Still Philippa came on slowly, bowing, smiling, and jesting—she ever approached nearer.
Mowbray felt a shudder run through his body, and turned to leave the spot.
As he did so, he heard a voice which made his ears tingle, his heart sink, his cheek flush, utter in the most quiet manner, and without any exhibition of coldness or satire or affectation, the words:
"Good evening, Mr. Mowbray. Will you not speak to me?"
Mowbray became calm suddenly, by one of those efforts of resolution which characterized him.
"Good evening, madam," he said, approaching the young girl unconsciously; "I trust you are well."
And wondering at himself, he stood beside her.
"I believe I am very well," she said, smiling; "will you give me your arm?"
Mowbray presented his arm, bowing calmly; and with a smile which embraced the whole mortified group of gentlemen, the young girl turned away with him.
"I have not had the pleasure of seeing you—have I?—lately," she said; "where have you been, if I may ask a very impertinent question?"
"At Williamsburg, madam."
"And never at Shadynook?"
"I was informed that you had gone home."
"Yes, so I did. But then if you had much—friendship for me, I think you might have followed me."
Mowbray was so much moved by the fascinating glance which accompanied these words, that he could only murmur:
"Follow you, madam?"
"Yes; I believe when gentlemen have friends—particular friends among the ladies, and those friends leave them, they go to seek them."
"I am unfortunately a poor law student, madam—I have little time for visits."
"I am afraid that is an evasion, sir," she said.
"The true reason I fear is, that the rule I have spoken of does not apply to you and myself."
"That we follow our particular friends—or rather that the gentlemen do. I fear you do not regard me in that light."
Mowbray could only say:
"Why should I not, madam?"
Philippa paused for a moment; and then said, smiling:
"Shall I tell you?"
"I fancy then that something which I said in our last interview offended you."
This was a home thrust, and Mowbray could not reply.
"Answer," she said; "did you not come away from that interview thinking me very rude, very unladylike, very affected and unlovely? did you not cordially determine never to think of me again—and have you not kept that resolution?"
"No, madam," said Mowbray, replying by evasion to the last clause of the sentence.
"Mr. Mowbray," she said, "you are very cold. I believe I have left at least a dozen gallant wits to give you my whole attention, and you reply to me in monosyllables."
Mowbray felt his heart wounded by these words, which were uttered with as much feeling as annoyance, and replied:
"I should not have accepted your proposal, madam; it was selfish. I am not in very excellent spirits this evening, and fear that I shall not be able to entertain you. Pardon my dulness."
"No, I will not. You can be just as agreeable as you choose, and you will not."
Mowbray found himself smiling at these words, and said:
"Perhaps, then, if you will ask me some more questions, madam, I may reply in something more than monosyllables."
"Well then, sir, are you going to the May-day party at Shadynook?"
"I do not know—yes, I suppose, however. I have promised."
"Then Miss Lucy will wish to have you."
"Yes—well, I shall go."
"I am very glad!" said Philippa.
Mowbray could not explain the happiness he felt: all his coldness and doubt seemed to be passing away in presence of this young girl, who gave him such winning smiles, and so obstinately refused to observe his constraint. He had spoken truly to Hoffland; he was in love, and he had no longer any command over himself. He banished the thought that she was playing with his feelings, as soon as it occurred, and gave himself up to the intoxicating happiness which he experienced in her presence.
"You will also come to the party, will you not?" he said, smiling.
"Oh, yes!" said Philippa; "they could not very well get on without me. In the first place, Bel and myself are to get every thing ready; I mean at Shadynook. As to the invitations, and all the externals, they are intrusted to that handsome gentleman yonder, who is devouring Bel with his eyes! Can't you see him?" added Philippa, with a merry laugh; "poor fellow he is deeply in love——"
"And that you think very ridiculous?"
"Indeed, no. I can imagine no greater compliment, and no larger happiness, than to be sincerely loved by a true and honest gentleman."
Mowbray looked at her sadly, but with a smile.
"There are very many honest gentlemen," he said.
"Yes, but they do not love everybody," said Philippa; "and that for a very good reason."
The young girl laughed.
"Because they love themselves so much," she said. "Gallant Adonises! they think themselves handsome, nay, more lovely than all the maidens in the world!"
Mowbray caught the infectious mirth of the young girl, and smiled. Poor Mowbray! where were all his mighty resolutions—his fair promises—his determination to remain an iceberg in presence of this haughty young girl? He was falling more deeply in love with her every moment.
"You are very severe upon the fine gentlemen," he said; "I think your picture is the exception."
"No, no! the rule! the rule!" she went on laughing. "Just look at them yonder. See how they smile and simper, and press their hands to their hearts, and daintily arrange their drop curls! I would as soon be loved by a lay-figure!"
And Philippa burst into a fit of merry laughter.
"Look!" she said; "see that ridiculous young gentleman near the door, with the velvet breast-knot—think of a velvet breast-knot! See how he daintily helps himself to snuff from a box with a picture of Madame Pompadour, or some celebrated lady, upon the lid; and see his jewelled hand, his simpering face, his languid air, his affected drawl as he murmurs, 'Ah—yes—madam—very—warm—but a charming—spectacle.' On my word! I would always provide myself with a bottle of sal volatile when such gentlemen came to see me!"
Mowbray found himself growing positively happy. Not only were his spirits raised by the young girl's merry and good-humored conversation, but every word which she uttered made his heart thrill more and more. All her discourse, all her satire upon the butterflies of the ball-room, had originated in the discussion of what character was proper for a lover. She scouted the idea of the love of one of these idlers attracting for a moment the regard of an intelligent woman: then was it not a just conclusion, that she looked for character, and dignity, and activity? She pointed to his own opposite, in grotesque colors, and laughed at her picture: then did she not find something to like in himself? Could she ever love him?
And Mowbray's cheek flushed—his strong frame was agitated.
"The amusing part of all this is," said Philippa, laughing, "that these gentlemen think their charms irresistible. Now, there is my cousin Charles—you know him, I believe."
"Charles, your cousin!" cried Mowbray; "it is impossible!"
"Why, what is impossible in the fact? Possible? Of course it is possible!"
And Philippa laughed again more merrily than before.
"Your cousin!" repeated Mowbray; "why, Charles is one of my best friends."
"That is very proper, sir; then, you have two friends in the family."
And Philippa gave her cavalier an enchanting smile.
"Charles is a very excellent young man," she laughed; "and I am sure loves me deeply, but then any one can see he loves himself extravagantly."
"Is it possible! But excuse me," said Mowbray, seeing that his astonishment annoyed his companion; "he was to be here to-night."
"Has he arrived?" said Philippa, looking round with her daring smile.
"I do not see him."
"Tell me when he comes," she said, shaking with laughter; "he's a sad fellow, and I must lecture him."
Mowbray looked at her.
"Strange that I did not see that you were related," he said.
"He resembles you strongly."
"But has light hair."
"And is smaller, I verily believe."
"No, I believe our height is just the same. Has he attended to his studies?"
Mowbray smiled and shook his head.
"Not in a way to injure his health, I fear."
"Lazy fellow! I will never marry him."
"He is then a suitor of yours, madam? I was not aware of the fact—and request you to pardon my criticism."
"There you are assuming your grand air again," said Philippa, laughing; "please leave it at home when you come to see me. Ah! you smile again—that pleases me. What did you ask? 'Was Charles my suitor—did he love me?' Yes, I am convinced that he loves me devotedly, as deeply as a man can love any thing—as much, that is to say, as he loves himself!"
And the young girl burst into another fit of laughter, and positively shook with merriment.
"Did you become well acquainted with him?" she asked, after a pause; "Charles is not stiff—too free and easy, I fear, and I am sure you—liked him."
"Indeed, I did," said Mowbray; "he was a great consolation to me, and I always thought there was something strangely familiar in his face. Singular that I never observed how closely he resembled you."
"That was because you did not think of me very frequently."
"I thought of you too often, I fear," he said in a low tone.
"And never came to see me—that is a probable tale," she said, coloring also, and glancing with a mixture of mirth and timidity at him.
Their eyes met;—those eloquent pleaders said much in that second.
"I have suffered much," he said; "my heart is not very strong—I was deceived—I could not——"
And Mowbray would have said something still more significant of his feelings, but for his companion's presence of mind. She observed, with womanly tact, that a number of eyes were fixed upon them, and adroitly diverted the conversation from the dangerous direction it was taking.
"I do not see Charles," she said, laughing and blushing; "did you not say he promised to be here?"
"Yes," murmured Mowbray.
"He's a great idler, but I love him very much," she said, laughing. "Tell me, Mr. Mowbray, as a friend—you know him well—could I find a better husband?"
"He has a noble heart," he said; "do I understand that——"
"I love him! Yes, I cannot deny it truly; and why should I not make him happy?—for he loves me sincerely."
Mowbray felt his heart sink. Then that new-born hope was doomed to disappointment—that fancy was all folly! His miseries would be only deeper for the brief taste of happiness. He could not reply; he only muttered some inarticulate words, which Philippa did not seem to hear.
"I will decide finally on the day of the party at Shadynook," she said, smiling; "and now let us leave the subject. But do not forget to tell me when Charles enters," she added, laughing.
Poor Mowbray! he felt his heart oppressed with a new and more bitter emotion. The company thought him happy in exclusive possession of the lovely girl's society—his side was pierced with a cruel, rankling thorn.
THE LAST CHANCE OF JACQUES.
While Mowbray and Philippa were holding their singular colloquy in one portion of the laughing and animated crowd, our friend Sir Asinus, with that perseverance which characterized his great intellect, was endeavoring to make an impression on the heart of the maiden of his love. But it was all in vain.
In vain did Sir Asinus dance minuets without number, execute bows beyond example—the little maiden obstinately persisted in bestowing her smiles on her companion, Bathurst.
That young gentleman finally bore her off triumphantly on his arm.
Sir Asinus stood still for a moment, then sent these remarkable words after the little damsel:
"You have crushed a faithful heart—you have spurned a deep affection, beautiful and fascinating maiden. Inured to female charms, and weary of philosophy, I found in thee the ideal of my spirit—truth and simplicity: the fates forbid, and henceforth I am nought! Never again look up, O maiden, to my window, when the morning sun shines on it, as you pass to school—expect to see me in those fair domains no more! Henceforth I am a wanderer, and am homeless. In my bark, named in past days the Rebecca, I will seek some foreign clime, and nevermore return to these shores. I'll buy me a fiddle in Italy, and hobnob with gondoliers, singing the songs of Tasso on Venetian waters. Never again expect to see my face at the window as you go on merrily—I leave my native shore to-morrow, and am gone!"
With which words—words which terrified the little damsel profoundly—Sir Asinus folded his arms, and in this position, with a sad scowl upon his face, passed forth into the night.
As he reached the door of the Raleigh, he perceived Mrs. Wimple and one or two elderly ladies getting into a chariot; and behind them Jacques leading Belle-bouche triumphantly toward his small two-seated vehicle.
Jacques was radiant, and this the reader may possibly understand, if he will recollect the scheme of this gentleman—to address Belle-bouche where no fate could interrupt him.
As Sir Asinus passed on, frowning, Jacques cast upon that gentleman a look which expressed triumphant happiness.
"You won't interrupt me on my way back, will you?" he said, smiling; "eh, my dear Sir Asinus?"
Sir Asinus ground his teeth.
Belle-bouche was safely stowed into the vehicle—Jacques gathered up the reins, was about to get in—when, disastrous fate! the voice of Mrs. Wimple was heard, declaring that the night had grown too cool for her beloved niece to ride in the open air.
Sir Asinus lingered and listened with sombre pleasure.
In vain did Jacques remonstrate, and Belle-bouche declare the night delightful: Aunt Wimple, strong in her fears of night air, was inexorable.
So Belle-bouche with a little pout got down, and Jacques cursing his evil stars, assisted her into the chariot.
Would he not come in, and spend the night at Shadynook?—they could make room for him by squeezing, said Aunt Wimple.
No, no, he could not inconvenience them—he would not be able to stay at Shadynook—he hoped they would have a pleasant journey; and as the chariot rolled off, the melancholy Jacques gazed after it with an expression of profound misery.
He felt a hand upon his shoulder; he turned and saw Sir Asinus. But Sir Asinus was not deriding him—he was groaning.
"Let us commit suicide," said the knight, in gloomy tones.
"The night is favorable, and my hopes are dead, like yours," said Sir Asinus, gloomily.
"That is enough to kill at one time," said the melancholy Jacques; "mine are not—animation is only suspended. On the whole, my dear friend, I am opposed to your proposition. Good night!"
And Jacques, with a melancholy smile, departed.
Sir Asinus, with a gesture of despair, rushed forth into the night. Whether that gentleman had been reading romances or not, we cannot say; but as he disappeared, he bore a strong resemblance to a desperate lover bent on mischief.
Within, the reel had now begun—that noble divertisement, before which all other dances disappear, vanquished, overwhelmed, driven from the field, and weeping their departed glories. For the reel is a high mystery—it is superior to all—it cannot be danced beyond the borders of Virginia—as the Seville orange of commerce loses its flavor, and is nothing. The reel ends all the festivities of the old Virginian gatherings, and crowns with its supreme merriment the pyramid of mirth. When it is danced properly,—to proper music, by the proper persons, and with proper ardor,—all the elements break loose. Mirth and music and bright eyes respectively shower, thunder and lighten. In the old days, it snowed too—for the powder fell in alabaster dust and foamy clouds, and crammed the air with fragrance.
As for the reel which they danced at the Raleigh tavern, in the Apollo room, upon the occasion we allude to, who shall speak of it with adequate justice? Jacques lost it—tulip-like, the king of grace—Belle-bouche was with him; and a thousand eyes were on the maze,—the maze which flashed, and buzzed, and rustled, ever merrier—and glittered with its diamonds and far brighter eyes—and ever grew more tangled and more simple, one and many, complicate and single, while the music roared above in flashing cadences and grand ambrosial grace.
And merrier feet were never seen. The little maidens seemed to pour their hearts out in the enchanting divertisement, and the whole apartment, with its dazzling lights and flowers, was full of laughter, mirth, and holiday from end to end. When the final roar of the violins dropped into silence, and so crumbled into nothing, all was ended. Cavaliers offered their arms—ladies put on their hoods—chariots drove up and received their burdens; and in another hour, the joyous festival was but a recollection. After the reel—nothingness.
The Apollo room was still again—waiting for other men than youthful gallants, other words than flattering compliments.
And Mowbray went home with a wounded heart, which all the smiles of Philippa could not heal—for Hoffland was his rival. Denis went home with a happy heart, for Lucy had smiled on him. Sir Asinus was miserable—boy Bathurst was happy. The ball at the Raleigh was a true microcosm, where John smiled and James sighed, and all played on, and went away miserable or the reverse.
And so it ended.
SIR ASINUS INTENDS FOR EUROPE.
The morning of the May-day festival dawned bright and joyous;—nature seemed to be smiling, and the "rosy-bosomed hours" began their flight toward the west, with that brilliant splendor which they always deck themselves in, in the merry month of May.
Jacques rose early, and was at his mirror betimes. He had selected a suit of extraordinary richness, made with express reference to the rainbow; and when he drew on his coat, and took a last survey of himself in the mirror, he smiled—no longer sighed—and thought of Belle-bouche with the triumphant feeling of a general who has driven the enemy at last into a corner.
He issued forth and mounted his gay charger, which, with original and brilliant taste, he had decked with ribbons for the joyous festival; and as he got into the saddle and gathered up the reins, a little crowd of diminutive negro boys, with sadly dilapidated garments, cringed before him, and threw up their caps and split the air with "hoora's" in his honor.
Jacques pranced forth from the Raleigh stable yard in state, and took his way along Gloucester street, the admiration of every beholder. He was going to glory and conquest—probably: he was on his way to happiness—perhaps. He felt a sentiment of benevolent regard for all the human family, and even, in passing, cast his thoughts on Sir Asinus.
That gentleman's window was open, and something strange seemed to be going on within.
And as Jacques drew nearer, he observed a placard dangling from the window. This placard bore in huge letters the mournful words:
"THE WITHIN INTENDS FOR EUROPE ON THE MORROW."
Jacques felt his conscience smite him—he could not let his friend depart without bidding him adieu. He dismounted, tied his horse, and laughing to himself, ascended to the chamber of the knight.
A sad sight awaited him.
Seated upon a travelling trunk, with a visage which had become elongated to a really distressing degree, Sir Asinus was sighing, and casting a last lingering look behind.
His apartment was in great disorder—presenting indeed that negligent appearance which rooms are accustomed to present, when their occupants are about to depart. The books were all stowed away in boxes—the pictures taken down—the bed unmade—the sofa littered with papers, and the violin, and flute—the general air of the desolate room, that of a man who has parted with his last hope and wishes to exist no longer.
But the appearance of Sir Asinus was worse than that of his apartment.
"Good morning, my dear Jacques," said the knight, sighing; "you visit me at a sad moment."
"I am just on the wing."
"As I see."
"From my placard, eh?"
"Well, have you any commands?"
"Well—no," said Jacques, with indecorous levity; "except that you will present my respects to Pitt and Barre."
"Hey! who scoffed?"
"I did not."
"You laugh, unworthy friend that you are," said Sir Asinus; "you deride me."
"Not at all."
"You rejoice at my departure."
"At any rate, you are not sorry," said Sir Asinus, sighing; "and I return the compliment. I myself am not sorry to part with the unworthy men who have misunderstood me, and persecuted me. A martyr to political ideas—to love for my country—I go to foreign lands to seek a home."
And having uttered this melancholy sentence, the woful knight twirled his thumbs, and sighed piteously.
As for Jacques, he smiled.
"When do you leave?" he said.
Sir Asinus pointed to the placard.
"On the morrow?"
"Well, there is time yet to attend the May-festival at Shadynook. Come along."
"No, no," said Sir Asinus, sighing; "no, I thank you. I have had all my noble aspirations chilled—my grand ideas destroyed; my heart is no longer fit for merriment. I depart."
And rising, Sir Asinus seated himself upon the table disconsolately.
Jacques looked at him and smiled.
"Do you know, my dear Asinus," he said, "that you present at this moment the grandest and most heroic picture? When a great man suffers, the world should weep."
"Instead of which, you laugh."
"I? I am not laughing."
"You are smiling."
"That is because, for the first time in my life, I am nearly happy."
"Happy? Would that I were! Happy? It is a word which I seldom have use for," said Sir Asinus, dangling his legs and sighing piteously.
"Why not endeavor to use it?"
"Come and laugh with us at Shadynook."
"I no longer laugh."
"No: my grief is too deep for tears—it is dried up—I mean the tears."
"There you are pitying my afflictions—spare me!"
"I do pity you. To see the noble and joyous Sir Asinus grow melancholy—to see those legs, which erst glided through the minuet and reel, now dangling wearily—to see that handsome visage so drawn down; is there no occasion for pity?"
And Jacques sighed.
"Well, well," said Sir Asinus, "I am glad you came, spite of your unworthy banter, you unfeeling fellow. I wish to send some messages to my friends."
"What are they?"
"First, to Belle-bouche—love and remembrance."
"That is beautiful; and I never knew these words yet fail to touch the heart."
"To all the boys, the fond regards of him who goes from them—a martyr to the attempt to uphold their rights."
"That is affecting too."
"To the little dame who passed with you some days ago—Miss Martha Wayles by name—but no; nothing to her."
And Sir Asinus groaned.
"Nothing?" said Jacques.
"No; the memory of my love for her shall never grieve her; let us say no more, Jacques, my friend. I have finished."
"And what do you leave to me?" said Jacques.
"I would prefer that violin."
"No, no, my friend; it will comfort me on my voyage. Now farewell!"
"Shall I see you no more?"
"Do I not depart to-day?"
"True, true," said Jacques; "and if you really must go, farewell. Write to me."
"Let us embrace."
And Sir Asinus caught his friend in his arms and sniffled.
Jacques, with his head over his friend's shoulder, chuckled.
"Now farewell," said Sir Asinus; "perhaps some day I may return—farewell."
And covering his eyes, he turned away.
Jacques took out his pocket-handkerchief—pressed his friend's hand for the last time, and departed.
He mounted his horse, gathered up the reins, and set forward again toward Shadynook, leaving the disconsolate Sir Asinus to finish his preparations for departure in his beautiful sail-boat the Rebecca.
Poor Sir Asinus! He had not the courage to call it the Martha: disappointed in love and politics, he no longer clung to either, and thought the best name after all would be the MARTYR.
THE MAY FESTIVAL.
If not as splendid as the great ball at the Raleigh, the festival at Shadynook was declared by all to be far more pleasant.
At an early hour in the forenoon bevies of lovely girls and graceful cavaliers began to arrive, and the various parties scattered themselves over the lawn, the garden, through the grove and the forest, with true sylvan freedom and unrestraint.
Shadynook, thanks to the active exertions of Belle-bouche and Philippa, was one bower of roses and other flowers. All the windows were festooned with them—the tables were great pyramids of wreaths; and out upon the lawn the blossoms from the trees showered down upon the animated throng, and made the children laugh—for many little girls were there—and snowing on the cavaliers, made them like heralds of the spring; and lying on the earth, a rosy velvet carpet, almost made the old poetic fiction true, and gave the damsels of the laughing crowd an opportunity to walk "ankle-deep in flowers."
The harpsichord was constantly in use; and those old Scottish songs, which echo now like some lost memory to our grandfathers and grandmothers—we are writing of those personages—glided on the air from coral lips, and made the spring more bright; and many gallant hearts were there enslaved, and sighed whenever they heard sung again those joyous or sad ditties of the Scottish muse.
Books lay about with lovely poems in them—written by the fine old Sucklings and Tom Stanleys—breathing high chivalric homage to the fair; and volumes of engravings, full of castles or bright pictures of Arcadian scenes—brought thither by the melancholy Jacques as true-love offerings—or sunset views where evening died away a purple margin on the blue Italian skies.
And here and there, on mantelpieces and side-tables, were grotesque ornaments in china; and odd figures cut in glass of far Bohemia; and painted screens and embroidery. And through the crowd ran yelping more than one small lap-dog, trodden on by children, who cried out with merriment thereat.
Belle-bouche had rightly judged that many children should be invited; for if bouquets are bright and pleasant, so are merry childish faces; and so dozens of young maidens, scarcely in their teens, and full of wild delight, ran here and there, playing with each other, and seeking Belle-bouche—kind, loving Belle-bouche—every now and then, to say that something was so pretty, and she was so good! Whereat Belle-bouche would smile, and play with their curls, and they would run and play again.
There was this observable fact about the young lady who has appeared so frequently in our little narrative, illustrating its dull pages with her languishing and joyful smiles, showering upon it the tender grace of her fair countenance and innocent eyes—there was this to be observed, we say, that Belle-bouche loved and was beloved by children. She always had them round her when she went where they were, smiling and looking up to her with innocent faces—from the little infantile prattlers just from the nursery, to those who, passing into their bright teens, began to study how they might best fulfil their duty in society—enslave the gallants. All loved Belle-bouche, and on this occasion she had scarcely a moment's rest.
Her own companions loved her too, devotedly, and if any one had asked the crowd assembled, what was the brightest picture, the fairest ornament of the whole festival, they would have with one voice declared—the little hostess. Philippa, with her queenly brow and ready laughter, did not receive one-half the devoted attention which was lavished on her companion; and indeed Belle-bouche was the toast of the whole assembly.
The finest cavaliers gathered around her and paid her their addresses—all smiled on her, and paid homage to her. Her joy was full.
But see the finest gentleman of all approach—the no longer melancholy, the joyful and superb knight of the ribbon-decorated horse!
Jacques approached with the air of a captive prince—submissive, yet proud. He smiled.
"Beautiful queen of May," he said, trailing his plumed hat upon the floor, "behold your slave. Never did shepherd in the vales of Arcady pay truer homage to his Daphne's charms than I do to those of our hostess!"
This was considered a pretty speech, and Belle-bouche was about to reply with a smile, when little Martha Wayles, who was present in a pink-gauze dress and lace, cried:
"Oh, my goodness! just look there!"
"What is it?" asked the company.
"There, through the window," said little Martha, blushing at the attention she excited.
"That horse with ribbons!"
The company gazed through the window, and began to laugh. There indeed was the horse of Jacques, splendid in all the colors of the rainbow, pawing and tossing his head as the groom led him away.
"A little romance of mine," said Jacques, smiling; "I trust 'tis not considered in bad taste—I had a crook——"
"Yes, wreathed with flowers, as was the custom, I believe, in Arcadia; but I feared it would attract attention in the town, and I left it," said Jacques, with lamblike innocence.
This sally was greeted with tumultuous applause.
"A crook!" cried the damsels.
"An excellent idea!"
"And so appropriate!"
"We may have as many as we fancy, I believe," said Jacques, smiling; "I have prepared a number as an introduction to the festival: they are in the garden, ladies, already wreathed with flowers!"
The company rose in a mass to go and get them, and soon they were in the garden; then scattered over the lawn; then every where, laughing, making merry, and behaving like a crowd of children released from school. The damsels acted shepherdesses to perfection, and closely resembled the pictures we are accustomed to see upon the fans which ladies use even to the present day. Their little airs of sylvan simplicity were very pretty; and the gallant gentlemen were not backward in their part. They bowed and simpered until they resembled so many supple-jacks, pulled by the finger of a child.
"Look," said Jacques to Belle-bouche, and sighing slightly as he gazed upon the fresh beauty of her face; "see those lovers yonder——"
"Lovers?" said Belle-bouche, smiling.
"I am not mistaken, I think," said Jacques; "yes, yes, my queen, they are lovers. Do you not think that something like that which I spoke of formerly will come to pass?"
Belle-bouche, with a delicious little rose-color brightening her cheek, replied, patting her satin-sandalled foot upon the flowery sward:
"Which you spoke of—pray, what did you speak of?"
"Of my wish to be a shepherd——"
"Ah—a shepherd," said Belle-bouche, removing a cherry blossom from her hair, and smiling.
"Yes, my lovely queen," said Jacques, with great readiness; "I wished to be a shepherd and have a crook——"
"And that my Arcadian love should also have one and draw me—so that passing through the fields——"
"I might kiss her hand——"
"And passing through the forests wrap her in my cloak——"
"And crossing the streams on narrow moss-clad logs, support her with my arm—as the dearest and most blessed treasure upon earth!" cried Jacques, seizing the hand of Belle-bouche, which hung down, and enraptured that she did not withdraw it.
Belle-bouche understood perfectly that Jacques referred to their meeting on that day when she had been reading in the forest, and had fled from him across the stream. Her roseate blush betrayed her.
"If only that bright dream of love could be a reality for me!" he whispered; "if one I love so——"
"Oh, Miss Bel! the girls sent for you—the pyramid is ready!" cried the merry voice of little Martha.
And running toward Belle-bouche, the girl told her that they really must have her in the garden "before the procession commenced."
Poor Jacques drew back groaning.
"There's another chance gone!" he sighed; "what luck I have! I'm always interrupted, and the fates are leagued against me."
Belle-bouche left him with a blush and a smile, and disappeared.
Ten minutes afterwards the company had reassembled on the lawn, and seemed to be anxiously expecting something.
This something suddenly made its appearance, and advanced into the open space with merriment and laughter.
It was a party of young girls who, clad in all the colors of the rainbow, bore in their midst a pyramid of silver dishes wreathed with flowers, and overflowing with strawberries and early fruits. It was a revival of the old May-day ceremonies in London, when the milkmaids wreathed their buckets with flowers, and passed from door to door, singing and asking presents. Jacques had arranged it all—the philosophic and antiquarian Jacques; and with equal taste he had selected the beautiful verses of Marlow or Shakspeare, for the chorus of maidens.
The maidens approached the company, therefore, merrily singing, in their childlike voices, the song:
"Come live with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove That valleys, groves, or hills, or fields, Or woods and steepy mountains yields;
"Where we will sit upon the rocks And see the shepherds feed our flocks, By shallow rivers, to whose falls Melodious birds sing madrigals.
"And I will make thee beds of roses, And then a thousand fragrant posies; A cap of flowers, and a kirtle, Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
"A gown made of the finest wool, Which from our pretty lambs we pull; Slippers lined choicely for the cold, With buckles of the purest gold;
"A belt of straw and ivy buds, With coral clasps and amber studs: And if these pleasures may thee move, Come live with me and be my love."
As the song ended, little Martha came forth from the throng, and holding in her hand a small crook, went round with a very laughing face asking charity from the applauding company.
"Only a penny, sir!" she said, motioning back a pistole which Mr. Jack Denis held out gaily.
And then—the collection ended—the young girls of the masquerade hurried back to rid themselves of their pyramid.
Mr. Jack Denis and Miss Lucy Mowbray, who had just arrived with her brother, bent their steps toward the grove, through which ran a purling stream; and thither they were followed after a little by Miss Martha Wayles and her admirer, Bathurst. We cannot follow them and listen to their conversation—that would be indecorous. But we may be permitted to say that two young ladies—one very young—on that morning plighted their troth to two young gentlemen—one very young. And if they blushed somewhat upon returning, it was an honest blush, which the present chronicler for one will not laugh at.
In the garden all by this time was joyous and wild merriment. The young ladies were running here and there; servants were preparing in a flowery retreat a long table full of fruits and every delicacy; and merriest of all, Miss Philippa was scattering on every side her joyous and contagious laughter.
Suddenly this laughter of the young lady ceased, and she colored slightly.
She saw Mowbray looking at her with a glance of so much love, that she could not support his gaze.
In a moment he was at her side. "Will you not walk with me?" she said, without waiting for him to address her; and in a moment her arm was in his own, and they were strolling away. They went toward a noble old oak, in the branches of which was fixed a platform, and this platform was approached by a movable sort of ladder. The leaves around the platform were so dense that it was impossible to see any one who might be sitting within.
As Mowbray and Philippa approached, the ladder was seen suddenly to move, a little exclamation was heard, and the next moment the movable steps rose erect, balanced themselves for an instant, and fell to the ground, cutting off all connection between the platform and the ground.
At the same moment a triumphant voice muttered:
"Now let me see them interrupt me!"
Mowbray and Philippa did not hear it; they passed on, silent and embarrassed.
Philippa, it was evident, had something to say, and scarcely knew how to begin; she hesitated, laughed, blushed, and patted the ground petulantly with her little foot. At last she said, with a smile and a blush:
"I asked you to offer me your arm for an especial purpose. Can you guess what that purpose was?"
Mowbray smiled, and replied:
"I am afraid not."
"I wished to tell you a tale."
"A history, if you please; and as you are a thinker, and an impartial one, to ask your opinion."
"I am sure you do me a great deal of honor," said Mowbray, smiling with happiness; "I listen."
Philippa cast down her eyes, patted the ground more violently than before with her silken-sandalled foot, and biting her lip, was silent.
Mowbray looked at her, and saw the blush upon her cheek. She raised her head—their eyes met; and the blush deepened.
"Do not look at me," she said, turning away her head and bursting into a constrained laugh; "I never could bear to have any one look at me."
"It is a very severe request, but I will obey you," he said, smiling; "now for your history."
"It will surprise you, I suppose," she said, with her daring laugh again; "but listen. Do not interrupt me. Well, sir, once upon a time—you see I begin in true tale fashion—once upon a time, there was a young girl who had the misfortune to be very rich. She had been left an orphan at an early age, and never knew the love and tenderness of parents. Well, sir, as was very natural, this young woman, with all her wealth, experienced one want—but that was a great one—the necessity of having some one to love her. I will be brief, sir—let me go on uninterruptedly. One day this young woman saw pass before her a man whose eyes and words proved that he had some affection for her—enough that it was afterwards shown that she was not mistaken. At the time, however, she doubted his affection. Her unhappy wealth had made her suspicious, and she experienced a sort of horror of giving her heart to some one who loved her wealth and not herself. Let me go on, sir! I must not be interrupted! Well, she doubted this gentleman; and one day said to him what she afterwards bitterly regretted. She determined to charge him with mercenary intentions, and watch his looks and listen to his words, and test him. He listened, replied coldly, and departed, leaving her nearly heart-broken, for his nature was not one which any woman could despise."
Mowbray looked at her strangely. She went on.
"She watched for him day after day—he did not come. She was angry, and yet troubled; she doubted, and yet tried to justify herself. But even when he left her, she had conceived a mad scheme—it was to go and become his companion, and so test him. This she did, assuming the dress of a man: was it not very indelicate, sir, and could she have been a lady? I see you start—but do not interrupt me. Let me go on. The young woman assumed, as I said, an impenetrable disguise—ingratiated herself with him, and found out all his secrets. The precious secret which she had thus braved conventionality to discover, was her own. He loved her—yes! he loved her!" said the young girl, with a tremor of the voice and a beating heart; "she could not be mistaken! In moments of unreserve, of confidence, he told her all, as one friend tells another, and she knew that she was loved. Then she threw off her disguise—finding him noble and sincere—and came to him and told him all. She saw that he was incredulous—could not realize such indelicacies in the woman he loved; and to make her humiliation complete, she proved to him, by producing a trifle he had given her, in her disguise—like this, sir."
And Philippa with a trembling hand drew forth the fringed gloves which she had procured from Mowbray at the Indian Camp. They fell from her outstretched hand—it shook.
Mowbray was pale, and his eyes were full of wonder.
"Before leaving him, this audacious young girl was more than once convinced that the wild and unworthy freak she had undertaken to play, would lower her in his estimation; but she did not draw back. Her training had been bad; she enjoyed her liberty. Not until she had resumed the dress of her sex, did she awake to the consciousness of the great social transgression she had been guilty of. She then went to him and told him all, and stopped him when he tried to speak—do not speak, sir!—and bade him read the words she had written him, as she left him——"
Mowbray, with an unconscious movement, took from his pocket the letter left by Hoffland in the post-office, on the morning of the ball.
Philippa took it from his hand and opened it.
These words were all it contained; and the young girl pointing to them, dropped the letter and burst into a flood of passionate tears. Her impulsive nature had fairly spent itself, and but for the circling arm of Mowbray she would have fallen.
In a moment her head was on his bosom—she was weeping passionately; and Mowbray forgot all, and only saw the woman whom he loved.
Need we say that he did not utter one word of comment on her narrative? Poor Mowbray! he was no statue, and the hand which she had promised him laughingly on that morning, now lay in his own; the proud and haughty girl was conquered by a power far stronger than her pride; and over them the merry blossoms showered, the orioles sang, and Nature laughed to see her perfect triumph.
When Philippa returned to the company she was very silent, and blushed deeply, holding to her face the handkerchief which Hoffland had picked up. But no one noticed her; all was in confusion.
Where was Belle-bouche? That was the question, and a hundred voices asked it. She had disappeared; and Jacques too was nowhere to be seen. The banquet was ready; where was the hostess?
It was in the middle of all this uproar that a voice was heard from the great oak, and looking up, the laughing throng perceived the radiant face of Jacques framed among the leaves, and looking on them.
"My friends," said Jacques, "the matter is very simple—be good enough to raise those steps."
And the cavalier pointed to the prostrate ladder.
With a burst of laughter, the steps were raised and placed against the oak. And then Jacques was observed to place his foot upon them, leading by the hand—Belle-bouche.
Belle-bouche was blushing much more deeply than Philippa; and Jacques was the picture of happiness. Is it too much to suppose that he had this time stolen a march on the inimical fates, and forced Belle-bouche to answer him? Is it extravagant to fancy that her reply was not, No?
And so they descended, and the company, laughing at the mishap, hastened toward the flower and fruit decorated table, and the banquet inaugurated itself joyously.
And in the midst of all, who should make his appearance but—the gallant Sir Asinus! Sir Asinus, no longer intending for Europe, but satisfied with Virginia; no longer woful, but in passable good spirits; no longer melancholy, but surveying those around him with affectionate regard.
And see him, in the midst of laughter and applause, mount on the end of a barrel which had held innumerable cakes, holding a paper in his hand, and calling for attention.
"Whereas," reads Sir Asinus, "the undersigned has heretofore at different times expressed opinions of his Majesty, and of the Established Church, and of the noble aristocracy of England and Virginia, derogatory to the character of the said Majesty, and so forth;—also, whereas, he has unjustly slandered the noble and sublime College of William and Mary, so called from their gracious majesties, deceased;—and whereas, the said opinions have caused great personal inconvenience to the undersigned, and whereas he is tired of martyrdom and exile: Therefore, be it hereby promulgated, that the undersigned doth here and now publicly declare himself ashamed of the said opinions, and doth abjure them: And doth declare his Majesty George III. the greatest of kings since Dionysius of Syracuse and Nero; and his great measure, the Stamp Act, the noblest legislation since the edict of Nantz. And further, the undersigned doth uphold the great Established Church, and revere its ministers, so justly celebrated for their piety and card-playing, their proficiency in theology, and their familiarity with that great religious epic of the Reformation, 'Reynard the Fox'—the study of which they pursue even on horseback. And lastly, the said undersigned doth honor the great college of Virginia, and revere the aristocracy, and respect entails, and spurn the common classes as becomes a gentleman and honest citizen; and in all other things doth conform himself to established rules, being convinced that whatever is, is right: and to the same hath set his hand, this twentieth day of May, in the year 1764."
Having finished which, Sir Asinus casts a melancholy glance upon little Martha, and adds:
"Now, my friends, let us proceed to enjoy the material comforts. Let us begin to eat, my friends."
And sitting down upon the barrel, the knight seizes a goblet and raises it aloft, and drinks to all the crowd.
And all the crowd do likewise, laughing merrily; and over them the blossoms shower with every odorous breeze; and with the breeze mingles a voice which whispers in a maiden's ear:
"Arcadia at last!"
Perhaps a few veritable extracts from the published correspondence of him whom, following a habit of his own, we have called Sir Asinus, may show the origin of some allusions in our chronicle. These short selections are arranged of course to suit the purpose of the narrative. Beginning with the "rats," we very appropriately end with a marriage—as in the case of that gentleman who was "led such a life" by the rats, that "he had to go to London to get himself a wife."
... "This very day, to others the day of greatest mirth and jollity, sees me overwhelmed with more and greater misfortunes than have befallen a descendant of Adam for these thousand years past, I am sure. I am now in a house surrounded with enemies who take counsel together against my soul, and when I lay me down to rest, they say among themselves, Come, let us destroy him. I am sure if there is such a thing as a devil in this world, he must have been here last night, and have had some hand in contriving what happened to me. Do you think the cursed rats (at his instigation, I suppose) did not eat up my pocket-book, which was in my pocket, within a foot of my head? And not contented with plenty for the present, they carried away my jemmy-worked silk garters, and half a dozen new minuets I had just got, to serve, I suppose, as provision for the winter. But of this I should not have accused the devil, (because you know rats will be rats, and hunger, without the addition of his instigations, might have urged them to do this,) if something worse, and from a different quarter, had not happened. You know it rained last night, or if you do not know it, I am sure I do. When I went to bed I laid my watch in the usual place, and going to take her up after I arose this morning, I found her in the same place, 'tis true, but, quantum mutatus ab illo! afloat in water, let in at a leak in the roof of the house, and as silent and still as the rats that had eat my pocket-book. Now you know if chance had had any thing to do in this matter, there were a thousand other spots where it might have chanced to leak as well as this one, which was perpendicularly over my watch. But I'll tell you, it's my opinion that the devil came and bored the hole over it on purpose. Well, as I was saying, my poor watch had lost her speech. I should not have cared much for this, but something worse attended it; the subtle particles of the water with which the case was filled, had by their penetration so overcome the cohesion of the particles of paper, of which my dear picture and watch-paper were composed, that in attempting to take them out to dry them, my cursed fingers gave them such a rent as I fear I never shall get over! Multis fortunae vulneribus percussus, huic uni me imparem sensi, et penitus succubui. I would have cried bitterly, but I thought it beneath the dignity of a man, and a man too who had read [Greek: ton onton, ta men eph' hemin ta douk eph' hemin]. I do wish the devil had old Coke, for I am sure I never was so tired of an old dull scoundrel in my life. The old fellows say we must read to gain knowledge, and gain knowledge to make us happy and be admired. Mere jargon! Is there any such thing as happiness in this world? No. And as for admiration, I am sure the man who powders most, perfumes most, embroiders most, and talks most nonsense, is most admired."
... "This letter will be conveyed to you by the assistance of our friend Warner Lewis. Poor fellow! never did I see one more sincerely captivated in my life. He walked to the Indian Camp with her yesterday, by which means he had an opportunity of giving her two or three love-squeezes by the hand; and like a true Arcadian swain, has been so enraptured ever since that he is company for no one."
... "Last night, as merry as agreeable company and dancing with Belinda in the Apollo could make me, I never could have thought the succeeding sun would have seen me so wretched as I now am! Affairs at W. and M. are in the greatest confusion. Walker, McClury, and Wat Jones are expelled pro tempore, or as Horrox softens it, rusticated for a month. Lewis Burwell, Warner Lewis, and one Thompson have fled to escape flagellation."
... "I wish I had followed your example and wrote in Latin, and that I had called my dear, Campana in die, instead of [Greek: adnileb]."—("The lady here alluded to is manifestly the Miss Rebecca Burwell mentioned in his first letter; but what suggested the quaint designation of her is not so obvious. In the first of them, Belinda, translated into dog Latin, which was there as elsewhere one of the facetiae of young collegians, became Campana in die, that is, bell in day. In the second, the name is reversed, and becomes Adnileb, which for farther security is written in Greek characters, and the lady spoken of in the masculine gender."—Note of Editor.)
... "When you see Patsy Dandridge, tell her, 'God bless her.' I do not like the ups and downs of a country life: to-day you are frolicking with a fine girl, and to-morrow you are moping by yourself. Thank God! I shall shortly be where my happiness will be less interrupted. I shall salute all the girls below in your name, particularly S——y P——r. Dear Will, I have thought of the cleverest plan of life that can be imagined. You exchange your land for Edgehill, or I mine for Fairfields; you marry S——y P——r, I marry R——a B——l, join and get a pole chair and a pair of keen horses, practise the law in the same courts, and drive about to all the dances in the country together. How do you like it? Well, I am sorry you are at such a distance I cannot hear your answer; however, you must let me know it by the first opportunity, and all the other news in the world which you imagine will affect me."
... "With regard to the scheme which I proposed to you some time since, I am sorry to tell you it is totally frustrated by Miss R. B.'s marriage with Jacquelin Ambler, which the people here tell me they daily expect. Well, the Lord bless her! I say: but S——y P——r is still left for you. I have given her a description of the gentleman who, as I told her, intended to make her an offer of his hand, and asked whether or not he might expect it would be accepted. She would not determine till she saw him or his picture. Now, Will, as you are a piece of a limner, I desire that you will seat yourself immediately before your looking-glass and draw such a picture of yourself as you think proper; and if it should be defective, blame yourself. (Mind that I mentioned no name to her.) You say you are determined to be married as soon as possible, and advise me to do the same. No, thank ye; I will consider of it first. Many and great are the comforts of a single state, and neither of the reasons you urge can have any influence with an inhabitant, and a young inhabitant too, of Williamsburg. Who told you that I reported you was courting Miss Dandridge and Miss Dangerfield? It might be worth your while to ask whether they were in earnest or not. So far was I from it, that I frequently bantered Miss J——y T——o about you, and told her how feelingly you spoke of her. There is scarcely any thing now going on here. You have heard, I suppose, that J. Page is courting Fanny Burwell. W. Bland and Betsy Yates are to be married Thursday se'nnight. The Secretary's son is expected in shortly. Willis has left town entirely, so that your commands to him cannot be executed immediately; but those to the ladies I shall do myself the pleasure of delivering to-morrow night at the ball. Tom Randolph of Tuckahoe has a suit of Mecklenburg silk which he offered me for a suit of broadcloth."
... "I have not a syllable to write to you about. Would you that I should write nothing but truth? I tell you I know nothing that is true. Or would you rather that I should write you a pack of lies? Why, unless they were more ingenious than I am able to invent, they would furnish you with little amusement. What can I do then? Nothing, but ask you the news in your world. How have you done since I saw you? How did Nancy look at you when you danced with her at Southall's? Have you any glimmering of hope? How does R. B. do? Had I better stay here and do nothing, or go down and do less? or in other words, had I better stay here while I am here, or go down that I may have the pleasure of sailing up the river again in a full-rigged flat? You must know that as soon as the Rebecca (the name I intend to give the vessel above mentioned) is completely finished, I intend to hoist sail and away. I shall visit particularly, England, Holland, France, Spain, Italy, (where I would buy me a good fiddle,) and Egypt, and return through the British provinces to the northward, home. This, to be sure, would take us two or three years, and if we should not both be cured of love in that time, I think the devil would be in it.
Many of these letters are written from "Devilsburg," which was the college name for the metropolitan city in the days of yore. The reader is referred to the first volume of Mr. Tucker's Life of Jefferson.
We shall make but one addition to our chronicle of those former personages and their boyish pranks, and that shall be a quotation:
"On the 1st of January, 1772, I was married to Martha Skelton, widow of Bathurst Skelton, and daughter of John Wayles, then twenty-three years old."
See his memoir of himself.