HotFreeBooks.com
The Potiphar Papers
by George William Curtis
Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse

"There is nothing autumnal here."

"Mrs. Potiphar thanked him with real delight, and he turned toward Mrs. Gnu, at whom he had been constantly looking, and who was playing placidly with her bouquet, and said with an air of one paying a great compliment:

"To offer you a bouquet, madame, would be to throw pearls before swine."

We were all silent for a moment, and then the young men sprang up together, while we women laughed, half afraid.

"Good heavens! Kurz Pacha, what do you mean?" cried Mrs. Potiphar.

"Mean?" answered he, evidently confused, and blushing; "why, I'm afraid I have made some mistake. I meant to say something very polite, but my English sometimes gives way."

"Your impudence never does," muttered Mrs. Gnu, who was unbecomingly red in the face.

"My dear madame," said the minister to her, "I assure you I meant only to use a proverb in a complimentary way; but somehow I have got the wrong pig by the ear."

There was another burst of laughter. The young men fairly lay down and screamed. Mr. Potiphar exploded in great ha ha's and ho ho's, from the end of the table.

"Mrs. Potiphar," said Mrs. Gnu, with dignity, "I didn't suppose I was to be insulted at your table."

And she went toward the door.

"Mrs. Gnu, Mrs. Gnu," said Polly, smothering her laughter as well as she could, "don't go. Kurz Pacha will explain. I'm sure he means no insult."

Here she burst out laughing again; while the poor Sennaar Ambassador stood erect, and utterly confounded by what was going on.

"I'm sure—I didn't know—I didn't—I wouldn't—Mrs. Gnu knows;" said he, in the greatest embarrassment. "I beg your pardon sincerely, madame." And he looked so humble and repentant that I was really sorry for him; but I saw Mr. Firkin laughing afresh every time he looked at the Ambassador, as if he saw something sly behind his penitence.

"Perhaps," said Firkin at last, "Kurz Pacha means to say that to offer flowers to a lady who has already so beautiful a bouquet, would be to carry coals to Newcastle."

"That is it," cried the Pacha; "to Newcastle,"—and he bowed to Mrs. Gnu.

"Come, Mrs. Gnu, it's only a mistake," said Mrs. Potiphar.

But Mrs. Gnu looked rather angry still, although Gauche Boosey tried very hard to console her, saying as many bon mots as he could think of—and you know how witty he is. He said at last;

"Why is Mrs. Gnu like Rachel?"

"Rachel who?" asked I.

I'm sure it was an innocent question; but they all fell to laughing again, and Mr. Firkin positively cried with fun.

"D'ye give it up?" asked Mr. Boosey.

"Yes," said Mrs. Potiphar.

"Why, because she will not be comforted."

There wasn't half so much laughing at this as at my question—although Mrs. Potiphar said it was capital, and I thought so too, when I found out who Rachel was.

But Mrs. Gnu continued to be like Rachel, and Mr. Boosey continued to try to amuse her. I think it was very hard she wouldn't be amused by such a funny man; and he said at last aloud to her, meaning all of us to hear:

"Well, Mrs. Gnu, upon my honor, it is no epicure to try to console you."

She did laugh at this, however, and so did the others.

"Have you ever been in Sennaar, Mr. Boosey?" said Kurz Pacha.

"No; why?"

"Why, I thought we might have learned English at the same school."

Mr. Boosey looked puzzled; but Mr. Potiphar broke in:

"Well, Mrs. Gnu, I'm glad to see you smile at last. After all, the remark of the Ambassador's was only what they would call in France, 'a perfect bougie of a joke.'"

"Good evening, Mrs. Potiphar," cried the Sennaar Minister, rising suddenly, and running toward the door. We heard him next under the window going off in great shouts of laughter, and whistling in the intervals, "Hail Columbia!" What shocking habits he has for a minister! I don't know how it was that Mr. Potiphar was in such good humor; but he promised his wife that she should go to Paris, and that she might select her party. So she invited us all who were at the table. Mrs. Gnu declined: but I knew mamma would let me go with the Potiphars.

"Dear Pot.," said Mrs. P., "we shall be gone so short a time, and shall be so busy, and hurrying from one place to another, that we had better leave little Freddy behind. Poor, dear little fellow, it will be much better for him to stay."

Mr. P. looked a little sober at this; but he said nothing except to ask:

"Shall you all be ready to sail in a fortnight?"

"Certainly, in a week," we all answered.

"Well, then, we must hurry home to prepare," said he. "I shall write for state-rooms for us in Monday's boat, Polly."

"Very well; that's a dear Pot.," said she; and as we all rose she went up to him, and took his arm tenderly. It was an unusual sight: I never saw her do it before. Mrs. Gnu said to me:

"Well, really, that's rather peculiar. I think people had better make love in private."

"No, by Jove," whispered Mr. Boosey to me; and I am afraid he had drank freely, as I have once or twice before heard that he did; but the world is such a gossip!—no, she doesn't let her good works of that kind shine before men."

"Why, Mr. Boosey," said I, "how can you?"

"Will you believe, darling Mrs. Downe, that instead of answering, he sort of winked at me, and said, under his voice, 'Good night, Caroline.' I drew myself up, you may depend, and said coldly:

"Good evening, Mr. Boosey."

He drew himself up too, and said:

"I called you Caroline, you called me Mr. Boosey."

And then looking straight and severely at me, he actually winked again.

Then of course, I knew he was not responsible for his actions.

Ah me, what things we are! Just as I was leaving the room with Mrs. Gnu, who had matronized me, Mr. Boosey came up with such a soft, pleading look in his eyes that seemed to say, "please forgive me," and put out his hand so humbly, and appeared so sorry and so afraid that I would not speak to him, that I really pitied him: but when, in his low, rich voice, he said:

"Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered!"—

I couldn't hold out; wasn't it pretty? So I put out my hand, and he shook it tenderly, and said "tomorrow" in a way—well, dear Mrs. Downe, I will be frank with you—that made me happy all night.

At this rate I shall never get to Paris. But the next day it was known everywhere we were going and everybody congratulated us. Our party met at the Bowling Alley, and we began to make all kinds of plans.

"Oh! we'll take care of all the arrangements," said Mr. Boosey, nodding toward Mr. Croesus and Mr. Firkin.

"Mr. Boosey, were you presented to the Emperor?" inquired Kurz Pacha.

"Certainly I was," replied he; "I have a great respect for Louis Napoleon. Those Frenchmen didn't know what they wanted; but he knew well enough what he wanted: they didn't want him, perhaps, but he did want them, and now he has them. A true nephew of his uncle, Kurz Pacha; and you can see what a man the great Napoleon must have been, when the little Napoleon succeeds so well upon the strength of the name."

"Why, you are really enthusiastic about the Emperors," said the Ambassador.

"Certainly," replied Mr. Boosey, "I have always been a great Neapolitan."

Kurz Pacha stared at him a moment, and then took a large pinch of snuff solemnly. I think it's very ill bred to stare as he does sometimes, when somebody has made a remark. I saw nothing particular in that speech of Mr. Boosey's; and yet D'Orsay Firkin smiled to himself as he told Mrs. Gnu it was her turn.

"I wonder, my dear Mrs. Potiphar," said the Sennaar Minister seating himself by her side, as the game went on, "that Europeans should have so poor an idea of America and Americans, when such crowds of the very best society are constantly crossing the ocean. Now, you and your friends are going to Paris, perhaps to other parts of Europe, and I should certainly suppose that, without flattery, (taking another pinch of snuff,) the foreigners whom you meet might get rid of some of their prejudices against the Americans. You will go, you know, as the representatives of a republic where social ranks are not organized to the exclusion of any; but where talent and character always secure social consideration. The simplicity of the republican idea and system will appear in your manners and modes of life. Leaving to the children of a society based upon antique and aristocratic principles, to squander their lives in an aimless luxury, you will carry about with you, as it were the fresh airs and virgin character of a new country and civilization. When you go to Paris, it will be like a sweet country breeze blowing into a perfumer's shop. The customers will scent something finer than the most exquisite essence, and will prefer the fresh fragrance of the flower to the most elaborate distillation. Roses smell sweeter than attar of roses. You and your party, estimable lady, will be the roses. You will not (am I right this time?) carry coals to Newcastle; for if any of your companions think that the sharp eye of Paris will not pierce their pretensions, or the satiric tongue of Paris fail to immortalize it, they mistake greatly. You cannot beat Paris with its own weapons; and Paris will immensely respect you if you use your own. Poor little Mrs. Vite thinks she passes for a Parisienne in Paris. Why, there is not a chiffonier in the street at midnight that couldn't see straight through the little woman, and nothing would better please the Jardin Mabille than to have her for a butt. My dear madame, the ape is a very ingenious animal, and his form much resembles the human. Moles, probably, and the inhabitants of the planet Jupiter, do not discern the difference; but I rather think we do. A ten-strike by Venus! well done, Mrs. Gnu," cried the Ambassador; "now, Mrs. Potiphar."

The Pacha didn't play; but he asked Mr. Firkin what was a good average for a man, in the game.

"Well, a spare every time," said he.

"Mr. Firkin," asked Mrs. Gnu, "what is a good woman's average?"

"Does any lady here know that?" inquired the Pacha, looking round.

"No," said Mr. Boosey; "we must send and inquire of Miss Tattle." "How pleasantly the game goes on, dear Mrs. Gnu," said the Pacha; "but Miss Minerva ought to be here, she always holds such a good hand at every game."

"I think," said Mrs. Gnu, "that if she once got a good hold of any hand, she wouldn't let it go immediately."

"Good!" shouted Mr. Boosey.

"Hi! hi!" roared Mr. Potiphar.

The Pacha took snuff placidly, and said quietly:

"You've fairly trumped my trick, and taken it, Mrs. Gnu."

"I should say the trick has taken her," whispered Mr. Firkin at my elbow to Kurz Pacha.

The Sennaar Ambassador opened his eyes wide, and offered Mr. Firkin his snuff-box.

Monday came at length. It was well known that we were all going—the Potiphars and the rest of us. Everybody had spoken of the difficulty of getting state-rooms on the steamer to town, and hoped we had spoken in time.

"I have written and secured my rooms," said Mr. Potiphar to everybody he met; "I am not to be left in the lurch, my dear sir, it isn't my way." And then he marched on, Gauche Boosey said, as if at least both sides of the street were his way. He's changed a great deal lately.

The De Familles were going the same day. "Hope you've secured rooms, De Famille," said Mr. Potiphar blandly to him.

"No," answered he, shortly; "no, not yet; it isn't my way; I don't mean to give myself trouble about things; I don't bother; it isn't my way."

And each went his own way up and down the street. But early on Monday afternoon Mr. De Famille and his family drove toward Fall Kiver, from which place the boat starts.

Monday evening the Potiphars and the rest of us went to the wharf at Newport, and presently the boat came up. We bundled on board, and as soon as he could get to the office Mr. Potiphar asked for the keys of his rooms.

"Why, sir," said the clerk, "Mr. De Famille has them. He came on board at Fall Eiver and asked for your keys, as if the rooms had been secured for him."

"What does that mean?" demanded Mr. Potiphar.

"Oh! ah! I remember now," said Mr. Boosey. "I saw the De Familles all getting into a carriage for a little drive, as Mr. De F., said, about two o'clock this afternoon."

Mr. Potiphar looked like a thunder-storm. "What the devil does it mean?" asked he of the clerk, while the passengers hustled him, and punched him, and the hook of an umbrella-stick caught in his cravat-knot, and untied it.

"Send up immediately, and say that Mr. Potiphar wants his state-rooms," said he to the clerk.

In a few minutes the messenger returned and said—

"Mr. De Famille's compliments to Mr. Potiphar. Mr. De Famille and his family have retired for the night, but upon arriving in the morning he will explain everything to Mr. Potiphar's satisfaction.

"Jolly!" whispered Mr. Boosey, rubbing his hands, to Mr. Firkin, on whose arm I was leaning.

"Are you fond of the Italian opera, Mr. Potiphar?" inquired Kurz Pacha, blandly, Mrs. P. sat down upon a settee and looked at nothing.

"O Patience! do verify the quotation and smile," said the Ambassador to her.

"It's a mean swindle," said Mr. Potiphar. "I'll have satisfaction. I'll go break open the door," and he started.

"My dear, don't be in a passion," said Mrs. Potiphar, "and don't be a fool. Remember that the De Familles are not people to be insulted. It won't do to quarrel with the De Familles."

"Splendid!" ejaculated Kurz Pacha.

"I've no doubt he'll explain it all in the morning," continued Mrs. Potiphar, "there's some mistake; why not be cool about it? Besides, Mr. De Famille is an elderly gentleman and requires his rest. I do think you're positively unchristian, Mr. Potiphar. The idea of insulting the De Familles!"

And Mrs. Potiphar patted her little feet upon the floor in front of the ladies' cabin, where we were all collected.

"Where are you going to sleep?" asked Mr. Potiphar mildly.

"I'm sure I don't know," answered she.

We had an awful night. It was worse than any night at sea. Mrs. P. was propped up in one corner of a settee and I in the other, and when I was fixed comfortably there would come a great sea, and the boat would lurch, and I had to disarrange my position. It was horrid. But Mr. Potiphar was very good all night. He kept coming to see if Polly wanted anything, and if she were warm enough, and if she were well. Gauche Boosey, who was on the floor in the saloon, said he saw Mr. P. crawl up softly and try his state-room door. But it was locked, "and the snoring of old De Famille, who was enjoying his required rest," said he, "came in regular broadsides through the blinds."

I don't know how Mr. De Famille explained. I only know Mrs. P. charged old Pot. to be satisfied with anything.

"There are some people, my darling Caroline," she said to me, "with whom it does not do to quarrel. It isn't christian to quarrel. I can't afford to be on bad terms with the De Familles."

"It is odd, isn't it," said Kurz Pacha to Mrs. P., as we were sailing down the harbor on our way to Europe, and talking of the circumstance of the state-rooms, "it is so odd, that in Sennaar, where to be sure, civilization has scarcely a foothold—I mean such civilization as you enjoy—this proceeding would have been called dishonest! They do have the oddest use of terms in Sennaar! Why, I remember that I once bought a sheep, and as it was coming to my fold in charge of my shepherd, a man in a mask came out of a wood and walked away with the sheep, and appropriated the mutton-chops to his own family uses. And those singular people in Sennaar called it stealing. Shall I ever get through laughing at them when I return! There ought to be missionaries sent to Sennaar. Do you think the Rev. Cream Cheese would go? How gracefully he would say: 'Benighted brethren, in my country when a man buys a sheep or a state-room, and pays money for it, and another man appropriates it, depriving the rightful buyer of his chops and sheep, what does the buyer do? Does he swear? Does he rail? Does he complain? Does he even ask for the cold pickings? Not at all, brethren; he does none of these things. He sends Worcestershire sauce to the thief, or a pillow of poppies, and says to him, Friend, all of mine is thine, and all of thine is thine own. This, benighted people of Sennaar, is the practice of a Christian people. As one of our great poets says, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' Think how delicately the Rev. Cream would pat his mouth with the fine cambric handkerchief, after rounding off such a homily! He might ask you and Mrs. Potiphar to accompany him as examples of this Christian pitch of self-sacrifice. On the whole, I wouldn't advise you to go. The rude races of Sennaar, might put that beautiful forgiveness of yours to extraordinary proofs. Holloa! there's a sea!"

We were dismally sea-sick. And I cared for nothing but arriving. Oh! dear, I think I would even have given up Paris, at least I thought so. But, oh! how could I think so! Just fancy a place where not only your own maid speaks French, but where everybody, the porters, the coachmen, the chambermaids, can't speak anything else! Where the very beggars beg, and the commonest people swear, in French! Oh! it's inexpressibly delightful. Why, the dogs understand it, and the horses—"everybody," as Kurz Pacha said to me, the morning after our arrival (for he insisted upon coming, "it was such a freak," he said,) "everybody rolls in a luxury of French, and, according to the boarding-school standard, is happy."

Everybody—but poor Mr. Potiphar!

He has a terrible time of it.

When we arrived we alighted at Meurice's,—all the fashionable people do; at least Gauche Boosey said Lord Brougham did, for he used to read it in Galignani and I suppose it is fashionable to do as Lord Brougham does. D'Orsay Firkin said that the Hotel Bristol was more recherche.

"Does that mean cheaper?" inquired Mr. Potiphar.

Mr. Firkin looked at him compassionately.

"I only want," said Mr. Potiphar, in a kind of gasping way, for it was in the cars on the way from Boulogne to Paris that we held this consultation—"I only want to go where there is somebody who can speak English."

"My dear sir, there are Commissionaires at all the hotels who are perfect linguists," said Mr. Firkin in a gentlemanly manner.

"Oh! dear me!" said Mr. P. wiping his forehead with the red bandanna that he always carries, despite Mrs. P., "what is a commissionaire?"

"An interpreter, a cicerone," said Mr. Firkin.

"A guide, philosopher, and friend," said Kurz Pacha.

"Kurz Pacha, do you speak French?" inquired Mr. P. nervously, as we rolled along.

"Oh! yes," replied he.

"Oh! dear me!" said Mr. Potiphar, looking disconsolately out of the window.

We arrived soon after.

"We are now at the Barriere" said Mr. Firkin.

"What do we do there?" asked Mr. Potiphar.

"We are inspected," said Mr. Firkin.

Mr. Potiphar drew himself up with a military air.

We alighted and walked into the room where all the baggage was arranged.

"Est-ce qu'il y a quelque chose a declarer?" asked an officer, addressing Mr. Potiphar.

"Good heavens! what did you say?" said Mr. P., looking at him.

The officer smiled, and Kurz Pacha said something, upon which he bowed and passed on. We stepped outside upon the pavement, and I confess that even I could not understand everything that was said by the crowd and the coachmen. But Kurz Pacha led the way to a carriage, and we drove off to Meurice's.

"It's awful, isn't it?" said Mr. Potiphar, panting.

When we reached the hotel, a gentleman (Mr. Potiphar said he was sure he was a gentleman, from a remark he made—in English) came bowing out. But before the door of the carriage was opened, Mr. P. thrust his head out of the window, and holding the door shut, cried out, "Do you speak English here?"

"Certainly, sir," replied the clerk; and that was the remark that so pleased Mr. Potiphar.

My room was next to the Potiphars, and I heard a great deal, you may be sure. I didn't mean to, but I couldn't help it. The next morning, when they were about coming down, I heard Polly say—

"Now, Mr. Potiphar, remember, if you want to speak of your room it is numero quatre-vingt cinq" and she pronounced it very slowly. "Now try, Mr. P."

"Oh! dear me. Kattery vang sank," said he.

"Very good," answered she; "au troisieme; that means, on the third floor. Now try."

"O tror—Otrorsy—O trorsy—Oh! dear me!" muttered he in a tone of despair.

"eme," said Mrs. P.

"Aim," said he.

"Well?" said Mrs. P.

"O trorsyaim," said he.

"That's very well, indeed!" said Mrs. Potiphar, and they went out of the room. I joined them in the hall, and we ran on before Mr. P., but we soon heard some one speaking, and stopped.

"Monsieur, veut il prendre un commissionaire?"

"Kattery—vang—sank," replied Mr. Potiphar, with great emphasis.

"Comment?" said the other.

"O tror—O tror—Oh! Polly—seeaim—seeaim!" returned Mr. P.

"You speak English," said the commissionaire.

"Why! good God! do you?" asked Mr. P., with astonishment.

"I speaks every languages, sare," replied the other, "and we will use the English, if you please. But Monsieur speaks tres bien the French language."

"Are you speaking English now?" asked Mr. Potiphar.

The commissionaire answered him that he was,—and Mr. P. thrust his arm through that of the commissionaire and said—

"My dear sir, if you are disengaged I should be very glad if you would accompany me in my walks through the town."

"Mr. Potiphar!" said Polly, "come!"

"Coming, my dear," answered he, as he approached with the commissionaire. It was in vain that Mrs. P. winked and frowned. Her husband would not take hints. So taking his other arm, and wishing the commissionaire good morning, she tried to draw him away. But he clung to his companion and said,

"Polly, this gentleman speaks English."

"Don't keep his arm," whispered she; "he is only a servant."

"Servant, indeed!" said he; "you should have heard him speak French, and you see how gentlemanly he is."

It was some time before Polly was able to make her husband comprehend the case.

"Ah!" said he, at length; "Oh! I understand."

All our first days were full of such little mistakes. Kurz Pacha come regularly to see us, and laughed more than I ever saw him laugh before. The young men were away a great deal, which was hardly kind. But they said they must call upon their old acquaintances; and Polly and I expected every day to be called upon by their lady friends.

"It's very odd that the friends of these young men don't call upon us," said Mrs. Potiphar to Kurz Pacha; "it would be only civil."

The Ambassador laughed a good deal to himself and then answered,

"But they are not visiting ladies."

"What do you mean," said she.

"Ask Mr. Firkin," replied he.

So when we saw them next, Mrs P. said,

"Mr. Firkin, I remember you used to tell me of the pleasant circles in which you visited in Paris, and how much superior French society is to American."

"Infinitely superior," replied Mr. Firkin.

"Much more spirituel," said Mr. Boosey.

"Well," said Mrs. Potiphar, "we are going to stay only a short time to be sure, but we should like very much to see a little good society."

"Ah!" said Mr. Firkin.

"Oh! yes, certainly," said Mr. Boosey; and the corners of his eyelids twitched.

"Perhaps you might suggest that you have some friends staying in town," said Mrs. P. "You know we're all intimate enough for that."

"Yes—oh yes," said Mr. Firkin, slowly; "but the truth is, it's a little awkward. These ladies are kind enough to receive us; but to ask favors of them, is, you see, different."

"Oh! yes," interrupted Mr. Boosey; "to ask favors of them is a very different thing," and his eyes really glistened.

"These are ladies, you see, dear Mrs. Potiphar," said Kurz Pacha, "who don't grant favors."

"But still," continued Mr. Firkin, "if you only wanted to see them, you know, and be able to say at home that you knew Madame la Marquise So-and-so, and Madame la Comtesse So-and-so, and describe their dresses, why, we can manage it well enough; for we are engaged to a little party at the opera this evening with the Countess de Papillon and Madame Casta Diva, two of the best known ladies in Paris. But they never visit."

"How superbly exclusive!" said Mrs. Potiphar; "I wonder how that would do at home! However, I should be glad to see the general air and the toilette, you know. If we were going to pass the whole winter I would know them of course. But things are different where you stay so short a time. Eh, Kurz Pacha?"

"Very different, Madame. But you are quite right. Make hay while the sun shines; use your eyes if you can't use your tongue. Eyes are great auxiliaries, you can use the tongue afterward. You've no idea how well you can talk about French society if you only go to the opera with a friend who knows people, and to your banker's soirees. If you chose to read a little of Balzac, beside, your knowledge will be complete."

So we agreed to go to the opera. We passed the days shopping, and driving in the Bois de Boulogne. Sometimes the young men went with us, and D'Orsay Firkin confided to me one of his adventures, which was very romantic. You know how handsome he is, and how excessively gentlemanly, and how the girls were all in love with him last winter at home. Now you needn't say that I was, for you know better. I liked him as a friend. But he told me that he had often seen a girl in one of the shops on the Boulevards watching him very closely. He never passed by, but she always saw him, and looked so earnestly at him, that at length he thought he would saunter carelessly into the shop, and ask for some trifle. The moment he entered she fixed her eyes full upon him, and he says they were large and lustrous, and a little mournful in expression. But he scarcely looked at her, and asked at the opposite counter for a pair of gloves. He tried them on, and in the mirror behind the counter he saw the girl still watching him. After lingering for some time, and looking at everything but the girl, he sauntered slowly out again while her eyes, he said, grew evidently more mournful as she saw him leave without looking at her. Daily, for a week afterwards, he walked by the door, and she was always watching and looking after him with the most eager interest. Mr. Firkin did not say he was sorry for the little French girl, but I know that he really felt so. These men, that every woman falls in love with, are generous, I have always found. And I am sure he would never have confided this little affair to me, except for the very intimate terms upon which we are; for I have heard him say (speaking of other men) that nothing was meaner than for a man to tell of his conquests.

Well, the affair went on, he says, for some days longer. He was, at the time, constantly in attendance upon the Countess de Papillon, but often from the window of her carriage he has remarked the young girl pensively watching him, as she stretched gloves, or tied cravats around the necks of customers. At length he determined to follow the matter up, as he called it, and so marched into the shop one day, and going straight toward the mournful eyes, he asked for a pair of gloves. Mr. Firkin says the French women are so perfectly trained to conceal their emotions, that she did not betray, by any trembling, or turning pale, or stammering, the profound interest she felt for him, but quietly looked in his eyes, and in what Mr. Firkin called "a strain of Siren sweetness," asked what number he wore. He replied with his French esprit, as Kurz Pacha calls it, that he thought the size of her hand was about right for him; upon which she smiled in the most bewitching manner, and bringing out a large box of gloves, selected a pair of an exquisite nuance, as the French say, you know, and asking him to put out his hand, she proceeded to fit the glove to it, herself. Mr. Firkin remarked, that as she did so, she would raise her eyes to his whenever she found it necessary to press his fingers harder than usual, and when he thought the glove was fairly on, she kept pulling it down, and smoothing it; and finally taking his hand between both of hers, she brought the glove together, buttoned it, and said, "Monsieur has such a delicate hand," and smiled sweetly. Mr. Firkin said he bought an astonishing number of gloves that morning, and suddenly remembered that he wanted cravats. Fortunately the new styles had just come in, Marie said (for he had discovered her name), and she opened a dazzling array of silks and satins, and asking him to remove his neckcloth, she wound her hand in a beautiful silk, and throwing her arms, for a little moment, quite around his neck, she tied it in front; her little hands sometimes hitting his chin. Then taking him by the hand she led him to a mirror, in which he might survey the effect, while she stood behind him looking into the mirror over his shoulder, her head really quite close to his, and, in her enthusiasm about the set of the cravat, having forgotten to take her hand out of his. He stood a great while before that mirror, trying to discover if it really was a becoming tie. He said he never found so much difficulty in deciding. But Marie decided everything for him, and laid aside piles of cravats, and gloves, and fancy buttons, and charms, until he was quite dizzy, and found that he hadn't money enough in his pocket to pay.

"It is nothing," said the trustful Marie, "Monsieur will call again." Touched by her confidence he has called several times since, and never escapes without paying fifty francs or so. Marie says the Messieurs Americains are princes. They never have smaller change than a Napoleon, and they are not only the most regal of customers but the most polite of gentlemen. Mr. Firkin says he has often seen Frenchmen watching him, as he stood in the shop, with the most quizzical expression, and once or twice he has thought he heard suppressed laughter from a group of the other girls and the French gentlemen. But it was a mistake, for when he turned, the Frenchmen had the politest expression, and the girls were very busy with the goods. Poor French gentlemen! how they must be annoyed to see foreigners carrying off not only all the gloves, but all the smiles, of the beautiful Maries. It is really pleasant to see Gauche Boosey and D'Orsay Firkin promenade on the Boulevards. They are more superbly dressed than anybody else. They have such coats, and trowsers, and waistcoats, and boots,—"always looking," says Kurz Pacha, "as if they came into a large fortune last evening, and were anxious to advertise the fact this morning." Even the boys in the streets turn to look at them.

Mr. Boosey always buys the pattern shirts, and woollen morning dresses, and fancy coats, that hang in the shop windows. "Then," he says, "I am sure of being at the height of the fashion." Mr. Firkin is more quiet. The true gentleman, he says, is known by the absence of everything prononce. "He is a very true gentleman, then," even Kurz Pacha says, "for I have never found anything prononce in Mr. D'Orsay Firkin." The Pacha tells a good story of them. "The week after their arrival Mr. B. appeared in a suit of great splendor. It was a very remarkable coat, and waistcoat, covered with gilt sprigs, and an embroidered shirt-bosom, altogether a fine coronation suit for the king of the Cannibal Islands. Mr. Firkin, as usual, was rigorously gentlemanly, in the quiet way. They walked together up the Boulevards, Mr. B. flashing in the sun, and Mr. F. sombre as a shadow. The whole world turned to remark the extreme gorgeousness of Mr. Boosey's attire, which was peculiar even in Paris. At first that ornament of society rather enjoyed it, but such universal attention became a little wearisome, and at length annoying. Finally Mr. Boosey could endure it no longer, and turning round he stopped Mr. Firkin and looking at him from top to toe, remarked, 'Really I see nothing so peculiar in your dress that the whole town should stop to stare at you' Mr. Boosey is a man of great discrimination," concluded the Ambassador.

He went with us to the opera, where we were to see the Countess de Papillon and Madame Casta Diva. The house was full, and the young gentlemen had told us where to look for their box. Mrs. Potiphar had made Mr. P. as presentable as possible, and begged the Sennaar Minister to see that Mr. P. did not talk too loud, nor go to sleep, nor offend the proprieties in any way; especially to cut off all his attempts at speaking French. She had hired the most expensive box.

"People respect money, my dear," said Mrs. Potiphar to me.

"But not always its owners, my dear," whispered Kurz Pacha in my other ear.

When we entered the box all the glasses in the house were levelled at us. Mrs. Potiphar gayly seated herself in the best seat, nodding and chatting with the Ambassador; her diamonds glittering, her brocade glistening, her fan waving, while I slipped into the seat opposite, and Mr. Potiphar stood behind me in a dazzling expanse of white waistcoat, and his glass in his eye, as Mrs. P. had taught him.

"A very successful entree" whispered the Pacha to Mrs. P. "I shall give out to my friends that it is the heiress presumptive of the Comanchees."

"No, really; what is the Comanchees?" said Polly levelling her glass all round the house, and laughing, and talking, and rustling, as if she were very, very happy.

Suddenly there was a fresh volley of glasses towards our box, and, to our perfect dismay, we turned and saw that Mr. Potiphar had advanced to the front, and having put down his eye-glass, had taken out his old, round, silver-barred spectacles, and was deliberately wiping them with that great sheet of a hideous red bandanna, "prepartory to an exhaustive survey of the house," whispered Kurz Pacha to me.

Mrs. P. wouldn't betray any emotion, but still smiling, she hissed to him, under her breath:

"Mr. P., get back this minute. Don't make a fool of yourself. Mais, monsieur, c'est vraiment charmant."

The latter sentence was addressed with smiles to the Ambassador, as she saw that the neighbor in the next box was listening.

"It's uncommonly warm," said Mr. Potiphar in a loud tone, as he wiped his forehead with the bandanna.

"Yes, I observe that Mrs. Potiphar betrays the heat in her face," said the Pacha, "which however, is merely a becoming carnation, Madame," concluded he, sinking his voice, and rubbing his hands.

At that moment in the box opposite, I saw our friends, Mr. Boosey and Mr. Firkin. By their sides sat two such handsome women! They wore a great quantity of jewelry, and had the easiest, most smiling faces you ever saw. They entered making a great noise, and I could see that the modesty of our friends kept them in the rear. For they seemed almost afraid of being seen.

"I like that," said Kurz Pacha; "it shows that such stern republicans don't intend ever to appear delighted with the smiles of nobility."

"The largest one is Madame la Marquise Casta Diva," said Mrs. Potiphar, scanning them carefully, "I know her by her patrician air. What a splendid thing blood is, to be sure!"

She gave herself several minutes to study the toilette of the lady, while I looked at the younger lady, Countess de Papillon, who had all kinds of little fluttering ends of ribbons, and laces, and scallops, and ruffles, and was altogether so stylish!

"I see now where Mr. Firkin gets his elegant manners," said Mrs. Potiphar; "it is a great privilege for young Americans to be admitted familiarly into such society. I now understand better the tone of their conversation when they refer to the French Salons."

"Yes, my dear Madame," answered the Pacha, "this is indeed making the best of one's opportunities. This is well worth coming to Europe for. It is, in fact, for this that Europe is chiefly valuable to an American, as the experience of an observer shows. Paris is, notoriously, the great centre of historical and romantic interest. To be sure, Italy, Rome, Switzerland, and Germany,—yes, and even England,—have some few objects of interest and attention. But the really great things of Europe, the superior interests, are all in Paris. Why, just reflect. Here is the Cafe de Paris, the Trois Freres, and the Maison Doree. I don't think you can get such dinners elsewhere. Then, there is the Grand Opera, the Comic Opera, and now and then the Italian—I rather think that is good music. Are there any such theatres as the Vaudeville, the Varietes, and the Montansier, where there is the most dexterous balancing on the edge of decency that ever you saw; and when the balance is lost, as it always is, at least a dozen times every evening, the applause is tremendous, showing that the audience have such a subtile sense of propriety that they can detect the slightest deviation from the right line. Is there not the Louvre, where, if there is not the best picture of a single great artist, there are good specimens of all? Will you please to show me such a promenade as the Boulevards, such fetes as those of the Champ Elysees, such shops as those of the Passages, and the Palais Royal. Above all, will you indicate to such students of mankind as Mr. Boosey, Mr. Firkin, and I, a city more abounding in piquant little women, with eyes, and coiffures and toilettes, and je ne sais quoi, enough to make Diogenes a dandy, to obtain their favor? I think, dear Madame, you would be troubled to do it. And while these things are Paris, while we are sure of an illimitable allowance of all this in the gay capital, we do right to remain here. Let who will, sadden in mouldy old Rome, or luxuriate in the orange-groves of Sorento and the south, or wander among the ruins of the most marvellous of empires, and the monuments of art of the highest human genius, or float about the canals of Venice, or woo the Venus and the Apollo; and learn from the silent lips of those teachers a lore sweeter than the French novelists impart;—let who will, climb the tremendous Alps, and feel the sublimity of Switzerland as he rises from the summer of Italian lakes and vineyards to the winter of the glaciers, or makes the tour of all climates in a day by descending those mountains towards the south;—let those who care for it, explore in Germany the sources of modern history, and the remote beginnings of the American spirit;—ours be the Boulevards, the demoiselles, the operas, and the unequalled dinners. Decency requires that we should see Rome, and climb an Alps. We will devote a summer week to the one, and a winter month to the other. They will restore us renewed and refreshed for the manly, generous, noble, and useful life we lead in Paris."

"Admirably said," returned Mrs. Potiphar, who had been studying the ladies opposite while the Pacha was speaking, "but a little bit prosy," she whispered to me.

It would charm you to hear how intelligently Mrs. P. speaks about French society, since that evening at the opera. When we return, you will find how accomplished she is. We have been here only a few weeks, and we already know all the fashionable shops, and a little more French, and we go to the confectioners, and eat savarins every morning at 12, and we drive in the Bois de Boulogne in the afternoon, and we dine splendidly, and in the evening we go to the opera or a theatre. To be sure, we don't have much society beside our own party. But then the shop-girls point out the distinguished women to Mrs. Potiphar, so that she can point them out when we drive; and our banker calls and keeps us up in gossip; and Mrs. Potiphar's maid, Adele, is inestimable in furnishing information; and Mr. Potiphar gets a great deal out of his commissionaire, and goes about studying his Galignani's Guide, and frequents the English Heading Room, where I am told, he makes himself a little conspicuous when he finds that Englishmen won't talk, by saying, "Oh! dear me!" and wiping his face with a bandanna. He usually opens his advances by making sure of an Englishman, and saying, "Bon matin,—but, perhaps, sir, you don't speak French."

"You evidently do not, sir," replied one gentleman.

"No, sir; you're right there," answered Mr. P. But he couldn't get another word from his companion.

In this delightful round the weeks glide by.

"You must be enjoying yourself immensely," says the Pacha. "You understand life, my dear Mrs. Potiphar. Here you are, speaking very little French, in a city where the language is an atmosphere, and where you are in no sense acclimated until you can speak it fluently—with all French life shut out from you—living in a hotel—cheated by butcher, baker, and candlestick-maker—going to hear plays that you imperfectly understand—to an opera where you know nobody, and where your box is filled with your own countrymen, who are delightful, indeed, but whom you didn't come to Paris to see—constantly buying a hundred things because they are pretty, and because you are in Paris—entirely ignorant, and quite as careless, of the historical interests of the city, of the pictures, of the statues, and buildings—surrounded by celebrities of all kinds, of whom you never heard, and therefore lose the opportunity of seeing them—in fact, paying the most extravagant price for everything, and purchasing only the consciousness of being in Paris—why, you ought to be happy, and considered to be having a fine time of it, if you are not? How naturally you will sigh for all this when you return and recur to Paris as the culmination of human bliss! Here's my honored Potiphar, who has this morning been taken to a darkened room in a grand old house, in a lonely, aristocratic street; and there a picture-agent has shown him a splendid Nicolas Poussin, painted in his prime for the family, whose heir in reduced circumstances must now part with it at a tearful sacrifice. Honored P.'s friend, the commissionaire, interprets this story, while the agent stands sadly meditating the sacrifice with which his duty acquaints him. He informs the good P., through the friendly commissionaire, that he has been induced to offer him the picture, not only because all Americans have so fine a taste (as his experience has proved to him) in paintings, nor because they are so much more truly munificent than the nobility of other nations, but because the heir in reduced circumstances wishes to think of the picture as entirely removed from the possibility of being seen in France. Family pride, which is almost crushed in disposing of so great and valued a work, would be entirely quenched, if the sale were to be known, and the picture recognized elsewhere in the country. Monsieur is a gentleman, and he will understand the feelings of a gentleman under such circumstances. The commissionaire and the picture-agent therefore preserve a profound silence, and my honored friend feels for his red bandanna, and is not comfortable in the lonely old house, with the picture and the people. The agent says that it is not unusual for the owner to visit the picture about that very hour, to hear what chance there is for its sale. If this knock should be he, it would not be very remarkable. The heir enters. He has a very heavy moustache, dark hair, and a slightly Hebrew cast of countenance.

"Mr. Potiphar is introduced. The heir contemplates the picture sadly, and he and the agent point out its beauties to each other. In fine, my honored Potiphar buys the work of art. To any one else, of course, in France, for instance, the price should be eleven thousand francs. But the French and the Americans have fraternized; a thousand francs shall be deducted.

"You see clearly it's quite worth while coming to Paris to do this, because I suppose, there are not more than ten or twenty artists at home who could paint ten or twenty times as good a picture for a quarter of the price. But you, dearest Mrs. P., who know all about pictures, naturally don't want American pictures in your house, any more than you want anything else American there.

"My young friends and allies, Messrs. Boosey, Firkin, and Croesus, say that they come to Paris to see the world. They get the words wrong, you know. They come that the world (that is, their world at home) may not see them. To accompany Mesdames de Papillon and Casta Diva to the opera, then to return to beautifully furnished apartments to sup, and to prolong the entertainment until morning, is what those charming youths mean when they say 'see the world.' To attend at that reunion of the Haut Ton, Monsieur Celarius' dancing academy, is to see good society in Paris, after the manner of those dashing men of the world. It's amusing enough, and it's innocent enough in its way. They won't go very far. They'll spend a good deal of money for nothing. They'll be plucked at gaming-houses. They'll be quietly laughed at by Mesdames de Papillon and Casta Diva, and the male friends of those ladies who enjoy the benefit of the lavish bounty of our young Croesus and Firkins. They'll swagger a good deal, and take airs, and come home and indulge in foreign habits now grown indispensable. They will pronounce upon the female toilette, and upon the gantier le plus comme il faut, in Paris. They will beg your pardon for expressing a little phrase in French—to which, really the English is inadequate. They will have, necessarily, the foreign air. Some of them will settle away into business men, and be very exemplary. Others will return to Paris, as moths to the light, asserting that the only place for a gentleman to live agreeably, to indulge his tastes, and get the most for his money, is Paris—which is strictly true of such gentlemen as they. A view of life that starts from the dinner-table, inevitably selects Paris for its career. For, obviously, if you live to dine well you must live where there is good cooking.

"You women are rather worse off than the young men, Mrs. P.; because you are necessarily so much more confined to the house. Unless, indeed, you imitate Mrs. Vite, who goes wherever the gentlemen go, and who is famous as L'Americaine. If you like that sort of thing, you can do as much of it as you please. It will always surround you with a certain kind of man,—and withdraw from your society a certain kind of woman, and a certain kind of respect."



"To conclude my sermon, ladies, Europe is a charmed name to Americans, because in Europe are the fountains of all our education and training. History is the story of that hemisphere; the ruins of empires, arts, and civilizations, are here. Now, if there is any use in living at all, which I am far from asserting, is it worth while to get nothing out of Europe but a prolonged supper with Madame Casta Diva, or a wardrobe of all the charming dresses in Paris, and a facility of scandal which has all the wickedness and none of the wit of the finest French-woman? I beg a thousand pardons for preaching, but the text was altogether too pregnant."

And so Kurz Pacha whirled out of the room, humming a waltz of Strauss. He has heard of his recall to Sennaar since he has been here—and we shall hear nothing more of him. We, too, leave Paris in a few days for home, and you will not hear from us again. Mrs. Potiphar has been as busy as possible getting up the greatest variety of dresses. You will see that she has not been to Paris for nothing. Kurz Pacha asked us if we had been to the Louvre, where the great pictures are. But when I inquired if there were any of Mr. Duesseldorf's there, and he said no, why, of course, as he is my favorite, and I know more of his works than I do of any others, I didn't go. There are some very pretty things there, Mr. Boosey says. But ladies have no time for such matters. Do you know, the other evening we went to the ball at the Tuileries, and oh! it was splendid. There were one duke and three marquesses, and a great many counts, presented to me. They all said, "It's charming, this evening," and I said, "very charming, indeed." Wasn't it nice?

But you should have seen Mrs. Potiphar when the Emperor Napoleon III. spoke to her. You know what a great man he is, and what a benefactor to his country, and how pure, and noble, and upright his private character and career have been; and how, as Kurz Pacha said, he is radiant with royalty, and honors everybody to whom he speaks. Well, Mrs. P. was presented, and sank almost to the ground in her reverence. But she actually trembled with delight when the Emperor said:

"Madame, I remember with the greatest pleasure the beautiful city of New York."

I am sure the Emgress Eugenie would have been jealous, could she have heard the tone in which it was said. Wasn't it affable in such a great monarch towards a mere republican? I wonder how people can slander him so, and tell such stories about him. I never saw a nicer man; only he looks sleepy. I suppose the cares of state oppress him, poor man! But one thing you may be sure of, dear Mrs. Downe, if people at home laugh at the Emperor and condemn him, just find out if they have ever been invited to the Tuileries. If not, you will understand the reason of their hatred. Mrs. Potiphar says to the Americans here that she can't hear the Emperor spoken against, for they are on the best of terms.

"Of course the French dislike him" says Mr. Firkin, who has a turn for politics, "for they want a republic before they are ready for it."

How you would enjoy all this, dear, and how sorry I am you are not here. I think Mr. Potiphar is rather disconsolate. He whistles and looks out of the window down into the garden of the Tuileries, where the children play under the trees; and as he looks he stops whistling, and gazes sometimes for half an hour; and whenever he goes out afterward, he is sure to buy something for Freddy. When the shopkeeper asks where it shall be sent, Mr. P. says, in a loud, slow voice—"Hotel Mureece, Kattery-vang-sank-o-trorsyaim."

It is astonishing, as Kurz Pacha said that we are not more respected abroad. "Foreigners will never know what you really are," said he to Mr. P., "until they come to you. Your going to them has failed."

Good bye, dearest Mrs. Downe. We are so sorry to come home! You won't hear from us again.

Your ever affectionate

CAROLINE



VI.

KURZ PACHA TO THE KING OF SENNAAR,

UPON RECEIVING HIS LETTERS OF RECALL.

(NOW FIRST TRANSLATED.)

MOST SABLE AND SERENE MASTER:

I hear and obey. You said to me, Go, and I went. You now say, come, and I am coming, with the readiness that befits a slave, and the cheerfulness that marks the philosopher.

Accustomed from my youth to breathe the scented air of Sennaar saloons, and to lounge in listless idleness with young Sennaar, I am weary of the simple purity of manners that distinguishes this people, and long for the pleasing, if pointless frivolities of your court.

Coming, as you commanded, to observe and report the social state of the metropolis of a people who, in the presence of the world, have renounced the feudal organization of society, I have found them, as you anticipated, totally free from the petty ambitions, the bitter resolves, and the hollow pretences, that characterize the society of older states.

The people of the first fashion unite the greatest simplicity of character with the utmost variety of intelligence, and the most graceful elegance of manner. Knowing that for an American the only nobility is that of feeling; the only grace, generosity; and the only elegance, simplicity; they have achieved a society which is a blithe Arcadia, illustrating to the world the principles they profess, and making the friend of man rejoice.

We, who are reputed savages, might well be astonished and fascinated with the results of civilization, as they are here displayed. The universal courtesy and consideration—the gentle charity, which does not consider the appearance but the substance—the republican independence, which teaches foreign lords and ladies the worthlessness of mere rank, by obviously respecting the character and not the title—the eagerness with which foreign habits are subdued, by the positive nature of American manners—the readiness to assist—the total want of coarse social emulation—the absence of ignorance, prejudice and vulgarity, in the selecter circles—the broad, sweet, catholic welcome to all that is essentially national and characteristic, which sends the young American abroad only that he may return eschewing European habits, and with a confidence in man and his country, chastened by experience—these have most interested and charmed me in the observation of this pleasing people.

It is here the pride of every man to bear his part in the universal labor. The young men, instead of sighing for other institutions, and the immunities of rank, prefer to deserve, by earning, their own patents of Nobility. They are industrious, temperate, and frugal, as becomes the youth to whom the destinies of so great a nation, and the hopes of the world, are committed. They are proud to have raised themselves from poverty, and they are never ashamed to confess that they are poor. They acknowledge the equal dignity of all kinds of labor, and do not presume upon any social differences between their baker and themselves. Knowing that luxury enervates a nation, they aim to show in their lives, as in their persons, that simplicity is the finest ornament of dress, as health best decorates the body. They are cheerfully obedient to those who command them, and gentle to those they command. Full of charity, and knowing that if every man has some sore weakness, he has also a human soul latent in him, they trust each man as if that soul might, at any moment, look out of his eyes, and acknowledge with tears, the sympathy that unites them.

They show in all this social independence and originality, the shrewd common-sense which we have so often heard ascribed to them. For if, by some fatal error, they should undertake a social rivalry, in kind, with the old world and all its splendid accessories of antiquity, wealth and hereditary refinement, the observer would see, what now is never beheld, foolish parvenus frenzied in the pursuit of an elegance which, in its nature, is inaccessible to them. We should see lavish and unmeaning displays. We should see a gaudy ostentation,—serving only as a magnificent frame to the vanity of the subject. We should see the grave and thoughtful, the witty and accomplished, the men and women whose genius fitted them for society, withdrawing from its saloons, and preferring privacy to a vulgar and profuse publicity. We should see society become a dancing school, and men and women degenerated into dull and dandified boys and girls, content with (pardon me, sable sir, but it would be the truth) "style." We should see, as if in an effete civilization, marriages of convenience. We should hear the heirs, or the holders, of great fortunes, called "gentlemanly," if they were dull, and "a little wild" if they were debauched. We should see parents panting to "marry off" their dear daughters to the richest youths, and the richest youths affecting a "jolly" and "stunning" life,—reputed to know the world because they are licentious, and to have seen life because they have tasted foreign dissipation. We should hear insipidity praised as good-humor, and nonchalance as ease. We should have boorishness accounted manliness, and impudence wit. We should gradually lose faith in man as we associated with men, and soon perceive that the only safety for the city was in its constant recruiting from the simplicity and strength of the country.

The sharp common-sense of this people prevents so melancholy a spectacle. In fact, you have only to consider that this society does not remind you of the best characteristics of any other, to judge how unique it is.

But, for myself, as milk disagrees with my constitution, and my mind tires of this pastoral sweetness, I am too glad to obey your summons. In my younger days when I loved to press the stops of oaten pipes, and—a plaintive swain—fancied every woman what she seemed, and every man my friend,—I should have hailed the prospect of a life in an Arcadia like this. How gladly I should have climbed its Pisgah-peaks of hope, and have looked off into the Future, flowing with milk and honey. I would grieve (if I could) that my sated appetite refuses more,—that I must lay down my crook and play the shepherd no longer. Yet I know well enough that in the perfumed atmosphere of the circle to which I return, I shall recur often, with more than regret, to the humane, polished, intelligent, and simple society I leave behind me,—shall wonder if Miss Minerva Tattle still prattles kindly among the birds and flowers,—if Mrs. Potiphar still leads, by her innate nobility, and not by the accident of wealth, the swarm of gay, and graceful, and brilliant men and women that surround her.

I humbly trust, sable son of midnight, my lord and master, that my present report and summary will be found worthy of that implicit confidence immemorially accorded to diplomatic communications. I could ask for it no other reception.

Your slave,

KURZ PACHA.



VII.

FROM THE REV. HENRY DOVE TO MRS. POTIPHAR.

(PRIVATE.)

EDENSIDE.

MY DEAR MRS. POTIPHAR:

I am very anxious that you should allow me to receive your son Frederic as a pupil, at my parsonage, here in the country. I have not lived in the city without knowing something about it, despite my cloth, and I am concerned at the peril to which every young man is there exposed. There is a proud philosophy in vogue that everything that can be injured had better be destroyed as rapidly as possible, and put out of the way at once. But I recall a deeper and tenderer wisdom which declared, "A bruised reed will he not break." The world is not made for the prosperous alone, nor for the strong. We may wince at the truth, but we must at length believe it,—that the poor in spirit, and the poor in will, and the poor in success, are appointed as pensioners upon our care.

In my house your son will miss the luxuries of his home, but he will, perhaps, find as cordial a sympathy in his little interests, and as careful a consultation of his desires and aims. He will have pure air, a tranquil landscape, a pleasant society; my books, variously selected, my direction and aid in his studies, and a neighborhood to town that will place its resources within his reach. A city, it seems to me, is mainly valuable as a gallery of opportunities. But a man should not live exclusively in his library, nor among his pictures. Letters and art may well decorate his life. But if they are not subsidiary to the man, and his character, then he is a sadder spectacle than a vain book or a poor picture. The eager whirl of a city tends either to beget a thirst that can only be sated by strong, yet dangerous excitement, or to deafen a man's ear, and harden his heart, to the really noble attractions around him.

It is well to know men. But men are not learned at the billiard table, nor in the barroom, nor by meeting them in an endless round of debauch, nor does a man know the world because he has been to Paris. It is a sad thing for a young man to seek applause by surpassing his companions in that which makes them contemptible. The best men of our own time have little leisure, and the best of other days have committed their better part to books, wherein we may know and love them.

There is nothing more admirable than good society, as there is nothing so fine as a noble man, nor so lovely as a beautiful woman. And to the perfect enjoyment of such society an ease and grace are necessary, which are hardly to be acquired, but are rather, like beauty and talent, the gift of Nature. That ease and grace will certainly run great risk of disappearing, in the embrace of a fashion unchastened by common sense; and it is observable that the sensitive gaucherie of a countryman is more agreeable than the pert composure of a citizen.

I do not deny that your son must lose something, if you accede to my request, but I assuredly believe that he will gain more than he will lose. My profession makes me more dogmatic, probably, than is strictly courteous. But I have observed, in my recent visits to town, that Courtesy, also, is getting puny and unmanly, and that a counterfeit, called Compliment, is often mistaken for it. You will smile, probably at my old-fashioned whims, and regret that I am behind my time. But really, it strikes me, that the ineffectual imitation of an exploded social organization is, at least, two centuries behind my time. The youth who, socially speaking, are termed Young America, represent, in character and conduct, anything but their own time and their own country.

I will not deny that the secret of my interest in your son, is an earlier interest in yourself—a wild dream we dreamed together, so long ago that it seems not to be a part of my life. The companion of those other days I do not recognize in the glittering lady I sometimes see. But in her child I trace the likeness of the girl I knew, and it is to the memory of that girl—whose lovely traits I will still believe are not destroyed, but are somewhere latent in the woman—that I consecrate the task I wish to undertake. I am married, and I am happy. But sometimes through the sweet tranquillity of my life streams the pensive splendor of that long-vanished summer, and I cannot deny the heart that will dream of what might have been.

Madame, I can wish you nothing more sincerely than that as your lot is with the rich in this world, it may be with the poor in the world to come.

Your obedient servant,

HENRY DOVE.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse