"I did listen."
"And you now doubt that she is lost to me?"
"Charles, you are either the most inexperienced or the most desperately hopeful character that has ever been created."
"I am neither," said Hoffland smiling. "I am rational, and I know what I say."
Mowbray suppressed an impatient gesture, and said:
"Did I not tell you that she made me the butt for her wit and sarcasm——"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes; and more! She scoffed at me, as a mere fortune-hunter, and gave me the most ironical advice——"
"You are convinced it was ironical?"
"Convinced? Have I eyes—have I ears? Truly, if I had failed to be convinced, I should have verified the scriptural saying of those who have eyes and see not—who have ears and do not hear."
"Are the eyes always true?" said Hoffland, smiling.
"No: you have not succeeded, nevertheless, in showing me that I saw wrong."
"Are the ears invariably just?"
"For Heaven's sake, cease worrying me with general propositions!" said Mowbray.
Then, seeing that his companion was hurt by his irritated tone, he added:
"Forgive me, Charles! I lose my equanimity upon this subject; let us dismiss it."
"Very well," said Hoffland, smiling mischievously; "but remember what I now say, Ernest, and remember well. The eyes are deceptive—the ears worse than deceptive. You truly have eyes and see not, ears and hear not! I think it highly probable that your lady-love, who is an excellent-hearted girl, I am convinced, intended merely to apply a last test; and if you have bounded like an impulsive horse under the spur, and tossed from her, the blame does not rest with her. And remember this too, Ernest," Hoffland went on sadly; for one of the strange peculiarities of this young man was his habit of abrupt transition from merriment to sadness, from smiles to sighs; "remember, Ernest, that your determination to see her no more has probably inflicted on this young girl's heart a cruel pang: you cannot know that she is not now shedding bitter tears at the result of her trial of your feelings! Oh! remember that it is not the poor and afflicted only who weep—it is the rich and joyous also; and the hottest tears are often shed by the eyes which seem made to dispense smiles alone!"
Mowbray listened to the earnest voice in silence. A long pause followed, neither looking at the other; then Mowbray said:
"You deceive yourself, Charles, if you imagine that this beautiful and wealthy young girl spends a second thought upon myself. I was to her only a passing shadow—another name to add to her long list of captives. Well! I gave her the sincere love of an honest heart, such a love as no woman has the right to spurn. She did spurn it. Well! I am not a child to sob and moan, and go and beg her on my knees to love me—no! I love her more than ever, Charles; all my boasting was mere boasting and untrue—I love her still—but that heart, and it shall not issue forth but with my life. I love her! but I will never place myself in the dust before a woman who has scorned me. Silence and self-control I have, and these will sustain me."
"Oh, Ernest! Ernest!"
"You seem strangely moved by my words," said Mowbray; "but you should not fancy my love so fatal. It is a delirium at times, but Heaven be thanked, it cannot drive me mad. Now let us stop speaking of these things. When I think of that young girl, all my calmness leaves me. Oh, she was so frank and true a soul, I thought!—so sincere and bold!—so lovely, and with such a strength of heart! I was deceived. Well, well—it seems to be the fate of men, to find the ideal of their hearts unworthy. Let us speak of it no further."
And suppressing his emotion by a violent effort, Mowbray added in a voice perfectly calm and collected:
"There is our cottage, Charles—Roseland; and I see Lucy waiting for us under the roses on the porch—she always looks for me, I believe."
HOFFLAND EXERTS HIMSELF TO AMUSE THE COMPANY.
Lucy was a young girl of nineteen or twenty, with the brightest face, the most sparkling eyes, and the merriest voice which ever adorned woman entering her prime. Her laughter was contagious, and the listener must perforce laugh in unison. Her face drove away gloom, as the sun does; her smile was pure merriment, routing all cares; and Mowbray's sad countenance became again serene, his lips smiled.
Lucy bowed demurely to the boy, who held out his hand laughing.
"Oh! Ernest and myself are sworn friends," he said; "and the fact is, Miss Lucy, I had serious doubts whether I should not kiss you—I love you so much—for Ernest's sake!"
And Hoffland pursed up his lips, prepared for all things.
Lucy was so completely overcome by laughter at this extraordinary speech, that for a moment she remained perfectly silent, shaking with merriment.
Hoffland conceived the design to take advantage of this astonishment, and modestly "held up his mouth," as children say. The consequence was that Miss Lucy extricated her hand from his grasp, and drew back with some hauteur; whereupon Hoffland assumed an expression of such mortification and childlike dissatisfaction, that Mowbray, who had witnessed this strange scene, could not suppress a smile.
"I might as well tell you frankly at once, Lucy," he said, "that Charles is the oddest person, and I think the most perfect boy, at times, I have ever known."
"I a boy!" cried Hoffland; "I am no such thing!—am I, Lucy—Miss Lucy, I mean, of course? I am not so young as all that, and I see nothing so strange in wanting a kiss. But I won't misbehave any more; come now, see!"
And drawing himself up with a delightful expression of dignified courtesy, Hoffland said, solemnly offering his arm to Lucy:
"Shall I have the honor, Miss Mowbray, of escorting you into the garden for the purpose of gathering some roses to deck your queenly brow?"
Lucy would have refused; but overcome with laughter, and unable to resist the ludicrous solemnity of Hoffland's voice and manner, she placed her finger on his arm, and they walked into the garden.
Roseland was a delightful little cottage, full of flowers, and redolent of spring. It fronted south, and seemed to be the favorite of the sun, which shone through its vine-embowered windows and lit up its drooping eaves, as it nowhere else did.
A little passage led quite through the house, and by this passage Hoffland and his fair companion entered the garden.
Mowbray sat down and examined some papers which he took from his pocket; then trained a flowering vine from the window-sill to a nail in the wall without, for he was very fond of flowers; then, bethinking himself that Hoffland was his guest, turned to go into the garden.
As he did so, he caught sight of a horseman approaching the cottage; and soon this horseman drew near enough to be recognised. It was Mr. John Denis, whose admiration for Miss Lucy Mowbray our readers have possibly divined from former pages of this true history.
Mr. Denis dismounted and entered the grounds of the cottage, sending before him a friendly smile. Denis was one of those honest, worthy fellows, who are as single-minded as children, and in whose eyes all men and things are just what they seem: hypocrisy he could never understand, and it was almost as difficult for the worthy young man to comprehend irony. We have seen an exemplification of this in his affair with Hoffland; and if our narrative permitted it, we might, by following him through his after life, find many more instances of the same singleness of heart and understanding.
Denis was very tastefully dressed, and his face was, as we have said, full of smiles. He held out his hand to Mowbray with honest warmth, and they entered the cottage.
The reader may imagine that Denis inquired as to the whereabouts of Miss Lucy—his wandering glances not having fallen upon that young lady. Not at all. For did ever lover introduce the subject of his lady-love? When we are young, and in love, do we go to visit Dulcinea or her brother Tom? Is not that agreeable young gentleman the sole attraction which draws us; do we not ride a dozen miles for his sake, and has Dulcinea any thing to do with the rapturous delight we experience in dreaming of the month we shall spend with Tom in August? Of course not; and Denis did not allude in the remotest manner to Lucy. On the contrary, he became the actor which love makes of the truest men, and said, with careless ease:
"A lovely evening for a ride."
"Yes," said Mowbray, driving away his sad thoughts; "why didn't you come with us, Jack?"
"Myself and Hoffland."
"Yes; what surprises you?"
"Is Hoffland here?"
Denis looked round; and then his puzzled glance returned to the face of his friend.
"I do not see him," he said.
"He went into the garden just now," explained Mowbray.
Denis would have given thousands to be able to say, "Where is Lucy?" It was utterly impossible, however. Instead of doing so, he asked:
"You came in a buggy?"
"Yes," said Mowbray.
"Is Hoffland agreeable—I mean a pleasant fellow?"
"I think so: rather given to jesting—and I suppose this was the origin of your unhappy difficulty. Most quarrels spring from jests."
"True. I believe he was jesting; in fact I know it," said poor Jack Denis, wiping his brow and trying to plunge his glance into the depths of the garden, where Lucy and Hoffland were no doubt walking. "Still, Ernest, I could not have acted differently; and you would be the first person to agree with me, were I to tell you the subject of his jests."
And Denis frowned.
"What was it?" said Mowbray. "Hoffland refused point-blank to tell me, and I am perfectly ignorant of the whole affair."
Denis hesitated. Was it fair and honest to prejudice Mowbray against the boy? but on the contrary, was not the whole affair now explained as a simple jest, and would there be harm in telling what the young student had said to provoke him? The young man hesitated, and said:
"I don't know—it was a mere jest; there is no use in opening the subject again——"
"Ah, Jack!" said Mowbray, "I see that I am to live and die in ignorance, for I repeat that Hoffland would not tell me. With all the carelessness of a child, he seems to possess the reserve of a politician or a woman."
"A strange character, is he not?" said Denis.
"Yes; and yet he has won upon me powerfully."
"Your acquaintance is very short," said poor Denis, his heart sinking at the thought of having so handsome and graceful a rival as the boy.
"Very," returned Mowbray; "but he positively took me by storm."
"And you like him?"
"To be sincere—exceedingly."
"Why?" muttered Denis.
"Really, I can scarcely say," replied his friend; "but he is a mere boy; seems to be wholly without friends; and he has virtually yielded to me the guidance of all his affairs. This may seem an absurd reason for liking Hoffland; but that is just my weak side, Jack. When any one comes to me and says, 'I am weak and inexperienced, you are in a position to aid and assist me; be my friend;' how can I refuse?"
"Has done so? Yes."
"Besides this, he is a mere boy; and to speak frankly, is so affectionate and winning in his demeanor toward me, that I really have not the courage to repel his advances. Strange young man! at times I know not what to think of him. He is alternately a child, a woman, and a matured man in character; but most often a child."
"Indeed?" said Denis, whose heart sunk at every additional word uttered by Mowbray; "how then did he display such willingness to fight—and I will add, such careless bravado?"
"Because fighting was a mere word to him," said Mowbray; "I believe that he no more realized the fact that you would direct the muzzle of a pistol toward his breast, than that you would stab or poison him."
Denis wiped his brow.
"I didn't want to fight," he said; "but I was obliged to do something."
"Was the provocation gross?"
"Pardon my question. I did not mean to return to the subject, inasmuch as some reason for withholding the particulars of the interview seems to exist in your mind."
Denis hesitated and muttered something to himself; then, raising his head suddenly, he added with some bitterness:
"Perhaps you may have your curiosity satisfied from another source, Ernest. I see Mr. Hoffland approaching the house with Miss Lucy—from the garden, there. No doubt he will tell you."
In fact, Miss Lucy and Hoffland were sauntering in from the garden in high glee. Lucy from time to time burst into loud and merry laughter, clapping her hands, and expressing great delight at something which Hoffland was communicating; and Hoffland was bending down familiarly and whispering in her ear.
No sooner, however, had the promenaders caught sight of Mowbray and Denis looking at them, than their manner suddenly changed. Hoffland drew back, and raising his head with great dignity, solemnly offered his arm to the young girl; and Lucy, choking down her merriment and puckering up her lips to hide her laughter, placed her little finger on the sleeve of her cavalier. And so they approached the inmates of the cottage, with quiet and graceful dignity, like noble lord and lady; and entering, bowed ceremoniously, and sat down with badly smothered laughter.
"Really," said Mowbray smiling, "you will permit me to say, Charles, that you have a rare genius for making acquaintance suddenly: Lucy and yourself seem to be excellent friends already."
And he looked kindly at the boy, who smiled.
"Friends?" said Hoffland; "we are cousins!"
"Certainly, my dear fellow," said Hoffland, with a delightful ease and bonhomie. "I have discovered that my great-grandmother married the cousin of an uncle of cousin Lucy's great-grandfather's wife's aunt; and moreover, that this aunt was the niece of my great-uncle's first wife's husband. That makes it perfectly plain—don't it, Mr. Denis? Take care how you differ with me: cousin Lucy understands it perfectly, and she has a very clear head."
"Thank you, sir," said Lucy, laughing; "a great compliment."
"Not at all," said Hoffland; "some women have a great deal of sense—or at least a good deal."
"Yes; but it is not their failing generally. I have taken up that impression of you, cousin Lucy, from our general conversation; not from your ability to comprehend so simple a genealogical table as that of our relationship."
"Upon my word, I don't understand it," said Mowbray, smiling.
"Is it possible, Ernest? Listen again, then. My great-grandfather—recollect him, now—married the uncle of a cousin—observe, the uncle of a cousin——"
"What! your great-grandfather married the uncle of somebody's cousin? Is it possible?"
"Now you are laughing at me," said Hoffland, pouting; "what if I did get it a little wrong? I meant that my great-grandmother married the uncle of a cousin of cousin Lucy's wife's great-grandfather's aunt—who——"
"Lucy's wife is then involved, is she, Charles?" asked Mowbray; "but go on."
"No, I won't!" said Hoffland; "you are just trying to confuse and embarrass me. I will not tell you any more: but cousin Lucy understands; don't you, Miss Lucy?"
"Quite enough to understand that we occupy a closer relationship than we seem to," said Lucy, threatening to burst into laughter.
Hoffland gave her a warning glance; and then assuming a polite and graceful smile, asked:
"Pray, what were you and Mr. Denis talking of, my dear Ernest? Come, tell a fellow!"
Lucy turned away and covered her face, which was crimson with laughter.
"We were speaking of the quarrel which we were unfortunate enough to have, sir," said poor Denis coldly; "and I referred Mr. Mowbray to you for an account of it."
"To me?" said Hoffland smiling; "why not tell him yourself?"
"I did not fancy it, sir."
"Why, in the world?"
"Come! come!" said Mowbray smiling, and wishing to nip the new altercation in the bud; "don't let us talk any more about it. It is all ended now, and I don't care to know——"
"Why, there's nothing to conceal," said Hoffland, laughing.
"I'll tell you in an instant," laughed the boy.
Lucy turned toward him; and Denis looked out of the window.
"We were talking of women first," continued Hoffland; "a subject, cousin Lucy, which we men discuss much oftener than you ladies imagine——"
"Indeed!" said Lucy, nearly choking with laughter.
"Yes," continued the boy; "and after agreeing that Miss Theorem the mathematician was charming; Miss Quartz the geologist lovely; that Miss Affectation was very piquante, and Mrs. Youngwidow exceedingly fine-looking in her mourning; after having amicably interchanged our ideas on these topics, we came to discuss the celebrated lunar theory."
"What is that?" asked Lucy.
"Simply the question, what the moon is made of."
"Certainly. Mr. Denis took the common and erroneous view familiar to scientific men; I, on the contrary, supported the green-cheese view of the question; and this was the real cause of our quarrel. I am sure Mr. Denis and myself are the most excellent friends now," said Hoffland, turning with a smile towards Denis; "and we will never quarrel any more."
A pause of some moments followed this ridiculous explanation; and this pause was first broken by Miss Lucy, who burst into the most unladylike laughter, and indeed shook from head to foot in the excess of her mirth. Mowbray looked with an amazed and puzzled air at Hoffland, and Denis did not know what to say or how to look.
Lucy, after laughing uninterruptedly for nearly five minutes, suddenly remembered the indecorum of this strange exhibition; so, drying her eyes, and assuming a demure and business-like air, she took a small basket of keys, and apologizing for her departure, went to attend to supper. Before leaving the room, however, she gladdened honest Jack Denis's heart with a sweet smile, and this smile was so perfect a balm to the wounded feelings of the worthy fellow, that his discontent and ill-humor disappeared completely, and he was almost ready to give his hand to his rival, Hoffland. The same arrow had mortally wounded Jacques and Denis.
AT ROSELAND, IN THE EVENING.
Seated on the vine-embowered porch of the cottage, with the pleasant airs of evening blowing from the flowers their rich fragrant perfume, the inmates of Roseland and their guests passed the time in very pleasant converse.
From time to time Hoffland and Miss Lucy exchanged confidential smiles, and on these occasions Mr. Jack Denis, whose love-sharpened eyes lost nothing, felt very unhappy. Indeed, throughout the whole evening this gentleman displayed none of that alacrity of spirit which usually characterized him; his whole manner, conversation, and demeanor betraying unmistakable indications of jealous dissatisfaction.
Lucy had always been very kind and gentle to him before; and though her manner had not changed toward him, still her evident preference for the society and conversation of the student Hoffland caused him a bitter pang. Denis sincerely loved the bright-faced young girl, and no one who has not loved can comprehend the sinking of the heart which preference for another occasions. The last refinement of earthly torture is assuredly jealousy—and Denis was beginning to suffer this torture. More than once Lucy seemed to feel that she was causing her lover pain; and then she would turn away from Hoffland and gladden poor Denis with one of her brilliant smiles, and with some indifferent word, nothing in itself, but full of meaning from its tone. Then Hoffland would laugh quietly to himself, and touching the young girl's arm, call her attention, to some beauty in the waning sunset, some quiet grace of the landscape; and Denis would sink again into gloom, and look at Hoffland's handsome face and sigh.
Mowbray was reading in the little sitting-room, and from time to time interchanged words with the party through the window. Perhaps studying would be the proper word; for it was a profound work upon politics which Ernest Mowbray, with his vigorous and acute intellect, was running through—grasping its strong points, and throwing aside its fallacies. He needed occupation of mind; in study alone could he escape from the crowding thoughts which steeped his brow in its habitual shadow of melancholy. He had lost a great hope, as he had told Hoffland; and a man does not see the woman whom he loves devotedly pass from him for ever without a pang. He may be able to conceal his suffering, but thenceforth he cannot be gay; human nature can only control the heart to a certain point; we may be calm, but the sunshine is all gone.
Thus the hours passed, with merry laughter from Hoffland and Lucy, and very forced smiles on the part of Denis. Mowbray observed his silence, and closing the volume he was reading, came out and joined the talkers.
"What now?" he said, with his calm courtesy. "Ah, you are speaking of the ball, Lucy?"
"Yes, Ernest; and you know you promised to take me."
"Did you?" asked Hoffland; "I am afraid this is only a ruse on cousin Lucy's part to get rid of me."
"Are you not ashamed, sir, to charge me with untruth?" said Lucy, nearly bursting into laughter.
"Untruth!" cried Hoffland; "did any body ever! Why, 'tis the commonest thing in the world with your charming sex, Miss Lucy, to indulge in these little ruses. There must be a real and a conventional code of morals; and I hope you don't pretend to say, that if a lady sends word that she is gone out when a visitor calls, she is guilty of deception?"
"I think she is," said Lucy.
"Extraordinary doctrine!" cried Hoffland; "and so Ernest has really engaged to go with you?"
"Yes, sir; it was my excuse to Mr. Denis, who very kindly offered to be my escort."
And Lucy gave Jack Denis a little smile which elevated that gentleman into upper air.
"Well," said Hoffland, "I suppose then I am to go and find somebody else—a forlorn young man going to find a lady to take care of him. Come, Miss Lucy, cannot you recommend some one?"
"Let me see," said Lucy, laughing gleefully; "what acquaintances have you?"
"Very few; and I would not escort any of those simpering little damsels usually seen at assemblies."
"What description of damsel do you prefer?" asked Lucy, smiling.
"A fine, spirited, amusing young lady like yourself," said Hoffland; "the merrier and more ridiculous the better."
"Ridiculous, indeed! Well, sir," said Lucy mischievously, "I think I have found the very one to suit you."
"Who is it, pray?"
"Stop!" cried Hoffland. "I never could bear that name. I am determined never to court, marry, or even escort a Philippa. Dreadful name! And I hope you won't mention this Miss Philippa Somebody again!"
With which words Hoffland laughed.
"Very well," said Lucy; "suppose you come and amuse me at the ball—going thither alone?"
"Oh! myself and Mr. Denis will certainly pay our respects to you, Miss Lucy. But do not expect me until about twelve."
Lucy smiled, and said:
"Do you think the ball will be handsome, Ernest?"
"I think so."
"Well, now, I am going to enslave all hearts. I shall wear my pink satin."
"Ah!" laughed Mowbray; "that is very interesting to myself and these gentlemen."
"Well, sir," said Lucy, pretending to be angry, "just as you please; but you are a very unfeeling brother. Isn't he, Mr. Hoffland?"
"A most unreasonable person, and a disgrace to our sex," said Hoffland. "To tell a young lady that the manner in which she proposes appearing at a ball is uninteresting, sounds like Ernest."
Mowbray smiled; the pleasant banter of the boy pleased him, and diverted his thoughts.
"But Ernest is not such a perfect ogre, Mr. Hoffland," said Lucy; "are you, Ernest? He is very kind, and is going to spend all day to-morrow with me."
Mowbray shook his head.
"Now, brother!" said Lucy; "you know you can."
"Well, yes, Lucy," said Mowbray, smiling; "I can refuse you nothing."
"Good!" cried Hoffland, with the sonorous voice of a man-at-arms; "when ladies once determine to have their own way, it is nearly impossible to stop them; is it not, Mr. Denis?"
"I will answer for Mr. Denis, and repel your assault, sir," said Lucy, smiling; "I think that there is nothing very wrong in what I ask, and why then should I not have my way?"
"Excellent!" cried Hoffland, with a well-satisfied expression, and a glance of intelligence directed toward Lucy. "I believe that we men may study all our lives and break our heads with logic before we can approach the acuteness of one of these ladies. Study is nothing compared with natural instinct and genius!"
Denis rose with a sigh.
"You remind me, Mr. Hoffland," he said, "that I have a long chapter in Blackstone to study; and it is already late."
"And I also have my studies," said Hoffland; "I think I will return with you, Mr. Denis."
"You came to stay, Charles! You shall both stay," said Mowbray, "and I will give you Blackstone's——"
"No, really, Ernest," said Hoffland, with a business air which made Lucy laugh.
"And indeed I must return," said Denis, sighing.
"Ah, gentlemen, gentlemen!" said Mowbray, "you pay a fashionable call. Why, Charles, you absolutely promised to stay."
"Yes, but I have changed my mind," said the boy, looking toward Lucy; "and if Mr. Denis will ride with me in your curricle, or whatever it is, you might ride his horse in, in the morning.
"Very well," said Mowbray.
"Willingly," said Denis.
"Then it is all arranged; and I return. Don't press me, Ernest, my good fellow. When duty calls, every man must be at his post. I can't stay."
And Hoffland laughed.
In fifteen minutes the vehicle was brought round, and the two young men rose.
Denis bowed with some constraint to Lucy; but she would not see this expression, and holding out her hand bade him good-bye with a smile which lighted his path all the way back to town.
Hoffland shook hands with Lucy too; and a laughing glance of free masonry passed between them.
Then, entering the vehicle, the two young men set forth toward Williamsburg, over which a beautiful moon was rising like a crimson cart-wheel. Ernest Mowbray stood for a moment on the porch of the cottage following the receding vehicle with his eyes. At last it disappeared—the sound of the wheels was no longer heard, and Mowbray entered the cottage.
"Strange!" he murmured, "that memory still haunts me. What folly!"
And pressing his lips to Lucy's forehead, he retired to his study.
DISGRACEFUL CONDUCT OF SIR ASINUS.
Mowbray was an early riser; and the morning had not long looked upon the fresh fields, when he was on his way to Williamsburg. With a hopeful spirit, which banished peremptorily all those gloomy thoughts which were accustomed to harass him, he pressed on to commence his day of toil at the college.
As he entered Williamsburg, he came very near being overturned by a gentleman who was leaving that metropolitan city, at full gallop.
"Hey!" cried this gentleman, reining up; "why, good day, Mowbray!"
And Sir Asinus made a bow of grotesque respect.
"Whither away, my dear fellow—to that den of iniquity, the grammar school, eh?"
"Yes," said Mowbray, smiling; "and you?"
"I go to other fields and pastures new—to those Hesperian gardens famed of old, and so forth. Come with me!"
"No, thank you. I suppose you are going to see a lady?"
"Precisely; and now do you still refuse?"
"You are an ungallant book-worm, a misogynist—and that is the next thing to a conspirator. Leave your books, and come and taste of sylvan joys."
"Where are you going?"
"To see Dulcinea."
"Who is she?"
"Her other name is Amaryllis."
"Well, sing to her," said Mowbray; "for my part, I am going to visit Plato, Justinian, Blackstone, whose lectures are better than Virgil's heroics, and Coke, who is more learned, if not more agreeable, than any Hesperians. Farewell."
And Mowbray saluted Sir Asinus with a smile, and rode on. The knight returned his salute, and continued his way in the opposite direction.
Now, as our history concerns itself rather with Amaryllis than Plato or Coke, we shall permit Mowbray to go on, and retracing our steps, follow Sir Asinus to his destination.
Sir Asinus on this morning is magnificent, and finds the air very pleasant after his long imprisonment. He inhales it joyously, and in thought, nay, often in words, invokes confusion on the heads of proctors. He is in full enjoyment of those three great rights for which he has sacrificed so much—namely, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
He is joyous, for he has stolen a march upon the watchful guardians of the college; he revels in the sentiment of freedom; and believes himself in pursuit of that will o' the wisp called happiness.
He sings, as he goes onward on his hard-trotting courser, the words of that song which we have heard him sing before:
"Hez! sire asne! car chantez Belle bouche rechignez;"
and is not mortified when a donkey in the neighboring meadow brays responsively.
He bends his steps toward Shadynook, where he arrives as the matutinal meal is smoking on the board; and this Sir Asinus partakes of with noble simplicity. One would have imagined himself in presence of Socrates dining upon herbs, instead of Sir Asinus comforting his inner man with ham and muffins.
After breakfast, Aunt Wimple, that excellent old lady whose life was completely filled by a round of domestic duties, banished her visitor to the sitting-room. To make his exile more tolerable, however, she gave him Belle-bouche for a companion.
Belle-bouche had never looked more beautiful, and the tender simplicity of her languishing eyes almost made the poetical Sir Asinus imagine himself in love. He found himself endeavoring to recollect whether he had not been induced to pay this visit by the expectation of beholding her; but with that rigid truth which ever characterized the operations of his great intellect, was compelled to come to the conclusion that the motive causes of his visit were the hope of a good breakfast, and a morning lounge in country quarters, unalarmed by the apprehension of invading deans and proctors.
In a word, our friend Sir Asinus had coveted a cool morning at pleasant Shadynook, in company with Belle-bouche or a novel; and this had spurred him to such extraordinary haste, not to mention the early rising.
"Ah!" said Belle-bouche, as she sat down upon a sofa in the cool pleasant apartment, whose open windows permitted the odors of a thousand flowers to weigh the air down with their fragrance, "what a lovely morning! It is almost wrong to remain in the house."
"Let us go forth then, my dear Madam Belle-bouche," said Sir Asinus.
"I see you retain that funny name for me," said the young girl with a smile.
"Yes: it is beautiful, as all about Shadynook is—the garden most of all—yourself excepted of course, madam."
"It was very adroitly done, that turn of the sentence," Belle-bouche replied, smiling again pleasantly. "Let us go into the garden, as you admire it so much."
And she rose.
Sir Asinus hastened to offer his arm, and they entered the beautiful garden, alive with flowers.
Sir Asinus uttered a number of beautiful sentiments on the subject of flowers and foliage, which we regret our inability to report. After spending an hour or more among the trees, they returned to the house.
Just as they entered, a gentleman was visible at the gate—evidently a visitor. This gentleman had dismounted, and as he stood behind his horse arranging the martingale, he was for the moment unrecognisable.
"Will you permit me to remain in the garden, my dear Miss Belle-bouche, until your visitor has departed?" said Sir Asinus. "I find myself suddenly smitten with a love of nature—and I would trouble you not to mention the fact of my presence. It will be useless."
"Certainly I will not, sir," said Belle-bouche.
And Sir Asinus, seeing the gentleman move, precipitately entered the garden, where he ignominiously concealed himself—having snatched up a volume of poems to console him in his retirement.
The visitor was Jacques.
He entered with his soft melancholy smile, and approaching Belle-bouche, pressed her hand to his lips.
"I am glad to see you so bright," he said; "but you always look blooming."
And he sat down and gazed around sadly.
Perhaps Jacques had never before so closely resembled a tulip. His coat was red, his waistcoat scarlet, his lace yellow, his stockings white; his shoes, lastly, were adorned with huge rosettes, and his wig was a perfect snow-storm of powder.
Belle-bouche casts down her eyes, and a roseate bloom diffuses itself over her tender cheek. Jacques arrays his forces, and gracefully smooths his Mechlin lace cravat. Outwardly he is calm.
Belle-bouche raises her eyes, and gently flirts her fan, covered with shepherds and shepherdesses in silks and satins, who tend imaginary sheep by sky-blue waters, against deeply emerald trees.
Jacques sighs, remembering his discourse on crooks, and Belle-bouche smiles. He gathers courage then, and says:
"I think I have never seen a more beautiful morning."
"Yes," says Belle-bouche in her soft tender voice, "I have been out to take my customary walk before breakfast."
"An excellent habit. The fields are the true abodes of the Graces and Muses; all is so fresh."
Belle-bouche smiles at this graceful and classic compliment; but strange to say, does not feel disposed to criticise it. Jacques has never seemed to her so intellectual a man, so true a gentleman as at this moment. The reason is that Belle-bouche has caught a portion of her visitor's disease—a paraphrase which we are compelled to make use of, from the well-known fact that damsels are never what is vulgarly called "in love," until the momentous question has been asked; after which, as we all know, this sentiment floods their tender hearts with a sudden rush, as of unloosed waters.
Jacques sees the impression he has made, and in his secret heart is flushed with anticipated conquest. He smooths his frill, and gently arranges a drop curl.
"Love, I think, should inhabit the green fields," he says with melancholy grace; "for love, dearest Miss Belle-bouche, is the essence of freshness and delight."
"The—fields?" says Belle-bouche, thoughtfully gazing upon her fan.
"Yes; and the shepherd's life is certainly the happiest. Ah! to love and be loved under the skies—in Arcady! But Arcady is everywhere when the true heart is near. To love and be loved!" says Jacques with a sad sigh; "to know there is one near you whose whole heart is yours—whose bosom would willingly support the weary head; to have a heart to bring all your sorrows to; to feel that the sky was brighter, and all the stars more friendly and serene, if she were by you; to love and love, and never change, and live a life of happy dreams, however active it might be, when the dear image swept across the horizon! To give the heart and mind out in a sigh, and seal the vow of faith and truth upon loving lips! In a word—one word speaks it all—to love! Yes, yes! to love! To feel the horizon expand around you till it seems to embrace every thing; to love innocently, purely, under the holy heavens; to love till the dying hour, and then, clasped in a pure embrace, to go away together to another world!—Only to love!"
And Jacques raises his eyes to the blushing face of Belle-bouche.
"Is it not fair to think of?" he says sadly.
She tries to smile, and can only murmur, "Yes."
"I fear it is but a dream," says Jacques.
She does not reply: she wishes a moment to collect her thoughts and regain her calmness.
"A dream," he continues, "which many poor fellows dream, and live in, and make a reality of—alas! never to be realized."
"Perhaps the world has changed since the old Arcadian days," murmurs Belle-bouche, gazing down with rosy cheeks, and a bad attempt at ease. "You know the earth has become different."
"Yes, yes," sighs Jacques; "I very much fear all this is folly."
"Who knows but——"
Jacques raises his eyes, and their glances meet. She stops abruptly, and looks away. It is not affectation in her. That deep blush is wholly irrepressible.
Jacques seizes her hand, and says:
"Give me the assurance that such things can be! Tell me that this dream could be realized!"
She turns away.
"Tell me!" he continues, bending toward her, "tell me, if I were to love any one thus—say it were yourself—tell me, beautiful Belle-bouche! could I hope——"
"Oh, sir! I cannot now——"
"Belle-bouche! dearest Belle-bouche!—my picture was a reality—I love as I have painted—and upon my knees——"
"——car chantez, Belle bouche rechignez,"
sang the voice of Sir Asinus, entering from the garden; and our unfortunate friend Jacques had just time to drop Belle-bouche's hand, when Sir Asinus entered.
"You're a pretty fellow!" said that worthy, "to frighten me, and make me believe you were the—Well; let us keep up appearances before the ladies. How goes it, my dear Jacques?"
Jacques does not answer; he feels an unchristian desire to exterminate his friend Sir Asinus from the face of the earth—to blot that gentleman forcibly from the sum of things.
Actuated by these friendly feelings, he gives the knight a look which nearly takes his breath away.
"Why, what is the matter?" says Sir Asinus.
Jacques sees the false position which he occupies, and groans.
"Why, dear Jacques, you distress me," says Sir Asinus with great warmth; "did I tread upon your toes?"
Jacques might very justly reply in the affirmative, but he only turns away muttering disconsolately, "One more chance!"
"I thought you were the proctor," says Sir Asinus pleasantly.
"Did you? I am going back soon, and will send him," replies Jacques with sad courtesy.
"No! don't trouble yourself!" cries Sir Asinus; "it is not necessary."
"It is no trouble," says Jacques; "but as you are probably about to return to town yourself, I will not send him."
"To town? Indeed, I am about to do no such thing. It is not every day that one gets a taste of the country."
Jacques groans, and imprecates—sleep to descend upon his friend.
He sits down wofully. Sir Asinus scenting the joke, and determined to revenge himself, does the same joyfully. Jacques sighs, Sir Asinus laughs. Jacques directs an Olympian frown at his opponent, but Sir Asinus answers it with smiles.
Belle-bouche all this time has been endeavoring to produce the impression that she is looking over a book of engravings—being interested in Heidelberg, and fascinated with the Alhambra. From time to time her timid glance steals toward Jacques, who is sighing, or toward Sir Asinus, who is laughing.
Sir Asinus glories in his revenge. Jacques refused to tell him the news, and maligned his character to the Doctor, and forced him to listen in silence to that abuse. He takes his promised revenge—for he understands very well what he interrupted.
Jacques stays all the morning, hoping that Sir Asinus will depart; but that gentleman betrays no intention of vacating the premises. Finally, in a paroxysm of internal rage, and a perfect outward calmness, the graceful Jacques retires—with a last look for Belle-bouche.
One thought consoles him. He will escort her to the ball, and on his return in his two-seated curriculum defy the interruption of all the Asinuses that ever lived.
Poor Jacques! as he goes sadly back, the cloud rising upon the dream is more asleep than ever.
HOW HOFFLAND PREFERRED A GLOVE TO A DOZEN PISTOLES.
One of the most beautiful walks in the neighborhood of Williamsburg was known to the fair dames and gallant cavaliers of that epoch as the "Indian Camp."
To this spot, on the morning of the day fixed for the ball at the Raleigh, did Mowbray and the young student Hoffland direct their steps, conversing pleasantly, and glad of the occasion to enjoy the fresh beauties of nature, which presented so agreeable a contrast to the domains of study at the good College of William and Mary. Let it not, however, be imagined that the boy Hoffland was in the habit, as Panurge said, of "breaking his head with study." Not at all. The remissness of that young gentleman in his attendance upon the lectures of the professors, had become by this time almost a proverb. Indeed, his attendance was the exception—his absence the rule. Buried in his quarters, in the neighborhood of Gloucester street, he seemed to exist in a pleasant disregard of all the rules and regulations of the college; and when the professors attempted to reason with him—which, was seldom, inasmuch as they scarcely ever saw him—he would acknowledge his sins very readily, and as readily promise amendment; and then, after the well-known fashion of sinners, return to his evil courses, and become more remiss than ever.
Mowbray would often remonstrate with him on this neglect of his studies; but Hoffland always turned aside his advice with some amusing speech, or humorous banter. When the elder student said, "Now, Charles, as your friend I counsel you not to throw away your time and dissipate your mind;" to this Hoffland would reply, "Yes, you are right, Ernest; the morning, as you say, is lovely." Or when Mowbray would say, "Charles, you are incorrigible;" "Yes," Hoffland would reply, with his winning smile, "I knew how much you liked me."
On the fine morning to which we have now arrived, the conversation of the friends took exactly this direction. Hoffland for two or three days had obstinately kept away from the college, and "non est inventus" was the substance of the proctor's return when he was sent to drum up the absent student.
"Indeed, Charles," said Mowbray, with his calm sadness, "you should not thus allow your time to be absorbed in indolent lounging. A man has his career in the world to run, and college is the threshold. If you enter the world ignorant and awkward—and the greatest genius is awkward if ignorant—you will find the mere fops of the day pass you in the course. They may be superficial, shallow, but they have cultivated their natural gifts, while you have not done so. They enter gracefully, and succeed; you will enter awkwardly, and fail."
"A fine Mentor you are!" replied Hoffland; "and I ought to be duly grateful for your excellent advice."
"It is that of a friend."
"I know it."
"A very true friend."
"Yes," Hoffland said, "I am convinced that your friendship for me is very true. Strange you should like me so!"
"I think not: you are by yourself here, and I am naturally attracted always by inexperience. I find great freshness of thought and feeling in you, Charles——"
"And more still," said Mowbray, smiling sadly; "I think you love me."
"Indeed?" said Hoffland, turning away his face.
"Yes; you gravitated toward me; but I equally to yourself. And now I think you begin to have a sincere affection for me."
"I am glad you liked me from the first then," he said. "I am sure I cannot explain my sudden liking for yourself."
"But I can," said Hoffland, laughing; "we were congenial, my dear fellow—chips of the same block—companions of similar tastes. You liked what was graceful and elegant, which, of course you found in me. I have always experienced a passionate longing for truth and nobility; and this, Ernest, I find in you!"
Hoffland's tone had lost all its banter as he uttered these words; and if Mowbray had seen the look which the boy timidly cast upon his pale countenance, he would have started.
But Hoffland regained his lightness almost immediately; his earnestness passed away, and he was the same light-hearted boy.
"Look!" he cried, "that oriole is going to die for joy as he swings among the cherry blossoms! How green the grass is—what a lovely landscape!"
And Hoffland gazed rapturously at the green fields, and blossom-covered trees, and the distant river flowing on in gladness to the sea, with the kindling eye of a true poet.
"And here is the 'Indian Camp!'" he cried; "grassy, antique, and romantic!"
"Let us sit down," said Mowbray.
And seating himself upon a moss-covered stone, he leaned his head upon his hand and pondered.
"Now, I'll lay a wager you are thinking about me!" cried Hoffland; "perhaps you still revolve in your mind my various delinquencies."
"No," said Mowbray.
"I know I am very bad—very remiss. I ought to have been at college this morning, but I was not able to come."
"Why, Charles?" said Mowbray, raising his head.
"I was busy."
"Ah! not studying?"
"No; unless Shakspeare is study."
"It is a very hard study, but not the sort which I would have you apply yourself to. What were you reading?"
"'As You Like It,'" said Hoffland; "and I was really charmed with the fair Rosalind."
"Yes," said Mowbray indifferently; "a wonderful character, such as Shakspeare only could draw."
"And as good as she was wild—as maidenly as she was pure."
Mowbray shook his head.
"That foray she made into the woods en cavalier was a very doubtful thing," he said.
"Why, pray?" Hoffland asked, pouting. "I should like to know what there was wrong in it."
Mowbray smiled, but made no reply.
"Answer me," said Hoffland.
"That is easy. Do you think it wholly proper, perfectly maidenly, for a woman to assume the garb of our sex?"
"Certainly; why not, sir?"
Mowbray smiled again.
"I fear any argument would only fortify you in your convictions, as our rebel student says," he replied. "True, Rosalind was the victim of circumstances, but her example is one of an exceedingly doubtful nature, or rather it is not at all doubtful."
"Really, Charles, you make me give a reason for every thing. Well then, I think that it is indelicate in women to leave their proper sphere and descend to the level of men, and this any woman must do in assuming the masculine garb. If I am not mistaken, the common law bears me out, and inflicts a penalty upon such deviations from established usage. None but an inexperienced youth like yourself would uphold Rosalind."
Hoffland colored, and said with bitter abruptness:
"I believe you despise me, sir!"
"Despise you! Why?" said the astonished Mowbray.
"Because—because—you call me an inexperienced youth; and—and—Ernest, it is not friendly in you!—no, it is not!—it is unjust—to treat me so!"
And Hoffland turned away like a child who is about to "have a cry."
Mowbray looked at the averted face for a moment, and saw two large tears clinging to the long dusky lashes. He experienced a strange sensation in the presence of this boy which he could not explain; it was half pity for his nervous weakness of temperament, half regret at having uttered he knew not what, to move him.
"Well, well, Charles," he said, "yours is a strange character, and I never know how to shape my discourse in your presence. You fly off at every thing, and I believe you are really shedding tears——"
"No, no," said Hoffland, hastily brushing away the pearly drops; "don't look at me."
"I was wrong."
"Forgive me, Charles—I will endeavor in future to avoid these occasions of dispute; forgive my harshness."
"You are forgiven," murmured Hoffland; and his sad face became again cheerful.
"I am not a very pleasant companion, I know," said Mowbray, smiling; "my own thoughts oppress me; but if I cannot be merry with you, I may at least forbear to wound your feelings."
"My feelings are not wounded, Ernest," Hoffland said, with a bright glance which shone like the sun after an April shower; "I only—only—thought you were not right in abusing Rosalind; and—and calling me 'an inexperienced youth!' I am not an inexperienced youth," he laughed; "but let us dismiss the subject. What oppresses you, Ernest? I can't bear to see you sad."
"My thoughts," said Mowbray.
"That is too general."
"It is useless to particularize."
And Mowbray's head drooped. As the pleasant May breeze raised the locks of his dark hair, his face looked very pale and sad.
"The subject of our discourse in the fields some days since?" asked Hoffland in a low tone.
"Yes," said Mowbray calmly.
A long silence followed this reply. Then Hoffland said:
"Why should that still annoy you? Men should be strong."
"And yet you are weak."
"In my heart, very weak."
"You love her still?"
"Yes, yes; deeply, passionately, far more than ever!" said Mowbray, unable to repress this outburst.
Hoffland seemed to be frightened by the vehemence of his companion, for he turned away his head, and colored to the temples.
"Can you not conquer your feelings?" he said at length.
"Make the attempt."
"I have made it."
"Why not go and see her again then? You will lose nothing."
"Go and see her? What! after being repelled with so much insult and coldness!—after being charged with base and mercenary motives!—after having my heart struck by a cruel and unfeeling accusation—my pride humbled by a misconception as humiliating as it was unjust! Never, Charles! My heart may break—I may feel through life the bitterness of the fate which separates us for ever—I may groan and rebel and struggle with my heart—but never again will I address one syllable to that proud girl, who has trampled on me, as she would upon a worm, and told me how degraded a being I was in her eyes—no, never!"
And pale, his forehead bathed with perspiration, his frame agitated, his eyes full of fire and regret, Mowbray turned away his head and rose.
Hoffland was silent, and yet the deep color in his cheeks betrayed the impression which his companion's passionate words had made upon him.
In a few moments Mowbray had regained his calmness.
"Pardon me, Charles, for annoying you with these things," he said, with a last tremor in his voice; "but your question prompted me to speak. Let us not return to this subject; it afflicts me to speak of it, and there is no good reason why I should revive my sufferings. Let us go back, and endeavor in the pleasant sunshine to find some balm for all our grief. I do not despair of conquering my passion, for all things are possible to human energy—this far at least. Come, let us return."
Calmly buttoning his coat, Mowbray took Charles's arm, and they bent their way back to town.
As for Hoffland, he seemed overcome by the vehemence of his companion, and for some time was completely silent. He seemed to be thinking.
As they approached the town, however, his spirits seemed to regain their customary cheerfulness, and he smiled.
"Well, well, Ernest," he said, "perhaps your grief may be cured in some other way than by strangulation. Let us not speak further of it, but admire the beautiful day. Is it not sweet?"
"Very," said Mowbray calmly.
"It is getting warm."
"Yes, Charles; summer is not far distant."
"Summer! I always liked the summer; but we have not then those beautiful blossoms—look how they cluster on the boughs, and what a sweet perfume!"
"Then another drawback of summer is its dust. I hate dust; and it is already beginning to invade my hands."
"Wear gloves then, Charles," said Mowbray, smiling at the boyish naivete of his companion's tone.
"I'd like to know how I can, without the money to buy them," said Hoffland; "you are very unreasonable, Mr. Mowbray!"
"Have you none?" he said.
"Not a penny—at the moment. My supplies have not reached my new address."
And Hoffland laughed.
"Let me lend you some. How much will you have? We are friends, you know, Charles, and you can have no feelings of delicacy in borrowing from me. See," said Mowbray, taking out his purse, "I have a plenty of pistoles. Take a dozen."
"And how many will you have left?"
"Let me see—there are thirteen. I shall still have enough. There are twelve, Charles."
And he counted them out, leaving the single coin in his purse.
Hoffland, however, drew back, and obstinately closed his hands.
"You ought to be ashamed to tempt an inexperienced youth to go in debt," he said; "that is your fine guardianship, Mr. Mowbray."
"Come, Charles; this is folly. You do not become my debtor; I do not want the money. Take it, and repay it when your own comes."
"No, I will not. But still I want a pair of gloves. Do me a greater favor still, Ernest. Give me those pretty fringed gloves you wear, and which are plainly too small for your huge hands. I know Miss Lucy gave them to you, for she said as much the other day—I asked her!—and now I want them. Don't refuse me, Ernest; my hand is much smaller and handsomer than yours, and they will just fit me."
Mowbray took off the gloves, asking himself, with a sad smile, what charm this boy exercised over him.
"There they are then, Charles," he said; "I can refuse you nothing."
"Suppose I asked for the hand as well as the gloves?"
"The hand? Perfectly at your service," said Mowbray, holding out his hand; "I can only give it to you in a friendly spirit, however, and there it is."
"No," said Hoffland, drawing back; "I will not accept it upon those terms—but I have the gloves. Thank you, Ernest. Perhaps some day I may ask you to accept a present from me; or at least I promise not to refuse you if you ask what I have this moment refused."
And laughing heartily, Hoffland cried:
"Just look at those flowers! and there is the great city of Williamsburg! We pass from Indian Camps to learned halls—from barbarism to civilization. Come! let us get into Gloucester street—that promenade of elegance and fashion! Come on, Ernest!"
And they entered the town.
HOW SIR ASINUS FISHED FOR SWALLOWS, AND WHAT HE CAUGHT.
Gloucester Street was alive with a motley crowd of every description, from the elegant dame who drove by in her fine four-horse chariot with its outriders, to the most obscure denizen of the surrounding old field, come on this particular day to Williamsburg, in view of the great ball to be held at the Raleigh tavern.
Mowbray and Hoffland gazed philosophically upon the moving crowd, but threaded their way onward, without much comment. Hoffland was anxious to reach his lodging, it seemed; the culminating sun had already made his face rosy with its warm radiance, and he held a white handkerchief before his eyes to protect them.
"It is growing very warm," he said; "really, Ernest, I think your present will come into active use before the summer."
"Ah, well, Charles," continued Ernest, "we ought to rejoice in the warmth, inasmuch as it is better for the poor than cold—the winter. Let us not complain."
"I do not; but I see precious few poor about now: they all seem to be rejoicing, without needing any assistance therein from us. Look at that fine chariot."
"At Madam Finette's door?"
"I think I recognise the driver—Tom, from Mrs. Wimple's," said Mowbray calmly.
"Mrs. Wimple—who is she?"
"A lady, at whose house I suffered one of my cruellest disappointments," said Mowbray with a shadowed brow; "let us not speak of that!"
"You do not understand?"
"I? Of course not."
"It was there that I was told, by the woman I loved, how despicable I was," said Mowbray with a cruel tremor of his pale lip.
"Oh—yes—pardon me," Hoffland said; and turning aside his head, he murmured, "Men—men! how blind you are! yes, high-gravel blind!" and looking again at Mowbray, Hoffland perceived that his face had become calm again.
"I promised Lucy to bring home some little articles from this place," he said calmly; "go in with me a moment, Charles."
Hoffland drew back.
"No," he said; "I believe—I have—I think I'd rather not."
"I will detain you but a moment."
Hoffland's glance plunged itself into the interior of Madam Finette's emporium; and the consequence was that the young gentleman retreated three steps.
"I don't think I have time," he said laughing; "but I'll wait for you here: the sun is warm, but I can easily protect my face by holding my handkerchief to it."
And taking up his position in the vestibule, so to speak, of the shop, Hoffland placed himself as much out of view as possible, and waited. Spite of the fact that the sun's rays did not penetrate to the spot which he occupied, the white handkerchief was still used as a shade.
Mowbray entered and approached Madam Finette.
But that lady was busy; her counter was covered with magnificent silks, ribbons, velvets and laces, which she was unrolling, folding up, drawing out, and chattering about, as fast as her small hands and agile tongue would permit. Before her stood a lady, who, accompanied by her cavalier, was engaged in the momentous task of making up her mind what colors of velvet and satin ribbon she should select.
The lady was young and smiling—cheerful and graceful. When she laughed, the musical chime of the timepiece overhead was drowned, and died away; when she smiled, the sunlight seemed to have darted one of its brightest beams into the shop. The gentleman was elegant and melancholy: he looked like Endymion on Latmos trying to recall his dream, or like Narcissus fading into shadow. His costume resembled a variegated Dutch tulip; his hair was powdered to excess; he sighed and whispered sadly, and looked at the lady.
The lady was called Belle-bouche, Belinda, or Rebecca.
The gentleman was familiarly known as Jacques.
"I think that would suit you," sighed Jacques.
"This ribbon?" asked Belle-bouche, with a gay smile.
"Yes; it is yours by right. It is the prettiest of all."
"I am glad you like it—I do."
"It would suit the mythologic Maia."
"Then it will not me."
"Yes, yes," sighed Jacques, in a whisper; "you are May incarnate—with its tender grace, and lovely freshness, and Arcadian beauty."
Belle-bouche smiled, and yet did not laugh at the oft repeated Arcadian simile.
"Methinks," said Jacques, with a species of melancholy grace, "these ribbons would suit your costume at the Arcadian festival, which you have honored me with the management of——"
"At Shadynook? Oh, yes! would they now?"
"I think so, madam. Imagine the crooks wreathed with these ribbons and with flowers—the shepherds would go mad with delight."
"Then I will get a large roll of this."
"No, no—that is my affair; but you must wear something else."
"I? What, pray?"
"Pink: it is the color of youth, and joy, and love—worn by the Graces and the Naiads, Oreads and Dryads;—the color of the sea-shell, and the autumn leaves and flowers—something like it at least," Jacques added, finding himself mounting into the realms of imagination.
Belle-bouche blushed slightly, and turned away. Her eyes fell upon Mowbray, who bowed.
"Oh, sir, I am very glad to see you," said the cheerful young girl, holding out her hand; "you must come to our party at Shadynook."
"Madam, I am afraid—" commenced Mowbray, with a bow.
But Belle-bouche interrupted him:
"No! I really will take no refusal! It will be on Thursday, and Aunt Wimple wishes you to come. I am manageress, and I have masculine assistance to compel all invited to be with us."
With which words she glanced at Jacques, who saluted Mowbray with a sad smile.
"And you must bring your sister Lucy, Mr. Mowbray. I am sorry we know each other so slightly; but I am sure we shall be intimate if she comes. Do not refuse to bring her now."
Belle-bouche enforced her requests with such a wealth of smiles, that Mowbray was compelled to yield.
He promised to come, and then suddenly remembered that Philippa would be there, and almost groaned.
Belle-bouche finished her purchases, and went out.
As she passed Hoffland she dropped her handkerchief. That young gentleman, however, declined to pick it up and restore it, though the absent Jacques did not perceive it. Jacques assisted the young girl into her carriage, pressed her hand with melancholy affection, and went away sighing.
Mowbray, having procured what Lucy wished, came forth again and was joined by Hoffland. That gentleman held a magnificent lace handkerchief in his hand.
"See," he said, "what that languishing little beauty dropped in passing to her carriage. What a love of a handkerchief!"
"What an odd vocabulary you have collected," said Mowbray, smiling. "Well, you should have restored it to her, Charles."
"Ernest, you astonish me!" cried Hoffland, laughing; "address a young lady whom I have not the pleasure of knowing?"
"It would be to do her a simple service, and nothing could be more proper."
"You are a pretty guide for youth, are you not? No, sir! I never intrude!"
"Suppose this young lady were asleep in a house which was burning—would you not intrude to inform her of that fact?"
"Never, sir! Enter a lady's bower? Is it possible you counsel such a proceeding?"
Mowbray smiled sadly. "You have excellent spirits, Charles," he said; "I almost envy you."
"No, indeed, I have not," said Hoffland, with one of his strange transitions from gaiety to thoughtfulness; "I wear more than one mask, Ernest."
"Are you ever sad?"
"Yes, indeed," said Hoffland, with a little sigh.
"Well, well, I fancy 'tis not frequently. If you feel so to-day, the ball to-night will restore your spirits; and there you may restore your handkerchief with perfect propriety."
"Get an introduction."
Hoffland's lip crimped; but nodding his head—
"Yes," said he, "I think I shall be introduced, for I wish very much to be present at that Arcadian festival."
"You heard, then?"
"N—o," he said; "but I believe a number of invitations are out—for Denis, and others;—a good fellow, Denis."
"Excellent; and I suppose, therefore, you will be at the Raleigh this evening?"
"Yes, about twelve—I have my studies to attend to," said Hoffland, laughing; "you have no idea how much the character of Rosalind has interested me lately. I think it never seized so strongly upon my attention. If ever we have any private acting, I shall certainly appear in that character!"
Mowbray smiled again.
"Your person would suit the forest page very well," he said; "for you are slender, and slight in figure. But how would you compass the scenes where Rosalind appears in her proper character—in female dress?"
"Oh!" laughed Hoffland, with some quickness, "I think I could easily act that part."
"I doubt it."
"You don't know my powers, Ernest."
"Well, perhaps not; but let us dismiss the ball, and Rosalind, and all. How motley a crowd! I almost agree with Jacques, that 'motley's the only wear.'"
"Jacques! that reminds me of the melancholy fellow we saw just now, sighing and languishing with that little Belle-bouche——"
"Why, you know her familiar name—how, Charles?"
"Oh" he said, "did I not leave my MS. love songs to Jacques; and can you imagine that I was ignorant of—but we are throwing away words. Everybody's in love, I believe—Jacques is not singular. Look at this little pair of lovers—school-girl and school-boy, devoted to each other, and consuming with the tender passion. Poor unfortunate creatures!"
With which words Hoffland laughed, and pointed to a boy and girl who were passing along some steps in advance of them.
The girl was that young lady who received, as the reader may possibly recollect, so much excellent and paternal advice from Jacques. She was not burdened with her satchel on this occasion, but carried, in the same careless and playful fashion, a small reticule; while her cavalier took charge of her purchases, stored in two or three bundles, and kindly relinquished to the gentleman by the lady, as is still the custom in our own day.
The boy was a fine manly young fellow of sixteen, with a bright kind face, rosy and freckled. There seemed to be quite an excellent understanding between himself and his companion, and they went on conversing gaily.
But in this world we know not when the fates will interrupt our pleasures;—a profound remark which was verified on this occasion.
Just as the girl was passing the residence of Sir Asinus, her feet dancing for joy, her curls illuminated, her reticule describing the largest possible arc of a circle—just then, little Martha, or Puss, as she was called, found herself suddenly arrested, and the over-skirt of her silk dress raised with a sudden jerk. The reticule ceased to pendulate, the conversation stopped abruptly, the boy and girl stood profoundly astonished.
"Oh, me!" cried the child, clasping her hands; "what's that?"
"Witchcraft!" suggested her companion, laughing.
"No, my dear young friends," here interposed a voice from the clouds—figuratively speaking—really from an upper window; "it is not witchcraft, but a simple result of natural laws."
The child raised her head quickly at these words, and saw leaning out of a dormer window of Mrs. Bobbery's mansion, that identical red-haired gentleman whom she had seen upon a former occasion; in a word, Sir Asinus: Sir Asinus dressed magnificently in his old faded dressing-gown; his sandy hair standing erect upon his head; his features sharper than ever; and his eyes more eloquent with philosophical and cynical humor. As he leaned far out of the window, he resembled a large owl in a dressing-gown, with arms instead of legs, fingers instead of claws.
"I repeat, sir and miss," he said blandly—"or probably it would be more proper to say, miss and sir—I repeat that this is not witchcraft, and your dress is simply caught by a hook, which hook contained a grain of wheat, which wheat has been devoured. Wait! I will descend."
And disappearing from the window, Sir Asinus soon made his appearance at the door, and approached the boy and girl. The girl was laughing.
"Oh, sir! I think I understand now—you were fishing for swallows, and the hook——"
"Caught in your dress! Precisely, my beautiful little lady, whom I have the pleasure of seeing for the fiftieth time, since I see you passing every morning, noon and evening—precisely. Immured in my apartment for political reasons, I am reduced to this species of amusement; and this hook attached to this thread contained a grain of wheat. It floated far up, and some cormorant devoured it; then the wind ceasing, it had the misfortune to strike into your dress."
With which words Sir Asinus made an elegant bow, wrapping his old dressing-gown about him with one hand, while he extricated the hook with the other.
"There! you are free!" he said; "I am very sorry, my dear little lady——"
"Oh, indeed, sir! it is very funny! I'm almost glad it caught me, Bathurst laughed so much."
"I have the pleasure of making Mr. Bathurst's acquaintance," said Sir Asinus politely; and in spite of little Martha's correction, that Mr. Bathurst was not his name, he added, "Your cavalier at the ball to-night, I presume?"
"Oh, sir, you are laughing," said the girl, with her bright face; "but we are going to the ball."
"And will you dance with me?"
"If you will, sir."
"Extraordinary innocence!" muttered the knight, "not common among young ladies;" then he added, "I assure you, Miss—you have not told me——"
"My name is Martha, sir."
"Well, Miss Martha, I shall dance with you most delightedly. Asinus is my name—I am descended from a great Assyrian family; and this is my lodging. Looking up any morning, my dear Miss Martha, you will receive the most elegant bow I have—such as is due to a Fairy Queen, and the empress of my soul.—Good morning, Mowbray."
And saluting the students who passed, laughing, Sir Asinus ascended again, muttering and wrapping his old dressing-gown more tightly around him.
"Yes," he said, "there's no doubt about the fact in my own mind;—I am just as much in love with that pretty young girl who has left me laughing and joyous, as that ridiculous Jacques is with his beauty at Shadynook. I thought at one time I was in love with Belle-bouche myself, but I was mistaken. I certainly was convinced of it, however, or why did I name my sail-boat the 'Rebecca'—that being the actual name of Miss Belle-bouche? Yet I was not in love with that young lady—and am in love with this little creature of fifteen and a half, who has passed me every morning and evening, going to school. Going to school! there it is! I, the great political thinker, the originator of ideas, the student, the philosopher, the cynic—I am in love with a school-girl! Well, I am not aware that the fact of acquiring a knowledge of geography and numbers, music, and other things, has the effect of making young ladies disagreeable. Therefore I uphold the doctrine that love for young ladies who attend school is not wholly ridiculous—else how could those who go on studying until they are as old as the surrounding hills, be ever loved with reason? I am therefore determined to fall deeper still in love, and write more verses, and abolish that old dull scoundrel Coke, and become a sighing, languishing, poetic Lovelace. I'll go and dance, and feel my pulse every hour, and look at the weather-glass of my affections, and at night, or rather in the morning, report to myself the result. What a lucky lover I am! I will write a sonnet to that thread, and an ode to the hook;—I will expand the affair into an epic!"
With which gigantic idea Sir Asinus kicked aside a volume of Coke which obstructed his way, seized a pen, and frowning dreadfully, began to compose.
HOFFLAND IS WHISKED AWAY IN A CHARIOT.
"What an oddity!" said Hoffland, as leaving the domain of Sir Asinus behind them, the two students passed on, still laughing at the grotesque appearance of the knight; "this gentleman seems to live in an atmosphere of jests and humor."
"I think it is somewhat forced."
"I mean that he is as often sad as merry; and more frequently earnest and serious than careless."
"Is it possible, Ernest?"
"I think I am right."
"Sir Asinus—as I have heard him called—a serious man?"
"Yes, and a very profound one."
"You surprise me!"
"Well, I think that some day he will surprise the world: he is a most profound thinker, and has that dangerous trait for opponents, a clearness of perception which cuts through the rind of a subject, and eviscerates the real core of it with extraordinary ease. You know——"
"Now you are going to talk politics," said Hoffland, laughing.
"No," said Ernest.
"I do not like politics," Hoffland continued; "they weary me, and I would much rather talk of balls.—What a funny figure Sir Asinus will cut with that little creature—in reel or minuet!"
And Hoffland complimented his own conception with a laugh.
"I scarcely fancy he will go in his old dressing-gown," said Mowbray with his sad smile; "that would be a poor compliment to his Excellency, and the many beautiful dames who will meet him."
"Is it to be a large ball?"
"I believe so."
"And very gay?"
"You escort Miss Lucy?"
"And do you anticipate much pleasure?"
"Can you ask me, Charles?"
"Why—I thought you might throw off—this feeling you have——"
"I cannot," Mowbray said, shaking his head; "time only can accomplish that—not music, and gay forms, and laughter! Ah, Charles!" he added with a deep and weary sigh, "you plainly know nothing of my feeling. I cannot prevent myself from speaking of it—it makes me the merest boy; and now I say that it is far too strong to be dispelled in any degree by merriment. Mirth and joy and festive scenes obliterate some annoyances—those vague disquietudes which oppress some persons; they are scarcely a balm for sorrow, real sorrow."
Hoffland held down his head and sighed.
"I shall see her there to-night, I doubt not," Mowbray went on, striving to preserve his calmness; "our glances will meet; her satirical smile will rise to her lips, and she will turn away as indifferently as if she had not cruelly and wantonly wounded a heart which loves her truly—deeply. This I shall suffer—this I anticipate: can you ask me then if I look forward to the ball with pleasure?"
Hoffland raised his head; his face was full of smiles.
"But suppose she does not look thus at you?" he said.
"I do not understand——"
"Suppose Philippa—was not that her name?—suppose she smiles when you bow to her: for you will bow, won't you, Ernest?"
"Assuredly; but to reply to your question. I should know perfectly well that her smile was the untrue manoeuvre of a coquette. Ah! Charles! Charles! may you never know what it is to see a false smile in woman—cold and chilling—the glitter of sunlight upon snow. It is worse than frowns!"
"Ernest, you are a strange person," said Hoffland; "you seem determined to misjudge this young girl, who is not as bad as you think her, my life upon it! So, frown or smile, you are determined to hate her?"
"I do not hate her! Would to Heaven I could get as far from love for her, as the neutral ground of indifference."
"Unhappy man!" said Hoffland; "you pray to be delivered from love!"
"It is our greatest happiness."
"And deepest misery."
"No, Charles, I neither hate men nor women; I do not permit this disappointment to sour my heart. But I cannot become an advocate of the feeling which has caused me such cruel suffering. Let us say no more. We shall meet at the ball, and then you will be able to judge whether I am mistaken in the estimate I place upon this young girl's character. She is beautiful, haughty, suspicious, and unfeeling: it tears my heart to say it, but it is true. You will never after this evening doubt my unhappiness, or charge me with error."
"Probably not," said Hoffland, turning away his head; "I will make your error plain to you—but promise to speak of it no more."
"What do you mean by 'make my error plain to me'?"
"You will see."
"Charles!" said Mowbray suddenly, "you cannot have designed to approach this lady upon the subject which I have spoken to you of, as friend to friend? That is not possible!"
"I shall not say one single word to your lady-love."
"Never—I am a Sphinx, an oracle: until the time comes I am dumb."
"You only strive to raise my spirits," said Mowbray with his sad smile; "that is very kind in you, but I fear it is even more than you could do."
"By which I suppose you mean that I could 'raise your spirits' if any body could."
"I may say yes—for you have a rare cheerfulness. It is almost contagious."
Hoffland looked sidewise at his companion for a moment with a curious smile, and said:
"How would you like to have—but it is too foolish."
"Go on: finish your sentence."
"No, you will laugh."
"Perhaps I shall: I hope so," Mowbray said, sadly smiling.
There was so much sadness in his tones, spite of the smile, that Hoffland's eyes filled with tears.
"What I was about to say was very ridiculous," the boy said, with a slight tremor in his voice; "but you know almost every thing I say is ridiculous."
"No, indeed, Charles; you are a singular mixture of excellent sense and fanciful humor."
"Well, then, attribute my question to humor."
"I was about to ask you—as you were kind enough to say that I could make you laugh if any one could—I was about to ask, how would you like to have a wife like me?"
And Hoffland burst out laughing. Ernest sighed.
"I think I should like it very well—to reply simply to your question."
"What do you admire so much in me?"
"I love more than I admire, Charles."
"Do you?" And the boy's head drooped.
"Yes," said Mowbray; "you possess a childlike ingenuousness and simplicity which is exceedingly refreshing to me after intense study. I would call your conversation at times prattle, but for the fear of offending you."
"Oh, you will not."
"Prattle is very engaging, you know," said Mowbray, "and I often feel as if my weary head would be at rest upon your friendly shoulder."
"Why don't you rest it there then?"
"You may answer that question better than myself," he said: "for some strange reason, you always avoid me when I approach you."
"Why, my dear follow," said Hoffland, with a free-and-easy air, "come as near as you choose; here, let us lock arms! Does that look like avoiding you?"
"It is very different here in the street," he said; "but let us dismiss this idle subject. It is an odd way of throwing away time to debate whether you would make a good wife."
"I don't think it is," said Hoffland, and he laughed. "If I would make a good wife, I would make a good husband; and as I have natural doubts upon the latter point, I wish to have them solved. But I weary you—let us part. Good-bye," added Hoffland, with a strange expression of face and tone of voice; "here is my lodging, and you go on to the college."
"No, I think I will go up and sit down a moment."
Hoffland stood still.
"It is strange, but true, that I have never paid you visit," continued Mowbray, "and now I will go and see your quarters."
"Really, my dear Ernest—the fact is—I assure you on my honor—there is nothing to attract——"
"Never mind," he said, "I will go up, if from nothing else, from simple curiosity."
The singular young man looked exceedingly vexed at this, and did not move.
Mowbray was about to pass with a smile up the steps leading to the door, when an acquaintance came by and stopped a moment to speak to him. Mowbray seemed interested in what he said, and half turned from Hoffland.
No sooner had he done so than the boy placed one cautious foot upon the stone step, looked quickly around, saw that he was unobserved; and entering the house with a bound, ran lightly up the steps, opened the door of his apartment, entered it, closed the door, and disappeared. The sound of the bolt in moving proved that he had locked himself in.
In two minutes Mowbray turned round to speak to his companion: he was no where to be seen. The friend with whom he had been conversing had observed nothing, and suggested that Mr. Hoffland must have gone on.
No; he had, however, gone to his room probably. And ascending the stairs, Mowbray knocked at the door. No voice replied.
"Strange boy!" he murmured; "he cannot be here, however—and yet that singular objection he seemed to have to my visiting him—singular!"
And Mowbray, finding himself no nearer a conclusion than at first, descended, and slowly passed on toward the college.
No sooner had he disappeared within its walls than a slight noise at Hoffland's window proved that he had been watching Mowbray. All then became silent. In an hour, however, the door was cautiously opened, and the boy issued forth. He carefully closed the door, re-locked it, put the key in his pocket, descended, and commenced walking rapidly toward the southern portion of the town, depositing as he went by a letter in the post.
He passed through the suburbs, continued his way over the open road leading toward Jamestown, and in half an hour arrived at a little roadside ordinary—one of those houses of private entertainment which are wholly different from the great public taverns.
Fifty paces beyond this ordinary a chariot with four horses was waiting in a glade of the forest, and on catching sight of it Hoffland hastened his steps, and almost ran.
He reached the chariot breathless from his long walk and the rapidity with which he had passed over the distance between the ordinary and the vehicle; threw open the door before the coachman knew he was near; entered, said in a low voice, "Home!" and sank back exhausted.
As though only waiting for this single word, the chariot began to move, and the horses, drawing the heavy vehicle, disappeared at a gallop.
SIR ASINUS GOES TO THE BALL.
Upon the most moderate calculation, Sir Asinus must have tied his lace cravat a dozen times before he finally coaxed his smoothly shaven chin to rest in quiet grace upon its white folds. Having accomplished this important matter, and donned his coat of Mecklenburg silk, the knight took a last survey of himself in the mirror, carefully reconnoitred the street below for lurking proctors, and then brushing the nap of his cocked hat and humming his favorite Latin song, stepped daintily into the street and bent his way toward the Raleigh.
Sir Asinus thought he had never seen a finer ball; for, to say nothing of the chariots and coachmen and pawing horses and liveries at the door—of the splendid gentlemen dismounting from their cobs and entering gay and free the spacious ball-room—there was the great and overwhelming array of fatal beauty raining splendor on the noisy air, and turning every thing into delight.
The great room—the Apollo famed in history for ever—blazed from end to end with lights; the noble minstrels of the festival sat high above and stunned the ears with fiddles, hautboys, flutes and fifes and bugles; the crowd swayed back and forth, and buzzed and hummed and rustled with a well-bred laughter;—and from all this fairy spectacle of brilliant lights and fair and graceful forms arose a perfume which made the ascetic Sir Asinus once more happy, causing his lips to smile, his eyes to dance, his very pointed nose to grow more sharp as it inhaled the fragrance showering down in shivering clouds.
Make way for his Excellency!—here he comes, the gallant gay Fauquier, with a polite word for every lady, and a smile for the old planters who have won and lost with him their thousands of pounds. And the smiling Excellency has a word for the students too, and among the rest for Sir Asinus, his prime favorite.
"Ah, Tom!" he says, "give you good evening."
"Good evening, your Excellency," said Sir Asinus, bowing.
"From your exile?"
"Ah, well, carpe diem! be happy while you may—that has been my principle in life. A fine assembly; and if I am not mistaken, I hear the shuffle of cards yonder in the side room."
"Ah, you Virginians! I find your thirst for play even greater than my own."
"I think your Excellency introduced the said thirst."
"What! introduced it? I? Not at all. You Virginians are true descendants of the cavaliers—those long-haired gentlemen who drank, and diced, and swore, and got into the saddle, and fought without knowing very accurately what they were fighting about. See, I have drawn you to the life!"
Sir Asinus smiled.
"We shall some day have to fight, sir," he said, "and we shall then falsify our ancestral character."
"We shall know what we fight about!"
"Bah! my dear Tom! there you are beginning to talk politics, and soon you will be rattling the stamp act and navigation laws in my ears, like two pebbles shaken together in the hand. Enough! Be happy while you may, I say again, and forget your theories. Ah! there is my friend, Mrs. Wimple, and her charming niece. Good evening, madam."
And his Excellency made a courtly bow to Aunt Wimple, who was resplendent in a head-dress which towered aloft like a helmet.
And passing on, the Governor smiled upon Miss Belle-bouche, and saluted Jacques.
On former occasions we have attempted to describe the costume of this latter gentleman; on the present occasion we shall not. It is enough to say that the large tulip bed at Shadynook seemed to have left that domain and entered the ball-room of the Raleigh, with the lady who attended to them.
This was Belle-bouche, as we have said; and the tender languishing face of the little beauty was full of joy at the bright scene.
As for poor Jacques, he was oceans deep in love, and scarcely looked at any other lady in the room. This caused much amusement among his friends who were looking at him; but what does a lover care for laughter?
"Ah!" he says, "a truly Arcadian scene! Methinks the Muses and the Graces have become civilized, and assembled here to dance the minuet. You will have a delightful evening."
"Oh, I'm sure I shall!" says Belle-bouche, smiling.
"And I shall, because I am with you."
With which words, Jacques smiles and sighs; and his watchful friends follow his eyes, and laugh more loudly than ever.
They say to him afterwards: "Well, old fellow, the way you were sweet upon your lady-love on that occasion, was a sin! You almost ate her up with your eyes, and at one time you looked as if you were going to dissolve into a sigh, or melt into a smile. At any rate, you are gone—go on!"
Belle-bouche receives the tender compliments of Jacques with a flitting blush, and says, in order to divert him from the subject of herself:
"There is Mr. Mowbray, entering with his sister Lucy. She is very sweet——"
"And must be at our May-day," adds Belle-bouche, quickly. "Good evening, Mr. Mowbray and Miss Lucy; I wanted to see you." With which words Belle-bouche gives her hand to Lucy. "You must come to our May-day at Shadynook;—promise now. Mr. Mowbray delivered my message?"
"Yes; and I will certainly come—if Ernest will take me," says Lucy, smiling.
The pale face of Mowbray is lit up for a moment by a sad smile, and he replies:
"I will come, madam—if I have courage," he murmurs, turning away.
"You must; we shall have a merry day, I think. What a fine assembly!"
"Oh, there's Jenny——"
And while this conversation proceeds, Jacques is talking with Lucy. He interrupts himself in the middle of a sentence, to bow paternally to a young lady who has just entered.
"Good evening, my dear Miss Merryheart," he says.
"Oh, sir! that is not my name," says little Martha, laughing.
"And are you not desirous of changing it?"
The girl laughs.
"Say, for Mrs. Jacques?"
"Oh!" cries Martha, with a merry glance and a pleasant affectation of reserve, "that is too public."
"The fact is," replies Jacques, smiling, "you are looking so lovely, that I could not help it."
"Oh, sir!" says the girl blushing, but delighted. Which expression makes her companion—a youthful gentleman called Bathurst—frown with jealousy.
Lucy is admiring the child, when she finds herself saluted by Sir Asinus, who has made her acquaintance some time since.
"A delightful evening, Miss Mowbray," says that worthy; "and I find you admiring a very dear friend of mine."
"Who is that, sir?" says Lucy, smiling.
"Little Miss Martha."
"She is your friend?"
"Are you not?" says Sir Asinus, bowing with great devotion to Martha; "you caught me this morning, you know."
"Oh no, sir! you caught me!"
"Indeed!" cried Sir Asinus; "I thought 'twas the lady's part!"
And he relishes his joke so much and laughs so loud, that the girl discovers her mistake and blushes, which increases her fresh beauty a thousand-fold.
Sir Asinus heaves a sigh, and contemplates a declaration immediately. He asks her hand for a quadrille instead.
"Oh, yes, sir!"
Whereupon Bathurst revolves gloomy thoughts of revenge in the depths of his soul.
Sir Asinus, seeing his rival's moodiness, smiles; but this smile disappears like a sunbeam. He sees Doctor Small approaching, and turns to flee.
In doing so, he runs up against and treads on the toes of Mr. Jack Denis, who laughs, and bowing to Lucy, presses toward her and takes his place at her side.
Sir Asinus makes his way through the crowd, paying his respects to every body.
He arrives, at length, at the door of the side room where the devotees of cards are busy at tictac. He is soon seated at one of the tables by the side of Governor Fauquier, and is playing away with the utmost delight.
In this way the ball commenced; and so it went on with loud music, and a hum of voices rising almost to a shout at times, until the supper hour. And then, the profuse supper having been discussed with that honorable devotion which ever characterizes Virginians, the dancing recommenced, more madly than ever.
But let not the reader imagine that the dances of the old time were like our own. Not at all. They had no waltzes, polkas, or the like, but dignified quadrilles, and stately minuets; and it was only when the company had become perfectly acquainted with each other, at the end of the assembly, that the reel was inaugurated, with its wild excessive mirth—its rapid, darting, circling, and exuberant delight.
Poor Sir Asinus! he had not been well treated by his lady-love—we mean the little Martha. That young lady liked the noble knight, but Brutus-like, loved Bathurst more. The worthy Sir Asinus found his graces of mind and person no match for the laughing freckled face of her youthful admirer, and with all the passing hours he grew more sad.
He ended by offering his heart and hand, we verily believe, in the middle of a quadrille; but on this point we are not quite certain. Sure are we that on this night the great politician found himself defeated by a boy—this we may assert from after events.
In the excess of his mortification he betook himself to cards, and was soon sent away penniless. He rose from the card-table feeling, like Catiline, ripe for conspiracy and treason. He re-entered the ball-room and strolled about disconsolate—a stalking ghost.
Just as he made his appearance a lady entered from the opposite door, and Sir Asinus felt the arm of a gentleman, against whom he was pressed by the crowd, tremble. He turned and looked at him. It was Mowbray; and he was looking at the lady who had just entered.
This lady was Philippa.
ERNEST AND PHILIPPA.
The young girl had never looked more beautiful. She was clad in a simple white satin, her dazzling arms were bare, but she wore not a single bracelet; her hair was carried back from her temples, and powdered until it resembled a midnight strewed with star-dust—but not a single jewel glittered above her imperial brow, or on her neck. She looked like an uncrowned queen, and took her place as one not needing ornaments.
Poor Mowbray, as we have seen, trembled slightly as she entered. With all his strength he could not restrain this exhibition of emotion.
When he had visited her so often at Shadynook she had invariably worn a number of jewels, and seemed to have taken an idle delight in decorating her person with all the splendor which unlimited wealth places at the command of those who possess it. Now she came like a simple village maiden—like a May-day queen; queen not in virtue of her jewels or her wealth, but for her beauty and simplicity and kindness.
If he had loved her before, poor Mowbray now more than loved her.
All his resolutions melted before her approach, as the iceberg thaws and dissolves beneath the rays of a tropic sky. He had floated into the old latitudes of love and warmth again, and his cold heart once more began to beat—his hardness to pass away; leaving the old, true, faithful love.
She came on carelessly through the crowd, dispensing smiles and gay laughter. Surrounded by a host of admirers, she talked with all of them at once—scattered here a jest, there a smile; asked here a question, replied gaily there to one addressed to her; and as she moved, the crowd of gallant gentlemen moved with her, as the stars hover around and follow in the wake of the bright harvest moon.
Philippa was "easily foist." She had that rare joyousness which is contagious, making all who come within its influence merry like itself; and with her wildest laughter and her most careless jests, a maiden simpleness and grace was mingled which made the "judicious" who had "grieved" before as much her admirers as the ruffled and powdered fine gentlemen who bowed and smiled and whispered to her as she moved.
Poor Mowbray! He saw what he had lost, and groaned.
This was the woman whom he loved—would have given worlds to have love him again. This was the bold true nature he had felt such admiration for—and now he saw how maidenly she was, and only saw it fully when she was lost to him.
Could she have ever uttered those cruel words which still echoed in his heart?—and was this kind and happy face, this open, frank, and lovely girl, the woman who had struck his heart so rudely?
Could he not love her still, and go to her and say, "I wronged you, pardon me, I love you more than ever"?
No; all that was over, and he might love her madly, with insane energy, and break his heart with the thought of her beauty and simplicity and truth; but never would he again approach a woman who despised him—looked upon him as an adventurer and fortune-hunter.