surprised if you had brought some dun in your train. Decidedly you possess the gettatura—that faculty called the Evil Eye."
The step ascended.
"Who is it—whose heavy step can that be?" said Sir Asinus, rising; "it is not Randolph: it might be yours coming from Belle-bouche's——"
Sir Asinus caught sight of a large cocked hat rising from beneath, followed by a substantial person.
"O Heaven!" he cried, "it's Doctor Small! The door—the door!"
"Too late!" said Jacques, laughing; "the Doctor will find the stairs suddenly darkened if you close the door; and then he will know you are not absent, only playing him a trick!"
"True! true!" cried Sir Asinus in despair; "where shall I go? I am lost!"
"The refuge of comedy-characters is left," said Jacques—"the closet!"
"You will betray me!"
"No, no," sighed Jacques reproachfully; "bad as you are, Sir Asinus——"
But the worthy knight had disappeared in the closet, and Jacques was silent.
The cocked hat, as we have said, was succeeded by a pair of shoulders; the shoulders now appeared joined to a good portly body; and lastly, the well-clad legs of worthy Doctor Small appeared; and passing along the passage, he entered the room.
"Good morning, my young friend," he said politely; "a very beautiful day."
And he sat down.
"Exceedingly beautiful, Doctor," said Jacques sadly; "and I was just thinking how pleasant my ride would be. Did you pass our friend going out?"
"No; I was anxious to see him."
"He was in the room a few minutes since," said Jacques; "what a pity that you missed him."
"I regret it; for this is, I think, the third time I have attempted to find him. He is a wild young man—a very wild young man," said the Doctor, shaking his head.
"Yes, yes," sighed Jacques, imitating the Doctor's gesture; "I am sometimes anxious about him."
And Jacques sighed and touched his forehead.
"Here, you know, Doctor."
"Ah?" asked the Doctor, wiping his face with a silk handkerchief, and leaning on his stick.
"Yes, sir; he has betrayed unmistakable evidences of lunacy of late."
The closet door creaked.
"It's astonishing how many rats there are in this place," said Jacques; "that closet seems to be their head-quarters."
"Indeed?" said the Doctor; "but you surprise me by saying that Thomas has a tendency to insanity. I thought his one of the justest and most brilliant minds in college. Idle, yes, very idle, and procrastinating; but still he is no common young man."
The closet murmured: there was no ground for charging the rats with this; so Jacques observed that "the winds here were astonishing—they were stirring when all else was still."
"I did not remark it," said the Doctor, "but this——"
"Affair of Tom's lunacy, sir?"
The Doctor nodded with a benevolent smile, and restored his handkerchief to the pocket of his long, heavy, flapped coat.
"Why, sir," said Jacques, "there is a very beautiful young lady in the immediate vicinity of town, who has smiled on Tom perhaps as many as three times; and would you believe it, sir, the infatuated youth thinks she is in love with him."
"Ah! ah!" smiled the Doctor; "a mere youthful folly."
"She cares not one pinch of snuff for him," said Jacques, "and he believes that she is dying for him."
The Doctor smiled again.
"Oh," he said, shaking his head, "I fear your charge of lunacy will not stand upon such ground as that. 'Tis a trifle."
"I do not charge him with it," said Jacques generously; "Heaven forbid! I always endeavor to conceal it, and never allude to it in his presence. But I thought it my duty. You know, sir, there are a number of things which may be told to one's friends which should not be alluded to in their presence."
"Yes, yes—of this description: it would be cruel; but you are certainly mistaken."
"I hope so, sir; but I consider it my duty further to inform you that I fear Tom is following evil courses."
The door creaked terribly.
"You pain me," said the Doctor; "to what do you allude?"
"Ah, sir, it is terrible!"
"How? But observe, I do not ask you to speak, sir. If it be your pleasure, very well, and I trust what I shall do will be for Thomas's good. But I do not invite your information."
"It is my duty to tell, sir; and I must speak."
With which words Jacques paused a moment, enjoying the dreadful suspense of the concealed gentleman, who seemed about to verify the proverb that listeners never hear any good of themselves. The closet groaned.
"I refer to political courses," said Jacques, "and I have heard Tom speak repeatedly lately of going to Europe."
"Yes, sir; in his yacht, armed and prepared."
"Prepared for what?"
"That I don't know, sir; but you may judge yourself. It seems to me that the arms on board his yacht, the 'Rebecca,' might very well be used to murder his most gracious Majesty George III., or the great Grenville Townsend, or other friends of constitutional liberty."
The Doctor absolutely laughed.
"Why, you are too suspicious," he said, "and I cannot believe Thomas is so bad. He has adopted many of the new ideas, and may go great lengths; but assassination—that is too absurd. Excuse my plain speaking," said the worthy Doctor, rising; "and pardon my leaving you, my young friend. I have some calls to make, and especially to go and see the young gentlemen who came near fighting a duel yesterday. What a terribly wild set of youths! Ah! they give me much trouble, and cause me a great deal of anxiety! Well, sir, good day. I am sorry I did not see Thomas; please say that I called to speak with him—he is wrong to hold out against the authorities thus. Good day—good day!"
And the worthy Doctor, who had uttered these sentences while he was putting on his hat and grasping his stick, issued from the door and descended.
Jacques put on his hat and followed him—possibly from a desire to escape the thanks and blessings of Sir Asinus.
In vain did the noble knight charge him, sotto voce, from the closet with perfidy and fear; Jacques was not to be turned back. He issued forth and mounted his horse.
Sir Asinus appeared at the window like an avenging demon.
"Oh! you villain!" he cried, first assuring himself that Dr. Small had disappeared; "I will revenge myself!"
"Ah?" said Jacques, settling himself in the saddle and smiling languidly.
"Yes; you're afraid to remain."
"No, no," remonstrated Jacques.
"You are, sir! I challenge you to return; you have basely maligned my character. And that duel! You have not condescended to open your mouth upon that great event of the day, knowing as you did, all the time, that circumstances render it necessary that I should remain in retirement!"
"Didn't I mention the duel?" sighed Jacques, gathering up his reins and looking with languid interest at the martingale.
"Ah, really—did I not?"
"No. Come now, Jacques! tell me how it was," said Sir Asinus in a coaxing tone, "and I'll forgive all; for I'm dying of curiosity."
"I would with pleasure," said Jacques, "but unfortunately I haven't time."
"Time? You have lots!"
"No, no—she expects me, you know."
"Yes, Belle-bouche. Take care of yourself, my dear knight," said Jacques with friendly interest; "good-by."
And touching his horse with the spurs, he went on, pursued by the maledictions of Sir Asinus. He had cause. Jacques had charged him with lunacy; said he designed assassinating the King; kept from him the very names of the combatants; and was going to see his sweetheart!
CORYDON GOES A-COURTING.
Have you never, friendly reader, on some bright May morning, when the air is soft and warm, the sky deep azure, and the whole universe filled to the brim with that gay spirit of youth which spring infuses into this the month of flowers, as wine is squeezed from the ripe bunch of grapes into the goblet of Bohemian glass, all red and blue and emerald—at such times have you never suffered the imagination to go forth, unfettered by reality, to find in the bright scenes which it creates, a world more sunny, figures more attractive than the actual universe, the real forms around you? Have you never tried to fill your heart with dreams, to close your vision to the present, and to bathe your weary forehead in those golden waters flowing from the dreamland of the past? The Spanish verses say the old times were the best; and we may assert truly that they are for us at least the best—for reverie.
This reverie may be languid, luxurious, and lapped in down—enveloped in a perfume weighing down the very senses, and obliterating by its drowsy influence every sentiment but languid pleasure; or it may be fiery and heroic, eloquent of war and shocks, sounding of beauteous battle, and red banners bathed in slaughter. But there is something different from both of these moods—the one languid and the other fiery.
There is the neutral ground of fancy properly so called: a land which we enter with closed eyes and smiling lips, a country full of fruits and flowers—fruits of that delicious flavor of the Hesperides, sweet flowers odorous as the breezy blossoms which adorn the mountains. Advance into that brilliant country, and you draw in life at every pore—a thousand merry figures come to meet you: maidens clad in the gay costumes of the elder time, all fluttering with ribbons, rosy cheeks and lips!—maidens who smile, and with their taper fingers point at those who follow them; gay shepherds, gallant in silk stockings and embroidered doublets, carrying their crooks wreathed round with flowers; while over all, the sun laughs gladly, and the breezes bear away the merry voices, sprinkling on the air the joyous music born of lightness and gay-heartedness.
All the old manners, dead and gone with dear grandmother's youth, are fresh again; and myriads of children trip along on red-heeled shoes, and agitate the large rosettes, and glittering ribbons, and bright wreaths of flowers which deck them out like tender heralds of the spring. And with them mingle all those maidens holding picture-decorated fans with which they flirt—this is the derivation of our modern word—and the gay gallants with their never-ending compliments and smiles. And so the pageant sweeps along with music, joy, and laughter, to the undiscovered land, hidden in mist, and entered by the gateway of oblivion.
You see all this in reverie, gentle reader—build your pretty old chateau to dream in, that is; and it swarms with figures—graceful and grotesque as those old high-backed carven chairs—slender and delicate as the chiselled wave which breaks in foam against the cornice. And then you wake, and find the flowers pressed in the old volume called the Past, all dry—your castle only a castle of your dreams. Poor castle made of cards, which a child's finger fillips down, or, like the frost palace on the window pane, faints and fails at a breath!
Your reverie is over: nothing bright can last, not even dreams; and so your figures are all gone, your fairy realm obliterated—nothing lives but the recollection of a shadow!
The reader is requested to identify our melancholy lover Jacques with the foregoing sentences; and forgive him in consideration of his unfortunate condition. Lovers, as every body knows, live dream-lives; and what we have written is not an inaccurate hint of what passed through the heart of Jacques as he went on beneath peach and cherry blossoms to his love.
Poor Jacques was falling more deeply in love with every passing day. That fate which seemed to deny him incessantly an opportunity to hear Belle-bouche's reply to his suit, had only inflamed his love. He uttered mournful sighs, and looked with melancholy pleasure at the thrushes who skipped nimbly through the boughs, and did their musical wooing under the great azure canopy. His arms hung down, his eyes were very dreamy, his lips were wreathed into a faint wistful smile. Poor Jacques!
As he drew near Shadynook, the sunshine seemed growing every moment brighter, and the flowers exhaled sweeter odors. The orchis, eglantine, sad crocus burned in blue and shone along the braes, to use the fine old Scottish word; and over him the blossoms shook and showered, and made the whole air heavy with perfume. As he approached the gate, set in the low flowery fence, Jacques sighed and smiled. Daphnis was near his Daphne—Strephon would soon meet Chloe.
He tied his horse to a sublunary rack—not a thing of fairy land and moonshine as he thought—and slowly took his way, across the flower-enamelled lawn, towards the old smiling mansion. Eager, longing, dreaming, Jacques held out his arms and listened for her voice.
He heard instead an invisible voice, which he soon, however, made out as belonging to an Ethiopian lady of the bedchamber; and this voice said:
"Miss Becca's done gone out, sir!"
And Jacques felt suddenly as if the sunshine all around had faded, and thick darkness followed. All the light and joy of smiling Shadynook was gone—she was not there!
"Where was she?"
"She and Mistiss went out for a walk, sir—down to the quarters through the grove."
Jacques brightened up like a fine dawn. The accident might turn to his advantage: he might see Mrs. Wimple safely home, then he and Belle-bouche would prolong their walk; and then she would be compelled to listen to him; and then—and then—Jacques had arranged the whole in his mind by the time he had reached the grove.
He was going along reflecting upon the hidden significance of crooks, and flowers, and shepherdesses—for Jacques was a poet, and more still, a poet in love—when a stifled laugh attracted his attention, and raising his head, he directed his dreamy glances in the direction of the sound.
He saw Belle-bouche!—Belle-bouche sitting under a flowering cherry tree, upon the brink of a little stream which, crossed by a wide single log, purled on through sun and shadow.
Belle-bouche was clad, as usual, with elegant simplicity, and her fair hair resembled gold in the vagrant gleams of sunlight which stole through the boughs, drooping their odorous blossoms over her, and scattering the delicate rosy-snow leaves on the book she held.
That book was a volume of Scotch songs, and against the rough back the little hand of Belle-bouche resembled a snow-flake.
Jacques caught his breath, and bowed and fell, so to speak, beside her.
"You came near walking into the brook," said Belle-bouche, with her languishing smile; "what, pray, were you thinking of?"
"Of you," sighed Jacques.
The little beauty blushed.
"Oh, then your time was thrown away," she said; "you should not busy yourself with so idle a personage."
"Ah!" sighed Jacques, "how can I help it?"
"What a lovely day!" said Belle-bouche, in order to divert the conversation. "Aunt and myself thought we'd come down to the quarters and see the sick. I carried mammy Lucy some nice things, and aunt went on to see about some spinning, and I came here to look over this book of songs, which I have just got from London."
"Songs?" said Jacques, with deep interest, and bending down until his lips nearly touched the little hand; "songs, eh?"
"Scottish songs," laughed Belle-bouche; "and when you came I was reading this one, which seems to be the chronicle of a very unfortunate gentleman."
With which words Belle-Bouche, laughing gaily, read:
"Now Jockey was a bonny lad As e'er was born in Scotland fair; But now, poor man, he's e'en gone woad, Since Jenny has gart him despair.
"Young Jockey was a piper's son, And fell in love when he was young; But a' the spring that he could play Was o'er the hills and far away!"
And ending, Belle-bouche handed the book, with a merry little glance, to Jacques, who sighed profoundly.
"Yes, yes!" he murmured, "I believe you are right—true, it is about a very unfortunate shepherd—all lovers are unfortunate. These seem to be pretty songs—very pretty."
And he disconsolately turned over the leaves; then stopped and began reading.
"Here is one more cheerful," he said; "suppose I read it, my dear Miss Belle-bouche."
And he read:
"'Twas when the sun had left the west, And starnies twinkled clearie, O, I hied to her I lo'e the best, My blithesome, winsome dearie, O.
"Her cherry lip, her e'e sae blue, Her dimplin' cheek sae bonnie, O, An' 'boon them a' her heart sae true, Hae won me mair than ony, O."
"Pretty, isn't it?" sighed Jacques; "but here is another verse:
"Yestreen we met beside the birk, A-down ayont the burnie, O, An' wan'er't till the auld gray kirk A stap put to our journie, O.
"Ah, lassie, there it stans! quo' I——"
With which words Jacques shut the book, and threw upon Belle-bouche a glance which made that young lady color to the roots of her hair.
"I think we had better go," murmured Belle-bouche, rising; "I have to fix for the ball——"
"No, not before Tuesday, I believe," said Belle-bouche; "I am glad they changed it from Monday."
Jacques drew back, sighing; but returning to the attack, said in an expiring voice:
"What will my Flora wear—lace and flowers?"
"Who is she?" said Belle-bouche, putting on her light chip hat and tying the ribbon beneath her dimpled chin.
Poor Jacques was for a moment so completely absorbed by this lovely picture, that he did not reply.
"Who is Flora!—can you ask?" he stammered.
"Oh, yes!" said Belle-bouche, blushing; "you mean Philippa, do you not? But I can't tell you what she will wear. She has returned home. Let us go back through the orchard."
And Belle-bouche, with that exquisite grace which characterized her, crossed the log and stood upon the opposite bank of the brook, looking coquettishly over her shoulder at the melancholy Jacques, who was so absorbed in gazing after her that he had scarcely presence of mind enough to follow.
"What a lovely day; a real lover's day!" he said, with a sigh, when he had joined her, and they were walking on.
"Delightful," said Belle-bouche, smelling a violet.
"And the blossoms, you know," observed Jacques disconsolately.
"To say nothing of the birds," continued Jacques, sighing. "I believe the birds know the twentieth of May is coming."
"Why—what takes place upon the twentieth?" said Belle-bouche, with a faint smile.
"That is the day for lovers, and I observed a number of birds making love as I came along," sighed Jacques. "I only wish they'd teach me how."
Belle-bouche turned away, blushing.
"On the twentieth of May," continued Jacques, enveloping the fascinating countenance of Belle-bouche with his melancholy glance, "the old lovers in Arcadia—the Strephons, Chloes, Corydons, Daphnes, and Narcissuses—always made love and married on that day."
"Then," said Belle-bouche, faintly smiling, "they did every thing very quickly."
"In a great hurry, eh?" said Jacques, sighing.
"Do not call me sir, my dearest Miss Belle-bouche—it sounds so formal and unpoetical."
"What then shall I call you?" laughed Belle-bouche, with a slight tremor in her voice.
"Strephon, or Corydon, or Daphnis," said Jacques; "for you are Phillis, you know."
Belle-bouche turned the color of a peony, and said faintly:
"I thought my name was Chloe the other day."
"Yes," said the ready Jacques, "but that was when my own name was Corydon."
"Yes, yes," sighed Jacques, "the victim of the lovely Chloe's beauty in the old days of Arcady."
Belle-bouche made no reply.
"Ah!" sighed Jacques, "if you would only make that old tradition true—if——"
"Oh!" said Belle-bouche, looking another way, "just listen to that mocking-bird!"
"If love far greater than the love of Corydon—devotion——"
"I could dance a reel to it," said Belle-bouche, blushing; "and we shall have some reels, I hope, at the ball. Oh! I expect a great deal of pleasure."
"And I," said Jacques, sadly, "for I escort you."
"Then you have not forgotten your promise!"
"And you really will take charge of me?" said Belle-bouche, with a delightful expression of doubt.
"Take charge of you?" cried Jacques, overwhelmed and drowned in love; "take charge of you! Oh Belle-bouche! dearest Belle-bouche!—you are killing me! Oh! let me take charge of your life—see Corydon here at your feet, the fondest, most devoted——"
"Becca! will you never hear me?" cried the voice of Aunt Wimple; "here I am toiling after you till I am out of breath—for Heaven's sake, stop!"
And smiling, red in the face, panting Aunt Wimple drew near and bowed pleasantly to Jacques, who only groaned, and murmured:
"One more chance gone—ah!"
As for Belle-bouche, she was blushing like a rose. She uttered not one word until they reached the house. Then she said, turning round with a smile and a blush:
"Indeed, you must excuse me!"
Poor Jacques sighed. He saw her leave him, taking away the light and joy of his existence. He slowly went away; and all the way back to town he felt as if he was not a real man on horseback, rather a dream mounted upon a cloud, and both asleep. Poor Jacques!
GOING TO ROSELAND.
As the unfortunate lover entered Williamsburg, his hands hanging down, his eyes dreamy and fixed with hostile intentness on vacancy, his shoulders drooping and swaying from side to side like those of a drunken man,—he saw pass before him, rattling and joyous, a brilliant equipage, which, like a sleigh covered with bells, seemed to leave in its wake a long jocund peal of merriment and laughter.
In this vehicle, which mortals were then accustomed to call, and indeed call still, a curricle, sat two young men who were conversing; and as the melancholy Jacques passed on his way, the younger student—for such he was—said, laughing, to his companion:
"Look, Ernest, there is a man in love!"
Mowbray raised his head, and seeing Jacques, smiled sadly and thoughtfully; then his breast moved, and a profound sigh issued from his lips: he made no reply.
"Why!" cried Hoffland, "you have just been guilty, Ernest, of a ceremony which none but a woman should perform. What a sigh!"
Mowbray turned away his head.
"I was only thinking," he said calmly.
"Thinking of what?"
"I see that you think one thing," said Hoffland, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye; "to wit, that I am very prying."
"No; but my thoughts would not interest you, Charles," said Mowbray.
And a sigh still more profound agitated his lips and breast.
"Suppose you try me," his companion said; "speaking generally, your thoughts do interest me."
"Well, I was thinking of a woman," said Mowbray.
"A woman! Oh! then your time, in your own opinion at least, was thrown away."
"Worse," said Mowbray gloomily; "worse by far."
"It is useless, Charles, to touch upon the subject; let it rest."
"No; I wish you to tell me, if I am not intrusive, what woman you were at the moment honoring with a sigh."
Mowbray raised his head calmly, and yielding like all lovers to the temptation to pour into the bosom of his friend those troubled thoughts which oppressed his heart, said to his companion:
"The woman we were speaking of the other day."
"You have not told me her name," said Hoffland.
"It is useless."
"Because she is lost to me."
And after this gloomy reply, Mowbray looked away.
Hoffland placed a hand upon his arm, and said:
"Upon what grounds do you base your opinion that she is lost to you?"
"It is not an opinion; I know it too well."
"If you were mistaken?"
"Mistaken!" said Mowbray; "mistaken! You think I am mistaken? Then you know nothing of what took place at our last interview; or you did not listen rather—for if my memory does not deceive me, I told you all."